Does Emma Need To Be Afraid Of Those Dopes With Their AR-15s? I Hope Not.

“Going up against the country’s largest gun lobby organization was obviously something that needed to be done, but it means that the people we’re arguing against are the ones with the guns. I am personally deathly afraid of them, and I know, from traveling the country during the summer for the Road to Change tour, that many of the people who disagree with us mean it when they say that they only want to talk if we’re standing on the other end of their AR-15s.”

emma             This is an excerpt from an op-ed written by Emma Gonzalez published today in The New York Times.  The piece is making the rounds in Gun-control Nation, and will be used by every gun-control organization to energize the troops for the big showdown on November 6th.

I notice, by the way, that over the last five days, according to Nate Silver, that the odds of the House going blue have slipped from 80.4% to 73.9%, and over that same period, the odds that the GOP will retain control of the Senate have gone from 68.1% to 78%. Weren’t both trends supposed to be going the opposite ways?  This mid-term election is beginning to smell slightly like the national election in 2016, a contest on which Gun-control Nation pinned all its hopes and dreams which then came to nothing at all.

That was then, this is now. Now we have remarkable kids like Emma Gonzalez whose determination to inject a note of reality into the gun debate has energized Gun-control Nation like nothing before.  It has also, of course, provoked a response from the other side, the Gun-nut Nation side, specifically responses like the one Emma says here: “many of the people who disagree with us mean it when they say that they only want to talk if we’re standing on the other end of their AR-15s.”

Last time I checked, the gun industry claims to have sold somewhere around 15 million AR-15s, or what they used to refer to as ‘modern sporting rifles,’ over the last ten years. The industry no longer promotes this ‘sporting’ nonsense because the word ‘sporting’ is out and the word ‘tactical’ is in.  When the President of the United States finds it convenient to excuse the fact that a bunch of schmucks were marching around Charlottesville wearing Nazi armbands and toting their assault rifles to protect a statue of Robert E. Lee, you have to figure that the United States has a tolerance for stupidity unmatched by any other national state.

Unfortunately, the same people who tell you they have a Constitutional ‘right’ to own an AR-15, will also tell you that the Constitution gives them the ‘right’ to wave it in your face. And I am sure that Emma is not exaggerating when she says that she has been threatened by acolytes of Gun-nut Nation in appearances here and there; God knows I get enough crazy emails from the same bunch and I’m not leading a national, gun-control movement like the movement that has emerged in the wake of activities by Emma, David, and their other high school friends.

But in measuring the degree of animosity created by Emma, I think we have to distinguish between serious threats and what, in many cases, is nothing more than an increase in the general volume of hot air. Of course, you can argue that had authorities in Florida responded when Nikolas Cruz first began making a nuisance of himself, perhaps the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School wouldn’t have occurred. Which is probably true.

On the other hand, why should we surprised when some dopes say they will only debate Emma if she’s in the crosshairs of their guns when the President tells a raptured audience that he would still get elected even after shooting someone down in the street? My friends in Gun-control Nation need to acknowledge that right now verbal excess is not only condoned but expected, particularly when the discussion happens to be about guns.

 

 

 

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Doctors Selling Products To Respond To Mass Shootings? That’s Nonsense.

Twice in my life I had the good luck and fortune to be able to ask a doctor about a serious medical issue affecting myself or a close family member, and in both instances, I received what turned out to be timely and accurate advice. So, I have always believed that physicians should be judged by a different standard, which is one of the reasons that I go out of my way to write about the necessary role doctors play in dealing with gun violence, which occasionally is not appreciated or understood.

trauma-stop-the-bleed             On the other hand, every once in a while I come across an example of physicians behaving in ways which fill me with dread. And what I mean by that is when they use their intelligence, training and public trust to promote some crazy idea or worse, huckster some product that has no earthly wellness value at all.

There is a group out there who call themselves BleedingControl.org., and their goal is to ‘train every American in bleeding control techniques.’ It started in Connecticut following Sandy Hook and is now connected in some way to the American College of Surgeons and claims to have trained 15,000 instructors and 125,000 individuals in bleeding-control techniques throughout the United States.

