Want To End Gun Violence? Switch To Knives And Clubs.

Every once in a while, I find myself unable to understand why some of my friends in the public health research community keep doing the same gun research over and over again. The latest example comes from two very distinguished researchers, Anthony Braga and Philip Cook, who spent a good part of last year analyzing gun injuries in Boston which the cops believed were all associated with crimes. After examining all the police reports, as well as coroner reports (for the injuries which turned out to be fatal) covering 592 shootings between 2010 and 2014, the researchers reached an astonishing conclusion: the more powerful the caliber involved in the attack, the better chance that the victim would wind up dead.

small guns             To their credit, Braga and Cook at least admit that they aren’t exactly tilling new ground. The notes cite a number of other studies which say the same thing, beginning with Zimring’s classic study published in 1972. So how is it that 45 years later, Braga and Cook come up with the same results that Zimring previously published, but nevertheless, feel the necessity to say the same thing again? Because over the years since Zimring’s work first appeared, public health gun research is increasingly designed to substantiate the development and/or implementation of more gun regulations, which means that most public health gun studies end up suggesting, supporting or endorsing various gun-control laws.

The reason we suffer from an inordinate amount of gun violence, is because our regulatory system is set up to focus primarily on the behavior of people who own and use guns, rather than on the design and lethality of guns themselves. And what has happened in the nearly 50 years since Zimring first published his seminal article, is that the gun industry has introduced technologies which allow them to manufacture and sell highly-concealable guns which also happen to be extremely lethal because the alloys and polymers now used to make guns can withstand much higher pressures from much more powerful shells.

Guns like the Glock Model 43 or the Sig Model 938 didn’t exist when Zimring did his research.  These guns fire a standard, military round – 9mm – but are no bigger and weigh little more than a droid. The whole point of the gun industry is to make consumers feel that carrying a tiny, but extremely lethal gun will not only protect them from all sorts of bad things, but can be stuck into their pocket and carried around like any other consumer item – no fuss, no mess, no bother at all.

When Zimring conducted his 1972 study, most of the attacks involved .22-caliber guns, with some .32 and .38 calibers, but nowhere did he find many crime guns chambered for 9mm, 40 S&W (which wasn’t even invented in 1972) or 45acp. These are now standard street calibers, and the only reason that .22LR ammunition sells as much as it does is because: a) it’s cheap, and, b) it’s also used in rifles for target shooting and sport.

What conclusion did Braga and Cook come up with once they learned that highly-lethal handgun calibers are now ‘standard issue’ in the street? According to them, their research “suggests that effective regulation of firearms could reduce the homicide rate.”  And what kind of regulation are they talking about? Regulating what kind of guns can be made and sold, because “simply replacing larger-caliber guns with small caliber guns with no change in location or number of wounds would have reduced the gun homicide rate by 39.5%.” To which Braga and Cook add one more remarkable line: “It is plausible that larger reductions would be associated with replacing all types of guns with knives or clubs.”

With all due respect to my friends Braga and Cook, I get the distinct impression that this entire article was written tongue in cheek. I mean, are we reduced to talking about effective gun regulations based on requiring the substitution of knives and clubs? Maybe so.

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Does Brett Kavanaugh Think Gun Laws Are Unconstitutional? Yes And No.

It’s now about 10:30 A.M. and I have already received at least a dozen emails from various gun-control groups warning me about the ‘threat’ posed by the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the SCOTUS and asking me to cough up some dough and help my friends in Gun-control Nation to keep this avowed 2nd-Amendment supporter off the high bench.

kavanaugh             You can argue of course that any judge nominated by #45 is going to be a supporter of gun ‘rights.’ Or at least he won’t be some flaming liberal who will decide every gun case the way Hillary Clinton would like to see it done. But leaving aside for the moment the histrionics which always accompany the process for filling a vacancy on the High Court, I’m going to take the argument about Kavanaugh’s approach to gun laws seriously and do the one thing which probably no advocate on either side has actually done; namely, to look at the single gun case in which Kavanaugh participated since he went to the Federal bench.

