What We Know And Don’t Know About Guns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Josh Montgomery: El Chapo’s Diamond Gun.

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

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

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

What Does the Diamond Gun Look Like?

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

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

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

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

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

The Matter of Comfort 

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

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

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

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

The Diamond Gun – A Flashy Companion in Bloodshed

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Let’s Stop Being Afraid of the Second Amendment.

              I bought my first, real gun in 1956 when I was twelve years old. At a flea market on Route 441 somewhere in the Florida Glades. Now Route 441 is an endless collection of strip malls, condo developments and more strip malls. Then 441 marked the western edge of the Glades.

              Between 1956 and 2008, when the Supreme Court gave Constitutional protection for the private ownership of guns, I probably bought and sold 500 handguns and long guns. That’s ten guns a year which isn’t all that many for a certified gun nut like me. Every one of those transactions was legal (well, most of them were legal) and none of those transactions had any Constitutional protection at all.

              Whenever some well-meaning person who supports gun control starts off by saying that they don’t want to infringe on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ I want to cringe. What’s so bad about infringing on all these 2nd-Amendment rights, particularly when most of these so-called rights don’t really exist? The 2008 Heller decision does not (read: not) give gun owners the ‘right’ to walk around with a gun. It does not (read: not) give AR-15 owners the ‘right’ to show up at Charlottesville with an assault rifle strapped to their backs. It does not (read: not) give gun owners the ‘right’ to wander all over the United States with their guns. It gives gun owners one ‘right,’ which is to keep a handgun in their home. Period. That’s the ‘right.’

              I want this issue to be clearly understood not because it will make any difference to how Gun-nut Nation talks about gun ‘rights.’ Want to know the latest Gun-nut take on gun ‘rights?’ Check out this spiel on NRA-TV by a noted foreign policy expert about how people in Venezuela are unable to fight back against the Maduro regime because they don’t have any guns. The country happens to have the second-highest murder rate in the world, but no doubt all those murders are committed with clubs and knives, not guns.

              So let’s not worry about how Gun-nut Nation promotes gun ‘rights.’ But we have an election next year. And every Presidential candidate lining up against Sleazy Don has announced their support of stronger gun laws. At the same time, all these candidates are steadfast in their desire to ‘respect’ the ‘right’ of Americans to own guns.

              As far as I’m concerned, my gun-control friends can pat themselves on the back as much as they want for supporting Constitutional guarantees, but by getting up on the barricades and proclaiming their fealty to the 2nd Amendment, they are giving away the argument before it begins. And they should stop doing it – right now!

              I just donated one hundred bucks to Moms Demand every month. I can guarantee you that I am the only donor to Moms who also happens to be a Lifetime Benefactor member of the NRA. Why do I swing both ways? Because I believe in an equal fight. But what I don’t believe is that Gun-control Nation levels the playing field by pretending that there’s no  disagreement with Gun-nut Nation when it comes to Constitutional ‘rights.’

              The reason we have a problem known as gun violence is not because all our guns aren’t safely stored. It’s not because we don’t require a background check every time we transfer every gun. It’s because we pretend that the 2nd Amendment only allows us to pass ‘reasonable’ gun laws. And if anyone out there really believes that a ‘reasonable’ gun law would prevent anyone from getting their hands on a concealable handgun holding 15 or more rounds of military-grade ammunition, you might as well follow Alice down the rabbit hole. Ending gun violence means ending the demand for guns which are used to commit gun violence, not ending the supply.

              There are still at least fifteen Presidential candidates who have yet to tell us what they would do about gun violence. Maybe one of them will figure it out.

Will Cory’s Plan To License All Guns Work?

              Yesterday, one of the umpteen 2020 challengers of Sleazy Don, Cory Booker, announced a plan to reduce gun violence which should be taken seriously, because Cory lives in Newark, so he should know something about guns. Seriously, his plan goes further than any of the other gun-control plans so far announced, because he’s calling for some kind of national gun licensing. To quote the Senator, “If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to own a gun.”      

              I have to hand it to my Gun-control Nation friends. Who would have ever imagined that coming up with an approach to gun violence would become a de rigueur requirement for a 2020 national campaign? Can it actually be the case that the NRA Emperor doesn’t wear any clothes? Maybe he never had any clothes in the first place.

