Why Do (Many) Americans Own Guns?

All my friends in the gun-control movement keep telling me that we can reduce gun violence by just enacting some ‘reasonable’ or ‘common-sense’ laws. I suppose that what they mean are laws that even gun owners will agree should be passed, like extending background checks to personal transfers, red-flag laws, ‘common-sense’ things like that. Our friends at the Hopkins group have published a big study which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that most gun owners really do support those ‘reasonable’ laws.

That’s all fine and well except for one, little thing. If you asked the average gun owner what he thinks would be the best way to reduce gun violence, he’d probably say that we should get rid of all gun-free zones. Or maybe put armed guards in all schools. Or better yet, allow everyone who wants to carry a gun to carry it from state to state.

In other words, all these ‘common-sense’ gun laws whose benefits are touted by every gun-control organization are only considered ‘reasonable’ by people who, for the most part, don’t own guns. And if all those folks really want to find a way to communicate with gun owners in order to come up with some ‘reasonable’ regulations that might really gain Gun-nut Nation’s support, maybe they would start out by trying to figure out why people own guns. After all, a gun isn’t like a car- you don’t need to own a gun in order to get to work. And you also don’t really need to own a gun to protect yourself from ISIS, or a street thug, or even from gun-grabbers like Joe Biden or Crazy Bern.

Back in 2015, our friends at Harvard published a very detailed study on who owns guns in America and why they own their guns. What they found is that gun owners own handguns primarily for protection  and own long guns for hunting and sport. It took a whole study to figure that one out? After all, it’s not as if you can’t take down Bambi with a Glock, but that’s not the way it’s usually done.

If our public health friends want to really help us figure out how to talk to gun owners about how to reduce gun violence, they might ask whether just knowing that people buy handguns for personal protection really tells them anything at all. Colt began making and selling a self-defense pocket pistol in 1903, which was long before Dana Loesch got on NRA-TV to warn all America’s housewives to defend themselves against street ‘thugs.’

It’s not as if walking around with a Glock in your pocket is the only way people can protect themselves from crime. In fact, most people aren’t wandering around with a Glock and they don’t seem to feel any more vulnerable than the guys and a few gals who walk around armed. If public health researchers think they are really explaining anything when they publish another study showing that the number of people who actually use a gun to prevent a crime is somewhere between zero and zilch, maybe they should think again. The folks who come into my gun shop to buy a gun for ‘personal protection’ couldn’t care less what some egg-head from Harvard believes.

All I know is that the rate of violent crime across the U.S. continues to decline, but the percentage of the population which believes that having a gun around is more of a benefit than a risk continues to increase. How do we account for such cognitive dissonance when it comes to the question of guns?

We don’t. We simply pretend that somewhere, somehow we can create a magic formula that will get gun owners and non-gun owners on the same page. In the meantime, deaths from intentional shootings have increased by more than 25% over the last ten years.

Isn’t it about time we substituted the word ‘effective’ for words like ‘reasonable’ or ‘common -sense’ when it comes to promoting new gun laws?

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Should The CDC Sponsor Gun Research?

It has been more than 30 years since the CDC eliminated gun violence from its research budget, but the hiatus may be coming to an end. The Democrats have stuck $50 million into the CDC budget, whether the line item will survive the usual horse-trading between the House and the Senate remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the fact that the funding of gun research is even being discussed by all the Democratic Presidential candidates is a development which many of us believed we would never live to see.

That being the case, I find myself in something of a dilemma because I am not sure that any of this research will necessarily yield positive results. Why do I say this? How can I afford to disagree so radically from a time-honored narrative supported by virtually everyone who wants gun violence to come to an end? After all, public policies should always be based on valid research, and who can provide such research about gun violence except my friends in public health?

 There’s only one little problem. Which is that the research activity on gun violence done by public health scholars to date lacks one, fundamental element that should be present in all evidence-based research, namely, a self-imposed requirement that the point of publishing research is to invite, indeed demand public critiques from other researchers in the same field.

Unfortunately, public health gun research is the only field of academic research which can’t seem to ever produce public debate of any kind. If I had a nickel for every gallon of ink spilled by public health researchers on the so-called mistakes made by John Lott, I could stop working for a living, go down to Delray Beach and buy a condo at King’s Point. On the other hand, if I had a nickel for every ounce of ink that public health researchers have spilled criticizing the work of themselves or their peers, maybe I should go down to Lake Okeechobee and rent an unfurnished trailer at Canal Point.

