Don’t Think For One Second That Trump And The Gun Nuts Can’t Win Again.

              My friends in Gun-control Nation certainly should be patting themselves on the back for their efforts that helped flip the House from red to blue in 2018. But before everyone decides that the 2020 election will see the end of Trump-world and a good chance to get a gun bill turned into law, we need to step back and ask ourselves whether gun violence is quite the wedge issue that some of the media thinks it might be.

              Trump’s election in 2016 was basically the result of flipping five states – MI, WI, OH, PA, FL – which together counted for 93 electoral votes; recall that his EV total was 304 to Hillary’s 227, which was 34 more than he needed to win. Now hold that thought.

              In 2018, the Democrats flipped 40 seats but only 8 of those red to blue seats were located in the 5 swing states. Overall, the GOP caucus will seat 48 members from those 5 states, the Democratic caucus will only seat 36.  And in not one of those states do the Democrats have a majority of House members now sitting in D.C. 

              Want some more unsettling news? The week after Trump was inaugurated, he was up or tied in terms of likability in 38 states. As of the beginning of February, 2019 he was even or ahead in only 17 states. But 3 of the states where he is still either 50-50 with or without the margin of error are OH, PA and FL, which together count for 67 electoral votes, which gets him over the top again.

              Now here’s the question: What do the states of OH, PA and FL have in common?  Answer: They are what we call ‘gun-rich’ states.  Now they aren’t as rich as states like Montana and North Dakota, but Montana and North Dakota don’t have any people, so their electoral votes don’t count for squat. But if Obama learned anything from the 2008 primary campaign, it was that if you said anything snarky about guns in a state like PA, you could doom your candidacy before you got out of the starting blocks.

              How many gun owners live in FL, Oh and PA? Nobody knows for sure, but I can tell you that when I managed a national gun wholesale business, we shipped plenty of guns to those three states. All three states issue concealed-carry on demand, and both FL and OH have enacted stand your ground laws which are to Gun-nut Nation what Friskies are to my cats.

              Until and unless someone comes up with better numbers, or Trump does something so stupid that even his die-hard supporters begin to fade away, the fact that he still commands a big chunk of followers in those three, crucial states, should give my Gun-control Nation friends some pause. Because if you want to run a political campaign wrapped around the gun issue, it’s a no-brainer in blue states like California, New Jersey or New York. But those states wouldn’t go for Trump even if he donated a million dollars of his own money to the ACLU. Will a slogan like ‘reasonable’ gun laws necessarily work in PA?  It sure hasn’t worked so far.

              I am still not convinced that the gun-control movement has developed effective messaging to convince gun owners that there’s any necessary connection between 125,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun injuries each year and the ‘right’ of any law-abiding American to own a gun. Because when all is said and done, our friends in Fairfax (a.k.a the NRA) have done a remarkable job promoting the idea that no law-abiding gun owner is in any way responsible for what the tree-huggers refer to as gun ‘violence,’ so why do we need any more gun laws?

              This happens to be a powerful message, it resonates very well with folks in Fl, OH and PA whose votes could keep Trump in the White House for five more years. My friends in Gun-control Nation still need to figure this one out.

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Ban Assault Weapons in Florida Rocks!!

              I usually don’t get energetically involved in advocacy efforts of any kind, but there’s an effort just announced in Florida that deserves my support and your support as well.  I am referring to a group calling themselves Ban Assault Weapons NOW, which announced a petition drive to get an initiative on the 2020 Florida ballot that would amend the state Constitution and ultimately make Florida assault weapon rein.

              The effort has sparked the usual media coverage, some of which is inaccurate, some of which is simply dead wrong. So before I talk about whether getting rid of assault weapons will make a difference, let me just clarify what the proposed amendment would and wouldn’t do.  It doesn’t ban the ownership of assault weapons already in the Gunshine State. It does prohibit the sale or transfer of assault rifles into the state. And while Gun-nut Nation will no doubt do whatever it can do to prevent the initiative from getting on the ballot and/or becoming law, early polls indicate that, in fact, such a measure when put directly to the voters, might actually pass.

