How Much Does Gun Violence Cost?

              Our friends at the Giffords Law Center have just published a disquieting study which claims that gun violence in Missouri costs $1.9 billion a year, and that’s a conservative estimate, to say the least. The estimate is based on taking the average number of homicides, suicides, accidental shootings and gun assaults, and then multiplying these numbers using a gun-violence costs analysis developed by researchers who helped Mother Jones produce a study in 2015 which set the national cost of gun violence at $229 billion every year.

              If we were to take the Missouri numbers, which average out to roughly $1 million for every fatal and non-fatal gun injury, the national cost would now be somewhere around $140 billion. Which means that the Mother Jones figure was too high or the Missouri costs o gun-violence calculated by the Giffords Center is too low.

              On the other hand, by taking the Missouri figures and assuming they are representative for the country as a whole might also be an exercise in fake news or at least fake statistics, because we can’t assume that the breakdown between various gun-violence categories (homicide, suicide, etc.) in Missouri is similar to how gun injuries occur in other states. Either way, it’s a lot of dough. The only problem with these numbers, however, is they may not really tell us anything about the financial costs of gun violence owing to the methodology utilized to estimate those costs.

              Most of the costs calculated in the Giffords study to represent the financial toll of gun violence are actually estimates of what the victim would not have lost had he or she not been shot by a gun. In other words, we are asked to believe that from the moment someone is injured they would have made choices about work, family, lifestyles and other social factors which they can no longer make. The estimates for lost income, for example, make assumptions about how much someone’s income will change over the course of their lives from what their income was at the moment the injury occurred. But in the case of gunshot victims, probably at least half of the 85,000 young men assaulted each year with a gun have never actually held a job. How do you reasonably estimate what the lifetime earnings of these victims might be?

              Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig have been looking at the issue of gun-violence costs much longer than anyone else, and they published a good book on this subject in 2000 which, sad to say, is now out of print. The good news is you can still get the book on Amazon in a used edition for a couple of bucks. Where Cook and Ludwig construct a refreshingly and unique definition of costs, is by calculating what people would be willing to pay to avoid gun violence, either 9through higher taxes for better protective services or by simply moving to a neighborhood which is safer than here they currently live.

              The Giffords report actually implies something of the same awareness between safe and unsafe because it notes that more than 60% of all gun violence in Missouri occurs in just two cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, which together count for less than 15% of the population of the ‘Show-Me” state as a whole. And within those two cities, of course, most of the gun violence is confined to specific neighborhoods, the polite term now used is neighborhoods which are ‘underserved.’

              It seems to me that if the state of Missouri is losing $1.9 billion a year because of gun violence, what could the state do with that money if it wasn’t flushed down the gun-violence drain? Could they build some health stations to provide inner-city neighborhoods with better medical care? Could they strengthen technical and vocational education so that young people could qualify for solid, high-paying jobs?

              Let’s not just sit around and bemoan the cost of gun violence. Instead, let’s calculate the value of getting rid of the guns.

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Why Do We Suffer From Gun Violence?

              Now that Nancy Pelosi has given Sleazy Don a quick lesson in how to negotiate a deal, everyone in Gun-control Nation believes that some kind of gun bill will emerge from the Democratic-controlled House. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  But if any kind of bill is going to get voted through, the very least we should try to do is craft some kind of measure which will respond to the issue itself. And if the issue is what we call ‘gun violence,’ then we need to make sure we understand what that term really means.

              According to the World Health Organization, violence means an intentional injury committed against yourself or someone else. So gun violence would include suicide, homicide and assault, which reduces the CDC-based number of total gun violence from 124,761 to 106,624 because accidents don’t count. And accidents shouldn’t count in the overall scheme of things unless, of course,Gun-control Nation isn’t telling the truth about its support for 2nd-Amendment‘rights.’

              But of course they are telling the truth. After all,isn’t that why gun-control groups like Everytown only want to pass ‘sensible’ gun laws? Here’s what Everytown says: “Support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people.”  The Giffords group is even more explicit: “we can enact gun safety measures that save thousands of lives and do not threaten Second Amendment rights.”

