Safe Storage Isn’t Safe At All.

              It is now more than a quarter-century since Art Kellerman, Fred Rivara and other scholars published a seminal work on suicide risk and access to guns. This article not only brought public attention to gun risk, but was probably the single, most important event leading to the 1996 elimination of gun research funding by the CDC.

              Just this week, another research effort linking guns to suicide has appeared, giving us an opportunity to compare research findings on the same issue over the last 25 years. And I’m going to give you my conclusion up front, which is that public health research on gun risk has created a medical consensus on how to deal with gun violence that moves us further away from where we should be.

              The whole purpose of public health research is to identify a risk to community health, figure out the proper response to that risk, then give physicians the proper tools to (note the next word in caps) eliminate the risk. Sorry, but the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t mention reducing disease; it says: “I will prevent disease whenever I can.”

              The authors of this new paper, obviously cognizant of the role of medicine in the prevention of disease, inject that issue into their work with the following conclusion: “In the overall model, 6% to 32% of deaths were estimated to be preventable depending on the probability of motivating safer storage.”

Reducing a threat to health by 6 percent isn’t prevention. And worse, even this minimal outcome, which is at best an ‘estimate,’ is dependent on whether the at-risk population responds positively to the ‘probability’ of ‘motivating’ a certain public-health strategy known as ‘safe storage.’

The ‘safe storage’ strategy has become the deus ex machina for gun control embraced by virtually every gun-control initiative both within and without the medical field. The strategy has never (read: never) been tested in anything other than a variety of statistical manipulations of relevant (but not definitive) data. Not one researcher has ever created a control group versus a comparison group and then analyzed outcomes between the two groups. The definition of ‘safe storage’ doesn’t even cover how the term is utilized in relevant legal statutes and texts.

I happen to live in the state – Massachusetts – which has the strictest safe-storage law of all 50 states. In my state, a gun owner can be charged with a felony even if a gun is simply left unlocked or not locked away in the home. But MA also recognizes that a gun is safely stored if the qualified owner can reach out and touch the gun. So if I am sitting in my living room watching TV and cleaning one of my guns at the same time, the gun is safely stored.

I have yet to see a single public health study advocating safe storage which asks respondents to define safe storage as locked, locked away or sitting next to the gun’s owner when he’s awake or asleep. Which means that these studies, like the one just published, are based on a primary variable (type of storage behavior) which has no connection to reality at all.

This is why I said above that public health gun research has moved us further, rather than closer to figuring out what to do about a threat to public health that results in at least 125,000 deaths and injuries every year. Because if you go back to the Kellerman-Rivara research which found gun owners to be at higher risk for suicide, their finding wasn’t based on whether or not guns were safely stored.

Why has the public health field decided that only guns that aren’t safely stored represent a risk to health? Because they actually believe that medical counseling on gun violence must respect our Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun.

Since when did the Hippocratic Oath require physicians to determine health risk based on  whether some law gives individuals free license to harm themselves or others? Which is what the 2nd Amendment is really all about, whether the medical community and their public health research friends want to acknowledge it or not.


Where Are All Those ‘Responsible’ Gun Owners?

New group has emerged pledging “to propel cultural change and prevent unnecessary gun deaths in the United States.” And how does this group intend to propel cultural change?  They can speak for themselves: “There is a middle ground where most Americans can agree. We’ve found that middle ground and are working to unite like-minded citizens. Behind the scenes, we are effecting real change to stem the tide of gun violence.”

Gun Safety Alliance              This effort is the handiwork, so it seems, of some of the companies which in one way or another decided to cut links to the gun industry (read: the NRA) after the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High.  This includes Delta Airlines and Hertz, who no longer offer discounts to NRA members, as well as Gucci which ponied up some big dough to support the March for our Lives demo in March, a bank that won’t underwrite Visa-Mastercard gun shop accounts, plus Dick’s and Walmart, the latter upping its age for all gun sales to twenty-one, the former pulling black guns out of some of their stores.

