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The NRA Tilts Loony Right Or Nobody Will Buy Guns.

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I received an email yesterday from someone who read my Huffington column on the NRA and white supremacists and he wanted to know why the NRA leadership continues to tilt further and further not just to the Right, but to the loony Right. And a quick glance at the latest FBI-NICS background checks might contain an answer that both he and the gun violence prevention (GVP) community should consider with interest and care.

wayne             While obviously background checks can’t give totals for all transfers of guns, what they can give is an indication of the trend of new guns coming into the market each year. And when all is said and done, this is really the most important number which needs to be followed because there is simply no getting away from the fact that the more guns out there, the more people get hurt with guns. And please, please don’t send me an email telling me that it’s bot the gun, it’s the person holding the gun, okay?

Back in March, some gun-sellers were reporting that sales were still strong, others said sales were off – it was a mixed bag and nobody was sure which way the gun market would eventually go. But that was March and this is now August, and if this month turns out to be as lousy as last month, the fall-off in demand for guns may turn out to be much worse than even the most pessimistic analysts have projected to date.

For July 2016, the FBI-NICS phone bank racked up 1,143,824 calls covering gun transfers, including 628,725 handgun transfers, which from the perspective of gun violence is the most important category of all. Last month, July 2017, the total gun transfer number was 845,007, with handguns comprising 480,124 of the total calls. That’s a month-to-month drop of 26%, with handguns sales dropping slightly less by 24%.

Historically, July and August are always the slowest months in the gun business because despite the necessity to always have that gun around to protect yourself from thugs, terrorists and God knows what else, guns just can’t compete with the beach. Which is why a same-month comparison from one year to the next is a potent indicator of the overall health and outlook of the industry as a whole.

Let’s take a somewhat longer view.  From January 1, 2016 through July 31, 2016 the FBI rang up 4,712,334 calls for background checks on handguns; for the same period in 2017 the total was 4,257,132, a decline of roughly 10%. As for long guns, the slippage was also 10%, from 2,913,489 to 2,607,137. In the last two months, the drop in handguns sales year-to-year was nearly 20%.

If the more recent trends continue, the bloom is not only off the rose, the whole rose bush might be starting to dry up and wither away. Which means that not only will revenues within the gun industry collapse, but revenues for gun organizations like the NRA will also begin to decline.

The little secret which the NRA doesn’t want you to know is that for all their recent forays into television and video, the truth is that most people come into contact with America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ only when they walk into a place that sells guns. Ask yourself this question: ever seen an advertisement or logo for the NRA in the local convenience store, Walmart or CVS?

The problem for the NRA is simply this: in order to augment or even maintain their financial base the only thing that really works is to keep people buying guns. They can peddle concealed-carry insurance or holsters that fit inside bras or t-shirts which proclaim your 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ but nobody’s going to buy any of that crap unless they already own a gun. And how do you get more people to buy guns when no matter what you say, a gun simply doesn’t represent a necessary part of everyday existence like your car keys or your droid?

The Violence Policy Center Expands An Important Report.

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Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) have been tracking gun violence committed by gun owners with concealed-carry permits (CCW) and you can view the data on a website that breaks down the numbers on a state-by-state basis since 2007. The information is informative but not definitive, for the simple reason that there is no requirement in any state which makes cops or coroners list whether a shooter was in possession of CCW or not. So we can assume that the 1,082 people who have been killed by CCW-holders in the last 10 years represents a rough estimate, at best, of the actual number of individuals whose lives ended at the hands of someone legally allowed to walk around with a gun.

VPC logo             It should be noted that 37% of the victims (400 of 1,082) of CCW-holders happened to have shot themselves to death, i.e., these were legally-armed individuals who killed themselves with their gun. The VPC has come in for its share of criticism for bunching suicides and homicides together, but the critics might take the trouble to look at the definition of violence used by the WHO, namely, an intentional attempt to injure oneself or someone else. And of course the fact that someone keeps a legally-owned gun in their home only increases the possibility of suicide, but since when did Gun-nut Nation ever care about risk?

The VPC is now expanding their study of CCW-holders who commit gun violence by posting weekly updates on events that highlight the risks posed by walking around with a gun. The first incident occurred in a small town outside of Sheboygan, WI, when two cousins got into an argument over money, one of them pulled out a gun for which he had a concealed-carry permit, got off 13 shots and two men ended up dead. The second incident took place in Allegheny County, PA, where two co-workers got into it during their night-time shift, went out into the parking lot to continue the argument, one pulled out his 9mm banger and that was the end of that.

The NRA is so convinced that we all should be walking around armed that they even have trademarked the phrase, ‘The Armed Citizen,’ and run a website inviting people to send them reports of armed citizens who used their guns to protect themselves and everyone else. Until recently, this website never captured more than 100 such events in any given year, but I notice that the monthly number of defensive gun use (DGU) now seems to be running about 25 per month, a much more aggressive listing process which I suspect is directly tied to the new concealed-carry insurance which the NRA is trying to peddle here and there.

Let’s say for sake of argument that armed citizens protect themselves or others from serious crime 500 times a year, or even 50,000 times. Recent research pegs the annual DGU number at somewhere around 70,000, but this number includes all the times in which the gun was brandished but not actually used.

