Are Guns Weapons Of Mass Destruction? Yep – They Sure Are.

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The good news out of Florida is that the 2017 NRA legislative agenda for the Gunshine State appears to be dead.  The bills, which would have legalized open carry in most public locations, along with concealed-carry in airports and college campuses, didn’t make the calendar of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, which means they will not be reviewed by the committee during the 2017 session, which means their sponsor, Greg Steube, will have to re-introduce the bills again next year.

florida logo1             Incidentally, if the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would ever give an award to the dumbest, piece of pro-gun legislation introduced in any state legislature each year, Senator Steube would win the contest hands down. Because in addition to the bills mentioned above, he also tried to put in a bill that would allow someone who was shot in a public premise which had a gun-free policy to sue the owner of that location for making the shooting victim vulnerable because he couldn’t protect himself with a gun.

The GVP community and its Congressional allies have been attempting, without success, to pass legislation at the federal level that would take away the PLCAA immunity which gun makers use to avoid being sued when someone is shot with a particular gun maker’s gun. Steube’s dumbness whopper was something of a response to the attacks on PLCAA and had it passed muster in Florida, it would no doubt have begun to spring up in other states. Know how crazy things like Ronald Reagan and Half-and-Half started in California and moved East? When it comes to crazy, pro-gun laws, they start in Florida and then spread everywhere else.

Maybe the rational-minded members of the Florida legislature decided this year, particularly after the massacre at the Pulse and the airport shooting in Orlando that enough is enough. Or maybe the NRA lobbyist, Granny Hammer, has just been a busybody for too long. But whatever the reason(s), this year Florida decided that it was no-go for any extension of gun ‘rights.’ Which brings me to the point of this column, namely, the idea that being able to do whatever in hell you want to do with a gun is considered by Gun-nut Nation to be some kind of ‘right.’

According to the Heller and McDonald decisions, the only ‘right’ contained in the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment is the ‘right’ to keep a loaded, unlocked gun in your home for self-defense.  That’s it. Period. End of story. Pro-gun advocates can twist this one around all they want, and in fact many states and localities have approved laws which go far beyond the 2nd Amendment in terms what gun owners can do with their guns – carry them outside the home, carry them openly, sell them, trade them, whatever they want. But none of those activities represent any kind of Constitutional ‘right.’  And I really wish that the GVP community would react with a louder and more aggressive response whenever the issue of ‘rights’ rears its ugly and completely false head.

Know what I think guns represent? I think they should be considered and explicitly referred to as ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ or would you rather continue to believe that a particular product which causes more than 120,000 serious deaths and injuries each year isn’t a WMD?  Last week credible news reports put the human toll from the gas attack in Syria at 70, with another 100 people treated in hospitals near where the attack took place.  Know how many Americans are killed and wounded by guns every weekend each year?  Try 450 and I’m probably off by a hundred or more.

I really don’t think this kind of violence and loss of human life has anything to do with ‘rights,’ There’s nothing in the Constitution which allows it, and it appears that at least some members of the Florida legislature understand what the Constitution says and doesn’t say.

A New Partnership To Reduce Gun Suicides Which Might Help.

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How many people die annually from gun violence?  If you’re a gun-control advocate, you’ll usually say that it’s somewhere around 31,000.  On the other hand, if you’re pro-gun, you’ll say it’s 11,000, give or take a few. The difference is whether or not suicide is considered a type of gun violence, because every year more than 20,000 Americans end their own lives by using a gun.  And if you want to meet your Maker before He wants to meet you, there’s nothing as efficient as pulling out the ol’ firearm, aiming it at yourself and – bam! Gun suicide is effective 90% of the time, no other life-ending behavior is half as good.

gun-suicide            According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence is defined as someone who attempts to injure themselves or someone else.  So from a medical point of view, gun suicide is certainly a type of gun violence.  But the disagreement between pro-gun and anti-gun forces isn’t about medicine, it’s about politics, messaging and whether we need guns around or not.  Which is why until recently, the gun industry has preferred to keep discussions about gun suicide on the back burner, but that’s about to change.

