What’s The Connection Between ‘Weak’ Gun Laws And Gun Violence? I’m Not Sure.

Now that the Trump Administration has made it clear that creating new gun regulations is hardly a national priority, I’d like to recommend to my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community that perhaps they would step back and rethink the issue of the alleged connection between federal gun laws and gun violence; i.e., the belief that fewer federal gun laws leads to more criminal and accidental misuse of guns.

traffic             I’m not saying that we should do away with laws which regulate the purchase, ownership and use of guns.  I’m saying that GVP needs to be a little more sensitive to the assumption that more federal guns laws equals less gun violence because at the federal level we aren’t about to see any more laws. And what the GVP community needs to do most of all is stop assuming that just because a bunch of guns from one state end up getting sold to bad guys in another state, that this means the way to fix the problem is to pass new federal laws.

Here’s a fer-instance:  The Brooklyn DA announces that he is charging 24 putzes, most of whom are Blood members, with trafficking 217 guns into Kings County, including 41 assault weapons, and selling them on the street.  The weapons, according to the DA, were ‘purchased’ in Virginia and his indictment ‘highlighted the need for federal gun control to help stem the flow of thousands of illegal guns from the South.’  And what was the evidence produced to show that these jerkoff gun sellers were exploiting (as one media report called it) the ‘weak’ gun laws in Virginia?  It was a wiretap comment made by one of the jerkoffs named Antwan Walker (a.k.a. Twan) that he could go into any gun store in Virginia and buy as many guns as he could put into a car and take up to New York.

Now let’s assume for the sake of argument that my man Twan was actually telling the truth, even though the chances that he has ever told the truth about anything is probably about as great as the chances that we will ever hear a truthful statement from #45. But the point is that if Twan could go into a licensed gun dealer and buy even one gun, he had to be able to pass a NICS background check, which means he had to have a clean record or else he would not have been able to walk out of the store with the gun.

Guess what?  The gun law which allowed our the gun-trafficking expert Twan to go into a shop and buy 50 guns and take them up to New York was the exact, same federal law which would have regulated the sale of those guns to Twan in whatever state he happened to live. So the idea that all those Southern guns are coming up to New York because Southern states have ‘weak’ gun laws isn’t necessarily true.

Now someone might say but Mike, isn’t it easier to buy guns in Virginia because that state doesn’t require background checks for secondary (i.e., non-dealer) sales? Which happens to be the case in 39 other states besides Virginia, but our young gun trafficker (a.k.a. Twan) didn’t say anything over the phone about getting guns through private sales.  Know why? Because Twan and everybody else who wants to move guns from gun-rich states like Virginia to gun-poor cities like Big Apple doesn’t have to pay for the merchandise at all. They just have to walk down any residential street, break into a private home and I guarantee you they’ll find plenty of guns to steal.

With reliable estimates of between 200,000 and 400,000 handguns stolen each year, why does the GVP community sit around bemoaning the fact that there are so many ‘straw’ sales? I’m totally in favor of extending background checks to secondary sales BTW; I just don’t think it has much to do with how those guns end up on Brooklyn streets, no matter what Twan was heard to say.

 

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Sorry, But None Of The Arguments About Why We Need Guns Work For Me.

One of the true champions in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community is my friend Donna-Dees Thomases, whose Million Moms March in Washington on Mother’s Day, 2000, was a signal event in the growth and significance of GVP.  Donna wrote a book about her experience which is certainly worth a read, and she remains a committed and energetic persona (God – where does she get that energy?) to this day. She and I were recently going back and forth because I was telling her that I was unlikely to show up at a public event where I had been asked to debate someone from the ‘other side.’  And she quickly replied, and then gave me permission to quote: “I refuse to debate the other side.”

rampage           And the more I think about her comment, the better I feel about not getting involved in a ‘guns are good, guns are bad’ discussion with anyone from Gun-nut Nation, because the moment that you let someone tell an audience why they believe that everyone should carry a gun, or why the 2nd Amendment is a fundamental civil right, or why gun ownership is part and parcel of the American dream, you are basically admitting that such arguments deserve to be heard.

Many years ago I had the opportunity to attend a seminar taught by the brilliant economist Paul Baran, shortly before his death in 1964. He told us about a time in Germany in 1934 when he refused to debate a student who would later become a high-level functionary for the SS.  The way Baran put it, “a meaningful discussion of human affairs can only be conducted with humans; one wastes one’s time talking to beasts about matters related to people.” Which is how I feel when Gun-nut Nation trots out one of it noted authorities to argue in favor of gun violence because guns are what protect us and keep us free.

