Tom Gabor: Unrelenting Gun Violence and Lax Gun Laws Erode Our Freedoms

The gun lobby and gun rights advocates often claim that increasing gun rights makes Americans more free.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Yes, permissive gun laws increase the freedom of the minority (30%) of adults who are gun owners to purchase virtually any weapon they choose.  However, increasing the availability of firearms erodes our freedoms–including those of gun owners and their families–in a number of ways. 

There is significant evidence showing that higher gun ownership levels, more gun carrying, and increasing the presence of guns in homes tend to make people less safe.  While guns are sometimes used for self-protection, they are used far more often in crime, against domestic partners, in suicides, and in unintentional injuries and fatalities.  It follows that lowering gun ownership and gun carrying will save lives and prevent injuries, thereby sparing many Americans from the loss of life and the unimaginable injuries and horrors associated with losing or caring for a loved one who has been shot. 

More Americans are reporting being mindful of the dangers of being shot when entering shopping malls, houses of worship, theaters and entertainment districts, night clubs and other crowded places.  Such fear is certainly not freedom.  Nor is the fear of students who are often terrified to go to school.  An American Psychological Association survey has found that the fear of being caught in a school shooting is at the top of the list of stressors for students between the ages of 15 and 21.  Freedom is not the term that comes to mind when we think of K-12 students participating in active shooter drills and cowering in classroom corners and under desks.

In response to school shootings, states like Florida with especially influential gun lobbies prefer to do anything but address the widespread availability of guns and assault-style weapons.  They want to focus on arming teachers and school staff, turning school properties into high security prison-like settings, conducting drills, and focusing on mental health despite the fact that most school shooters do not have a serious mental illness.  The militarization of schools represents the antithesis of freedom for students and school staff.

Requiring or incentivizing teachers and school staff to carry guns is dangerous and will cost lives rather than free people from gun violence.   Active shooters are almost never taken down by armed civilians but putting arms in the hands of improperly trained individuals will lead to fatal shootings within the school, thefts of guns, accidental shootings, and other misuses.  It forces talented teachers out of education and interferes with the right of students to have the best education possible.  Teachers, students, and administrators alike oppose the practice and, yet, the gun lobby is pressing to arm teachers since Wayne LaPierre of the NRA famously stated: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” 

The militarization of schools through arming teachers and active shooter drills provide constant reminders to students of the dangers of an active shooter.  Rather than freedom, this is a constant distraction from their studies.  At the college level, allowing guns on campus seems counterproductive as universities have consistently been shown to be safer than the surrounding community.  Why import the community’s problems onto campuses? 

Two years ago, three University of Texas at Austin professors filed a lawsuit against the stateAttorney General and several officials at the university over a 2015 law allowing concealed handguns on college campuses. The professors argued the law infringed their First Amendment right to academic freedom, saying the carrying of guns into classrooms created a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.  As a former criminology professor, I would imagine that the free-wheeling discussions we had on such controversial topics as abortion, sexual assault, and race and justice, would have been far more subdued or would not have been broached at all had students been “packing.” 

The most extreme manifestation of how individuals wielding guns can deprive others of their First Amendment rights are displays of menacing behavior by gun rights activists aimed at groups who are engaging in activism to bring about gun law reform.  Armed groups such as Open Carry Texas and the Utah Gun Exchange have bullied and threatened individuals organizing voluntary gun buybacks and have stalked activist students seeking changes in gun laws as they made their way around the country.

Finally, a shocking example of how the gun violence epidemic can lead to an erosion of our freedoms is shown by a Senate Republican bill that would tackle mass and school shootings through the enhanced  monitoring of students’ communications.  Rather than addressing the roots of the despair that lead young people to commit school shootings and their easy access to weapons capable of mass slaughter, the GOP, a party historically concerned about invasions of privacy, recently filed a bill that would dig deeply into the online activities of students. 

The legislation would require federally funded schools to install software to surveil students’ online activities, potentially including their emails and searches, in order to identify “violent” or alarming content.  Education groups say that such intensification of social media and network surveillance can discourage children from expressing themselves online.  Social media monitoring has already increased dramatically in response to gun violence.  The Brennan Center for Justice notes that, from 2013 to 2018, the number of school districts across the country that purchased social media monitoring software increased from six to 63.