I’m talking about Heller II, a case which was brought against the refusal of DC’s municipal authorities to grant Heller and other residents the legal right to keep an AR-15 rifle in their homes.  Because even though it’s often forgotten or simply ignored, the 2008 Heller decision which reversed long-standing legal precedent and granted Constitutional protection for privately-owned guns applied only to handguns, and never conferred ownership ‘rights’ to long guns at all.

In 2010, to years after Heller I was decided, Gun-nut Nation went back into court and not only challenged the District’s actual process for granting legal access to guns, but asked that the requirement that now allowed District residents to own handguns apply to long guns as well. By a split, 2 – 1 decision, the Court told the District to rewrite its argument in support of the licensing process for all guns, but also upheld the District’s continued ban on the ownership of certain types of long guns, in particular the AR-15.

Now it happens to be literally true that Kavanaugh says the D.C. registration process and its ban on AR rifles are both ‘unconstitutional.’ But if you take the trouble to read his 46-page dissent, you will discover that this judgement isn’t based on his views about the 2nd Amendment per se, but rather, how he understands the 2008 Heller case. And frankly, I wish that more of my friends in both Gun-nut Nation and Gun-control Nation would stop indulging themselves in endless rhetorical nonsense about what the 2nd Amendment means.  Let me break it to you gently – it means whatever the last SCOTUS decision says it means, okay?

So Kavanaugh starts off by making this clear: He says, “Our sole job is to faithfully apply Heller and the approach it set forth for analyzing gun bans and regulations.” But then he gets into trouble by saying that the District’s ban on AR rifles is ‘unconstitutional’ because “There is no meaningful or persuasive constitutional distinction between semi-automatic handguns and semiautomatic rifles.”

Oops. It sure didn’t take Kavanaugh long to invent some Constitutional rhetoric himself. The Heller decision focused only on handguns because the plaintiff, Dick Heller, appealed a law that only covered handgun ownership, a point explicitly made by Scalia In Heller I and echoed by the majority opinion in Heller II. If Kavanaugh decided to take it upon himself to discuss the issue of what kind of guns were covered by the phrase ‘keep and bear arms,’ that’s fine. But such a decision in no way automatically means that any and all types of guns had Constitutional protection just because the SCOTUS majority gave such protection to handguns in 2008.

I’m not trying to nitpick away the reasons why Kavanaugh may be or may not be pro-gun. What I am saying is that in considering his record to fill a seat on the Supreme Court he deserves to be taken at his word, and so far when it comes to guns, his word is mixed

 

Kennedy A Possible Swing Vote on Guns? That’s A Good One.

Since when did Justice Anthony Kennedy become such an important ‘swing’ vote on guns?  You would think that his demise on the Supreme Court was going to usher in a free-fall of regulations preventing at least a few nuts, child molesters and incorrigible bad guys from getting their hands on guns. At least this is how the narrative being promoted by Gun-control Nation seems to be playing out.

kennedy             The latest rallying-cry warning from Gun-control Nation about the pro-gun deluge was posted by Eric Segall, who teaches law at Georgia State University and has lately become a 2nd-Amendment expert from a liberal point of view: “Whether the issue is the validity of bans on so-called assault rifles, the length of waiting periods before people can buy guns or requirements for people to receive concealed-carry permits, our nation’s highest court may well start imposing its will on the gun measures of all 50 states and many cities and towns.”

Let’s give Segall some credit and admit that he’s hedging his bets somewhat by referring to Kennedy  as ‘uncertain’ when it came to how he swung on the issue of guns. But that cautionary statement has completely disappeared from the post-Kennedy narrative coming from the noisemakers employed by Gun-nut Nation, all of whom seem to believe that any replacement nominated by Trump to fill the vacant seat can only make matters worse when it comes to regulating guns.  Here’s an example from the Giffords Law Center that hit my Inbox last week: “An ideologically-motivated nominee, like several on the rumored shortlist, could negatively impact firearms policy at this critical moment for the gun safety movement—and for many years to come.”