              The problem with this effort is, first of all, that collecting the required 766,000 signatures (the group has collected just short of 90,000) requires lots of cash, perhaps $5 million or more. That’s serious money, even considering that the group has access to some deep pockets, including Al Hoffman and several other real-estate biggies who announced their own gun-control effort last year.

              The other problem facing our friends pushing this Florida effort is the degree to which the whole issue of assault rifles has become something surrounded by more falsehoods than facts. Here’s a couple of the so-called facts about assault rifles which are nothing more than whole cloth:

  • The AR-15 isn’t an assault rifle because an assault rifle is a full-automatic weapon and the AR-15 only fired in semi-automatic mode. In fact, the current battle weapon carried by U.S. troops, the M4, can be set to fire in semi-automatic mode.
  • An assault rifle is no different from any other semi-automatic rifle, a design which hunters have been using for nearly a century in guns manufactured by Remington, Winchester, Browning, et. al. In fact, an assault rifle loads from a magazine inserted underneath the gun, which allows for magazine that hold upwards of 30-40 rounds. Traditional, semi-auto hunting rifles load from above the gun, which means their effective capacity is limited to 5 or 6 rounds.
  • The number of people killed and wounded by assault rifles each year adds a statistically-insignificant number to the 125,000+ Americans who shoot themselves or others with guns. Why prohibit law-abiding folks from owning a gun which has little or any responsibility for gun injuries that occur every year?

This last bubbe-mynsa deserves a paragraph all its own.The issue of assault weapons should never be considered in numeric terms – it goes far beyond that. After the massacre at Sandy Hook, the school building had to be torn down because its presence generated such terrible feelings of loss and anger for all town residents who drove or walked by. I understand that similar feelings exist amongst residents of Parkland and surrounding towns.

The point is that all gun violence creates both physical and psychic damage, but the latter injuries often go far beyond the families of gun-violence victims themselves. Newtown will never recover its sense of well-being and security following the terrible events at Sandy Hook. And the courts have long affirmed the notion that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in community safety precisely because we all want the place we live to be safe.

What the Florida initiative fundamentally represents is a community-wide effort to confront the gun industry over the lethality of its products, as well as to take issue with the nonsense promoted by Gun-nut Nation that we can all be secure and safe by just walking around with a gun.

I sent Ban Assault Weapons NOW a donation yesterday, they get another one today. And everyone who reads this column should chip in as well.  Here’s the link.

The N.Y. Times Thinks It’s Been A Tough Year For The NRA. I’m Not So Sure.

              “Politically, financially and legally, the gun-rights cause and, more specifically, the lobbying juggernaut that is the National Rifle Association have not fared well in the Trump era.”

              Thus speaketh this morning’s New York Times, and if The Times says it, then it must be true. Except, it happens not to be true. Or it’s certainly not as true as The New York Times Editorial Board would like you to believe.

              And the reason it happens not to be true is because the gun-control community, of which The New York Times considers itself to be a leading media voice, knows as much about the gun industry as I know about the structure of the atom. And I didn’t take physics or nuclear physics in college, so I don’t know anything about the structure of the atom, okay?

              The reason I can’t get on board with the judgement of the gun industry’s impending doom is because the gun-control community invariably defines the ‘power’ and ‘influence’ of the ‘gun lobby’ as based on the activities of America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ a.k.a., the NRA.  And anyone who believes that the health and welfare of the gun ‘lobby’ should be measured simply by the bottom line of the NRA’s balance sheet, doesn’t know anything about the gun lobby or anything else connected to guns.

              The NYT editorial board cites as its proof that the NRA is on the ropes the fact that, for the first time, election spending by gun-control groups (read: Bloomberg) was higher than the dough spent by the pro-gun gang. But before our friends in Gun-control Nation jump for joy over this unique turn of events, the reportage by our friends at The Gray Lady needs to be nuanced a bit.