Last year the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the industry’s lobbying and trade organization began talking to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in an effort to find some common ground.  And what has emerged from these talks is a four-state, pilot program that will put suicide prevention messaging in gun shops and shooting ranges, a program that will then be widened with the goal of reducing gun suicides 20% nationally by 2025.  The project was officially kicked off with a press conference at this week’s SHOT show, and is publicly displayed on the websites of the AFSP and NSSF.

Predictably, the fringe elements in Gun-nut World were reluctant to jump on board unless this initiative and other similar programs would steer clear of any explicit or implicit attempt to use this activity to regulate guns.  Alan Gottleib, whose 2nd Amendment Foundation is really a cover for his very-profitable mail solicitation business, helped craft a bill before the Washington State legislature that establishes a ‘safe homes’ task force that will create messaging and training materials for ‘voluntary’ use by gun dealers. The Task Force membership includes Gottleib and a rep from the NRA. I don’t notice any representation from the groups in Washington State that pushed through an extension of background checks over the vigorous opposition of the NRA and the Gottleib gang.

This is the problem with the new suicide initiative announced by the NSSF and the AFSP, namely, that it’s a voluntary effort, which when it comes to educating about gun violence is where the gun industry always draws the line.  Gun-nut Nation’s phobia about government mandates is about as extreme as the phobia that some people have about immunizing their kids against disease.  And frankly, both phobias come from the same place; i.e., mistrust of government and a total misrepresentation of the facts. Fact: There is absolutely no connection between NICS-background checks and national registration of guns.  Fact: There is absolutely no connection between immunizations and autism, despite what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says.

If you walk into a gun shop today, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see a ‘Don’t Lie For The Other Guy’ poster on the wall.  This is a long-standing partnership between the ATF and the NSSF to discourage straw sales at the counter-top, a project that is dear to the hearts of everyone in the GVP community as well.  In fact, displaying this message is mandatory, although ATF agents don’t check to see if the poster is hanging on the wall or not.

Of course we would like gun-suicide prevention programs to have some teeth. Of course we would like Gun-nut Nation to stop opposing sensible laws that would enable family members of at-risk individuals to remove their guns.  Of course, of course, of course.  But the NSSF-AFSP partnership is a good start.

It’s Not Just Keeping Guns Out Of The Wrong Hands, It’s Keeping The Wrong Guns Out Of Everyone’s Hands.

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My first introduction to the gun business was 1965 in North Carolina working for my Uncle Ben.  Like all my immigrant relatives, Ben had been in the iron-mongering business back in the Old Country, so when he came to America he opened a junk yard where he traded scrap metal this for scrap metal that. At some point he started manufacturing a small, 22-caliber revolver which he sold to pawn shops for $15 bucks; the pawnbrokers then resold this little piece of junk for $24.95. This gun was a quintessential ‘Saturday Night Special,’ which might fire one or two shots before it broke.

 

            Glock 43

Glock 43

So here we are, fifty years later, and Uncle Ben’s cheap, little piece of junk for $24.95 has been replaced by, among other models, the Glock 43, which retails for somewhere around five hundred bucks.  But the Glock 43, which is actually smaller and more concealable than Uncle Ben’s crummy, little gun, isn’t a 22-caliber revolver with a capacity of six shots.  It’s an extremely-lethal 9mm pistol which holds seven rounds and with a magazine extension the capacity goes up to nine. If you’re not enamored with Glock, other gun companies like Ruger and Kahr make 9mm pistols which are basically the same capacity and size.

What has happened to the gun business over the last half century is the guns have gotten smaller, lighter, more concealable and much more lethal.  When Franklin Zimring did a study of the calibers found in 1,115 gun attacks in Chicago in 1970, he found that gun attacks with 38-caliber weapons were more than twice as fatal as attacks committed with 22-caliber guns.  When the California Department of Justice published a list of calibers that caused gun injuries in 2009, five times as many guns were used in high-powered calibers like 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 acp than guns chambered for the 22.  You simply can’t compare the damage to human tissue caused by a 9mm round as opposed to a 22-caliber shell. The latter can be lethal if, and only if the shooter is either extremely lucky or is a very good shot.  As for a 9mm or a 40 round, if it hits you anywhere except in your earlobe, you’re going down.

