How Can You Advocate For Gun Control Unless You Know The Facts? You Can’t.

              The first time I got involved in advocacy was 1958. I was a 14-year old big shot. I got on a bus with a bunch of other kids and some adults, Blacks and Whites, and we ‘sat in’ at a lunch counter in a diner on Route 1 in Towson, MD. That’s right – in those days you could take a ‘freedom ride’ to Maryland.

              Then civil rights morphed into the anti-war movement. And because I went to graduate school in Chicago, I was at the meeting in Lincoln Park with Abby, Jerry, Dave Dellinger, John Froines and Tom Hayden, along with a bunch of undercover cops posing as anti-war protestors, when we planned the demonstrations outside the Democratic Convention in 1968.

              In the 70’s, I was back in New York and stayed active by going to various meetings where speakers like Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem gave stirring speeches about why women had the right to choose, as well as the right to get paid as much as men for doing the same work.

              The advocacy for gender equality then took a slight turn in the 1980’s when folks, including me, began marching for the right to follow one’s own sexual orientation. My greatest Harley experience wasn’t going out to Sturges, it was driving my Low Ryder from Greenwich Village to Times Square alongside the New York City Lesbian Harley Club during the Halloween Night parade.

              All of these advocacy movements shared one thing in common: you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that dropping napalm on a peasant village, or depriving people of the right to vote, or telling a woman that someone other than her would decide whether she should give birth, or making a gay man or woman hide their most precious and personal feelings was – wrong! It was as simple as that. It was wrong. Period. No questions asked. Wrong. Okay? Wrong.

              But this is where the gun-control advocacy movement, of all the advocacy that I have experienced over the last sixty years is different. What makes it different is that the moral issue of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’ is simply not so clear. What creates a muddle in this respect is the fact that gun violence occurs because people own guns. And most folks who have access to a gun aren’t breaking any laws. In fact, au contraire, they believe that not only do they have a legal ‘right’ to own a gun, but this right is both enshrined in the Constitution and acknowledged to be correct by the same liberal legal scholars who have supported civil, gender and gay rights.

              So how does someone advocate against guns (and please, spare me the nonsense about how you ‘support’ the 2nd Amendment) that can stand up against such a potent argument from the other side?  What you have to do, it seems to me, is take the trouble to learn about guns – how they are sold, why they are sold, what laws exist which regulate guns, which laws need to be improved, you get the drill. The point is that if you get into a discussion with a pro-gun person and you don’t know these facts, you end up in an emotional exchange which goes nowhere very fast.

              Every person concerned about gun violence should sign up for the online study exercise created by our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school. In fact, Giffords, Everytown, Brady and all the other gun-control groups should insist that their members spend a few hours drilling through the curriculum, taking the self-help tests and sending feedback to the faculty who worked overtime to create this course. Oh, you don’t ‘have time’ to do this self-paced exercise and God forbid replace some of your own feelings with the facts? Give me a break.

              And while you’re at it, let’s not forget to watch this video and send the group in Florida a few bucks. If you have time to read my column, you can’t be that pressed for time or cash.

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More Guns = More Gun Crime, Right? I’m Not Sure.

              On December 16, 1993 a United States Senator named Joe Biden gave a speech at the Rotary Club in Wilmington, Delaware.  At the time, ‘Sleepy Joe’ chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, which meant he was a key figure in the spate of gun-control bills (Brady, Assault Weapons Ban) that became law during Bill Clinton’s first term. In speaking about those bills, as well as the more expansive crime bill which nearly doubled the size of incarcerated population, Biden said, “the United States is the most dangerous country in the world. No country in the world has a higher per capita murder rate than the United States.”

              Sound familiar? Add to that the 350 million guns floating around, which gives the U.S. a per capita gun-ownership rate six times higher than any other OECD country, a causal argument that David Hemenway and his public health colleagues have been promoting for the past 20 years, and you now have the standard gun-control mantra trotted out every time Gun-control Nation says what it says about guns.