              Wonderful, just wonderful. Not only does Gun-control Nation want to protect us from gun violence, they also take it upon themselves to protect Constitutional ‘rights.’  Now I’m confused. I thought the NRA was America’s ‘first civil rights organization.’ I thought it was the boys in Fairfax leading the charge to keep gun owners from facing a world without a 2nd-Amendment security blanket.  I mean, why did I give Wayne-o and Chrissie enough money to become a Life Patriot Endowment NRA Member if tree-huggers and Communists like George Soros and Mike Bloomberg are now making sure that we enforce a law which was ratified in 1791? Something’s not right here, something’s really not right.

              I’ll tell you what’s not right.  What’s not right is the attempt by my friends in Gun-control Nation to pretend they are committed to the idea that every ‘responsible’ and ‘reasonable’ American should be able to own a gun.  If there really is a chance to get a new gun law through Congress next year, why don’t we cut the bullsh*t, okay? 

              Would someone from Everytown please explain to me what is ‘responsible’ about walking around with a Glock pistol which holds 16 military-ordnance rounds? And if you don’t know the history of the 9mm cartridge, do me a favor and learn something about guns before lecturing me on your commitment to ‘reasonable’ gun laws.  Because in my state – Massachusetts – if you haven’t been arrested and convicted for some serious offense and you snooze your way through a gun-safety course which doesn’t require you to shoot a gun at all, you have just met all the sensible and reasonable requirements,Constitutional and otherwise, to walk around town with a gun. What are my friends at Everytown and Brady going to say about that?

              I’m really sick and tired of listening to my friends in Gun-control Nation tell me that we can end gun violence by just making sure that the ‘bad guys’ don’t have guns. Gun violence isn’t caused by guys, bad or otherwise. Gun violence is…caused…by…guns. I mean,you just can’t do to someone’s head with a baseball bat what you can do to their head with a gun.  I once accidentally whacked my brother on the side of his head with a Louisville Slugger and he suffered from double vision for a couple of days. He wouldn’t have suffered at all if I had blown his head off with my 1911 Colt pistol – he would have been dead.

              I don’t think it would be so terrible if Gabby Giffords stood up and said that she just doesn’t like guns.Who’s going to blame her for saying that?

Gun Buybacks Work.

Next Saturday, December 15, my friends at Worcester Memorial Hospital and U/Mass Medical School are going to sponsor their 17th annual gun buyback that will run all day in the city of Worcester and many of the surrounding towns. This effort is the brainchild of Dr. Michael Hirsh, the pediatric surgeon at Memorial who first started thinking about gun violence when his classmate in the residency program at Columbia Medical School, John Wood, was gunned down across the street from the hospital in 1981.  You can learn more about the Worcester buyback program here.

The Worcester buyback is a partnership between the hospital and the city’s Police Department, or what Dr. Hirsh calls ‘white coats – blue coats,’ and the pic above shows Worcester DA Joe Early handing Hirsh a nice check.  The same buyback with the same white coat – blue coat effort will take place on the same day at New Haven and Hartford with Yale and U/Conn medical schools/hospitals involved, as well as in Springfield, MA with the involvement of the city’s cops and teaching hospital, and maybe several more sites still to be announced.  The choice of dates is not accidental; the buybacks are always conducted on the weekend closest to the anniversary of Sandy Hook.

When Mike Hirsh did his first buyback in 2002, the concept of giving in unwanted guns for a cash card here and there had been going on for at least forty years, but generally speaking, such activities received a bad press. Some of this negative image came from the work of criminologists, other findings about the limited value of buybacks came out of public health. There has also been a lot of mixed news about the 1996 buyback in Australia, although comparing a government-mandated gun turn-in where owners are fairly compensated for giving up legally-owned property to a community-run, voluntary turn-in effort is like comparing riding to work in a car as opposed to riding to work on a horse.

