Try A New Book On Gun Violence.

             Igor Volsky is a nice young man who is trying to move the argument about gun violence in a new direction, and he has just published a book, Guns Down – How To Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future with Fewer Guns, in which he both explains how he came to be a player in the gun debate, as well as explaining what he believes needs to be done.  The book, well written and easily read, is available on (where else?) Amazon.

              Igor also happens to run a website, Guns Down, which has made some interesting efforts to “weaken the gun industry, the gun lobby and the lawmakers who support them.” Most recently, they have published a list of banks who are actively financing the gun industry, with 6 national banks, including Chase and TD Bank, receiving the grade of ‘F.” They graded the 15 largest consumer banks in the United States, and only one bank, Citibank, received the grade of ‘B.’ In other words, most banks treat gun companies and gun advocacy organizations the same way they treat all their other customers. Gee, what a surprise.

              Behind this campaign and the other initiatives undertaken by Volsky and his group is a basic idea, namely, that in order to reduce gun violence we need, first and foremost, to reduce the number of guns. And in focusing most of his efforts on ‘defeating’ the NRA, Volsky is hopeful that without the money and communication strength of America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ that many politicians will retreat from their pro-gun stance and vote for “bold reforms” that comprise what Volsky calls a ‘New Second Amendment Compact” that will “build a future with significantly fewer guns.”

              Volsky’s book is chock-full of data and he uses his evidence to  make a convincing case for the reforms which he would like to see enacted, although many of the 10 planks which comprise his 2nd-Amdenement Compact (end PLCAA, regulate dealers, assault-weapon ban, fund gun research) are part and parcel of the agenda of every gun-control group. One idea, however, caught my eye, which is to ‘provide incentives for people to give up their existing firearms.” Which basically means that the government should fund ongoing buyback programs. Considering the fact that I happen to run an organization which conducts buybacks in multiple states, this idea gets no argument from me.

              Asking gun owners to get rid of their guns, however, brings up a problem that Gun-control Nation has yet to confront, and while I was hoping that perhaps we would get an answer from Volsky, I’m afraid the jury in this regard is still out. On the one hand, as he notes, the percentage of American homes containing guns continues to go down. But what he needs to acknowledge is that the percentage of Americans who believe a gun to be more of a self-defense benefit than a risk keeps going up. Indeed, more than 60% in the latest surveys feel that a gun in the home makes that home a safer place, which means that many Americans who don’t own guns also agree that owning a gun is a good thing.

              One other point of concern with this well-done book, which is that Volsky’s attempt to present the NRA as the ‘black knight’ in the gun debate is simply not the case. For example, he talks about how the NRA was weakened when the company that was underwriting their insurance scam pulled out of the deal. But in fact, there are other pro-gun insurance plans that have been extremely successful (example: USCCA) and took away much of the NRA’s insurance business before Volsky and Guns Down got involved. As for the vaunted financial power that the NRA wields over pro-gun officeholders, on average, members of Congress get 3% of the campaign funds they spend from the NRA – big deal.

              That being said, I think that Guns Down is an important addition to the organizational network working to reduce gun violence and I know that Igor Volsky will, in that respect, be an important voice. So read his book, okay?

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How Come All Those Guns Are In The South?

              I know it’s probably too early to start handicapping the 2020 Presidential race, but if any of my Gun-control Nation friends are thinking about which Democratic candidate might be the best bet for enacting a serious gun law, they might start paying attention to Beto O’Rourke. Why? Because if Beto grabs the brass ring and the Democrats shove Mitch McConnell and his Trump stooges out of the way, the political alignment will be exactly what worked to produce gun laws in 1968 and again in 1993-94, namely, a Democratic-controlled Congress at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and a liberal Southerner in the Oval Office at the other end.

              What this little bit of history points up is the degree to which gun violence may be a national problem, but opposition to gun control is a regional problem because ever since Richard Nixon came up with a brilliant ‘Southern strategy’ and moved the South’s political coloration from blue to red, the self-appointed protectors of our beloved 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ can always find fertile grazing ground in states and regions where the phrase ‘federal government’ is a not-very-disguised code for ‘civil rights.’