The reason that such arguments in fact promote gun violence is because guns were designed and manufactured to be instruments of violence, no matter how justified you want that violence to be.  And the fact that our society has decided that these weapons of war can be kept in every household, whether or not any member of that household is being called up to fight in a war doesn’t change the essential nature of these weapons at all.  Sure, guns can be used for hunting, sport or just for plain old fun.  That’s why I keep 50 or 60 of them around and fool around with a couple of them every day. But investing gun ownership in some of cultural charisma based on a pack of lies about how we need them for self-defense is to allow a discussion about human affairs to be shared with beasts.  Sorry, it doesn’t work for me.

If you think I’m being harsh and unyielding in my comments about people who promote gun violence, you might want to read a new book, Rampage Nation, whose author, Louis Klarevas, spent a year collecting and studying data about mass shootings that have occurred in the United States over the past 50 years. I have some quibbles with Professor Klarevas about some of the methodology he employs as well as his views on what he believes might reduce gun violence, particularly mass shooting violence, in the years ahead. But notwithstanding my slight hesitations about accepting everything he says, the bottom line is that when you finish reading this book, the most sacred arguments used by Gun -nut Nation to promote gun violence vanish into thin air.

Gun-free zones do not attract shooters.  Gun-toting civilians do not prevent crime. The data is solid, the analysis is convincing, the only problem is that this book won’t change the minds of Gun-nut Nation advocates, because to quote Paul Baran, such people aren’t interested in human affairs. But the good news is that people like Donna Dees-Thomases will use what Louis Klarevas says to recruit more people to GVP.  And that’s a good thing, it really is.

And If You Are Worried About What Trump Would Mean To GVP, Here’s What You Might Do.

Apropos of the previous column I just posted about the election, one of the really energetic GVP activists just sent me a link to the page on Hillary’s website where you can find out, join and otherwise get involved in a grass-roots election event near where you live.  Here’s the link:  https://www.hillaryclinton.com/events/.

hillary            Then I asked myself the following question: Self, what kind of a ground game do you think the two candidates really have?  And I figure that I can get some kind of answer by putting some search zip codes into Hillary’s events list to see what comes out.  So the first state I stuck in was Georgia, which listed a few events in Atlanta and Savannah, but then a whole load of events in Jacksonville which, if you live in Atlanta, is really not that far down the road.

Then I stuck in Florida, and another very impressive-looking list came up, but most of the events are actually invitations to come and work at phone banks that are located in various campaign offices throughout the state.  What surprised me about the listings for Florida was the underrepresentation for Dade and Broward Counties, which happen to cover Miami and the large Hispanic populations whose votes was what made Florida into a blue state in 2012. On the other hand, the neighborhood canvassing operation in Orlando looms pretty deep.

Now let’s take a look at Utah which, according to this morning’s newspaper is another red state that may be ‘in play.’  There are only 3 events listed for that state and they all happen to be taking place in Colorado, one of which happens to be in Vail. I like Vail in the Summer when there’s nobody around and rooms that go for three hundred a night during the Winter months can be had right now for fifty bucks or less.  But if I lived in Utah I wouldn’t be driving right now to Vail.

Finally, another ‘in play’ state is North Carolina which a month ago was solidly in Street Thug’s camp but now but now, like everything else he had going for him appears to be slipping away.  Lots of events in the Tar Heel state too, but almost all of them right now in Durham and Chapel Hill. Gee, what a surprise that Hillary should have strong support in The Triangle, but it’s the rest of the state that really counts.

So the Hillary ground game has some strong spots, some weak patches, but at least there’s a game.  On the other side, the Official Street Thug website lets you register for text messages, donate from ten to one hundred bucks, and request tickets for his upcoming events, all of which over the next 3-4 days are taking place in North Carolina, Florida and PA.

If I were able to be objective and detached from this whole campaign, I could view it not just as a contest between tone and content, but a contest in which one candidate seems intent on grinding it out through a combination of big-crowd events, smaller, community-size activities and the traditional neighborhood canvassing and telephone banks; while the other candidate appears convinced that mega-sized crowd venues and social media posts is all that he needs.

As I said earlier today, I believe that most if not all the folks who usually vote Republican will vote Republican again; even if they hold their nose while they are pulling that red lever their vote for Street Thug will still count.

So GVP, it’s time to get it on.  Time to get to work.  Time to go to an event, help plan an event, help host an event and most of all, talk to as many people as you can.  Here’s the link in case you need it again: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/events/. And again: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/events/.  And again: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/events/.

 

 

There’s An Election In 91 Days And The Gun Violence Prevention Community Better Get Out And Work.