One of the leading scholars who used to find little value in buybacks is Garen Wintemute, who is quoted in an interview with NPR as saying that the ‘symbolic impact’ of buybacks is ‘important,’ whatever that means. Wintemute published some research on the effect of buybacks held in Milwaukee in 1994-1996, he compared the collected guns to the types of guns connected to gun fatalities and concluded that most of the donated guns were not the types that were used in gun violence; hence, buybacks don’t work. In 2013, Wintemure revisited the issue again and this time decided that buybacks, if coordinated with other initiatives, such as increasing community awareness about gun violence, were an effective tool. 

With all due respect to Wintemute and his research colleagues, the December 15 buyback led by Dr. Hirsh and other clinicians not only meets all the criteria mentioned by public health scholars as making buybacks a credible pathway towards reducing gun violence, but by basing these buybacks on a collaboration with medical centers, they do something much more important as well.

In fact, it was Wintemute himself (and Marian Betz) who published an important essay calling for physicians to become versent in the language and culture that would help them counsel patients on gun violence, in particular patients who appear to be at immediate risk. This article is regularly cited in every professional medical journal which carries articles on physicians and guns.

The reason that Dr. Hirsh and his buyback team focus their attention on participation by medical centers is that their buybacks serve as a practical, hands-on teaching opportunity for medical residents, medical school students and hospital staff. When community residents show up to donate a gun, they are asked to fill out an anonymous form which gives them an opportunity to explain why they decided to get rid of the gun.  The form is IRB-approved, more than 500 have been collected to date, and at some point the entire collection will be analyzed and sent to a peer-reviewed journal to be read by the public at large.  You can download the form here.  

Without going into specific details because the pre-publication analysis is not yet done, I can say that roughly half of the people who have completed the questionnaire to date state that they wanted to get rid of the gun because it represents a risk to themselves and others in the home.  In other words, what the buyback does is give people not just an opportunity to think about gun violence, but to make a decision, without government intervention of any kind, that having a gun around the home is too much of a risk. Now it happens to be the case that a majority of Americans believe the reverse; namely, that a gun is more of a benefit than a risk. Beyond what Mike Hirsh has been doing for the last 17 years, I don’t know a single activity being conducted by anyone in the medical community  which gives gun owners an opportunity to vote the other way.

More important than just the message about gun risk is the fact that at every buyback location you will find physicians and medical students from the cooperating medical centers engaging community residents in discussions about why they showed up to get rid of a gun. It’s all fine and well for public health researchers to state that doctors need to be mindful of ‘cultural values’ when talking to patients about guns, but how many times have these public health researchers stood next to a gun owner and ask why he is turning in a gun?  And by the way, for all the talk about gun buybacks being more successful if the value of the gift cards were increased, in fact, probably half the donors who show up at the Worcester buyback don’t ask for a gift card at all. “I don’t like that store,” one guy said to me last year as he rejected my offer to give him a gift card.

For the first time since the last Ice Age (actually since 1993) Worcester didn’t suffer a single gun homicide in 2017, non-fatal shootings totalled 24. Three years earlier, there were 7 gun homicides, the number of aggravated gun assaults was 38.  This dramatic reduction isn’t a function of the buyback program by any means; the cops now have ShotSpotter technology, they deploy patrol resources in a more effective way, community programs keep the kids busy after school and repeat offenders are taken off the streets.

But the point is that Mike Hirsh’s buyback program has become part of the social fabric of the community, it is also an important activity for educating medical staff, and its value should not be judged in quantitative terms. Seventeen years ago one person decided to do something to help make his community a nicer place in which to live. And year after year, his idea and commitment continues to spread.

Confessions of a Gun Nut.

Over the next several weeks, I am going to serialize and publish a new book – Confessions of a Gun Nut.  I’ll post each chapter on my Medium blog, and when it’s finished, I’ll publish it as an e-book. 

The purpose of this book is to use the more than 50 years that I have been in the gun business (and more than 60 years since I bought my first, real gun) to try and figure out what I know and don’t know about guns. 