              To begin, even when the NRA was priming the electoral pump by giving pro-gun candidates as much campaign money as they could, the average federal office-holder, at best, could only count on the boys from Fairfax to provide 6% of what the candidate had to spend. So for all the talk about the financial ‘power’ of the NRA, after a candidate picked up the check from Wayne-o or Chris Cox, he still had to raise almost all the dough necessary to fund his campaign. What does an average House campaign cost today? Try around $1.5 million or more. How much money did the average pro-gun House member receive in each of the last two Congressional campaigns?  Try less than $5,000 bucks.

              Where the financial imbalance between the NRA and its competitors really shows up, however, is in the amount spent on lobbying activities once a candidate takes his or her Congressional seat. Except the imbalance is so much in favor of the NRA that the notion that Gun-control Nation is beginning to pull abreast of Gun-nut Nation in the halls of Congress is a joke.

              During the 115th Congress, 2017 – 2018, Bloomberg’s Everytown PAC spent just short of $2.5 million on lobbying activities.  In those same two years, the NRA spent more than $9.5 million bucks. In the 8 previous years when Obama was in office, the highest yearly lobbying amount spent by the NRA was $3.5 million. And The New York Times is telling us that the fortunes of Gun-nut Nation have suffered under Trump?

              Finally, when we look at FBI-NICS background checks on gun transfers to gauge how gun sales stack up, the news isn’t all that bad. Handgun-long gun transfers for December, 2007 were 925,000, for December, 2016 they were 1,700,00, for December, 2017 they were just under a million and a half. That’s a month-to-month drop of slightly more than 10% from the last year of Obama to the first year of Trump, but it’s still nearly a 40% increase over the final month’s figure for another pro-gun President named George Bush.

              I’m not saying that it’s been smooth sailing for my friends in Fairfax this past year. But if anyone is thinking that the Gun-nut patient is on its way to life-support, think again.

I’m Not So Sure The Court Will Expand 2nd-Amendment ‘Rights.’

              Why do I get the feeling that some of my gun violence prevention (GVP) advocacy friends can’t wait for the Supreme Court to expand 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ beyond the boundaries set by the Heller decision in 2008? You may recall that Scalia’s opinion in that case ratified the idea that Americans who wanted to keep a handgun in their home would now be exercising a Constitutional ‘right.’ Period. Did this decision create Constitutional protection for walking around the neighborhood with a concealed gun? No. Did it create Constitutional protection for walking around the neighborhood with an openly-carried gun? No. Did it prevent localities from making all kinds of rules and regulations that had to be met before you could keep a handgun in your home? No. The decision simply said that as long as sooner or later you could be given permission to keep a handgun in your home, you were not being deprived of your 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to ‘keep and bear arms.’

              The case which has the GVP advocacy folks worked up into a tizzy doesn’t actually question the constitutionality of New York City’s onerous gun-licensing process at all; a process known as the Sullivan Law which has been in effect since 1912 and is, simply put, the most restrictive licensing system ever devised anywhere on the planet. The case in question deals only with a regulation which is not, in fact, part of the licensing process itself, but only comes into effect after a gun owner spends a lot of money and a lot of time getting licensed to own a gun. The regulation in question forbids any resident of New York City to carry his licensed gun outside the five counties which comprise the city’s geographic limits. If, for example, you want to take your licensed gun to any location outie the city, the moment you drive from da city into Joisey or Rockland or some other place, you’re violating the NYC licensing law.

              The case in question basically argues that by requiring a city resident to keep his licensed gun within the city limits is to deprive that resident of his 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to keep a gun in his home if he happens to have another home. And what is now going on within the GVP world is the great fear that if this regulation is struck down, it opens the way for all those crazy gun owners to go anywhere and everywhere they want with their guns.

