Think Carrying A Gun Makes You Tough? Think Again.

Anyone remember a New York City gang known as the Westies?  They were a bunch of Irish hoods from the West Side dock area known as Hell’s Kitchen who basically were responsible for maybe more than 60 murders from the 1960s until the gang was finally busted up around 1985 or 1986.  Actually, what led to the gang’s demise was the gentrification of Manhattan’s West Side, the appearance of a new neighborhood called Clinton, and the replacement of block upon block of tenement, slum housing with condos and co-ops costing a million dollars or more. But in their heyday, the Westies gang were considered a bunch of guys you didn’t mess with, because if you did, there was a good chance you would wind up dead.

then westies            In fact, it’s not clear that the Westies actually did a job on most of the victims whom the Gambino crime family paid them to rub out. Because I happened to live in another neighborhood in ‘da city’ and the gang on my street corner, who called themselves the Spades, were the guys to whom the Westies actually sub-contracted out most of the Gambino crime family work.  Imagine that – a gang of white kids who called themselves the Spades.  Oh well, those were the days.

Anyway, the guys I knew who called themselves the Spades worked construction, which meant that every day they showed up at some high-rise being built somewhere in Manhattan and hung around.  And when they did a job for the Westies, what this meant was that a van would pull up at the construction site, some guy with a bag over his head would be hustled out, then grabbed by the Spades who would trundle him up a few flights of stairs.  Six guys would go up the stairs, five guys would walk back down.  The other guy would fly back down through the elevator shaft, or out of a window, or whichever way worked best.

Dig this. The Spades were very dangerous and very violent but none of them ever carried guns.  And the reason they didn’t carry guns is because they knew that on a regular basis, usually once every evening as they were hanging around on the corner, the cops would come by, push them up against a wall and administer the Miranda warning which meant taking out a blackjack and clopping them over their heads. And if anyone was found with a gun, he was going away.  A knock on the side of the head was nothing compared to three to five in the joint.

Now you would think that guys like this would always have guns.  But what was the point of carrying a gun?  They didn’t need one to do what they did for the Westies; heaving someone off a roof had a much cleaner and guaranteed end.  And they didn’t need guns for self-protection; after all, who was going to mess with them?

I thought about the Spades and their attitude towards guns when I saw those jerks in Texas swaggering along with assault rifles slung over their backs. Do any of these open-carry morons actually believe that walking around with that gun is going to protect them from who knows what?  For that matter, would it make any difference if instead of an assault rifle openly displayed they had a Glock stuck in their pants?

I think that someone who goes around carrying a gun, particularly someone with absolutely no idea of how to use the damn thing, is just a case of arrested development playing out a childish fantasy about how big and tough he’d really like to be.  Because it’s easy to pretend standing your ground by pulling out your banger and firing away.  But what would you do if you had to deal with a difficult or dangerous situation and had to use your brain?  Oh my God! Behave like an adult?  Why me?


Introducing My Get It? Campaign.



In the interests of full disclosure let me first say that I am a card-carrying Yellow Dog Democrat, and I’m the most Yellow Dog you’ll ever meet.  I also don’t believe there is any contradiction between being a Yellow Dog and a Gun Nut – I happen to be both.  Right now I only own about 60 guns which is kind of light.

I have also never been a Single Issue voter.  So when I go to vote in my state’s primary election (because in the general election I just yank the Democratic lever and walk out) I vote based on how the candidates measure up along various lines.

But this year is different.  This year I am a single-issue voter, and the issue has to do with guns.  So why does a bone-fide Gun Nut believe that he has to vote the gun issue which means voting against Trump?  Because Trump’s embrace of the gun culture is not really just about guns.  It’s a menacing and dangerous effort to validate violence as a way to conduct human affairs.  And I am opposed to violence – personal violence, state-sponsored violence, any and all kinds of violence, so I am determined to do what I can to stop Donald Trump.

With this column I am starting my Get It? Campaign, and every day I will send out a new Get It? post with the number of days left until we vote on November 8th.  Right now we are at Day 149 which seems like a lot of time, but its’ going to dwindle down fast.  So I am hoping that my daily posting with a number that keeps getting smaller will spur everyone in GVP-land to respond.  And I don’t need anyone to respond to me – but we all need to do what we can.

