The Worst Gun Salesman Of All Time Coming To The NRA.

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When Obama was President, the pro-gun gang used to jokingly refer to him as the best ‘salesman’ they ever had. But there was lots of truth to that statement, particularly after the massacre at Sandy Hook, when Barack tried to get Congress to expand background checks to secondary gun transfers, a remarkably mild response to gun violence which nevertheless still failed. Meanwhile, in the final four years of his ‘regime,’ the gun industry may have pushed as many as 90 million additional guns into the civilian arsenal, two to three times as many guns as were made and sold during the eight years of George W. Bush.

trump5               Since the NRA’s pet President took over, however, things have changed, and not for the better. Since the beginning of this year, gun sales are back down to their pre-Obama levels, and nobody expects things to turn around all that quick. Let’s face it: for all the talk and hogwash about everyone walking around with a gun, what always drives gun sales is the possibility that the last gun you bought might be the last one you could ever buy.

Back last October at the end of one of my classes on handgun safety, a woman who took the class told me that she was very happy to have come to the class because she was afraid that Hillary would win the election and then she wouldn’t even be able to apply for a gun license, never mind actually buy a gun. How did such a crazy idea get into her head? Don’t ask me, ask my friends in Fairfax, because they spent $30 million last year trying to convince voters of exactly the same thing.

I think that Everytown, Brady and the Violence Policy Center should create an award for the person who has done the most to reduce gun violence, announce a big, public event, and give the award to Donald Trump. Because no matter how you slice it and dice it, there’s a direct and clear connection between the amount of gun violence that we endure and the ease with which Americans can get their hands on guns. Now I’m not saying that legal gun owners go around shooting up their neighborhoods each and every day. What I am saying is that with all due respect to the 2nd Amendment, which is a nonsense excuse for the 120,000+ gun deaths and injuries which occurs every year, the bottom line is that gun violence would come to an end if we got rid of the guns.

And by the way, not only is Trump the reason for a drop in the number of guns floating around, he also may be responsible for a disappearance of the most horrific form of gun violence, namely, those gun-violence events like Sandy Hook which result in ten, twenty, thirty or more people getting murdered with guns at the same time and at the same place.

These events aren’t just ‘mass’ shootings, which the FBI defines as three or more people killed at one place all at the same time, they are rampage shootings, where someone just keeps pulling the trigger again and again until everyone around him is either wounded or dead.

I was looking at a list of what NPR calls the ‘deadliest’ shootings in U.S. history, and I noticed there have been 15 such events since Chuckie Whitman climbed to the top of the Texas Tower in 1966 and started blasting away. Of those 15 events, which together netted almost 300 dead and another 350 injured, nine of them occurred in just eight years of that fifty-year span – the eight years between 2009 and 2017. 

Can it just be coincidence that two-thirds of the most horrific shootings in American history took place when we had a President who was venomously and hatefully accused of being anti-gun? Let’s give Trump-o a year or so in office and maybe we’ll find out.

Want To Stop National Concealed-Carry? Start With This Video.

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Remember Larry Craig? He was the Republican Senator from Idaho who was the staunchest gun advocate in the U.S. Congress and was even a member of the NRA Board. My friends in Fairfax had the good sense to dump old Larry after he spent a little too much time in an airport toilet, but before that unfortunate incident occurred, he was known chiefly for introducing the first national concealed-carry bill in 1997, which this year finally has a chance of becoming law.

carrier             The bill, (SB446 or HB38), not only allows someone with a CCW permit issued in his state to carry a concealed weapon into any other state, but even allows someone who lives in a state that does not require a specific CCW permit to go armed into states where a CCW permit is required for residents in those states. In other words, the ability to carry a concealed weapon throughout the United States becomes even easier than what is required to drive a car from one state to another, because every state requires that you can’t drive without a valid driver’s license, but at least 12 states don’t require any licensing for CCW, a number which may go to 15 or 16 states before the end of this year. And by the way, at least 24 states do not require any kind of training or performance certification before you strap on the old gun.

Folks, let me break the news to you gently. If national CCW becomes law (and Trump promoted the idea again and again during the campaign,) as far as I’m concerned, Gun-nut Nation has won. It’s not the idea that concealed-carry gunnies are necessarily more dangerous than anyone else, or that CCW would mean an increase in violence and crime. What it really means is that walking around with a gun is just as normal and mainstream as walking around with a droid. And the whole point about guns and gun violence is that don’t ask me how and don’t ask me why, but like my man Walter Mosley says, walk around with a gun and it will go off sooner or later.