Believe it or not, there’s a lot that I don’t know about guns. But I’m not about to kid myself into believing that because I can get my hands on some data, run the data through some statistical model or another and come up with some kind of ‘evidence-based’ conclusion, that I know anything about guns at all. And if I don’t know all that much about guns, the so-called experts on both sides of the argument know a lot less. 

In fact, what I find most interesting about the gun debate is the lack of modesty which seems to infect the pronouncements and publications of the individuals who turn up again and again as the self-identified authorities whose views form the accepted narrative in the gun debate.

If anything, the pompous and self-fulfilling judgements about guns and gun violence emanating from the academic research community tend, if anything, to be further removed from reality than the screeching which erupts from the other side. This is because most of the pro-gun noisemaking comes from the groups and organizations which exist for the purpose of marketing guns. Which means, at the very least, that they have to know something about the people who might actually buy their products.

On the other hand, the anti-gun movement (which is what gun-control people really want – they are against guns) has to operate under greater restraints than the pro-gun folks, most of all because they are committed to making arguments which can or should be supported by facts.  Now the fact that many of these so-called facts are nothing more than what this or that academic researcher claims to be facts – so what? In the greater scope of things what counts is whether your audience believes you or not.

Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be a kvetch by a pissed-off, former academic who didn’t get tenure and wants to get even with some of his tenured friends. First of all, I had academic tenure, so it’s not as if I’m sitting here all hot, bothered and jealous because gun-control researchers like Hemenway and Webster are inside the academy and I’m out. Second, I’m going to spend just as much time throwing slings and arrows at the pro-gun mob, if only because some of what they say is so dumb that it’s an insult even to their most ardent fans, and if anything, they often get away with it because their critics, being academics, often tend to be too polite.  On the other hand, if the academic gun researchers are too courteous to their opponents, they tie themselves into knots with the degree to which they are deferential to the work conducted by their academic peers on the same side.

Again and again I hear my friends in the anti-gun movement talking about how they want to craft gun-control policies that will be ‘reasonable,’ thus appealing to all those ‘responsible’ gun owners out there who just can’t wait to join them in the ‘middle’ of the gun debate. And along with this mantra comes the continued lament about how the ‘gap’ between the two sides is unbridgeable, and hence, simply resists any fair attempt to narrow the divide.

To the credit of gun owners, most of them will tell you that there’s a simple way to end the gun debate, namely, just stop complaining about guns and accept the fact that anyone and everyone should be able to own a gun, notwithstanding the 125,000 or so deaths and injuries that occur every year. And they should be able to own these guns without going through all this nonsense about background checks, and concealed-carry permits, and safe storage, and all that other Big Government crap.

On the other hand, how come the rest of the industrial world makes do without guns and we can’t?  Because if we agree that 125,000 deaths and injuries from the use of any specific product constitutes a crisis of public health, why should we put up with the continued availability of this product just because the Constitution says you can keep one in your home? The Commerce Clause also gives me the right to buy cigarettes. So what?

So stay tuned.  The chapters to Confessions of a Gun Nut book will shortly start rolling out. And I promise to respond to any and all feedback, at least up to a point.

The Big Scam Known as Gun-Safety Training.

              Yesterday I began to write a series of columns in which I stated some strong opinions about the strategies being promoted by Gun-controlNation to reduce the violence caused by guns. Let me repeat again what I said yesterday, namely, that I have never (read:never) been opposed to any public policy that will reduce gun violence; my role,as I see it, is to raise questions about the research and information used tocraft and justify these policies when/if I see gaps in the research or theinformation which need to be filled.

              That being said, today’s topic covers one of the truly great scams both within and without the gun world, namely, the idea that an activity referred to as ‘safety training’ does anything to reduce gun violence at all. Which groups and organizations support training in the use of guns?  Every group on both sides of the debate. The NRA of course is in favor of training, that’s why America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ was formed. As for the other side, the latest bromide can be found in a recent policy statement from the American College of Physicians: Sales of firearms should be subject to satisfactory completion of a criminal background check and proof of satisfactory completion of an appropriate educational program on firearms safety.”