There are roughly 240 million Americans who are of voting age, of whom probably 160 million don’t own guns.  Let’s be honest – the gun-owning population, particularly gun owners who really like owning guns, are inundated every day by massive and endless media from the other side.  Take a look at the map of battleground states. They are all gun-rich states where just a slight shift of votes can determine who will sit in the Oval Office for the next four years. This is why doing something every day to stop Trump is of utmost importance for GVP.  This is why I’m going to remind GVP every day of how many days remain.

Get it?  If you don’t, you can kiss GVP goodbye in just 149 more days.

What Can A Physician Do When A Patient Shows Up Carrying A Gun? In Some Places, Not Very Much

Can a physician make his office a gun-free zone?  That may seem like a question with an obvious answer but it’s not.  And the answer isn’t obvious because of a pending bill that would extend concealed-carry privileges on a reciprocal basis to all 50 states.  And the bill doesn’t carry an opt-out provision at the state level.  In other words, if I can carry a concealed weapon in my state of residence, I can basically carry it anywhere in the United States, even if the requirements for getting a concealed-carry license are different in my home state than in the state where I happen to be.

docs versus glocks           I was drawn to this issue today because of an article published by a physician in who found herself confronted in her practice by a patient carrying a gun. Actually, he was carrying two handguns, both loaded, which he took off in order to be given an EKG.  And the existence of the guns didn’t particularly concern Dr. Becher per se, because she practices in West Virginia where, as she put it, everyone including herself owns guns. But she just didn’t feel comfortable around this guy and her discomfort became intense when he made a threatening remark about a subspecialist to whom Dr. Becher had referred him the previous week.

She then learned from contacting law enforcement that she could not prevent him from coming into her practice until and unless he was told to his face that he could show up with guns, even if there was a sign on the office door stating that the office was a gun-free zone.  She could send him a letter dismissing him as a patient but this still could not prevent him from simply walking through the front door.

The national concealed-carry reciprocity bill, which now has almost enough sponsors to guarantee that it will pass a House vote, actually makes Dr. Becher’s situation a national policy if it becomes law. Because the bill says that it does not ‘supersede or restrict’ any private property owner from denying access to their property by anyone carrying a gun.  But notice that in West Virginia the state law still requires a property-owner to confront the armed citizen face-to-face in order to maintain the property as a gun-free zone.

Now believe it or not, there actually are a few deranged individuals claiming to be physicians who believe that Dr. Becher and all physicians will be safer and more secure if they allow anyone and everyone to enter their practice carrying guns.  In fact, these fools actually take the position that physicians should encourage their patients to carry guns.  I am referring, of course, to the pathetic bunch known as Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO) who have been parroting the NRA attacks against medicine since the AAP and other medical groups had the temerity, the unmitigated audacity to state the obvious, namely, that guns represent a health risk? How in God’s name could a quarter-ounce piece of lead that hits soft tissue faster than the speed of sound be a threat to good health? And yet on the same day that Dr. Becher raised her concerns about how to deal with the threatening patient carrying two weapons, an online medical blog that caters to a right-wing readership published a DRGO screed calling for doctors to avoid any discussion with patients about guns.

There are two problems here that need to be addressed.  First is the fact that physicians cannot act alone when it comes to protecting themselves and their patients from gun violence – they need help from law enforcement, from the public, and most of all, from reasonable and responsible politicians who draft and enact laws.  Second is the fact that the sponsors of the national CCW-reciprocity bill aren’t behaving responsibly at all.  They may believe they are making it easier for citizens to protect themselves, but what they are really doing is creating risk. Which has to stop – now.

There’s A Ballot Initiative Coming To California And The NRA Better Watch Out.

