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?

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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?

 

 

 

 

A Fun Gun Story For The New Year.

I recently received a note from a reader who wanted me to write some ‘fun’ stories about guns. And why not?  After all, for those of us who enjoy guns because we just like to shoot them, or talk about them, or play with them, guns are a lot of fun.  So here’s one of those stories which ends in heartbreak but that’s how most good stories end.

M&P              I used to have a friend in the gun business named Joe DeSaye. He owned a wholesale gun company called J&G (named after himself and his ex-wife Grace), which is still a family-owned business even though Joe, of blessed memory, is long gone.  Anyway, Joe used to sell most of his inventory through a gun newspaper called Shotgun News.  Most of Joe’s ads were for used handguns, many of them police trade-ins, and many of them guns that he bought from me.  I’ll spare the details of how I accumulated and sold Joe upwards of 10,000 used handguns every year; it was all legal commerce and Joe only dealt with customers who held a valid FFL.

One day in 1984 or 1985 Joe calls me (he lived in Arizona and I was in New York) and tells me that he’s got a “line” on an “incredible stash of guns.”  But he couldn’t talk on the phone because he was at some place where he might be overheard, so I had to call him back that night when he got home.  That night Joe tells me that the United States Postal Inspectors had just purchased 4,000 new Smith & Wesson stainless magnum revolvers – the 4-inch Model 66 – and were giving them out to every postal inspector who was turning in his own gun.  Evidently the Postal Inspectors had been allowed to carry whatever sidearm they chose, but now the force was getting modern and everyone was going to carry a Model 66.

Joe then further told me that the 4,000 duty weapons previously carried by the Inspectors were sitting in a warehouse at the Marine base in Quantico but Joe had “friends” in the Post Office, and these friends had agreed to let Joe enter a sole bid for the guns.  So I was going to go down to Quantico, take a look at the guns to make sure they were in good enough shape to be resold, and then Joe would submit the bid.

The next day I drove down to Quantico, and after checking me out at the security gate, I was taken to an unmarked, corrugated-metal storage building somewhere on the base.  Got out of the car, walked into a big room, lights went on, and I was surrounded by 4,000 handguns neatly stacked in piles all over the floor.  And what piles!  Over here were beautiful, commercial versions of the Colt 1911 with the shiny, royal blue Colt finish, not a blemish or a scratch.  Over there were Smith & Wesson 45-caliber M&P revolvers, the 5-inch models manufactured before World War II. There were even some original Colt, Single Action Army guns in 44-40 and 45. I was dizzy; I was beside myself with joy.  I couldn’t have cared less how much Joe and I would make on this deal, I just wanted to keep about 100 of the guns for myself.

Know what happened?  The next day there was a story about a local police chief in Virginia who sold some confiscated guns to a gun shop who sold one of the guns to a jerk who then shot his wife with the gun.  And the day after that, the Postal Service loaded the entire pile on a cargo plane, flew the plane over the ocean and dumped my 4,000 guns into the sea.

I suppose it’s better that those guns ended up underwater than even one of them ending up in the wrong hands.  But they still could have let me take 100 of them home.  I could have always made room by throwing out some of my Lionel trains.

 

Guess What? With Your Help There’s A Chance That CDC-Funded Gun Research Might See The Light Of Day.

Friday is usually a quiet day when it comes to gun news, for that matter it’s usually a quiet day for all news, particularly as we enter the Holiday season and office parties usually trump any real work.  But a news item out of DC caught my eye this morning and rocked me back on my heels.  I am referring to the fact that CDC funding for gun violence research might actually survive the House budget negotiations and get into the bill.

conference program pic              What?  A federal budget that actually contains money for CDC-funded research on guns?  How is this possible in today’s political climate?  How is it possible that one of the NRA’s most sacred totems, i.e., the defunding of gun research, could be overcome when every Republican Presidential candidate has followed Trump’s lead in calling for more, not less access to guns? Even the police unions and various chiefs are saying that we all need to be armed.  And wasn’t it CDC-funded research back in the 90’s which found that the notion that guns can protect us just wasn’t true?