Know what?  Utah and Georgia are in play. And if those two states go blue, there goes the Deep South and the Far West.  Which means that Trump-o the Shlump-o might not win a single state.  And the more he tries to act ‘Presidential,’ the more he’s going to sink in the polls, because if he had behaved like any other politician from the git-go, he wouldn’t have won anything.  Not a single primary.  Nada.

trump           Now the latest turn of affairs in the campaign is important for the Gun Violence Prevention community because the whole Trump craziness started – remember when? – he was endorsed by the NRA.  An endorsement that in every single Presidential campaign that I can remember always occurred in late October, and this time around took place before the end of May.  Trump the Shlump wasn’t the ‘presumptive’ Republican candidate when he appeared at the NRA shindig in Louisville; he was well ahead in the delegate count but Cruz and Rubio were still viable candidates, at least in their own minds.

And the decision by the NRA leadership to put their weight behind Street Thug didn’t exactly excite everyone in the crowd at the NRA show; there were some boos, some jeers, Chris Cox had to quiet the crowd by telling them that if they wanted someone else to be endorsed, it was ‘time to get over it,’ and Trump’s appearance didn’t exactly signal the beginning of a love-fest, especially when just one month later his comments about armed citizens shooting back in nightclubs was described by Cox as defying ‘ common sense.’

You see, the problem with this particular New York landlord is that no matter how much people may not like Hillary, they seem to like Street Thug even less.  Forget the national polls which are now beginning to give her a seven-point edge; forget the swing-state polls where she’s up by more than ten points; take a look at the most important poll of all, the poll that tracks whether a candidate is liked or not.  Hillary’s numbers are bad; she’s disliked by 11% more than she’s liked.  But Trump’s numbers, to quote Chris Cox again, defy common sense. Try 63.1% to 31.8%, and I’m not talking about favorable to unfavorable – I’m talking the other way around.

So here we have the Dems running the most unpopular candidate they have ever found and the red team produces a candidate who’s even worse.  And he’s so much worse that every day another Republican office-holder comes out and says, sorry, not for me.  And the announcement by Senator Collins was made directly after Street Thug made an attempt to behave ‘presidential’ in his speech on the economy delivered in Detroit.

So what does all this have to do with guns and GVP?  I’ll tell you what it has to do with.  It has to do with the fact that most gun owners are like everyone else.  They dress the same, they work at the same jobs, they watch the same shows and they think the same way.  Are some of the idiots who show up at Trump rallies with ‘fuck Hillary’ t-shirts the same idiots who march into Starbucks with an AR slung over their backs?  I wouldn’t doubt it for a sec.

But I know lots of gun guys; after all, it’s what I do for a living, and a lot of them tell me they don’t like Trump.  Will they vote for him even though they don’t like him?  Probably will because old habits die hard.  No matter what else, Trump’s a Republican and gun guys know that the GOP may no longer be the party of states’ rights, but it’s still the party of gun rights. Which means that there are 91 days until the election and between now and then the GVP folks better not think about anything else.  Better not.

 

Gays Meet Gun Violence Prevention On August 13 — Be There!

Now that an alliance is emerging between the Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) community and LGBTQ, I think my friends who advocate for stronger gun regulations need to whether the regulations they support will really meet the needs, expectations and goals of both groups.  Because the good news is that this alliance merges the talents, energies and experiences of LGBTQ and GVP, but the issues faced by my gay gender friends were and are different than the agenda currently on the plates my friends who advocate for more regulations of guns.

gays against guns           The fact is that LGBTQ folks faced not only de-facto discrimination in past years, but in many cases had to confront legal discrimination as well. Want to marry someone of the same gender? It couldn’t be done.  Want to give a same-sex partner legal claim to your property or your estate?  It couldn’t be done.  Want to bring a child into a household comprised of two gay women or men?  Couldn’t be done.

So we aren’t talking here about the terrible inconvenience of driving to the local gun shop in order to complete a private sale or transfer of Uncle Ted’s old shotgun; we aren’t forcing anyone to sit through a couple of hours of tedious lectures in order to qualify to walk around town with a gun; we aren’t even saying that the Glock in someone’s pocket can only hold 10 rounds.  The NRA prides itself on being America’s ‘oldest’ civil rights organization, but their concern for civil rights and equality never addressed the inequality that dogged life-styles of men and women who happen to be gay.