Back in 1968 and again 1994, we passed gun-control laws based on the idea that we could reduce gun violence by keeping guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands.  Which meant keeping guns away from people whose background and behavior indicated that they might represent a threat to public safety or themselves if they could get their hands on a gun.  The current effort to extend background checks to secondary sales is an effort to strengthen our ability to identify more ‘wrong’ hands, as are the strategies designed to tighten the regulatory environment in which gun dealers operate so as to keep ‘bad apple’ dealers from selling guns to people with ‘wrong hands.’

I happen to believe that this approach, while necessary, actually doesn’t respond to the primary cause of gun violence, namely, the degree to which most guns sold today are capable of being used to commit a much higher level of gun violence than ever before.  There is a bill before Congress that recognizes the lethality of assault rifles and is an effort to revive the assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004.  But while this law reflects concerns about the lethality of the AR-style gun, pro-gun advocates are not wrong when they say that, mass shootings notwithstanding, injuries caused by AR-15’s are relatively few and far between.

Know what causes most of the 115,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun injuries each year? It’s those small but powerful handguns which are increasingly the weapons of choice for most Americans who own guns. So instead of spending all our time, energy and money trying to keep guns out of the wrong hands, shouldn’t we also be trying to figure out how to keep the wrong guns out of everyone’s hands?

 

Want To Help Reduce Gun Violence? Support The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance.

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A new gun violence prevention organization has just popped up and their goals are worthy of mention here and elsewhere.  The organization is called the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance (CFSA) representing a coalition of physicians, law enforcement, prosecutors, lawmakers and gun violence prevention (GVP) advocates, and its goal is to reduce gun violence committed by or against kids.

cfsa          You may recall that back in 2011, Granny Hammer got a bunch of her ass-backward Florida legislators to pass a bill that basically made it a felony for physicians to counsel patients about guns.  The case is still awaiting a final appellate decision and there are several other dumb states that have enacted similar ‘gag’ laws.  Until Docs vs. Glocks was enacted, the medical community had been fairly reticent to speak out about gun violence beyond the obvious policy pronouncements about the dangers of guns.  But one thing that always seems to happen when it comes to any kind of public policy – push hard in one direction and someone will push back.  Which is exactly what has happened when it comes to physicians and guns.

Last year eight of the most important medical associations, along with the American Bar Association, published a manifesto which declared that gun violence was a serious public health problem that required the medical community to get involved.  And many of the national and state-level organizations followed by issuing their own statements of concern, as well as supporting and sponsoring educational programs to bring the issue of gun violence to the fore.

The CFSA represents another important step towards the involvement of the medical community in efforts to reduce gun violence, because although it is a physician-led organization, its membership embraces all of the major stakeholders who have an interest in GVP. According to the CFSA website, its mission is: “To reduce senseless child unintentional deaths and injuries in every state by advancing legislation holding adult gun owners responsible and educating the public how to keep children safe if a gun is in the home.” And to that end, their intention is to advocate for stronger and more comprehensive child access prevention (CAP) laws, of which there are no laws at all in more than 20 twenty states.

Of course the response of the Gun-nut Nation noise machine to physicians getting involved in gun safety is that such activity should not be within the scope of medical activities because most doctors don’t know anything about guns.  This is the argument made by a handful of dopey doctors who run a website called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, which happens to be supported by the 2nd Amendment Foundation, get my point?

But the fact is (note use of the word ‘fact’) that physicians have played a leading role in campaigns to protect children from all kinds of injuries and unintentional harm, including efforts to mandate harnesses and seat belts, safety barriers around in-ground pools, removing lead from paint and toys, and child-resistant bottle caps to guard against the ingestion of toxic substances and meds.  I don’t hear anyone stating that doctors need to get certified as automobile mechanics before they remind parents to buckle in the kids.  Nor for that matter do they need to become lifeguards in order to ask whether there’s a fence around that pool which just got installed in a patient’s backyard.  But guns?  Nobody except a licensed gunsmith should be allowed to voice an opinion about safety and guns, right?

I am pleased to be able to spread the word about the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance and I urge you to give them your full support. Yea, yea, I know you just have to send Hillary a few more bucks this week but as regards the CFSA, you might also consider sending a donation their way.  And just in case you missed their website address up above, don’t bother to scroll up because here it is again.  Click here, check out their website and sign up for a great cause.

 

When It Comes To Gun Violence, One Side Has A Very Clear Message. Which Side Is That?