Schools are being inundated with alerts, with some receiving over a hundred a day.  The technology does not merely monitor student activity during the school day but operates 24/7, monitoring school email accounts, web searches, and, in some cases, students’ public social media accounts as well.

The jury is still out in terms of the impact of this dramatic escalation in student monitoring.  There is a significant concern that student communications may be misinterpreted due to student cultural differences and casual conversations that may be mistakenly viewed as threats by the software employed, potentially exposing a much wider pool of students to the attention of law enforcement.

While some monitoring of student activities may be desirable, there is a difference between encouraging young people to come forward if they witness threatening behaviors or statements and the routine, around-the-clock electronic surveillance of young people that will often misinterpret loose talk of kids as a threat and bring some form of heavy-handed response.  Ultimately, the latter will lead kids to be more secretive and find ways to communicate with their peers that will circumvent the monitoring.  Surveillance may be politically more palatable than dealing with the alienation and trauma experienced by young people, as well as the enactment of effective gun laws.  However, such monitoring does nothing to address the social, psychological, and familial factors that lead young people to commit horrific acts.  To the extent that we persist in ignoring the reasons for the carnage we are seeing, we will continue to fail to free our kids and society from the ever-present threat of gun violence.

Thomas Gabor, Ph.D. is a criminologist and author of ENOUGH! Solving America’s Gun Violence Crisis (thomasgaborbooks.com)

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When It Comes To Gun Laws, The NRA Isn’t The Last Word.

              All of a sudden the boys down at Fairfax have become very concerned about doing everything with guns in a very legal way. The NRA website no longer contains those obnoxious, crazy videos from Dana, ‘home-school Queen’ Loesch, or the dance-and-prance shooting lessons from Colion Noir. Instead, now we get a whole menu of tips and tricks about how to make sure that everything you do with a gun stays completely within the law.

              Except there’s only one little problem with the NRA‘s new-found concern for making sure that all gun laws are properly observed.  And the problem happens to be the fact that the way the NRA chooses to describe certain gun laws may not be the way some of those laws actually work. Take, for example, their advice on how to purchase a gun as a gift for someone else.

              The comment starts off like this: “Giving someone a firearm carries a certain level of legal responsibility that does not come with gifting iPads or socks. You should know the laws that apply to buying firearms as gifts for another person.” Fair enough. I have no problem with the NRA‘s advice up until now.

              But then things get a little sticky, because the text then goes on to mention the fact that if you purchase a gun from a dealer, you must undergo a background check which involves declaring that you are buying the gun for yourself. But what if you knew that after buying the gun you were going to walk out of the store, wrap the gun up as a gift and give it to someone else? And let’s say further that you live in a state where giving that gun to someone else doesn’t require another background check? Which still happens to be the law in 29 of the 50 states.

              Here is what the NRA has to say about that: “Even if you are not keeping the gun, you are the owner of that firearm until you legally transfer it to the intended recipient.” Sorry,  but that’s not how the background check law works at all. Because what the law says is that you have committed a felony if you knew you were going to transfer the gun to someone else at the time you first purchased the gun and claimed on the 4473 background-check form that you were buying it for yourself.

              This issue was decided by the Supreme Court in Abramski v. United States, which was argued and decided in 2014. Bruce Abramski was a part-time cop who walked into a gun shop in Virginia and bought a Glock. He then took the gun to Pennsylvania and gave it to his uncle who had earlier sent him the money to purchase the gun. But to take the gun out of the shop in Virginia, Abramski had to undergo a background check, and even though he was buying the gun for his uncle, he certified that he would be the legal owner of the gun.

              Had Abramski paid for the gun in Virginia but let the dealer ship it to another dealer in the uncle’s hometown, he would have been following the law. But by walking out of the Virginia gun shop with a gun which he knew was going to be given to someone else, he had committed what we call a ‘straw sale.’

              Abramski didn’t lie on the 4473 because he was going to sell the gun to a ‘street thug.’ He lied to save himself the cost of shipping the gun to a dealer in another state.