Following the Court’s Heller and Macdonald rulings in 2008, which were gifts to Gun-nut Nation, the gift-givers including an Associate Justice named Kennedy, the only other SCOTUS vote that has been recorded on a gun regulation was the 2015 opinion denying certiorari for the 2013 AR-15 ban passed by the city of Highland Park.  Now let’s get one thing clear: the Highland Park law didn’t just say you couldn’t buy an AR, which is what the so-called New York and Connecticut AR ‘bans’ said.  The Highland Park ban is an all-or-nothing deal; in other words, if you want to own an AR-15, you can’t live in Highland Park.

This law is the most direct challenge to the whole nonsense about gun ‘rights’ peddled by Gun-nut Nation since 2008. It not only goes way beyond the assault weapons ban that ran from 1995 through 2004, but is much more comprehensive than the proposed AWB floating around Congress right now.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Highland Park’s AWB by a vote of 7 – 2, with the two dissenting votes coming from Scalia and Thomas, the latter actually writing the dissenting opinion which said this: “Because the Second Amendment confers rights upon individual citizens—not state governments—it was doubly wrong for the Seventh Circuit to delegate to States and localities the power to decide which firearms people may possess.”

With all due respect to Professor Segall’s concerns about who will succeed Kennedy, here’s how the Supreme Court ‘imposed its will’ on state gun laws – it let a total and complete gun ban stand. And who were the three, not one ‘swing’ votes? Roberts and Alito also joined Kennedy and the four liberals in refusing to hear this case.

The only reason that anyone thinks that Gun-control Nation might have lost an important ‘swing’ vote on guns is because Kennedy authored the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges which gave Constitutional protection to gay marriage in 2015.  And even though there are still plenty of folks who can’t believe that a SCOTUS with a 5-4 conservative majority would come out in favor of gay rights, Kennedy’s stance on this issue shouldn’t be taken as necessarily saying anything about how he felt about guns. All we do know is that he signed off on Heller, which as far as I’m concerned means good riddance to Kennedy, he deserves nothing more.

 

A New Survey Which Tells Us What Gun Owners Want To Do About Gun Violence.

I just received a fundraising email from one of the many gun-control organizations that ask me for financial help , and they asked me to help them push forward with the efforts to pass ‘reasonable’ gun regulations which even most gun-owners support. How do they know that gun owners are in favor of comprehensive background checks or a bump-stock ban? Because this is what they hear from surveys conducted by gun-control advocates who want to meet the ‘other side’ on neutral ground.

awb            The only problem with this approach is that it is based on the assumption that both sides define ‘reasonable’ gun regulations the same way. But let me break the news to my friends in the gun-control movement, namely, that for every gun owner who supports background checks, I’ll show you another gun owner who believe that he’s doing his best to reduce gun violence by walking around with a gun. In other words, the same gun owner who favors a ‘reasonable’ gun regulation promoted by Brady, will also support a gun regulation favored by the NRA.  But you won’t find anyone at Brady or Everytown ever saying that the NRA is reasonable about anything at all.

In the hopes to make some sense out of these very conflicting views, I ran a national survey which received 1,557 responses from residents throughout the United States. The survey did not ask them to identify themselves as to whether they were gun owners; that’s a toxic question which will lead to all kinds of data-validation problems, believe me. Instead, I listed twelve gun laws and asked each respondent to answer whether they supported each law or not. Half of these laws are the stock-in-trade of the gun-control movement (comprehensive background checks, assault-weapons ban, etc.,) the other half are measures promoted by the gun-rights gang (national RTC, K-12 gun safety lessons, etc.) This is the first time that a national survey has been published which gives respondents an opportunity to express how they feel about gun regulations favored by both sides. You can download a detailed analysis of the survey here.