              Which happens not to be true. What?  Hey Mike, are you saying that maybe, just maybe the GVP noise machine is making a big deal out of something that may turn out to mean little, if anything at all? That’s exactly what I am saying, and here’s the reason why.

              Let’s say I have an apartment in Manhattan and a house out at the beach, maybe in one of the Hampton high-crime towns like Southampton or Quogue. The moment I drive my car out of the city and cross the border between Queens and Nassau Counties, I’m actually not just violating one law, I’m, violating two. Because I can’t have a gun in my beach house without getting a gun license from the Suffolk County where the beach house is located, unless the address of my other home is in a jurisdiction which has no gun licensing at all.

              Could the Court rule that no jurisdiction has the authority to determine whether guns represent a threat to public safety and therefore strike down every gun-licensing law in every state? They can rule whatever they want to rule, but on this one I wouldn’t take the short odds. The whole point of the Heller decision was to protect private ownership of handguns but also to protect the government’s authority to uphold the ‘compelling interest’ of keeping communities safe. And even a court with a nut-job like Clarence Thomas wouldn’t uphold the notion that when it comes to public safety, armed citizens should be our first line of defense.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ 2nd Amendment.

              Now that H.R. 8 has been filed, I am beginning to see the outlines of the campaign narrative that Gun-nut Nation will employ in an effort to beat back any attempt to implement universal background checks, a.k.a. UBC.  Judging from the emails that have come flying in plus comments on various pro-gun blogs and forums, the anti-UBC strategy will embrace two, basic ideas:

              (1). Giving the government the power to control what I do with my private property is a violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments, which protect private property against unlawful seizure.

              (2). Making every gun transfer subject to a background check will create a national gun registry which will lead to confiscation and is a violation of the 2nd Amendment.

              As to the first argument, that people should be able to do whatever they want to do with their private property, I only wish that this had been true when I sold my house in South Carolina but first had to shell out four thousand bucks to Harold and Willy. Who were Harold and Willy? They were two guys who showed up after the house was inspected and informed me that the house couldn’t be sold until they went around and killed all the termites in the walls and the floors. In other words, we have long accepted the idea that you can’t just sell your private property to someone else if in so doing, the sale creates a risk. And even the nuttiest of all gun nuts agrees that selling a gun to someone who has committed violent crimes creates a risk. That was the easy one. Now here comes the hard one.

              Incidentally, I’m hoping that my friends in the gun-control movement will use what follows to prepare themselves for the arguments they might get from the other side. I still have a survey on my website which asks gun-control advocates 12 simple questions about gun laws (there is the same survey for people who considers themselves pro-gun advocates) and to date, I have received 87 responses and the average score of correct answers is 6. So I hope you’ll read what follows here.

              The 2nd Amendment means what the SCOTUS said it meant in the 2008 Heller decision, the majority opinion written by a dear, departed friend. And what it means is that keeping a handgun in the home is a Constitutional ‘right.’ Which means that a state government can pass any gun law it wants, as long as it does not prevent someone from owning a handgun, assuming they are not considered a risk to themselves or to anyone else. Who determines whether someone’s ownership of a handgun might create a risk?  The government. Who determines whether the existence of a particular type of handgun might create a risk?  The government. And that’s it. That’s what the 2nd Amendment means.

So, for example, if you live in New York City and a handgun is found in your home and you cannot produce the requisite paperwork which takes the NYPD Licensing Division about six months to issue on your behalf, you will be convicted of a felony because New York City decided back in 1912 that you can’t keep a handgun in your home for self-defense, or any other reason, until the NYPD says it’s okay. If you go into Court the day of your sentencing and tell the judge that New York City is abridging your 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ because you would have to wait six months to get a permit, I strongly urge you to bring your toothbrush because you ain’t going home.

Between 1966, when I bought my first gun, and 2008 when Heller was decreed, I probably bought and sold at least 500 personally-owned guns. Not one of those transactions had any Constitutional protection at all. So what? My friends in the gun-control movement should stop worrying about whether something as timid and non-intrusive as UBC is a violation of any kind of rights, Constitutional or otherwise. It’s not, and you can take that one to the bank.