              The difference between Gun-nut Nation and Gun-control Nation as regards safety training is that the latter groups want such training to be mandated (i.e., required) as a requirement for gun ownership; as far as the former coalition is concerned, nothing involving 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ should be mandated at all. Okay, so the NRA gave in on background checks back inn 1994, but in fact the requirement that gun owners be law-abiding has been in statute since 1968.  If anything, the ability of the NRA to portray its members as the most law-abiding citizens has been a master-stroke in terms of promoting the value and benefit of guns. Back to the issue of training.

              I may have a rather weird view of things, but I always thought that ‘training’ is a process whereby someone learns how to do some kind of activity correctly every single time. And it doesn’t matter whether what you are doing involves driving a car, or working on a computer, or cutting into someone’s chest, either you can always do it the same way, or you can’t. And the way we go about validating someone’s training experience is to test their performance to make sure that when actually engaged in the process for which they have been trained, they won’t make a mistake.

              Now if someone makes a small mistake, like not putting on a turn signal at the intersection or not shutting down the computer while an app is still running, it’s usually no big deal. But if someone makes a mistake with a gun, the result not only can be horrendous, but the odds that one can mitigate the effects of the mistake will often be zero to none.

              There is not one, single jurisdiction anywhere in the United States, even jurisdictions which mandate gun-safety training, where the proficiency validation even remotely begins to show that the person who has received training can be expected to safely use a gun. Sorry, but standing in front of a stationery target and shooting a few rounds downrange doesn’t prove anything at all. A study of live-fire requirements in all 50 states found that some states required a smattering of live-fire for a concealed-carry license, but rarely do any jurisdictions require live fire for simply owning a gun.

              If medical organizations like the American College of Physicians want to announce their support for gun safety education, the least they could do is take the trouble to learn what they are talking about. Ditto Gun-control Nation, which seems to assume that anything which smacks of mandated (government) gun regulations is a good thing. Sorry, government mandates are basically useless if they require activities that have no value at all. Which happens to be the case with gun training today.

Where Research On Gun Violence Needs To Start.

Last month our friends at the RAND Corp. unveiled a new initiative on gun violence, the National Collaboration on Gun Violence Research (NCGVR) which will soon begin allocating $20 million in research funds to promote gun-violence research.  The purpose of this effort, according to the NCGVR, is to support “rigorous research designed to broaden agreement on the facts associated with gun policy, and support development of fair and effective policies.”  RAND’s plan is to eventually grow their funding to $50 million. This ain’t chopped liver, even in my book.

              This new project grows out of a 400-page study, The Science of Gun Policy, which RAND published last year and can be downloaded here. The study identified eight major gun-violence categories (referred to in the report as ‘outcomes’), linked these outcomes to thirteen public policies that were believed to reduce violence levels in each category, and then analyzed the degree to which research conducted since 2004 supported the mitigating effects of each policy or not. The outcomes were what you would expect: homicide, suicide, unintentional injury and so forth.  The policies were the usual grab-bag of what has long served as the ‘wish list’ of gun-control advocates – comprehensive background checks, red flag laws, more intensive licensing, etc.

The researchers evaluated the ‘science’ of gun-violence research by scoring the research based on the degree to which it showed that each policy actually made a difference in the level of gun violence which the particular policy was designed to affect. The ratings ranged from inconclusive to limited to moderate to supportive, and not a single category of research received a supportive rating, not one. Two outcomes, gun suicide and gun homicide, were found to be moderately impacted by background checks and CAP laws; a spread sheet detailing the value of gun research for determining the value of every other public policy for all the other outcomes was basically blank. To put it bluntly, the RAND report found scant evidence that research conducted since 2004 has been of any real value at all. Wow.

This report no doubt reflects a decision of RAND to try and fill the gap. And while the lack of government funding for such research efforts has definitely played a significant role in restricting the degree to which the science of gun policy has remained far behind where it might otherwise be, I would like to suggest that perhaps there is another reason why the team that produced the RAND report found little, if any research that could be used to support gun-control policies from an objective, evidence-based point of view.