Some quick highlights:

  • The fault-line between gun control versus gun rights is gender. For virtually every question, women were less supportive of the gun-rights laws and more supported of laws reflecting a gun-control point of view.
  • Not surprisingly, overall support for pro-gun regulations was strongest in the Southeast and Midwest, weakest in the Northeast and West Coast.

I borrowed from the work conducted by various survey groups and assumed that since this was a nationally-representative survey, that 40% of the respondents either owned guns or lived in a gun household, which meant that 60% did not. The question about comprehensive background checks received an overall positive response of 78%, which meant that half the gun-owning respondents also supported CBC. But here’s the bigger news.

Only 2 of the 6 gun-control questions received more than 60% positive response, which might mean that 4 of 6 gun-control strategies didn’t receive any support from gun owners at all. On the other hand, 4 of the 6 pro-gun strategies received substantial support above 40%, and two of them – handgun ownership at 18 and public school gun safety instruction – received more than 60% positive responses, which means these measures were probably supported by many people who don’t own guns.

If my friends in the gun-control community are serious about seeking legal solutions to reduce gun violence, this survey provides a roadmap for understanding what kinds of gun issues could really be discussed on neutral grounds. After all, would it be so bad to make a deal in which comprehensive background checks are approved along with funding for gun-safety training in public schools? The Florida gun-control law imposed a waiting period but also authorized funding for armed school guards; the former now a state requirement, the latter only an option if a school system applies for the dough.

I hope some of my gun-control advocacy friends will look at what I found and share it around. Either we want to meet gun owners on a level playing field or we don’t.

 

What Happened On March 24th?

What happened is that a group of determined high school kids decided that they were going to do what nobody else has been able to do, namely, create a new, national narrative about guns. And they did it with dignity, with decency and with no ulterior motives other than to express themselves about why schools need to be a gun-free zones.  They’ll leave it to the ‘adults’ to figure out how to protect them from gun violence in a rational and disciplined way, but the one thing they won’t do is accept the idea that the best way to protect ourselves from violence is to use violence, which is why the ‘good guy with the gun’ nonsense peddled by Gun-nut Nation was drowned out.

march24Not that the NRA didn’t try to get their usual, nonsensical narrative out there.  Of course they did. But since the Dana Loesch rant went nowhere last week, this week they trotted out Colion Noir. And Noir did what he always does: a little hip, a little cool, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, all of which added up to his usual admixture of half-truths, total fabrications and just another primitive attempt to make people believe that what he says has anything to do with reality at all.

First Colion reminded the Parkland kids that they were using their 1st-Amendment ‘rights’ to attack the 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ of legal gun owners, as if any of the gun-control proposals floating around Congress threaten the 2nd Amendment at all. Then Colion managed to weave a complete fabrication into his spiel by lamenting the ‘fact’ that a deputy sheriff in St. Mary’s County received no media attention after stopping the shooter at a Maryland school. Of course Colion then wrapped this lie around an even bigger fable by saying that the incident at Great Mills High School was proof once again that ‘good guys with guns’ will stop ‘bad guys with guns.’ Except nobody in the gun-control movement has ever been against placing armed, law-enforcement personnel in schools; it’s the presence and behavior of armed civilians like Colion that we are worried about.

But let’s not waste any more time or space on the NRA; their job is to promote the ownership of guns, so how could they not come out with a narrative designed to do anything other than keep their members in line? On the other hand, even the NRA‘s best buddy (a.k.a) Donald Trump spent yesterday ducking for cover in Palm Beach, while also sending out a positive message to the Parkland marchers just in case. I mean, what else was he going to do? Tell the 50 pro-gun demonstrators who showed up at the Boston march that he had their backs in the face of the 50,000 who marched for the other side?

I have received a number of emails and Facebook messages from participants in yesterday’s event, some of whom tell me that they need more information in order to speak credibly about guns. Here’s a typical comment: “I am concerned with the people in the middle who could be supporters. We don’t do ourselves any favors when it appears we can’t do the research and understand what we are arguing for.”