So this bill represents a real threat to everyone who believes that we shouldn’t be tolerating 120,000 deaths and injuries each year because of guns. And my friends at States United to Prevent Gun Violence have just rolled out a remarkable video to drive this point home. It’s called Carrier or Killer and consists of 5 scenes after which the viewer has to guess whether the person on the camera could or should be considered a threat with a gun.  I actually got one of the five wrong because I swear that this kid standing in a convenience store was holding a gun. He wasn’t, and by the way, he’s now dead.

The most chilling video shows a young man innocently entering a building; there’s absolutely nothing in his dress, demeanor or what he is carrying that might make you believe that he would commit violence with a gun. The video, it turns out, is Dylann Roof entering the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston just before he shot nine people dead.

Folks, you have to watch this video. Then you have to watch the YouTube trailer. Then you have to get involved, put it on your Twitter, or your Facebook, or your Instagram, or however you connect with everyone else. Because national concealed-carry not only represents dreams come true for Gun-nut Nation, it’s a cynical and exploitive attempt to promote gun ownership for all the reasons that guns don’t need to be owned.

You don’t need to carry a gun because you’re afraid. You need to figure out what is causing the fear and deal with the cause, which isn’t the same thing as buying into the gun industry’s nonsense about protecting yourself with a gun. Unless you’re willing to put in hundreds of training hours which you’re not, the gun just increases the risk to you and everyone else.

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Another Crackpot Almost Joins The Trump Team.

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Take a look at the change.org website and you’ll find a petition which asks Senator Chuck Schumer to have #45 declared mentally ill and removed from behind the Oval Office desk. The petition was started by a psychiatrist, John Gartner, who specializes in treating personality disorders and is convinced that Trump-o’s mental state puts the country at risk.

manson             I thought that the endless lying, braggadocio and confused thoughts of the Trump campaign persona were just a good act. I never thought it would carry over to his behavior as President, in particular the degree to which he continues to say things which any ‘normal’ person would know are simply untrue. He got up before a group of sheriffs last week and said that the murder rate had reached a 45-year high; in fact it has hit a 45-year low. So is Trump unable to tell the difference between fantasy and fact, or is he relying on a staff which is hopelessly unable to figure anything out?

It may be a combination of both, but the bottom line is that Dr. Gartner’s petition now has 50,784 signatures, even though it’s not clear to what degree a physician should publicly identify an at-risk individual if the physician has not actually examined the person himself. But the issue of Trump’s mental stability will no doubt be a priority for the doctor who was a finalist but didn’t get the #2 job at HHS. He’s a New York psychiatrist named Michael Welner, who wanted to head up mental health initiatives for the government, and would have played a leading role in the debate about mental health and guns.

After Sandy Hook, Democrats called for tighter gun regulations, Republicans wanted more attention paid to keeping guns away from the mentally ill. Now in fact mental illness, particularly mental illness which requires hospitalization or some other form of intensive treatment, is not usually a factor in explaining gun violence, even though people who kill other people aren’t ‘normal’ like you and me. But promoting the alleged connection between mental illness and gun violence is an easy way to avoid or ignore the degree to which Americans have basically free access to guns. And it is the ability for just about anyone to get their hands on a gun which drives our homicide rates far above other OECD violence rates.

If you’re looking for a physician to help drive the Republican agenda on mental illness and crime, then Dr. Welner’s ‘da man.’ He has developed a ‘depravity standard’ which measures whether a crime is just a crime, or whether it was depraved, heinous, atrocious; what prosecutors call ‘aggravating circumstances’ which may influence the sentence up to a death penalty, or considerations about early release from jail. The standard is based on a survey which anyone over the age of 18 can take.  It asks participants to rate the level of depravity for various behavioral, criminal acts, such as inflicting severe pain, choosing certain types of victims, influencing others to commit criminal acts; you rate the level of depravity from 1 to 100 and your answers build a database that will help judges, prosecutors and juries determine proper punishment levels in serious crimes.

