Bye-Bye American Pie.

              When I was a kid, my father’s favorite gadget was a hand-held electric drill which he used to make holes in the walls whenever we needed an additional shelf to hold clothing, books, toys, or any other household crap. The drill was made by Remington; that’s right, the same company which made all those rifles and shotguns over the years.

              I don’t know at what point Remington gave up making drills, but I never imagined that the company would ever give up making guns. Guess what? To all intents and purposes, the gun maker founded in 1816 has given up the ghost. Which it looks like may happen now to another iconic gun brand which first started making guns back in 1852.

              Earlier this week, Smith & Wesson announced they were going to dissolve a company formed in 2016 known as American Outdoor Brands (AOBC). This was Smith & Wesson plus a few small companies making gun accessories and other consumer ‘outdoor’ products, but basically it was the Springfield gun maker operating under a different name.  When the bait-and-switch took place in 2016, the company’s stock was selling for $22 a share. Yesterday it closed at $8.36. So much for how Wall Street has reacted to what Jim Dabney, the company President, refers to as the “potential for organic and inorganic growth.”

              Going forward, Smith & Wesson will be a separate company making guns. American Outdoor Brands will focus on building its unique collection of outdoor consumer products with such iconic names as Hooyman and Lockdown.  In case you haven’t heard of these great products, Hooyman makes hand saws used by hunters to build a tree-stand in the woods, Lockdown makes shelving for the interior of gun safes. If you take a look at the brands which comprise the AOBC family, you’ll notice that virtually every product appeals to the same consumers who happen to own guns. Incidentally, when AOBC made its announcement about splitting the two companies, the stock price jumped sky high from $7.90 to $8.46. Now it’s drifting back down to where it belongs.

              What’s really going on here is that the folks who run Smith & Wesson see the handwriting on the wall and the handwriting ain’t good. A big chunk of the company’s revenues come from sales of their AR-15 assault rifles, and following the Supreme Court’s announcement which lets the Sandy Hook lawsuit go forward, at some point this product line may well disappear. The kid who shot himself and five other students yesterday at Saugus High School used a 45-caliber pistol which is the type of weapon on which the entire financial livelihood of S&W and therefore AOBC depends. Think there won’t be a new gun law if Trump and his Senate GOP allies go bye-bye next year? Think again.

              For all the talk about armed, self-defense and how the 2nd-Amendment gives Americans the ‘right’ to own guns, I always thought the gun business was something much more suited to the life I experienced as a kid than the lives that most of us lead now. And while it’s true that as many as 40 percent of American homes contain guns, it’s not as if the number of guns being carried around are even a fraction of the number of people walking around with droids. Last night we were eating dinner in a local restaurant where the dining room contained about 15 tables, and at every table there was at least one person playing around with their phone. How many diners do you figure had guns on their persons? One – me.

              The joke used to be that if you wanted to make a million in the gun business, you had to start with two million.  I’m beginning to think that maybe the joke should go like this: Want to make a million in the gun business? Go into another business. Guns may be as American as apple pie, but many of us are now eating fresh fruit for dessert.

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Greg Gibson: Stop The Gun.

Our son Galen was killed in a school shooting in 1992. In the aftermath of shootings like the ones that have taken place recently in Texas and Ohio, and then in Texas again, friends still send emails and texts. They can imagine the pain such incidents evoke, and they want us to know that they’re thinking about us.

 As much as we appreciate these expressions of love and support, and as important as they’ve been to our survival, they’re somewhat off the mark by now. Mass shootings no longer re-awaken the trauma and pain that accompanied Galen’s senseless murder. The fact is, my family doesn’t follow the reports of these incidents very closely. My wife and daughter spend time with friends on social media. My son and I are addicted to what sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy once referred to as Moron Sports Talk Radio. A survival tactic, no doubt.

