Ending Gun Violence Means Understanding Gun Violence And Here’s A Good Start.

So now we have the second report in as many weeks that strongly points to the connection between gun violence and gun laws; i.e., less of the latter produces more of the former.  The first report came from the Center for American Progress (CAP) which found that states with fewer legal restrictions on guns have higher rates of gun violence; now we have another report issued by New York State’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, which shows that states with lax gun regulations also export more crime guns to other states, hence raising gun violence rates in states which often have very strict and comprehensive controls.

gun-violence           So the bottom line is that states that do not view guns as a threat to community safety not only make their own communities less safe but also help to make communities elsewhere dangerous as well.  And if you believe that this is in any way a new discovery, let me take you back the passage of the Federal Firearms Act in 1938.  The FFA38 was actually the second gun bill passed during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, the first being the 1934 law that regulated sale and ownership of full-automatic weapons and sawed-off shotguns whose use became the staple of Hollywood gangster movies then and now.

The 1938 law moved the Federal government into gun regulation big-time, because it focused not on the control of these somewhat exotic and relatively unusual (and relatively expensive) machine guns, but established the regulation of standard, run-of-the-mill handguns and long guns which could be found in probably a majority of American homes. Moreover, the basic components of the 1938 law, even though much of it was revised by the Gun Control Act of 1968, created the regulatory environment which exists to the present day. To wit:

After 1938, anyone who wanted to be in the business of selling firearms, as opposed to simply collecting and transferring personal guns, had to acquire and operate the business with a federal firearms license issued by the Treasury Department.  Why the Treasury Department?  Because the license cost one buck, and anyone who paid anything to the U.S. Government paid to the U.S. Treasury.  The law also made it illegal if a felon, fugitive, or anyone ‘convicted of a crime of violence’ received a gun and, most important, required that federally-licensed gun dealers only transfer guns to individuals who were residents of the same state in which the dealer sold guns. The law was later revised to exempt long guns from the in-state purchase requirement (hence Lee Harvey Oswald was able to purchase and directly receive a rifle from a sporting-goods dealer in Chicago) but the requirement that handgun sales be limited to in-state transfers remained law from then until now.

Why has the government always required that handgun ownership be more rigorously regulated than long guns?  Because the basic purpose of federal gun regulations is to “provide support to Federal, State and local law enforcement officials in their fight against crime and violence.” So says the Gun Control Act of 1968, a law which, incidentally, was supported by the NRA.

Note that neither the 1938 gun law nor the law passed thirty years later or, for that matter, the third big law passed in 1994 attempted to regulate guns per se; all three laws were attempts to break the connection between guns, crime and violence by defining which individuals could acquire guns. But none of these laws defined gun violence for what it really is.

Gun violence is a pathogen and most pathogens spread through human contact, which is certainly the case with the pathogen caused by guns.  We still don’t know exactly how, when or why this human contact takes place, but the reports issued by CAP and New York’s AG provide a good start. They also provide valid methodological templates to be used for further research. In sum, these reports deserve to be read, discussed and their value applauded and understood.

 

 

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When Is An Assault Rifle Not An Assault Rifle? When Rush Limbaugh Says It Isn’t.

So now we have it on authority from none other than Rush Limbaugh that the post-Orlando calls to ban AR-15 rifles are nothing more than another attempt to use a shooting incident to disarm law-abiding Americans because – get this – the shooter in Orlando didn’t use an AR-15.  And since he didn’t use an AR-15, according to Rush, there’s no earthly reason why the AR-15 should be banned from public sale.

mcx           In all the writing on guns that I have done (nearly 600 columns on my own website and nearly 200 columns on Huffington Post), nothing enrages the Gun Nut Gang more than when I use the term ‘assault rifle’ in talking about AR-15s or, for that matter, anything else.  Because the ‘assault rifle’ has become something of a sacred totem in Gun Nut-land since it’s a way of quickly figuring out whether someone is in favor or opposed to guns.

According to legend, i.e., the totally fictitious story created by the NSSF and circulated by the NRA, the term ‘assault rifle’ was invented by one of America’s chief gun grabbers, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was the chief author of the 1994 law that temporarily banned certain types of rifles which should have been and are now once again allowed to be owned by so-called ‘law-abiding’ gun owners.  Sooner or later I’ll get deeper into the issue of what ‘law-abiding’ means or should mean, but for the moment let’s just say that if you are against ‘assault rifles,’ this makes you a bone-fide member of the gun-grabbing contingent, because everyone knows that it’s against the law to own an assault rifle, and gun owners are all law-abiding folks.

