There’s Nothing Like Openly Carrying A Handgun To Protect Us Against Everything – Real Or Imagined.

In the weeks following the unspeakable gun violence in Charleston, there was one public voice notably absent, namely, the NRA.  As opposed to the belligerent screed from Wayne-o after Sandy Hook, this time America’s “oldest civil rights organization” kept their collectives mouths shut.  Well, almost all of them did, and the one exception was Charlie Cotton, a Board member from Texas, who quickly posted a statement blaming Clementa Pinckney for hastening his own demise because of his opposition to guns, and then just as quickly took the post down.

open carry                Good ol’ Charlie epitomizes the Mark Twain saying, “it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”  And if you don’t believe me, here’s a few samples of other Cotton comments obligingly sent to me by a friend.  In February, he supported a bill that would have eliminated corporal punishment in Texas public schools with this gem: “a good paddling in school may keep me from having to put a bullet into him later.”  He once referred to Black-on-Black shootings as “thug on thug,” and in case the readers of his blog didn’t get the not-so-veiled, racist comment he added, “cops know what I really mean.”

In addition to proving his stupidity on issues far and wide, Cotton has also been a driving force behind the NRA-backed gun legislation in the Lone Star State, including the recent law that legalizes “open carry” of handguns in public venues.  The open-carry question has a contentious history in Texas; just last year the NRA publicly scolded a group of Texans who were parading around a fast-food outlet with AR rifles in plain sight, but the ensuing uproar on the part of open-carry activists forced the NRA to back down.

For our boy Charlie, the zeal of open-carry proponents in Texas has been a difficult fence to straddle, given the ambivalence of the NRA towards the spectacle of open-carry demonstrations on the one hand, while not wanting to piss off the open-carry fringe on the other.  In 2013, when then-candidate Greg Abbott was willing to support whatever loony idea would get him a few more votes in the race for Governor, he endorsed the idea of open-carry of handguns, and ol’ Charlie pulled a classic on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-hand- that, by supporting the legislation but warning Open Carry Texas and other nut-job groups that sitting in Starbucks dangling AR-15s might lead to public “panic.”

Now that open carry of handguns is legal in Texas, our boy Charlie Cotton still finds himself in something of a predicament, because it’s not quite clear what mainstream America thinks about turning every American city into the O.K. Corral.  The NRA’s post-Charleston silence is a pretty clear indication that the whole notion of gun ownership may still be up for grabs, 2nd Amendment or no 2nd Amendment.  And this came home to me last night when a friend sent me ol’ Charlie’s latest comment about open carry on his blog, in which he claimed he was still in favor of concealed carry because letting everyone know that you own a handgun might result in you being “attacked or burglarized” if a thug who saw the gun decided to follow you home. For that matter, sitting in IHOP with an unconcealed handgun would make you an immediate target if a “6-man hi-jack team” hits the store intending to do something other than ordering waffles and grits.

Did Charles Cotton, who happens to be a licensed attorney, actually make a public statement conjuring up the image of an IHOP invasion by a “hi-jack team?”  Let’s not forget that Texas is where a serious internet discussion is being carried on by residents who truly believe that a Pentagon-directed military exercise called Jade Helm is actually the beginning of a federal invasion of Texas, followed by martial law and the seizure of all guns.  If Charlie Cotton and the NRA have decided they need such paranoid lunatics to promote the ownership of guns, the gun-sense movement is much closer to victory than they believe.

 

 

Advertisements

Obama’s Putting Together an Arsenal Thanks To The TSA

There’s been a rumor floating around (thank you Glenn Beck) that Obama has been putting together a secret army that will surround the White House and protect him when the real Americans – the 3 percenters and all the other patriots – finally rise up, take our country back and preserve our God-given, constitutional rights. So I’m here to announce that I have found Obama’s arsenal, and if you don’t believe me, just ask the TSA.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You see, the TSA is responsible for security at all the airports, and even though there are warnings and signs all over the place telling passengers to stow their weapons in checked luggage, the folks who screen carry-on bags before passengers go to their gates just keep finding more and more guns.  In 2011 the TSA found more than 1,200 guns, in 2012 the number was over 1,500.  If the 2013 rate continues, by the end of the year the number will exceed 2,000.  That’s nearly 4,000 guns in three years.  Not a bad haul.

Of course some of the guns don’t look like they would be carried by any kind of army, unless it’s an army that has a special need for really small-caliber weapons.  In the three weeks from September 27 through October 17, for example, TSA confiscated 99 guns, of which 6 were 22 or 25 caliber, but there were also 27 pistols that were 9mm, 40 or 45-caliber, and that’s plenty of firepower for any army, whether in the pay of the President or not.  And the good news is that most of the guns were loaded, 84 of the 99 found over those three weeks, which means that the Presidential militia doesn’t even need to stop off at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Cabela’s to get ready to rumble because gun-toting Americans have made sure that the guns they’re taking on airplanes are ready to go.