              There’s only one little problem. And the problem has to do with the fact that the argument which ties gun-violence rates to the number of civilian-owned guns does not correspond in any way to what we know about the number and availability of guns. From 1986 until today, the size of the civilian arsenal probably grew by 50 percent. We don’t know how many guns were in civilian hands in the early 1980’s, but if we take the 1994 estimate of 190 million, then subtract the 50 million guns manufactured between 1980 and 1994, we wind up in 1980 with roughly 140 million civilian-one guns.

              Now let’s look at additions to the civilian arsenal between 1981 and 2017, and the numbers from ATF add up to another 150 million guns, which brings us up to somewhere around the 300 million which is often cited for the total number of guns floating around today. Now here’s where things get interesting, okay?

              The national violent injury death rate (from CDC) averaged 8.83 from 1981 through 1998.  From 1999 through 2017, the rate averaged 5.80, going as low in 2014 as 4.98. From 1981 through 1998, the violent injury death rate involving guns was 5.77, the rate from 1999 through 2017 was 3.95. In other words, over the last thirty-six years, the rates of violence and rates of gun violence both fell by roughly one-third.

From 1981 through 1998, there were 397,912 homicides, of which 260,275 involved the use of guns, or 65 percent. From 1999 through 2017, there were 334,215 homicides involving 227,717 guns, or 68 percent.  So the overall violence rate declined by roughly one-third from 1981 through 2017, but the proportion of murders where a gun was used remained the same. Meanwhile, during this same thirty-six year period, as many as 1,500,000 new guns entered the civilian arsenal. If there is a causal connection between our high rate of homicide and out high ownership rate of guns, how come the use of guns to commit gun violence hasn’t changed?

I’ll tell you why it didn’t change, or better yet, I’ll tell you why we don’t know why it didn’t change. There’s one very simple reason. With a few exceptions that are probably statistically insignificant, the number of gun murders which occur each year are overwhelmingly committed by people who aren’t supposed to own guns.

Most gun murders are committed by individuals who can’t, under law, own a gun. Since these individuals aren’t about to disclose gun access to anyone, how can you make a plausible cause-and-effect argument about the overall number of guns and how they are being used? At best such an argument is just a numbers game, at worst its academic sophistry and should be ignored.

I don’t care whether we own 300 million or 300 billion guns. The numbers alone simply can’t sustain the argument that more guns equals more gun crime.           

The National Cathedral Wears Orange.

              It is now four years since the shooting death of a Chicago teenager, Hadiya Pendleton, led to the emergence of a nationwide response to this and all gun tragedies known as Wear Orange. And this year, it appears that the campaign to bear witness to the scourge of gun violence has reached a new, viral level. Many jurisdictions across the country are planning to issue resolutions designating June 7th as National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and more than 650 public events are scheduled to take place over the weekend from June 7th through June9th

              I’m going to use today’s column to talk about one of those public events which will take place at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. But before I get to a discussion about the event itself, I want to say a few words about the Cathedral, which I have always considered to be America’s most hallowed place.

              Now understand that I am not particularly religious so when I use a word like ‘hallowed’ I’m speaking more in  cultural than in religious terms. And the reason I am using that word with reference to the National Cathedral is because I believe that this institution, perhaps more than any institution in the United States, has maintained a commitment to finding solutions to the one issue which still threatens the human community, which is the issue of violence.

              Think about it. We know what to do about global warming. We know what to do about hunger. We know what to do about disease. Now if we choose not to respond to these threats, it’s a function of willpower, not of knowing what we need to do. But this isn’t the case with violence. We don’t know what to do about violence because we don’t know why human beings behave in violent ways. And it doesn’t matter whether the violence takes the form of some kid hitting another kid over the head on the playground, or a B-52 dropping a bomb and wiping an entire city off the map. There is no other living species on this planet which kills simply for the sake of killing – except us.

              Right now the Cathedral actively promotes five initiatives, all of which involve programs that heighten awareness leading to positive, effective change which is always an important response to violence or violent threats. These programs involve helping veterans readjust to civilian life, LGBTQ advocacy, racial issues, religious harmony and of course, gun violence. 