So with all due respect to Colion Noir who wants you to believe that what he says about guns is really true, here’s a little resource which explains gun terminology which you can download right here for free. Or you can spend a few bucks and buy the fancy version on Amazon, for which I get a whole, big, buck twenty-five.  Either way, you’ll have the basic know-how you need the next time you go out and join a march.

And there will be a next time.  I guarantee it. I really do.

 

 

 

Let’s Hear It For Shannon Watts And All Those Moms!

This is the 1,000th column posted on this website and I can’t think of a better topic for this special space.   

The day after the Sandy Hook massacre, a stay-at-home mom and corporate media expert sat down at her kitchen table in Indianapolis and sent out a message on her Facebook page asking people to join a group that would begin promoting a ‘common sense’ message about guns. What Shannon Watts meant then and still means now when she talks about common sense is the idea that there is simply no reason why anyone, gun owner or otherwise, should find it difficult to accept the idea that guns should never be used to hurt yourself or anyone else.

moms2             Shannon’s Facebook page quickly became Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the purpose of this column is to give Shannon and her whole gang a loud shout-out for what they have accomplished over the last five years. And before any of the gun trolls who monitor my writing come back with the usual crap and nonsense about how Shannon would be ‘nothing’ without Bloomberg’s big bucks, what she and her organization have accomplished since 2012 goes far beyond anything having to do with the fact that Mike helps to foot the bill.

What makes Shannon’s effort so remarkable and so important is not because she agreed to merge her group with Bloomberg’s Everytown organization back in 2014. Money can certainly make life easier but if you don’t spend it in a way that brings results, it wouldn’t really matter how much dough comes. And it’s not as if there was really any precedent for building the kind of organization that Shannon has put together and now actively promotes its agenda in every one of the 50 states. When it comes to grass-roots messaging and organizational activity, until Shannon began her effort, the entire public discussion about guns beyond the Beltway was basically owned by my friends in Fairfax, a.k.a. the NRA.

Why shouldn’t the NRA be a formidable public relations machine for promoting guns?  After all, they have been around since right after the Civil War, which is longer than any other organization which promotes any kind of consumer item; hell, the American Automobile Association wasn’t founded until 1902. So when messages from Moms Demand Action began to appear on the internet and women with those red tee-shirts began parading around in front of Wal Mart and the local supermarket or Target stores, all of a sudden a two-sided playing field began to take shape.

A little more than five years since Shannon sat down and started blazing away, Moms now has chapters in all 50 states, and these groups aren’t just an email list or some other digital venue for talking back and forth.  Over the coming year, the organization will hold hundreds of public events, and if you want to get an idea of what they did on 2017, you can download and read a very impressive report right here.

Giving Moms a big high-five is not meant in any way to slight the efforts of other gun violence prevention (GVP) groups; I’m always willing and able to help spread the word whenever some folks get together to promote common-sense strategies about guns. But what makes Shannon’s effort so important is her understanding that with all due respect to the importance of laws, public policies and all the rest, making a real difference in terms of gun violence is a cultural issue above all. Forget all the data, all the studies, all the facts, people make up or change their minds when they talk about something to someone else.

Next time you go past a public space where some women are wearing those Moms Demand Action shirts, stop for a moment and notice how they engage other folks who just happen to be walking by. A brief conversation here, a comment or two there, funny how those conversations add up and help pave the way for needed change.

And let’s not forget that with all due respect to Mike and his gezillions, Shannon and the ladies could always use some spare change.