              But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the argument against gun control that pop out of the moths of every GOP politician from below the Mason-Dixon line is just a cynical attempt to ‘hold the line’ against the encroachments against personal liberties by big-government in Washington, D.C. If one out of every three homes in America contains at least one gun, I can guarantee you that in the 13 Confederate states, the 3 border states and some rural swatches of the Midwest, the ratio is one-to-one.

              What the GOP is taking advantage of is not some special affinity that Southerners have towards guns. It’s the legacy of history and of historical conflicts that are still being played out. In this respect, the NRA and other Gun-nut Nation noisemakers (e.g., Sleazy Don) are playing to an audience which is large enough to maintain a critical political edge.

              In 1865, when the War of the Rebellion came to an end, the South was gun-rein.  Or at least the guns had to be kept hidden, because all small arms were confiscated by the Union Army which also enforced martial law. Beginning in 1866, however, with the emergence of white supremacy groups (Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Camellia) in response to Reconstruction and the ratification of the 13th Amendment which ended slavery, Southern whites began to rearm.

              When Southern states started imposing laws to undo Reconstruction by limiting Black suffrage, segregating public facilities and schools, these Jim Crow measures were often enforced by armed ‘militias,’ such as the South Carolina Red Shirts, who called themselves the ‘military arm’ of the Democratic Party and were particularly active in the election of 1876. Politically-speaking, this was the election that, de facto,  returned the South to the racialist divisions which had existed prior to the Civil War. I find the color of the MAGA hats to be very instructive in that respect.

              For all the nonsense about how today’s African-American community should arm itself because this would maintain a long tradition of Blacks defending themselves in the post-Reconstruction South, the threat to the Black community didn’t come from the federal government, it came from the armed hooligans and thugs who constituted a real-life form of domestic terrorism. Unless, of course, you would prefer to believe that the burning and bombing of more than 100 Black churches since the 1950’s was nothing more than an expression of religious freedom on the part of some misunderstood Southern Whites.

              There are plenty of legal gun owners in the South who keep guns around because they either hunt or enjoy sport shooting, or in some cases have simply decided that they feel better knowing they can grab the old six-shooter just in case. But what makes the South so gung-ho about guns is the degree of violence which this region has suffered for the last 150 years. And remember that guns and violence go hand in hand.

              Thanks to Eric Foner for pointing me towards certain key sources.

A Thought About Nipsey Hussle.

           Last week Nipsey Hussle was gunned down in front of his Los Angeles clothing store and an avalanche of praise and loving memorials poured forth. Before the body was even cold, he was being described as a ‘visionary’ and a ‘forward-thinking, inspirational entrepreneur,’ who used the money from his hip-hop empire to improve the lives of the less-fortunate members of Crenshaw and other minority neighborhoods in LA. Here’s what was said about him in The Washington Post, less than four hours after he died:  “He made us believe that we could make it out of low-income housing and succeed in an unfair capitalistic economy that far too often rewards privilege over work ethic.”

              Not to be left behind, Gun-control Nation launched its own series of plaudits for Hussle. I received emails from several organizations, along with a comment from The Trace, which echoed what was being said about Hussle from one end of the politically-correct spectrum to the other, namely, that the gun-control community had lost a good friend.

              The way Hussle has been lionized, you would think he was the Mother Theresa of South Central LA. And I don’t really care if everyone in Gun-control Nation finds what I am about to say both insulting and offensive to the memory of this fine young man, but it needs to be said.

              As far as I am concerned, people who want to do something to reduce gun violence are engaged in what I consider to be a sacred task. Why? Because violence happens to be the only threat to the human community for which we still haven’t come up with a solution that really works.  And it doesn’t matter whether the violence consists of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima or putting a bullet into Nipsey Hussle while he’s standing in front of his store. We don’t and we shouldn’t condone any act of violence, no matter where or when it takes place.