Everybody knows that the United States was formed by settlers who moved from East to West. But whether it’s Ronald Reagan or Half-n-Half, what starts in California usually then moves back East.  Which is why when a citizen’s ballot initiative to limit magazine capacities and ammunition sales in California was first announced back in January, the NRA threw an especially big fit because they know that if this kind of measure can be passed in our most populous state, then gun-control legislation can pop up anywhere and no amount of Capitol Hill noisemaking can necessarily hold the line against such reforms.

ammo           The California initiative is particularly interesting because, for the first time, it is aimed (no pun intended) not just at the regulation of guns, but the regulation of ammunition as well. And for all the talk about gun violence on both sides, what is rarely mentioned is the fact that while gun ownership is more or less regulated in all 50 states, the control of ammunition is usually left entirely undone.  For example, despite a strongly-held belief among many GVP advocates to the contrary, most internet gun sales involve a background check before the buyer can actually take possession of the gun.  But in most states that same buyer can purchase an armory-full load of ammunition for that same weapon and there is no requirement that such purchases be tracked or reported at all.  The Aurora shooter, James Holmes, for example, amassed a stash of more than 6,000 rounds, much of it bought online.

To a certain degree the California initiative follows from ordinances that were passed in Los Angeles and Sacramento which require that ammunition purchasers identify themselves in face-to-face transactions with ammunition sellers, and that the latter keep records of everyone to whom they have made a sale.  The problem, of course, is that these laws are only useful to law enforcement engaged in an investigation after-the-fact; they really don’t do much to prevent ammunition from getting into the wrong hands before it’s used in an improper way.   The new ballot initiative, known as “The Safety For All Act,” would require a background check for all ammunition sales, making California the first state to impose the same requirement for ammunition purchases that exist for the purchase of guns.

Frankly, if I were the NRA, I’d be freaking out too.  And I would be particularly freaking out right now because the folks who are spearheading the effort to put this issue on the ballot have just announced that they have collected the necessary 365,880 signatures to put the item before statewide voters this Fall. Actually, they are going to submit over 600,000 signatures, because like all citizen initiative campaigns, signatures on a petition are one thing, valid signatures are something else.  But I get the clear sense that putting this issue before the voters come November is really a done deal.

You know, of course, that the NRA will pull out all the usual 2nd-Amendment stops to try and defeat this bill, but in a funny kind of way they are hoisted by their own petard.  Because the NRA doesn’t let a single day go by without reminding the world that they represent the most law-abiding citizens on God’s green earth; namely, the folks who under law (a law that was supported by the NRA) are allowed to own guns.  So if the government imposes the same legal requirements on ammo that it imposes on guns, why should any good-guy citizen (or non-citizen, for that matter) have a problem with this law?

This ballot initiative is also going to test one other, heartfelt NRA argument, namely their self-promoting nonsense that they are a true, grass-roots movement whereas the other side is an artificial creation of Mayor Mike and his big bucks. Let’s see how that one flies in the Golden State – it sure didn’t work when I-594 was passed in a state right up Interstate 5.

Should Doctors Treat Gun Violence? A Program At The Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia Shows You How.

I don’t know how Philadelphia came to be known as the City of Brotherly Love, but I can tell you that the name doesn’t apply to certain sections of the city.  I’m thinking, for example, of the neighborhood known as North Philadelphia/West, which is actually walking distance from the Museum of Art steps that Rocky Balboa climbed back in 1976.  And I’m wondering whether a modern-day Rocky could run down 24th Street today without getting mugged, or robbed, or worse. Because the crime numbers, particularly robberies, assaults and homicides, just don’t seem to be possible except they really are.

For the last 30 days, this neighborhood of slightly less than 60,000 residents reported 60 violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, assault), along with 188 serious property crimes (auto, burglary, theft.)  If this crime rate continues, and it will probably go up as the weather gets warmer, North Philly-West will be running an annual violent crime rate of 100 per 100,000, with a homicide rate alone of 20 – the national homicide rate is under 4.

And by the way, don’t think for one minute that North Philly-West is all that bad.  In fact, when it comes to violent crime rates, there are 13 Philadelphia neighborhoods that are worse. Fairhill, which is just a hop, skip and jump away from North Philly, may end the year with a homicide rate of 160!  That’s simply not possible.  But you know what?  There were two murders over the last 30 days in this neighborhood of 16,000 people, four homicides already this year. As Bill Clinton said in his 2012 speech re-nominating Barack Obama: “Do the arithmetic.”

So Philadelphia has a murder problem, which means it has a shooting problem, which means it has a problem with kids.  Because I don’t care whether we are talking about North Philly, Chicago Heights, East St. Louis or Timbuctoo, when it comes to violence, this problem first shows up in kids, particularly early-teen boys.  By the ages of 12-13 they have guns, by the ages of 15-16, they are using them in the streets, by the ages of 20-21 they are on their way to either going to jail for homicide or going to the morgue.

