Can We Figure Out What To Do About Two Pandemics?

Yesterday my man Mike Hirsh sent me an editorial from The New York Times written by a physician in Philadelphia lamenting the lack of space and beds to treat COVID-19 victims because of the number of patients who show up to be treated for injuries from guns. And basically, the author, a critical-care doctor, was making the argument that as long as we continue to suffer from the pandemic known as gun violence, we won’t be able to deal with this new pandemic known as COVID-19.

I notice, incidentally, that Schmuck-o has stooped referring to COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese flu.’ He must be getting feedback from one of his focus groups that his usual messaging combining racism, stupidity, insults and bald face lies isn’t working out. Don’t worry. Give him another week to pretend he’s really acting like a President, and when that act doesn’t lift his ratings above Andy Cuomo, he’ll get back on the ‘blame the Chinese’ bandwagon again. Anyway.

The NYT editorial gave figures from our friends at the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) which apparently shows that over the month of March, fatal and non-fatal gun injuries haven’t really gone down. But over the last couple of days as I drove through what has always been a high-violence neighborhood in Springfield, MA I noticed the total lack of people walking around in the street. And since we know that most gun violence takes place in the street, perhaps the numbers from the GVA database hid more than they explained.

So I went to the GVA website and I read every, single account of any gun murder that occurred anywhere in the United States on April 1st, a day which saw 22 gun deaths, a fairly typical daily number in the last 30 days. I didn’t look at non-fatal shootings because as the GVA readily admits, those stories represent only a portion of the intentional shootings in which the shooter didn’t shoot straight. But since the CDC also has given up trying to figure out how many non-fatal, intentional injuries are committed with guns, why should I expect the GVA to be able to come up with a more number?  I don’t. Back to the murders.

On April 1st the media and other public sources contained stories about 22 fatal gun events. Of these incidents, two of them were cops shooting civilians, and two others were homicides-suicides in which the guy first shot his wife and then shot himself. In one case both of them died, in the other the wife was wounded but still alive, the husband had no trouble aiming the gun accurately at himself.

So the actual number of intentional gun deaths yesterday found by the GVA was 18, most of which, incidentally, occurred in places where most fatal gun assaults take place: one in Chicago, one in Detroit, one in Da Bronx, almost all the rest in the Southern states. Not a single gun death occurred out West, either in California or Nevada, states that usually claim a goodly amount of gun violence from day to day.

Multiply 18 intentional gun deaths – one person shooting another – by 365 days and you get less than half as many deaths that have occurred each year over the last couple of years. Incidentally, over the entire month of March, the GVA says that 18 intentional gun deaths occurred in Philadelphia. This is twice as many gun suicides on a yearly basis as Philly recorded in all of 2017.  Of course the whole social distancing thing didn’t really get going until about a week ago, which is why I looked at specific gun homicides in Philadelphia only on April 1st.

Does anyone really know how to prevent COVID-19 from going around? Does anyone really know how to prevent people from picking up guns and shooting themselves or someone else? At least in the case of the ‘Chinese flu’ there seems to be some effort to figure the problem out. But you would think that since the gun violence pandemic has been around for God knows how long that we might have figured that one out too.

You would think.

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Khalil Spencer: Did You Buy A Gun This Week?

Sunday’s Santa Fe New Mexican reported a run on guns and ammo at the Outdoorsman of Santa Fe. Apparently this is not unusual right now and is happening elsewhere in the state, in part due to news that the Albuquerque City Council will vote on a proposed expansion of emergency powers to shutter gun shops. Whether that happens, and whether it is lawful, is beside the point. That, along with all of the other uncertainty and worry going on due to COVID-19 is resulting in a mad buying binge. But we don’t need a buying binge right now. We need a caring binge.

