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

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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?

Want To Play A Live Video Game? Try NRA’s Carry Guard.

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Fast on the heels of their floparoo NRA Carry Guard expo in Milwaukee, the boys from Fairfax are now ramping up their promotion and huckstering of the insurance and training products that are aimed (pardon the pun) at what they believe to be the ‘armed citizen’ market whose potential will somehow make up for the fact that gun sales continue to go down.

training             The latest FBI-NICS numbers confirm that it ain’t that rosy in Gun-nut Land, with handgun and long gun background checks for August down 10% from August, 2016 and dealer sales of handguns for the first eight months of this year down more than 10% from the year before.  Meanwhile, the stock price for Smith & Wesson (oops, sorry, it’s now something called American Outdoor Brands) has now dropped to $13 bucks a share, having been up to more than $28 the day that You Know Who shocked the world by finishing in first place.

On an earnings call last week, S&W President Jim Debney announced some more bad news, saying that shipments of both long guns and handguns were way down in the last quarter and that quarterly revenue was off by 40% from the same quarter last year. Our friend John Feinblatt told The Guardian that the Springfield gun maker acquired Gemtech, an outfit which produces silencers, in order to bolster overall revenues. Let me break it to both John and Jim gently: When consumers stop buying guns, they also stop buying all the accessory crap and paraphernalia which goes along with guns.

So what do you do to boost revenues when your product market is saturated? You sell services which enhance the value or the utility of the products that are already owned. And here is where the NRA seems to be leading the pack by rolling out their new brand, Carry Guard, which so far consists of insurance protection and training for folks who want to walk around carrying a gun.

The Carry Guard insurance is advertised as ‘America’s Most Complete Self-Defense Insurance Program,’ but if you believe that hype, you probably also believe that Martians keep landing at Area 51.  Recently a writer for a concealed-carry blog posted a comparison between the Carry Guard insurance and the insurance offered by the United States Concealed Carry Association, and if the comparison is accurate, I can only say that the NRA product basically offers a lot less and costs more. The Carry Guard program also gives you ‘access’ to the training program but anyone can sign up for the ‘gold standard’ training courses whether you buy the insurance or not.

And what exactly are these new training courses? Here’s what they say: “The mission of the NRA Carry Guard instructors is to provide the skills, education and training necessary for today’s changing conflict space.” Would someone please explain the phrase ‘today’s changing conflict space?’  Are they talking about all those antifa people who are going to assault you while you’re strolling down the street?

You can sign up for a three-day, live-fire course which costs $850 but you must bring 1,500 rounds of ammo which will run another $300 or more. First you learn the ‘fundamentals,’ such as stance, grip, holster draw, sight alignment, blah, blah, blah. Then after shooting your 1,500 rounds (that’s 100 hi-cap magazines over 3 days) you get to play some ‘real world’ training scenarios with Airsoft guns (those are toys, by the way.) In other words, over a long weekend you’ll progress from a complete novice to an expert at protecting yourself with a gun, right?  See how well your hands hold up.

The NRA started as a training organization and as a trainer certified in six, different NRA specialties I can tell you that when it comes to defining how to shoot a gun safely, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ has it down pat. But Carry Guard isn’t training, it’s video gaming with live guns. What do you expect, now that the video-game generation has come of age?

 

 

 

When It Comes To Gun Training, The NRA’s No Longer The Only Game In Town.

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For years the gun violence prevention (GVP) community has lamented the fact that they do not have the strength or the financial muscle to compete with the NRA. And even with Mayor Mike’s help, pardon the pun but too often people who want to see an end to gun violence find themselves organizationally outgunned. But all of a sudden the boys in Fairfax are finding themselves challenged by the growth of another pro-gun organization which looks at gun ownership from a very different point of view.

training             I’m referring to the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) which started out as nothing other than an internet sales gimmick known as ‘tribal marketing’ which generates revenue by attracting (and retaining) consumers to internet sites; the idea being that the longer someone remains connected to a website, the more crap they will purchase from that site. And the trick is to make your web visitors feel that they have some special identity or interest which sets them apart from everyone else. And if you can find a single group of Americans who feel more special than the people who actually believe that they need to carry a gun around, let me know.

Like every other pro-gun sales organization, the USCCA got started by attaching itself to the NRA.  They had a booth at the annual NRA show, they used slogans about concealed-carry that were right out of the Fairfax playbook, and their basic product, CCW insurance, also copied a long-time NRA tradition of offering its membership with financial services that would protect their guns.

But the one area in which the USCCA could not compete with the NRA was the area in which the NRA has always ruled supreme, namely, the training area. After all, the NRA was founded as a training organization, currently has more than 125,000 trainers certified and enrolled on its books, and has developed training courses which most states use as the required training curriculum either for getting a gun license or qualifying for LTC.

The degree to which the NRA has always held sway in gun training, however, is now being challenged by the USCCA. Not only does the USCCA hold an annual Concealed Carry Expo, whose exhibitor list contains the same lineup of gun and accessory companies which display their wares at the annual NRA show, but Tim Schmidt’s group was booted out of this year’s NRA show so that America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ could unveil their newest insurance product, a real scam deal known as Carry Guard, without having to compete with the USCCA.