Would an organization like this even exist were it not for the anxiety and fear created by mass shootings at Parkland, Las Vegas and Sandy Hook?  After all, we have been fighting the ‘War on Terror’ since 2001, a day hasn’t gone by since the Twin Towers came down that we didn’t hear about some kind of terrorist attack or threat. No, this is clearly a response to mass shootings, and an attempt to market products based on fear.

What products does this group market?  Just go to their website and you can fund a handy-dandy Personal Bleeding Control Kit for $69 bucks, a Portable Bleeding Control Bag for $650 and a wall-mounted Bleeding Control station for $800 bucks.  I guess the wall-mounted kit can go next to the fire extinguisher, right? Of course every kit contains an instruction manual and frankly, I’m surprised that they don’t yet have a CD-ROM. But instead of a disc, you can always buy a t-shirt which contains basic blood-control instructions embedded into the cloth. How thoughtful.

I recall that at some point during a gym class in high school, the school nurse came in and gave us a demonstration of CPR. Now we didn’t do a live drill because that would have required each of us to put our mouths over someone else’s mouth which is something the boys wanted to do to the girls but not for the purpose of saving anyone’s life. I can tell you that if, God forbid, I came upon someone lying in the street today who needed immediate resuscitation, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what to do. Because you don’t learn a medical technique by just reading an instructional manual or going to one class. You learn by doing it again and again. Right now, you can attend a free class in ‘bleeding control basics’ which lasts for two hours and meets once. Once.

When the bombs exploded at the 2013 Boston Marathon, more than 260 people were injured but only 3 victims died. This remarkable life-saving effort occurred because the explosions took place at the finish line which happened to have a medical tent, fully staffed by physicians who attended to runners coming to the end of the race and needing some degree of medical support. There are two reports, covering the medical response to the bombing, one online, the other can be downloaded here,  Neither of these reports claim that any degree of life-saving work was done by civilian volunteers.

I’m not saying that a well-trained individual couldn’t save the life of a mass-shooting victim. What I am saying is that physicians shouldn’t be appealing to our fears to sell some products that can only be used by people who are very well trained. After all, doesn’t the NRA promote gun ownership based on fear?

 

 

The Lawsuit Against Alex Jones Injects Reality Into The Gun Debate.

Every time a gun-control law is upheld, our friends in the gun-control movement (I think the idea of trying to convince Gun-nut Nation that we don’t want to ‘control’ guns is absurd) exult and rightly so. But the lawsuits filed against Alex Jones by a group of Sandy Hook parents has more significance than any particular legal statute could ever have. What the Sandies are saying is that they have suffered threats, harassment, public humiliation and invasions of their privacy because Jones keeps blaming them for what happened at the elementary school. Which is what conspiracy theory is all about: identify a vulnerable victim and then pile on.

jones   Ultimately, the argument over gun violence is going to get down to how the average person thinks about guns, and the influence of someone like Jones over the public gun debate has been an important factor in the way the argument has gone along until now. The problem in this case isn’t the issue of determining what happened at Newtown, it’s the way that folks who are shocked and dismayed by these kinds of events react by getting involved in activities which might prevent such horrendous massacres from happening again.

I guarantee you that if the Sandy Hook parents had just suffered their silent grief and decided, individually and collectively to stay out of public view, that the conspiracy theories which ramped up immediately after December 14, 2012 would have quickly gone away. But the Sandies formed an organization devoted to promoting alternatives to violence in schools; they journeyed as a group to D.C. to help Obama with his attempt to get a new gun law;  they continue to advocate for restrictions on guns; and worst of all, the sued the gunmaker who manufactured the AR-15 which was used to kill 20 little kids and 6 adults in a five-minute rampage inside the school. Oh, that AR-15 isn’t too lethal for civilian sale.  It’s just a sporting rifle, right?  Yea, right.

