Do Gun Shows Promote Neo-Nazi Beliefs?

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Now that President Trump has decided to become a Democrat, you can’t tell me that the boys in Fairfax ever imagined they would fork over $30 million in television advertising to help elect a guy who then would turn right around and cut deals with ‘Chuck’ and ‘Nancy,’ two Democrats who have to rank at the very top of the list of politicians who are anti-gun..

On the other hand, you might want to stop shedding tears for the NRA and consider instead what Trump’s political pivot means to the other side. Because as long as the gun violence prevention (GVP) community has an unregenerate racist, fascist, white supremacist and all-around apostle of gun ownership sitting in the Oval Office they can always rally the troops around the idea that the worst is yet to come.

And the worst might be the pictures from Charlottesville of a rag-tag bunch walking down the main street, displaying Nazi banners, yelling anti-Semitic slurs and, of course, carrying guns. So now, thanks to the stupid Dana Loesch videos designed to appeal to the most infantile mentalities among us, we have a new narrative for GVP opinion-makers, namely, that guns promote not just gun violence, but the most extreme political views imaginable, in particular the agenda of the neo-Nazi gang.

The latest version of this cockamamie idea was a kerfuffle that broke out in a Westchester County suburb of New York City, where a gun show held in January featured some tables with Nazi ‘memorabilia,’ including copies of Mein Kampf, some flags, uniforms and probably some allegedly ‘original’ helmets and knives. Another stink was raised when residents of Saratoga Springs learned that the annual gun show in their town was going to feature an exhibit of what is claimed to be Adolph Hitler’s desk. The offensive exhibit was most upsetting to members of the Jewish synagogue, Temple Sinai, who helped organize a pro-immigration rally in Saratoga on August 24th.

To bolster the idea that gun shows are a particularly fruitful venue for recruiting membership in neo-Nazi and alt-right/white groups, the promoters of this narrative invariably turn to the research of Garen Wintemute, who claims to have visited 78 gun shows in 19 states mostly between 2005 and 2008.  Regarding the presence of far-right materials and products, Wintemute found a ‘high prevalence” of neo-Nazi materials at gun shows, but he also found that ”most vendors at general-purpose gun shows do not sell guns. Ammunition, parts and accessories, ammunition magazines, body armor, knives, and books on related topics are routinely on display.”

Tying gun shows to Trump campaign rhetoric which inflamed the most unregenerate DF’s among us to crawl out from underneath their rocks may be a good way to stir the passions of the gun violence prevention crowd, but it flies in the face of what guns shows are all about. I went to the Saratoga show back in the 1990s and Nazi, Japanese and American military memorabilia was all over the place. One vendor with a Nazi exhibit this year? Back then you would find twenty vendors selling all kinds of Nazi crap like helmets, bayonets, uniforms, books and flags because there were still a lot of WWII vets around and many of them liked guns.

Time marches on, the old army veterans are almost all gone, but how come the good folks from Temple Sinai never complained when vendors selling Nazi crap were all over the place in previous years? The truth is that the Mount Sinai congregants form their views about Gun-nut Nation based on narratives produced by the GVP, and in this case those narratives are simply wrong. Jewish and other Saratoga residents never cared about whether there was a gun show in their town. What they now care about, and for good reason, is an upsurge in anti-Semitism which Trump has fostered since he emerged on the national political scene. And that’s a much different issue than being worried about guns.

 

Does The NRA Want To Compete With Amazon?

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So the NRA concealed-carry fashion show in Milwaukee has ended and the boys in Fairfax can get back to doing what they know how they do, which is to convince everyone living in the United States that protection against crime and terrorism is best accomplished by walking around with a gun. The only problem is that if gun sales continue to tank the way they have tanked over the last couple of months, the gun industry might find itself going the way that the print version of the Village Voice went this week.  And if nobody’s buying guns, then nobody’s going to join the NRA – so now what to do?

fashion              It would be misleading, however, to paint a dire picture of the NRA’s financial strength; in fact, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ seems to be doing quite well in terms of revenues and cash in the bank. In 2014 they had $310 million in revenues, the number for 2015 was $336 million and they ended their 2015 fiscal with $75 million in the bank. They have 850 people on the organization’s payroll and Wayne-o pulled down over $5 million big ones in salary which isn’t chopped liver even in my way of doing things.