I happen to know one of the managers of the Hertz Rental at the Hartford Airport, and when I mentioned the company’s decision to drop its NRA discount, he stared at me in disbelief. Not that he was necessarily opposed to the decision, it’s that he had never been told this was going to happen and frankly, he couldn’t care less. So I went back to the Gun Safety Alliance website (that’s the name of this new group) and to my utter surprise discovered that not one single individual is identified with any of these companies that are now trying to ‘propel’ cultural change.

I happen to find anonymous advocacy websites offensive and I won’t donate a penny to any organization which refuses to identify the individuals whose so-called commitment to their cause doesn’t require them to give out their names. Want to reach Mike the Gun Guy? It’s  Want to send me a letter? The gun shop is located in Ware, MA and both the address and telephone number can be accessed at any time. And believe me, I have received many nasty and threatening communications from gun-troll land (as well as from some very dedicated gun-control activists) over the years. But I simply will not subscribe to the idea that I can or should advocate anything without telling my audience who I am.

My other objection to this new organization is their belief that they can ‘unite’ like-minded citizens’ who share their desire to reduce violence caused by guns.  These happen to be code-words, no different from referring to ‘most’ gun owners as ‘responsible,’ or calling for ‘common sense’ gun safety laws.  What about the non-gun owners?  How many of them have demonstrated their responsible behavior by passing a background check? Even Pew Research admits that nearly half of all Americans want an end to gun-free zones.   I guarantee you that this number includes just about every one of those ‘like-minded’ Americans who happen to own guns.

And then there’s the safe-storage issue that always rears its ugly head when the ‘responsible’ citizenry gets together to figure out how to reduce violence from guns. In 2016 it is estimated that at least 110,000 people were killed or injured because someone else shot them with a gun. In 2014 the number was 76,000 – gee, that’s only an increase in two years of some 45 percent. Know how many of these injuries and deaths would have been prevented if every gun owner practiced safe storage?  Not one. There is not a single study which shows a differential in gun homicide or aggravated assault because people ‘safely stored’ their guns.

Want to propel a cultural change that will reduce gun violence?  It’s very simple. Just find a way to reverse the culture of a majority of Americans who believe that owning a gun is more of a benefit than a risk.  And when you figure that one out, please remember to sign your name.

cold and dead

Available now.


A Gun Safety Device Which Really Works.

Now that school shootings appear to be happening on a day-to-day basis, we seem to be a lot more concerned about figuring out our real estate tax bill than about keeping our schoolchildren safe, but there is a new company out there which has come out with what appears to be a gun-safety device which really works.  The company is called Simtek, it’s the brainchild of an engineer named Brady Simpson, and they are launching a product, Duo, which is designed to prevent shootings by telling a gun owner if and when someone else gets their hands on one of his guns.

duo             Basically the device is a sensor that detects the movement of any piece of equipment in the space where the sensor is deployed – a file cabinet, desk drawer, gun safe – and then sends an instant text alert to the individual who now knows that a secure space has been breached. Motion detectors are hardly a new technology, but combining the detector with a digital messaging system represents a significant step forward in terms of alerting someone to the possibility that a gun might be grabbed by the wrong hands.

When I say ‘wrong hands,’ I’m talking about the hands connected to the bodies of kids. Anyone who believes that a gun in the home doesn’t represent a risk if there are children in the home doesn’t know anything about guns or kids. With all due respect to the gun industry which has been promoting safety programs aimed at children for God knows how long, telling kids not to touch a gun is an absolute guarantee that the kids will, if anything, get more interested in picking up the gun.

Not only are children unable to understand the notion of risk, they are also naturally inquisitive and instinctively try to discover anything and everything hidden around the house. Want to read an eye-opening study about how kids behave around guns? Try this study, which found that four out of ten gun-owning adults believed their guns were successfully hidden away and didn’t know that the kids had found the location of the guns. And the idea that children can be taught to ‘respect’ a gun is about as stupid and self-deceiving as the idea that I can eat every potato chip in sight and still lose weight.

The company has posted a clever video on Youtube which shows a young child finding the combination to a gun safe and then opening the door but Dad got the alert and arrives in the nick of time. Obviously what Simtek is trying to promote is the idea that the Duo device will provide an extra level of protection even for those gun-owning parents who have already taken precautions to keep the kids away from guns. But the truth is that for every family that locks up or locks away their guns, there’s at least one other home where guns are lying around unsecured.