              Regarding gun violence, the Cathedral is going to observe the Wear Orange weekend in its own unique way. On Friday night, June 7th at 8 P.M., the Cathedral is going to be bathed in orange light – a remarkably impressive sight. But then, to add to the majesty and power of this moment, the Cathedral’s Bourdon bell is going to ring 109 times. The Bourdon bell weighs twelve tons, and when it rings (usually just for funerals) the somber tone will envelop you in the deep sense of loss we should all feel when thinking about the 109 lives lost to gun violence every day.

              The picture above doesn’t do the orange lighting of the cathedral justice, and obviously my website doesn’t have sound. So if you want to experience the manner in which the National Cathedral is going to mark the Wear Orange days, you have to come down to Wisconsin Avenue on Friday before 8 P.M.

              I have said again and again that, with all due respect to laws, regulations, blah, blah, blah and blah, the only way we will achieve a real and meaningful preventive response to gun violence will be when we change the culture which promotes and often glorifies guns. The National Cathedral is a religious institution but it also is a repository for our country’s history and culture, given that it is often called the ‘national house of prayer.’

              If you have a chance, go down to the Cathedral on Friday night and help them promote a national culture free from the threat posed by guns.

Do We Understand Gun Violence?

              Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) have just released a detailed report on Black homicide in 2016, which shows an overall increase from 2015 of roughly 10 percent.  The 2015 homicide rate for Blacks was 15 percent above 2014,  but the 2017 rate actually shows a slight decline from 2016.  According to the report, guns were the instrument of choice in 84 percent of all Black homicide events, whereas guns were used in 74 percent of all homicides, regardless of race.

              This report is based on a special collection of state-level data held by the FBI and referred to as the Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR.) The numbers confirm what we have always known about homicide, namely, that it occurs with much greater frequency among the African-American population than within the national population as a whole. In fact, the frequency is four times as great. 

              Unfortunately, while the SHR contains some interesting data on the some of the specific contexts in which Black homicide occurs, the FBI report may, in fact, significantly understate the number of Black homicides, both for events with and without the use of guns.  The VPC says that there were 7,756 Black homicide victims in 2016, of which 6,505 (87%) were killed with guns. The CDC, on the other hand, sets 2016 Black homicide for the entire country at 9,995, with 8,434 (84%) struck down with guns.

              How can two public agencies, both important (indeed essential) stakeholders in homicide, come up with numbers that differ by almost 25 percent?  After all, a dead body isn’t like a cut or a bruise where the patient may or may not want to tell either the doctors or the cops exactly what produced the wound. And while coroners make mistakes and sometimes data just doesn’t end up in the right place, the gap between FBI and CDC homicide reportage is simply too great to be ignored.

              Along with this fundamental discrepancy in the overall numbers themselves, the fact that the VPC report is based on homicides aggregated at the state level leaves us wondering about another major issue, namely, why some inner-city communities appear to have greater-than-average gun homicide numbers and other inner-city communities don’t. For example, the report lists Pennsylvania as the 10th highest state for homicide rates. But in 2016, Philadelphia County had a homicide rate of 18.4, Allegheny County, which is Pittsburgh, had a homicide rate of 8.7.  Meanwhile, the median household income in Philadelphia was $40,649, the median income in Pittsburgh was $56,333, and the poverty rate in Philadelphia was 25.3%, in Pittsburgh it was 11.3%. 

              Do these demographics explain the difference in homicides between the two cities, which between them counted more than half the 2016 Pennsylvania homicides as a whole?  Maybe yes, maybe no. The point is that the moment you aggregate state-level data to give us numbers on who killed who, or what kind of weapons were used, or whether the killing took place in the home or in the street, you lose the ability to really understand why certain kinds of people commit gun violence when most people with the same personal backgrounds and living in the same neighborhoods don’t settle violent arguments by picking up a gun.

              In Philadelphia, there were more than 23,000 felony assaults committed in 2016. There were 288 murders that year and 1,088 shootings where the victim didn’t die.  In other words, when someone wanted to really hurt someone else in the City of Brotherly Love, only six percent of those attacks involved the use of a gun. You can’t tell me that the other 22,000 people who committed a serious assault in Philadelphia couldn’t get their hands on a gun.