So if anything, the decision to get into fashion and other consumer programs is a logical step for the outfit to take, particularly since for the first time in their entire history, the NRA is being challenged for dominance of Gun-nut Nation not by the forces of evil (a.k.a. tree-hugging liberals, progressives, government do-gooders – all amounts to the same thing) but by another pro-gun organization which makes no secret about the fact that it wants to become a household word for anything and everything having to do with guns.

I’m talking about the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) whose founder, Tim Schmidt, is a true innovator in the field of ‘tribal marketing,’ which is shorthand for getting consumers to buy your products because they feel a special bond to everyone else who’s buying the same crap, and what could be a more special bond than the bond which exists between people who believe they need to walk around with a gun? Schmidt’s organization has had a spectacular growth; his concealed-carry insurance has been so successful that he was booted out of this year’s NRA show, he has now started a national training effort which has USCCA certified trainers in more than 20 states, and daily traffic to his website, according to SimilarWeb, is more than twice as high as the number of people who visit NRA.org.

It can’t just be coincidence that the NRA fashion show was held in Milwaukee, which happens to be in Schmidt’s back yard. From every honest source that I contacted, the show was a rather quiet and hum-drum affair, the Communications Director of the Wisconsin State Anti-Violence group, Anneliese Dickman, told me that social media venues which would usually be blasting pro-gun screeds if the NRA came to town were remarkable silent during the weekend affair. Incidentally, her group, known as WAVE, held a demonstration in front of the Convention Center while the fashion show was going on inside – the WAVE group does a great job of raising community consciousness about gun violence, and if you want to send them a donation, you can do it right here.

I get the impression that the NRA’s Milwaukee show was an effort to test two things: First, they may start producing a series of second-tier, regional shows in various venues throughout the lower 48, if only because many potential gun owners just can’t make the trek across the country to attend the big shindig each year. Second, I also suspect that this show was designed to test whether the new Carry Guard brand will attract merchandisers who want to align their products with the NRA.

The NRA is a tax-exempt 501C(3) organization because it started out as an educational effort. But who’s to say that training women how to carry a gun in their panty-hose isn’t the kind of training we all need today?

Why Do Americans Like Guns?

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When I was a kid growing up in Washington, D.C. during the 1950s, my two favorite places to visit was the NRA Museum and the FBI.  I loved looking at all the old and historic guns at NRA headquarters because I was a gun-nut by the age of five, and I loved the FBI tour because the last stop was at the shooting range where one of the agents would fire a 45-caliber tommy gun and I could take home the empty brass.

sales             The funny thing about those childhood experiences, however, was they took place at a time when Americans had much more positive views on the importance of regulating guns than we have today. Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the gun surveys conducted by Gallup, several of which started when I was a kid. For example, Gallup has been asking this question since 1959: “Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?” In 1959 this question was answered affirmatively by 60% of the respondents; the last time this question was asked, in October, 2016, affirmative responses dropped to 23 percent.

Here’s how the views on another hot-button gun issue have changed, the question being asked: “Would you vote for or against a law which would make it illegal to manufacture, sell or possess semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles?” In other words, how do Gallup respondents feel about an assault rifle ban?  In 1996, the first time this question was asked, 57% said they favored such a ban, last year the pro-ban percentage was 36 percent.

Finally, in 1993 Gallup asked respondents for the first time about whether guns made them safe: “Do you think having a gun in the house makes it a [safer place to be] or [a more dangerous place to be]?” The first time this question was asked in 1993, guns making a home safer got 42% of the responses, the last time it was asked in 2014, the ‘safe’ vote was up to 63%. Taking these three questions together, the pro-gun views on handgun ownership, assault weapons and guns for safety have all become more positive by at least half.

It would be easy to put this shift down to one of two arguments: 1) the country is becoming more conservative; 2) the NRA is doing a great PR job about guns. Unfortunately, both arguments can easily be shot through (pardon the pun) with holes. The country is becoming so much more conservative over the time-period covered by these surveys that abortion is law of the land, ditto gay marriage even in the most pro-gun states. As for the vaunted NRA noise machine, the percentage of Gallup respondents who always agree with the NRA on gun issues has stayed exactly the same from 1996 to 2012 – a whole, big 6%.

Our friend Mark Glaze was recently dragged over the coals by the NRA which discovered a survey that his ‘radical’ group, Guns Down, published after the shooting of Steve Scalise. The survey showed firm majorities for more gun control and less guns in circulation, so obviously any public opinion polling, including Gallup’ surveys, has to be treated with care. But the value of the Gallup polls is they ask the same questions year after year and no matter how you slice it or dice it, the message seems to be that Americans aren’t afraid of guns.