 When I do turn my attention to reports of mass shootings, I’ve begun to notice a formulaic aspect to way this news is delivered. Reports are likely to feature the 911 call, squad cars and SWAT teams responding, smartphone footage recorded during seconds or minutes of mortal terror, traumatized survivors weeping and hugging, and ambulances wheeling away. The perpetrator, of course, is of interest. Sometimes we even get a mug shot of the crazed young man. We desperately need to know, and we will never know, Why did he do it? If we could figure that out, we think, we might be able to prevent the next one from happening. So we read on. Mass shootings account for only about 2% of gun deaths each year, and yet they suck up a far greater percentage of our attention.

 Without our even being aware of it, we’ve entered into a sort of symbiotic relationship with the phenomenon of mass shootings. The news media commodify reports of these horrific events as “content” and we unwittingly consume this content along with the rest of the news. Not because we need more data in our tireless quest to end gun violence, but because these reports feed our news habit.

 We know that mass shootings have become creepy memes that morph and evolve on the basis of information gathered from prior shootings. Yet we continue to make that information available – in mind-boggling abundance – to the next wave of racists and madmen. I understand that there is not a conscious conspiracy between the news media and the forces of evil. But I do believe the time has come to take a hard look at the role the media play in this problem.

 It’s clear by now that cultural change will be an important factor in reducing gun violence. It’s equally clear that, as much as reporters rely on cultural activity to create content, the content they create helps shape the culture upon which they report.

 Why do we not hear more about the destructive effects of gun violence – 100 deaths each day – on families and communities, particularly among people of color? Where is the reporting on the devastation that trails in the wake of suicide with firearms by teens, vets, and law enforcement officers – which has risen by 30% since 2013? Why do we not hear more about the link between ownership of firearms and domestic violence?

 In my experience, people who are affected on a daily basis by gun violence – people of color who live in specific, socially isolated areas in almost any big city – hardly ever ask why? They’re more interested in how. Ruth Rollins, one of the founding members of Boston’s Operation LIPSTICK told me that when someone is killed in her neighborhood the first thing people want to know is where the gun came from? How did it get into the shooter’s hands? She said, “If you stop that gun you stop a shooting.”

 We need to dispense with the 911 tapes, the second-by-second descriptions of the carnage, the postmortem psychological profiling, and the gnashing of teeth over warning signs disregarded.

 Let’s talk instead about what kind of gun did what kind of damage. We need solid reporting on how the shooter got his hands on the weapons he used, and where they came from. It’s as true in your town as it is on the streets of Roxbury, Massachusetts or El Paso, Texas.

 You stop that gun and you stop a shooting.

Why Do We Believe That A Gun Keeps Us Safe?

              Our friends at UC-Davis have just published an article on the connection between increased gun sales and gun-injury rates. The good news about the article is that it is open source, which means you can download it here and read it for free. So I commend Garen Wintemute and his colleagues for giving everyone in Gun-control Nation an opportunity to share their research findings for free.

              That’s the good news. After I summarize their research and what they learned, I’m going to mention the bad news. And the bad news is what Wintemute and his research team didn’t bother to learn. But first, here’s see what they learned.

              The research covers a ‘spike’ in handgun sales in California in California following the 2012 re-election of The Bomber and the Sandy Hook massacre, two events that occurred within a space of five weeks. The authors define a ‘spike’ as a “sharp and short-lived increase in firearm sales.”  From this, the authors then attempt to test the following hypothesis, namely, that “the sudden and unanticipated influx of firearms in a concentrated area such as a city could result in increases in firearm harm.” The research covered injury data from 499 California cities along with a complete run of handgun sales which are recorded individually and kept by the California DOJ.)

              Here’s where I have to raise a small, red flag. The authors claim that they measured the spike in gun sales from the date of Obama’s election until six weeks post-Sandy Hook. But what this analysis fails to consider is whether the spike was only a response to those two events rather than reflecting the release of pent-up demand which developed prior to Obama’s second win.