              The VPC report concludes with this sobering remark: “For the year 2016, blacks represented 13 percent of the nation’s population, yet accounted for 51 percent of all homicide victims.”  What’s even more sobering is the fact that as bad as the numbers are, we still don’t know why those shootings occur.

A Progressive Response To The Nonsense About 2nd-Amendment ‘Rights.’

              I always wondered how Ruch Limbaugh could claim that his audience was comprised of good, honest, working Americans when his weekday program can only be heard between 12 noon and 3 p.m. when most working Americans happen to be at work. But I guess a lot of those people I saw driving their cars yesterday when I drove down to New York City around noon were working in some way or another. And if they weren’t listening to Rush, maybe they were listening to Thom Hartmann, whose nationally-syndicated talk show goes out on Sirius, cable, Primerica and various other online and radio networks which carry the progressive alternative to the alt-right.

              In addition to his daily spieling, Hartmann is also a prolific author, with more than 16 titles to his credit, with another book, The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, coming out on June 6th. The book’s appearance then kicks off the requisite national book tour, and you can meet Thom at bookstores in many different cities – the schedule can be accessed here.

              What Hartmann calls the ‘hidden’ history of guns reflects his belief that many of the events which shaped the history of the United States occurred the way they did because Americans had access to guns.  In particular, the author looks at how we ‘pacified’ the native American population and then grabbed their land, then how we maintained human bondage by organizing slave patrols which became those citizen militias referred to in the 2nd Amendment as the rationale for private ownership of guns.

              Basically, Hartmann’s argument is that the history and development of America was based not on the conquest of land, but on the conquest of people.  These conquests required the use of violence, and the violent methods of both types of conquest were best carried out with the use of guns – a tradition which continues up to the present day! The daily carnage which occurs in neighborhoods is a function of the social inequality of American society, an inequality reflected in such events as the ‘war’ on drugs, the mental illness of mass shooters and the gunning down of unarmed civilians by the police.

              Hartmann’s argument basically takes the pro-gun narrative and stands it on its head. The folks who promote the 2nd Amendment also believe that guns have a ‘hidden’ history which is consciously kept out of circulation by the liberal, gun-grabbing elite. And this history says that we wouldn’t even be a nation, and we certainly wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we enjoy if it weren’t for access to guns, not the other way around. Want to believe that nonsense?  You go right ahead.

              The author’s style is snappy, clear and a good, quick read. I’m also a sucker for non-fiction works based on facts. There’s a school near where I live which is advertising a graduate degree in ‘creative non-fiction.’  Obviously, this is a degree program that Thom Hartmann has yet to take.

              On the other hand, since I reserve the right to raise at least one issue in any book review that I write, here’s the issue I wish to raise with the author of this book. He claims that by bringing guns with them, it was much easier for Europeans to engage in a genocidal assault on America’s native populations. This argument sounds logical and reasonable, but it doesn’t really align with the facts.

              What reduced native populations to a fraction of their pre-conquest size was something else that Europeans brought with them, i.e.,  the practice and whole legal paraphernalia surrounding the concept of private property on which European society, particularly British society, was based. Even though many native tribes practiced cultivation, all native populations were structured around a transient style of life. Erecting fences, marking off property which could only be accessed by one as opposed to the many, is what demolished native American society and culture. Guns were an afterthought in that respect.

              This book is a direct and unvarnished response to the idea that guns make us ‘great.’ I recommend it highly and without reservations of any kind.

              I always wondered how Ruch Limbaugh could claim that his audience was comprised of good, honest, working Americans when his weekday program can only be heard between 12 noon and 3 p.m. when most working Americans happen to be at work. But I guess a lot of those people I saw driving their cars yesterday when I drove down to New York City around noon were working in some way or another. And if they weren’t listening to Rush, maybe they were listening to Thom Hartmann, whose nationally-syndicated talk show goes out on Sirius, cable, Primerica and various other online and radio networks which carry the progressive alternative to the alt-right.