Most people are a lot more afraid of things they believe guns can be used to protect them against – crime, terrorism, danger in a generic sense – I don’t know anyone who can’t tell me exactly where they were and what they were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. And as long as we continue to believe that the world has become a more dangerous place, simply giving folks the results of a gun survey won’t persuade them to agree with what the survey says.

 

The First Glock To Enter New York.

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Sometime in 1983 or 1984 I went to the Kingston, NY gun show with two NYPD gun-nut buddies, Don and Jack. We drove up from ‘da city,’ parked outside the Kingston Armory and spent the next 3-4 hours playing with hundreds of guns, talking to other gun nuts like ourselves, and having a good time.  In those days the Kingston gun show was known as a show where buying a gun and doing any kind of paperwork was considered a contradiction in terms. As for the cops, they could also ‘buy on shield,’ which meant you flashed a badge, gave the guy the cash and you got the gun.

logo glock              At some point I came across a gun I had to have. It was a 4-inch, nickel-plated Smith & Wesson Model 58 revolver, the heavy N-frame gun which shot the 41-magnum load. The 41 mag was and is a great round – not as much kick as the 44 but a real slammer nonetheless. And this gun was really mint.  I counted out $400 bucks as quickly as I could.

Now I’m walking down the aisle, Jack comes up to me, grabs the S&W blue box out from underneath my arm, puts his hands on the Model 58 and says, “I gotta have this gun!”  So we made a deal right there. He gave me what I paid for it and promised that when we got back to New York he would sell me his NYPD black leather duty jacket for $50 bucks. The cops were in the process of shifting from leather patrol jackets to the ugly, crummy velour jackets which they wear today. I think my daughter still has the leather jacket which I got from Jack.

Anyway, so now I’m walking around the show looking for another gun. All of a sudden I’m standing in front of another dealer’s table and there’s my Model 58. What the f—? The dealer said the gun would cost me $400 bucks so I ended up buying the Model 58 twice. (About a year later I traded the 58 for a Colt AR with a full-auto sear courtesy of a guy I knew who worked in the Colt Custom shop on Huyshope Avenue in Hartford, but that’s another story for another time.)

A few minutes after I repurchased the 41 magnum, here comes Jack down the aisle with a couple of other NYPD gun-nuts in tow. They are all handing a gun from one to the other, telling Jack that they don’t believe he got the friggin’ gun, Jack’s standing there basking in the adoration of his friends.

The gun was a semi-automatic pistol, it didn’t have a hammer, the finish looked painted on and was black rather than blue. The grip was some kind of plastic and the slide had these big letters: G-L-O-C-K. I had never seen a Glock before, never held one, never knew there was a pistol that held 16 rounds. And that’s why Jack dumped the Model 58 because he bumped into ‘some guy’ who had walked into the show with this Glock.

Of course Jack’s great joy at being the first member of the NYPD to own a Glock only lasted a week, because when he took the gun down to the License Division to register it (the NYPD required that the guys register all their-personally owned guns, but didn’t have to say exactly how they acquired their guns) he was told that he couldn’t keep a Glock within the city limits because it was a ‘plastic gun’ and would be a security risk if Jack wore the gun when he went through a metal detector in order to testify in Court.

So Jack told Mrs. Skeba (who ran the License Division and nobody messed with Mrs. Skeba) that he would give the gun to ‘brother-in-law’ who lived somewhere out in Jersey near the Woodbridge Mall. And that’s how the first Glock to be registered in New York City quickly came and quickly went.

The world has changed, hasn’t it?

Doctors For Responsible Gun Ownership Show How Irresponsible They Really Are.

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Yesterday the medical quacks who run a website called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO) decided to demonize physicians who regard gun ownership as a health risk by descending to the lowest, possible level of pandering to the lowest, intellectual denominator – a style promoted successfully by our soon-to-be President which now serves as the rhetorical burnishing for the thoughts of every jerk, dope and creep climbing out from underneath their rock to bask in the light of the Age of Trump.

docs versus glocks             What I am referring to is a scurrilous attack on an up-and-coming public health researcher, Bindu Kalesan, whose group continues to publish articles on guns and gun violence that really pisses Gun-nut Nation off.  And the reason their work attracts such negative attention from the Jerks and Dopes Brigade is because Dr. Kalesan and her colleagues make no secret of the fact that they are not enamored of guns.  Kalesan even comes down out of the Ivory Tower to serve as the Vice President of a neat GVP organization which attempts to “assist in the funding required to promote mental and emotional healing” of gun victims, something which the medical quacks who slither around the DRGO website know and care absolutely nothing about.