The reason that Jones continues driving down the conspiracy path with Newtown, he’s claimed the same thing about the Aurora massacre, by the way, is because much of his audience happens to come out of the gun-owning fringe who feel that even the NRA is too tame to represent their beliefs. Think I’m kidding?  Take a look at his interview of Ted Nugent, whose high-intensity slurs and insults against the liberal ‘menace’ often put Jones to shame.

Jones says that he first got turned onto his political world view because his father was a member of the John Birch Society – remember them?  The Birchers were the first group that created an entire political belief-system around conspiracy theories, in particular the notion that there was a worldwide conspiracy of Communists, liberals, and other enemies of freedom which unless we were all endlessly vigilant, would rear its ugly head. They group has become somewhat more respectable over the last few years, their website is simply another imitation of Breitbart which, thanks to DD Trump has determined that ‘illegal aliens’ are now the big threat.

What makes the legal actions against Jones so compelling is that it forces people to confront the fact that gun violence, which kills and injures an average of 340 people every day, is something that actually takes place.  Let’s say, for example, that a particular locality suffers from a high degree of gun violence and decides to enact a new gun-control law.  What’s to stop someone like Alex Jones from saying that the 24 gun murders which occurred in a certain city so far this year weren’t just staged?

When the NRA says that it’s not the gun that kills people, it’s people who kill people, they are promoting a false narrative which is no different than Alex Jones claiming that Sandy Hook never took place. It’s high time that such cynically-proffered delusions get challenged not just in the law courts, but in the court of public opinion as well.

 

How Do We Define A Mass Shooting? Not The Way We Should.

It’s official! The influencers and decision-makers who want to do something to reduce gun violence have decided that the definition of a ‘mass shooting’ is four or more people ending up dead, in many instances the toll including the shooter as well. This definition is central to a major analysis of mass shootings published last week by The Washington Post, which claims there have been 152 such events since Gary Gilmore began blasting away from the top of the Texas Tower in August, 1966.

mass             These numbers works out to less than 3 mass shootings per year, which WaPo says is a ‘small slice’ of gun violence, and doesn’t include shootings that took place within a private residence or were street shootings involving gangs. To invent a definition which arbitrarily defines ‘mass’ shootings as only involving events where a certain number of people are killed, while ignoring non-fatal gun injuries, is to feed into a public discussion about gun violence which not only makes no sense, but completely distorts what gun violence is really all about. But right now, let’s stick with what WaPo has to say.

Since DD Trump was inaugurated, there have been 12 mass shootings, resulting in 142 deaths and another 482 individuals wounded or injured but still alive. In the two final years of the Obama regime, there were also 12 mass shootings, with the final toll coming to 115 dead and 100 surviving injuries or wounds. Were it not for the ability of one mass shooter to barricade himself in a hotel room far above an enormous group of potential targets and another who charged into a densely-packed nightclub, right now we would be bumping along with every mass shooting claiming, on average, roughly 7 fatalities and 5 non-fatal assaults.

What I don’t understand in all the ongoing discussion about mass shootings is the obsession we seem to have with defining these events in a way which allows us to keep track of the number of deaths and injuries with a degree of certainty that we never, ever impose on any other attempt to analyze or understand gun violence. By drawing a red line between shootings which occur in public spaces but don’t involve public streets where so-called ‘gang’ shootings occur, we are not only accepting an arbitrary definition of this totally fanciful phenomena known as ‘gang violence,’ but along with drawing another red line between shootings which occur in private spaces (i.e., residences) we are probably reducing the real number of shootings that claim multiple victims by as much as half.

When the cops arrive at a murder scene and nobody saw nuttin’ except the body lying in the street, they describe the event as ‘gang violence.’ That’s the end of that. When the pissed-off ex-husband walks into a family party to which he was disinvited and begins blasting away, he’s not putting a bullet into as many bodies as possible because it’s a private space; he kills everyone he can because that’s where they all happened to be at the same time.