And by the way, I’m not so sure that Lott’s thesis about more legally-owned guns resulting in less crime is necessarily all that wrong. If you eliminate the words ‘legally-owned’ from his argument, what he says may be more correct than not. The problem with John’s work is that he assumes something about the spread of concealed-carry laws (CCW) which probably isn’t true; namely, that criminals intent on attacking someone else usually commit violent crimes against law-abiding folks.

In fact, most victims of violent crimes happen to be the same kinds of people who commit those crimes; younger, minority males living in inner-city neighborhoods being the most typical types of people treated in the ER for gun injuries, fatal or not. These young men don’t have CCW but probably more of them are now walking around with illegal guns. For all we know, Lott’s thesis that armed, self-defense may be an effective deterrent to violent crime might be correct, even if this deterrence factor is most frequently found within the criminal-prone population itself.

I began thinking about the ‘more guns = less crime’ argument from this perspective after reading research on gun violence published by criminologists, scholars for example like Marvin Wolfgang, whose studies on both teen-age delinquency and homicide have never been surpassed. Of course Wolfgang, considered by some to be the ‘most influential criminologist in the English-speaking world,’ is persona non-grata in the public health field since he had the audacity to suggest that maybe Gary Kleck’s research on armed, self-defense should not be simply dismissed.

I simply do not understand how anyone can claim to be conducting ‘evidence-based research’ when the evidence is never subject to public, critical review. Of course I hope the CDC restores funding for gun research, but I would also hope that the resumption of such funding be tied to some degree of critical, self-analysis by the public health research community itself.

I may be the smartest person I ever met, but there are plenty of folks who would disagree. Which is why anyone is free to post a comment on what I write.

Should Doctors Base Their Response To Gun Violence On What Everyone Wants To Hear?

              Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on an assault-rifle ban, and what made the headlines was the testimony of a former cop, Diane Muller, who told Jerry Nadler and the other Congressional gun-grabbers that she wouldn’t give up her gun. Muller says that she is the organizer of The DC Project, which describes itself as a ‘nonpartisan initiative to encourage women to establish relationships with their legislators, and reveal the faces and stories of real firearms owners and 2nd Amendment supporters.”

              This ‘organization’ is nothing more than an online shopping cart selling the usual retail crap (clothing, concealed-carry purses, etc.) with some exhortations about personal safety, getting involved, protecting civil rights, the whole nine yards.  Websites which focus on female self-protection as a vehicle for selling gun-related junk keep popping up, but no matter how they slice it or dice it, the gun industry has never been able to persuade women to buy guns.

              Diane Muller’s claim to be running a ‘non-partisan’ advocacy organization is about as truthful as my claim that the 45th President is smarter than Leonard Mermelstein, who  happens to be my cat.

              I don’t really care if hucksters like Diane Muller pretend to be committed to views from both sides. The fact that someone with so little real presence in the gun world would be representing the 2nd-Amendment bunch in front of a Congressional committee says an awful lot about the gun ‘rights’ movement during the waning days of Donald Trump. On the other hand, when physicians get together to talk about gun violence and also claim to be ‘non-partisan’ in their approach, this doesn’t just rankle me, it really gets me pissed off.

              Physicians aren’t supposed to be dealing with a medical crisis like gun violence by finding a ‘non-partisan’ cure. But it has now become fashionable in medical circles to talk about a ‘consensus’ approach to gun violence, which is how the ‘historic’ Chicago summit meeting in February of 43  medical organizations promoted their Magna Carta for reducing gun violence.  In fact, what they produced was nothing more than the same load of recommendations which the medical community has been using to chase after its gun-violence-prevention tail for the last twenty years: expanded background checks, safe storage, red flag laws, blah, blah, blah and blah. Oh, and let’s not forget the all-important research money from the CDC.

              Now we have a new medical group on the scene, courtesy of a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, which calls itself FACTS, a.k.a., Firearms Safety Among Children and Teens Consortium. Most of its members are the same research crew which show up everywhere else, and they also promise to take a consensus-based approach to understanding violence caused by guns. The consensus in this instance is provided by a single individual representing gun owners who runs something called Gun Owners for Responsible Gun Ownership, which like the DC Project, is just a website but doesn’t yet have anything for you to buy.  I’m sure a shopping cart will appear in time. The odds that what this guy references as ‘responsible’ gun behavior could ever remotely pass muster with most people who own guns is about a great as the odds that #45 is smarter than Seymour Sliperman, who happens to be another one of my cats.