              I spent the entire Summer and Fall of 2012 sitting by myself in my gun shop because I didn’t know one, single gun nut who thought that Romney wasn’t going to be inaugurated President in 2013. Even Romney believed this fantasy and so did everyone else. Which is why gun sales collapsed during the run-up to that election, because everyone knows that when the White House is occupied by a Republican, the gun business goes into the toilet, prices collapse and why not wait a few months before buying your next gun? After all, it’s not as if anyone needs to buy another gun.

              If the UC-Davis researchers wanted to get a clear picture of the post-election spike, what they should have done was to factor in the trend of gun sales before the cataclysmic event took place. Gun sales always pick up in November and over the next three to four months, but the comparison should be judged not just by looking forward in time, but also by looking back.

              Did the researchers find an ‘association’ between the gun spike in November-December and an increase in gun injuries over the following year? Of course they did, although the percentage of gun injuries (4%) was substantially less than the percentage increase of handguns that were floating around. Again, I am somewhat leery of how the research team computed what they refer to as ‘excess handguns’ (meaning more guns being sold than were usually the case) because of the issue of pent-up demand.

Okay, now here comes the bad news.

We have all kinds of evidence that gun sales spike after mass shootings or other events that might portend new regulations reducing the availability of guns. Much of this research is referenced by the UC-Davis team. But to me, the question that really matters and that nobody in the public health research domain seems interested in understanding is this: Why do some people actually believe that a gun will protect them from the kind of harm represented by what took place at Sandy Hook?

If public health researchers like Wintemute and his colleagues would sit down and try to figure that one out, maybe just maybe we could hold a reasonable discussion with gun owners about the risk of owning those guns.

Is that too much to ask?

Shouldn’t The Cops Be Leading The Charge Against Mass Shootings?

              Yesterday we were treated to a spate of reports covering the arrest of suspected mass shooters in Connecticut, Florida and Ohio. The incidents were unrelated, but all three suspects were arrested either because they made digital threats or had tried to purchase mass-shooting equipment online. What appears to have been the key ingredient in all three episodes was a heightened awareness of mass shooting possibilities by law enforcement agencies both at the local, state and digital levels.

              Yesterday I also received an email from a gun-control advocacy group alerting me to the September 25th hearing on the national assault weapons ban (H.R. 1296) before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill has picked up 201 co-sponsors; it goes without saying that not a single member of the GOP House delegation appears on the co-sponsor list.

              I’m going to pause my current-day narrative for a moment and go back in time.  Some may recall that a wave of arson which destroyed more than 145 Black churches in the rural South crested during the 1990’s and then abruptly came to an end. It’s still not clear to what extent these attacks were coordinated throughout nine Southern states, but we do know how the problem was ultimately solved.

              In June, 1996 the feds created a National Church Arson Task Force (NCATF) under the leadership of the ATF.  This was accompanied by the passage of a law, the Church Arson Prevention Act, which funded a multi-jurisdictional effort coordinating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. In two years this effort, based on 670 separate investigations, resulted in 308 arrests and 235 convictions, including the arrest of 119 juveniles.  In the years which followed, there was almost a complete disappearance of Church vandalism, both for Black and non-Black houses of worship.

              I am beginning to think that in a less-organized or formal fashion, the same degree of cooperation and diligence may be at work in the arrests of these mass-shooting wannabes over the last several days. What is clearly happening, and it happened in the church burnings back in the 1990’s, was a similar copy-cat behavior which spread from place to place, from dope to dope, from messed-up kid to messed-up kid. It can’t be coincidence that the three young men arrested for possibly planning mass shootings were all in their early 20’s, were all in some way or another attracted to racialist beliefs, were all trying to attract attention to themselves through posts on various social media sites.