              Booker’s plan to create a national licensing system is something of a muddle because he wants the system to be run by the FBI but the actual vetting will be done by the local police. So even if the devil is in the details, the bottom line is that Booker has just injected the unmentionable into the gun debate, namely, that ownership of all guns needs to be regulated the same way no matter where the gun owner happens to live. If nothing else, his plan is an implicit recognition that the patchwork of state and local gun laws that currently exists simply doesn’t work.

              But why doesn’t it work? According to current research, places with more lax gun laws have more gun deaths.  Conversely, jurisdictions with stricter laws have fewer gun deaths. Incidentally, before I go further, note that gun violence is defined only in terms of mortality rates when, in fact, gun deaths probably constitute less than one-third of all injuries caused by guns. But the data on non-fatal gun injuries simply can’t be trusted, so we are making the assumption that the relationship between gun laws and gun deaths would also hold true if we could count all the injuries caused by guns.

              Much of the argument that more laws = less gun violence rests on data from Massachusetts, where I happen to live. I have also been a gun dealer in Massachusetts since 2001, so I know how the system in this state works and doesn’t work. And what I know is that if anyone wants to use Massachusetts as a template for how stricter gun laws results in less gun violence, they are creating an argument that has as many holes in it as a slice of swiss cheese.

              Here is what the experts say about the Massachusetts law.

  • David Hemenway:  “All other things equal, [places] where there’s strong laws and with few guns do much better than places where there’s weak laws and lots of guns.”
  • Cassandra Crifasi: “The end impact is you decrease gun ownership overall, and then you have fewer firearms around, and less exposure.”

Note the caveat; i.e., the number of guns. In other words, is it the severity and comprehensiveness of the laws per se? Is it that there were less guns in a particular locality before a new gun law was passed? Is it a combination of both or maybe something  else?

The current regulatory system in Massachusetts, which makes it one of the most regulated of all the states, dates from 1999. Since that date, the aggregate gun-violence rate in Massachusetts is the lowest of all 50 states. Prior to 1999, the Massachusetts gun-violence rate was the second-lowest state rate. Now in fact, the gun-violence rate in Massachusetts under the more restrictive law is lower than it was before that law was passed. However, the gun-violence rate also happens to be lower in the other 50 states.

The truth is that the relationship between gun laws and gun violence is a classic case of the chicken and the egg. What we don’t need is to hatch the egg and wind up with a turkey, okay?

Phil Cook: What Cops Can Tell Us About Gun Violence

From Youth Today.

I began my research program on gun violence prevention in the early 1970s, when my children were just starting school. Now I am the proud grandfather of two preschoolers, with renewed worries. In the United States, gun violence poses an outsized threat to children and youths. That threat is made vivid to students who are subjected to active shooter drills on a regular basis, just as my generation drilled for nuclear attack. In some communities children are traumatized by the sounds of gunfire in the streets; their older siblings and parents are all too often the targets.

Much of my research, like that of others who initiated this field of study, has been concerned with the prospects for mitigating criminal violence by regulating the design, marketing and use of deadly weapons. In the 1980s we were joined in this effort by researchers from the public health field, a welcome expansion of resources and scope.

Philip J. Cook (headshot), professor emeritus of public policy, economics, sociology at Duke University, man with short white hair, gray mustache, green fleece jacket.

Phil Cook

But recently I have parted ways with some of my colleagues in the public health field over differing perspectives on law enforcement. In my view, effective law enforcement is a vital part of the mix in gun violence prevention, and developing and evaluating police investigation methods should be a central aspect of the research agenda for gun violence prevention.

The public health approach to gun violence prevention has been widely touted as providing fresh ideas and real promise of ultimate success. Government officials, scholars and other commentators associated with medicine and public health advocate for more research funding, stronger regulation on guns and measures to promote a fairer and more just society.

These ideas are clearly important but not in any sense new or distinctive. What distinguishes the public health approach as usually articulated is its tendency to ignore, downplay or outright reject the role of police and criminal justice in gun violence prevention. And in that respect, I believe it has the potential to do real damage to our shared cause.

POLICE CAN HOBBLE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

Most gun violence is criminal, as opposed to accidental, self-inflicted or legally justified. For the U.S. population as a whole, 70 percent of gunshot victims suffered their wounds as a result of a criminal attack, and for children and youths the percentage is still higher, at about 80 percent. Whether a horrendous rampage shooting in a school or the far more common violence of the streets, the police are tasked with investigating the crime, identifying and arresting the perpetrators and gathering evidence against them that will stand up in court.