             Think about it. We know how to erase poverty, even though the will to do so often isn’t there.  We know how to reduce global warming, again it’s a question of desire, not a lack of knowing what needs to be done. We have conquered just about every illness which used to reduce the average life-span by more than half. But we haven’t made a dent when it comes to the degree to which human beings are still threatened by violence, whether it’s one-on-one assaults or armies deployed by nation-states.

              What does all this have to do with Nipsey Hussle?  The answer is right here, and I note that in all the effusive accolades that he has been receiving, nobody has mentioned the artistic moment that launched him on his way. This video, Bullets Ain’t Got No Names, may be the single most offensive, disgusting and downright repulsive celebration of violence that I have ever seen.

             The reason we suffer from this particular kind of violence – gun violence – is because a lot of young men walk around with guns. Guns are cool, guns are hip, guns are where it’s at. How do you think this embrace of gun violence occurs?  Do you think it’s because these young people read the latest public health gun research? Do you think it’s because they just can’t wait to put on the red t-shirt given out by Shannon Watts and her MOMS?  Did Nipsey Hussle ever make a video in which he talked about sending a donation to Brady or Everytown and asked his fans to do the same?

             By the way, I happen to be a hip-hop fan; I started listening to Tupac in the early 90’s because his late mother was an early Black Panther activist, and in that respect, she and I had some mutual friends. But listening to any kind of music is one thing, promoting gun violence is something else. So when it comes to anything having to do with gun violence, the last thing my friends in Gun-control Nation should be doing is avoiding what needs to be said.

Two Valuable Articles on Mass Shootings.

              Two articles on mass shootings have just appeared which deserve some Mike the Gun Guy space. The first is an article by our friend Eric Fleegler, M.D., who hangs his hat and stethoscope in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital where he’s seen his fair share of kids killed and injured by guns. You can download his article right here.

              In his article, Fleegler notes that more than three-quarters of all deaths in the age cohorts 16 to 34 are due to guns and that annual gun deaths are now almost 40,000, the highest rate in twenty years, the rate has increased nearly 20 percent in the last ten years alone.

              This continued surge in gun deaths is particularly interesting because it undercuts Gun-nut Nation’s basic claim that the more that are floating around, particularly the more guns being carried concealed, the more that crime and violence is supposed to go down. Now it’s true that the rate for all violent has dropped from the mid-700’s in the early 1990’s to less than 400 the last couple of years, the murder rate has also declined by roughly half over the same period of time. But the number of states which issued ‘shall-carry’ CCW in 1999 was thirty, the number today is forty-two. How come the murder rate since 2000 is basically unchanged?

              The other paper, downloadable here, is an addendum about mass shootings from Adam Lankford, whose original paper went to print in 2016.  In his initial piece, Lankford claimed that a review of sources showed that the U.S. experienced a level of mass shootings that was not only an anomaly for advanced countries but for just about every country worldwide. The problem with that paper, whose conclusions vaulted Lankford into the front ranks of researchers engaged in gun violence work, was that the journal which published this piece did not allow access to the data sources which he used.

At the time, I mentioned that the lack of source material not only created some doubt in my mind about whether his work was based on sufficient data to be considered true, but that such data needed to be made available to the entire research community precisely because accurate information about gun violence outside the U.S. is often quite difficult to obtain, never mind understand.

Lankford has mitigated both my concerns in this new piece which contains links to all the data sources he used to compare mass shootings in the rest of the world versus mass shootings in the U.S. Moreover, in talking about mass shootings he introduces a novel concept that creates a different, and I believe, an extremely substantive argument to differentiate between mass shootings which are simply the result of a nut-job who walks into a public space and shoots the place up, as opposed to the mass shootings which we consider to be the work of terrorists both here and abroad.

Basically, Lankford argues that mass shootings in the U.S. are entirely committed by one individual who usually plans and carries out the attack alone – perhaps the only exception being the massacre at Columbine, which occurred twenty years ago this month. On the other hand, mass shootings carried out by self-proclaimed terrorists (or announced to be the handiwork of terrorist organizations) are almost always events in which there are multiple shooters who operate in tandem for the purpose of using the violence to promote a political point.