The real reason the FBI narrows its definition of ‘mass shootings’ is because if the agency were to use a definition that took all shootings with multiple deaths into account, or defined a ‘shooting’ as involving multiple victims whether they died or not, all of a sudden their accurate numbers on mass shootings quoted by WaPo and every other mainstream media outlet would disappear.

According to our friends at the Gun Violence Archive, who define a mass shooting as any incident in which 4 people are killed or wounded, there have been 102 such events this year alone, with 130 fatal victims and another 413 who were wounded but survived. The WaPo says there have been 152 mass shootings since 1966. Using the GVA’s much more realistic definition, we’ll get there this year by mid-July. And that’s what mass shootings in the United States are really all about.

 

You Don’t Need An Assault Weapon To Kill Lots Of People – Any Old Gun Will Do.

Not that facts make any difference in the argument between the two sides about gun violence, but the Santa Fe shooting was somewhat different from other mass shootings in two respects. First, the shooter killed and wounded 20 people not with an assault weapon like an AR-15, but with a pump shotgun and a 38-caliber revolver, types of guns that have been around forever and don’t usually figure in any discussion about banning this type or that type of gun to prevent mass shooting events. Second, not only was there an armed citizen on the premises, but he happened to be a full-time cop who was seriously wounded during the assault.

santa fe             After nearly 30 minutes, during which time the 17-year old shooter exchanged gun fire with two other cops, the terrible slaughter came to an end. It didn’t end because the shooter committed suicide, which often is the way these things go down. It didn’t end because an ‘armed citizen’ or law-enforcement officer wounded or killed the man who killed 10 people and wounded 10 more. It ended because the kid gave himself up.

As I said above, facts often don’t matter in the gun-violence debate.  Gun-nut Nation will continue to rant about how and why guns are essential to protect our God-given ‘rights.’ One pro-gun idiot even showed up at the high school wearing a MAGA hat and a pistol on his hip, claiming that he was just there to “offer support.” He got himself interviewed and then drove away. No doubt this jerk will probably be invited to attend next year’s NRA meeting to receive some kind of ‘armed citizen’ award.

We can safely ignore or dismiss such stupidities because when the gun-control community talks about gun violence, after all, we rely on evidence-based facts. An example of this concern for shaping the gun-violence narrative on hard data, as opposed to fanciful nonsense promoted by Donald Trump and Fox News, is a new initiative on the part of researchers and activists called ‘A Call For Action To Prevent Gun Violence In The United States Of America,’ which has now been signed onto by more than 200 mental health groups and 2,300 individual experts in the weeks since the Parkland massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High. Members of this group have attended conferences, testified at public hearings and published an 8-Point Plan. I can just imagine the thousands of emails which zinged back and forth in the process of devising this plan.

The plan’s eight points address school violence in various ways, first and foremost creating and maintaining positive school environments “that protect all students and adults from bullying, discrimination, harassment and assault.” The plan sets as a second priority “a ban on assault-style weapons, high-capacity ammunition clips, and products that modify semi-automatic firearms to enable them to function like automatic firearms.”

I didn’t notice that the kid who walked into Santa Fe High School yesterday had an assault weapon. I also don’t think he had any high-capacity ammunition mags because the two guns he used to kill and wound 20 people don’t take gun magazines of any kind. The shotgun he carried probably contained eight rounds or less, the revolver could only be shot 6 times before it would have to be reloaded again.

Now that more school students have been shot this year than the number of U.S. soldiers killed in both combat and non-combat roles, I really believe it’s high time for the gun-control movement to stop competing with Gun-nut Nation over concerns for 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ If folks who signed onto that 8-point pledge actually believe that you can call for gun regulations but still support private ownership of guns, I suggest that such experts hold their next conference at Area 51. You never know – maybe the Martians have figured out a way to reduce gun violence on their planet because we sure don’t seem to have a clue.

 

 

How Do We Define Mass Shootings? Let Me Count The Ways.