Why is it against the law to own an assault rifle?  Because according to legend, an assault rifle is a full-auto weapon, it keeps on firing with only one pull of the trigger, whereas all those look-a-like assault rifles are plain, old semi-automatic guns, one shot each time you pull the trigger, which have been around since God knows when.  Which is what makes an AR-15 a ‘modern sporting rifle,’ which means that it’s no different from any other ‘sporting’ rifle except that it’s more ‘modern’ because it looks like a modern military gun.

This is all total nonsense, by the way.  The fact is (note the use of the word ‘fact’) that the military uses what is referred to as a ‘selective fire’ gun, which means that it can be shot full-auto, semi-auto or three-shot bursts.  But the fact (there’s that word again) that fighting men and women have the option of using their battle weapon in semi-auto mode should tell you that one trigger pull, one shot, is an acceptable and often necessary way for how the military gun will be used.

If it were the case that today’s standard military rifle, now known as the M4, could only be fired as a full-auto weapon, then perhaps Gun Nut Nation’s anger over the alleged misrepresentation of the AR-15 as being an ‘assault weapon’ would have some basis in truth.  But when the NSSF says, for example, that an assault rifle can only be fired in full-auto mode, they are talking about a military weapon that is no longer being used by the military at all.  To follow their logic and their distortion of the facts (there’s that word again,) the NSSF would have to say that when a soldier selects semi-auto, he’s now carrying a modern sporting rifle into the field.  Carrying what?

The truth (another dangerous word) is that the folks who create talking-points for Rush Limbaugh and all the other apologists for gun violence don’t really care whether a gun shoots one shot or one hundred shots every time the trigger is pulled; what they care about is that Gun Nation doesn’t stop buying guns. And the one way that would make it most difficult for people to buy guns is the simplest way of all: get rid of the guns.

 

The Gun Violence Numbers Continue To Add Up. And Up. And Up.

Hey folks.  Something really crazy is going on.  I hope I’m wrong but I suspect I’m not.  But if I am, please correct me as quickly as you can.  Okay?  I really mean it.

According to my friends at the Gun Violence Archive, so far in the last 72 hours we have racked up 78 deaths from guns.  So far in 2016 the total gun deaths stands at 1,735.  Overnight there were at least 26 gun homicides, of which 6 were evidently the work of one armed citizen, Jason Dalton, who just drove around Kalamazoo, MI, firing a semi-automatic pistol at whomever happened to come into his sight. That’s more than one killing every hour, which is actually a slightly lower hourly rate than what has been going on since the beginning of the year!

conference-program-picAs Bill Clinton said when he re-nominated Barack Obama in 2012, let’s do the arithmetic.  So far this year we have gone through 51 days plus 9 additional hours on Day 52. This adds up to 1,232 hours since the great ball dropped in Times Square.  Which means that the per-hour gun killing rate is now 1.4.  Which means at this rate we end up with 12,297 homicide deaths by year’s end; let’s add in 1,000 unintentional gun deaths which is probably a decent estimate and then tack on another 22,000 suicides, another reliable estimate, and we wind up with a grand total of more than 35,000 Americans who will be killed by guns in 2016.

There’s only one little problem, and it’s not a problem with my math.  Taken together, January and February are the two lowest murder months of the entire calendar year.  January is actually higher due, of course, to the usual way in which many people celebrate the Holiday Season by getting drunk, getting into a brawl and then, God bless ‘em all, pulling out a gun. But February is the lowest month for all serious crimes because in most parts of the country, it’s just too darn cold.

On the other hand, when we get into the warmer Summer months, what happens in the Winter as regards violent crimes is just a fraction of what takes place between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with high-violence cities like Chicago, Detroit and DC racking up twice as many killings in those months as what is usually recorded at the beginning of the year.

This is why I began this blog with a plea for help in the hopes that perhaps the data I am looking at is wrong. But it’s not wrong.  The numbers so far this year reflect what has been happening with gun violence for the last decade, namely, a slow but steady upward climb from 28,685 in 2004 to 32,743 in 2014.  That’s a 14% increase in gun violence during the same years that the pro-gun noise machine has the unmitigated gall to keep telling us that guns are protecting us from violence and crime.  It’s as if the NRA and their media mouthpieces don’t care whether anything they say has even the slightest relationship to reality at all.

Remember this quote from Dickens: “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness.”  I think these words really describe the gun debate today.  Because if the gun violence numbers so far this year continue and then increase as they surely will during the summer months, we will end 2016 with a body count that will probably crest somewhere above 38,000 or even higher, which takes us back to levels that haven’t been seen since the great crime wave that peaked in 1994.

Is it too much to imagine that yesterday’s shooting in Kalamazoo might provoke folks to consider the possibility that it’s not people who are the problem, it’s the ease with which people can get their hands on guns?  Recall again what Dickens said.

 

When It Comes To Assault Rifles, The Gun Industry Has A New Friend: The New York Times.