I happen to believe that differentiating mass shootings based on the number of shooters, rather than the number of victims, is a very significant issue in defining the relative levels of violence between the U.S. and other both advanced and underdeveloped states. I’ll have more to say about this next week when I discuss Lankford’s argument with John Lott. In the meantime, studying mass shootings as a variation of the behavior which is responsible for just about all our gun violence, namely, someone pulls out a gun and – bang! – is a good place to begin.

Want To Understand Gun Violence? Try Hip-Hop.

              One of the major talking-points Gun-control Nation, particularly now when some kind of gun control law may actually be coming due, is the idea of ‘knowing’ or ‘understanding’ gun ‘culture;’ i.e., why do people own guns?  Because to pass some kind of ‘reasonable’ gun law, we need to make sure that ‘reasonable’ gun owners will go along for the ride. Hence, the term ‘gun culture’ becomes the shorthand for understanding why 90 million Americans live in homes that contain guns.

              I happen to believe this idea to be pure nonsense and just another manifestation of the liberal fantasy which believes that some of the more ‘enlightened’ gun owners can somehow be made to agree with non-gun owners on how to regulate their guns. Did gun violence prevention (GVP) messaging play a role in various Congressional campaigns?  Yes, it did. But did all those House seats flip because gun owners voted blue instead of voting red? Yea, right.

              Anyway, back to gun culture. As far as I’m concerned, if my Gun-control Nation friends want to really understand why Americans own guns, it seems to me that what they need to do is stop worrying about why the average, law-abiding redneck in Kentucky or Pennsylvania keeps some bangers in his closet and get real by asking a question which goes like this: Why do the people whose behavior results in the overwhelming number of gun homicides and gun assaults own guns? This particular population’s behavior happens to account for at least half, if not more, of the total number of all gun injuries which we suffer from each and every year.

              Who are these gun-toting and gun-wielding folks?  They happen to be inner-city residents between the ages of 16 and 34 who listen to hip-hop music all day long. And know who they hear when they listen to hip-hop?  They hear Dr. Dre sing ‘A Nigger Witta Gun,’ or Sticky Fingaz crooning away with ‘My Dogz is My Gunz,’ or Gang Starr belting out ‘Who Gut Gunz.’ And then there’s always the greatest hip-hopper of all time, Tupac, who’s hit ‘Me and My Girlfriend’ was an ode not to a real woman but to the Smith & Wesson revolver which he carried around in his pants. The picture above is of Ice Cube holding what he refers to in a big hit as ‘Man’s Best Friend.’

              I keep hearing how the kids are turned on to guns because they play video games involving guns. In 2017, the video industry generated 36 billion in revenues, of which roughly one-quarter came from shooting games, which works out to $9 billion in gun-shooting video sales. Know what the hip-hop business is worth today? Try $10 billion, okay?

              Of course the quick and easy answer which will allow the GVP to continue ignoring this issue is the fact that most hip-hop songs don’t necessarily evoke guns or gun violence at all. Know who these people are? Yadi Kadafi, B.I.G., Fat Pat, Big L, DJ Uncle Al, Half A Mill, Mac Dre, Blade Icewood? These are less than one-quarter of the hip-hop artists who have been gunned down since Tupac was shot and killed in 1996. And believe me, this is a very incomplete list.

              So tell me. When was the last time any GVP group ever held a candlelight vigil for victims of gun violence like these? Do any of my Gun-control Nation friends talk about coming together with the hip-hop community to discuss issues of common concern? If you don’t think that hip-hop culture and gun culture aren’t one and the same, you don’t know very much about either kind of culture – you really don’t.

              Want to get a taste of what I’m talking about? Just click here and listen for a bit. Then tell me about how all we need to do is contact all those responsible gun owners and get them to line up behind all our reasonable ideas to control their guns.

How Come Murder Has Returned To New York?