Which means that effective interventions have to involve behavior modification and getting rid of the guns.  Now let me stop right here and say that I’m not interested in any discussion about 2nd Amendment crap, okay?  Enough is enough with all this nonsense about how any attempt to regulate guns deprives law-abiding Americans of their God-given rights to defend themselves or whatever else God allegedly gives them the right to do. We figured out how to prevent the spread of Ebola, it shouldn’t take rocket science to figure out how to stop the spread of violence committed with guns.

And one place it is being figured out is at CHOP, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a remarkable medical facility that has been pioneering pediatric medicine since its founding in 1855.  In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, the hospital developed a program specifically aimed at curbing gun violence among pre-adults in an effort to reduce what had become nearly 1,000 juvenile shooting victims every year.  The program, called Violence Prevention Initiative (VIP), has screened more than 108,000 juveniles who come into the ER with symptoms and histories that might make them at risk for violence.  A small number of these kids are then closely monitored and kids also receive anti-violence lessons in school.

And here’s something to bear in mind.  Asking teenagers about reasons why they are violent often involves discussions about very personal things.  And many young people are reluctant or resistant to have such discussions with cops, or teachers, or even their friends. But the one place that everyone feels secure enough to say anything they want is behind a closed door sitting across from that kindly man or woman who wears a white coat. Which is why doctors always need to be involved in dealing with the violence caused by guns.

Get Ready For Battle With Your AR But Don’t Forget All Those Extras That Go With The Gun.

I bought my first AR-15 in 1978 and with a scope and sling the gun ran me about $600 bucks.  Which means that in today’s numbers, that gun should cost me about $1,500 bucks. And right after Sandy Hook, when it looked like a gun bill had a chance of squeaking through Congress and landing on Obama’s desk, prices for black guns did briefly flirt at the $1,500 mark. Then reality set in, everyone who wanted an AR owned an AR or maybe two ARs, the number of ‘new’ shooters coming into the market has never been more than a trickle, and AR prices went back down south.  Last year I bought a mint Colt H-Bar for $700 which a year earlier would have set me back at least thousand bucks.

ar              Had I waited until this year to enlarge my AR arsenal, I could have bought the whole wing-ding now for several hundred dollars less because multiple companies are now selling AR “kits” which, like the old ham radio kits that I bought as a kid for $29.95, enable me to build a complete gun from scratch.  I can also simply buy every single part from different suppliers, which will even save me a few more bucks, and all the instructions for assembling the gun are, of course, available on various internet websites. Or if I don’t want to bother to read anything, I can also watch a video which claims to show me every step that I need to follow to build an AR for less than $500 bucks.

Let me quickly clarify the legal issues involved in building your own gun.  In fact, these AR kits are firearms that need to be purchased through a federally-licensed dealer because they come with a part known as the receiver which contains a specific serial number and is, under law, the part which makes a gun a gun.  Every firearm has a receiver, it’s the part which normally holds the trigger and is the foundation, if you will, for assembling the entire gun.  But if you know someone with some good milling equipment you can make your own receiver, and if you don’t transfer this part to anyone else, then under law you have not actually manufactured a firearm which means you don’t have to register the gun at all.

The reason that you can’t buy a kit to make a Glock or a Sig is because the design and functioning of those guns is protected by trademarks and copyrights, so anyone who attempted to make home-grown parts for a Sig 226 would find himself quickly facing a legal suit.  But the AR consists of what is referred to as ‘mil-spec’ parts, none of which are any more protected by trademark or copyright and all of which are manufactured by hundreds of small machining companies who just make sure that the part they produce is exactly the size required to fit into any AR gun.

So where does this leave the gun industry if anyone can put together their own version of America’s most popular gun at half the price that the same gun commands when it’s sitting on a dealer’s shelf?  Where it leaves the gun industry is in a happy place because the real attraction of the AR is that it can take a multitude of accessories, many of which cost more than the gun itself, are manufactured cheap as hell overseas and, best of all, don’t require any kind of point-of-sale licensing at all.  I just received a Shop Now email from Optics Planet with links to 118 products which I can use to ‘deck out’ my AR.  An Aimpoint red dot scope, front and rear Troy folding battle sights, a Mission First tactical grip and a Blackhawk sling will set me back around $900 (almost twice the price of the gun) or I can go whole hog and slap on a Trijicon ACOG for a thousand bucks.