Unfortunately for the President, his arsenal seems to be mainly handguns; after all, it’s not all that easy to stash an assault rifle (oops – a modern sporting rifle) into your carry-on before getting on a plane.  But Americans have always been an ingenious lot, so while the Presidential militia may be short on long guns, they’ll have enough explosives to help them carry the day.  In the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport someone walked through the line with a live, 40mm grenade; in Grand Junction there was 6 lbs. of black powder, detonation cords and a timing fuse; and a live blasting cap was found on a passenger in Richmond, Virginia.  I know, I know, they all just ‘forgot’ that they were carrying explosives onto a plane.  When was the last time you forgot that you were carrying explosives? When was the last time you carried explosives anywhere?

Getting back to the would-be passengers whose guns were taken away – know what?  It was clearly a violation of their 2nd Amendment rights.  And worse, they just wanted to bring their Glock into a ‘gun-free zone’ so that the rest of us would be protected from the nuts who figure they can shoot the place up because nobody’s got a gun.  In the light of District of Columbia versus Heller we really need to re-think our policy about allowing guns on planes.  And Obama needs to stop using the TSA to build his secret weapons cache.

Four thousand guns in three years? By the time Obama leaves office the TSA will probably be sitting on 10,000 guns.  Any chance that the TSA will let me buy the whole pile to increase the used gun inventory in my store?

Dick Metcalf Speaks Up About Gun Control And The NRA Stays Silent

One of the most esteemed and long-time gun supporters, Dick Metcalf, recently came out with an article that supports the bizarre idea that people who walk around with guns should have training before they do so.  What makes Metcalf’s comments so significant is that his essay appeared in the December issue of Guns and Ammo magazine, the most widely-circulated commercial firearms magazine in the world.  Metcalf has been writing for G&A for decades and he was instrumental in advising Senator Jim McClure and Congressman Harold Volkmer on the drafting of the McClure-Volkmer Act, which corrected some of the abuses of the 1968 law that created federal regulation of retail and interstate gun sales.

Metcalf makes the argument, similar to an argument that you have seen in my posts, that the 2nd Amendment does not prohibit the government from regulating firearms, a point underscored by Scalia in the majority decision – District of Columbia Versus Heller – that affirmed the 2nd Amendment right to own a gun for self defense.  Scalia put it this way: “Nothing in our opinion should cast doubt on well-established laws…that regulate the legal commerce in firearms.”

photograph of the justices, cropped to show Ju...

photograph of the justices, cropped to show Justice Scalia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever since Heller, the NRA and its supporters have been going all out to justify the spread of concealed-carry laws based on the notion that the 2nd Amendment covers any sort of firearm use for self-protection in the home or anywhere else.  In fact, last week the SCOTUS refused to hear, without comment, a Maryland case in which the concealed-carry statute gives police the authority to grant concealed privileges only if an applicant can prove need.  There are a number of other concealed-carry laws that are currently moving through the courts and it’s not clear when or if the SCOTUS will decide to clarify the Heller decision with reference to concealed carry.  But if they do rule that concealed-carry laws are not an unquestioned extension of the 2nd Amendment right to own a gun, then a very major part of the NRA’s strategy to extend gun ownership goes right down the drain.

What Metcalf argues is no different from what many of us have been saying, namely, that if you want the privilege of walking around with a gun you should be required to take serious training in using it properly. There are very few states that require any special training for concealed carry permits; in my home state – Massachusetts – you don’t even need to shoot a gun one time in order to qualify for a concealed carry license.

Metcalf’s comments are attracting the usual screams and yells from the “take it from my cold, dead hands” crowd but the NRA, which usually jumps up and down when someone tries to put any limitations on gun ownership, has been quiet on this one.  And the reason that the NRA doesn’t want to go after Metcalf is: 1) he’s been a very important link between the NRA and pro-gun members of Congress; and 2) the NRA would prefer not to get into a public argument over whether gun owners who want to carry concealed weapons need to be trained. After all, the NRA has been obsessively promoting “safety” and “responsibility” since Newtown.  Why remind people that they have also been promoting an extension of unrestricted concealed carry laws at the same time?