              Hey!  What happened? New York City was supposed to be a very safe place.  But yesterday the Mayor and his Chief of Police announced that homicides in the city during January and February had jumped by almost 30 percent over the same months in 2017, and if this murder activity continues at the current pace, the Big Apple will once again be known as a city where the streets aren’t so safe.

              What caught my eye about this situation, however, was the geography of where those murders took place.  Most of them were in neighborhoods that have always been centers of poverty an violence, places like Upper Manhattan, Bed-Stuy (Do or Die) and Brownsville in Brooklyn and Jamaica in Queens. But one other neighborhood jumped out at me, which was a neighborhood known as Parkchester which is in the northeast corner of The Bronx.

              I attended high school in Manhattan from 1958 to 1962, and I was a student at one of those specialized schools – High School of Music and Art – which drew kids from throughout the city. Several of my friends lived in Parkchester and I often visited them in their homes. I thought that Parkchester was a public housing project (it certainly looked like one) but in fact it was a private apartment development built in 1939-40 by Metropolitan Life. It was also racially segregated when it first opened its doors, which I guess is the reason why I never recall seeing a person of color when I walked to the apartment of one of my high school chums.

              According to the 2010 census, Parkchester’s population is now at least 75% Hispanic and Black. And given the spike in murders, I suspect that the demographics of the community have steadily gone downhill.  What this means is that possibly the geography of what we refer to as ‘underserved’ urban neighborhoods is changing in New York or in some areas getting worse.

              What’s DeBlasio’s plans for keeping violence under control?  The 43rd precinct in Parkchester will get some more men, there will be a greater presence of the CeaseFire street monitors to intervene in gang disputes and here’s the one I really like, increased efforts to get guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. – that’s a direct quote. 

            Maybe these efforts will make a difference, maybe they won’t. But if the Parkchester complex is beginning to attract the kinds of folks who put a dent into someone’s head with a baseball bat or a hole in their head with a gun, we may be looking at a more general problem, namely, the degree to which violent crime seems to go up as socio-economic conditions in  a neighborhood go down. 

              Next week I’m going to review a new book, An American Summer by Alex Kotlowitz, which is a series of first-person narratives from residents of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, in which these folks talk in graphic and chilling terms about the violence they see all around them which is often violence caused by guns. This book is a clear departure from most of the social science that explores urban violence because it doesn’t attempt to present a solution to the problem, it simply gives the reader  feeling of what life inn these brutal streets is all about.

              Over the last several years, there have been any number of projects mounted by organizations trying to reduce gun violence in which the survivors of shootings tell what happened to a family member who was a victim. You can listen to a collection of these stories collected by our friends at The Trace here.

              The news out of Parkchester, however, is a reminder that you just can’t reduce something as complicated as violence, particularly gun violence, to the usual data on income, housing, economic opportunity, all the issues which are always thrown up to explain why some people feel the need to grab a gun and let it rip.  We really have no idea why the streets around Parkchester have become unsafe, and I’m not sure we even know how to figure it out.

Why Do Physicians Continue To Support The NRA?

              In 1927 a Belgian medievalist, Henri Pirenne, created an academic firestorm with the publication of an article which argued that the shift of Western Civilization away from the Mediterranean (Greece – Rome) to its modern locus in Northern Europe was due to the 7th-Century invasion by Islam into North Africa and Spain. His study provoked the publication of endless responses, revisions and refutations that probably accounted for an unknown number of academic promotions, tenures and teaching careers. When the whole controversy finally died down fifty years after it began, the center of Western Civilization was still located alongside the Île de France.

              I am reminded of Pirenne’s thesis whenever yet another pronouncement is issued calling for more research into the violence caused by guns, even though the formative research by Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara linking higher rates of suicide and homicide to guns in the home was published more than twenty-five years ago.

              The demand for more research has grown exponentially since Sandy Hook, just as the whole gun-control movement has spread outward following that terrible event. In April, 2015 eight national medical organizations published a ‘Call for Action,’ which demanded more “research to support strategies for reducing firearm-related injuries and deaths.” You can download this paper right here.