Every year somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million Americans attempt or succeed in inflicting serious injury on someone else. It’s called ‘aggravated assault,’ but for all kinds of reasons, we don’t have any hard data on how often it occurs. For that reason, gun-violence researchers rarely focus on gun assaults unless the victim winds up dead. Most of these deaths started as arguments, escalated to assaults, then out comes the gun.  But in most cases, actually in at least 80% or more of these events, the shooter doesn’t know how to aim the gun and the person with the bullet inside them lives.

Let’s put this into context. The context is that less than 10% of the arguments that wind up as aggravated assaults involve the use of a gun. So how come 10% use a gun and 90% don’t?  It can’t be explained by saying that there aren’t enough guns to go around. The guns are all over the place!

As long as gun-violence researchers rely on medically-based data about victims to understand gun violence, we won’t get very far. And if we don’t understand what’s going on in the head of the shooter, as opposed to the body of the victim, how can we develop public policies to reduce gun violence that will really work?

I just hope my friends at RAND will take this issues into account when deciding how to distribute their generous and much-needed research funds.

 

Don’t More Gun Injuries Mean More Business For Emergency Rooms?

Last week our friends at The Trace published an article on a brief but noisy exchange which broke out between a group of ER doctors and the NRA. The physicians have put up a website which claims to be collecting and distributing funds that will be awarded to gun researchers to make up for gun-research dollars no longer provided by the CDC.  The NRA is the NRA.

            This same bunch of physicians, whose gun-violence research credentials are impeccable, also put up a chain letter that could be sent to the NRA.  The letter was in response to an op-ed on the NRA website which basically told the medical community to stick its concerns about guns you know where.  The NRA editorial was the organization’s response to yet another medical article which found that, believe it or not, a connection between guns and gun injuries. Gee, what a surprise. And of course it’s even a bigger surprise that the NRA would deny that such a connection even exists.

Physicians and public health researchers have been publishing credible research on gun violence for more than twenty-five years. Know what these well-meaning and dedicated researchers have gotten for all their efforts? The elimination of CDC funding for gun research. That’s it. Period. Zilch. In fact, over the last several years, gun-violence rates appear to be going back up.  Oh well, oh well. Maybe another research article on gun violence will push the rates back down, right?  Wrong.

The good news, of course, is that the physicians who want you to sign their chain letter to the NRA also happen to be members of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the folks who usually have to figure out how to keep someone alive who has a bullet in their head. And they are remarkably skilled in this respect; of the 75,000 or so who suffer injuries from gun assaults each year, only 12,000 or so end up dead. The rest come back to the hospital on a much too-frequent basis and after a few more visits, also end up dead.

And how does the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) respond to this problem? They give substantial financial support to the politicians who make a career goal out of preventing even the most minimal gun reforms from moving ahead.

How does this happen? It happens because the ACEP has a PAC which over the last two election cycles donated almost $150,000 to the election campaigns of 15 House members who are rated A+ by the NRA. The NRA gives an A rating to just about every member of the House GOP caucus, but these 15 are in a group all their own. They are the spear-carriers, the most pro-gun guys in Congress, and they do whatever is necessary to make sure that no gun legislation rears its ugly head.

So here we have a remarkable situation in which some physicians use social media to advance their gun-control agendas (and their public personalities) while their professional organization uses their dues monies to advance the cause of the NRA. Now you would think that when a doctor named Michael Siegel began writing about this issue, his concerns would be shared and amplified by the members of APEC who would like you to believe they are tirelessly working to end gun violence, right? Wrong again.

The Trace article quotes one of the self-appointed, gun-violence leaders of the medical community, Garen Wintemute, who says that physicians should ‘privately’ approach politicians about gun violence because to raise these issues publicly would be ‘divisive’ and would hurt “relationships with elected officials with whom they work on a range of policies”.

Let me break the news to you gently Garen – you don’t know what you’re talking about, but God forbid you would admit to nec sciunt quicquam and keep your mouth shut. More than any other profession, doctors should be the loudest and most vociferous contributors to the public debate on gun violence, which means first and foremost telling public officials to stop being handmaidens for the NRA.