What I really like about this product is its portability; in other words, if the gun is going to be transported from one place to another in a suitcase, an attache case or some other carry-all device, you can easily stick the Duo inside the same case and then get an alert if someone opens the rucksack or handbag and now has access to the gun. There have been recent media stories linking the increase in concealed-carry to a significant uptick in the number of stolen guns. These thefts don’t take place inside the home; they occur when the gun is taken away from the residence by the lawful owner who then forgets and leaves it lying around.

The good news is that Simtek has tested and certified their Duo device. The not-so-good news is they need to raise a little more dough to get the product into production and out the factory door. Pre-order a device (it’s not very expensive) and give this new company a quick start. Duo is a smart idea.

Contributing Editor Ashley Johnson: The 10 Commandments of Gun Safety

Firearms are savage, and need all the care in the world. Being a slouch is no option while holding one in your hands, because the trigger can’t be trusted. As fascinating a firearm might look, it isn’t meant to tote around like a toy and must be stacked really safely. Even if you’ve a knack for guns, you shouldn’t feel too comfortable while handling them, because a moment of negligence or slacking off can cost you dearly.

Before a gun does a loss or an irreparable damage to you, it’s time for you to learn the 10 commandments to firearm safety and dodge the bullet. If you’ve a gun and want to improve the way you handle it, drop everything you’re doing and read this post NOW.

ten commandments

1. Be Wary of Gun’s Muzzle

Nothing’s certain with a gun unless it happens. As a rule of thumb, don’t ever point the muzzle at anything, which isn’t your target, even when it’s unloaded. Better yet, make it a habit of pointing the muzzle in safe directions while loading/unloading the gun. Get this rule etched in your mind, because most of the gun accidents involve an owner being lax to which direction the muzzle is pointing it, and the gun discipline in general.

2. See What’s Your Target and Beyond It

Once a bullet shoots off, it can go here, there, anywhere. It’s on the prowl to seek its target, and any semblance of control is rightly eliminated when it strikes off something which isn’t the target at first place. Plus, it isn’t just about right targeting, but also about being mindful of what surface you’re aiming your fire at. Since bullets can ricochet off certain surfaces, like trees, rocks and metal, and pose an elaborate risk to the people nearby, you should be double sure before firing.

3. Unload when not in Use

There is nothing worse than an accidental fatality. Though it is understandable that one should always be on guard with respect to safety and security, it is recommended that firearms should always be unloaded when not in use.  Whether you are camping, practicing targets or any other activity, the firearm should be unloaded completely, including the removal of any ammunition in the chamber or in the magazine. Additionally, ensure that your gun is kept well out of your loved ones’ reach even when it’s securely unloaded. Remember that safe storage is as important as safe upkeep of the firearm.

4. Always Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger

It is kind of a given fact that since the trigger holds the ultimate power of the gun, it is essential that you don’t regulate this responsibility carelessly. Unless absolutely necessary, ensure that your finger stays away from the trigger and the muzzle is always facing upwards. This guideline comes in without a rule book and should be more of an instinct than a guideline. While the movies have spoilt us for good with our thirst for enacting that perfect shootout scene, it is essential to remember that reel life is very different from the real life where there is no coming back from the fatal consequences.

5. Don’t Solely Rely on the Firearm ‘Safety’ Mechanism

Though the safety mechanism has been given to ensure that you don’t pull the trigger in a reckless manner, yet your gun cannot be solely responsible for preventing any mishap. As a firearm bearer and user, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the safety mechanism is complied with. Treat your gun like a machine that it is and not a human that understands the viability of safety and security. It’s prone to failures like any other. For instance, while travelling, carrying your gun rashly or fiddling with it can disengage it, and requires you to keep a constant check on how your firearm is behaving. Be wary of not pulling the trigger and keep your fingers away while loading/unloading the gun(gun safe).

6. Handle your Gun with Care When It Fails to Fire

There are many instances when your gun might fail you and not shoot as required. At this point, keep your ammunition at a safe distance and direct it right. Keep the muzzle away from your face, put it down carefully, engage the safety position and while keeping your fingers far away from the trigger, gently release the cartridge safely. Always remember that this is a sensitive situation and though your ammunition failed to fire on time, it holds equal chances in discharging at any point later. Thereby, it’s essential to be vigilant and stay safe.