What’s behind Welner’s research is an attempt to define evil, which is exactly what gets him into trouble, because there is no clear or concise definition of evil, just as there really is no clear definition of the word ‘depraved.’ But Welner is no stranger to tacking labels onto behavior, whether they fit or not.  Last year he went on CNN and not only said that Trump’s narcissism was positive and healthy, but also claimed that Hillary’s statements about Benghazi showed that she was the ‘pathological liar’ in the campaign.

Michael Welner’s crackpot theories are perfect for Trump. I can see him on CNN saying that we all need guns to protect us from ‘depraved’ criminals because that’s another crackpot theory which Trump will no doubt proclaim when he talks in front of the NRA. One good crackpot deserves another.

Trump Comes To NRA And Tells Them What They Want To Hear.

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None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. — Goethe.

              This coming Friday, April 28th, Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the NRA meeting in Atlanta, the first time a sitting President has appeared before the faithful since Saint Ronald showed up in 1983. And what did Reagan tell the group he was doing in Washington to advance their 2nd-Amendment rights? He went on and on about how his administration was being ‘tough on crime.’  And he also singled out a group in Arizona called the Sun City Posse, which was ‘just individuals who patrol their neighborhoods in their cars,’ the way that George Zimmerman was patrolling his neighborhood when Trayvon Martin happened to walk by.

Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C Groundbreaking Ceremony             I’ll bet you Trump will basically roll out the same tough guy nonsense when he appears before the NRA later this week. And why not? Getting tough on crime has always sold well for the Republican brand, and come to think of it, fighting crime didn’t hurt the political fortunes of a Democrat named Bill Clinton as well. But Clinton didn’t tie his crime-fighting strategy to the promotion of guns; in fact, the passage of the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban marked him as the most successful anti-gun President we ever had.

Which is why the NRA had such an easy time of it during the Obama ‘regime,’ because sitting in the Oval Office, right in front of America’s gun owners, was a black guy who was determined to expand the so-called ‘assault’ on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ And what better way to keep your followers energized and excited (and opening their wallets) than to remind them again and again that the ‘enemy’ is not only at the gates but is actually inside the hen-house looking out?

Which is exactly the problem now facing the NRA because the enemy has been replaced by their seemingly best friend, which means they have to shift from attack dog to tame dog without missing a beat. And this isn’t so easy when the person you pledged to help and support not only changes his political stance every day, but has backtracked on many of the issues which led you to help him in the first place. Remember how Trump-o was going to ‘get tough’ on China trade? Remember how he used to be against the ‘dream act?’  Remember all that nonsense about how America could only become great again if we didn’t stick our nose into other country’s affairs?

Take a look at this article in Politico which really nails how the ditherings of the Trump administration has fractured what was the unquestioned alliance of the Conservative media and the organizations they represent when this mutual relationship of Obama-haters were on the outside of political power looking in. Know what happened the day that Trump announced the (brief) elevation of Steve Bannon to be his right-hand man? Everyone else who had been slavishly promoting the Trumpian agenda said ‘how come him and not me?’

So Wayne-o was invited to journey out of his lair in Fairfax on Easter to the White House to help roll some eggs on the lawn; notice how Trump’s dinner with alt-right icons Palin, Nugent and Kid Rock didn’t even make his Twitter account? You can accuse Trump of this or that, but one thing you can’t accuse him of being is loyal to his friends. The fact that the NRA spent more than $30 million of its membership dues to get #45 into the Oval Office, to quote my beloved grandmother, they can go ‘chub en drerd.’ Which means go lay brick.

But in the meantime, claiming you’re tough on crime is always a safe bet. Which is why the NRA for years has been promoting the utterly false idea about the role of armed citizens in fighting crime. There’s only one little problem – there just ain’t much crime in places where most people live who own legal guns. But Goethe’s quote about false beliefs has never been more true than now.

 

The Brennan Center Gives Us An Impotant Report On Violent Crime.

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The Brennan Center has just released an important and authoritative report on crime trends in the United States, and its discussion of the murder rate in major U.S. cities is particularly significant for the gun violence prevention (GVP) community. This is because guns are the tools of choice for people who commit homicides, and were it not for the use of guns in serious assaults, our homicide rate would not be 2 to 7 times higher than what occurs in the rest of the OECD.

urban             The not so good news about the Brennan Report is that it is based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report whose data is admittedly less than exact. The really good news, on the other hand, is that the report focuses on murder, which is the one serious crime category for which the numbers are usually correct. The report covers 1991 through 2016, a period during which violent crime fell by roughly 50%, although the jury is still out in terms of explaining how and why such a significant drop actually took place. In fact, the best evaluation of the different ‘crime decline’ theories was also published by the Brennan Center in 2015.