              The real problem with gun laws, and this is probably true of the legal system in general, is that you can’t write a law that compensates for stupidity, and there’s plenty of stupidity floating around the NRA.

Do More Guns Really Mean More Gun Violence?

Over the least quarter-century, the debate about guns and gun violence has coalesced into two camps. One camp, let’s call it the ‘guns are good’ (GAG) camp, says that guns protect us from violence and crime. The other camp, let’s call it the ‘guns are bad’ (GAB) camp, says that guns cause more violence and crime. The GAG has been led by our friend John Lott.  The GAB has been led by our friend David Hemenway. Today’s column will examine the argument made by the GAB.

In multiple articles plus a well-known and oft-cited book, Hemenway claims that the rate of violent crime is no different between the U.S. and other ‘advanced’ nation-states. On the other hand, the U.S. has a much higher rate of fatal, violent crime, a difference caused by the private ownership of some 300 million guns.

Hemenway and other public-health researchers refer to their approach as creating an ‘epidemiology’ of gun violence; i.e., figuring out where (geographically)  and when (numerically) this particular form of injury occurs. Unfortunately, the comparison he makes between the U.S. and other ‘advanced’ countries is wrong on both counts.

If Hemenway and his public health cohorts actually believe that comparing any health event in a country of 320 million people with another country that holds one-tenth that population or less gives us any insights into how to deal with that particular health problem, then all I can say is that you can use numbers to prove anything you want.  Of the 34 countries currently in the OECD, ten have a total population of less than 30 million. Does anyone really believe that we can come up with a valid explanation about anything if we compare what happens in the U.S. to what goes on, for example, in Luxembourg, whose total population is .001 percent of ours?

Luxembourg covers an area of 998 square miles, which happens to be one-fifth the size of Connecticut. If you stuck Luxembourg into Montana, it would be a tiny speck. And yet Hemenway and other GAB researchers want us to believe that a cross-national comparison between the United States and a country like Luxembourg should be the basis on which we develop ‘reasonable’ national gun laws, right?

The GAB argument breaks down even further when we forget cross-national comparisons and just look at the rate of violent crime within the United States. According to the FBI-UCR, the U.S. violent crime rate in 2017 was 394 per 100K. But this number, particularly the more than 17,000 homicides which contribute 1.3% of the crimes to the overall number of violent crimes, is also rather meaningless when discussed in global terms.

In fact, on a regional basis, the homicide rate of 5.3 breaks down like this: Northeast – 3.5; Midwest – 5.7; South – 6.4; West – 4.5.  Taken together, the 15 Southern states represent almost half the total homicides of the country as a whole.  The Northeast, on the other hand, represents just 11% of all homicides, although the total regional population is just about half the number of people living in the South.

To compare the overall rate of gun violence in the U.S. to other countries is basically a false comparison precisely because the murder rates in different parts of our country vary to such an extreme degree. If Hemenway and his public health research colleagues want to pretend they are creating an ‘epidemiology’ of gun violence, they should stop talking about a ‘national crisis’ and start looking at what the numbers really say. What the numbers really say is that we have a severe public health problem called ‘gun violence’ which shows up most frequently in the Southern states.

My mail-list includes all the public health researchers who support the GAB idea. If any of them want to reply to this column, I’ll gladly post their words right here. But if there’s one thing which seems to unite virtually the entire community of gun-violence public health researchers, it’s their obsessive desire to avoid any public debate about their own work. So we’ll see what we see.

Dave Buchannon: Legislation Can’t Fix This.

Congress returned to work this week and the first order of business is gun control legislation, at least according to all the news we’ve been reading since El Paso and Dayton.  The mission seems to be, “do something, anything, to make this stop.”  Everyone’s talking about banning this gun or that high capacity magazine.  There’s also the movement to pass a national red-flag law that will take guns away from those who shouldn’t be allowed to have guns because of their mental state.  Or the best one yet – comprehensive background checks for every gun transfer.

It’s all hogwash that might make some people feel they’ve done something meaningful, but it will not change anything.  Sadly, not one thing. 