Where the USCCA also appears to be placing itself directly in a competitive situation with the NRA, however, is over the issue of training, where Schmidt and his organization are developing a national training initiative which is an exact copy of the NRA’s training network, including a process for certifying trainers that the NRA has been using for years. Right now it appears that USCCA is running, at best, about 10% the number of training classes that the NRA runs each month, but they do have classes listed in more than 20 states which isn’t a bad start.

What I find most significant about the USCCA’s growth, however, is that it seems to be happening without the crazy drift into rhetorical looniness which now characterizes the public face of the NRA. No astoundingly stupid, insultingly ignorant rants from Dana Loesch, no conspiracy theories from Wayne-o which, by comparison make Alex Jones appear calm. The USCCA’s message about ‘protecting loved ones’ is nothing more than hype, but at least it’s hype which stays within the bounds of rhetorical decency and good taste.

The USCCA says its training program sets an ‘industry standard’ but the truth is there is no training ‘industry’ nor is there any accepted ‘standard’ for gun training at all. Because this would require that gun groups take the one step they are afraid to take, namely, to advocate required training for anyone who wants to walk around with a gun.

 

 

The Whiner-in-Chief Gets Taught By The NRA.

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I don’t necessarily agree with what Charles Blow has to say, but yesterday he made some comments about Trump that are spot on. And what he said is that Trump’s incessant whining and his portrayal of himself as a ‘victim’ is what appeals to his base. Blow puts it this way: “It is in this near perfect state of perpetual aggrievement that Trump gives voice to a faction of America that also feels aggrieved.” But since Trump himself is hardly the embodiment of the undereducated, small-town Whites who have been left behind in the shift to a post-industrial, technological age, where did he learn to play the role of Whiner in Chief?

trump5              He learned it from his friends at Fairfax – the NRA. America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ whines endlessly about how gun owners are victims, and isn’t the Trump message just a warmed-over version of Wayne LaPierre? Here’s how Trump defines his audience, according to Blow: “They are victims of coastal and urban liberals and the elite institutions – economic, education and entertainment – clustered there.” Here’s Wayne-o at the NRA annual meeting back in May: “It’s up to us to speak out against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites and media elites.” See any difference? I sure don’t.

America’s oldest civil rights organization is really just America’s oldest gun training organization. And one of their most popular training courses these days is something called Refuse To Be A Victim, which was developed by the ‘women of the NRA.’ The course is aimed at women and covers such topics as security in the home or on a trip, keeping your digital devices secure and using self-protective products like alarms and mace. There’s no mention of guns in this course and there’s also no mention of something else, namely, what women should do if they find themselves in an abusive relationship, which happens to be the Number One reason why women become victims, especially victims of violence caused by guns.

But the last thing the NRA is going to do is talk about women (or anyone) as victims of gun violence because what really victimizes women is when they can’t get their hands on a gun. And if you don’t believe me, just check out some of the recent videos from Dana Mussolini, a.k.a. Dana Loesch, who insists that she can stand up to anyone, any threat, any perpetrator because instead of backing away, she’s ready to pull out her banger and – bam!.

I love her recent attempt to out-Trump Trump: “They use their schools to teach our children that their President is another Hitler. They use their movie stars to repeat their narrative over and over again.” And guess who’s the ‘they?’ The same liberal, urban elite who get up every morning and try to figure out yet another way to victimize all those honest, decent, God-fearing Americans who also happen to be gun owners, because nothing represents the basic traditions and values of this country like a gun. Remember Charlton Heston and his cold, dead hands?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I never had a problem considering myself to be a member of the liberal elite. I also never had a problem being a member of the NRA. How do I reconcile these seeming opposites? It’s simple – I wanted to be a college professor and I also like guns. At some point I got interested in cameras so I sold some guns and bought two Leicas, then realized I wasn’t all that interested in taking pictures, so I sold the cameras and bought some more guns.

I don’t think gun owners are victims at all but I do think that making them believe they are victims is nothing more than a marketing scam. But since we now have to put up with someone in the Oval Office who got there by exploiting the same scam, why should anyone be surprised?

NRA Turns Gun Training Into A Video Game.

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Our friends at The Trace have just published some interesting coverage about an argument within the NRA over the content and direction of its training programs, in particular a new program called ‘Carry Guard,’ which combines a scam insurance deal with an even scammier training product, both of which are designed to appeal to the millions of Americans who are now walking around armed.

training             Actually, the number of Americans who are actively playing the ‘armed citizen’ game may be two million or so, maybe even less. Despite what John Lott claims, there is no way he can actually verify that more than 14 million concealed-carry licenses have been issued, and multiple surveys report that the percentage of gun owners walking around with a gun on a regular basis may be no more than 10 percent.

What the gun industry would love to see happen is that carrying a concealed weapon would become as common and accepted as walking around with an i-Phone or a droid. But even if a concealable banger doesn’t end up hung from everyone’s belt the way we all hang our phones, 10% of the gun-owning population is still a decent market if you can get every one of them to send you thirty bucks a month and sign up for a ‘gold standard’ training course.