What Do We Know About Gun Laws? Not Much.

              Now that the Trump Administration has announced a ban on bump stocks, which means that Sleazy Don is about as willing to support the 2nd Amendment as he’s about to build a wall on the border with Mexico, all of a sudden Gun-control Nation is buzzing with the idea that a new gun law might actually take shape. And since Pelosi has also made noisesabout more gun control, who knows?

              Which means that there will certainly be an animated and serious discussion within the ranks of Gun-nut Nation to figure out what should be the ‘reasonable’ new gun laws that might be pushed forward in the days to come.

              But it seems to me that if you are going to argue for anew law, any kind of law, you’d better have some idea of what the current gun-control laws are all about; otherwise, how do you know what needs to be changed?

              If you go to my blog, you’ll find a page which gives you the opportunity to take a completely anonymous survey that tests your knowledge of current gun laws.  The survey asks the same questions of people who consider themselves to be members either of Gun-nut Nation or Gun-control Nation; Survey #4 is for gun-control activists,Survey #5 is for the other side.  For the time being, I have taken down the link which lets you see the real-time results,but here’s what the surveys reveal so far.

              Of the 12 questions which comprised the survey for residents of Gun-control Nation, only half or more of the respondents gave the correct answer to 5 questions; for the other 7 questions, correct responses were between 10% and 45%.  A majority of respondents knew how to define the difference between a long and a hand gun; knew what documentation was required in order to purchase a gun from a dealer; knew who could and could not walk into a licensed gun shop; knew how to define a ‘straw sale;’and knew the definition of a legal gun. However, for those 5 answers where  a majority of Gun-control Nation knew what the current law says, incorrect answers were almost as frequent as correct ones. The only question in the entire survey which received more than 80% correct answers was the question involving the legal definition of a gun. In other words, when it comes to understanding current gun laws, the knowledge among our friends in Gun-control Nation is, to be polite, rather scant.

              What about the Gun-nut Gang?  In fact, for all their talk about the 2nd-Amendment this and the 2nd-Amendment that, most of the residents of Gun-nut Nation don’t even know what the 2nd Amendment actually says.  A larger percentage of the gun nuts who answered the question asking for an explanation of the 2nd Amendment got it wrong than the percentage of wrong answers registered by the gun-control gang. Overall, respondents who consider themselves gun-rights advocates also only registered more than 50% correct answers in 5 of the 12 questions,although the questions they answered correctly were slightly different than the correct answers provided by the folks who advocate more controls over guns.

              Incidentally, I didn’t put questions on the survey covering esoteric or little-known legal issues covering guns. In fact,  I made a point of asking questions about the legal issues that are publicly discussed every day – background checks, straw sales,purchase requirements, etc. The bottom line? Both groups flunked. 

              I can certainly understand why a majority of gun lovers don’t understand the laws they have to follow in order to own guns. After all,tap the average gun owner on the shoulder and he’ll tell you that, as far as he’s concerned, we don’t need any laws on guns at all.

              On the other hand, you would think that my friends who endlessly promote the virtue of ‘reasonable’ gun laws, would at least have some idea of what they are talking about.  But when did anyone ever let facts get in the way of emotions, right?

Can Nancy And The Democrats Pass a Gun Law That Will Make A Difference?

Since I long ago gave up the idea that what I have to say about gun violence supports what my friends in Gun-control Nation want to hear, I’m going to spend today’s column taking some pot-shots at the single, most cherished goal of the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, a.k.a., universal background checks.  Let me make it clear again that I have never (read: never) raised the slightest objection to reducing this awful social stain known as gun violence through, among other strategies, adopting public policies which work. But let me also make it clear that just because some piece of research finds a theoretical link between a certain public policy and an alleged outcome, doesn’t mean that the research isn’t flawed.