The police response is not just a clean-up operation. To the extent that their investigation is successful and shooters are arrested and convicted, the rate of subsequent shootings is arguably reduced. The well-established causal mechanisms by which law enforcement prevents crime are incapacitation and deterrence. But there is also a reasonable expectation that if the police do their job well, the victim and his associates will be less inclined to seek revenge and continue the cycle of violence. The point is that while the police investigation follows the crime, its success also prevents subsequent crimes. The police are in the prevention business.

This claim is often discounted or contradicted by those who espouse the public health perspective. While there is strong evidence in support for both deterrence and incapacitation when it comes to gun violence, the evidence may be trumped by a distaste for punishing the perpetrators, who in many cases are, like their victims, low-income minority youths living in distressed neighborhoods.

But if the police fail to do their part in controlling gun violence, it is hard to see how we can hope to achieve the overriding objective of making those neighborhoods safer, a precondition for the families living there to thrive. Unfortunately, a number of our major cities are in effect running this “experiment” by arresting fewer than 20 percent of the shooters. Regardless of what other services these cities may be able to offer or what gun regulations may be in place, that strikes me as a recipe for failure.

If we do embrace the goal of increasing arrest and conviction rates for criminal shooters, then what? First is that police investigation should be recognized as an important topic for research on gun violence prevention. In fact, research and policy agendas put forward by public health groups and medical associations have routinely ignored the police and criminal justice system.

In the pursuit of evidence-based gun violence prevention, it only makes sense that the research incorporate the front-line capacity for preventing violence and determine how to make it more effective. There are a variety of options, from increasing the priority that police departments give to investigations of gun assaults, providing training to investigators, investing in programs to improve victim and witness cooperation, making better use of available technology and much else. An overriding concern is to improve police-community relations, since investigations are greatly handicapped if the relevant community views the police as uninterested or hostile.

The ultimate goal is to pre-empt the epidemic of gun violence in some distressed neighborhoods. Gun regulation can help if well designed (and enforced!). But we also need to preserve and enhance a credible response by the authorities to criminal violence.

Philip J. Cook is Terry Sanford Professor emeritus of public policy, economics and sociology at Duke University, and an honorary member of the National Academy of Medicine. His most recent book (with Kristin A. Goss) is “The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

Want To End Gun Violence? Here’s A City That Did.

              The city of Worcester, MA contains all the ingredients which usually create the environment in which gun violence flourishes.  The city’s population is 180,000, of which roughly 30% are Black and Hispanic minorities living in cramped, inner-city neighborhoods. It was a red-brick factory manufacturing center until World War II and then collapsed. It has lately experienced the beginning of a downtown renewal with medical and hi-tech sectors coming on board, it also happens to be one of America’s twenty cities experiencing the highest rate of increase in poverty over the last five years.

              Here are the gun-violence numbers for the last five years: 2014 – 47; 2015 – 40; 2016 – 30; 2017 – 25; 2018 – 20. Of the five homicides committed in 2018, how many happened with the use of a gun? None. Not one.

              How did this happen?  How does this city now experience a gun-violence (homicide and aggravated assault) of 11 per 100,000, when the national rate is 28.5?  And by the way, it was accomplished without a single dime being spent on any kind of street-corner, ‘cure violence’ type of program, without first conducting any kind of public health gun-violence research, without locking them all up and throwing away the key. Arrests in 2017 were 6,084, in 2018 arrests were 5,358.

              It happened for one, simple reason, which is often forgotten or ignored in the endless discussions and debates about gun violence, namely, a coming-together of all the city’s community safety stakeholders and a decision to address the problem in multiple and coordinated ways.

              What does this involve? First and foremost, this means the cops. And what the Worcester PD has done is to treat every shooting event as a homicide; in other words, maximum resources are deployed even if the victim is barely hurt. Incidentally, a shooting ‘incident’ even includes events where nobody gets hurt due to the use of ‘shot spotter’ technology in specific neighborhoods and an immediate police response when any gun goes off. The PD also carries out a major program in community policing, with continuous meetings in every neighborhood which gives everyone the opportunity to develop positive relationships with the police.