              Doctors who promote the idea that their research represents some kind of consensus are doing nothing more than hoping that if the CDC starts giving out research monies on guns, they can pretend that their work is not intended to be used for gun-control advocacy because, after all, what they will say reflects the views of both sides.

              The day that physicians all agree that treating disease should be based on remedies which meet everyone’s interests and concerns, is the day I stop going to the doctor and hope for the best. This is nothing more than cynical pandering at its worst and physicians should know better than to engage in such nonsensical crap.

There Really Is A Way To End Gun Violence.

              One of the favorite games played by members of Gun-Control Nation (myself included) over the last couple of years was to look at the monthly background check report issued by FBI-NICS and announce with glee that the number of checks for gun transfers each month was going down. We all figured that if the slide continued through four years of Trump (and God forbid eight years if he won again) that the problem of gun violence would take care of itself because as a consumer item, the guns would simply go away.

              Guess what? We forgot that gun sales have always been pushed or pulled by the fear that guns might disappear. And now that virtually every 2020 Democratic candidate has promised to do ‘something’ about gun violence, the fear has returned within the ranks of Gun-nut Nation and the virus is beginning to spread.

              When it comes to gun retailing, August is always the slowest month of the year. Guns can’t compete with the beach. By the time you pay for that beach house rental, buy some sand toys for the kids and eat at the Clam Shack every night, the five hundred bucks you stashed away because you just have to have that little walkaround Glock, is money that has been spent.

              It turns out that not only did the August NICS numbers show a 15% increase over the August numbers for 2018, they were the highest numbers for any August going all the way back through the years of the hated Obama regime. The increase was strongest in the ‘other’ category, which happens to be the category which usually designates ‘black’ guns, a.k.a., AR-15’s. In Florida, where our friends are trying to get a Constitutional ban on assault rifles on the 2020 ballot, the increase in ‘other’ background checks was 48.7 percent.

              The good news for gun nuts is that this spike in sales has not yet generated any upward movement in prices for either ammunition or guns. One of the big online resellers, Cheaper Than Dirt, is listing quality 22LR ammunition for five cents a round, which is a price in adjusted dollars out of 1975. Another outfit has fully-assembled AR’s for less than $500 bucks. When Obama was turning America into a Muslim state, you couldn’t find a black gun anywhere for under a thou.

              My friends in Gun-control Nation who are busily promoting an expansion of background checks or Red Flag laws or some other type of ‘reasonable’ restriction that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands, need to remember that every, single one of the more than one million NICS checks done in August represents a gun being transferred into the ‘right’ hands. How do any of those new additions to the civilian gun arsenal wind up being used by someone to blow someone else away, which happens to be most of the gun injuries which happen every day?  We have absolutely no idea.

              Back in 1993 and 1994, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published research which definitively found that access to guns increased homicide and suicide risk. And by the way, these studies didn’t differentiate between guns that were, or were not safely stored. These studies got the gun industry to push their friends in Congress to delete gun research from the budget of the CDC, a budget item that my friends in public health are now clamoring to restore.

              If there had been a grass-roots movement for gun control in the 1990’s, the findings by Kellerman and Rivara might have been translated into a law to strictly regulate the ownership of assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols. This kind of law exists in every other advanced nation-state, which is why they don’t suffer from gun violence and we do.

With all due respect to my liberal friends who remain enthralled by the 2nd Amendment, we don’t need no stinkin’ research,  we don’t need no stinkin’ reasonable laws.  We just need to get rid of certain guns which were never designed for hunting or sport.

Gee, that was a tough one to figure out.

It’s Time To Learn Something About Guns.

              Last week our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school put up a website with an twelve-hour, online course about gun violence which can be accessed right here. The course covers all the essential issues swirling around the gun-violence debate today, including reviews of relevant laws and comprehensive discussions of what we know and what we still don’t know about the behavior that kills and injures more than 125,000 Americans every year.

              This is, as far as I can tell, the first attempt to create a serious and comprehensive effort not only to explain gun violence, but to give both specialists and advocates a clear roadmap that can be used to understand what gun violence is all about. And it couldn’t have been done at a more germane time, given the degree to which gun violence has become something of a litmus test for every wannabe 2020 Presidential candidate, at least on the Democratic side. Whether there will be more than one GOP candidate remains to be seen, ha ha ha.