Gun-nut Nation Gets Kicked In The Ass By Its Favorite Federal Court

If the Gun-nut community wanted a judicial decision about gun rights in their favor, they couldn’t have gone anywhere more likely to help them out than the 5th Circuit, which oversees the federal judiciary in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana and is considered to be the most conservative Circuit Court in the United States. Not only was a gun case argued in front of this court, but the case had already been decided at the district level in favor of gun rights, it was now being appealed by the Department of Justice run by you-know-who, and all three judges who heard the case were appointed by either George H. W. Bush or his son.

constitution             The court not only decided against the gun-rights gang, they dashed the hopes of the gun-loving contingent to get rid of one of the legal issues which pisses off gun nuts more than just about anything else, namely, the prohibition against going across a state line to buy a gun. Actually, the prohibition against buying a pistol or revolver in a state other than where you live has been on the books since 1939, when the feds first required individuals engaged in the ‘business’ of selling guns to purchase a federal firearms license and keep records of their sales. The reason that inter-state handgun purchases required a transfer between dealers was because it was recognized that allowing handguns to be moved across state lines without any form of regulation made it easier for criminals to get their hands on guns.

What gun-rights advocates are claiming, however, is that the prohibition against buying a handgun in a state other than where someone resides is no longer necessary because every purchase from a gun dealer, no matter where he is located, requires a background check. Which means that if I had been convicted of a felony in my home state, the felony and the consequent prohibition on gun ownership would come up no matter where I tried to purchase a gun. In 2015 two gun-rights activists decided to test this law by going to Texas and attempting to buy a handgun. After the purchase was denied, they found a district court judge who decided that their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ had been violated; hence, the appeal and decision by the 5th Circuit, effectively standing the district court’s ruling on its head.

Not only did the 5th Circuit reaffirm the prohibition against non-resident handgun purchases, it went further and actually used one of Gun-nut Nation’s most cherished legal principles – strict scrutiny – to find the prohibition constitutionally sound. According to judicial rules, for a law to pass strict scrutiny muster it must be shown that the particular law is justified by a ‘compelling government interest,’ and must be written specifically to ‘serve that interest.’ Lawyers for Gun-nut Nation have frequently used the strict scrutiny argument to attack gun regulations (e.g., New York’s SAFE law’s regulation limiting gun magazines to 7 rounds or less) and they no doubt hoped to do the same thing here.

The 5th Circuit reviewed the discussions leading up to GCA68 which codified the inter-state prohibition and concluded that Congress decided there was every good reason to maintain and strengthen the prohibition because otherwise it would be easy for someone to circumvent the laws and regulations of their home state and hence increase the possibility that an out-of-state purchase would result in a crime gun. The opinion points out that a dealer in one state cannot possibly know the gun regulations which exist in other states (e.g., some states require 10-shot magazine capacities, other states do not) and such knowledge has nothing to do with whether a potential buyer can pass a background check.

The decision by the 5th Circuit is clear on one basic point: the government has a compelling interest to safeguard public safety and a gun even in the hands of a legally-qualified individual could still be a risk. This decision by a conservative court is both a victory for the gun-control movement and a victory for common sense.

Want To Help Figure Out What People Really Think About Guns? Take A Survey.

Right now I am conducting two online surveys to get a better feel for what and how people think about guns. The surveys can be accessed here and if you have not yet participated, feel free to do so.  The surveys are actually sitting on the Survey Monkey website so I can only see answers to survey questions – there is not the slightest possibility that anyone’s identity can be captured, up to and including the I.P address of your machine.

survey1             I am also beginning to post some of the results of the surveys – they have attracted more than 650 participants to date. As of this morning, respondents to both surveys were residents of 43 and 44 states, so I think the information being received is a valid profile for how gun owners and non-gun owners think. I have also posted some initial results from the two surveys covering the gender and age of participants, with more results to come.

The surveys are designed to elicit information from two groups: (1). People who are involved or interested in gun violence prevention activities; and (2). people who consider guns to be important to them. The surveys are not mutually exclusive – if you are a GVP supporter/activist but also are a gun-nut like me, feel free to take both.

I am conducting these surveys because I have been saying for a long time that we need to find common language and common ground that will enable people on both sides of the gun issue to talk to each other in reasonable and reasoned ways. To do that, we need to know how you folks really think about guns, both pro and con, and we need to understand your thoughts as you really think, not as someone else tells us how you think.