If I had a nickel for every different definition of ‘mass shooting’ that’s floating around out there, I could go back to sleep this morning instead of getting dressed to go to work. Last time I counted, there are at least four different ‘mass shooting’ definitions appearing in the media based on how many people get killed, how many people get shot whether they die or not, where the event takes place, and whether or not to include ‘domestic’ acts of violence, aa if anyone has a definition of ‘domestic’ that fits every case.

LV2             The issue of mass shootings has taken on a certain importance not just because of Parkland, but because the organizational response of the gun-control movement has been to push one of their favorite ideas, namely, a new assault weapons ban (AWB.) The idea, of course, is being vigorously contested by the other side, whose chief ally in this regard is DD Trump, who seems to have a peculiar affection for getting rid of gun-free zones. And since Trump is now tying mass shootings to gun-free zones, all the more reason why the #resist movement would try to get more traction for a new AWB.

Let’s get back to the definition of a ‘mass shooting,’ because here is where the rubber meets the road.  Earlier this month our friend Lott published a critique of what is an important book on mass shootings, Rampage Nation, in which the author, Lewis Klaveras, argues that mass shootings declined during the 1995-2004 AWB, despite the fact that the number of mass shootings involving the use of an ‘assault weapon’ was: a) quite small; and, b) didn’t change during the years covered by the ban.

Klarevas has responded to Lott’s criticism by saying that the latter’s definition of ‘mass shootings’ is “arbitrary,” when, in fact, it is the definition employed by Klarevas himself (6 or more deaths) which has never been used by Lott or any other gun researcher, including the folks who write the reports on mass shootings for the FBI. Lott uses the FBI definition which sets the number of deaths at four and excludes shooting events that are either gang-related or occur within a domestic situation, a definition with which I wholeheartedly agree.

What makes mass shootings such terrifying events is not just the loss of life; it’s the randomness of the event and the anonymity of the victims who are injured or killed. Steve Paddock didn’t know the name of anyone attending the rock concert in Vegas when he opened fire on October 1st. Nikolas Cruz had been a student at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, but he didn’t go to the school to hunt down a specific kid or kids. With all due respect to my many GVP friends, John Lott is absolutely correct when he says that mass shootings are unique events in which the motives of the shooter can’t be simply explained because someone holds a grudge against someone else.

I am beginning to believe that gun-violence arguments based on numbers are a dead end. I say this, first of all, because in other columns and studies I have addressed the fact that most of the data we use to create numerics about gun violence are at best rough estimates, at worst simply made up out of whole cloth. And if we can’t even agree on the numerical definition of mass shootings, how could we ever come up with a rational strategy to deal with mass shooting events at all?

So I’m going to go out on a limb and offer a definition of a mass shooting which at least might get us beyond the useless arguments being engaged in today. A mass shooting is when someone points a gun at someone else, pulls the trigger and keeps firing until he’s out of ammo and has to reload. I like this definition because it gets around behavior or motive and simply acknowledges a basic truth: Guns aimed at human beings will kill them faster than any other device that we know.

 

And Now Trump Becomes An Expert on Gun-Free Zones.

One of the problems with talking about mass shootings is that everyone seems to have a different definition of what the term ‘mass shooting’ really means.  What is really interesting about this subject is the fact that the U.S. has so many shootings that we can create different categories of what constitutes mass shooting and what does not. How many people have to get killed at one time? Some say four, others say five. Others go so far as to say that it doesn’t really matter how many get killed; it’s the number of people who get shot by the same guy whether they live or die.

mass attacks                                  There’s also an argument about where a shooting resulting in multiple victims takes place. Some of the mass-shooting compilers say it doesn’t matter where it occurs, others ignore shootings that occur during other criminal events, or inside someone’s house or maybe yes or maybe no when it comes to a shooting in a school

Then there’s the big issue of whether or not mass shooters focus their activity on gun-free zones. If a public venue posts a sign prohibiting guns on the premises, does this serve as an invitation for a mass shooter to grab his trusty AR-15 and enter that zone?