The Trace’s writer, Mike Spies, claims that the argument in the NRA goes back to the decision made back in April to cancel appearances at the annual meeting by two companies who sell insurance which allegedly reimburses you when and if you pull out a gun and use it in a legal act of self-defense. The better-known of these outfits, United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), is a real, internet-based Ponzi scheme developed by Tim Schmidt who is an unchallenged expert in internet marketing, particularly affiliate programs and what he calls ‘tribal’ marketing, which is what USCCA is all about. The key to tribal marketing is to attract and keep people on a website (so that they’ll buy all kinds of crap) by making them feel that they belong to something which is both important and unique. And what could be more important and unique than walking around with a gun? The NRA membership is probably a perfect fit for the tribal marketing approach, particularly that segment of the membership which buys the ‘armed citizen’ nonsense, whether they are actually walking around with a gun or not.

The argument between the NRA and some of its trainers, however, didn’t start with booting out the USCCA.  It actually began over a year ago, when the NRA Training Division announced that the course which is not only the most popular training course but is the one which is usually adopted by jurisdictions that require pre-licensing training – NRA Basic Pistol – was going to be moved to an online format which would remove the 125,000 certified trainers from playing any training role at all. Not only did this decision threaten the financial livelihood of many trainers, but it was and is a departure from the NRA’s traditional stance, dating from the organization’s founding, that gun training should be conducted face-to-face.

The result was a quiet but significant pushback by NRA trainers and a brief but sharp decrease in NRA training activity, both of which played a role in a remaking of the Training Division and Kyle Weaver’s goodbye. The revised Basic Pistol still requires students to register and first do an online course, but then they register with a certified NRA trainer who is supposed to verify what they have learned.

Nobody in the training community, inside or outside the NRA, takes the ‘macho man’ Carry Guard training product seriously. If anything, it’s really designed to draw the same type of consumer who right now goes to Thunder Ranch to play ‘kill the terrorist’ with a live gun. On the other hand, the NRA is pushing national concealed-carry while promoting gun training that’s nothing more than a video game and this is the real reason that some professional trainers are concerned.

 

What Kind Of Training Do Gun Owners Receive? None At All.

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I have decided that it’s time for Mike the Gun Guy to become a little less polite (imagine – Mike the Gun Guy ‘less’ polite) and start responding to some of the things that are said on the gun violence prevention (GVP) side which I feel hold us back, rather than help us to move ahead. This decision should not be taken in any way, shape or form as a criticism or even a concern about the importance and necessity of GVP. To the contrary, as a fundamental issue with which all Americans to be engaged, in the Age of Trump GVP tops the list.

training             Last week a group of public health gun researchers published the results of a national survey which found that 4 out of 10 Americans who are legally allowed to walk around with a gun (CCW) have not received any gun training at all. And the results of this survey are not much different from similar surveys published in 1994, except that the number of CCW-holders has probably doubled, if not tripled from that earlier date.

That a majority of people who can legally walk around with a concealed weapon have received some kind of formal gun training is now validated again by the results of this survey, and the narrative will slowly but surely circulate throughout the public domain and in and around the GVP. On the other hand, the fact that four out of ten CCW-holders have not engaged in any formal gun training demonstrates the degree to which “no national standards or requirements for firearm training in the USA exist.” And this lack of consistent standard (or any standard for that matter) regarding how to use a gun is particularly concerning given the expected push by the Republicans who might not get a new healthcare law but just might vote through a national, reciprocal CCW law that their President will surely sign.

There’s only one little problem with this survey and by pro-GVP media efforts to publicize the findings hither and yon, namely, that despite what the researchers believe they were asking respondents to tell them, what in fact they were asking respondents in this survey had nothing to do with training at all. Know where the word ’training’ comes from as it applies to guns? It’s a word first used by the NRA which was actually founded as a ‘training’ organization in 1873. Not only does the NRA continue to promote themselves as America’s premier gun-training organization, but they have launched a new training effort focusing on CCW techniques called Carry Guard, which they refer to as a “first-rate, elite program” aimed (pardon the pun) at people who lead the ‘concealed-carry lifestyle’ and want to be ready for ‘real-life situations you must be prepared to face.’

This isn’t training – it’s a sham. It’s used to entice people to purchase an insurance policy which will allegedly pay all their legal fees after they shoot someone, assuming they don’t get convicted for some kind of felony committed while they were using their gun. Along with this training program, the NRA now offers its standard training programs on video, and these programs are used by most CCW-issuing authorities in states where pre-CCW training is still required. What’s the difference between NRA video training and video games like Call of Duty that you can play on your X-Box?  There is no difference.

I’m an old-fashioned guy so words have meanings, whether we like the meanings or not. I think GVP is making a profound mistake using words whose meaning has been distorted beyond all recognition by the NRA. If GVP is going to convince people that what they say about gun violence is true and what the other side says is false, then the words we use should be our words and not words that are bandied about by the NRA in order to help sell more guns.

And what I just said about GVP applies to public health researchers as well.

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

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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.

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