              In addition to classroom presentations by members of the Hopkins faculty’ along with some invited academic guests, each subject also contains a very detailed bibliography of relevant published research. This is the first time any group has mounted a serious effort to create a collection of documentation on gun violence which can be used to further inform the gun-control community about the research that lies behind our understanding about violence caused by guns. The bibliography contains more than 125(!) separate references, and can be printed out or saved for further use. Frankly, this resource alone is a reason why every gun-control advocate or activist should enroll and take this course.

              As of this morning, the course registration stands at slightly more than 2,000 hardy souls. That number is an embarrassment, it’s a joke. It tells me that what I have said (and gotten criticized for saying) about the gun-control movement, or how they refer to themselves as the gun violence prevention movement or GVP, namely, that most of the folks who claim to be so concerned about gun violence are no more interested to understanding the issue than the bunch promoting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ on the other side.

              When Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published their formative articles on gun violence back in the early 1990’s, the pro-gun movement responded by launching attacks on this effort which, from a scientific point of view, were nothing more than errant nonsense or worse. Public health research on gun violence was derided as fake, un-American and designed to be used by government to take away everyone’s guns. If anything, this campaign set the tone for the more recent iteration of the alt-right’s response to science and scientific research known as ‘fake’ news.

              I would be much less concerned about the gun lobby’s strategy to eliminate or downplay the need for gun research were it not for the fact that most of the folks on my side of the fence do not seem all that concerned about absorbing the lessons that can be derived from such research themselves. Last year I mounted a survey which asked gun-control activists to answer 12 questions about gun laws, all the questions covering basic information being used by advocacy groups to define their strategies about violence caused by guns. The little quiz has been taken by several hundred folks and the average score has been six correct; in other words, a big, fat flunk. Given the fact that most GVP activists (like 90 percent) hold post-graduate degrees, the lack of basic knowledge in the GVP community is a deplorable state of affairs.

              I think that gun-control organizations like Brady and Everytown should not only be actively promoting the Hopkins gun-violence course, but should be telling, indeed insisting that their members and supporters register and sign up for the course – now! To quote Terry Goodkind, “Knowledge is a weapon and I intend to be formidably armed.”

              Armed with a gun or armed with the facts. Which do you choose?

Here’s Your Opportunity To Study Gun Violence. Don’t Miss It.

              Our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school have produced and published what I believe is the first attempt to create a comprehensive curriculum on gun violence. This is a very impressive online effort and should be viewed, used and studied by everyone who would like to see gun violence come to an end. In fact, if I were running a group which advocates gun control, I would insist that every member of the group register and go through the course. For that matter, I would post the course on my Facebook page and suggest that other FB admins do it too.  In fact, I’m posting and pinning the course on my FB page right now.

              The good news is that the entire curriculum is video-delivered by members of the Hopkins faculty, all of whom know how to stand up in front of a classroom and deliver lectures in a clear and organized way. The better news is that the website is user-friendly and the lessons can be easily accessed even by users with only a slight degree of digital skills. Finally, the lessons are all on video, but you can also refer to text, and there are reading lists attached for further study, as well as a review quiz at the end of each lesson.

              If you take the program seriously, watch every lecture, read the relevant assignments, do all quiz exercises and give feedback, you are looking at more than 11 hours of study time.  In other words, this is serious stuff and the entire effort is obviously meant to be taken seriously. Incidentally, along with four members of the Hopkins faculty, there are lessons provided by outside experts, including our friends Jeff Swanson and Adam Winkler, and of course the website includes forums so that every student also gets a chance to shoot his or her mouth off. God forbid there would actually be a website out there which doesn’t afford everyone the opportunity to make some noise, right?

              If my last sentence reads in a somewhat sarcastic vein, it’s not by accident. One of the reasons I like this effort is because it is advertised up front as being based on ‘evidence;’ i.e., the content is tied to relevant research in the field. Now that doesn’t mean that all the research is totally correct or that more research needs to be done. But the whole point here, it seems to me, is to inject fact-based knowledge into the gun debate, rather than just creating another digital forum for opinions, a.k.a. hot air. The gun-control movement has come into its own since Sandy Hook; if anything, when it comes to the argument about the role of guns in American society, for the first time gun control appears to have trumped gun ‘rights.’ All the more reason why the discussion needs to proceed on evidence drawn from serious research, not opinions out of thin air. 