As far as Santa Fe as reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Daniel Chacon:

“That rack is usually full of basic pump-action shotguns — all gone,” salesman Jay Winton said last week as he pointed to an empty rack in the store at DeVargas Center. “People … want to defend their home from the ravening hordes that they’re convinced are coming, so we’re selling lots of ammunition, lots of firearms.”
But at times like these, its perhaps best to remember Franklin Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address:

“…So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days…”
But really. If you bought a gun, or are considering buying one right now, consider the following:

1. The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed more people than World War I and about a half percent of the U.S. population. We persevered.
2. The Great Depression unemployment rate peaked at 25%. We persevered.
3. Do you know how to use that gun in a crisis when a few seconds count? Do you know Jeff Cooper’s Four Rules? Do you know the laws of the use of deadly force? Do you know how to store a firearm safely, esp. if there are kids around? If you are a first time firearm owner, do you know where to sign up for a gun safety class before you put a round in the chamber?  If you are unsure of any of these questions, lock that gun up until you can pass my quiz with an “A”. You are more of a hazard to yourself and others than a resource.
“Bullets don’t have a reverse gear”  -Me
We cannot shoot a virus. We can only shoot each other and quite possibly, live the rest of our lives  with the knowlege of having made a fatal mistake. We need to help each other and find common cause in working through this pandemic rather than fearfully arming up against hypothetical “ravening hordes” or collapses of civilization that will only happen if we as a people affirmatively make it happen.

So if you have a few  hundred bucks to burn, perhaps its a better idea to donate it to the Red Cross, the food bankSanta Fe Community Fund, or some organization trying to raise funds for COVID-19 test kits or ventilators. Yesterday we bought water containers and distilled/deionized water and delivered same to a close and elderly friend with serious medical conditions who has some medical contraption that needs DI water to function. She is, as she said to us, “one of the people for whom a COVID diagnosis would likely be a death sentence”.

Stop and think. Look around you. As FDR so beautifully said, we have nothing to fear…but fear itself.

Disclaimer: I am on the Board of Directors of the Los Alamos Sportsman’s Club. These are not club views or Board views but my views alone.

Let’s Hope That Doctors Do A Better Job Of Dealing With COVID-19 Than They Have Done With Gun Violence.

              In this Plague Year all I can hope is that my friends in the medical community will do a better job of dealing with the current COVID-19 epidemic than they have done with the gun-violence epidemic that was first studied and defined in science-based medical studies published back in 1992 and 1993. I am referring to the studies by our friends Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara who found that access to a gun in the home was the cause of high rates of gun violence defined as fatal injuries, i.e., suicide and homicide.

              The death toll from intentional shootings since that research appeared is edging its way towards the million mark; in other words, somewhere around an average of 36,000 per year, maybe a few more. As of March 15, there have been 62 COVID-19 deaths reported in the United States, with the first fatality being registered as of February 24th. That’s 2 deaths a day, chump change compared to 100 intentional gun deaths that occur over the same period of time.

              How can a medical epidemic go on for at least twenty-five years and not only remain out of control but appear to be getting worse over the last several years?  Today the jerk in the White House said he believed we would have the virus contained by Summer at the worst. What do you think would have happened to the Dow Jones if Sleazy Don had gotten up and said that 30,000 people would die from the virus every year until 2045?

              I was hardly surprised when the gun industry reacted so violently to the research published by Kellerman and Rivara; after all, they were basically saying that a legal consumer product was too dangerous to be sold except perhaps under the strictest of conditions. At the very least, their research was an invitation for the government to regulate guns, and if you can show me any industry that wants to be regulated, I’ll show you an industry that doesn’t exist.

              On the other hand, I was not only surprised but indeed am shocked and dismayed at the manner in which the medical community has reacted to the Kellerman-Rivara evidence, both then and now. Because the response of medical organizations to the indisputable fact that access to a gun creates a medical risk which causes between 35,000 and 40,000 fatalities each year, has been to promote a mitigation strategy which doesn’t impact the incidence of the gun-violence epidemic at all.

              This strategy, now referred to as ‘consensus-based,’ says that physicians should tell their gun-owning patients that the risk of firearm ownership can be reduced by locking their guns away or locking them up. But the Kellerman-Rivara research did not (read: not) differentiate risk levels based on secured versus unsecured guns. Thus, the attempt by the medical community to find some middle path between owning versus not owning guns, flies in the face of what the evidence-based research actually shows.

              Not only does the medical community promote a response to the gun-violence epidemic that is contrary to accepted research, they go further and actually promote the spread of this epidemic by donating millions of dollars to the campaigns of Congressional members who describe themselves as being the foremost defenders of the ‘right’ to bear arms.  When I asked a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians why she had never spoken out against the fact that her organization (which gave her an award last year for her efforts to promote gun control) had donated more than $5 million to the campaigns of pro-NRA politicians since the Kellerman-Rivara articles appeared, she said: “Change takes time.”