              Which brings me to a question that I need to ask my Gun-control Nation friends: Why do you think that an assault weapons ban that does not include a buyback will work better than setting up a national task force on mass shootings like the task force that was created in response to church burnings all over the South? One of the first things that the NCATF did was to create and publicize an 800 number which anyone could call with information about a threat, said information was then routed to the appropriate law enforcement agency along with follow-up monitoring by the NCATF group itself. Remember the law enforcement response to a phone tip about the guy who then murdered and wounded 34 teachers and students at Stoneman High? There was no response.

              I’m not trying to disparage or in any way undermine the efforts of dedicated, devoted activists who are trying to promote a national assault weapons ban. I have made it clear again and again that these man-killing products are simply not (read: not) sporting or hunting guns. But I also don’t understand the reluctance of Gun-control Nation to enlist the support and cooperation of law enforcement agencies who, after all, happen to exist for the purpose of preventing crimes. And the last time I checked, shooting up a school or any other public space happens to be a crime.

              As far as I’m concerned, every strategy to reduce or prevent any kind of criminal gun violence needs the cops to be in charge.

Who Says Guns Can’t Protect Us From Mass Shooters?

              There’s a story going around the alt-white/right network that el Shlump-o is going to propose a national registry of all AR owners that will be managed by the FBI. I’m hardly surprised that Newsmax and other venues which push their content to the paranoids amongst us would trot that one out, but it may also be the work of some clever guy who does marketing for the gun industry since the events of the past weekend will surely result in a spike of assault rifle sales.

              It’s no secret that whenever the tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a Democrat, gun sales go up, just as when the tenant is a Republican, gun sales go down. And the reason is very simple, namely, that both political parties depend on support from groups and individuals who either do, or do not like guns. In this respect, I have to say that the pro-gun gang is more honest in their intentions and beliefs, because they make no secret about the fact that they really do want to hold onto their toys. On the other hand, I cringe every time that some gun-control proponent starts off by saying that he or she ‘supports’ the 2nd Amendment because that just happens to be a load of crap.

              Yesterday the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington’s National Cathedral, issued a statement in which he asked, “How long will we tolerate this epidemic of gun violence?” He then went on to note that he grew up hunting birds and target shooting with family and friends, so he was addressing his letter to all his fellow gun owners, since he claims a kinship with them.

              The National Cathedral has an active gun-control group. I am privileged to work with this group and have appeared at one of the public conferences on gun violence which they hold from time to time. Let me break it to the Very Rev. Hollerith as gently as I can: The Cathedral has never asked a bone-fide gun nut to show up and explain why he loves his guns and why he is opposed to every ‘reasonable’ gun-control measure that the Cathedral leadership supports.

              Yesterday our friend John Lott was informed that his Twitter account had been closed down because it was decided that an op-ed he wrote for The New York Daily News somehow violated the guidelines of what Twitter believes is proper content for their site. Lott’s op-ed was a comment about a manifesto published by a mass shooter in New Zealand which somehow tied his anti-Muslim feelings to support for environmentalism – go figure that one out.

              Let me say the following as directly and bluntly as I can, okay?  I am opposed to censorship of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who censors the writings, statements or public appearances of anyone else forfeits their right to exist (rhetorically speaking) in the public space. Frankly, my liberal friends who decry gun violence on the one hand but applaud attempts to muzzle someone like John Lott on the other should be ashamed of themselves, no matter what.

              Whether we like it or not, people who really believe that the Democrats, the liberals and the gun-grabbers of all stripes just can’t wait to take away their guns aren’t just a bunch of paranoid nuts. They are reacting to real fears, even if those fears are then exploited by the paranoia hucksters on the alt/white-right. If nothing else, these mass shootings will make the gun argument more toxic on both sides.

              A week after the 2008 election, I walked into a gun shop in Houston and the place was mobbed. I asked someone why there were so many people trying to buy guns and he replied in a completely serious tone, “Haven’t you heard? Armageddon’s coming, we have to be prepared.”

              The guy in the Houston gun shop wasn’t buying a gun to go out and shoot up the town. To the contrary, he really believed that he needed a gun to protect himself from some nut. Was he so wrong?