And what will I do with my battle-ready AR when it’s all decked out?  Stick it in the closet with all my other guns.

Want To Know Why People Like Guns? Because Adults Need Toys Too.

If there’s one thing that gets the noses of Gun Nation out of joint, it’s when I refer to guns as ‘adult toys.’  It generates a mountain of outraged emails every time: “How dare you call the thing I use to protect myself and my family a toy?”  “I’ll bet you’ve never owned a real gun!”  “It’s people like you who want Americans to believe that we don’t need self-defense tools.”  And so forth, and so on.

But the truth is, the gun industry itself has begun to promote its products in the same way, and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at the NSSF website promoting its first Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp, to be held this week in Las Vegas for 30 lucky campers, a joyous, three-day wonderment which happens to be all sold out.  But don’t worry, you can leave your name on the website and you will be notified when future Fantasy Camps take place.

Here’s what you get for the paltry sum of three grand:  a room at the Aliante Casino-Hotel, transportation from the airport to the hotel, meals, a cocktail reception, a goody-bag filled with all kinds of souvenirs, a video of your camp experience and, most of all, 4 shooting sessions and all the 9mm ammunition you need.  I guess campers have to bring their own guns, although maybe not because the Clark County range also rents guns.

Now here’s the real deal.  The campers will be joined by “six of the top pro shooters in the world,” including the husband and wife Miculek team; Julie Golub, who makes those adorable NSSF videos explaining why gun safety is something the whole family needs to understand; KC Eusebio, who represents an ammunition company, and several more award-winning, competitive shooters.  All of the camp instructors come out of the USPSA environment; those are the ‘practical’ shooting folks who run around and blast away at various targets which simulates the how’s and why’s of defending yourself with a gun. Which is, I guess, why the weekend is called a ‘fantasy’ camp.

Incidentally, I don’t know how much things have improved at the Clark County shooting range, but back in 2014 the County Commissioners reluctantly ponied up 30 grand of taxpayer dollars to do a marketing push because the range had lost money every year since it opened in 2009.   The granddaddy of all these shooting camps is Thunder Ranch, which has gone through several changes in ownership due to the fact that, when all is said and done, it’s just not that easy to find a lot of people who are willing to shlep all the way to Oregon to do exactly the same thing that they can do either at a local shooting club or, if they have enough space, in their own backyard.

I got my first toy gun when I was six years old.  It was a plastic replica of the Colt Single Action Army revolver and I spent hours practicing my fast-draw techniques with this gun, and made sure I was always wearing my Roy Rogers ‘official’ cowboy hat along with my leather holster and belt.  The fact that I was standing in front of an apartment building in the middle of New York City didn’t bother me at all.  For that matter, I may have seen John Wayne pulling out his six-shooter in the middle of the Wild West, but in fact he was standing in the middle of a movie lot not far removed from Sunset and Vine.

Know why these folks are going out to the NSSF Fantasy Camp?  Not because they are worried about the 2nd Amendment, not because they are worried about Hillary grabbing their guns, not because they want to make sure that their gun ‘rights’ make them free.  They are going out there because it’s fun.  And what makes it fun?  Exactly what the NSSF says – it’s a fantasy.  And believe me, if it wasn’t a fantasy that some adults enjoy, the gun business would long ago have disappeared.


Can You Still Buy A Gun On Facebook? Yup, You Sure Can.

            Matt Drange has just published an article that should be required reading for everyone in GVP.  Because basically what Matt did was the follow up on Facebook’s decision to ban private gun sales from the perspective of wanting to see whether, in effect, the ban has made any difference at all.  And while it is virtually impossible to quantify how many Facebook pages were devoted to gun sales either pre or post the January ban, it is clear that many of the Facebook sellers have managed to continue selling internet guns either explicitly on Facebook or through other, somewhat disguised means.

 ar           I happen to be a member of a private Facebook gun group which I joined not because I wanted to buy or sell guns, but as one of many resources I use to check the ups and downs of the gun market as a whole.  I never felt all that comfortable using the monthly FBI-NICS numbers as a guide to overall gun sales, in particular because NICS obviously doesn’t catch many private transactions, plus the 4473 NICS form doesn’t distinguish between the sale of new and used guns.  But I find that a much more sensitive barometer for the ebb and flow of gun commerce (true of all commerce) is price, so when the selling price of AR-15 rifles dropped by more than 30% between 2013 and 2015 I knew that the tactical gun craze had come to an end.

