How Can We Stop Guns From Getting Into The Wrong Hands? Simple: Just Stop The Guns.

There’s an elephant sitting largely undisturbed in the GVP living room, and it consists of the 75,000 times each year when someone picks up a gun and uses it to hurt someone else.  In medicine this is referred to as ‘intentional injury/firearm.’  The cops call it an aggravated assault but if the bullet hits a vital spot, then a homicide has occurred.  Either way, these events account for more than two-thirds of all gun injuries, and the number appears to be going up.  For sure it’s going up in places like Chicago and Detroit, where rates have always exceeded national averages for violence caused with guns.

With all due respect to the energy and commitment if GVP activists, I still don’t believe this problem is being addressed at its core.  It’s all well and good to ask the government to expand background checks on private gun sales, or crack down on straw sales, or pass stronger laws against gun trafficking, and I’m not arguing against the utility of such plans; I’m simply saying that none of those strategies attack the root of the problem, and the root is not supply but demand.  Because what all those programs have in common is the belief that if the supply of guns that might end up in the wrong hands is choked off at the point where those guns enter or re-enter the market, this will lead to a smaller number of illegal guns, which will lead to fewer guns getting into the wrong hands, which will lead to less guns being used to inflict injuries on others.

Unfortunately, while we know a lot about the supply side of the argument, we know next to nothing about the demand for guns.  Why do a small percentage of individuals who commit violent acts against others commit these acts by using guns? According to the CDC, there were 2.3 million intentional, violence-related injuries in 2013, of which 78,000, or 3%, were caused by guns. So while we focus our thoughts and concerns on the 3%, the fact is that 97% of people who commit violent acts choose not to use a gun.  And I simply don’t believe that the motives which explain that choice can be assumed to reflect difficulties in getting hold of a gun.  Particularly because in neighborhoods where most gun violence occurs, even the younger kids will tell you that a gun can easily be acquired in 24 hours or less.

The problem with choking off guns at the point of supply is that most such policies would require some change in behavior of law-abiding sellers or buyers of guns.  The movie, Making A Killing, includes a segment about Chuck’s Gun Shop, out of whose inventory comes many guns that end up being used in Chicago crimes.  Know what happened after Chuck’s promised to be more vigilant in checking who was buying their guns?  Gun violence in Chicago went up.  I know, I know.  There are plenty of other gun shops located close enough to the Windy City where the bad guys can get guns.  That’s exactly my point.  As long as guns are legal commerce, don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, the market will find some way to satisfy demand.

Back in the 16th Century, the French monarchy imposed a very strict tariff on salt, the gabelle, in order to raise funds for the always-depleted royal treasury. Know what happened?  Salt smuggling became the #1 non-farming occupation in Southern France. It’s a mistake which we make all the time to differentiate between the ‘legal’ market and the ‘illegal’ or ‘black’ market, because in fact they operate exactly the same way.  A market, legal or illegal, is created whenever there is an exchange of products for money and regulating the former may have little or no impact on the latter.

Of course there’s one infallible way to regulate both markets when it comes to guns.  And we all know what that way is.

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Making A Killing: Don’t Miss This Movie

There’s a media company in California called Brave New Films which earlier this year released a remarkable documentary about America and guns.  The film is called Making A Killing – Guns, Greed and the NRA, and from the title you can easily guess which side of the gun argument is being caught in this film.  It’s a lengthy production for a documentary, runs more than 90 minutes, and much of the footage is devoted to comments by the families and friends of people whose lives were ended because they got in the way of a loaded gun.

The film is divided into four basic segments, each covering a category of gun death with which we are all too familiar: domestic abuse where an ex-husband assaults the ex-wife, the accidental shooting of a young kid, the endless shootings which take place virtually every day in Chicago, and a suicide committed by a seemingly stable young man who runs out one day, gets a gun and does himself in.

Interspersed between each segment are some quick cameos of the usual gun-nonsense comments by Wayne-o, as well as various devotees of the 2nd Amendment including Rubio and Cruz.  I must say that juxtaposing a shooting victim lying in the street with Ted Cruz saying that expanded background checks won’t do “anything at all” makes the gap between gun violence reality and pro-gun political pandering a joy to behold.  Not that the film is joyful in any sense of that word, but I really am pleased at how the filmmakers created an aesthetic production without sacrificing any truth or honesty at all.

Of course there are people who will say that there’s no necessary connection between the fact that Glock pistols are used in countless acts of gun violence and that Gaston Glock lives in a beautiful mansion or that Wayne-o evidently keeps his front lawn neat and trim. And while the production weaves back and forth between data on the number of people killed and wounded by guns each year versus the revenue and profits that accrue to companies like S&W and Colt, ultimately the question has to be asked whether there are certain types of profit-making ventures where the physical costs ultimately outweigh the financial gains.  What the film does project in a particularly direct and emotional way is the efforts of the gun industry to separate itself from the physical toll connected to the products that it manufactures and sells.

This brings me to the last twenty minutes or so of the film and I am not sure if I can adequately convey the degree to which this final footage is simply beyond anything that exists when it comes to capturing the extreme violence associated with guns.  Because this last segment relives in the most graphic terms, the mass shooting in the movie theater at Aurora, and what makes it so chillingly and terribly effective is that in parts it is narrated by the shooter himself!

That’s right.  The filmmakers use some of the taped interviews with James Holmes to show how he methodically collected what he refers to as his ‘equipment,’ i.e., guns, ammo, smoke bombs and gear.  Then his voice narrates how he drove to the theater and parked out back.  Meanwhile, you are then taken inside the theater where moviegoers describe how they lined up for popcorn, went to their seats, settled back to watch the show.  And then here comes Holmes again who says, in a clinically measured voice, that planning the shooting was how he coped with his depression because going into stores and onto the internet to buy ammo and guns allowed him to “shift from the suicidal to the homicidal.” And then we hear a smoke bomb go off, and a theater security camera captures panicked, terrified people fleeing from the scene.

I can’t say any more.  See the film and judge for yourself.  The moviemakers set an initial goal of 1,000 screenings and 1,00,000 pairs of eyes in front of those screens and they are almost there.  Help them exceed that goal?  Contact Brave New Films.