All of these questions have been swirling around not just because of what happened at Parkland, but because that idiot in the White House has to open his yap and say something stupid about how mass shooters are attracted to gun-free zones.  In fact, at the NRA meeting Trump-o said that 98 percent of all mass shootings since 1950 occurred in gun-free zones. This statement provoked the Washington Post to do a little digging and they turned up some data from John Lott who came out with the 98% figure in 2013, then revised it downward last week to 97.3%. His latest research is an attempt to correct what he considers to be the misleading report  published by Everytown, which set mass shootings in gun-free zones between 2009 and 2016 at roughly 10 percent.  Lott’s data for the same period says the number was 86 percent.

How could Lott and Everytown come up with numbers that are so wildly different in terms of the percentage of mass shootings that take place in gun-free zones?  It gets down to the fact that Lott and the Everytown researchers define a mass shooting very differently depending on where it takes place. Lott’s data excludes private residences, as well as shootings that were part and parcel of an ongoing criminal event. Nearly two-thirds of the mass shootings counted by Everytown occurred in private homes, the victims usually belonging to the same family group.

I happen to agree with Lott that someone who walks into a family party and starts blasting away represents a horse of a very different color than the guy who walks into a movie theater or a school and just tries to kill as many people as possible, even though he probably doesn’t know the identity of a single person who gets caught in his sights. Where I find myself unable to go along with Lott’s research is his assumption that a mass shooter is motivated to attack a particular location because he knows it is a gun-free zone.

The U.S. Secret Service has just published a very detailed study of 28 mass shootings which occurred in public spaces in 2017. You can download it here. They found that of the 23 attackers who used guns, at least 10 possessed the weapons illegally at the time of the attack. A more significant finding is that every attack in a public space that was motivated by some kind of domestic issue resulted in injuries both to targeted as well as random individuals. In only two of the attacks was the shooter prevented from greater violence because of the intervention of another individual, in neither case with the use of a gun.

Let’s face it folks. The problem isn’t gun-free zones. The problem is someone getting pissed off and grabbing a gun.

 

 

 

Gun-nut Nation Better Come Up With A Better Rant Than What Nugent Said.

If nothing else, the emergence of a national gun-control movement led by a bunch of high school students has not only forced the pro-gun cabal into a defensive mode, but raises the possibility that the NRA’s cherished ‘good guy with a gun’ mantra may finally be running out of steam. And who among the ‘good guys’ has been more vocal in promoting the pro-gun anthem than Ted Nugent, who took a shot at the Parkland kids by calling them ‘mushy-brained children’ who have been ‘fed lies’ by the usual liberal, moneyed types, you know, Soros, Bloomberg, et. al.

nugent1              After the 2016 election I wondered how alt-right attack dogs like Palin, Nugent, Loesch, Hannity, Rush and Coulter would adjust to defending, rather than verbally assaulting the status quo. Because no matter how many times Schmuck-o Trump pretends he’s ‘cleaning the swamp,’ he now represents the Beltway crowd and he can only survive by making deals which means giving up something for everything he gets. And don’t think the NRA and their noisemakers aren’t sitting in Fairfax wondering what they’ll do if the Congress turns blue later this year and Trump has to strike some kind of deal over guns.

I happen to think that Ted Nugent is a genius when it comes to writing lyrics for his songs. I also think he’s pretty smart for having figured out how to sustain a musical career by occasionally saying extreme and crazy things that other artists and public figures would never dare say. Am I accusing Ted of using his celebrity status to promote himself both on and off-stage? He’s certainly not the only entertainer to mix politics and show-biz by appealing to a following that will respond to both. After all, Joan Baez just announced a new concert tour by spending several days with ‘more than two hundred Indian tribes who have gathered to oppose the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.’

I hate to break it to Ted, but if the best he can come up with for criticizing the Parkland kids is the idea that they are being ‘fed lies’ by the gun-grabbing crowd, he won’t get much traction from this rant. Because what makes this moment so different from every previous effort to use a rampage shooting to spread the gun-control gospel is that Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg don’t have a friend in the Oval Office on whom they can lean. And there’s an old rule in military strategy which says you can’t come up with an effective way to deal with the enemy unless the enemy is right in the middle of your sights.