Emily Got Her Gun And Lost Her Mind

Emily Miller

Emily Miller

So now I’ve had a chance to read Emily Gets Her Gun.  It’s actually based on columns that Emily Miller has written over the last several years for the Washington Star.  The book deals with three separate themes:

 

1.  The usual collection of NRA-based bromides on Obama’s not-so-secret plan to disarm America with an assist from Mike Bloomberg and other anti-gun enemies and/or liberals (which is the same thing.)  I’ve shot enough slings and arrows at the NRA that I don’t need to do it here.

 

2.  Interviews with various personalities who have lit up the gun world over the last few years, including politicians, persons wrongly accused of firearm violations, gun shop owners, etc.

 

3.  Miller’s personal odyssey through the bureaucracy that now exists for the purpose of buying and owning a gun in Washington, DC. It’s the last theme that I want to talk about in this blog, because on the one hand it’s pretty well written, on the other, it really exemplifies what’s both wrong and dangerous about the NRA approach to guns.

 

Miller claims that she decided to own a handgun because she was the “victim” of a “home invasion.”  That’s not true.  In fact, she admits that she was outside the house, returning from walking a dog to find a young man “coming from the house.”  A ‘home invasion’ is an event in which someone is within their residence when another person enters the home without permission with the intention of committing a crime.  Emily’s case was a simple B&E (breaking and entering) except there wasn’t even a break-in because Emily left the door unlocked when she took the dog out for a walk.

 

Following this untoward and admittedly scary event, Emily decided to exercise her 2nd Amendment right to purchase and own a gun.  Except she wanted to do more than that because she also wanted to exercise her “Constitutional” right to carry the gun outside her home.  I gave up counting the number of times that Miller categorically states that the Constitution gives her the “right” to carry a concealed weapon outside her home, but she is so adamant about the existence of this “right” that it must be true.

 

But it’s not true.  And why do I have audacity, the temerity to challenge a noted legal scholar like Emily Miller on this fundamental point of constitutional law?  Because there’s a real constitutional scholar out there named Antonin Scalia who also says it’s not true.  And where does he say it’s not true?  In the same District of Columbia vs. Heller decision that gave Emily her right to buy and own a gun in the first place: “Nothing [quoting the decision] in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places.”  In the same section, Scalia states that the 2nd Amendment does not confer unlimited rights, including the right of concealed carry.

 

So for the moment, like it or not, poor Emily is stuck with only being able to protect herself with her gun if an invasion of her home actually takes place.  She better hope that DC doesn’t pass a law prohibiting her from keeping a guard dog in her residence because she’ll be a lot safer with the dog around than with her new gun.  Because what’s missing from her book, given how much it’s being promoted by the NRA, is any indication that she’s planning to engage in any self-defense training at all.  She took a course in gun safety in order to qualify to own a gun, but the truth is that had the course not been required by the DC Police, she wouldn’t have bothered at all.

Less than a quarter of the 50 states require safety courses prior to the first purchase of a gun.  Not a single of the 50 states that now grant concealed-carry privileges requires self-defense firearm training.  Does Emily Miller really believe that with one trip to a shooting range in which she fired 50 rounds that she is ready to confront a home invader or a criminal out in the street with her gun?  If she is, then she’s gotten her gun but he’s lost her mind.

 

 

Do We Ever Talk About The Real Gun Violence?

With all the talk and counter-talk this year about gun violence, I’m not sure that we have actually looked at the real issue at all.  And the real issue goes like this.

Last year there were roughly 11,000 homicides, of which approximately 80% involved the use of guns. There’s endless talk about how the US is much more violent, and really much more gun violent than any other advanced country, and we need to do something about it.  The NRA says that we need more armed citizens.  The other side says we need less guns.  Neither side can point to any definitive data to prove their point, but when did facts ever get in the way of opinions anyhow?

I want to talk about another kind of gun violence, the kind we don’t talk about at all.  For every person who was shot with a gun in a criminal affair, more than two people (roughly 18,000) shot themselves with guns.  That’s right. Gun suicide is more than twice as common as gun homicide, and I don’t notice anything in all the proposed bills floating through Congress that mentions this issue.

The one thing that everyone in Washington seems to agree on is that we need to add mental health records to NICS.  Now maybe that would prevent some crazy person from buying a gun and walking onto a college campus to shoot at a whole bunch of people, but it would likely have little impact on gun suicides.  In the majority of suicides, the victim actually saw a health professional within the last two weeks of their life.  That’s the real problem with suicide; it’s a very impulsive, very private kind of behavior.

The private nature of suicide and mental health in general makes it even more difficult to understand the extent of the problem.  Coroners and medical examiners are very careful when it comes to dealing with homicides, but suicides are usually family affairs, so even the cause of death is frequently stated as something else.  For a country that is obsessed with health, we draw a line when it comes to mental health and we prefer at best to discuss it rarely, or at worst to ignore it completely.