              Talking about evidence, I have only one suggestion to make to the faculty that created this course, and it’s a suggestion which obviously flows from my own background when it comes to the issue of guns. If it were possible to revise the curriculum at some point, I would ask the faculty to consider adding a section which explains the meaning of the word ‘gun.’ After all, if we want to learn about a certain kind of violence which is defined by the use of a certain object which we call a ‘gun,’ shouldn’t we make sure that all our learners know how to define that object in terms of how it’s designed, how it’s manufactured, how it works and doesn’t work?. I see too many instances on various gun-control forums, FB pages, and questions directly asked of me which indicate a knowledge deficit on both sides of the gun debate about the product which causes the violence itself.

              That’s a minor quibble.  I hope the Hopkins faculty will take seriously the work they have done and promote its access every chance they get. And when you finish reading this text, go to the website and sign up for the course.

Can We Reduce Gun Violence With A Public Health Approach?

              Our friends at the Coalition  to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) recently posted an editorial that described gun violence as a ‘public health crisis’ because it has an “adverse impact on community health.” The notion that we can reduce and ultimately eliminate the 40,000 gun deaths suffered each year by taking a public health solution to the problem has become the standard mantra in gun-control circles, not the least of which because of the possibility that CDC research money on gun violence may be coming back into play.

              We love the notion of public health. Maybe we didn’t invent it, but we sure have used the public health approach to deal with serious threats to the human community, most notably and recently AIDS. And since gun violence is certainly widespread enough to be considered a threat to the human community, and since it also tends to impact most severely on certain identifiable groups within the community, obviously we can and should utilize the public health approach to this health threat as well. So say all the public health experts on gun violence.

I’m not a physician. I’m not a public health researcher. I can, if I choose, ask to be introduced as ‘Doctor Weisser,’ but that’s only because I earned a lowly Ph.D.

 On the other hand, I know something about guns. And based on what I know and what all these public health experts don’t know,  I disagree.

I disagree with the ‘public health approach’ to gun violence because the information that we need to evaluate in order to figure out a valid public health response to this particular threat to the human community doesn’t exist. And it won’t exist even if the CDC dumps not just 50 million into gun research, but 500 million or more.

I don’t hear any of the public health experts talking about this problem at all. In fact, these experts go out of their way to deny the importance of even collecting such data, despite saying again and again that any public health strategy must be ‘evidence-based.’

A public health approach requires that first you figure out why certain people get sick. Then you figure out how the sickness spreads from victim to victim, then you figure out how to prevent the spread of the illness either through immunization strategies, public policies or both. In the case of gun violence, we know who gets sick. But we have absolutely no idea how the illness spreads from one person to another because we don’t know anything about the agent who spreads the disease – the shooter – and we don’t know anything about the instrument whose presence creates the disease – the gun.

We don’t know anything about the agent because in the case of self-inflicted fatal injuries the agent is dead. In the case of the agent spreading the disease, he either isn’t identified or if he is, he’s locked up in jail. At which point we aren’t dealing with a public health issue. We’re dealing with a crime. Finally, both groups of agents use the same instrument, a gun, and we don’t know how they got their hands on the gun.

Back in March, three major public health scholars appeared before a House committee and testified about the need to restore CDC gun research funds. When asked, all three esteemed experts denied the necessity to create a national gun registry – not needed at all. A national registry happens to be the only way to figure out the movement and use of the instrument which has to be present in every instance of gun violence. Somehow, this never gets said.

I’m saying it now. Either my friends in the public health community stop promoting the nonsense that whatever they are doing won’t threaten the beloved 2nd Amendment, or they can stop pretending that they can come up with any kind of serious public health solution to the threat posed by guns. It’s simple.  Either – Or.

Do We Need CDC Funding To Understand Gun Violence?

              To paraphrase Jonathan Swift who was paraphrasing either a Greek or Persian proverb, so the mountain shook and out came a mouse. Which is the only way I can describe the Congressional hearing in DC yesterday covering gun-research funding for the CDC. The House Appropriations Committee (actually its subcommittee) heard testimony from four witnesses – Andrew Morral from RAND; Ronald Stewart from the Trauma Committee of the American College of Surgeons; Daniel Webster, who runs the gun research program at Johns Hopkins; and the hated John Lott who, on occasion, is allowed to show up at public-policy meetings to represent the ‘other side.’