              For those dopes who are arrested for carrying a gun, sentences handed down by the court are as stiff in instances where the gun is brandished even if it doesn’t go off. In other words, when guns are involved, no distinction is made between an actual and a possible assault. The police also have discretion as to who gets a gun license and they exercise this discretion with care. Finally, 2019 will mark the 18th consecutive year for the city’s gun buyback program, which notwithstanding the bad press that buybacks have received from certain gun-violence experts, is an event which helps generate community concern about the risk of guns.

              The University of Massachusetts medical school is also located in Worcester and medical residents and students are afforded exposure to the gun violence issue in multiple ways. They can learn about gun violence in the community-health module which they all must take, a learning experience which includes seminars with cops and gun owners (that’s me,) as well as being encouraged to develop techniques to counsel patients about the risks of guns.

              Worcester’s extraordinary achievement in dealing with gun violence isn’t rocket science. Pardon me for sounding a bit like Sarah Palin (who?) but it seems to come down to a combination of hard work, commitment by multiple stakeholding agencies and common sense. One of my good friends in Worcester, Michael Hirsh, is the pediatric surgeon at the medical center/medical school who runs the gun buyback program each year. He describes the reduction in gun violence as a white uniform, blue uniform collaboration can focus resources both in a proactive manner before the violence occurs, as well as a quick reactive response to both shooters and victims every time a gun goes off.

              For all of us who lament the unending cycle of gun violence in the United States, here’s an instance of where the reverse is true.

The New Yorker Magazine Talks About Guns.

On July 1, 1972 The New Yorker Magazine published a book-length article, ‘Fire in the Lake,’ by a 32-year old journalist, Frances Fitzgerald, which set a standard for contemporary reportage, in this case, reportage on Viet Nam. Not only did this work achieve a degree of importance and influence in the annals of non-fiction writing, it also solidified The New Yorker as the prime media venue for content that could define the narrative on any subject for years to come.

I was reminded of Fitzgerald’s work when  I read The New Yorker piece about the NRA written by  Mike Spies, staff writer for The Trace (where you can also read this piece.) Because it occurs to me that in certain respects, the debate about gun violence bears some resemblance to the disagreements about Viet Nam; i.e., neither side in either argument was able to produce a narrative which was sufficiently cogent enough to convince the other side. In the case of Viet Nam, Fitzgerald’s writing ended that debate. So the question now is: could The Trace produce a narrative that would do the same for the gun violence debate?

It’s one thing to write a kiss-and-tell story about how the NRA is flimflamming money. Big deal. If anyone on the gun-control side thinks that such an article will make gun owners rethink their love of guns, think again. Going after the NRA is a simple and easy way to attract some readership from the gun-control gang, but it won’t do anything to change how gun owners and even non-gun owners think about guns.

When it comes to gun violence, we have a simple problem. It’s not that we have 300 million guns floating around, because at least two hundred million or more of those guns never figure in gun violence events at all. The reason we have gun violence is because Americans have free access to those small, high-powered handguns which are purchased by people who believe that having a Glock on your night table or in your pocket will keep you safe.

And despite incontrovertible evidence proving that guns are more of a risk than a benefit no matter how they are stored, a solid majority of Americans believe the reverse. And since less than 40% of Americans are legal gun owners, obviously there are many non-gun owners who also believe in what scholars like Alan Fiske and Tage Rai call ‘virtuous violence;’ namely, that using a gun to protect yourself is a good thing.

My friends who conduct public health research into gun violence can publish as many articles as they like showing that this reasonable law or that reasonable law may, if enacted, result in fewer gun injuries and gun deaths. But the truth is that the only way to really reduce or eliminate gun violence is to restrict ownership of certain types of extremely-lethal guns. But the more we try to regulate gun ownership, the more we will need buy-in from the folks who own the guns. And the only way that will happen is if someone explains why so many Americans believe that nothing will keep them as safe and secure as owning a gun.

I am still waiting for the first researcher to figure this one out. Because until and unless this issue is explored and understood, the community which wants to reduce gun violence is going to go nowhere fast. Yea, maybe red flag laws will bite off a bit of risk and injury here and there. But in case you didn’t know it, after Colorado passed a comprehensive background check law in 2015, gun violence in that state increased by fifty percent. 

So here’s my challenge to Mike Spies and his colleagues at The Trace. Why don’t you sit down and instead of covering yet another case of mismanagement at Fairfax, think about writing a definitive study on the realities of gun ownership which will do for the gun debate what Frances Fitzgerald did for the debate about Viet Nam. You obviously have the talent and The New Yorker has the space.

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?

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.