Last week the Pew Research Center released their latest and greatest on how Americans think about guns. It’s a very detailed survey but again and again it asks respondents to answer questions that may or may not have much to do with what they actually think about guns. For example, respondents were asked how they felt about such policies as background checks and banning assault rifles with, of course, the non-gun owners favoring both policies to a greater degree than the folks who own guns. They were also asked about what they thought about gun-free zones. The gun-owners were opposed to it by a margin of two to one. Gee, what a surprise.

I think about my guns all the time – which one do I want to trade, which do I want to shoot today, what’s the next gun I’m going buy – thoughts like that swirl through my head all the time. Know when was the last time I thought about background checks? The last time I was contacted by Pew to answer questions in their poll. And since I’ve never been contacted by Pew, I don’t remember the last time I thought about background checks.

After I get done collecting enough responses to get a fairly good take on the basic demographics of the folks on both sides of the fence, I’m going to put up two more surveys and ask people to respond again. Incidentally, I recruit respondents to these surveys through Facebook promotions but again, I have no idea who is actually answering these promotions and taking the polls. Facebook simply tells me how many people click through the promotion and land on my survey page.

The next two surveys are going to ask gun owners and non-gun owners to tell me the questions which they would like to be asked about guns. And in this way what I hope to accomplish is to let the discussion between the two sides be based on what each side would talk about if they ever found themselves in a reasoned conversation with the other side about guns.

Who knows? Something new and interesting might actually emerge.

John Lott Talks About Guns And Gets It Wrong – Again.

My eye caught an op-ed the other in The Hill which is so rife with claims that are simply untruthful or wrong that I just needed to punch out a quick reply. And since I write about guns and I’m saying that someone else who writes about guns is saying things which aren’t accurate or true, obviously I’m talking about my good buddy, John Lott.

 

lott

John Lott

John has been on this kick for several years about how Democrats discriminate against minorities because they support the idea that big-city residents have difficulty getting licenses to purchase and/or carry guns.  It may come as a shock to John who lives in a nice, suburban town that is 85% white, but in fact the majority of city-dwellers throughout the United States happen to be white. They also happen to be middle class, so for John to say that excessive gun license fees show that Democrats (who usually support higher gun fees) discriminate against minorities and the poor is simply a typical example of how he often gets it wrong.

But what really grabbed my attention was his statement about the concealed-carry licensing procedure in Texas, which he claims has ‘more stringent mandatory training requirements’ than many other states. I’ll let you in on a little secret – I don’t believe that John Lott actually owns a gun. Or if he does own one, I can tell you that it’s been sitting on some shelf in a closet because this is a guy who talks about guns using verbiage that makes no sense.

First of all, Texas doesn’t have a ‘mandatory training requirement;’ in fact, the Lone Star State doesn’t have any training requirement at all. Nor for that matter does any other state. What Texas has is a one-time proficiency test which must be conducted as part of the licensing process and basically requires that the applicant prove that he or she has the ability to hit the broad side of a barn; in this case the barn being a B-27 target, which is the standard torso target used by most law enforcement agencies when the officers go to the range.

The proficiency test is based on a total score derived from where 50 rounds hit the target – the closer to the center of the target, the higher the score.  Some of the shooting is also timed with the shooter having to discharge the gun with several seconds allowed for each shot. A passing grade is 175 out of a maximum of 250 and the shooting is done at distances of 3, 7 and 15 yards.

This test is about as stringent as the diet I went on last night before I sat down to watch a Netflix movie with a big bowl of ice cream. First of all, the shooter doesn’t have to first pull the gun out of a holster so the timed shoots begin with the first shot. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall seeing anyone even in an open-carry state walking down the street with his gun pointed in front of him waiting for a target to appear. And the minimum passing score can be met by only hitting the outside target ring which in real life would mean that the bullet wouldn’t strike anyone’s body at all.