              In addition to his daily spieling, Hartmann is also a prolific author, with more than 16 titles to his credit, with another book, The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, coming out on June 6th. The book’s appearance then kicks off the requisite national book tour, and you can meet Thom at bookstores in many different cities – the schedule can be accessed here.

              What Hartmann calls the ‘hidden’ history of guns reflects his belief that many of the events which shaped the history of the United States occurred the way they did because Americans had access to guns.  In particular, the author looks at how we ‘pacified’ the native American population and then grabbed their land, then how we maintained human bondage by organizing slave patrols which became those citizen militias referred to in the 2nd Amendment as the rationale for private ownership of guns.

              Basically, Hartmann’s argument is that the history and development of America was based not on the conquest of land, but on the conquest of people.  These conquests required the use of violence, and the violent methods of both types of conquest were best carried out with the use of guns – a tradition which continues up to the present day! The daily carnage which occurs in neighborhoods is a function of the social inequality of American society, an inequality reflected in such events as the ‘war’ on drugs, the mental illness of mass shooters and the gunning down of unarmed civilians by the police.

              Hartmann’s argument basically takes the pro-gun narrative and stands it on its head. The folks who promote the 2nd Amendment also believe that guns have a ‘hidden’ history which is consciously kept out of circulation by the liberal, gun-grabbing elite. And this history says that we wouldn’t even be a nation, and we certainly wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we enjoy if it weren’t for access to guns, not the other way around. Want to believe that nonsense?  You go right ahead.

              The author’s style is snappy, clear and a good, quick read. I’m also a sucker for non-fiction works based on facts. There’s a school near where I live which is advertising a graduate degree in ‘creative non-fiction.’  Obviously, this is a degree program that Thom Hartmann has yet to take.

              On the other hand, since I reserve the right to raise at least one issue in any book review that I write, here’s the issue I wish to raise with the author of this book. He claims that by bringing guns with them, it was much easier for Europeans to engage in a genocidal assault on America’s native populations. This argument sounds logical and reasonable, but it doesn’t really align with the facts.

              What reduced native populations to a fraction of their pre-conquest size was something else that Europeans brought with them, i.e.,  the practice and whole legal paraphernalia surrounding the concept of private property on which European society, particularly British society, was based. Even though many native tribes practiced cultivation, all native populations were structured around a transient style of life. Erecting fences, marking off property which could only be accessed by one as opposed to the many, is what demolished native American society and culture. Guns were an afterthought in that respect.

              This book is a direct and unvarnished response to the idea that guns make us ‘great.’ I recommend it highly and without reservations of any kind.

It’s Time To Learn Something About Guns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Funding ATF Reduce Gun Violence?

              I normally don’t write a Friday column but the news out of Washington yesterday is so distressing that I can’t let it go through the weekend without a response. What I am referring to is the decision by the House Appropriations Committee to increase the ATF budget by $122 million, money evidently earmarked “to improve the agency’s oversight of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and operations.” The quote is from a press release issued by our friends at the Brady Campaign.

              The Brady release quotes a committee member, Grace Meng, who states: “Gun dealers who are knowingly breaking the law need to be held accountable, and I am firmly committed to ensuring ATF has every resource necessary to do their jobs.” Congresswoman Meng represents a large swatch of the New York City borough of Queens, which includes what used to be a high gun-violence neighborhood known as Jamaica. The committee chair, Jose Serranno, represents The Bronx as well as upper Manhattan, neighborhoods which also used to experience epidemic-like rates of gun violence year after year.

              Note the fact that both Meng and Serrano represent districts which “used to’ suffer from gun violence.  Know why I put it in the past tense? Because all of New York City has, of late, seen an unbelievable decline in gun violence, at a time when many urban centers throughout the United States continue to see gun violence rates going up. In 2018, the NYPD recorded 753 shootings and 289 homicides.  The gun-violence numbers for 2018 in Chicago, respectively, were 2,948 and 561. New York City has three times more residents than Chicago and suffers 1/4th the number of shootings that occur in the Windy City and half as many violent deaths.  Get it?