              That being said, it now turns out that Pelosi is telling the GVP that she intends to pass a ‘bold’ package of gun reforms right after the 116th Congress convenes.  She said this at a moving memorial service held in St. Mark’s Church, marking the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, this event part of the month-long, national vigils against gun violence which you can support here.

The Numero Uno issue that Pelosi will doubtless try to pass is a law that would expand background checks beyond the initial point of sale.  Before I get into the research used to justify this policy, we need to spend a bit of time understanding what such a law would require in terms of how the infrastructure which supports the background check process would have to change. You can promote any public policy you want, but unless you figure out and implement the logistics required to make the policy actually achieve its goals, I mean, what’s the point?

The theory behind universal background checks (UBC) is that if every gun transfer required the recipient to fill out a 4473 form, then register the transfer registered with FBI-NICS, this process would keep guns from falling into the hands of individuals who, under law, cannot own or have access to a gun. Fine.

In addition to qualifying the behavior of everyone who would be receiving a gun, the process would also make it easier for law enforcement to figure out how a gun that was used illegally or inappropriately ended up in the ‘wrong’ hands. Also fine.

Now here’s where the details meet the devil, okay? First, we have absolutely no idea, and my friends in the gun-research community have never attempted to figure this out with any degree of accuracy, how many guns are floating around in the ‘wrong hands’ right now. Nor do we have any verifiable data on how many guns are stolen each year, thus adding to the arsenal of guns in the ‘wrong hands.’  If my friends in public health would spend a little more time trying to figure that one out and a little less time pretending that regression analyses using synthetic controls really tells us how a new gun-control law impacts gun violence rates, maybe, just maybe we could craft some kind of policy that would diminish the illegal flow of guns.

Since Sandy Hook, three states – Oregon, Washington, Colorado – have instituted UBC.  In 2014, these three states experienced a gun-violence rate of 11.37 (ICD-10 Codes: W32-W34, X72-X74, X93-X95, Y22-Y24.)  In 2016, the rate was 11.88.  Would anyone like to tell me the connection between UBC and a 4% gun-violence increase in these three states? We don’t have official 2017 data yet, but in Oregon they are referring to 2017 gun-violence rates representing a ‘modest spike.’  Great, just great.

If Speaker Pelosi and her GVP allies want to take a bold step forward in the fight against gun violence, I have a simple idea.  Why don’t they just craft a bill that would strictly regulate the manufacture, purchase and ownership of highly-lethal handguns?

Oh! We can’t do that!  It’s a violation of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights!’ In fact, it’s not a violation of any Constitutional ‘right’ at all. And yes, I will shortly be explaining this on my new Facebook page. Please stop by.

 

Want To End Gun Violence? Get Rid Of The Stinkin’ Guns.

Now that the 116th Congress is going to convene in January with a solid blue House majority, and to the extent that this majority owes something to the hard work of my Gun-control Nation friends, perhaps it’s time to have a serious and deliberate discussion about the gun-control legislation that might begun to be put into place.

             After all, for the last eight years the gun-control gang could talk themselves blue in the face about assault rifle bans, comprehensive background checks and all that other good stuff. But the odds that any gun-control law might rear its head and emerge from Congress ranged from zero to zilch. Guess what? For the same reason that the blue Senate team slipped backward in 2018,  the GOP in 2020 will have a difficult time holding its majority in the Upper House. And anyone who wants to make book that Sleazy Don will be sitting in the Oval Office in 2021  better be willing to take very, very long odds.

Since it normally requires multiple Congressional sessions for a serious gun-control measure to get up to speed (the 1968 GCA68 law was initially introduced in 1953; the Brady bill that was passed in 1993 was first filed in 1991,) the folks who will be creating, pushing and sustaining the narrative for a new gun law better start working on it now.

The two legislative remedies for gun violence which appear to have the best chance of ending up in serious and positive floor votes are comprehensive background checks and a renewal of the assault weapons ban.  The former initiative appears to have support across the board, the latter could easily happen if a couple more nuts wander into a school, a shopping center, a house of worship or some other public venue and start blasting away.