On the other hand, the 20,000+ people who kill themselves each year with a gun don’t end their lives by waving the gun around. They use the gun very effectively because more than 80% of all gun suicide attempts end with a life being lost; no other kind of suicide attempt is successful more than 60% of the time.

I don’t believe the Violence Policy Center should be at all defensive about drawing attention to the fact that any time a life ends because someone pulled the trigger of a gun, that such an episode should be considered anything other than gun violence event. The fact that we do not possess an effective screening process for determining gun access based on someone’s propensity to hurt themselves doesn’t alter in any way the basic reason for owning a gun. And if you believe that guns were designed to do anything other than cause injury, you might want to camp outside Area 51 and wait for the Martians to land.

 

The NRA dodges a big bullet in Charlottesville.

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Now that the President of the United States has finally discovered something known as racism, we can all sit back confident that the violence in Charlottesville will be addressed. But the folks breathing a deep sigh of relief aren’t the few remaining Establishment Republicans who giving Trump ‘one more chance.’ It’s our friends in Fairfax, a.k.a., the NRA. Anyone who believes there’s no connection between the resurgence of far-right activity and recent NRA messaging shares a brain with my mother-in-law, and she’s been in the cemetery for more than ten years. How has the NRA aligned itself with the alt-right, alt-white crowd? On the issue of terrorism, in particular terrorist violence within our own midst.

charAccording to what we know about this jerk James Fields so far, this 20-year old graduated high school, was briefly in the Army but washed out of basic training and sent home. If he had a job, it didn’t interfere with the time he needed to drive from Ohio to Charlottesville at some point before the attack occurred.

But what if instead of using his car to attack the crowd, our young white supremacist had pulled out a gun, let’s say a Glock like the type Jared Loughner used to shoot Gabby Giffords and nineteen others in Tucson or the AR-15 that Adam Lanza used to mow down 26 adults and school kids at Sandy Hook?  Trump or no Trump, I suspect the public reaction would have been intense because the death toll probably would have been much higher than just 32-year Heather Heyer who associates and friends described as being committed to equality and ‘very strong.’ I can just see Trump getting back up there and blustering about supporting 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’ Yea, right.

The NRA has been promoting the idea of armed citizens for a long time, but what was initially a strategy based on the idea of using a gun for protection against crime has now morphed into a more generic argument about the value of carrying a firearm in response to the threat of a terrorist attack. At the 2015 annual meeting, Wayne-o Lapierre told the faithful that ‘terror cells’ were operating in all major American cities and a major terrorist attack was soon going to take place. He’s recently honed the message a bit in order to take pot-shots at the continued resistance to his buddy Donald Trump; now Wayne-o claims the biggest threat is from something called the ‘leftist movement’ which is ‘angry, militant and willing to engage in criminal violence to get what they want.’

But it wasn’t a member of this militant antifa who committed the horrendous act of violence in Charlottesville, it was someone who identified with the alt-right, alt-white groups who are one hundred percent behind Trump’s efforts to make America great. In fact, a number of the neo-Nazis were wearing red MAGA hats during the Charlottesville march, no doubt they bought them for $2.26 (marked down from $3.33) on eBay, free shipping when you buy.

In his recent remarks about left-wing violence and terrorism that I quoted above, Wayne-o mentioned that ‘multiple police officers’ were hospitalized during the Inauguration because of injuries suffered at the hands of the left-wing mob. It turns out that all four officers were treated and released; two were hit by ‘something’ thrown from the crowd, a third was because he fell off his bicycle and the fourth because another cop sprated him with mace. Want to compare those injuries to what James Fields did with his car?

The last thing I would like to see is one of those white supremacists taking the NRA at its word and going out gunning after members of a ‘terrorist cell.’ But if Wayne-o keeps equating carrying a gun with patriotism and Trump-o keeps saying that patriots can make America great again, you have all the ingredients for someone to walk up to a crowd of demonstrators, pull out a cannon and bang away.

 

 

 

Why Did Sandy Hook Happen? Because He Had A Gun.

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We are slightly more than four sad months away from the fifth anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook. The deaths of 20 young schoolchildren, 6 adults, plus the shooter and his mother unleashed a firestorm of emotion and controversy which persists today and shapes the attitudes and strategies of the two opposing sides in the gun debate. One side, led by national gun-control organizations Brady and Everytown keeps up a steady drumbeat to strengthen laws which promote keeping guns away from high-risk individuals; the other side, led by the NRA, wants it easier for individuals to arm themselves as well as abolishing gun-free zones.

sandy             There’s only one little problem with both arguments: neither would have prevented what happened at Sandy Hook. If you don’t believe me, read the thousand-plus pages produced by the State’s Attorney, the Office of Child Advocate and the Department of Emergency Services to try and learn why a 20-year old, part-time college student who was never considered a risk or a threat to himself or anyone else put four bullets into his mother, then shot 26 adults and children, then turned  a gun on himself. I’ll save you the trouble of reading and tell you that you won’t find out why Adam Lanza did what he did.