What got the so-called physicians who spearhead the Jerks and Dopes Brigade so hot and bothered was an article published in a peer-reviewed medical research journal that correlated school shootings with such factors as handgun background checks, state-level mental health expenditures, education funding and gun-ownership rates, among others. By the way, the DRGO claims that this is the first of a series of articles that will be produced by the DRGO Publication Review team which consists of ‘medical scientists and statisticians,’ although none of these august individuals is actually identified by name.

And to show you DRGO’s commitment to medicine and science, the first thing that caught my eye was their finding of a major error in Kalesan’s piece, namely, that she neglected to mention a school shooting which occurred in Boston on April 18, 2013.  Now if you want to characterize this event as a ‘school shooting’ you are either delusional or dumb, or both.  Because this happened to have been a shooting of a campus cop at MIT by the two Tsarnaev brothers (the Marathon Bombers) who were trying to evade a citywide manhunt and might have been stopped by the cop after their pictures were broadcast all over the place by the FBI. If this purposeful misuse of evidence constitutes what the DRGO feels represents the work of statisticians and scientists on their behalf, then there’s really no sense in taking them seriously at all.

But the misrepresentation of evidence is not the lowest degree to which this bunch of fools can sink; in fact, they go one step further (or perhaps I should say ‘lower’) in their attempt to guttersnipe at Kalesan’s work and name.  Because they also turn their attention to the journal in which this article was published – Injury Prevention – and note that the editorial staff is “dominated by foreigners unfamiliar with and likely hostile to America’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”  Note the use of the word ‘foreigners,’ and it’s not by accident that this comment is placed in an attack on a researcher who, by dint of her name, might also be part of the horde that’s coming over here to destroy everything about America that’s good and right.

This is what I meant above when I talked about how disgustingly low the DRGO creeps have sunk.  It’s not bad enough that they use their so-called medical credentials to spread absolute falsehoods about the non-risk from guns.  What they are now beginning to do is resort to the same, malicious and dangerous racism and hatreds which infected the Presidential campaign.  In the process they not only demonize evidence-based research upon which all medical knowledge and practice depends, but show themselves to be nothing more than crude hucksters for the gun industry hiding behind medical degrees.

Michael Moore Thinks He Knows About Guns & Trump. He Needs To Think Again.

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Ordinarily I wouldn’t write a response to something Michael Moore wrote except that his movie Bowling for Columbine, makes him something of a gun guy, or at least a self-professed observer of Gun-mob Nation, so I’m going to respond to the prediction he has just made that Trump will be elected President come November 8th. And the reason I am going to respond is that much of what he claims to be the harbingers of a Trump victory are based on what he believes are Trump’s appeal to the classic, gun-guy electorate, namely, the pissed-off older White men who think that it’s time to ‘shake things up.’

mooreI probably talk to a lot more guys who are going to vote for Trump than Moore has ever talked to, because I know a lot more guys who own guns. But you know what’s funny about all those older, pissed-off, gun-loving White guys who are going to vote for Trump? None of them ever voted for a Democrat no matter what.  They’ve always voted Republican and they always will.  And the fact that this year’s Republican nominee comes out and says in public what many older, pissed-off White men have been forced, until now, to say in private, doesn’t change the dynamic of this election one bit.

I love how Moore believes that ‘facts and logic’ won’t stop Trump because 16 Republican candidates tried the same thing during the primaries and they all lost.  Tried the same thing?  Rubio and Cruz ran campaigns based on facts and logic?  Was Michael Moore listening to the same speeches that I heard?  Come on, give me a break.

Michael’s absolutely correct when he says that Trump’s advantage lies in the fact that his supporters don’t need to be coaxed or pushed or even reminded to show up on November 8th.  But if he believes that Obama beat Romney in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio just because minority voters figured out how to get themselves to the polls, then he doesn’t know anything about how a national election campaign organization really works. And if Hillary doesn’t put together a ground game (and God knows she has the money to do it) that will get her voters into the booth, then she doesn’t deserve to win.