Mass Shootings Are Now The Norm.

              I bought my first assault rifle in 1978 – a Colt Sporter AR-15 with a ten-round clip. Since I lived near the big army base in South Carolina, Fort Jackson, I was able to get my hands on plenty of.223 ammo. So from time to time I would take a sack of ammunition and go down to a sand pit with the gun to have some fun.

              I also owned two lever-action rifles, a Winchester 30-30 and a Marlin in 44 mag.  These were the guns which knocked down deer aplenty, the 30-30 probably bring the most versatile hunting caliber ever devised.

              Anyone who tries to pass off an assault rifle as a hunting gun has drunk too much kool-aid to have a serious discussion about guns or anything else. On the other hand, the AR-15 is lots of fun to shoot. And the reason it’s so much fun is precisely the reason it has now been used in three mass shooting rampages in just over a week.

              The AR loads its ammo magazine from beneath the gun, which means that no matter how big a magazine or how many rounds it holds, it won’t get in the way of the shooter looking through the sights and aiming the gun. Most AR rifles come with a 20-round magazine, 30 round mags are commonly found, and if you tape two 30-round mags together, you can get off 60 rounds with an AR in a minute or less. The kid who shot up the Sandy Hook Elementary School popped off more than 90 rounds in five minutes, most of that time spent moving from room to room.

              Shooting an AR with a hi-cap magazine is like playing with a shooting video game. Except all of a sudden it’s not a game if the targets are real people rather than some cartoon figure on a screen.

              Of course the minute Trump got done demonstrating once again his leadership by schlepping out the old ‘thoughts and prayers,’ he then went back to the other standard narrative about how mass shootings are the work of the mentally ill.  I’m surprised that the mental health network hasn’t yet made their usual noise about how mentally ill people shouldn’t be castigated for violent behavior, but that messaging will no doubt come before the day is out.

              As for the physicians who deal with physical, as opposed to mental health issues, this morning’s CBS broadcast of their ‘Sunday Morning Show’ brought seven docs together to talk about their reactions to this weekend’s events, and they all agreed that physicians need to do a better job figuring out who is capable of committing this kind of carnage before the event occurs. The fact that the shooters in Texas, Ohio and California all purchased their guns from licensed dealers was somehow ignored.

              What all these mass shooters have in common is that most of them planned their events in a very deliberate and painstaking way. They built up their arsenals over time, they practiced at the range, they checked out various locations and escape routes. All of this behavior was and is very different from the impulsive and immediate way in which a street guy yanks out his Glock and goes – bang!.

              The point is, that if anything, people who want to commit mass carnage go out of their way to appear ‘normal’ to other folks precisely so that they can make their plans in an organized and efficient way. To deny that such people are not mentally ill is really silly unless you want to define mental illness as being totally and completely deranged.

              I would love physicians to develop some kind of evaluation profile that would allow them to identify people at risk for committing mass murder with guns. But in the absence of such research, I simply don’t understand why the medical community has so much difficulty responding to gun risk by saying clearly and loudly that the one way to end gun violence is to get rid of the guns.

              You really don’t need more CDC research funding to figure that one out. 

Two Valuable Articles on Mass Shootings.

              Two articles on mass shootings have just appeared which deserve some Mike the Gun Guy space. The first is an article by our friend Eric Fleegler, M.D., who hangs his hat and stethoscope in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital where he’s seen his fair share of kids killed and injured by guns. You can download his article right here.

              In his article, Fleegler notes that more than three-quarters of all deaths in the age cohorts 16 to 34 are due to guns and that annual gun deaths are now almost 40,000, the highest rate in twenty years, the rate has increased nearly 20 percent in the last ten years alone.