The pro-gun community celebrated the crime decline after 1991 because it coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of personally-owned guns, particularly in the years following Obama’s electoral victory in 2008. In particular, the contrast between crime rates and gun-ownership numbers allowed Gun-nut Nation to promote one of its favorite narratives, namely, that more guns equals less crime because the ‘bad guys’ are afraid that anyone they attack might respond with a gun. It’s a clever argument but cannot be supported by data, credible studies or truth.  Gee – what a surprise that pro-gun advocates would advance a theory which has no basis in facts.

The Brennan study, on the other hand, breaks down homicide data in the largest 30 American cities, but I wish the report would have contained an estimate for what percentage of all homicides occurred in these 30 sites, as well as a comparison between homicides which occurred within the cities themselves, as opposed to the relevant Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in which these cities happen to be.  A 2006-2007 CDC study found that for gun homicides, the MSA total was almost twice as high as specific city totals, and I am not sure that the UCR data can be analyzed to give a clear picture of homicide in MSAs.

But that’s a limitation of the FBI data, it’s not a criticism of the Brennan Center report itself.  In fact, what the report clearly shows is that the recent spurt in homicides, which has provoked the usual hysteria from the latest gang of crime-fighters led by Donald Trump, is actually confined to a handful of cities, whereas the overall violent crime numbers in the U.S. keep going down.

The pro-gun gang would like to have it both ways. On the one hand they want to take credit for the continued crime decline by going on about how this trend is because so many people own and carry guns. On the other hand, they don’t miss any opportunity to promote the sale of more guns by reminding everyone that the ‘good guy,’ (a.k.a. the armed citizen) is what keeps the ‘bad guy’ away.  And here is where the new Brennan study is so important, because it points out that the recent spurt in homicides has actually only occurred in three urban sites: Baltimore, Chicago and D.C. As for other major urban centers, murder is up in some, down in others, but there’s certainly no massive, national ‘crime wave’ of the sort that Trump and Sessions would like you to believe.

The Brennan researchers deserve our thanks for analyzing the FBI data in clear and convincing terms. But this still leaves us with the bigger question, namely, what do we do in cities like Baltimore, Chicago and DC? “I’ll send in the feds,” tweets Trump. Yea, right.

Does Steve Ballmer Really Understand The Facts About Guns? I’m Not Sure.

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Like many people with an IT background, I have been wondering what Steve Ballmer has been up to since he left Microsoft back in 2014.  And thanks to an article published earlier this week in The New York Times, now I know.  Along with a group of researchers and academics (none of whom are identified, by the way) Steve has constructed a website that allows viewers to gain a “data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society.”

usafacts             Steve claims that the website has ‘no political agenda,’ but he gives himself away when he says that “We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government.” And if you don’t believe that ‘reasoned and informed debate’ doesn’t constitute a political agenda, I invite you to take a look at Trump’s daily tweets. Okay?

Anyway, what initially caught my eye was a statement by Steve justifying only using government-sourced data so as to avoid accusations of bias. But this strategy creates its own challenges, and the challenge cited by Steve in this respect involves the issue of guns. “You know,” he is quoted as saying, “it’s not legal to know how many firearms that are in this country? The government is not allowed to collect the number.  I’m shocked! But the N.R.A. has apparently lobbied in such a way government can’t report the data.”

With all due respect to Steve’s effort to report on what the government does with every dime it collects, I just hope his knowledge of laws and regulations about how the government operates is more accurate than his understanding of how the government regulates guns.  Because the fact that we can’t find information doesn’t mean that there is a law preventing the collection of such information or that it is illegal to go looking for it. Which is what Steve is saying about data on the number of guns owned by Americans, and what he says happens not to be true.

The issue about how many privately-owned guns are sitting in American households is never far away from any debate about gun violence or gun anything else. Both sides accept the rough estimate of 300 million firearms, number used either to promote the idea that guns are as common (and useful) as apple pie, or that so many guns results in an unacceptable level of gun violence – take your pick.  But the problem of coming up with an accurate count on what we call the American ‘gun stock’ is due to the fact that the government didn’t start regulating gun manufacturing until 1968, when gun makers first started reporting annual manufacturing numbers to the ATF, and we had absolutely no idea how many guns were floating around prior to the 1968 date.