              Does this comparison in any way, shape or form have anything to do with how many gun dealers the ATF inspects every year?  Not one bit. And the idea that the bumbling idiots who work for the Industry Operations division of the ATF make any difference in gun-violence rates as they bumble around various gun shops is a complete and total joke.

              I went through an ATF inspection in 2013 which took somewhere around three months. After examining close to 5,000 transactions, I could not produce the requisite paperwork to account for a whole, big, three guns. I was also cited for several thousand infractions, each infraction defined as a possible ‘threat’ to public safety. Know what these public-safety threats consisted of? I had forgotten to list the FFL number of the wholesaler from whom I purchased most of my new guns. The wholesaler happens to be located thirty miles from my shop and sends a daily feed to the ATF of all guns it ships to retailers like me. 

              My gun shop represented such a source of crime guns that, on average, I received two trace requests every – year! Not every week, not every month, every year. The ATF says it doesn’t employ enough inspectors to conduct sufficient audits to insure public safety?  The public needed an audit of my shop like the public needed a hole in its head.

              I’m not opposed to the regulation of gun dealers by the ATF or anyone else. What I am opposed to is the idea that politicians like Grace Meng and Jose Serrano can make it appear (to an unsuspecting public) that their response to gun violence is the proper way to go. What they should be asking themselves is how to use their legislative and fiscal authority to really make an impact on gun violence throughout the United States. And the answer is very simple.

              Why doesn’t Congress fund a program which will help other police departments in high-crime cities develop and maintain the kind of policing that has basically made New York City a crime-free town? With more resources and better training, NYPD’s ‘precision policing’ and more effective community relations could easily be replicated anywhere and everywhere.

              Reducing gun violence isn’t rocket science, okay?

An Important New Book on Gun Violence.

              Our friend Tom Gabor has just published a book, Enough – Solving America’s Gun Violence Crisis, which is both a review of what we know and don’t know about gun violence, as well as a personal manifesto about what needs to be done. In that respect, this book reflects a new, much more confident mood in Gun-control Nation, given how the political landscape has recently changed. After all, it’s less than two decades since the Democratic Party turned its back on gun violence after Al Gore’s loss at the polls, and now you can’t announce for President without making it clear you’ll do something about gun violence if you win the big kahuna next year.

              Gabor’s book is a quick and easy read – he writes clearly and doesn’t overburden the reader with mounds of extraneous text. He also keeps his focus directly on policies and programs which, taken together, represent the agenda of Gun-control Nation, and is honest and objective in terms of evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t worked to reduce gun violence over the past years.

              Finally, although Gabor has a long and distinguished career as an academic, this book is not a dry, academic text. He refers to gun-control activists as ‘peace warriors,’ a particularly arresting phrase, insofar as it links the notion of non-violence together with a militaristic campaign to protect America from its nearly 400-million arsenal of civilian-owned guns.

              In what directions should this campaign now move? The author covers all of the major gun-control initiatives and policies, including licensing gun owners, concealed-carry and stand your ground, safe storage, abolishing PLCCA and other industry protections, banning assault weapons and ‘smart’ guns and red flag laws. For each category he covers experiences and results to date, the intention being to create a ‘roadmap’ of policies and initiatives which can then be followed by gun-control advocates seeking guidance in developing strategies and plans.

              The book concludes with an interesting and unique twist, namely, what Gabor calls a ‘Declaration of Rights’ which could serve as a clarion-call for groups and individuals who want to reduce violence from guns. Basically, the document lists a series of ‘rights’ that everyone should be able to enjoy, flowing from the implementation of effective policies to restrict the use and ownership of guns. These ‘rights’ would include feeling safe, movement in gun-free zones, reliance only on law enforcement for public safety; in other words, a nice counterpoint to the policies which promote gun ‘rights.’ I’m not sure where Gabor is going, organizationally, with this Bill of Rights, but if he puts up a website asking everyone to subscribe to this document, I’ll sign up.

              Of course I never review any book without finding something critical to say, so here goes.  The challenge which this book does not confront is that you can talk all you want about how and why we need more effective gun-control policies, but the problem is how to get from here to there. The devil’s always in the details, so to speak.