              How much time do you need?  Twenty-eight years isn’t enough?

              It took me two days to research and write this column. During that time roughly 7 more people have evidently died from COVID-19. Know how many Americans have died from the gun-violence plague during those same two days?  Try two hundred, give or take a few.

What’s Wrong With Armed, Self-Defense?

              When I got into the gun business back in the 1960’s, if you wanted to buy a handgun, you bought a Smith & Wesson, a Ruger or a Colt. If you wanted a shotgun, you chose from Remington, Winchester, Mossberg or maybe Ithaca Arms. And if you needed a rifle to go out after a white tail, it was a Remington 700, a Winchester Model 70, a Savage, a Marlin or maybe you went high end with a Browning or a Weatherby just for kicks.

              That was then, this is now. And thanks to the invasion of polymer into gun manufacturing, which completely obliterated the distinctive finish and design of each brand, the only thing which determines what gun goes across the counter in the dealer’s shop is price. If you walked around a gun factory in the olden days, you saw a whole bunch of craft shops operating under one roof. Now what you see is one guy sitting in front of a computer, locking a trigger, hammer and barrel assembly into a frame, then carrying the gun from the finishing room into the range where someone shoots it two or three times and it’s good to go.

              Yesterday I received the monthly sales sheet from one of the national gun wholesalers, and I didn’t recognize the name of one company producing a gun being sold to retailers by this distributor at a ‘bargain’ price.  Ever hear of a gun company called TriStar? How about an outfit called Canik? Maybe instead of a name-brand assault rifle like Bushmaster you’d rather buy an AR receiver from Aero Precision, Anderson Manufacturing or a company called Spike’s.

              In all the hue and cry coming from Gun-control Nation, I have never understood why guns are the only consumer products which somehow escape being regulated both in terms of safety and use. Oh no, you say – we can’t regulate the gun industry thanks to the PLCAA law the gun industry received as a gift from George W. Bush in 2005. But as David Kopel has pointed out (and Kopel is no friend of the gun grabbers), PLCCA does not shield the gun industry from any liability if someone uses a gun in a ‘lawful’ way and injures someone else. In other words, after I pull out my Glock and shoot you in the head, I still have done nothing wrong if I can just convince the cops that I was protecting myself from a threat.

              This idea that we should all be carrying guns to protect ourselves has a long and storied history in the United States, going back to when we were still a bunch of colonies operating under British Common Law. But Common Law doesn’t recognize the use of violence to prevent violence unless you happen to be wearing a Crown on your head. And the idea that ‘stand your ground’ laws reflect how White men stole land away from indigenous tribes is total nonsense because White men stole millions of square miles from indigenous peoples in Australia and South Africa and neither country has ever promulgated a ‘stand your ground’ law.

              I am still waiting for the very first attempt by all my public-health researcher friends to explain how and why a majority of Americans believe that keeping a gun around is the best way to defend themselves from crime. As of last year, Gallup says that 37% of American homes contain a gun.  Meanwhile, a majority of Americans also told Gallup they believed the country would be a safer place if more people were walking around with guns. Think the NRA is the reason why even many non-gun owners believe in armed, self-defense? It’s the other way around.

              This country has a unique love affair with small arms, and I’m in the process of writing a book that will attempt to explain it but don’t hold your breath. I don’t even really understand why I’m a gun nut, so how could I possibly figure out anyone else?

When Are We Really Going To Start Talking About Gun Violence?

Last week I wrote a column raising concerns about the so-called ‘consensus-based’ approach to gun violence being promoted by physicians and public health researchers, many of whom seem to be convinced that as long as they claim to ‘respect’ the 2nd Amendment, that Gun-nut Nation will be more amenable to support all those ’reasonable’ gun laws, one such law having just been blocked by the Virginia State Senate.

This idea of not being opposed to the 2nd Amendment is a riff on another idea which started to appear in the medical literature when doctors began talking about counseling patients who own guns, the riff being the importance of ‘respecting’ the ‘culture’ of people who own guns. Here’s a sample of this approach from several of our most dedicated and respected gun-violence researchers:  ”The provider’s attitude is critical. Patients are more open to firearm safety counseling when providers are not prescriptive but focus on well-being and safety—especially where children are concerned—and involve the family in respectful discussions. Conversations should acknowledge local cultural norms; be individualized; and, when possible, occur within a well-established clinician–patient relationship.”