              Pursuant to that manifesto, three of the organizational signatories have produced their own calls for more research, agendas which allegedly reflect the various specialties which they bring to the issue of guns. I refer to pronouncements made by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) in 2016, the American College of Physicians (ACP) in 2018 and the American College of Surgeons (ACS), also in 2018.  You can download all three papers right here: ACEPACPACS.  Feel free to download the Kellerman-Rivara articles here and here.

              According to the ACEP, “high-quality firearm injury prevention research is needed.” Says the ACP, “More research is needed on firearm violence and on intervention and prevention strategies to reduce injuries caused by firearms.” Announces the ACS, “We recommend that research for firearm injury and firearm injury prevention must be federally funded at a level commensurate with the burden of the disease without restriction.”

              So there appears to be a consensus emerging within the medical community that a behavior which results in injuries to more than 125,000 Americans each year is a serious problem and that more research will help develop effective interventions to bring that number down.

              With all due respect to the 39 signatories of these pronouncements who hold MD degrees, what they have published are road maps to help them design and produce more studies to enhance their research careers. Thank you very much.

              The behavior which creates gun injuries is well known – pick up a loaded gun, aim it at yourself or someone else, pull the trigger and an injury occurs. It’s guaranteed to work every, single time. If any one of the 39 medical researchers believes this research to be inadequate, come to my gun shop, we’ll go downstairs to my range, I’ll give you a loaded gun, then you pull the trigger and let’s test the result. Sorry folks, this outcome is validated at least 350 times in America every, single day.

              Incidentally, these three medical groups – ACEP, ACS, ACP – donated nearly $250,000 to the 2016-2018 Congressional campaigns of the worst, most aggressive members of the House GOP caucus whose votes have been primarily responsible for the lack of gun-research funding which these organizations all claim to be their most worrisome concern. Have any of these researchers who are so committed to saving lives said one word about this egregious state of affairs? Not one peep. And these researchers want their concerns about gun violence to be taken seriously by anyone other than themselves? Are they serious? You can download this wall of shame right here. You can also read a new JAMA article which goes in greater detail about medical support for the NRA.

               The research on gun violence is clear: get rid of the guns. I say this as a bone-fide gun nut, not just as some doctor who happens to own or not own a few guns.

Gun Buybacks Work.

              Earlier this week the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill, HB1381, which earns those legislators this year’s award for the single, dumbest piece of legislation enacted anywhere in the United States. The bill not only outlaws taxpayer dollars from being used to fund gun buybacks, but also makes it a misdemeanor for any police agency to support a buyback.

              The supporters of the bill cited a study by Professor Scott Phillips, a former Houston cop who now teaches criminology at SUNY-Buffalo.  He published a paper in 2013 which basically said that gun buybacks don’t work. Why don’t they work?  Because in the city of Buffalo, where gun buybacks collected more than 3,000 guns in buybacks held between 2007 and 2012, rates of gun homicides, gun assaults and gun robberies showed no impact on reducing these crimes.

              Phillips concludes, “Gun buy-back programmes appear to satisfy a local administrator’s need for instant solutions to a problem, despite a lack of evidence demonstrating effectiveness as a violence reduction strategy. If we are to have a meaningful impact on crime,” he adds, “we must enact policies that are based on empirical evidence and not emotion.” Obviously, the North Dakota legislators voted with their heads, not their hearts, right?

              Wrong. Totally and completely wrong. So wrong that anyone who thinks that the value of a buyback can be reduced to a regression analysis comparing number of guns collected to number of gun crimes committed knows nothing either about guns or crimes committed with guns, or both.

              Take a city like Buffalo, where I once spent a lovely afternoon in Ralph Wilson Stadium (now called New Era Stadium) watching Bruce Smith totally demolish the Miami Dolphins offensive line. Last year, Erie County, a.k.a. Buffalo, had the highest gun homicide rate of any county in New York State. Know why there were so many shootings in Erie County? Nobody knows why, okay?  We can assume that one of the reasons for so much gun violence is that there are so many illegal guns floating around. How many illegal guns are floating around in Buffalo?  We have absolutely no idea. Not only don’t we know how many guns are floating around in the ‘wrong hands’ in Buffalo, we don’t know how many guns that might be used to commit a felonious assault are floating around anywhere else.