In fact, there happens to be a gay, gun-rights organization out there called the Pink Pistols, which claims to have 45 chapters nationwide with more ‘starting up’ every day.  The Pittsburgh group has 39 members, the New York City group claims 223, in Dallas there are 106 folks who have signed on; actually these are all folks who have joined Pink Pistol groups on Facebook – who knows how many of them actually own guns?  Of course the national organization felt compelled to issue a statement after Orlando and of course felt equally compelled to use the Orlando tragedy to promote the ‘armed citizen’ nonsense that has become the basic talking-point of the NRA.  But I’ll give these folks some credit for coming up with a new twist on the stupidity and recklessness of armed, personal defense, namely that in localities that prohibit mixing guns and alcohol, exceptions should be made for ‘designated’ concealed carriers of guns.  Okay, now let’s get back to reality.

And the reality is this:  On August 13 there is going to be a big rally in Washington, DC that will cement the alliance between Gun Violence Prevention and LGBT. It’s being billed as an event to promote LGBTQ Equal Rights and Realistic Gun Law Reform and there are already 25 national gay-rights and GVP organizations signed up in support.  One of the gay groups, Gays Against Guns, formed directly after the Orlando massacre and marched in New York’s Pride parade.  Move over Pink Pistols, your concerns about gun rights just won’t fly.

The August 13 event is the brainchild and handiwork of a gay activist, Jason Hayes, who bills himself as a ‘celebrity hairstylist’ and lives in New Jersey but he’s a lot more than that.  Jason has brilliantly tapped into a wellspring of emotion and LGBTQ desire to promote yet another fundamental change.  And the LGBTQ community knows something about change.

But I want to what I said up top, namely, that LGBTQ folks come to this struggle with a very clear understanding of what inequality means, whereas on the GVP side the issue of ‘rights’ is what we always hear from Gun-nut Nation, rather than the other way around. So we need a meeting of the minds before August 13th and we also need as many minds as possible to meet on what will be an historic day.

If You Think That Wear Orange Day Won’t Making A Difference, Think Again.

Sometime early in 1965, I remember there was snow on the ground, a bunch of us left our college campus, went down to Times Square and demonstrated against American troops in Viet Nam.  At the time there were only 20,000 or so fighting men over there and people who walked past us nodded politely, glanced at and then threw away our little leaflets. After an hour or so we all went home.

We never could have imagined that five years later there would be 400,000 American GIs in Southeast Asia, but we also couldn’t imagine that there were demonstrations daily in every American city, and that eventually the anti-war stance of a majority of Americans would help bring about an end to the war.

I was thinking about my experience as a college student during the Viet Nam War last week on Wear Orange Day.  Because when it started in Chicago as a way to commemorate the life (and terrible, terrible death) of Hadiya Pendleton, I don’t think that anyone believed or even imagined that in two short years this event would swell into an international occasion embracing the activities and energies of millions of average, ordinary folks like you and me.  And when I say millions, I’m not talking about single-digit millions; I’m talking about hundreds of millions – that’s right – hundreds of millions who were aware that wearing orange on June 2nd meant participating in an activity that allowed everyone to spend some time thinking about the violence caused by guns.

orange2           I didn’t notice, incidentally, that the event was embraced or even mentioned by the NRA.  Usually when some organization, politician or celebrity says anything remotely reasonable about gun violence, Gun Nut Nation’s noise machine swings into action, inundating the faithful with emails, videos, and most of all, demands for cash.  Last week it was Hillary, this week it was Katie, there are plenty of targets around.  And the reason that the number of targets keeps increasing is the same reason why participation in the Wear Orange campaign is growing by leaps and bounds, namely, the silly and stupid arguments that are trotted out again and again to explain away the senseless deaths of more than 30,000 human beings every year from gun violence simply don’t work.

In 2015 there were 55,000 people who posted #WearOrange support on social media; this year more than 200,000 posts came up; last year the hashtag registered 220 million impressions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – try seven times that number this year; in 2015 they held a Party for Peace in Chicago, last week more than 200 events took place countryside; the Empire State Building was lit orange, so were more than 125 other landmarks from sea to shining sea.  Want a list of the hundreds of companies, major personalities, political leaders and professional sports teams that wore orange?  It’s right here.

I have been following the argument over gun violence for more than thirty years, in fact it’s going on forty because I first started paying attention to the issue of guns and gun violence prevention in the run-up to GCA68. And what is so important and different about June 2nd from every previous activity designed to increase awareness about gun violence is that this time, for the first time, it didn’t grow out of an immediate response to a horrific shooting or other crazy, gun violence event.

Which means that the emotions and energy displayed on June 2nd aren’t just going to fade away.  Because #WearOrange has now taken on a life of its own; it exists because people understand and support the idea that guns are deadly and gun violence needs to fade away.  Tomorrow I’ll go walking and spot someone who just happens to be wearing orange. I’ll flash a quick grin of recognition and I’ll probably get a quick grin back.  And if this happens to me it will happen to others and it will happen more and more.

Introducing My Get It? Campaign.

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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.