Given the fact that most physicians aren’t gun owners themselves, exactly how should these clinicians gain the knowledge they need in order to counsel about guns while taking care not to make negative judgements about ‘local cultural norms?’ The only peer-reviewed resource which attempts to define the cultural ‘norms’ associated with gun ownership is the research published by our friend Bindu Kalesan, who asked 4,000 respondents to report on the degree to which their social activities were in some way or another connected to their ownership of guns. What she found was that roughly one-third of the gun owners reported some degree of social contact with other gun owners.

Based on this research, should physicians assume that a patient who owns guns may also feel somehow identified with the social activities that revolve around gun ownership and gun use; i.e., shooting range visits, hanging around a gun shop, joining a gun club? Sounds fair to me.

There’s only one little problem. What do all these social activities involving guns have to do with reducing gun violence? Nothing. Why do I say nothing? Because the guys who go to the shooting range to sight in their beloved shotgun before hunting season, or the guys who stop off at the gun shop to play around with the latest toys on display, or the guys wandering around the gun show munching on a donut because the wife doesn’t need the grass cut or the driveway cleared that weekend, aren’t the folks whose behavior or culture or whatever you want to call it creates 85% of the injuries that we define as ‘gun violence’ each year.

That’s right. Assuming that intentional, non-fatal gun injuries run around 75,000 – 80,000 a year, add that number to the 15,000 fatal intentional gun injuries in 2017, and divide it by that number plus the 20,000 suicides.  Sorry, it’s only 83%. Of course, we know that all this mayhem is created by legal gun owners, right? Yea, right.

The public health ‘threat’ known as gun violence happens to be the handiwork of young men, most of whom live in inner-city neighborhoods and start fooling around with guns by the time they are 14 years old. And by the way, these are also the kids who have overwhelmingly dropped out of school, even though school attendance is never (read: never) used as an indicator of gun risk by all my friends doing all that public health research designed to ‘inform’ policy-makers about the efficacy of various ‘reasonable’ gun laws.

Want to sample gun culture?  Try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZGJcV19gRw. After you watch it, watch it again. Then talk to me about how we need to ‘respect’ the culture of gun owners, okay?

What I am saying is simply this: Either we begin to talk realistically about the causes of gun violence or we don’t. Right now, we don’t.

Join Americans Against Gun Violence.

              Before I begin this column, I need to make it clear that I am not an advocate for either side in the gun debate. The fact that I agree and promote many gun-control strategies doesn’t make me a hostage of Mike Bloomberg, nor am I a stooge for the NRA jut because I have been a member of the organization since I was eleven years old. On the other hand, when I discover an organizational development that fits my perspective for what to do about gun violence, I’m not going to hold back.

              And what I recently discovered was an organization, Americans Against Gun Violence, started by a retired ER doctor in California, Bill Durston, who just happens to be a former Marine decorated for ‘courage under fire’ during the Viet Nam war. Bill started his group because he would like to see ‘definitive action’ taken against gun violence, and while he and his members support the ‘reasonable’ public measures being advocated by other organizations – background checks, red-flag laws, blah, blah, blah and blah, this group also has a much different agenda.

              To put it bluntly: what Bill and his folks say is that we will reduce gun violence by doing the same thing that every other advanced country has done; namely, create a national database of gun ownership and initiate ‘definitive’ (i.e., severely restrictive) policies, such as banning assault rifles, creating a national gun database – exactly the kinds of policies which everyone knows will reduce gun violence but are policies usually considered too unyielding to be bought by the gun-owning crowd.

              Where Dunston’s group departs from the accepted, gun-control narrative can be found in their response to the very first question under the FAQ tab: “Should law-abiding people own guns for self-protection?” Answer: “In general, no.” They don’t say that people should be walking around with guns after they have been ‘trained.’ They don’t say that everyone has a ‘right’ to keep a gun for self-protection because of what my late friend Tony Scalia said in 2008. They say – no. Which makes this group the only gun-control group that is willing to take an entirely uncompromising position with Gun-nut Nation over the issue of using a gun for personal defense.