Because, no matter how horrible gun violence has become in America today, it is not something we can legislate away.  The problem goes much, much deeper than anything a new law or background check can solve.  Some would say its root is in bad parenting, genetics, is the result of our overcrowded prison system, a failed mental health system, gangs, the list could go on and on.

Dear Congress, write all the new laws you want (whether the President will sign them or not), wanna know why they won’t put a dent in gun violence?  Because the bad guys don’t care about laws – isn’t that part of the definition of “bad guy?”  No matter how many laws are enacted, the bad guys have already figured out a way to get around it.  I could give two hoots what the NRA says about this, I’ve seen it first hand as a cop – if a bad guy wants a gun, he’s going to get a gun and there’s no law that’s going to stop him.  Nice try.

Universal background checks are a great idea, if all of the agencies across the country are reporting as they are supposed to.  They aren’t.  Remember the Sutherland Park, Texas  church shooting in November, 2017?  It most likely wouldn’t have happened had the US Air Force reported Devin Patrick Kelley’s less than honorable discharge after his court-marshal for a domestic violence arrest.  You see, he passed the NICS check when he bought the rifle he used in the shooting… because the US Air Force failed to report.  Many states and municipalities do not report criminal or mental health issues that would prevent someone from buying a gun. So long as there are states, agencies, and armed forces that are not fully reporting to NICS, universal background checks will not work.  Another nice try. 

So what about those red flag laws everyone is crowing about?  Congress can pass a national red flag law with the best of intentions.  At some point an angry ex-spouse, ex-business partner, angry neighbor, or other person who is upset with a legal gun owner will fraudulently report that person as being a hazard to self or others.  The lawyers will be circulating, waiting to sue the reporting party and challenge the law.  The legal beagles will probably be successful because many of the state red flag laws currently on the books completely disregard any due process for the legal gun owner.  In my home state of Massachusetts, no hearing is required before the police show up at the gun owner’s door with a warrant to seize his guns.  After the gun owner has sold his house to pay the legal bills and proves he’s in charge of his faculties or never made any threats, how does he get his guns back?  He doesn’t, because in Massachusetts there is no mechanism in the law to return the guns to the original owner.  He winds up having to keep paying the bonded storage charges (yep, the owner has to pay for storage when’s guns are taken away).  I give the red flag laws about a year before the courts over turn them. 

What can be done?  My point is that there is no single answer to the gun violence problem.  Anyone who tells you passing a law will solve the problem is flat-out lying to you.  If you believe and embrace this hokum-filled philosophy, I’m sorry, but you are sadly misguided.  This is a much, much larger problem that has less to do with the gun than with larger societal issues. 

Why Do We Enact Gun-Control Laws?

              Tuesday night C-Span carried the debate and vote of the House Judiciary Committee about the ‘red flag’ law. The statute was sent to the full House where it will pass and then no doubt languish until sometime next year when the GOP begins to read the tea leaves seriously and decides what legislation will and will not help or hurt them in the 2020 race.

              There’s a chance that three gun bills will be waiting Senate action during the current Congressional session: comprehensive background checks, red-flag laws and another assault-weapons ban. If there’s a blue sweep come next November, we might even seen these bills consolidated into one, major piece of legislation, which would mark the fifth time the Federal Government enacted a gun-control law, the previous laws having been passed in 1934, 1938, 1968 and 1994. The initial assault weapons ban was also enacted in 1994, but it was stuck onto the Omnibus Crime Bill which was also passed that year.

              The four statutes which got the Federal Government into gun-control big time, defined certain guns as being too dangerous for ordinary purchase and sale (1934), defined the role and responsibilities of federally-licensed gun dealers (1938), created the definition of ‘law-abiding’ individuals who could purchase or possess guns (1968), and brought the FBI into the mix to make sure that people who claimed to be law-abiding gun owners were, in fact, what they claimed to be.

              These laws approached the issue of gun control from four different perspectives, but they all shared one common thread; namely, they were enacted to help law enforcement agencies deal with the issue of crime. Here’s the preamble to the 1968 law: “The Congress hereby declares that the purpose of this title is to provide support to Federal, State and local law enforcement officials in their fight against crime and violence….” The other Federal gun laws basically say the same thing. In other words, these laws may have been enacted to regulate the ownership and commerce of guns, but their real purpose was to help fight crime.