There’s a video floating around that shows Rupert Neate, a reporter from The Guardian, being heaved out of the Shot Show because he walked up to the Smith & Wesson display and began asking a company employee about an assault rifle ban.  This conversation took place as a member of Smith & Wesson’s marketing team happily placed an assault rifle in Neate’s hands and kept referring to it as a “modern sporting rifle,” although to be fair the gun, known as the AR-15 Sporter, fires only an itty-bitty 22-caliber cartridge, as opposed to the more lethal 5.56 or .223 military calibers that most so-called modern sporting rifles use.

ar              This nonsense about how a remarkably-lethal weapon used by our armed forces has been transmogrified into a ‘sporting’ gun by the gun industry for the last twenty years has been going on since the imposition of the 10-year assault weapons ban back in 1994.  The gun industry first reacted to the ban by claiming that ‘assault’ weapons were fully-automatic guns used only by the military; hence, any semi-automatic rifle deserved to be sold in the civilian market regardless of its design. And when the ban was not renewed in 2004, the industry went whole hog in trying to convince everyone that an AR-15 gun, as long as it didn’t fire more than one shot with each pull of the trigger, was no different from Grandpa’s old Remington or Winchester hunting rifle except it had a more modern look.

In arguing against any new attempt to impose a new assault weapons ban, the gun industry has cited again and again the Koper study, published as the ban was expiring, which could not, according to the author, definitively determine the effects of the ban on rates of gun crime.  But this study, commissioned by the Department of Justice, has also been cited by proponents of a ban as showing that changing the design of assault rifles and limiting the capacity of all semi-automatic gun magazines did, in fact, result in a reduction of gun crime. So once again it’s the old story in the gun debate: pro-gun advocates saying that government regulation doesn’t work, gun-control advocates saying it does.

Out of the woodwork we now have a major gun-control voice joining up with Gun Nation to proclaim that the assault weapons ban was a dud. And the voice belongs to none other than The New York Times, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning editorialist, Nicholas Kristof, has decided to share this “inconvenient truth” with his liberal colleagues in an evident attempt to get the GVP community to be  more realistic and honest in its approach to guns.  To quote Kristof, the gun debate should be driven by “evidence of what works,” and what didn’t work, was the assault weapons ban. To quote Kristof again, the law was “poorly drafted” and didn’t reduce gun crimes during the ten years it was in effect.

Far be it from me to challenge the ability of a Harvard and Oxford-educated journalist to read his sources clearly, but I have read the Koper report several times and Kristof’s attempt to align its contents with the views of the pro-gun mob just doesn’t work. First and foremost, the report compared only a few years of data before and after the ban when nearly all of the pre-ban guns were still in circulation and a majority of pistols were equipped with hi-cap mags. Furthermore, very few police jurisdictions collected data on magazine capacity of guns picked up at crime scenes, and the vaunted tracing data of the vaunted ATF turned out to be useless at best.

If Koper’s report says anything, it says that attempting to evaluate the impact of a weapons ban which expired before sufficient data even existed was an exercise that simply could not succeed.  Which is much different from concluding that the ban didn’t work. Kristof is correct in asking for evidence, not opinions, to shape the gun debate. He might show the way by doing it himself.

What Did Adam Lanza and Chris Mercer Have In Common? Moms Who Lived Guns,

So it turns out that the Oregon shooter, Christopher Mercer, got into gun s the old-fashioned way – he learned to enjoy the shooting sports from his mother.  And his mother, according to an article in today’s New York Times, was no shrinking violet when it came to exclaiming on the virtues and values of gun ownership, posting for example the following statement on the internet: “I keep two full mags in my Glock case and the ARs and AKs all have loaded mags. No one will be ‘dropping’ by my house uninvited without acknowledgement.”  Sweet.

lanza                Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook, was similarly enabled and supported by his mother when it came to guns.  Momma and son visited gun shops together, they shot at the range together, they probably sat and cleaned the guns together.  Adam had access to all the guns in the house, which made it easy for him to drop a cap on the old lady before going over to the elementary school where he made his feelings really known.

What’s really scary in this tale of two massacres is that along with building warm and loving relationships with their sons over guns, both mothers were also keenly aware that neither boy would have qualified for the mental stability award of the year.  Lanza’s mother dragged him from one mental health professional to another; Mercer’s mother posted that he suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and she encouraged other parents of troubled children to contact her for advice.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not even hinting at the idea that children (or adults) who demonstrate any kind of mental disorder should, ipso facto, be considered risks to themselves or anyone else. I’m also not saying that the fact that these two boys were encouraged to use and shoot guns means, ipso facto, that they would be more disposed to commit horrendous gun assaults.  But in all of the post-Oregon chatter what we hear from a certain group of public officials who want to become the 45th president of the United States, is that the Umpqua CC massacre “proves” that no amount of gun control will make any difference because people like Adam Lanza and Christopher Mercer will always ‘fall through the cracks.’