The NRA has been claiming that armed citizens prevent millions of crimes each year.  And this claim, which has been repeated by right-wing think tanks and right-wing politicians again and again, is bandied about by gun-rights supporters hither and yon.  If you want the latest and slickest version of this canard, just tune into Wayne-o mouthing the same bromide to all his video fans. And what is this entire claim based on?  A telephone survey published in 1994 by Gary Kleck in which a few folks working for him allegedly spoke to 213 people who claimed they had used a gun to prevent a crime. If I had a nickel for every time this so-called research has been debunked, I wouldn’t have to work for a living, and even Kleck himself recently backed down from his own claim.  But if serious researchers can’t get financial support to validate anything that Kleck said, it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not.

The problem with public health research is that, by definition, either it’s evidence-based or it doesn’t get published and read at all. Which means you need money to dig up and analyze the evidence  before you can contribute to the debate at all. Which is exactly why the NRA managed to defund CDC gun research after 1996, and is exactly why the spurious claims made by Kleck and his followers have taken on a life of their own. Because as a country whose legal system rests on due process, the law in most jurisdictions requires that any legislation must first be debated in a public forum, which means you have to hear from both sides.  And if one side presents arguments that are nothing more than opinions and marketing claptrap, while the other side can’t respond because they can’t conduct research to elucidate the facts, guess who wins the public debate?

This has been the sorry state of affairs for the past twenty years, and this is the state of affairs that might actually change in the budget negotiations on Capitol Hill.  I have to assume, incidentally, that there’s some connection between the idea of refunding CDC-sponsored gun research and the spate of mass killings which appears now to be totally out of control.  The good news for Trump, et. al., in the latest mass slaughter iteration was that the moment the shooters were linked to some kind of terrorist something, the fact they had acquired their guns and ammo legally just went by the board.

Here’s the bottom line, folks.  Anyone who believes that 100,000+ gun deaths and injuries each year doesn’t constitute a public health issue can go lay brick.  As for everyone else, here’s a link to a little app put online by Doctors for America that get you onto the phone to make a call to DC.  Needs to be done today.  Needs to be done now.

The Epidemiologists May Need To Dig Deeper To Understand The Problem Of Gun Violence.

If we want to advance some meaningful responses to gun violence, we need to figure out the what, who and where of the problem or, as public health researchers would say, the epidemiology of gun violence. A good start in this respect is a recent publication by one of our most prolific public health gun scholars, Garen Wintemute, whose summary of gun-violence data covering 2003-2012 appears in a symposium devoted to strategies to prevent gun violence in the Annual Review of Public Health.

Wintemute introduces the problem by noting that 313,045 Americans died from firearm-related injuries, a larger number than all the troops killed in World War II.  But on a White House gun violence website, the number for gun mortality between 2001 and 2013 is given as 150,000. How come there’s such a big difference?

conference program pic               Because to the public health community, gun violence means every kind of injury caused by gunfire, whether the gun is pointed at the user or at someone else.  The fact is that a majority of gun killings are suicides, not homicides, and among certain populations, such as elderly White men in certain Western states, suicides account for virtually all gun mortalities, with homicides contributing nothing to total gun mortality at all.  This is not the time or place to engage in a discussion about the causal/responsive differences between gun suicides and gun homicides; suffice it to say that Wintemute and other public health researchers clearly acknowledge that homicide and suicide are subsets of a generic problem – access to guns – each of which needs to be understood on its own terms.

Where Wintemute’s careful and thorough analysis of CDC violent mortality data bumps up against a serious limitation (which he acknowledges) is not in terms of defining gun violence to include both homicide and suicide, but in the fact that he is forced to create an epidemiology of gun violence without being able to utilize data on non-fatal gun injuries, the incidence of which is at least twice as high each year as the number of people getting killed with guns.

Not only is the non-fatal gun injury rate twice as high as the gun mortality rate (suicide and homicide), but while the overall gun mortality rate has been fairly steady over the years covered by Wintemute’s research, the non-fatal gun injury rate has shown a remarkable annual rise, from 14.11 per 100,000 in 2001 to 19.68 in 2013, an increase of nearly 40 percent!  Part of this increase is due to innovations in trauma surgery, also to the speed at which seriously-injured victims get moved from the incident site to a trauma unit and the fact that most of the jerks who use guns probably can’t shoot very straight.  Or is this increase simply due to the fact that more guns are where they shouldn’t be?  We don’t know.

Make no mistake. The costs of gun violence cannot be understood if we don’t factor in what happens when someone is shot but not killed with a gun.  Direct medical costs of treating non-fatal gun injuries are 30-40% higher than the costs of dealing with any other serious injury; these numbers don’t include the frequent, long-term costs of post-discharge therapies, as well as the excessive loss of wages that often are the result of the physical and mental damage resulting from guns. A recent estimate of the total annual cost of all gun violence – mortality and morbidity – as being around $229 billion, may be an underestimate by far.