              If I wanted to do a study, for example, on the outcome of a smoking cessation campaign, I would simply compare the number of people smoking before the campaign started and after the campaign came to an end. But somehow this basic approach for designing a study on the effectiveness of gun buybacks disappears. The first measure of a gun buyback’s impact should be the degree to which the buyback reduced the number of guns. Without that measurement, comparing the numbers of guns taken off the street to the number of guns being used in the street is nothing more than an exercise in self-fulfilling statistical prophecy, or better said, self-fulfilling sophistry.

              I have been involved with a gun buyback program which is now in its 18th year. The program started in Worcester, MA and has now spread to 5 states. We conduct these buybacks in conjunction with Level 1 trauma centers in each state, the buyback sites staffed by medical students and physicians talking  directly to community residents who show up to get rid of their guns.

              What comes out of these interactions is the fact that the buyback gives people, without any threat of government intervention, the ability to decide for themselves whether a gun in their home represents a risk. Until and unless our culture begins to embrace the idea that guns constitute an unnecessary threat to safety, well-being and health, you can pass what Professor Phillips calls laws based on ‘empirical evidence’ and things won’t change worth a damn.

              To quote LaNyia Johnson, a young man who will spend his entire life in a wheelchair thanks to taking a bullet in the spine: “I wish you could have collected one more gun.”

Can We Be Non-Partisan About Guns?

              Last week I had a brief exchange with a reporter from The Trace, and I happened to notice a statement on the group’s website that raised my eyebrows an inch or two. The statement said that The Trace is an ‘independent, non-partisan, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to shining a light on America’s gun violence crisis.’ To be sure, the online journal must follow certain rules in order to hold, which it does, a tax-exempt status and operate on the basis of donations received from here and there. Their editorial independence is explained in an editorial which to my untutored eyes, appears to cover this issue as well.

              My problem is the reference to the word ‘non-partisan,’ which seems to crop up in many of the descriptions that organizations connected to Gun-control Nation use to explain their work. Now I always thought that the term had something to do with politics and basically means that the work of a particular individual or organization wasn’t being conducted for the purpose of promoting a particular political party, or a particular political position, or anything having to do with a specific political activity at all. Which is all fine and well except for one thing.

              How can anyone or any organization doing anything related to guns and gun violence claim to be working in a ‘non-partisan’ way?  Such a statement, with all due respect to the very good writing and research that often appears in The Trace, simply has no relationship to reality at all. In fact, I can’t think of a single issue which has become in every respect more partisan than gun violence over the last several years. And if the editors of The Trace actually believe that they are presenting ‘non-partisan’ content to their readers, I simply must assume that these editors don’t read what is published in this online journal every day. Here’s an example of what can only be described as a ‘partisan’ report.

The headline reads: The Unchecked Influence of NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer, and it’s a long story which appeared in The Trace in February of last year. The writing (by Mike Spies) is detailed, sources are identified and there are comments from both sides, including a quote from the Florida Congressman, Matt Gaetz, who gets the all-time award as the dumbest office-holder in the history of the Gunshine State.  But the subject of the story, Granny Hammer, refused to be interviewed, despite being described as bringing laws into existence “that have dramatically altered long-held American norms and legal principles,” including concealed-carry and stand your ground.

              Now let’s be honest, okay? Would The Trace have devoted several thousand words to a story about this old lady if what she was doing aligned with the journal’s mission to ‘shine a light on America’s gun violence crisis?’ The truth is that by even using the words ‘gun violence,’ The Trace is clearly demonstrating that it takes a very partisan position on the issue of guns. Don’t believe me? Listen to all those stupid videos on the NRA-ILA website and see if any of the talking heads promoting gun ‘rights’ use the expression ‘gun violence’ even once.