              Every other advanced nation-state also enacted gun-control laws, for the most part either before or after World War II. Most of these laws were patterned after our initial law, the National Firearms Act of 1934, but these laws were all different from our gun-control laws in one, crucial respect, namely, they prohibited the purchase of handguns except under the most stringent and restrictive terms.

              Why do we suffer from a level of gun violence that is seven to twenty times’ higher than any other advanced nation-state? Not because we have so many more guns floating around, but because we make it very easy for folks to get access to handguns, which happen to be the guns that kill and injure just about all those 125,000+ Americans every year. Oh, I forgot. Some of them aren’t real Americans. They snuck in here, got on welfare and deserve to get shot.

              The reason that countries like France, Italy and Germany banned handguns had nothing to do with crime. The gun-control laws passed in these and other countries were based on government fear of armed, rebellion from the Left – Socialist and Communist labor unions to be precise. The United States Federal Government also once had to deal with a serious, armed rebellion, but this was a rebellion not about class oppression or workers versus owners. It was a disagreement about race.

              For all the nonsense about how guns keep us ‘free,’ the truth is that owning and carrying a Glock has nothing to do with freedom at all. It has to do with a totally irrational belief that we are surrounded by predators who just can’t wait to invade our homes, beat us up and run off with that wide-screen TV. Since we know this to be a fact, how come the violent-crime rates in countries where nobody can protect themselves with a handgun are lower than the rate of violent crime in the United States?

How Do We Protect Ourselves From Guns?

This happens to be the question which at the moment appears to be driving the 2020 campaign. Even the noisemakers who are promoting Trump seem to think that he can only help himself renew the lease at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if he comes out with a legislative package that will at least appear to contain some kind of gun-control ideas.

Now it comes as no surprise that The [failing] New York Times is urging passage of a gun-control bill. Big frickin’ deal (to quote Trump’s use of a time-honored expletive right out of any barroom in Queens.) But when The New York Post runs a lead editorial which tells Trump to make gun control Priority Number One, that’s not just a horse of a different color, it’s a different animal altogether and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

The last time I looked, the two ideas which appear to have the best chance of winding up on the President’s desk are a ‘red flag’ law, which just about everyone seems to feel will make some bit of difference to controlling the carnage even though no doubt there will be the usual whining about giving the courts the ability to ‘steamroll’ the Bill of Rights.

The other band-aid to be put on the gun problem will probably be what is referred to as ‘universal background checks,’ which means more work for the FBI-NICS examiners in West Virginia, more complaining by the ATF about how they don’t have the resources to go after everyone who fails a background check now, never mind the many millions of people who will fail the check when every gun transfer has to first be approved.

Both of these bills, however, will help satisfy what has always been the guiding narrative of the gun-control movement, namely, keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ Now many of these ‘wrong hands’ belong to individuals who couldn’t pass a background check if their lives depended on it. Other ‘wrong hands’ are connected to the arms of people who wake up one morning and go wandering around town with an AR-15, telling everyone they bump into that last night the Martians really did land at Area 51. The latter bunch will be hauled into some courtroom and learn that in the interests of both public and personal safety, a red flag is waving and they can go home without their gun.

With all due respect to my friends in both the Gun-nut and Gun-control Nations who are considering whether to support these ideas, I just want to point out a little problem with this approach. According to the FBI, somewhere around 40% of all gun homicides are committed by individuals who can’t have legal access to a handgun of any kind for the simple reason that they have not yet attained the age of 21. Buy an AR? Yep. Buy a Glock? Federal law says no siree.

When Marvin Wolfgang studied homicides in Philadelphia committed in Philadelphia between 1948 and 1952, it turned out that roughly 20% of nearly 600 murders were committed by individuals under age 25. And only one-third of them ended someone else’s life by using a gun. Now we have a younger population doing more of the murders each year and two-thirds commit these fatal assaults by using a gun.

I’m not against either comprehensive background checks or red flags, not one bit. I just hope everyone realizes that the problems that may be solved by these laws are jjust the beginning of ending gun violence, not the end.