7. Use Proper Ammunition

Every gun is different. Failure to understand this essentiality of firearms can lead to fatal consequences. Every ammunition is designed keeping in mind the specific calibre, distance and gauge. Slight lethargy with respect to handling and the nature of the gun can lead to hazardous and dangerous conclusions. Therefore, it’s advised to buy the best suited ammunition from a reputed manufacturer. Or else, you’ll be put under the liability of breach of safety and security.

8. Always Wear the Proper Protection Gear

While handling ammunition, it goes without saying that self protection is one of the key commandments that you HAVE to adhere to before delving into showing your blazing skills. With the right protective gear, especially for the eyes and ears, you protect yourself from the reactive elements, gun reactions, bullet shells and elements of the unfavorable surroundings. Moreover, with these gears, you are in the position to take snap decisions without endangering the lives of people around you.

9. Learn the Mechanical and Handling Characteristics of Ammunition You’re using

Before one starts using the firearm at hand, it’s necessary to understand the dimensions and design of the potentially lethal object. No one should be given the responsibility to handling a firearm without having an end to end idea of its working, structure, mechanical provisions and characteristics that make it unique to the user as well as the situation. With the correct and complete knowledge, the user gets the opportunity to leverage the situation to his/her advantage without jeopardizing the sensitivity of the environment, or the lives of people around him.

10. Don’t Alter or Modify Your Gun and Have it Serviced Regularly

Your gun has been designed in a specific manner. With special designs and layout, it’s mandatory for you to blend your usage with the design of the ammunition at hand. Like any other mechanical substance, your gun is subject to wear and tear, and it’s your duty to focus on its upkeep. Ensure that the barrel, trigger and the outer body stay clear of any obstruction, giving you an easy access during any emergency. In case of a long time storage or an exposure to unfavourable weather, ensure that your gun undergoes an end-to-end cleanup.

You may be well into basics, but still, situational errors are a thing and we request you to make quick amends to how you’re dealing with gun if you’ve been doing it all wrong so far. In this guide, we’ve covered almost the entire cache of safekeeping your guns. If you’ve anything to include, write it down to us in the comments below.




Dave Buchannon – Why I Teach Gun Safety.


Don’t hate me, I teach people about guns.  More specifically I teach a state certified firearms safety course to people from all walks of life who want to own firearms legally and lawfully.  And I hope you won’t be offended, but the battle to protect “our Second Amendment rights”, politics, or gun violence prevention are not part of the curriculum – nor do I write about them.  Safety and responsible gun ownership are the primary rubric for this course, which everyone must take before applying for a License to Carry (LTC).

trainingIronically, in a state with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, students can pass the required safety course, get their LTC, buy a gun and walk around with it without ever having fired a single round.  Not in my class, where you have to fire five rounds at a target and I’m less concerned about your score than I am that you get a sense of what it feels like to actually establish a solid grip and stance, point the gun correctly, and pull the trigger to make it go BANG!  The sights, sounds, and smells aren’t for everyone, and that’s just fine.  But if you’re thinking of getting a gun, you need to know it feels like to shoot one.  A small handful of students have fired the first shot and put the gun down because they didn’t like it.  They didn’t like it one bit, and that’s okay.  At least they know what it feels like.

I teach, because I enjoy sharing my interest in guns with other people, especially those who are interested but haven’t been exposed to them.  On the other hand, I’ve been interested in guns since childhood – the first book I ever borrowed from my elementary school library was “Guns of the American West.”  Imagine that, a GUN book in a school library being checked-out to a second grader!  My father hunted with an old lever-action rifle but that and a snub-nosed 38 special were the only guns in the house until I got my Daisy BB gun on my 11th Christmas.  Despite being so sick I could barely get out of bed on Christmas morning I spent the next three days launching a whole milk carton full BB’s at a makeshift target set up in our garage.