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So now while the decision as to who should run the world’s largest corporation gets down to how we feel about locker-room talk, the Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) community, a.k.a. Gun-sense Nation, needs to figure out a post-election strategy that will both enhance its presence among the general public and lead to some genuinely positive and practical reforms regarding guns.

gvp2          If it’s over, if it’s really over, sometime following January 20, 2017 there well might be a 5-4 liberal majority on the Court, there well might be a gun bill on its way to her desk; all of a sudden GVP may not be playing catch-up but may actually, for at least a couple of years, be leading the way.  It’s not all that easy to switch gears from ‘I told you so’ to ‘I’m telling you so,’ but a few more videos will make it still more likely, so without giving anything the evil eye, perhaps it’s time for GVP to get to work.

Here’s the problem.  More than 55 million Americans no doubt own automobiles, furniture, clothing, toys, all kinds of detritus of daily consumer life, but they also own guns. Now probably half of these folks own only one gun, and in many cases this gun has been sitting around for years.  And most of the other gun owners have between 2 and 5 weapons, a handgun here, a shotgun and/or a rifle there.

There are also 3-4 million folks who own as many as 100 guns or more, and it’s these folks, gun nuts to the core, whose energies and enthusiasms sustain the pro-gun side of the debate.  And in addition to their love of guns, most of the members of Gun-nut Nation also have a deep and abiding mistrust of the motives and strategies of the other side, read: GVP.

I don’t believe that there is really any ground for compromise or a place ‘in the middle’ where Gun-nut Nation and Gun-sense Nation can meet because the latter is committed to the regulation of gun ownership and the former would be happy if all gun regulations disappeared. But the strength of Gun-nut Nation isn’t just a function of their numbers in a particular state or the country as a whole.  It’s the fact that when it comes to their feelings about guns, they speak with one voice so their message is loud and clear. Guns are an important part of the American heritage, guns keep us free and guns keep us safe. Gun-nut Nation has been repeating this jingle over and over again for the last thirty years and they’ve got it down pat.

I don’t think the messaging is in any way as sharp, as clear or as consistent on the GVP side.  Partly because much of the GVP activity has been reactive so that what comes out is more a response to what Gun-nut Nation is doing than what Gun-sense Nation wants to do. But there’s another problem that goes beyond the manner in which the GVP responds to the lunacies and idiocies of the other side. Which is the that, generally speaking, Gun-nut Nation speaks with one voice, Gun-sense Nation consists of many voices, each of which considers that what it wants needs to be heard.

I’m not trying to disparage or raise doubts about the commitment, energy or determination of any GVP group. And there should always be room in any particular group or grouping of organizations for competing points of view. I’m just saying that GVP has to figure out a way to preserve the independent thought and action of all its member-organizations while, at the same time creating one consistent message that will ring loud and clear. The opportunity may soon present itself for such a message to resonate far and wide. And the result may well be some new regulations that are long overdue. Now where’s the website with all those Howard Stern tapes?

A Guide To Gun Lethality.

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                See link below for downloading this Guide. mcx

             Last week I uploaded a document that described the basic design and function of handguns, rifles and shotguns, with an eye towards giving GVP advocates some basic information on how guns work. But understanding the design and mechanics of guns is one thing, understanding their lethality is something else.  Because until the 1980s, a combination of manufacturing technologies employed by the gun industry and the perceived consumer market for guns kept most gun models very lethal for use in hunting small and medium-sized game, but were not designed to be highly lethal in situations where human beings were the targets that would be injured or killed.

This traditional approach to gun design and function began to change in the 1980s when Gun-nut Nation discovered that hunting and sport shooting were quickly becoming relics of a distant past; i.e., people who owned guns for hunting or sport were not being replaced as the older gun-owning generations died out.  So Gun-nut Nation came up with a new reason for owning guns, namely, the myth that guns were necessary to protect society from crime.  An in this respect the industry was not so much inventing a fanciful reason for gun ownership as it was responding to an increased and generalized fear that crime and the ‘criminal element’ was out of control.

The public concern about crime also coincided with new technologies, in particular the use of lightweight alloys and polymers that allowed guns to withstand higher pressures from more powerful ammunition while, at the same time, being designed and built on smaller and lighter frames. Polymer and injection-molding manufacturing has enabled all kinds of consumer products to be miniaturized yet made more durable at the same time; this miniaturization has gone hand-in-hand with personalization; i.e., the consumer becomes the ultimate arbiter for determining the design and function of the product itself.