When It Comes To A New Gun Law, Here’s How To Get It Done.

Now that the momentum appears to be building for a new federal gun law, my Gun-control Nation friends will no doubt get busy trying to figure out: a) what would be the best law to try and get passed; and b) how to go about getting it passed. The GOP has suddenly begun warming up to the idea of a ‘red flag’ law because such a measure would basically hand the gun-control problem over to the cops, which means that the NRA-toadies on the right side of the aisle can say support ‘common-sense’ gun laws and Blue Lives Matter at the same time.

Last year the Parkland kids spearheaded an event, March For Our Lives, which brought as many as 2 million people to DC and may have been one of the largest, mass protests of all time.  Which was exactly the problem with the event, namely, that it was a protest against gun violence rather than a guide to what needed to get done.

Want to know how to figure out what could or might get done? My advice is to heed the experiences and words of a woman who, when a definitive history of gun control finally appears, deserves to be considered as the Susan B. Anthony of the gun-control movement (we’ll make Shannon Watts the Elizabeth Cady Stanton), a.k.a., Donna Dees Thomases, who put together the first, national gun-control event in 2000 known as the Million Mom March.

Donna got going after she saw a news report about a shooting in a Jewish Community Center in California which wounded two adults and three children, although luckily nobody was killed. I want to pause my narrative for a moment and give a big shout-out to two women, Donna Finkelstein and Loren Lieb, whose children were wounded in the attack and who remain active in the local Brady chapter to this day. I just sent a contribution to Brady in their names and I urge you to do the same. Now back to Donna.

Last year following March for our Lives, Donna published a piece in which she uses her own activist experiences of the past two decades to state both some concerns and hopes for what Gun-control Nation might possibly achieve. Her biggest concern, and I share this with her in spades, is that the gun-control movement continues to be splintered into a multiplicity of groups which makes the whole issue of branding difficult to achieve. And in the age of instant media known as the internet, branding is not only essential, but it’s particularly important when you go up against Gun-nut Nation that gathers just about everyone under one brand – the NRA – which has been around for more than 140 years.

Now the fact that the NRA is at the moment having problems keeping its brand from coming apart at the seams shouldn’t lull any gun-control activist into some kind of dream-like fantasy that America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ is about to dry up and go away. The boys in Fairfax will wait until things quiet down, they’ll give Wayne-o and his team a graceful good-bye, and back they’ll come to continue the rhetorical shoot-out over gun ‘rights.’

Donna’s concern about the plethora of organizational efforts on the gun-control side is balanced by the fact that between herself, Shannon, Sarah Brady and others, women have played a leading role in the gun-control fight. And she makes a point of the fact that one of the strengths of Moms Demand Action is the red t-shirt which is easily identifiable at public events. Just imagine what it would look like if a million people showed up for another gun-control rally on the Mall and everyone was wearing the same shirt (hint, hint.)

Last but not least, and here I couldn’t agree more with what Donna says, which is that nothing happens overnight. Advocacy is always a long, difficult and often frustrating struggle so be forewarned and prepared. On the other hand, who ever said that important issues like human life don’t deserve a serious fight?

And you can also read an interview I gave yesterday about the attempt to put an assault-weapon ban on the 2020 Florida ballot – another tough, long fight.

Gun Violence And 2020: The Candidates Speak.

              Now that some of us (not me) have sat through two debates by the folks who want to take over the Oval office in 2021, we can see two basic groupings emerging on guns. I’m going to label these groupings as the T-group for ‘tough’ and the NST-group for ‘not so tough.’ But before we get into the details of which candidate wants what, I have to say that I agree with the NRA‘s statement this morning that “not a single one of the many gun control schemes proposed by the anti-gun Democratic candidates for president would make Americans any safer.”  Well, maybe we would be one percent safer. Anyway, here’s how it breaks down.

              Everyone in the T and NST groups backs an assault weapons ban and comprehensive background checks, the idea here being that even though the kid who turned the Gilroy garlic festival into a shooting range underwent a background check, he was still able to buy an AK-47. So if we have both comprehensive background checks and an assault weapons ban, that takes care of that. No more Gilroys, right? 