 

 

Greg Gibson: Taking Back The 2nd Amendment.

The Second Amendment is truly remarkable. We alone among nations have, not only the unfettered right to keep and bear arms, but an access to guns that is unequaled by any other stable society in the world. This constitutional right bespeaks a deep faith in the civility, wisdom, and maturity of all Americans – a fundamental trust in the average citizen that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

2nd amendmentPeople talk about American exceptionalism, and we ARE exceptional as a nation, in part because of our right to keep and bear arms, and the ways in which this right has become a part of our heritage. It is more than a privilege, more than an custom. It is a unique and glorious right.

And look what we’ve done with it. Just open the paper, turn on the TV, take out your phone.

Guns falling into the hands of madmen, domestic abusers, and teenagers with still-developing brains. Guns to keep people safe from people with guns. Guns on night stands. Guns in pockets and purses. Guns in shopping malls, on college campuses. 300 million guns.

35,000 gun deaths a year. 125,000 injured. Hundreds of thousands suffering the grief, trauma, and displacement that trail in the wake of gun violence. Whole communities turned into vengeful, dysfunctional battlegrounds.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

We’ve defiled this right. Through our own inaction and inattention we’ve let custody of the Second Amendment slide into the hands of ideologues, profiteers, and fear-mongerers, overseen by a cowardly Congress unable to act on the will of the people.

Don’t you think it’s time we reclaimed our Second Amendment?

Sensible people like you and me. Gun owners and non-gun owners. Red people. Blue people. Plain, unassuming, reasonable men and women, standing millions strong, facing down fanatics of every stripe.

We’re here for our Second Amendment, guys. We want our amendment back… NOW!

 

Don’t Forget Self-Defense When You Celebrate The 4th.

In case you want to be a real American tomorrow and celebrate July 4th the way real Americans are going to celebrate, here’s an eye-catching advertisement I received from one of the websites that sells all the most important stuff to Gun-nut Nation on this most patriotic day. Actually, the most important stuff for the 4th is the case or keg of beer. But after that item, what counts is how you go about making sure that your personal protection is up to date.

armor3              Let’s see.  Body Armor – Medical Kits – Targets.  Those are the must-have items in case of a terrorist attack, or better yet, making sure you can defend yourself and your loved ones from a flood of illegals from you know where. Trump says that those kids in Texas will be sent to military bases here and there – I can see the FEMA trailers rolling right now into Fort Bliss or Fort Hood.  Let’s not forget to string the barbed wire around the trailers so that the kids can’t escape because all you need is one twelve-year-old invading the town and then God knows all kinds of Hell might break loose.

Now if such an invasion does occur and you and your loved ones are facing a threat, having a complete set of body armor is a prerequisite for personal defense.  You can choose between soft armor, designed for ‘pistol threat protection’ or hard armor, which is ‘rugged, reliable and ‘stress fracture resistant,’ cost based on size and weight.

Do you know what an EPIK is?  Do you have an EPIK?  Well, if the answer to either of those questions is ‘no,’ you better get with the program and purchase an EPIK today.  That’s right – today! Because if you don’t buy your EPIK today, you won’t have it ready for July 4th, which means you won’t be able to protect yourself and your loved ones from come what may.

The EPIK is an Emergency Personal Injury Kit to be used against ‘life-threatening bleeding injuries,’ specifically designed to ‘stop bleeding fast from a gunshot, knife, or other traumatic bleeding wound.’ And this particular product is extremely versatile because you never know how or where the threat may appear.  You can buy an EPIK to fit in your ‘Pocket, Plate Carrier, Backpack, Glove Box, Range Bag, and Survival Kit, anywhere you need it.’ And your personal EPIK starts at only $39.99.

Now you may think that the purpose of this column is to give free advertising to the company that makes and markets all this crap. But that’s not it at all. What today’s column is all about is my continued amazement at the ability of American entrepreneurship to come up with new ways to sell Gun-nut Nation stuff they don’t need.