In the gun industry, these two factors – social attitudes, manufacturing technologies – have combined to revolutionize the look, feel and use of guns.  The revolver that I purchased in 1976 looked, felt and weighed the same as the same gun manufactured seventy years before.  I can purchase that same gun today, but I can also purchase a revolver that is half as large and fires ammunition that is twice as powerful. Which means that if I want to get close enough to another person to shoot and hurt them I can now stick a little gun in my pocket, walk right up next to them with my unnoticed gun, and quickly deliver a very shot, whether I have practiced shooting the gun or not.

Taking all these factors into account, I have created a gun lethality scorecard which you can download here.  It contains my best guess for the lethality rating of 95 different kinds of guns.  Like the ‘guns for dummies” document that I posted last week, this document will also shortly be available in published form.

Should Doctors Talk To Patients About Guns? They Talk About Other Risks, Don’t They?

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This week Dr. Garen Wintemiute and several colleagues published an article that detailed both the legal and clinical issues involved in counseling patients about guns. Not only did the article summarize the current legal environment surrounding doctor-patient communications, but it also presented a schema for helping doctors to determine how to respond to a patient’s access to guns based on factors such as depression, substance abuse and other known causes for violence against oneself or others.

docs versus glocks           The article received significant exposure both within and without the medical community, so it didn’t take long for a few physicians whose self-appointed task is to defend gun-owning America against the evil intrusions of gun-grabbing physicians to respond.  The first response was by a physician in California who claims that asking patients about gun ownership infringes on their 2nd-Amendment rights.  So, according to this logic, the 2nd Amendment only allows Americans to own guns, it prevents any discussion about guns.

This gun-loving doctor, Arthur Przebinda, agrees with Wintemute that doctors should be allowed to engage in gun counseling if the patient “shows signs of mental illness,” but he nevertheless finds Wintemute’s report ‘misleading’ because – are you ready for this one? – it is based on Wintemute’s own research. [My italics.]

Is this guy serious?  Does he expect a single medical professional to take him seriously because he claims that Wintemute’s article is in error because it is based on Wintemute’s own research?  What should a peer-reviewed article in a medical journal be based on?  No research?

But the truth is that Przebinda isn’t interested in communicating his nonsense to the medical community; his sole agenda is to try and influence the thoughts of gun owners, some of whom might otherwise be tempted to actually take seriously what medicine believes to be the problem with guns.  And the problem with guns is very simple: they constitute a risk.  How much of a risk?  This remains a subject of debate because thanks to the twenty-year freeze of CDC gun research, a freeze that Dr. Przebinda wholeheartedly supports, sufficient research has not been accomplished to determine exactly the degree to which gun ownership increases the possibility of deaths or injuries from intentional or unintentional use of a gun.

“They’re trying to identify gun ownership as a risk factor, the same way they would define smoking inside the house,” says Przebinda, and that’s exactly the point.  Because smoking is harmful. And so are guns. Period. End of story.  What does Dr. Przebinda think happens to human tissue when it is struck by an ounce of lead travelling faster than the speed of sound?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that it’s wrong to own a gun.  And if someone believes, massive evidence to the contrary, that keeping a gun in their home makes them safe from crime, then they can believe it all they want.  And they can also own a gun. But when was the last time doctors made a decision about what constitutes medical risk based on whether a marketing organization like the NRA agreed with them or not?  Did doctors refrain from asking patients whether they smoked before cigarette companies admitted that smoking causes cancer and other serious disease?

A rational and reasonable medical response to Pzrebinda’s pro-gun stance is provided by Dr. Eric Fleegler from Boston Children’s Hospital who says that discussions about guns should be “delicate conversations.”  But let’s remember that many discussions between doctors and their patients are delicate, which is exactly why such conversations are protected from public disclosure no matter what the NRA and their pro-gun acolytes would like gun owners to believe.

Physicians engage in very private and very delicate discussions all the time: an elderly parent is losing his mind, a teenage child is into drugs. These are medical risks that only doctors can evaluate and help patients to better understand. Which doesn’t mean the patient has to ever go along with what the doctor says. But it still has to be said. Guns are a risk.

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