              It goes without saying that both groups also support ‘red flag’ laws and other measures to protect victims or possible victims of domestic gun abuse, although I still don’t really understand how asking a judge to issue an order taking away someone’s guns is really any different than walking into the local police station and telling the chief that so-and-so is acting crazy and happens to own guns. Oh well, I must be missing something in that regard.

              Where the two groups diverge is on the issue of licensing. The NST group appears to have no issue with gun licensing conducted at the state level as long as the process includes using the feds to conduct the background check. In this respect, the T‘s include the two old men, Biden and Bern, along with Pocahantas who hasn’t yet released an official policy paper on guns, but she’ll get around to it as soon as she finishes all her other policy papers. [Does Liz actually think that anyone gives a rat’s damn about policy papers?]

              The T group, on the other hand, led by Cory and seconded by Kammie, wants the entire licensing process taken over by the feds, who will issue gun licenses after the applicant takes a gun-safety course, undergoes the background check and blah, blah blah. Cory has yet to be asked to identify which federal agency would administer the safety course or, for that matter, would actually oversee the licensing process. Let’s not forget that the ATF regulates dealers, not gun owners, and oh, by the way, Kamala want anyone who sells more than 5 guns a year to become a licensed dealer. So the ATF can now figure out how to inspect millions of new dealers.  Right now they inspect less than 5 percent of all dealers.

              I hate to keep bringing this up again and again, but there’s a very simple way to get rid of gun violence. All you have to do is get rid of the guns which cause the violence, namely, the small, hi-powered, hi-capacity handguns. And despite everyone’s reverence for the 2nd Amendment, the government can decide that certain kinds of guns are too lethal for sale to the general public. Is there any difference between an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine and a Glock 19 with a 20-round magazine?  Yea, ten rounds. The AR takes a military round known as the .223. The round in a Glock 19, the 9×19, also happens to be a military load.

              If my friends in Gun-control Nation would get behind a realistic plan to end gun violence by getting rid of the cause of the violence, the NRA would bitch and moan but so what? Gun-nut Nation will bitch and moan no matter what the other side says. For all the wrong reasons, what the NRA said about last night’s debate happens to be correct.

Why Do People Believe In Armed, Self-Defense?

              There’s a guy out in Gun-nut Nation named Chris Bird, who is regarded as one of the patron saints of the concealed-carry movement, and I have just finished reading his book, The Concealed Handgun Manual, which is considered a must-read book by all the noisemakers who believe that we are a safer country because we have access to guns. And since Chris may think that some of the things I’m going to say about his book aren’t all that positive or nice, I’ll give the book a plug because you can buy it right here.

              As a matter of fact, I strongly urge my friends in Gun-control Nation to read this book, because if there’s one thing that strikes me about activists who want to see us reduce the violence and injuries caused by guns, it’s the degree to which they seem to have little, if any awareness of what is said or believed by the other side. Ask the average gun-control true-believer to explain the difference between an ‘internet’ sale and a ‘personal, sale of a gun and you’ll get the deer-in-the-headlights look. Then ask the same person to explain the difference between an assault rifle and a semi-auto long gun and you’ll probably get much the same look.

              I wouldn’t recommend Bird’s book were it not for the fact that the issue of concealed-carry basically defines the entire gun debate. Why? Because everyone (except me) seems to believe that the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the ‘right’ to own a gun. But where the break occurs between the two sides is explaining why someone should or shouldn’t own a gun. And the gun industry has been selling its products for the last thirty or so years by telling customers that a gun is an essential ‘tool’ for self-defense, even though there is absolutely no valid research which shows this argument to be true.

              So what we get down to here is a mind-set in the heads of many Americans who as a group form the market for continued gun sales. And Chris Bird happens to write books which appeal directly to that mind-set, whether there’s any reality behind it or not. If my friends in Gun-control are really serious about coming up with ‘reasonable’ gun restrictions which will appeal to ‘reasonable’ people on the other side, reading Bird’s book might give them some insights into why those gun owners believe they should own guns. 