One other point which emerges from Wintemute’s work deserves comment here.   Of the fourteen states that rank highest in suicides and homicides, eleven are located in the South.  Some of these states, like Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, experience gun violence similar to Panama and South Africa, not yet Honduras, but not far behind. If we construct an epidemiology to help us figure out gun violence, the answers and strategies for some may not be sufficient for all.

Huckabee Opens His Mouth And Says The Dumbest Thing That Anyone Has Said About Guns.

Having lost ground on their patented niche issues like abortion and gay rights, the 2016 version of the Republican Presidential cavalcade has decided that defending the 2nd Amendment will play well with the ‘base’ if only because liberals are usually considered to be anti-gun.  The gun ‘issue’ was first injected into the campaign by Trump-o, who claimed that an armed citizen could have stopped the murder of two television journalists in Virginia, a terribly ugly incident that was caught on video and tv.  Since then, if you’re running for President as a Republican, you can’t make a public speech without making some reference to supporting the 2nd Amendment, even if what you say has little to do with the facts.

And the 2nd Amendment comment that is least aligned with the facts popped out of the mouth of Mike Huckabee during an interview on a right-wing video channel Newsmax, during which he called for gun dealers to refuse to follow any new Executive Order issued by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because “the more we surrender the Constitution, the more Obama keeps his power growing.”  And since we all know that Obama’s real plan is to convert America into a radical, Islamic state, the more we need to vigilantly guard our Constitutional freedoms, in particular the freedom to own guns.

huckabeeActually, the stupidity started with the show host Steve Malzberg, who asked Huckabee to comment on a story which said that Obama was going to issue an Executive Order “to require gun shop owners to conduct background checks.”  To which Huckabee replied, “There should certainly be an absolute, unapologetic – just complete ignoring of such an order by those gun-shop owners, because the President can’t make law.” I happen to own a gun shop, and if the President issues an Executive Order which in any way changes the ATF regulations under which I operate, either I follow the new regs or I can close my shop down.  But let’s first get back to what Malzberg actually said.

Malzberg’s statement about what Obama was planning to do through Executive Order had absolutely nothing to do with what Obama has been saying at all.  Federally-licensed gun dealers operating in their places of business (duh, that’s what a gun shop happens to be) have been required to run NICS-background checks on all over-the-counter gun transfers since the Brady bill went into effect in 1998.  What Obama has been talking about is the fact that gun owners often sell numerous guns either at shows, or on the internet, or face-to-face, and these activities should be more closely regulated because here is the point at which guns get into the ‘wrong hands.’  Now I happen to think that the whole issue of the ‘underground’ gun market is somewhat over-stated, but since, by definition, criminals can’t pass background checks, we have to assume that whenever a gun passes from one person to another without a background check, that such a gun could wind up in criminal hands.  Hence, the possible attempt by Obama to make it at least somewhat more difficult for some folks to willy-nilly sell guns to whomever shows up at their gun show table or responds to their internet ad with cash in hand.

Malzberg’s description of the Obama Executive Order strategy has absolutely nothing to do with what Obama may or may not have in mind. Huckabee then took Malzberg’s totally incorrect statement, ran it up the flagpole, and gave a response that was both incorrect and dumb. It might not rank up there next to Rick Perry’s call for secession at a Tea Party rally in 2009,  but it’s cut from the same stupid, pandering piece of cloth.

I’m beginning to think that the Republican Presidential candidates might be misjudging the gun-owning population on whom they evidently need to depend.  Because no matter what Huckabee or Trump says, the average person just can’t be that dumb.

The NRA Admits The Truth About How Often We Actually Use Guns To Protect Ourselves From Crime.