Last year a sociologist at the University of Toronto, Jennifer Carlson, discovered a new gun ‘culture’ in the Rust Belt; in fact, she did her fieldwork in Michael Moore’s most favorite city, a.k.a., Flint.  And what she found in Flint by going to a shooting range were some guys who were dispossessed factory workers, rust-belt victims of the post-Industrial, Information Age, who were all into guns.  And the reason they all carried guns was because they didn’t trust the government to protect them, to keep them secure, to do anything for them at all.

Michael Moore made his bones in the movie business by romanticizing and, at the same time, deftly denigrating these dispossessed people in Rodger and Me, which was a movie about the collapse of Flint. So when he talks about the ‘carcass’ of the Middle Class in the Rust Belt coming out to vote for Mister Trump, he’s spent some time editing film that made his movies clever and appealing, regardless of whether they had anything to do with reality or not.

So here’s reality Michael.  With all due respect to the newly-emerging gun culture in the upper Midwest, most of the 100 million new guns that were added to the civilian arsenal during the administration of Barack Obama went to people who live in the Sunbelt. And to the extent that guns go to residents of states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, most of them go to the same smaller towns and rural communities where they always have gone.

I’m not saying that Trump can’t win on November 8th.  I’m saying that he won’t win if he’s hoping a majority of voters are as pissed off as those gun guys up in Flint.

ABC-News Talks About Gun Violence And Gets It Right.

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Earlier this week ABC-News ran a long story, complete with videos, interviews and a national map showing the location of recent shootings about gun violence.  As far as I am concerned, this was the most detailed, comprehensive, honest and fairly-reported major media story on gun violence which I have ever seen. And in case you don’t know, I have been closely following the gun violence debate, argument, discussion, whatever you want to call it, for more than fifty years.   That’s right.  I first started paying attention this to issue when went to North Carolina and helped my great-Uncle Ben manufacture a small 22-caliber revolver in 1955.  So when I say that I have been involved in guns for more than fifty years, I mean what I say.

conference-program-pic           The ABC story is remarkable in many ways. First is the choice of title, using the words ‘gun violence’ in a straight and unvarnished way.  Know what?  You’ll never see or hear the words ‘gun’ and ‘violence’ linked together by Gun-nut Nation or its loudspeakers such as the NRA.  Because to that bunch, guns aren’t violent; people are violent, and the real value of gun ownership is that people with guns can protect themselves from violent crime, violent terrorists, even perhaps violent law enforcement, although Gun-nut Nation isn’t exactly sure how to handle all those shootings of unarmed inner-city residents by cops, even though every law-abiding, God-fearing American should be, indeed must be walking around with a gun.

Once you get past the title of the story, you are presented with a map of the United States showing the location of shootings throughout the United States, with more than 350 gun deaths and more than 1,200 shooting incidents occurring between June 24th and July 4th, which is about average for any 11-day period during the current year.  This data is drawn from the remarkable website and aggregating engine known as the Gun Violence Archive, and it’s about time that major media outlets began to recognize and promote the work of Mark Bryant and his energetic and talented GVA staff.

The story not only gives the GVA project its due, but also is built on discussions with other important Gun Violence Prevention experts, like Harvard’s Cathy Barber, who has built an impressive program to deal with gun suicide, another type of gun violence that claims more than 20,000 lives every year.  When it comes to the use of guns in suicides, Gun-nut Nation of course will tell you there’s no connection between suicide rates and gun ownership, citing the fact that there are other countries without gun access that register similar or higher suicide rates than ours.  Meanwhile, this link will take you to a listing of a dozen studies which clearly indicate that guns increase suicide risk, but since when did Gun-nut Nation base any of their arguments on science or facts?

In 1986, less than 40% of Americans stated that they had read or heard anything about what was called the ‘greenhouse effect.’  Know what the percentage was in 2007?  91%.  Does this mean that 91% of Americans believe that global warming is a threat?  No, but what it does demonstrate is that an awareness about global warming has become part of the general culture, it was now an accepted world view.

I believe that the key to building a society that no longer suffers from gun violence must first begin and ultimately rest on a cultural shift which makes a phrase like ‘gun violence’ as normal and as much a part of the everyday lexicon as the phrase ‘global warming’ has become. And the fact that a national media outlet like ABC-News would run a major story on gun violence based largely on the work of the Gun Violence Archive tells me that this fundamental cultural change may be starting to take place.  And it’s a change which I have never previously witnessed and I have been involved with guns for a very, very long time.

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