On December 20, 2012, six days after the shooting, a family therapist who gives advice to lovesick callers on her bi-weekly radio show wrote an article for Psychology Today: “Was Adam Lanza an Undiagnosed Schizophrenic?” This expert judged the event as a ‘failure of the mental health system’ because had the shooter been diagnosed properly, perhaps all those dead adults and children would still be alive. The author, Jamie Turndorf, also knew that his behavior represented ‘extreme acting out of pent up rage.” The fact that Dr. Turndorf had never seen Adam, was writing on the basis of a few pieces of informal gossip and was helping the hucksters at Psychology Today turn an unspeakable tragedy into a quick buck is, or course, besides the point.

In 1999 following Columbine, the government convened a team of experts drawn from relevant disciplines (mental health, law enforcement, education) to study mass shootings and create a ‘treat assessment’ tool which could be used to identify youngsters who might pose a significant risk to themselves and/or others in school.  Their report, which still guides emergency planning initiatives, was based on the study of 18 school shootings and concludes that the reasons why such events occur “remain elusive.”

At the same time, the experts also identified misinformation about such events which “is not necessarily complete, accurate, or balanced. News coverage magnifies a number of widespread but wrong or unverified impressions of school shooters.” And what is stated to be a major unverified explanation for mass school shootings? Ready? “Easy access to weapons is THE most significant risk factor.” [Their bold.]

Are these so-called experts serious? Do they have any idea what they are talking about? Unless I don’t know how to read English, what this blue-ribbon panel is saying, and this report was endorsed both by the Director of the FBI and the Attorney General of the United States, is that they don’t know the exact reason why young men commit acts of mass violence in schools, but they do know that it’s not because they get their hands on guns.

I am currently writing a book about Sandy Hook and one issue I am forced to examine is the Alex Jones-type of conspiracy theories still proliferating throughout the alt-right blogosphere, theories that take advantage of initial reportage from mainstream media which contained statements that were either bungled or wrong. But nobody, not even the looniest conspiracy hucksters have ever tried to claim that a mass shooting would be possible without access to a highly-lethal, hi-capacity gun.

You can play around with all the behavioral theories you want, but Adam Lanza killed 26 people inside two classrooms, standing in each room for two minutes or less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want An Effective Message About Guns? Learn From Trump.

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My friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community should take special notice of the dust-up that occurred between a New York Times reporter and the guy who is responsible for the current anti-immigration stance at the White House, Stephen Miller, regarding whether new immigrants who get hired for low-paying jobs are taking work away from red-blooded Americans who otherwise would be able to grab those same jobs for higher pay.
bibleThis immigration bill, which will go nowhere, is a classic bait-and-switch attempt to make it appear as though the Republicans are siding with the ‘working man’ while getting rid of government regulations which actually protect lower-income Americans from the social disparities caused by the widening gap between rich and poor. And when Glenn Thrush, the NYT reporter, asked Miller to produce hard data to back up his claims, Miller cited several studies which have either been refuted or don’t really speak to the issue at all.

The reason this verbal exchange should be studied closely by GVP advocates is that this is exactly what happens whenever Gun-nut Nation tries to promote some scheme or another to relax regulations on guns. First they remind everyone that gun ownership is a Constitutional ‘right,’ as if the 2008 Heller decision didn’t explicitly give government a ‘right’ to regulate guns. Then they cite surveys which show that a majority of Americans believe that guns make them safe, even though these same surveys show that the percentage of Americans who own guns keeps going down. And they never forget to throw in a couple of anecdotal examples of how this old grandma or that small shopkeeper saved their own lives or the lives of others by whipping out a gun.
Data? They don’t have any data. Studies? The ‘study’ by John Lott is twenty years old and has been debunked more times than I have tried to cut down on carbs. And I’m so successful at cutting down on carbs that the last time I saw my internist he told me that he believes I will never lose any weight.

On the other hand, should Gun-nut Nation spend one second worrying about what the data on gun violence shows? If the President of the United States can lie like hell about phone calls he claims to have received from the Boy Scouts of America and retain the support of his base, why should Gun-nut Nation feel the slightest degree of concern just because some pointy-headed academic in some elitist, Ivy League tower finds for the umpteenth time that having guns around the house increases risk?

I used to buy the argument that by relying on facts and evidence-based information I could more or less hold my own in any public debate. So whenever I post anything on my website or on Huffington, I try to provide a credible source for statements which are based not on my opinions but on facts. And know what happens when I state something as simple and obvious as the idea that access to guns increases risk? I’ll always get a few responses that accuse me of just being a ‘shill for Bloomberg,’ which means that nothing I say could be remotely true. The other day someone referred to my website as “Just another propaganda and manipulation tool.” I liked that one.

I’m certainly not concerned that the GVP community relies on evidence and hard data in order to craft arguments and strategies to reduce violence from guns. But I am concerned when GVP advocates imagine that by producing verifiable and evidence-based data that this will somehow tilt the argument in their favor. If the mountain of public health evidence hasn’t yet persuaded someone that guns are more of a risk than a benefit to community safety, they won’t be persuaded with another study. What needs to be addressed by GVP is how to craft an effective argument which captures emotions, not just facts.

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