              Let me make it very clear that I am not in any way criticizing The Trace for what they say or what they don’t say.  They have a job to do and they do it well. And even though on occasion I publish correctives to what I consider to be their reportage which needs a more thorough look, I have never and will never raise the slightest concern about the basic value and legitimacy of their work. In fact, I think that after I post this column I’ll send them a hundred bucks.

              I just have a basic problem with my Gun-control Nation friends who bend over backwards to  appear even-handed to the other side. Gun violence is a partisan issue. Gun violence needs to be addressed in partisan terms. Shooting human beings is not the stuff of compromise, okay? It must come to an end.

P.S. I’m going to send this column to The Trace and if they choose to respond I’ll gladly print what they say.

Ban Assault Weapons in Florida Rocks!!

              I usually don’t get energetically involved in advocacy efforts of any kind, but there’s an effort just announced in Florida that deserves my support and your support as well.  I am referring to a group calling themselves Ban Assault Weapons NOW, which announced a petition drive to get an initiative on the 2020 Florida ballot that would amend the state Constitution and ultimately make Florida assault weapon rein.

              The effort has sparked the usual media coverage, some of which is inaccurate, some of which is simply dead wrong. So before I talk about whether getting rid of assault weapons will make a difference, let me just clarify what the proposed amendment would and wouldn’t do.  It doesn’t ban the ownership of assault weapons already in the Gunshine State. It does prohibit the sale or transfer of assault rifles into the state. And while Gun-nut Nation will no doubt do whatever it can do to prevent the initiative from getting on the ballot and/or becoming law, early polls indicate that, in fact, such a measure when put directly to the voters, might actually pass.

              The problem with this effort is, first of all, that collecting the required 766,000 signatures (the group has collected just short of 90,000) requires lots of cash, perhaps $5 million or more. That’s serious money, even considering that the group has access to some deep pockets, including Al Hoffman and several other real-estate biggies who announced their own gun-control effort last year.

              The other problem facing our friends pushing this Florida effort is the degree to which the whole issue of assault rifles has become something surrounded by more falsehoods than facts. Here’s a couple of the so-called facts about assault rifles which are nothing more than whole cloth:

  • The AR-15 isn’t an assault rifle because an assault rifle is a full-automatic weapon and the AR-15 only fired in semi-automatic mode. In fact, the current battle weapon carried by U.S. troops, the M4, can be set to fire in semi-automatic mode.
  • An assault rifle is no different from any other semi-automatic rifle, a design which hunters have been using for nearly a century in guns manufactured by Remington, Winchester, Browning, et. al. In fact, an assault rifle loads from a magazine inserted underneath the gun, which allows for magazine that hold upwards of 30-40 rounds. Traditional, semi-auto hunting rifles load from above the gun, which means their effective capacity is limited to 5 or 6 rounds.
  • The number of people killed and wounded by assault rifles each year adds a statistically-insignificant number to the 125,000+ Americans who shoot themselves or others with guns. Why prohibit law-abiding folks from owning a gun which has little or any responsibility for gun injuries that occur every year?

This last bubbe-mynsa deserves a paragraph all its own.The issue of assault weapons should never be considered in numeric terms – it goes far beyond that. After the massacre at Sandy Hook, the school building had to be torn down because its presence generated such terrible feelings of loss and anger for all town residents who drove or walked by. I understand that similar feelings exist amongst residents of Parkland and surrounding towns.

The point is that all gun violence creates both physical and psychic damage, but the latter injuries often go far beyond the families of gun-violence victims themselves. Newtown will never recover its sense of well-being and security following the terrible events at Sandy Hook. And the courts have long affirmed the notion that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in community safety precisely because we all want the place we live to be safe.

What the Florida initiative fundamentally represents is a community-wide effort to confront the gun industry over the lethality of its products, as well as to take issue with the nonsense promoted by Gun-nut Nation that we can all be secure and safe by just walking around with a gun.

I sent Ban Assault Weapons NOW a donation yesterday, they get another one today. And everyone who reads this column should chip in as well.  Here’s the link.