            What Drange discovered by joining more than two dozen Facebook gun groups was that most of the groups are still doing business as usual simply by making it more difficult for Facebook viewers who aren’t members of the particular group to identify the group’s page.  And the easiest way to do this is to change the page’s name so that a search for pages using terms like ‘guns’ or ‘AR’ or something else relevant to Gun Nation won’t come up.  The administrator of my group simply took the name, replaced every other letter with a symbol and that was the end of that.

            The truth is that the only way internet gun sales can be effectively ended is by making it illegal to sell guns on the net.  But that creates a whole bunch of other issues because most internet gun sales are conducted on legitimate, online websites like Bud’s Gun Shop or Impact Guns, which ship to licensed dealers and do not offer space for private sales.  And even the notorious Armslist which encourages listings by private sellers, is actually utilized more by licensed-dealers who want to avoid the hassle of administering their own site. I can’t imagine any piece of legislation could be crafted that would satisfy all the different issues raised by pro-gun and anti-gun groups.

            But the bigger problem is the degree to which any legislation restricting legal commerce in guns will be effective given the fact that just about everyone in America can legally own a gun.  In that respect, a new study has just been published which evaluates the degree to which state-level laws impact levels of gun violence (homicide and suicide) and the resulting conclusions are somewhat confusing, to say the least.  On the one hand, there appears to be an association between lower gun violence rates and universal background checks both on guns and ammunition sales, but the state laws which appear to have the greatest impact on reducing gun violence are laws requiring ballistic fingerprinting or microstamping, otherwise known as firearms identification. 

            There’s only one little problem. The two states where firearm identification reduced gun violence rates, Florida and Alaska, have no firearm identification laws at all.  Which makes me wonder about any attempt to use regression analysis between laws and behavioral outcomes unless the law in question regulates the behavior itself.  And since the behavior that leads to gun violence is basically the ownership of guns, what difference will gun laws really make?

Smith & Wesson Goes Fishing For A Big Fish. Will It Work?

I visited Smith & Wesson for the first time in 1978, came up to show my face and get the sporting goods VP, a nice gentleman named Del Shorb, to increase our wholesale allotment for the following year.  S&W was riding high back then, couldn’t ship enough 44-magnum ‘Dirty Harry’ revolvers, the newly-developed stainless steel guns were in demand, and everything appeared to be rosy for the iconic gun-maker whose brand name was probably as well-known as Coke.

smith              This was before the American gun market was invaded by European pistols, in particular Beretta, Glock and Sig, and literally overnight the fortunes of S&W began to ebb.  Things went from bad to worse when the company was purchased by a British investment group, Tompkins, who then entered into a disastrous agreement with the Clinton Administration, which led to a boycott which almost led to the company’s demise.  Eventually it all got sorted sorted out, the Clinton deal disappeared, a new ownership/management team took over and the company’s fortunes began to move forward again.

Yet despite the run-up in sales during the Age of Obama, gun companies like S&W know that tough times could lie ahead.  For one thing, every national election poses a risk that a pro-gun person will be sitting in the White House, which means that the fever to acquire guns before they are all ‘confiscated’ will die down.  For another, try as they might, gun companies find themselves selling most of their guns to people who already guns, and at a certain point even the most diehard gun enthusiast decides enough is enough. Which means that to maintain market presence and profits, publicly-owned gun manufacturers like Smith & Wesson need to think about selling something other than guns.

If you want to know what S&W is thinking, take a look at their new investor presentation that was distributed at SHOT.  It’s a glossy, 45-page catalog which may or may not presage an offering of new stock, but what caught my eye was the basic strategy statement which says the company intends to “expand organically and inorganically into adjacent and complementary markets.”  Which means either buy other companies or develop new products from within companies that you already own.