The fact that a certain gun law or regulation has been effective within a specific jurisdiction or state, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be effective if extended to all fifty states. The strength of our Federalist system is that it reflects the enormous physical and cultural diversity of this country, and it is simply impossible to assume that out of the experience of one state or locality, we could craft gun-control laws where one size fits all. This is precisely why Gabor’s comparison of America’s gun laws to gun regulations in other countries (e.g., his native Canada) doesn’t work.

That being said, this book delivers enough information (with footnoted references) that it deserves to be purchased and read.  If the 2020 election pushes new gun-control legislation to the fore, Tom Gabor’s book will hopefully help shape the debate. 

Well done.

What We Know And Don’t Know About Guns.

              Our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg School have mounted a very impressive online curriculum on gun violence which I will review when I complete the course of study itself. In the meantime, the initial lecture by Daniel Webster opens with a reference to the Pew survey on gun owners, which is one of several recent efforts (note the survey from Harvard-Northeastern) which attempts to describe the kinds of folks who own and use guns.

              What these surveys have found is that, generally speaking, gun owners tend to be White males who live in smaller cities or rural areas, they start buying guns in their 20’s, but most of them are now in their 40’s or 50’s, a majority live in Southern and Midwestern states, they are married and they vote the GOP line. These surveys also show that the percentage of homes with guns has declined from roughly 50 percent to somewhere between 30 and 40 percent, and that the primary reason for gun ownership has shifted from hunting to self-defense.

              I understand that public health research is based on the collection and analysis of enough data to allow for meaningful discussions about the problem that the research is attempting to understand. Hence, the research is usually based on detailed surveys using what is referred to as a ‘nationally-representative’ sample of respondents whose answers are collected either by computer, telephone or both.

              I hate to break the news to my public health research friends, but they could save themselves a lot of time and money in this regard by simply choosing a weekend, just about any weekend, and going to four gun shows in different parts of the country to observe what goes on. What they will observe is that the folks who go to these shows, no matter where the shows take place, will exactly, I mean exactly fit the profile which emerges from all those national polls.

              In addition to these surveys really telling us what anyone can learn from a few hours at the national guard armory in Wheeling, WV or the VFW Hall in Melbourne, AR, these surveys suffer from two gaps, which until the gun violence research community makes some effort to fill in, reduces the value of these studies to a great degree. And these gaps reflect the fact that the whole purpose of gun surveys is to help us understand how to craft policies that will reduce the violence caused by guns. After all, if we didn’t suffer from 125,000 fatal and non-fatal gun injuries every year, would anyone other than the gun makers be interested in who owns guns?

              Gap #1 – These surveys do not (read: not) tell us anything about illegally-owned guns. We have no idea how many illegal guns are out there, where they are located, how often they are sold or traded and, most of all, how such guns start off as legal purchases and then wind up in the ‘wrong’ hands. We also don’t know how many illegal guns are responsible for the yearly, gun-injury toll, but it’s certainly more than half.

              Gap #2 – These surveys only ask gun owners about protecting themselves with guns. How about asking non-gun owners why they don’t feel the need to protect themselves with a gun?

              If these surveys show that only one-third of law-abiding Americans have decided that a gun in their home protects them from violence and/or crime, does this mean that the other two-thirds of the country aren’t worried about being victims of violence or crime? In fact, the last Gallup poll taken in March, 2019 found that nearly 50% of all respondents ‘personally worried’ a ‘great deal’ about violence and crime. How come they aren’t all running out to buy guns?

              If my friends in Gun-control Nation want to have a serious and productive discussion with the folks who live and die for their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ they might consider talking to people who have evidently found other ways besides gun ownership to protect themselves from violence and crime.

Josh Montgomery: El Chapo’s Diamond Gun.

Yes, you read that right: a diamond gun. At this point, everyone probably heard about the Mexican drug lord “El Chapo” waltzing into the dance floor with a gun that has been studded with diamonds.

Many pictures were taken that day, and Jurors Friday even presented a picture of El Chapo dancing closely with a lady – with the bedazzling .38 pistol poking out of his waistband.