              I started writing about gun violence when I got sick and tired of the gun industry trying to maintain full employment in their factories by promoting the nonsense about how everyone would be more safe and secure if they walked around with a gun. And to make sure that the gun industry wouldn’t be accused of promoting unsafe behavior, they got the NRA to ramp up their training program which now focuses on what the boys in Fairfax call ‘Basic Shooting Pistol,’ a course that prepares someone to use a pistol in self-defense with the same degree of proficiency they would get if they took a lesson from Leonard Mermelstein, who happens to be my cat.

              If the NRA would promote what I consider to be the proper use of guns; i.e., hunting and sport shooting, they’d get no argument from me. But pretending that the only difference between a video shooting game and a live gun is that you have to pass a background check to spend money on the latter, is to foist a marketing scheme on current and would-be gun owners that is completely and totally wrong. Not just wrong, but unsafe to the extreme.

              Unfortunately, most of the gun-control organizations, along with their friends in medicine and public health, find one way or another to somehow avoid taking this direct and no-nonsense approach. Which is why I find the intentions and efforts of Americans Against Gun Violence to be commendable in every respect and I urge you to do what I have just done.

              Which is to join up, send them a donation and help keep them in the game.

Gun Violence: The Enduring Debate

              Back in the 1930’s, a Belgian medievalist and archivist, Henri Pirenne, began publishing a series of articles which tried to provide an answer to the basic issue of Western history: Why did Western Civilization, which had emerged and been rooted in the Mediterranean (Greece, Rome) suddenly turn its back on ‘mare nostrum,’ moved inland and to the North? When the Pope travelled to Paris in 800 A.D. to crown Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor, a new chapter in the entire history of Western Civilization opened up.

              These articles, which came to be known as the ‘Pirenne thesis’ provoked a thirty-year debate among historians which probably accounted for more doctoral dissertations, publishing credits and tenure appointments than any other subject in the entire universe of historical research.  The debate ended not because anyone came up with a definitive explanation of why this transition occurred, but because with the emergence of more sensitivity to the growth and importance of national states in China, Latin America and Africa, the whole notion of ‘civilization’ fell into disuse.

              I have been following the gun debate for more than twenty years, and it is reminding of the debate about the ‘Pirenne thesis’ more and more. On the one side we have public health research, beginning with formative articles by Kellerman, Rivara, et. al., which ‘prove’ that access to guns increases injury (suicide, homicide) risk. On the other hand, we have criminologists like Kleck and Lott, claiming that guns represent a benefit (protection from crime) that far outweighs any risk.

              There are all kinds of ways in which these two, basic arguments have spawned various subsidiary discussions and debates.  On the one hand we have endless attempts to figure out whether some gun regulations are more effective than others in reducing gun violence. On the other hand, we have the continued academic drumbeat about how guns not only provide an extra margin of safety, but also fulfill the basic Constitutional guarantee known as 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

              Meanwhile, the debate drags on seemingly independent of the fact that gun injuries are not only endemic to American society, but as of late appear to be going up. For twenty years or so, the pro-gun gang could claim that while more guns were being sold every year, shootings were going down. Unfortunately, since 2014, the annual rate of intentional gun injury has increased by nearly 15 percent. Oh well, another good argument bites the dust.

              For that matter, it’s not as if my friends in Gun-control Nation have fared all that much better with their attempts to explain the value of what they want to do.  What’s the Number One item on the gun-control agenda?  Universal background checks. These checks happen to be effective in eleven states. Which of these eleven states have experienced an increase in gun violence since 2014?  Every, single one.

              What I am beginning to wonder is whether we need to step back from this debate and refer again to what finally brought the argument about the ‘Pirenne thesis’ to an end; namely, looking at the way in which we define gun violence pari passu, which is a fancy way of saying, in and of itself. Because it seems to me that behind the argumnts on both sides is a basic assumption about the use of violence; i.e., that it can be a good or bad thing.

              When Gun-nut Nation promotes gun ownership for protection against crime, they are basically saying that if someone attacks someone else, the deservey to get shot – the shooter is doing a good thing for himself, for his family, for society, blah, blah, blah and blah. Conversely, when gun-control advocates decry the 125,000 injuries we suffer from guns every year, aren’t they basically saying that any kind of violence caused by a gun is bad?

              At some point either we agree whether violence is a good thing or not. Until we figure that one out, the argument about guns is just a more contemporary version of the argument initially provoked by Henri Pirenne.