Precisely because it’s private and impulsive, a gun is the perfect tool to use if someone decides to end their life.  You don’t have to find a rooftop that you can get to, you don’t have to figure out how to tie a good knot around your neck, you don’t have to cram a fistful of pills down your throat.  No wonder that guns are successful in 95% of the times they are used as a life-ending device, whereas hangings work only 50% of the time and more than 90% of pill overdoses result in a quick trip to the local hospital to have your stomach pumped out.

The NRA has gone off the deep end with this bizarre attempt to criminalize discussions between physicians and patients about the ownership of guns.  When a patient tells a physician that he is feeling depressed, the doctor always asks whether the depression has provoked life-ending thoughts.  And if the patient responds in the affirmative, how can the physician or other medical professional then not ask if the patient has access to a gun?  If anyone reads this last paragraph and feels obliged to respond with the obligatory defense of the 2nd Amendment, do me and the other readers a favor and don’t waste our time.

I agree with the NRA that people who use guns to commit crimes need to be held fully accountable for their behavior and for the damages caused by the gun.  But people who use guns to kill themselves can’t be held responsible because if they were able to think rationally, they wouldn‘t try to kill themselves in the first place.  If we need a national strategy to deal with gun violence, it’s a strategy to deal with suicide, and that’s a discussion that hasn’t yet occurred.

 

Great News! Illinois Finally Joins The Rest of America in Letting Its Citizens Carry Guns

The Illinois legislature has just passed a concealed-carry bill and the Governor may have no choice but to sign it into law. Until now, Illinois was the only one of fifty states that did not allow its citizens to go around packing a gun.  But a court decision last year and some very aggressive lobbying by – you guessed it – the NRA, finally brought the Land of Lincoln into line.

You would think that with all the recent attention being paid to concealed carry of handguns, plus a long history as a state that regulates ownership of guns, that the new concealed-carry law in Illinois might serve as a model for an intelligent and responsible legislative effort to give the state’s citizens the right to be armed.  To the contrary, the law has parts that are silly, parts that are stupid, and parts that are just bizarre.  Did the folks in Springfield even read the bill before they voted?

Here’s a bizarre part: An individual must apply for the CC license to the State Police and the application then circulates to all law enforcement agencies within the state for comments and review.  If an applicant has three arrests for gang-related offenses (yes – you read it correctly) during the seven years prior to the application, the State Police must refer the application to a Review Board, which will then make a final determination.  If the Board believes that this individual does not pose a danger to himself or anyone else, the application goes forward.

Now with all due respect to being innocent until proven guilty, how far are we going to stretch the 5th and 6th Amendments in order to protect the 2nd? I mean, give me a break.  Does this law mean that if someone was arrested only twice for “gang-related offenses” that their carry-concealed application might be approved?

That’s the most bizarre part of the law.  Want a stupid part?  How about the safety course that requires someone to show proficiency in using a handgun by shooting a total of 30 rounds?  Well I guess that’s better than the safety course required for concealed-carry permits in Florida where the live fire consists of a single round.  I’m one to talk because my home state – Massachusetts – issues the license to carry without any live fire requirement at all.  That’s really stupid, but so is the new Illinois law that gives citizens the right to carry and use a gun in self-defense  with proof of proficiency that’s no real proof at all.

As for a silly part, try this one.  During the safety training, the applicant must also be taught the “appropriate and lawful interaction with law enforcement while transporting or carrying a concealed firearm.”  What does that mean?  As a NRA-certified instructor who has trained several thousand men and women in safe use and shooting of guns, I’ll tell you what it means.  It means nothing at all.

One more point (it’s a toss—up between bizarre and stupid so let’s just call it dumb.) The new law does not permit bringing a concealed weapon into a bar but allows concealed guns in restaurants where liquor is served, as long as – get this – the liquor tab is less than 50% of the total bill.  So I sit down with you; you order food, I get smashed on a couple of drinks but your steak cost more than my Jack Daniels.  Oh, by the way, I’m carrying a gun.  And if a town decides it doesn’t want to allow such dumbness, the law overrides any local carry-concealed restrictions anyway.

I belong to an organization called Evolve.  We started this organization because we want to have a rational and realistic discussion about gun violence that will avoid the ideological extremes which characterize the discussion now.  And we want to focus on gun safety and the need for everyone to stand for responsible ownership and use of firearms.  We have no issue with people owning or carrying guns as long as everyone plays by sensible and effective rules.   The new Illinois law is neither sensible nor effective.  It’s just another example of how two extremes dominate a discussion while the rational middle remains silent and another opportunity for meaningful reform goes right down the drain.