In other words, the proficiency test for getting a carry-concealed license in Texas is bullsh*t.  It’s a joke. Not only doesn’t the test show whether someone can shoot a gun accurately, but it doesn’t replicate to any degree a situation which might occur if someone actually had to use the damn gun.

John Lott has been promoting armed citizens as the first line of defense against crime for twenty years. Buffoons like Ted Nugent may take his research seriously, but when it comes to concealed-carry from a practical point of view, anyone who thinks that the Texas licensing process validates that someone knows how to use a gun for self-defense better hope they never need to use their gun for anything but fun.

It’s Not The ‘Gun Lobby’ That Wants To End Gun Regulations – It’s The Gun Owners Themselves.

The Chicago Tribune has just published an op-ed by Fermin DeBrabender, who wrote a provocative book (Do Guns Make Us Free?) arguing that gun ownership actually reduces freedom by restricting the degree to which citizens will engage in open, political discourse when members of the audience show up toting guns.  In his Tribune piece, Professor DeBrabender makes the argument that the gun industry is facing a “market crisis” due to the collapse of demand since the election of #45 and is responding to this crisis by promoting all kinds of laws and legalisms – open carry, campus carry, permitless carry – that will “make owning and carrying a gun more common, more normal, more ingrained in our culture and everyday life.”

dealers              This is hardly a new thesis and the gun industry’s promotion of the ‘normalization’ of toting around a gun long precedes the collapse of retail sales since the replacement of anti-gun Obama and the appearance of pro-gun Trump.  But to ascribe the easing of gun restrictions to some kind of evil hand belonging to some nefarious entity known as the ‘gun lobby’ is to obscure what I believe is a necessary understanding of what gun ownership in America is really all about.

The truth is that there isn’t a gun ‘lobby’ if what we mean is the existence and activity of some kind of organized, institutionalized effort to support or promote the aims of the gun industry wherever guns are sold. Yes, the NRA has a lobbying arm known as NRA-ILA, which promotes and coordinates pro-gun legislative initiatives both in individual states as well as with the feds. There are also independent pro-gun groups in many states whose members will show up at a public hearing whenever a gun law is being discussed. And make no mistake, these groups are well-funded, they are active and they claim to be able to sway elections with their pro-gun votes.

Except if you look carefully at the history of pro-gun legislation, particularly its spread since the late 1970’s when the first wave of laws liberalizing concealed-carry began to appear, you will note that, again and again, these laws have changed the legal landscape much more in states owned politically by the GOP; gee – what a surprise considering the fact that gun owners, in the main, tend to vote red.  There are still 9 states where the issuance of permits to carry a gun are dependent upon the discretionary judgement of law enforcement officials – every one of those states happens to contain a majority of residents who usually vote blue.

What Professor DeBrabender has overlooked (and I mean no criticism of his otherwise-excellent op-ed in this regard) is that much, if not most of the impetus for liberalizing or discarding gun regulations comes not from the top, so to speak, but from the bottom; i.e., the basic attitudes on the part of gun owners themselves. When the NRA refers to gun owners as ‘law-abiding’ citizens, this may be the one statement they make which is absolutely true.  Most gun owners are law-abiding because otherwise you can’t buy or even own a gun. And guns are the only consumer product which can only be sold to legally-qualified consumers, you don’t need to pass a background check to buy a car.

Every time I go into a gun shop I’m made instantly aware of the fact that just my presence in that shop carries with it the necessity that I must follow various laws. And every weekend when tens of thousands of people visit gun shows they are all equally cognizant of the fact that their legal status is a verifiable issue if they walk up to a dealer’s table to purchase a gun. The existence of 40 million legal gun owners is a much more potent force for doing away with gun regulations than any strategy employed by the ‘gun lobby,’ and talking with those gun owners about gun violence should go hand-in-hand with worrying about whether the gun industry will sell more guns.