              This continued surge in gun deaths is particularly interesting because it undercuts Gun-nut Nation’s basic claim that the more that are floating around, particularly the more guns being carried concealed, the more that crime and violence is supposed to go down. Now it’s true that the rate for all violent has dropped from the mid-700’s in the early 1990’s to less than 400 the last couple of years, the murder rate has also declined by roughly half over the same period of time. But the number of states which issued ‘shall-carry’ CCW in 1999 was thirty, the number today is forty-two. How come the murder rate since 2000 is basically unchanged?

              The other paper, downloadable here, is an addendum about mass shootings from Adam Lankford, whose original paper went to print in 2016.  In his initial piece, Lankford claimed that a review of sources showed that the U.S. experienced a level of mass shootings that was not only an anomaly for advanced countries but for just about every country worldwide. The problem with that paper, whose conclusions vaulted Lankford into the front ranks of researchers engaged in gun violence work, was that the journal which published this piece did not allow access to the data sources which he used.

At the time, I mentioned that the lack of source material not only created some doubt in my mind about whether his work was based on sufficient data to be considered true, but that such data needed to be made available to the entire research community precisely because accurate information about gun violence outside the U.S. is often quite difficult to obtain, never mind understand.

Lankford has mitigated both my concerns in this new piece which contains links to all the data sources he used to compare mass shootings in the rest of the world versus mass shootings in the U.S. Moreover, in talking about mass shootings he introduces a novel concept that creates a different, and I believe, an extremely substantive argument to differentiate between mass shootings which are simply the result of a nut-job who walks into a public space and shoots the place up, as opposed to the mass shootings which we consider to be the work of terrorists both here and abroad.

Basically, Lankford argues that mass shootings in the U.S. are entirely committed by one individual who usually plans and carries out the attack alone – perhaps the only exception being the massacre at Columbine, which occurred twenty years ago this month. On the other hand, mass shootings carried out by self-proclaimed terrorists (or announced to be the handiwork of terrorist organizations) are almost always events in which there are multiple shooters who operate in tandem for the purpose of using the violence to promote a political point.

I happen to believe that differentiating mass shootings based on the number of shooters, rather than the number of victims, is a very significant issue in defining the relative levels of violence between the U.S. and other both advanced and underdeveloped states. I’ll have more to say about this next week when I discuss Lankford’s argument with John Lott. In the meantime, studying mass shootings as a variation of the behavior which is responsible for just about all our gun violence, namely, someone pulls out a gun and – bang! – is a good place to begin.

When Is An Assault Rifle Not An Assault Rifle?

              The gun industry better come up with a basic narrative to staunch what could be some serious financial problems, assuming that the AWB virus (read: assault weapons ban) begins to spread throughout the globe. Because it just doesn’t work to refer to a gun as a ‘modern sporting rifle’ when the so-called ‘sport’ results in 50 people getting killed. It also doesn’t work to refer to an AR-15 as a ‘tactical’ gun when you can hardly consider a high school, a synagogue  or a mosque to be a war zone.

              This search for a new excuse to continue making profits from the sale of .America’s most popular’ rifle’ was on full display yesterday with a really stupid op-ed in The Washington Examiner. The writerlikened allowing families of Sandy Hook victims who want to sue the gun maker to be just as ‘ridiculous’ as allowing someone to sue a company which manufactures kitchen knives after some ‘crazy person’ takes a knife out of the cupboard and sticks it in someone else’s head.

              Last week I bought a knife from an online seller whose advertisement claimed that for $69.95 I was getting my hands on the best, most versatile and most effective ‘tactical’ knife ever made.  The advertisement made a point of promising that with this knife in my pocket, I could defend myself from any and all threats. There was no mention of whether I could also use this knife to slice a loaf of bread.

Of course I could stick this knife in the same kitchen drawer where I keep the utensils which I use to prepare and eat food. But I can also go down to Wal Mart and buy an entire set of forks, knives and spoons, or a complete set of steak knives (in a nice, wooden knife-holder) for less than $69.95. And I would be the last person to argue that if my loony cousin Arthur escaped from the loony bin, showed up at my house, grabbed one of those steak knives and pushed it into my head, that my wife should be able to sue Wal Mart because they sold me a product that was designed to trim the side of my Porterhouse filet.