Ten years later I was on the range in the Police Academy, for forty hours of extremely intense training and scoring.  What might sound like a lot of fun was really five days of grueling  work – ah, who am I kidding… it was a blast!  A ton of serious information that emphasized responsibility, skill building, instantaneous decision-making, focus, control, and responsibility, but it was also a lot of fun.  Yes, I did write “responsibility” twice, on purpose, because the responsibility for every round fired was emphasized constantly.  I still carry those lessons with me to this day, and I teach in hopes that every student leaves the classroom with a tiny sense of that same responsibility I felt after range week.

I also teach gun safety because a close friend of mine in junior high school accidentally shot his older brother while playing with the revolver their mother kept hidden in her nightstand.  The older brother died, the younger was horribly affected and lived a life haunted by that event.

I do not teach gun safety for the money, I worry a little bit about those who do.  Building a teaching practice sufficient to replace day-job income requires creating a sense of need. You “need” this training because it’s a dangerous world where attackers are lurking behind every tree and hiding around every corner.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Statistic after statistic and study after study have proven that you have a better chance of winning the lottery than having to defend yourself with a gun against a violent crime.  Want to protect yourself from a home invasion?  Don’t become a drug dealer… simple as that.  I cannot name a single time in 30 years when I needed to defend myself against violent attack, but if you think you’ll be safer with a gun, learn everything you can about the gun, and more importantly, the law.

I teach because I really enjoy teaching, and I really enjoy guns.

Be of good cheer!

When It Comes To The Armed Citizen, One Good Scam Deserves Another.

Once upon a time there was an organization called the National Rifle Association, started out by two Civil War veteran officers who were concerned because most of the troops they commanded in the war didn’t know how to shoot. In those days the Federal Government built a national army by calling up militias from the states and these militias were comprised of volunteers who showed up with their own guns. So the idea behind the NRA was to prepare civilians for military duty before they were called up because we didn’t yet have a military draft and we didn’t stick new draftees in boot camps in order to teach them how to march, fire their weapons and other military things.

CG             Once we began maintaining a ‘standing’ army either with draftees or volunteers, the whole idea that we needed to train civilians in the proper use of firearms disappeared.  But just around the same time (post-1900) that hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and naturalists like George Grinnell realized that hunting was inextricably connected to conservation, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ began combining safety training and marksmanship with sport and preservation of the outdoors as its primary goals.

These themes predominated in NRA messaging until the 1980s when open range started to disappear along with the hunters who took guns out to the country to engage in sport. In fact, the whole definition of ‘outdoor sports’ veered away from hunting and fishing to embrace hiking, camping, trekking and kayaking down a whitewater stream rather than sitting in a rowboat and casting a line into the pond.

If the gun industry and groups like the NRA hadn’t discovered a new reason to buy and own guns, there would be no gun industry.  And the new reason, as we know, is the idea of using guns for self-defense which previously had been nothing other than a marginal issue basically to justify the manufacture of the little teenie-weenie pocket guns like the Baby Browning or the 1908 Colt.

This is not the time or the place to discuss why some Americans have recently decided that the only thing which stands between their survival and complete annihilation is access to a gun.  Suffice it to say, however, that the armed-citizen subculture is invariably promoted by Gun-nut Nation and certain pro-gun sycophants as being much larger and more vibrant than it actually is (the lack of attendance at the recent concealed-carry expo in Milwaukee being a case in point.) Nevertheless, since concealed-carry appears to be the only issue that is keeping the industry alive, there’s no end to the new products being rolled out to meet market demand.

And one of those new product lines is the concealed-carry insurance program, Carry Guard, being sold by the NRA.  Today I just received an email from Carry Guard which gives me the opportunity to download a ‘free guide to lawful self-defense’ basically a come-on for selling me the insurance package that will ‘protect’ me in case I have to pull out the old banger and bang away.

The guide, written by ‘experts in the field,’ offers advice on such issues as: What to do with my gun after I shoot someone; how much should I talk to the police; what should I say to bystanders, etc.  In other words, the information in this guide is designed to protect me after I used my gun to protect me.

This guide is so stupid that either the NRA believes its members would score below the idiot level on an IQ test, or they really believe that people will always respond to any ‘free’ offer, or maybe both. If anyone spends one second considering any legal advice from anyone other than their personal attorney, then they deserve to get scammed. Which is exactly what this Carry Guard product is – a complete scam. But since the idea that walking around with a gun will protect you is simply not true, one good scam deserves another, right?