              Bird begins the book with a lecture on ‘situational awareness,’ a self-defense concept first developed by Jeff Cooper (whose widow passed away yesterday at the age of 99) back in the 1970’s, which is when, thanks to Glock, the idea of owning and carrying a small, concealable, hi-powered and hi-capacity handgun first took hold. The argument made by Bird is both simple-stupid, namely, that all of us are at all times possible targets of predators who can only be repulsed with personal armed force because the cops never arrive on time.

              The book then goes through a whole series of episodes where armed citizens saved themselves from a criminal attack; it then covers how to choose a handgun, how to practice with your gun, and how to ‘win a gunfight’ with references all the way back to the OK Corral. If you’re a bone-fide member of Gun-control Nation and read this book, you’ll quickly decide that it represents nothing more than a marketing scam designed to mislead delusional people into believing they really need to own a gun.

I disagree. I know many of the folks who take seriously what Bird has to say, and their views might run counter to the prevailing liberal orthodoxy on gun violence, but there’s no reason to believe that what they think about armed, self-defense should simply be considered the product of deranged minds. These folks choose to be gun owners with the same degree of diligence that many of my friends believe that gluten-free foods will prevent chronic fatigue syndrome or worse.

Want to reduce gun violence? At least try to understand what the other side thinks.

Why Do People Like Guns? Because They Like Guns.

              Earlier this week one of my readers sent me a link to the video of a debate I had at Northern Michigan University with John Lott.  The event was held in a large auditorium on campus and the place was filled with students, faculty and nearby residents, many of whom were gun nuts.  How do I know they were gun nuts?  Because at the beginning of my remarks I asked all the gun nuts in the audience to identify themselves by holding up their hands, and then I asked some of them to prove their gun-nuttiness by telling me and the audience how many guns they actually owned.

              As I recall, the guys who were willing to ‘fess up about the size of their gun collections said they owned somewhere between 10 and 30 guns.  I laughed in response to every single answer and then told the audience that I currently owned around 60 guns, give or take a few, and that at the moment my private collection was kind of ‘light.’

              I speak to pro-gun groups all the time. I’m something of a contrarian and I enjoy telling people what they don’t expect to hear. And when someone tells a group of gun guys that he owns 60 guns but would like to see a more serious effort made to reduce the 125,000 gun injuries we suffer every year, I can say without fear of exaggeration that this is an argument that Gun-nut Nation doesn’t often hear. I make it clear that I don’t buy into the nonsense about how all those ‘good guys’ with guns can protect us from all those ‘bad guys’ with guns. I also say that just because someone sits in a room for a couple of hours and falls asleep while someone else reads through some boring text about gun ‘safety,’ that this experience doesn’t meet even a minimal qualification for using a gun.

              What I don’t do in my public appearances is talk about the research on gun violence which has been published on both sides, for the simple reason that I don’t believe that the average person makes up his mind or even thinks about making up his mind based on data or facts. At least not the average person who owns a gun.  Why do I say this? Because I happen to have sold guns to more than 10,000 residents of Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont over the past 17 years; I have also taught the required gun-safety course to more than 7,000 residents in Connecticut and Mass., and I earn my living now by doing lethal-force certifications for local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies. So I know a heckuva lot more about how gun owners think about guns than anyone else in either Gun-control Nation or Gun-nut Nation, that’s for sure. And here’s what I know.

              People who buy and own guns do it for one, simple reason. They want to buy and own a gun. They may tell you that they need a gun to defend themselves, or they need a gun because it’s their 2nd-Amendment ‘right,’ or maybe they need a gun because pretty soon they won’t be able to buy a gun. I had a female customer, an educated business executive, come into my gun shop two weeks before the 2016 Presidential election who told me she ‘knew’ that if Hillary was elected, that she wouldn’t be able to own a gun.  How did such a crazy idea get into her head?  By the same token, I love how some gun-control advocates tell me about the ‘debunked’ research published by John Lott. As if they’ve ever read his research. Yea, right.

              I’m going to continue talking to pro-gun audiences and gun owners as often as I can. I wish that some of my dear friends in Gun-control Nation would spend a little less time talking to each other and try talking to the other side. Who knows? They might actually learn why people like their guns.