So my man Colion, he of the prancing around with his cute little AR, has just stuck up a new video on the NRA website, and it is simply a remarkable commentary on the Big Lie that the NRA has been spreading around for the last thirty years. And the lie I am referring to is the idea that armed citizens carrying their own guns are an effective response to crime.  In the old days they had real personalities like Charlton Heston drumming up the ‘guns protect us from crime’ doggerel, now it’s left to made-for-video characters like Colion Noir or AM Talk Radio hamsters like John Lott to spread this nonsensical and dangerous line around.  Why is it nonsensical?  Because it’s based on data which (I’m being polite) doesn’t exist.  Why is it dangerous?  Because it diverts attention from the fact that guns create risk.  Notice that I have bolded, underlined and italicized the word ‘fact.’  Get it?

noir                Anyway, so Colion has this new video in which he’s up on a stage and with lots of canned applause, ooohs and aaahs, performs a card trick in which it appears as though he is laying out 52 cards in a certain order and then tries to do it again.  And the odds of anyone being able to perform such a trick, he admits, are somewhere above a gezillion to one.  Which he then says – are you ready, are you ready? – that these are about the odds of an American getting attacked and, in their moment of peril, needing to use a gun.

What?  A spokesperson for the NRA actually coming out and saying that we aren’t all facing an immediate and continuous threat to our lives from the you-know-who’s that are stalking us down every street?  No.  Play it again Colion, play it again.  And here it is: “The odds of you or me needing a gun to protect our lives is not that much better than Colion the Incredible putting these cards back in the exact order.”   Then he drops the other shoe: “But the odds of someone needing a gun to protect their life with is a hundred percent.”

So what he’s saying in a somewhat scrambled way is that even though guns are the best way to defend yourself, the chances that you will ever have to defend yourself are a gazillion to one.  And this segues into the usual nonsense about how people who are anti-gun have no right to tell anyone else how they should defend themselves, and nobody has the ‘right’ to tell someone else that they don’t have the ‘right’ to do something.  I’m actually quoting our man Colion word for word and maybe he’s decided that if Donald Trump can get a big following by talking to his audience on a third-grade level, then Colion will get an even bigger response if he ratchets his language down to second grade.  I don’t really know whether he’s dumb, playing dumb or figuring his audience is dumb, or all three.  But I do know this: I never imagined I would ever hear anyone connected to the NRA admitting that the odds of ever using a gun in self-defense were about the same as bumping into a rhinoceros while you were taking Fido for his evening walk.

But come to think of it, that’s not really the reason why Wayne-o and the other NRA noisemakers tell us over and over again that we should be carrying guns. What the NRA has really been saying is that you shouldn’t be carrying a gun just to protect yourself, you should be carrying it to protect everyone else!  Remember the ‘only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?’

Colion my man, it’s refreshing to see someone from the ‘other side’ of the gun debate actually saying something that’s based on a bit of the truth.  But don’t push the truth too far or you might find yourself looking for a job.

The GVP Wins A Big One In Milwaukee And There’s More To Come.

Remember the NRA’s favorite slogan?  The one that goes, “Gun don’t kill people, people kill people?”  Well a jury in Milwaukee decided that it was the gun, in this case a gun sold to one jerk who actually bought it for another jerk who then pulled it out and shot two Milwaukee cops back in 2009.  Luckily the cops lived, even though they sustained serious injuries; the shooter’s sitting in a cage for the next eighty years or so. As for the guy who bought the gun, he got two years for participating in a ‘straw sale.’  The Brady Campaign helped the cops bring the suit.

trump2                Coincidentally, the very same day of the verdict, the Democratic Presidential candidates spent nine minutes of their first debate sparring about gun control, and I noticed that Shlump Trump didn’t mention this segment of the debate at all in the snarky comments he tweeting to his infantile fan club. The nation’s Number One Clown may “love” the 2nd Amendment, but the Milwaukee verdict tells a much different tale when it comes to how the average American thinks about guns.

I wasn’t in the courtroom so what I know about the trial is second-hand, but the charge against the gun shop, Badger Guns, was that the store was ‘negligent’ in selling the gun to someone who was buying it for someone else, and this negligence then led to the shooting of the cops.  Prosecutors charged that the shop employee should have known that he was engaging in a ‘straw’ sale because the buyer kept making mistakes as he filled out the 4473, even at first stating that he was not the ‘actual’ buyer of the gun, and that no attempt was made to verify the straw buyer’s real address.

The defense claimed, on the other hand, that the gun shop was ‘set up’ because the straw buyer and the real buyer had conspired to deceive the store regarding the true identity of the person who would ultimately receive the gun.  In effect, the store was duped; hence, no negligence on its part in the later shooting of the cops.  This gun shop, incidentally, has been on the radar screen for a long time, having been the source of more than 500 crime guns in one year alone.