Just Because I Don’t Think That Guns Make Us Safe Doesn’t Mean I’m Right.

My friend Shannon Watts received an interesting email the other day on her Facebook page, and since she shared it with all of us, I feel comfortable responding to what the writer of that message had to say.  I’ll quote the relevant words: “Until you can guarantee me my safety, and that of my loved one, I will continue to take care of myself and my loved ones, as i have done these many years.”



Shannon Watts

The writer then went on to add the usual semi-literate comments about ‘asshole liberalism,’ and other turns of a phrase. Shannon receives comments like this all the time so what else is new? But I want to look at what Gun-nut Nation means when they talk about ‘guaranteeing’ safety, because I think this notion gets to the heart of what the gun debate is really all about.

Do you notice how #45 (if he’s still #45) never lets an opportunity go by without saying that he wants to make the country ‘safe?’ He’s building a wall to keep us ‘safe.’ He’s restricting immigration to make us ‘safe.’ I’m sure that if the GOP had managed to jettison the ACA that this colossal act of political stupidity would have somehow been seen as making us ‘safe.’

I’m not saying that most or even many gun owners walk around thinking that the only thing they can depend on in this terrible unsafe world is that 20-ounce piece of steel and polymer which has the unfortunate tendency to flop onto the floor when they pull their pants down and squat on the can. Most gun owners are like me (and I own lots, really lots of guns) – the guns have always been around, I like having them around, it’s something fun and that’s the end of that.

But then you get those jerks like the jerk who wrote that dopey Facebook note to Shannon who really believe they need to have a gun because it makes them feel ‘safe.’ And you could tell someone like that again and again that there are countless studies which show that guns won’t make you any safer and what you’ll get is a blink, a nod, and a restatement of the ‘fact’ that he ‘knows’ that his gun will make him ‘safe.’

We’re not talking reality here, folks. We’re talking emotions, pure and simple, and emotions, particularly fearful emotions, always trump facts.  It’s like my friend Al who takes 5 days to drive to back and forth to Florida each Winter because he’s afraid to fly. I can tell him from today to next year that he’s much safer in an airplane than trundling down I-95 and he’s still going to drive.

When you stop and think about it, the decision of the gun industry to market their products by appealing to fear is a brilliant master stroke. Because I can’t think of another consumer product whose basic use has been transformed so radically even though the way the product functions hasn’t changed at all.  Pull the trigger and it goes – bang! That’s the way a gun works and has always worked. But using a gun to bring down Bambi, a high-flyer or clay bird is one thing, using it to ‘guarantee’ your ‘safety’ is something else.

If we’ve learned one thing from the power of advertising media, it’s that people can be made to believe all kinds of things which may bear no relationship to reality at all. But who made me the ultimate authority on what’s believable or what’s true when it comes to guns? The fact that I write about guns and I own lots of guns doesn’t mean that anyone else should necessarily to adopt my point of view.  And if I can’t persuade Al that he’s safer flying to Florida than driving down there in his truck, why should someone who really believes that his gun ‘guarantees’ his safety want to rethink his own point of view?


Are Guns Getting Safer? Don’t Believe What You Hear.

Once again the gun industry is patting itself on the back for something it didn’t do, namely, reducing accidental deaths and injuries caused by guns. Hey – wait a minute! It’s not the gun which causes the injury, it’s the person using the gun. Remember that one? The NRA will remind you of it every chance they get no matter whether we are talking about a gun which went off accidentally, or on purpose, or on whatever, it’s always the person, not the gun.

nsf              Which is why the gun industry continues to talk out of both sides of its mouth on this one – congratulating itself every time that statistics allegedly show a decline in gun accidents but rejecting any and all efforts to mandate gun safety either through the development of safe-gun technologies or passage of child access prevention (CAP) laws to keep guns out of the hands of kids.

Why do I say that the statistics ‘allegedly’ show a decline in gun accidents?  After all, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) didn’t dream up the latest information on gun safety all by itself.  Their press release is based on the latest report from the National Safety Council (NSC) which says that gun accidents declined 17 percent from 2014 to 2015, the same year that gun sales hit an all-time high.