This is exactly why the argument against banning assault rifles falls apart. Because an assault rifle is designed to do one thing: deliver massive, military-grade firepower into a public space containing multiple human beings who are targeted by the guy who has the gun. And the fact that nearly everyone who owns such a weapon wouldn’t think of using it to hurt or injure someone else, doesn’t make this type of gun any less dangerous or any safer for civilian sale.

One of the most popular semi-automatic rifles ever manufactured is a gun made by Ruger known as the Mini-14. It fires the same type of ammunition as the AR-15 (.223 or 5.56) and bears a slight resemblance to the old M-1 carbine, which was the 30-caliber version of the storied M-1 Garand. It was designed by Bill Ruger specifically to be a lightweight, sporting gun that could be used to hunt varmints or just have some shooting fun.

When Ruger started shipping this rifle it came and still comes with a 5-shot mag. So here was a gun that looks like a military gun, feels like a military gun and shoots like a military gun except that Bill Ruger didn’t want anyone thinking they were buying a military gun. In fact, Bill Ruger first characterized his company as ‘Arms Makers for Responsible Citizens,’ but the factory now ships what they call a ‘tactical’ Mini-14, complete with hi-cap mags.

Could Ruger refit its Mini-14 with a non-detachable mag that only holds 5 rounds? Of course they could, but the gun wouldn’t sell. And this is the reason why the gun industry has become, to paraphrase Hamlet, hoisted with its own petard. Because they can’t have it both ways. Either we shoot for sport or we shoot to kill. It’s as simple as that.

According To The NRA, Sandy Hook Was Just A Frivolous Event.

              It took our NRA friends at Fairfax less than 24 hours to respond to the opinion published by the Connecticut Supreme Court after the Court deliberated Soto v. Bushmaster for more than 15 months. And what the boys from Fairfax said is what is always said by the alt-right when a legal decision goes the other way, namely, that it was the product of an ‘activist’ court; ‘activist’ being a code-word for any judicial opinion they don’t like.

              The reason Gun-nut Nation doesn’t like the decision is because it may start a trend around the country where busybody tree-huggers and other liberal types who hate guns will dig up some consumer-protection statute in their state which can be used to take away from the gun industry its beloved federal protection from torts, a.k.a. the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a.k.a. PLCAA.  This law exempts the gun industry from the kind of lawsuits that have been plaguing the tobacco industry for years, namely, taking responsibility for damages from their product even when the product is sold in a lawful way.

              When PLCAA was passed in 2005, the law contained certain exemptions for state laws that gave consumers a basis for legal redress if the product’s use created an injury or a financial loss. Connecticut has such a law, known as the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practice Act (CUTPA), and it was this law which was used by the Sandy Hook plaintiffs to ague their case. It was also this law that the CT Supreme Court majority held to be applicable while a minority of the justices said it was not. I’ll deal with each in turn but first I have to mention a detail of the case that may prove difficult for some to read.

              On the morning of December 12, 2012 a 20-year old named Adam Lanza woke up, took a bolt-action, single shot rifle and shot his sleeping mother in the head. He then took an AR-15 rifle with multiple, hi-capacity magazines, drove to the Sandy Hook Elementary School and within five minutes killed 26 adults and children, then pulled out a pistol and took his own life.

              Adam Lanza didn’t own the AR-15. His mother had purchased the gun a year earlier, and at no time did she state that she had purchased the gun for him. This is the reason that the case could not go forward under the doctrine of negligent entrustment, because the plaintiffs would have been required to prove that the actual purchaser of the product had used it in an unsafe manner, which was obviously not the case.