The bottom line in the Milwaukee case is that the average American jury is no longer enamored of the NRA and no more forgiving when it comes to violence caused by guns.  There have just been too many shootings and too much pro-gun belligerence from the NRA and other gun-nut groups like the bunch in Texas who go marching around in public showing off their guns.  Alex Yablon summed it up nicely in today’s article in The Trace:  “The NRA has a group of reliable single-issue voters who can be counted on to show up to the ballot box. The thing is, they’re always there.”  And it’s not as if the next mass shooting will motivate more people to join the NRA.

Gun rights voters have become this year’s favorite morality play for the Republicans who can’t win national elections unless they find a niche, social issue to motivate their base.  They used to have gay marriage but that’s disappeared.  They can still gin up anger over illegal immigration but new immigrants now represent too many votes.  And as for abortion, Republicans have been sitting in the White House for 23 of the 42 years since Rio v. Wade in 1973 and a woman’s right to choose is still law of the land.

When it comes to social issues, the Republicans talk big and act small.  And I think this is exactly what will happen going forward in the debate over guns.  Because once Democratic politicians realize that the NRA can’t stop background checks at the state level or lawsuits against guys who sell guns, you’ll see gun control inexorably moving forward in state after state.  Remember that 37 states already declared gay marriage lawful before the SCOTUS agreed.

Is There A Connection Between Gun Violence And Mental Illness? That’s Not The Right Question To Ask.

Over the last several months, the intersection of horrific shootings and Presidential politics has once again ignited the debate over mental illness and guns.  After Sandy Hook, the pro-gun forces took the position that mass shootings could be stopped if we ‘fixed’ the mental health system.  In the wake of Roseburg, however, even that tepid (and meaningless) strategy has been abandoned by the gun gang and their Republican allies with Shlump Trump advising us that too many mentally-ill people “slip through the cracks.”  Meanwhile, mental health professionals and researchers continue to hold to the belief that, with the exception of suicide, that there is little, if any connection between mental illness and violent behavior involving guns.

shooter               What both sides seem to be saying is there’s no real solution to the problem of gun violence from a mental health perspective, because either there are too many crazies walking around or there’s no necessary connection between being mentally ill and using a gun in a violent way .  But deciding that a certain kind of behavior does or doesn’t reflect mental illness is one thing; understanding the behavior itself is something else.

If the evidence about gun violence tells us anything, it’s that using a gun to hurt yourself or someone else is an overwhelmingly impulsive act.  It is impulsive because in perhaps 90% of all gun violence, the shooter and victim not only knew each other before the gun was pulled out, but there had been continuous and angry or abusive contact between the two parties often for a lengthy period of time.  Obviously this is the case in gun suicides, which comprises two-thirds of all gun mortality; it’s true in most gun homicides, particularly for every gun homicide that grows out of a domestic dispute.  As for gun morbidity, which is so noticeable between the ages 15 and 25, most of the young men who present themselves in ERs and clinics with gun violence injuries previously sought medical assistance for other, less lethal injuries committed by the same assailants again and again.

Gun violence is not the usual way in which disputes are settled. In situations where two people get involved in a continuous dispute, four out of five of these arguments are eventually resolved violently or not – and here’s the critical point – without anyone pulling out a gun.  As Lester Adelson says in what remains the most brilliant article ever written about gun violence: “With its peculiar lethality a gun converts a spat into a slaying and an argument into a killing.”  But for every act of gun violence there are hundreds, no doubt thousands of spats and arguments that do not end up with someone being shot with a gun. And for the 20,000 law-abiding gun owners who use a gun to end their own lives each year, there are tens of thousands of seriously-depressed men and women who obtain counseling and assistance without ever thinking of taking out a gun.

Gun violence, particularly mass shootings, tears deep wounds in our cultural and emotional frameworks and shouldn’t be the subject of nonsensical and cynical sloganeering by entertainers masquerading as Presidential candidates who spend a few months on the national media circuit shamelessly promoting their names.  By the same token, those who are genuinely trying to do something to eliminate gun violence need to understand what is really at issue when it comes to defining a response to this national shame.

The word ‘impulsive’ means that someone engages in behavior without first spending one second considering the consequences of the act.  The good news is that nearly all of us learn how to express anger, even rage, without yanking out a gun.  Pardon the pun, but we still don’t know have a good fix on the trigger mechanism that turns violent behavior into gun-violent behavior. And if you want to yank out a piece, believe me, it will be there to yank out. Believe me.