The NSC’s information comes from the CDC, whose website shows a drop in accidental gun deaths from 586 in 2014 to 489 the following year. Of course the numbers for accidental, non-fatal gun accidents only show a 5% drop from 2013 to 2014, but like unintentional gun mortality, this number has also steadily dwindled down.

Incidentally, although the NSSF couldn’t wait to rush forward and take responsibility for the good news from the NSC, in fact the Council isn’t so enamored of the gun industry’s safety record.  Take a look at the NSC’s Statement on Firearms Policy which actually claims that more than 1,400 deaths occur annually because of gun accidents. The NSC goes on to say, “The absence of a reliable system for collecting and analyzing such accident data makes extremely difficult any meaningful evaluation of the effectiveness of accident prevention programs.”  Know why we don’t have any ‘reliable system’ for understanding the true extent of gun injuries?  Because the gun industry has steadfastly rejected any and all attempts to reinstate CDC funding for gun research, remember?

But when it comes to gun injuries, there’s a much bigger problem than just whether we can get good data, and this is a problem which neither side in the gun debate seems to understand. Because the fact is that unless one breaks down gun injuries not by the number of injuries, or by the age, race, sex or location of the victim (the current categories utilized by the CDC,) but by the type of gun that caused the injury, you really can’t tell much about the issue of gun accidents at all. You might find bits and pieces of such information in the data collected by the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) but it’s sporadic and highly fragmentary at best.

Why do we need to know what kind of gun caused the accident?  Because most long gun accidents occur during hunting (e.g., Dick Cheney) but handgun accidents rarely have anything to do with walking in the woods. And if we don’t know the ratio of handgun to long gun accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, then we understand very little about guns, gun use or gun safety at all.

The NSSF is absolutely correct when they use the NSC report to champion the idea that hunting is one of the ‘safest’ outdoor activities around. There’s only one little problem. We don’t hunt as frequently as we used to hunt and most new guns now being added to the civilian arsenal are handguns, and may account for the lion’s share of ‘accidental’ shootings each year. Isn’t it time the gun industry took the NSC at its word and did something meaningful about safety and guns?

A New Gun PSA And A New Gun Website: You Should See Them Both.

Let’s begin with the PSA – both funny then shocking at the very end.  It shows a young boy running into the kitchen, trying to grab a box of cereal and grabs a box of rat poison instead; then a baby lurches towards the stairs and the gate has barbed wire on top; a young infant crawls towards a fearsome-looking animal trap, and as a young girl is almost attacked by a crazed dog the voice-over says, “You wouldn’t allow any of these other risks in your home,” while a young boy opens up a drawer and yanks out a pistol, “why allow an unlocked gun?”

truths           The artfully-produced PSA is featured on a new website from the Brady Campaign which is built around the idea that a gun that isn’t safely stored in the home is a serious risk.  And the risks of letting kids get their hands on guns are explained in a series of basic statements – 15 Truths About Kids and Guns – each of which can be easily tweeted or pushed onto your Facebook page. The statements cover such topics as the link between lack of safe storage and gun injuries, high rates of gun ownership and high rates of child gun deaths, none of these or other statements being new news.  But what is new is that at the bottom of this page you can download a very detailed discussion of each of these issues, a document that is comprehensive and detailed both in content and scope.  Well done, Brady, well done.

The website is robust, full of content, works exceptionally well and can be shared to your personal social media platform for friends and a wider digital audience.  There’s also a section of Fast Facts of which I want to mention one in particular, and that’s the pages devoted to the most difficult of all subjects to discuss, namely, the issue of suicide and how to create a suicide-proof home. This page links to another web initiative from Brady that is a partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Health.

If I had a nickel for every time that a pro-gun advocate objected to the idea that using a gun to commit suicide is an act of gun violence, I’d be out on the first tee every day instead of only once or twice a week.  So let’s end this stupid argument right here and now by quoting a pretty good authority on the definition of violence, which happens to be the WHO.  The World Health Organization defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community,” which pretty much sums it up for me.  And in 2014 the intentional use of force against oneself in which the type of force was a gun claimed 21,334 lives, of whom nearly 1,000 were kids under the age of 18.