When Wayne-o went on national television a week after Sandy Hook and blabbed on and on about ‘good guys with guns,’ he wasn’t trying to besmirch the parents from Newtown, he was reminding the faithful that these parents had been invited to the White House by Gun-Grabber Number One. But what can the boys from Fairfax say when the guy whose political campaign cost them thirty million sits there respectfully listening to the Parkland kids and then issues a statement commending these same kids for their ‘courage’ in marching against guns?

When Schmuck-o Trump showed up at the 2016 NRA show I knew right then that the NRA might have made a tremendous mistake. Because you don’t spend eight years selling the idea that ‘gun rights’ can only be threatened by a liberal President when the guy you decide to back has a long history of being less than enamored about guns.

I’m not saying that Trump wasn’t a clear alternative to Hillary who would have made a new gun law a priority if she had won the gold ring. What I am saying is that the Gun-nut Gang and its acolytes like Ted Nugent better come up with a narrative that goes beyond accusing some high school students of being ‘dupes’ or ‘pawns’ in the national debate about guns. Because if nothing else, these kids witnessed first-hand a rampage shooting, and for all his tough talk, Motor City Ted’s career can’t compete with that.

Wishing Everyone a Peaceful and Joyous Easter!

 

 

Rohan Krishnan – A Violent Connection: Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence

 

Mass shootings are increasingly becoming a fact of life in the United States. According to the FBI, a mass shooting is defined as a shooting where at least four people are killed, not including the perpetrator. America has significantly more mass shootings than any other comparable Western nation.

LV2The goal of my project was to explore if a causal relationship exists between mass shootings and domestic violence. Mass shooting data from multiple sources such as the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, Congressional Research Reports, Everytown and Mother Jones reports etc. for the past 20 years (1998-2017) was extensively analyzed in this project. Each instance of mass shooting was validated through 10-12 supplementary articles in the media which provided additional information such as location, criminal and mental history, motive, relationship to victims etc. A custom Google Map was created to capture all the 74 mass shootings in a visual fashion. Each shooting was categorized into the following buckets: domestic violence, workplace violence, mental illness, vengeance, terrorism, race-related and gang-related violence. Detailed information such as the identity of the shooter, number of casualties, firearms used in the shooting and whether the guns were obtained legally or not is indicated on the map. The analysis leads to the conclusion that roughly 36% of these mass shootings had a strong correlation to domestic violence meaning that the shooting itself was either a case of domestic violence or the shooter had previously been reported for domestic violence against a spouse or a family member. The frequency of domestic violence related mass shootings has increased over this 20-year period, especially the last few years, which has witnessed a dramatic spike in shootings and casualties. The surprising observation is that the majority of the shooters in domestic violence related cases obtained their firearms legally. This demonstrates that the systems in place was not able to prevent these horrible abusers from obtaining deadly firearms legally.

In order to address this serious issue, a package of three legislative proposals, already implemented successfully in several states, is proposed as part of this research. These include the following:

  • ERPO (Extreme Risk Protective Order), a bill that essentially allows family members to notify police if a gun owner exhibits aggressive or dangerous behavior that may put themselves or others at risk and thereby allows law enforcement to confiscate their guns for a temporary period of time. Given that mass shooters and domestic violence abusers often exhibit signs of aggressive and dangerous behavior before the actual act of shooting, allowing family members to report such behavior to authorities can potentially prevent such familicides. ERPO has already been enacted in California, Oregon, Washington, Indiana and Connecticut. States where ERPO has been enacted witnessed one suicide averted for every 10 guns seized. Currently, ERPO bills are being considered in 19 states and Washington DC.
  • Secondly, the boyfriend loophole that originated in the Lautenberg Amendment allows those with a domestic violence restraining order against a partner with non-marital status or stalker to continue to buy or possess firearms. This loophole has not been closed in 29 states allowing dangerous abusers to keep their firearms. According to the Bureau of Justice, 48.6% of domestic violence victims are in dating relationships, which indicates that prohibiting these violent abusers from possessing firearms is imperative.
  • Although the Lautenberg Amendment prevented domestic violence offenders from obtaining guns, it did not give authority to the government to remove firearms already in their possession from these offenders. According to a Johns Hopkins University study, neither law enforcement nor the courts have been granted the authority to confiscate firearms from domestic violence offenders in as many as 23 states.