The problem with both of these gun-control strategies, however, is that they don’t really get to the core of why we have a problem with gun violence and therefore, even if enacted, wouldn’t make that much of a difference in the rates of gun violence that we currently absorb.

The core problem is that the system that regulates the ownership and use of guns is fundamentally flawed because it is based on regulating the behavior of gun owners, rather than on the design and function of the guns themselves. If I walk into a gun shop today and but a rusted, old shotgun that probably doesn’t even work, I have to jump through the exact, same legal hoops that I would jump through if I bought a 16-shot Glock 19, along with 4 extra hi-capacity mags.  That old shotgun will only injure someone if I load it with modern ammunition, pull the trigger and the gun blows up. How many of the 125,000 gun injuries suffered last year resulted from someone using a Glock or another concealable, hi-powered handgun?  Most of those injuries, that’s for sure.

Again and again the discussion among gun-control advocates turns on the ‘fact’ that we own so many guns – somewhere between 300 and 400 million. But a majority of those guns are sporting rifles and shotguns which rarely show up in gun crimes at all. We are the only country which gives its residents relatively free access to handguns; we are the only country which suffers from an unacceptable level of gun violence. Want to end gun violence? Get rid of the guns that cause the violence.

Notice I didn’t state my approval for a handgun ban. But personally speaking, I have never supported an advocacy narrative simply because it might succeed.  I support advocacy that is rooted in truth. And the truth is that handguns cause gun violence. Period. End of story. End of debate.

Is The NRA Over The Hill?

Our friend Bob Spitzer has just published an interesting op-ed in The [‘failing’] New York Times, which not only goes into detail about how the gun issue impacted the outcome of various political races, but also raises the idea that maybe the vaunted invincibility of the NRA is coming to an end. In a careful and well-documented piece, Spitzer shows that the NRA was not only outspent in this election cycle by the gun-safety side, but also saw a number of House seats flip from red to blue in districts where gun-control messaging had previously been a dead end.

              I was pleased to review the latest edition of Spitzer’s book, The Politics of Gun Control, and I’m happy to give it a plug here as well. And while he makes it clear that he’s no advocate for Gun-nut Nation, both this book as well as the op-ed piece are balanced efforts to explain both the recent failures as well as previous successes of the NRA.  His basic point is that the election returns ‘suggest’ that the NRA may not possess the clout of former years, but this doesn’t mean that the boys in Fairfax are just going to shut up and fade away.

Not only is America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ not about to disappear (pardon the double negatives)  but anyone who thinks that the NRA can’t recapture its dominance in the gun debate doesn’t appreciate how or why the organization has been in the forefront for so long.

Looking first at the money:  Spitzer says that gun-control groups outspent the NRA by $12 million to $11 million in the mid-terms, largely due to the combined efforts of Gabby and Mike.  As of October 26, Open Secrets put the amounts at slightly less than $10 million and $8 million respectively, but either way, gun-safety groups come out ahead.

On the other hand, what counts going forward is the amount spent not just on political campaigns, but on day-to-day lobbying of elected officials. After all, when it comes to gun-control laws, this is where the rubber meets the road.  Over the last five years, gun-safety groups have spent a total of $8.6 million on Capitol Hill; lobbying for gun ‘rights’ during the same five-year period adds up to $60 million bucks! Even in 2018, the impoverished NRA has outspent Gun-control Nation’s lobbying efforts by almost ten to one – $10 million to $1.5 mil.

Can our friends at Everytown and the Giffords Law Center begin to match those numbers year after year?  I doubt it and my doubt is based on the NRA’s one basic strength which the gun-control groups simply do not share. This has to do with the fact that when all is said and done, at heart the NRA is a membership organization, and they have the care and feeding of their members down pat.