What’s the idea of this pistol? Why diamonds? Is it actually any good for anything if you want to deal any damage – or is it only for the glamour? Well, here’s what you should know about the diamond gun.

What Does the Diamond Gun Look Like?

The Diamond Gun is certainly meant to be flashy – all while remaining practical. We all know that El Chapo (Joaquin Guzman) is completely obsessed with guns – and it’s not surprising that he’d want to engrave a gun with his initials. Just in case he lost the gun, the initials “JGL” that were written on the weapon would give it away that the gun is his – and that the one who found it should give it back.

The question remains: why diamonds? Well, we’re trying to get into El Chapo’s way of thinking and answer with another question: why not diamonds? He certainly had the money. Being a drug lord means that you have access to a fair amount of cash – and that cash will allow you to buy a lot of things.

And El Chapo took high advantage of this. He owns at least two pistols that have been bejeweled, and he also has a gold-plated AK-47. The more fabulous a gun looks, the better it will make El Chapo look. But perhaps his favorite gun is the one that has been encrusted in diamonds.

Unsurprisingly, the gun doesn’t shoot diamonds; there’s a limit even to the fortune of a drug lord. There’s no gain in shooting diamonds into your enemies, particularly since you know that you would not be getting those diamonds back. This “diamond gun,” therefore, shoots regular bullets – and he only had it customized to look fabulous.

From a distance, the gun will look almost normal. The .38 has a simple barrel – and he had not customized that part. The handle, however, had been completely encrusted with diamonds. He used black and clear diamonds. The clear diamonds were added on the base and then he used black diamond to spell out the initials of his name. It’s quite the bling – but one that El Chapo certainly thinks was worth it.

The Matter of Comfort 

Diamonds are known for the fact that they can cut through the glass – and even if you are wearing them like jewels on your body, you are still careful enough not to press them onto your skin. So, when you think about more than a few hundred diamonds pressing into your skin, you can’t help but think: is it comfortable?

When looking at that gun, you can see that each piece of diamond has its own place in the puzzle. You can see where they have been spaced to protect the gun – and while they seem to have been polished and treated properly, you can’t help but think that it will be harsh on your hand. When you think about the recoil of a gun, having something on the handle that can potentially injure you may not seem so great. It looks fancy – but it may end up badly.

Personally, we can’t think that holding this gun would feel the same as when holding a classic full-size 357 magnum revolver, for example. The smoothness of those guns would make them easier to hold – and therefore, would not be an issue during gun recoil. We cannot imagine this being the case with a gun encrusted in diamonds. The purpose would be to only make it look more expensive – and more appropriate for a drug lord.

That being said, one could argue that the diamond serves a fairly good purpose when it comes to the durability of the gun. A regular plastic or metallic handle, for example, might take a fairly short time until it wears out – but since diamonds are not that short-lived, they will “bling” away through generations. It could actually be considered a family legacy, if it wouldn’t be illegal. This is, after all, a gun that has killed and injured several people – and we can’t assume that all of them were for self-defense.

The Diamond Gun – A Flashy Companion in Bloodshed

This gun – that is likely a very expensive one – has followed El Chapo throughout many of his endeavors. In an attempt to protect his multibillion-dollar drug operation, he went through bribery and rampant bloodshed. His trials revealed that this gun was always at his side, doing the killing.

El Chapo also had many enemies – and it is suspected that he used this gun to kill some of his competitors. It is even said that he ordered to have a man killed because he refused to shake his hand. He tortured people with car lighters and irons – but most of the time, he relished in using his bejeweled guns. El Chapo has been incarcerated three times – and during two of his incarcerations, he managed to escape. He has been caught once more in 2017 – and only recently, his gun has been revealed.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to drug lords, not all of them want to show off their richness. They want to blend in – and they generally enjoy their fortune through other means. However, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had a completely different thought on that.

He was not afraid to show off that he was rich and dangerous. Even incarcerated, stories of his “reign” are still spreading among the mafia: the man who had a very valuable diamond gun – one that he would always show off wearing at his waistband. When you have all the money you would need, getting a diamond-encrusted gun with your initials on it should not be a problem.