I firmly believe that these common sense legislative approaches which enjoy bi-partisan support can significantly reduce mass shootings related to domestic violence. None of these proposals call for a broad-based ban of firearms which allows law-abiding citizens to possess firearms while keeping them out of the hands of dangerous abusers. As a result, these pieces of legislation can be realistically passed in the near future with the potential to significantly reduce gun violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Gabor: It’s A Folly To Arm Teachers.

Since the atrocity at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump has been promoting the idea that arming instructors, or at least some of them, would have prevented the carnage.  The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre has weighed in predictably with the tired slogan he created following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”   States like Florida are considering adopting some version of this approach in lieu of significant changes in firearm policy.

teachThe recitation of LaPierre’s slogan in the aftermath of these slaughters of our young is, in my view, cynical, offensive, and unsupported by empirical evidence.  It is also as illogical to suggest that increasing the volume of guns will reduce gun violence as it is to make opiates more accessible as a way of addressing the opioid crisis.  The solution of arming teachers is also highly cynical as this measure often depicts teachers as the last line of defense preventing our schools from descending into complete chaos.  Arming teachers or school staff does nothing to address the reasons why so many young men in America, relative to other countries, wish to murder as many of their peers as possible and nor does this proposal address the accessibility of weapons that enable these massacres.

Surveys show that neither teachers nor the public like the idea.  Like their college and university counterparts, most educators are not interested in doubling as security guards and students would feel less safe with schools awash in guns.  Teachers worry about undermining their special role as educators and mentors, which consists of a different skill set from that of security staff.  School teachers are usually women and women tend to have low gun ownership levels.  Schools would likely lose valuable talent.  Even if just some teachers were armed, incentives would likely be required to recruit and retain teachers with armed training, creating a preference for those prepared to undergo the necessary training over talent in the classroom.  In addition, scarce educational resources will be diverted from the classroom to firearms training.

The cost of training teachers and/or other school staff willing to serve as armed marshalls would be prohibitive and ongoing training and recertification would require time out of class, with its associated costs.  Kansas gave school districts the prerogative of arming teachers and the state’s largest insurer of schools refused to cover schools with armed instructors, deeming the situation as unduly risky.

In general, across the US, the training required of those with permits to carry guns, in states where a permit is required, is woefully inadequate.  Rigorous training ought to include instruction in the law pertaining to the use of force, gun safety and handling, judgment (when to shoot and not to shoot), awareness of the possibility of friendly fire incidents, and marksmanship under stress.  Even trained police officers miss their targets about 80% of the time in combat situations.  Deployment of a gun in a crowded school being attacked by a shooter requires exceptional skill, judgment, and composure.

While there are far too many school shootings in the US relative to other countries, there are about 60 per year in about 150,000 public and private schools or 1 in every 3000 schools.  Just as in the case of firearms kept in the home, arming teachers in every school may well result in many more unforeseen misuses of firearms, including  unauthorized uses of force, accidental shootings and discharges, and thefts of guns.  Teachers may over-react in dealing with unruly students and use deadly force to control them, a departure from the intent of arming them.  Issues relating to the disproportionate use of firearms against minority students may arise, as it is an issue with full-time, professionally trained law enforcement officers.[1]

Also, arming at least some teachers will create a new market for the gun industry, one reason the gun lobby supports this initiative.  The industry is currently experiencing a major downturn in sales.  In addition to helping deal with slumping sales in the industry, the entire idea is not just dangerous and harmful to the mission of schools but a huge distraction from what we ought to focus on:  The community and societal issues that produce school shooters and the weapons that enable them.

 

Thomas Gabor, Ph.D. is a criminologist, sociologist and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America.