In addition to the NRA, I also belong to the Wilderness and Audubon Societies, along with AARP.  Like the NRA, I pay annual dues to these groups, monies which they use for lobbying and donating to political candidates who protect their interests and promote their views. Every year I receive a lovely calendar from Audubon and Wilderness, every month I get a magazine from AARP. That’s it.

I not only receive at least one email from Wayne-o and Chris Cox every day, I also get the monthly magazine and most important, I can meet other gun nuts at frequent NRA dinners and other social events, or attend hundreds of gun shows every weekend where the NRA has a hospitality booth right at the front door.

I’m happy that Gun-control Nation has begun to level the playing-field when it comes to the public debate about guns. But if my gun-control friends want to get the football across the gun-nut goal line, they have to understand it’s not just money that counts. People support the NRA because they like guns. Can the other side advance an argument as compelling as that?

 

 

Khal Spencer: Do we need a Human Reliability Program for (Certain Kinds of) Gun Ownership?

Barely have we gotten out of the news cycle of the Florida mail-bomber than an extremist, anti-Semite in Pittsburgh shot up a synagogue, killing eleven and injuring four police officers in a firefight before being captured. Robert Bowers apparently left a trail of evidence of his extreme views on social media (and hints of acting out) but unfortunately, the First Amendment protects most of this garbage, as well as social media’s right to act as a toxic mind pollutant to the American psyche.

businessBut all this has a price when one also has a stockpile of guns or bombs, as per Bowers and Cesar Sayoc. Perhaps we in the firearms community need to admit, belatedly, that the 2A has two clauses and the first one mandates that the people who universally populate the “well regulated militia” with arms in their hands need to be vetted to make sure they are pointing guns at legitimate adversaries rather than figments of their warped imaginations. How far should we go in the name of preventing these demented clowns from shooting up the nation? That, as usual, is the question.

Bowers apparently left a trail of hate on the Internet. Should we be monitoring the Internet and serving people who sound like they are about to go violently off the rails with Extreme Risk Protective Orders? Should owning certain classes of small arms be contingent on something like a Human Reliability Program? I think its clear that as long as anyone can procure a firearm easily, there is a clear statistical probability that some will go off the rails at other people’s expense and the more lethal the firearm, the more the expense. Especially nowadays with politicians, Russian troll farms, and social media activists pouring on political gasoline and handing out matches. What can go wrong?

One could imagine something like a violence triangle as we do a fire triangle. One needs motive, means, and a decision to act, i.e., a defective mental circuit breaker, to go batshit crazy and shoot up a mosque, synagogue, church, school, or whatever your personal choice of imaginary enemy happens to be on a given day. Means plus motive without the mental circuit breaker almost guarantees some “fires” will start. One can remove the means, albeit with some difficulty in a nation with a Second Amendment. One can try to eliminate motive, but in an age of toxic social media, gutter politics, and tribalism, its tough to do that. Mental circuit breakers seem to be in short supply. I was waiting in line for an Rx on Saturday and some other customer simply went off on the poor lady behind the counter, berating her loudly enough for the whole store to notice. Several of us were contemplating the possibility of having to tackle the guy if it got much worse but he stormed off.

So how about this? As Mike Weisser has said, some hunting rifles and shotguns (and probably certain kinds of handguns) are rarely implicated in crimes or mass shootings. How about we go lightly on these lower public risk firearms but examine those guns which seem to beckon for misuse and raise the standards for ownership of some firearms?

To be qualified for the job that I once held for fifteen years in a Federal lab, I had to undergo annual background screening, including a sit down with a company shrink, to ensure that the public and fellow workers could trust that I would not go off the rails at everyone else’s expense. Maybe its about time we designed a scaled down version of that sort of process for those who want to own high cap Glocks, ARs, and similar weaponry that can turn a synagogue into a charnel house in a few short minutes. I wouldn’t make it prohibitive or expensive, just clear and fair to the gun nuts and the public at large. With fewer mass shootings, such a system should pay for itself, actually, even if Matt DeLisi’s numbers are a little hard to believe.

Any takers?