A New Plan For Ending Gun Violence.

              Some of our friends in the surgery and public health departments of the University of Massachusetts Medical School have just published an important editorial about gun violence asking whether we can do for gun violence what has recently been done for vaping and e-cigarettes. What they basically argue is that the 4-month ban on these products enacted in Massachusetts, a move that is apparently spreading to other states, creates a template for how we should be dealing with another threat to public health, namely, the threat posed by gun violence.

              The authors of this well-reasoned piece point out that as of October 8, 2019 vaping products were responsible for the deaths of at least 26 young persons, with more than 1,200 hospitalizations as well.  On the other hand, what thy refer to as the ‘epidemic’ of gun violence claimed nearly 40,000 lives in 2017, even though we have identified the agent which causes the problem (the gun) and we have developed “proven means” to reduce this particular health threat.

              The editorial calls for a “temporary ban on the future sale of guns and assault rifles in the United States while we more systematically study gun safety,”  a rather novel idea for dealing with gun violence which copies the temporary ban on vaping products going into effect in Massachusetts and possibly other states.

              With all due respect to the co-authors of this editorial (in the interests of full disclosure, as they say, I should state that one of the authors, Dr. Michael Hirsh, co-directs with me the Wood Foundation which sponsors multi-city gun buybacks every year) I would like very much to know exactly what means have been proven to reduce gun violence, because such means certainly haven’t been put into effect.  In 1999, the national gun-violence rate was 9.89. It bounced around until 2011 and has been steadily climbing ever since. It was at 11.69 in 2017, and if the open-source reports used by the Gun Violence Archive are at all reliable, the last several years have certainly not seen any decline in gun violence rates at all.

              But the purpose of this column is not to nit-pick this word or that word with the authors of what is really a strong and commendable editorial on moving forward with some kind of serious gun-violence reduction plan. Rather, I want to address a much more fundamental issue which arises from the idea that we find ourselves in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence, a perspective which is shared by virtually all the researchers and advocacy groups dealing with this problem today.

              When we use the word ‘epidemic,’ we usually refer to a medical problem which arises without warning, often for reasons that initially we do not understand, and requires a comprehensive effort to both cure the victims of the disease as well as to protect populations which have  not yet been infected by the threat. This was exactly how the public health community responded in 2014-2016 to Ebola, which ended up infecting 28,000 and killing roughly 11,000 people in West Africa but was contained almost wholly within that  geographic zone.

              The United States isn’t suffering from an epidemic of gun violence. We are suffering from a threat to health which is endemic to certain locations and certain populations within the United States. Not only does gun violence occur virtually every day in certain, clearly-identified locales involving clearly-identified populations, but this medical threat has been going on in these same locations for what is now a century or more.  All fine and well that public health has discovered the existence of this problem since Columbine and Sandy Hook. It’s hardly new news to residents of cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis and Detroit.

              Sorry Thomas Abt, you don’t end gun violence by going into the ghetto, planting trees and cutting the grass. You get rid of gun violence by getting rid of the guns that are used to commit gun violence.

              This still needs to be said?

Run Mike, Run.

So this morning I started off 2020 by taking a look at Mike’s website and volunteering to help his campaign. I’ll get into the reasons why I am supporting him below (actually it’s one reason) but before that, I took a look at what he has to say about guns. After all, if Trump’s the first President to fashion an entire political image around his so-called support of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ so Mike’s the first Presidential candidate who has made a national name for himself by trying to do something about the violence caused by guns.

And in case you slept through the 2018 Congressional campaign, there may be a whole bunch of first-time members of Congress who owe their seats to the money they received from Mike, along with millions of dollars he put up to support gun-control initiatives in various states. And let’s not forget that he also has been instrumental in helping our friend Shannon build the first, truly grass-roots organization which fights the good fight against guns. But back to his 2020 campaign.

Mike has a whole section on the website devoted to his plan for controlling guns. To his credit, there isn’t a single word on his website about supporting the 2nd Amendment. He isn’t pandering to Gun-nut Nation by talking about ‘sensible’ gun laws, a la Liz Warren, or ‘respecting’ the 2nd Amendment, which is what Joe says on his site. I really wish the Democrats would stop pretending that anyone believes them when they say how much the 2nd Amendment can somehow co-exist alongside ‘reasonable’ gun laws. Give me a friggin’ break, okay?