At the same time, the CT Supreme Court majority held that the case could proceed under CUTPA, because that law “authorizes any person who has suffered an ascertainable financial loss caused by an unfair trade practice to bring an action,” no matter who committed the unfair act. The majority further found that the PLCAA law exempted CUTPA because even though PLCAA exempted only laws which specifically referred to firearm commerce, the CUTPA statute prohibited unfair or deceptive advertising in any kind of commerce, which would supersede the specific limitation found in PLCAA.

              What was the minority opinion which the NRA grasped like a veritable last straw? It was the idea that since PLCCA only covered state laws which contained specific reference to guns, that the CUTPA law couldn’t be used  by the plaintiffs in this case. And if there is any doubt about where the NRA stands on this issue, they applauded the minority dissent because it would protect the gun industry from – ready? – frivolous litigation, obviously a category which includes the Sandy Hook case.

              How many people have to get killed by someone wielding an AR-15 before such an act would’nt be considered frivolous?  Only 17 people were killed at Parkland, so I guess that one was even more frivolous an event than what happened at Sandy Hook. Maybe we should set the bar at 50 dead bodies, maybe 100, maybe more.

What Happened At Sandy Hook.

It took the Connecticut Supreme Court more than fifteen months to issue a ruling in the Sandy Hook case, but when the opinion was announced, it was a doozy. Not only did the Court reverse the Superior Court’s ruling and hold for the plaintiffs against the gun maker whose product was used to kill 26 adult and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the decision got right to the fundamental issue which the gun industry has been trying to wish out of existence for at least the last twenty years.

When gun makers realized that hunting was going the way of the dial telephone, they came up with a brilliant marketing plan to keep the factories humming, namely, the idea of guns as being essential for self-defense. Now the fact that most Americans never find themselves in a situation where they need protection from a criminal threat isn’t at issue here. What is at issue is that enough consumers believed this malarky to keep the gun industry from sliding into the red.

With the advent of terrorism, non-ending battle engagements in the Near East and a generalize fear that something like 9-11 might happen again, however, the whole notion of armed, self-defense was transmogrified into messaging which blurred the traditional boundary between civilian and military weapons, with the gun industry finding its strongest new market in something called ‘tactical’ guns.

Of course the gun industry also knew, particularly after the Heller decision in 2008, that they couldn’t push this move into military-style armaments too far, because Scalia specifically refused to grant 2nd-Amendment protection to what he referred to as ‘weapons of war.’ So the industry invented the idea that guns like the AR-15 weren’t military weapons; they were ‘modern sporting weapons,’ meaning that the word ‘sporting’ could be applied to any gun which fired in semi-automatic mode.

The CT Supreme Court decision is quite lengthy, primarily because it deals not only with the state laws covering consumer protection (CUTPA and negligent entrustment) but it also explains in detail why the gun industry in this instance cannot use the federal tort immunity law – PLCAA – to shield itself from legitimate damage claims. And on Page 12 of the opinion, the rubber meets the road with the following accurate and very strong text: “The AR-15 and M16 are highly lethal weapons that are engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency. Several features make these rifles especially well suited for combat and enable a shooter to inflict unparalleled carnage. Rapid semiautomatic fire ‘unleashes a torrent of bullets in a matter of seconds.’ The ability to accommodate large capacity magazines allows for prolonged assaults.”

Folks – the CT Supreme Court got it right. The AR-15 wasn’t designed to be a ‘sporting’ gun, unless you want to define ‘sport’ as the ability to kill 26 human beings in 4 minutes or less. And if a shooter can deliver that amount of lethal firepower in such a short period of time, it makes the idea of differentiating between full-auto and semi-automatic modes a stupid and sick joke.

What happened at Sandy Hook is that someone used a product that is too dangerous and too lethal for civilian sale. Because the product was used precisely in the way it was designed to be used – to kill as many human beings as possible in the briefest period of time. In all of this my great regret is that in order to force the gun industry to acknowledge the lethality of this product, beautiful and precious lives had to be lost.