The possibility that S&W might acquire another gun company, Savage Arms, was the subject of an article in the Wall Street Journal this week.  Savage is part of Vista Outdoor, a collection of companies created by ATK, a major defense contractor who cobbled together guns, ammunition and outdoor sporting accessories with annual sales above $2 billion which is now on the block.

If S&W were to buy Vista, the company would immediately expand into all kids of adjacent and complimentary markets, because in addition to Savage, a leading manufacturer of long guns, the deal would also catapult S&W into a premier position in ammunition products, since Vista’s major holding is Federal Ammunition, whose presence and branding in the ammo market is huge.

The only problem in this strategy, however, is that none of these products will be able to sustain the performance of the last several years if something happens to slow or reverse the upward trend in gun sales. Few of the Vista brands can stand on their own outside the gun market, and shooting accessories only move off the shelves when consumers buy a gun.

What is most interesting about the investor’s presentation are several glossy pages devoted to new products from Smith & Wesson itself.  Except not a single new gun product is actually new. The 22-caliber shooter has been around for fifty years, the AR rifles have new accessory rails, the concealable Shield pistol has a ported barrel which makes no difference to performance at all.

The big run-up in gun company revenues doesn’t reflect new products or new customers. It reflects what has always driven gun sales – fears that guns will be taken away.  Try to build a multi-billion consumer-product company based on consumer fears?

Why Do I Own Guns? Because I Like To Own Guns.

I bought my first real gun in Florida when I was 12 years old.  A beautiful Smith & Wesson 38. Got it in a flea market somewhere on Highway 441.  Owned that gun for about 30 minutes until my Uncle Nat took it away from me and probably hocked it the next day.  He was right.  What the hell was a twelve-year old kid doing walking around with a gun?


              Star 30-M

Star 30-M

This purchase began a life-long addiction to guns which continues to this day.  Or at least until yesterday, when I walked into Dave’s Gun Shop and bought a Star Model 30M, a heavy, all-steel pistol that holds 15 rounds.  Why did I buy the gun?  Because I wanted to buy a gun.  Why does my wife buy shoes?  Because she likes shoes.

If I were a typical gun guy, I would tell you that I bought this gun because it’s good for self-defense.  I don’t often, if ever, carry a gun. Guns are lying around the house but none are close enough to be grabbed up if an intruder were to suddenly burst through the door, but I know that owning a gun makes me safer, which is why I bought the gun.

Actually, that’s not true.  I didn’t go into a gun shop yesterday because I was thinking about my personal safety. I didn’t walk up to the counter, take one look at that Star pistol and decide that this gun would protect me from crime. I certainly didn’t for one second imagine that buying that gun would somehow make me ‘free.’  I bought the gun because I wanted to buy a gun.

This may have been the third time I owned this gun.  I had a Star 30M back in the mid-90’s; sold it to some guy in my gun shop who then sold it back because he needed a set of tires for his truck; sold it later to another guy who probably at some point traded it at Dave’s shop where it was sitting when I made it mine.  You don’t see a Star 30M all that often, and it’s not as if the gun, or any gun for that matter, ever wears out. If this gun had been picked up at a crime scene instead of being sold to me, the ATF trace would show that the gun went into private hands somewhere around 1995.  But it went into private hands and then back into an FFL inventory at least two more times over the intervening twenty years.  So much for the value of ATF traces and as well as the nonsensical discussions about Time to Crime.

On the NRA website, Wayne LaPierre tells the NRA membership that “nothing would make us more vulnerable to generations of suffering and slaughter than the destruction of our 2nd Amendment.”  There’s about as much reality behind this statement as the idea that I bought that Star pistol to protect myself from crime.  I live in a White, middle class neighborhood – if anyone ever tried to break into my house it would probably be my drunk neighbor who thought he had come home and forgot his keys.

I have personally owned, bought and sold, probably 500 guns over the course of my lifetime, and I can say that in all those transactions going back to 1956, I never once asked myself why I needed any particular gun. But if someone were to ask me why I bought and sold all those guns, I might rattle off something about crime, or terrorism, or my Constitutional ‘rights.’ After all, I have to come up with some kind of answer, and it’s not as if people who don’t like guns can offer me a clue.

In crafting sensible solutions to gun violence, my friends in the GVP community have to understand that any new law will force me to somehow change this impulsive habit.  And when was the last time you stayed on that low carbs diet?