Of course, what nobody really needs is another self-defense gun, and if what I see and hear from the gun shops around here is any indication of how gun sales are going across the fruited plain, just about everyone in Gun-nut Nation has also bought every gun that they could ever need to own. One of the local gun stores has a big sign out front telling customers that they can take 50 bucks off the retail price of any gun. The dealer won’t make a dime on the sale, but at least he’ll move some iron off the shelf.

Remember Glenn Beck peddling freeze-dried foods that would be edible even after sitting in your backyard bomb shelter for thirty years?  That’s right – the same Glenn Beck who’s now bankrupt. How could anyone in their right mind believe they need to drive around with a personal injury kit, particularly when the average adult doesn’t know squat about how to deal with any kind of traumatic medical injury at all?

God bless America, God bless the free enterprise system, and most of all, God bless our sacred duty to protect ourselves and our loved ones by spending a few bucks on some worthless junk.  Have a great 4th!

Further Comment On What We Don’t Know About Gun Violence Numbers.

If I didn’t have anything better to do, I would have spent an hour this past Thursday at the Hammer Health Sciences Center, part of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, listening to a panel of experts talk about public health solutions to gun violence. The lead panelist, Professor Sonali Rajan, has published several articles on gun violence, one of which, “Firearms in K­12 Schools: What is the Responsibility of the Education Community?” notes that schools tend to be very safe environments , but “even one instance of gunfire in a school should be considered one too many.”

cdc             Is Dr. Rajan serious?  I thought the science of what happens when a bullet collides with a human body had long been settled, at least since somewhere around the 15th Century when Bartolomeo Beretta manufactured a pile of gun barrels at his little factory in Gardone in 1526.  But evidently Professor Rajan and her colleagues still believe that all kinds of gaps exist in public health research gun research; in fact, she concludes by saying, “There is an urgent need for coordinated efforts by the education community to effectively address the implications of firearms inside and surrounding K‐12 schools.”

And why is there such an ‘urgent’ need for more gun research? Because those meanies at the NRA and their sycophantic followers in Congress have blocked research money for more than twenty years. In her article, Dr. Rajan joins a long and distinguished list of scholars who have been pointing out, with good reason, that the lack of funding stymies any real effort to figure out strategies that will lead to less violence caused by guns.

Far be it from me to try and cast the boys in Fairfax as being anything other than totally opposed to gun-violence research.  But while it’s convenient to cast the NRA as the villain in this piece, the story doesn’t end there. I can’t imagine that someone doing research on any virulent disease would accept not knowing where the data came from on which the study was based. But guess what? The data on gun violence published by the CDC comes from a ‘representative sample’ of 100 U.S. hospitals who send data on all ER visits for injuries to an agency called the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) run by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the outfit that DD Trump is trying to shut down.

Hey, wait a minute.  I thought that thanks to those NRA meanies, the Consumer Product Safety Commission can regulate the design of baby carriages, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers and other lethal products, but they can’t regulate guns. But they can send data on gun injuries to the CDC.  And while the folks at NEISS declined to send me the ‘nationally representative’ list of hospitals which supply the data on gun injuries, they do publish a map showing the location of these participating hospitals, so please download it here.

Take a look at Louisiana, the Number One state for gun injuries of both the fatal and non-fatal kind.  The NEISS hospital appears to be located at least 50 miles away from New Orleans, which happens to be the state’s chief killing ground. In Virginia, the participating hospital is probably near the small town of Danville, more than 100 miles from Richmond. There’s no hospital at all in New Mexico, which is only ranked 4th-highest among all states for gun suicides involving victims under the age of 29.

This is the source for the data which scholars use for the research which then informs the GVP community about which strategies they should follow and promote?  This is the data which the GVP claims is evidence-based, as opposed to the gun-rights gang who don’t care about evidence at all? I wrote about this issue last week but I’m writing about it again because I simply cannot accept the idea that gun-violence research is flying along so blind.

I only wish that some organization with more authority than me can find a way to set this straight. We owe it to the 125,000 people shot each year by guns, even if we really don’t know what that number means.