               After some rather long-winded remarks by Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) who chaired the hearing and some less-winded remarks by the Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) each of the panelists were given 5 minutes to make an initial statement. I listened very closely to these comments, but by end of the 15 minutes taken by Morral, Stewart and Webster, I found myself having difficulty staying awake. It wasn’t only that they didn’t really explain the connection between the lack of CDC funding and the persistence of gun violence over the past twenty years (although to Webster’s credit, I think he was about to offer such an explanation when his time expired and he was cut off) but they delivered their remarks in a manner which made them all sound somewhat bored and almost reluctant to have shown up.

              On the other hand, when John Lott delivered his opening remarks, whether or not you would agree with anything he said, at least he was animated and sounded excited about the issues that were going to be discussed. You would think that the panelists who were testifying in favor of resuming the CDC funding would have gone out of their way to make the Committee feel that this hearing marked a very important day. Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t see Webster, Morral or Stewart stifling yawns.

              Near the end of the hearing, the mouse truly emerged from the mountain when the panelists were asked to list priorities for gun-violence research. Morral wanted more research to determine who was right and who was wrong about such hot-button issues as open carry, gun-free zones and stand your ground. That’s a biggie. Stewart knew that gun violence was caused by ‘hopelessness’ and wanted more research on how to change hopelessness into hope. A very clear agenda, I must say. Webster believed that more work needed to be done to identify ‘bad’ gun dealers although he failed to mention that most felons get their guns from sources other than retail stores.

              Lott then actually stated a fact. It was the only fact mentioned by any of the ‘experts’ on the panel. He said that 50% of all homicides occurred in 2% of American counties and were connected to the drug-selling gangs which operate in those high-violence zones. He suggested that more research was needed on ways to de-incentivize people who commit gun crimes while selling drugs – the one, specific strategy for reducing gun violence that was mentioned during the entire event.

              At one point, things actually got interesting when Andy Harris (R-MD) asked the three proponents of more research dollars whether or not they supported  a national registry of guns. Morral shlumped around in his chair and tried to beg off entirely, stating that he was just a ‘social scientist;’ Stewart said he was against it even though he heads a medical organization which has come out explicitly for just such an idea; Webster dithered a bit and then decided that he also should respond with a ‘no,’ although he has been gung-ho for comprehensive background checks which would eventually create a national list of everyone who owns a gun.

              Why do gun-control researchers and advocates like Morral, Stewart and Webster kid themselves into believing that anyone on the pro-gun side would ever think they have any interest in protecting gun ‘rights?’ If those guys are really interested in finding ‘non-partisan’ solutions to gun violence, it’s time to man up and admit that they don’t like guns. 

So What If Gun Violence Is A National Emergency?

              Somewhat lost in all the fru-fru over Trump’s declaration of a national emergency was a statement by the real President of the United States, Nancy Pelosi, that Trump’s announcement would set a precedent for a Democratic President to declare a national emergency on the ‘epidemic of gun violence.’ Which, when you stop to think about it, is a political strategy that my Gun-control Nation friends need to take seriously over the next several years.

              The good news is that most, of not all of the announced or soon-to-be announced Democratic Presidential candidates are hard left when it come to the issue of guns. And given Trump’s continued effort to maintain a stance based on a combination of racism, far-right nationalism and just plain stupidism, there’s no reason right now why the 2020 Presidential campaign of the Democrats has to find some kind of middle ground on any issue at all. What we see again and again are polls which show that the same independent voters who have deserted Trump believe that guns need to be more tightly controlled. These are the voters who turned the House of Representatives from red to blue last year; these are the same voters who might just send fat-boy Trump to a permanent residence at Mar-a-Lago next year.

              Let’s not kid ourselves. The 2020 vote will get down to the same handful of states whose results determine every national race: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Florida and one or two more. Nothing’s going to change the fact that guns aren’t popular in the Communist Northeast or West Coast states, just as nothing will change the fact that every resident of the dumb states (the South, the West, etc.) owns a gun. Which is exactly why declaring a national gun emergency just might be an important wedge issue in the states whose votes will determine whether Trump succeeds himself or not, assuming that (to quote Lizzie) he doesn’t run his 2020 campaign from jail. It wouldn’t the first time that a guy in jail was on the ballot – try Eugene Debs in 1920 and Lyndon LaRouche in 1992. 