Mike’s plan to deal with gun violence is basically to apply the same gun laws throughout the United States that have existed in New York City since 1912; i.e., the strict licensing of all guns which requires a permit prior to every purchase along with registration of all guns.

There’s only one little problem with this approach, however. And the problem happens to be the fact that while New York City now has a remarkably low level of gun violence, a trend that started under Rudy’s administration, accelerated under Mike but now have jumped up again under Bill, the city’s gun laws haven’t changed one bit no matter who is in charge, except that Mike did increase the licensing fees.

Why did gun violence decline so much in New York after it rose to epidemic proportions in 1993? Nobody really knows, except that the downward trend in the Big Apple occurred in virtually every large city throughout the United States. And endless books, articles and hot-air to the contrary, we don’t really know why that happened either, for that matter. All we know is that it did.

So I’m not going to bat for Mike because of his stance on guns. I’m going to support him because I believe, with all due respect to my friend Joe, that Mike has the best chance to beat Trump. And I further believe that in order to beat sh*t-head Trump or sleazy Don or whatever you want to call him, Mike just has to do one thing:

When the time is right Mike, just release your tax returns and that will be the end of that.

Have a great 2020 everyone!

Reduce Gun Violence By Regulating Gun Dealers. What Else Is New?

              Last week a lawsuit that was filed in Chicago in 2018 was given the green light to proceed in the Federal courts which could possibly provide a new and different approach to reducing gun violence beyond what has now become a rather hackneyed and useless argument about how gun violence is a ‘public health threat.’

              The suit names the Governor of Illinois and the Illinois State Police as defendants. It claims they are violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) because gun violence in Chicago creates emotional trauma that is responsible for ‘trauma-related disabilities’ in children, chief among them being cognitive and emotional functions which control learning and the ability to communicate properly with other kids. It’s a class-action suit brought by the mother of a 9-year old boy who saw his father gunned down in the street, and includes many other children living in what can only be described as Chicago’s war zone; i.e., the neighborhoods that have seen over 500 murders this year alone.

              The suit names the Governor and the State Police as defendants because it argues that the gun violence which violates the ADA is the result of lax enforcement of the laws that cover the behavior of gun retailers around Chicago, thus resulting in guns that are first sold legally but then trafficked illegally into the neighborhoods where so many shootings take place. The suit lists 11 remedies that should be instituted in licensed gun shops, including the installation of video systems, inventory audits and more training of store personnel.

              This lawsuit builds on a state law, ‘Combating Illegal Gun Trafficking Act,’ which took effect at the beginning of this year and requires all gun dealers in Illinois to install security systems, keep more comprehensive records of sales and submit to annual inventory audits, as well as only hiring staff who are licensed to own guns. The lawsuit basically claims that the state government and the state police have been lax in enforcing this new law, the proof cited is the extraordinary level of gun violence on the Windy City’s streets.

              The problem with this lawsuit is that it assumes a causal connection between how well the government fulfills its regulatory responsibilities as listed in the law which took effect at the beginning of this year and the level of gun violence which occurs on the West Side and South Side of Chicago every day. In other words, if gun violence continues at its current horrific pace, this must be somehow tied to lax enforcement of the new law. The lawsuit cites data which shows that 40% of the ‘crime guns’ picked up by the Chicago P.D. were first purchased in gun shops located in suburbs around the city; hence, with stronger enforcement this flow of guns into high-crime neighborhoods would go down.

              Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. Like so many other laws which seek to prevent a specific commodity from reaching a specific market, the Illinois gun dealer law doesn’t take into account the issue of demand. And as governments have discovered since the sixteenth century when the Valois Monarchy tried to regulate the commerce of salt, if people want something badly enough, they’ll find a way to get around any law which tries to control supply.

              This is the reason that I refer above to the ‘hackneyed’ arguments about gun violence being bandied about by my friends in public health. Because again and again I hear the gun-control community demanding that we enact stronger laws to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ But what if the size of the wrong-handed population keeps going up?

              As long as songs like ‘Bullets Ain’t Got No Name’ are best-sellers on the hip-hop charts, the idea that guns will somehow disappear from high-violence neighborhoods because we pass another regulation is not only a joke, but demonstrates just how far away from reality the discussion about gun violence has moved.

              Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of the you-know-whats, okay?