I don’t really blame Trump, Fiorina, Bush, et. al., for saying something as stupid as that.  After all, it’s a tight race and pro-gun voters could be decisive in primary states like Iowa and South Carolina. What’s the old saying? You do what you gotta do?  And let’s not forget that the idea that we can’t do anything about mass shootings until we ‘fix’ the mental health system didn’t emerge full-blown from Trump’s Twitter account.  It was announced with unrestrained finality by Wayne LaPierre after Sandy Hook.

Truth to tell, it probably isn’t possible to do anything that would allow us to predict with any degree of accuracy who might be the next person to walk into a school, a movie theater, or some other public venue and see how many people could be mowed down before flipping to the next mag.  Which is why the whole point about ‘fixing the mental health system’ to deal with gun violence is nothing more than an argument that has been invented to avoid talking about gun violence at all.

Because the truth is that mass shootings are pretty hard to pull off if you are carrying a bolt-action hunting rifle which, loaded to full capacity, only holds five rounds.  And the idea that anyone would take an AR-15 with a 30-shot mag into the woods to look for Bambi is nothing but pure crap.  But when sport shooting and hunting are replaced with the safety afforded by the ‘armed citizen’ versus the dangers of ‘gun-free’ zones, the result is a debasement of language to the point that no substantive discussion can ever take place.  Which pretty much sums up the strategy of the pro-gun movement when it comes to gun violence.

 

There’s Nothing Like A Tough Woman To Promote Carrying A Gun.

I don’t know which one – the NRA or Dana Loesch – has hit an all-time low for the dumbest, most pandering and colossally stupid statement about gun ownership that has ever been made, but since Dana made the statement on behalf of the NRA, let’s lump them together and call it a draw.  The video message went out over Twitter and all the usual red-meat digital venues and it’s the standard entertainment format for all such NRA-promoted public service announcements, namely, one of their mouthpieces looks straight into a camera and barks out a few sentences about something or other having to do with guns.

loesch                If you’re a die-hard, red-meat internet trawler of course you’ve heard of Dana Loesch.  She’s been a helpmate of Glenn Beck, hosts her own radio show and tweets away to a responsive and raucous crew.  Of course she has all the right credentials to promote guns: makes sure you see that little Christian icon that she wears around her neck (stole the idea I suspect from Laura Ingraham), never lets you forget that she’s a good ol’ Southern gal and, in case you thought there was any chance she would let the slightest, liberal influence into her home life, she home-schooled her kids.  It’s a masterful image, made expressly for red-meat consumption, and it figures that sooner or later she’d wind up pimping for the NRA.

In this ad Dana is dressed up in the gun-girl style which used to be pink but has now shifted to leather and black.  I have a good friend who loves to spend time with women who dress from head to toe in black leather – he supplies the whip.  And this new ‘tough’ image for the gun-carrying female brigade wasn’t developed by accident; it’s all part of a continued attempt by the NRA and the gun industry to figure out how to get the majority of Americans who happen to be women into guns.  Pushing the soft, feminine angle didn’t work so now they’ll try the tough, disciplined look.  It’s so obvious and so phony that I’m astonished Dana could pull it off with a straight face.

But what’s even phonier than the clothes is the message itself: “I’m a Mom and that’s why I own guns.”  Then Dana goes on to say that because she’s a Mom she has to protect her family and the best way to protect her family is with a gun.  Dana may have quit the Tea Party but she then launches into the usual spiel about how the “media” constantly underreports women using guns to protect themselves and their homes.  Dana better be careful about how much time and energy she spends going after the ‘mainstream’ press.  The last woman who built her career around that gambit was a part-time Governor from Alaska who still hasn’t told us which newspapers she reads.

As for Dana’s comments that she needs a gun to protect her family and her home, a bit of research reveals some facts that negate everything she says.  A survey of 14,000 crime victims reveals that in less than 1% of the criminal attacks did the victim protect themselves with a gun.  And when they did defend themselves, the number of victims who were injured was the same whether or not they had a gun.  Want to know the real reason the ‘media’ doesn’t report all those home invasions where a woman defends her life and sacred honor with a gun?  Because they account for less than 2% of all home invasions, that’s why.

Twitter was abuzz after Ms. Watts tweeted what I thought were some rather polite criticisms of Dana’s remarks, and the nasty attacks on Shannon indicate that, once again, the NRA is opting to create the most extreme arguments for carrying a gun.  Which is a good thing, when all is said and done, because it means they’ve given up trying to bring reasonable people over to their side.  And in case you didn’t know it, the reasonable argument always wins out.