              What could the President do by declaring a national gun emergency? For one thing, (s)he could direct the ATF to issue an emergency ‘stop-work’ order, serve it on Smith & Wesson, Glock, Sig, Beretta, Springfield and Kahr, which would effectively prevent more than 80% of the new handguns from entering the market, while the agency takes its time auditing every company to make sure that not one, single gun they manufacture ends up in the ‘wrong’ hands. The newly-elected President could also prohibit the manufacture of all ammunition on the same basis, and I note, by the way, that in all the talk circulating around right now about gun control, I don’t notice any of my friends in Gun-control Nation saying anything about regulating ammo sales – not one word.

              Under this national emergency, the President could also direct HHS to come up with a plan to require full and complete reporting injuries by every hospital receiving Medicare/Medicaid funds, which basically means every hospital in the United States. And this would quickly put an end to the kvetching on the part of all my gun researcher friends about how the data they use in their research doesn’t represent any kind of valid numbers on gun violence at all. Of course, God forbid the public health research community would stop using those bogus numbers to tell us about how this law and that law will reduce gun violence today.

              I think the answer to reducing gun violence is very simple – get rid of the guns. Notice I didn’t say I would support such an effort because I don’t take sides. What I am saying is that either gun violence is a national emergency or it’s not. And if it is, then let’s stop screwing around with a little of this or a little of that and tell it like it is – make Nancy Pelosi’s statement about a national gun-violence emergency the litmus test for which Presidential candidate deserves your support.

What Causes Gun Violence? It’s The Guns.

              More than a quarter-century ago, two brilliant researchers, Fred Rivard and Art Kellerman, published research which definitively linked gun access to increased risk of suicide and homicide. Frankly, the entire corpus of gun-control research hasn’t really gone beyond what they said, because nothing more needs to be said. Either there’s a gun around or there isn’t, and if there is, to quote Walter Mosley,“it will go off, sooner or later.”

              This research resulted in the elimination of gun-research funds from the CDC budget, with Gun-nut Nation convincing a majority of Congress from the dumb states that this kind of research was being conducted not for science, but for partisan (read: liberal) political ends.

              Now that the House has flipped blue, Gun-control Nation and their medical, public-health allies are beating the drums for a resumption of CDC-funded research. Of course when and if such legislation comes up for a vote, you can bet the other side will argue that studies showing that guns are a risk to health are nothing more than politically-motivated research. The funny thing is, however, that public health research done since CDC funding ended is not only political in terms of topics and goals, but happens to be research that protects the ownership of guns.

              Huh? Am I saying that noted scholars like the folks at Harvard and Hopkins want to keep America awash in guns?  That’s exactly what I’m saying, and if my friends at the NRA home office in Fairfax would come back to their senses, they’ll realize that the best friend they have is a former New York City mayor whom Gun-nut Nation believes to be the devil incarnate when it comes to guns. Before you think that I’ve lost my sense, please read on.

              Here’s the policy statement from the Everytown website: “Support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people.” As if the 2nd Amendment says anything about whether Americans have the ‘right’ to own a small, concealable handgun which holds 18 rounds of military-grade ammunition and happened to be the gun used by Seung-Hui Cho to kill 33 people on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007.

              The reason we are the only advanced country which suffers from gun violence is not because we only do background checks at the initial point of sale; it’s not because we have 350 million guns floating around; it’s not because we don’t have PTP licensing; it’s not for any of the reasons that my friends in public health research have decided requires yet another study to figure out how to reduce violence caused by guns.

              The reason is because we let the gun industry determine which guns are safe enough to be sold, while the regulators try to figure out ways to keep the most lethal consumer products imaginable out of the ‘wrong hands.’ And this naïve and foolish view, which pervades virtually every aspect of gun research, flows over into the medical community as well. Doctors are advised to show more ‘respect’ for gun culture, counseling their patients not to get rid of their guns, but to store them in a safe way. Note that the studies by Kellerman and Rivara don’t distinguish between stored and unstored guns.

              I would like to end this column on a hopeful note. I am not trying in any way to denigrate the work of my many public health friends who conduct research on gun injuries and, it goes without saying, would like to see such injuries eliminated or at least reduced. But as long as this research community continues to avoid figuring out why some people deal with their fears by buying guns, telling these folks that guns represent a ‘risk’ is to tell them nothing at all. Either we get rid of the guns that are responsible for gun violence or we don’t. And until/unless  we get rid of those kinds of guns, there will be plenty of gun violence to serve as topics for gun research.