It might come as something of a surprise, but for that matter we really don’t know how many privately-owned automobiles are sitting in driveways, garages or up on cinderblocks in the front yard. Because the fact that someone doesn’t register an automobile and pay for a set of plates doesn’t mean that the car doesn’t exist and can’t be driven down to the mini-mart or anywhere else. Ditto with guns.

The real problem in estimating gun ownership rates is breaking it down to individual states or localities within states. For example, the Brennan Center has just published an authoritative report on crime which shows that half the homicide increase in the 30 largest cities occurred in only three: Baltimore, Chicago and DC. Do we have any idea how many guns might be found in those locations? No idea at all.

We can always follow Steve’s lead and blame the data gap on the nefarious activities of the NRA. But the NRA has never opposed national registration of all firearms for the simple reason that such a procedure has never been proposed. I’m a data junkie so I’ll have lots of fun playing around on Steve’s new site. But when it comes to guns, perhaps he should let the data or lack of data speak for itself.

 

 

 

Are Guns Weapons Of Mass Destruction? Yep – They Sure Are.

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The good news out of Florida is that the 2017 NRA legislative agenda for the Gunshine State appears to be dead.  The bills, which would have legalized open carry in most public locations, along with concealed-carry in airports and college campuses, didn’t make the calendar of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, which means they will not be reviewed by the committee during the 2017 session, which means their sponsor, Greg Steube, will have to re-introduce the bills again next year.

florida logo1             Incidentally, if the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would ever give an award to the dumbest, piece of pro-gun legislation introduced in any state legislature each year, Senator Steube would win the contest hands down. Because in addition to the bills mentioned above, he also tried to put in a bill that would allow someone who was shot in a public premise which had a gun-free policy to sue the owner of that location for making the shooting victim vulnerable because he couldn’t protect himself with a gun.

The GVP community and its Congressional allies have been attempting, without success, to pass legislation at the federal level that would take away the PLCAA immunity which gun makers use to avoid being sued when someone is shot with a particular gun maker’s gun. Steube’s dumbness whopper was something of a response to the attacks on PLCAA and had it passed muster in Florida, it would no doubt have begun to spring up in other states. Know how crazy things like Ronald Reagan and Half-and-Half started in California and moved East? When it comes to crazy, pro-gun laws, they start in Florida and then spread everywhere else.

Maybe the rational-minded members of the Florida legislature decided this year, particularly after the massacre at the Pulse and the airport shooting in Orlando that enough is enough. Or maybe the NRA lobbyist, Granny Hammer, has just been a busybody for too long. But whatever the reason(s), this year Florida decided that it was no-go for any extension of gun ‘rights.’ Which brings me to the point of this column, namely, the idea that being able to do whatever in hell you want to do with a gun is considered by Gun-nut Nation to be some kind of ‘right.’

According to the Heller and McDonald decisions, the only ‘right’ contained in the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment is the ‘right’ to keep a loaded, unlocked gun in your home for self-defense.  That’s it. Period. End of story. Pro-gun advocates can twist this one around all they want, and in fact many states and localities have approved laws which go far beyond the 2nd Amendment in terms what gun owners can do with their guns – carry them outside the home, carry them openly, sell them, trade them, whatever they want. But none of those activities represent any kind of Constitutional ‘right.’  And I really wish that the GVP community would react with a louder and more aggressive response whenever the issue of ‘rights’ rears its ugly and completely false head.

Know what I think guns represent? I think they should be considered and explicitly referred to as ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ or would you rather continue to believe that a particular product which causes more than 120,000 serious deaths and injuries each year isn’t a WMD?  Last week credible news reports put the human toll from the gas attack in Syria at 70, with another 100 people treated in hospitals near where the attack took place.  Know how many Americans are killed and wounded by guns every weekend each year?  Try 450 and I’m probably off by a hundred or more.

I really don’t think this kind of violence and loss of human life has anything to do with ‘rights,’ There’s nothing in the Constitution which allows it, and it appears that at least some members of the Florida legislature understand what the Constitution says and doesn’t say.

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