I can understand why Brady would want to launch a gun safety initiative that focuses on kids, and this site brings together just about all the credible data on gun injuries involving children and teens.  The site is aimed at parents, giving them specific information on safe storage devices, counseling options, communicating with other parents and the like.  The tone and content is also very even-handed, seeking not to preach but to inform, raising awareness by assigning responsibility free from guilt.

I do have one hope for this initiative which is in no way a criticism of what has been accomplished so far, namely, that Brady will consider expanding this effort to cover gun safety issues as they apply to adults as well.  Because all of the shocking numbers on child/teen mortality and morbidity are much more shocking when we look at the data on gun deaths and injuries for people who are no longer kids.

This site is an important step forward for Gun Violence Prevention.  Use it – link it – tweet it – get it out to as many people as fast as you can.

If The NRA Really Believes That Their Gun Safety Programs Work, Shouldn’t They Be Willing To Prove It?

Since 1999 there has been a nearly 30% decline in accidental gun deaths, with a 50% drop in deaths for children under 19.  This is a remarkable decrease in unintentional gun mortality when you consider that during the same fifteen years, the civilian gun arsenal has probably increased by nearly 50%.  So what’s going on? Are gun owners becoming more careful with their guns?  Are gun manufacturers making guns that are more resistant to accidental discharges? Are gun safety programs working beyond anyone’s wildest dreams?

docs versus glocks              If you listen to the NRA and the NSSF, they’ll tell you that their safety programs are simply the best and most effective that they can be.  The NSSF runs a program called ChildSafe, which they claim is responsible for sending more than 36 million safety “kits” to more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.  The kits basically consist of a little brochure and a gun lock which are then handed out free of charge by the cops to anyone who walks through the door.  The NSSF also sponsors occasional safety programs at participating retailers like BassPro, and has produced some thoroughly stupid videos telling parents how to sit around the dinner table and talk to their kids about guns.

The NRA safety program, Eddie Eagle, has been around since 1988, and its safety pamphlets and other teaching aids have “reached” 28 million schoolchildren, whatever the word ‘reached’ actually means.  I’ll tell you what it means.  It means that someone in Fairfax has mailed out 28 million pieces of paper to various schools around the United States. Maybe not just to schools; maybe to summer camps, maybe to the local VFW, maybe to this or that shooting range, maybe to who knows where. Back in 1991 a graduate nursing student looked at some gun safety programs and judged Eddie Eagle to have all the necessary content to teach good gun safety rules to kids.  There was only one little problem: the author also stated that there had never been any study which could determine whether Eddie Eagle was effective as a teaching tool.

And that’s why programs like ChildSafe and Eddie Eagle can’t be taken seriously, for the simple reason that mailing out some literature on anything doesn’t mean that anyone actually received it, or read it, or changed their behavior in any way at all.  The fact that safety brochures were being mailed to schools and gun locks were being mailed to police departments and gun mortality declined during the same years may appear to represent some kind of cause and effect, but nobody has ever conducted a study to see if these two factors are connected in any way, shape or form.  And this connection becomes even more problematic when we include non-fatal shootings over the same period of years.

When we examine non-fatal accidental shootings, the five-year average between 2001-2006 and 2009-2013 drops by a whopping 7%.  And remember how gun mortality for kids declined by 50%?  For this same age group in terms of non-fatal accidents the number has basically remained the same since 2003. Now you can’t tell me that people who shoot themselves accidentally are aiming at less lethal parts of their bodies.  What’s happening is that the same medical advances which result each year in a higher proportion of non-fatal gun assaults to fatal gun assaults is making unintentional gun injuries less lethal as well.

The NRA uses its Eddie Eagle program, among other things, to fight against doctors who want to caution patients about the risks presented by guns.  They argue that a more effective process would be for doctors to distribute Eddie Eagle brochures. I would be the first person to stand up and loudly proclaim that Eddie Eagle should be adopted by every physician once the NRA conducts a valid before-and-after analysis to determine whether the program actually works. But don’t hold your breath – you may turn blue long before the NRA responds.