The Bloomberg Super Bowl Ad Got It Right.

Since everyone else seems to be shooting off about Mike Bloomberg’s Super Bowl ad, I might as well inject my two cents into the discussion as well. I not only liked the ad, the fact that he used some questionable data about how many children are killed each year with guns didn’t bother me at all. Given how far from reality most narratives stray that are promoted by Gun-nut Nation about their so-called gun ‘rights,’ so what if Mike’s advertisement claimed that 19-year olds were just kids?

The internet is filled with all kinds of messaging saying that Mike’s ad was ‘hypercritical,’ ‘wrong-headed,’ ‘arrogant,’ ‘elitist,’ all the usual anti-Bloomberg crap. But the best video of all was put together by the boys at Fairfax based on some ‘interviews’ at the big Pennsylvania gun show that took place at the same time the Super Bowl was being played. These interviews were so candid, so original, so individual, that it took me about 30 seconds to realize that all the folks spieling about Bloomberg were working off the exact, same script.

Of course the line-up of people defending their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ was as inclusive as all gun-owning populations tend to be; there was the cop, the mother wearing her Trump hat and the Black dude who was particularly upset because Bloomberg spends millions on armed security guarding his house so how ‘I can’t use a gun to defend where I live?’ 

Hey schmuck, did it ever occur to you that the reason Mike has to spend money for armed security is because he wants to make sure that the security guards he hires to protect himself actually know how to use a gun? Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe you don’t have any ability to engage in armed, self-defense just because you sat in a room while some old guy droned on and on for a couple of hours about how to hold, clean and fool around with a gun?

At some point, I don’t recall exactly the year, but it had to be after 2001 (because that’s when I went back into retail guns for the third time and this incident took place) my friends at 1200 Roosevelt Avenue, which happens to be the address of Smith & Wesson, decided to try and buy some ad space in that year’s Super Bowl magazine. The ad agency producing the magazine turned them down. They also tried to do a promotion at a NASCAR race except NASCAR also turned them down. I tried to do a promotion with the local Harley dealer but the Harley corporate office wouldn’t let the dealer get involved with anyone selling guns.

These incidents took place long before Sandy Hook, long before Mike Bloomberg started bankrolling Shannon and her Moms, long before all those shooting rampages that have focused significant public attention on gun violence. In other words, for all the talk by Gun-nut Nation about how guns are becoming a mainstream consumer product, the truth is that there isn’t a single, mass-market venue allegedly favored by gun owners which is willing to step up and do any kind of promotional activity on behalf of guns.

It’s not very difficult to go to a gun show and find some folks who will tell you all the reasons why they like guns. But what kind of reaction would be found if Nielsen or one of the other TV survey companies called up Super Bowl viewers and asked them what they thought about Mike’s message on guns?

To me, what was different about Mike’s ad was that it wasn’t really a political message; it was more like a PSA that focused on guns rather than on Corona virus or some other public health threat. And if Mike continues to run ads that focus on issues rather than on insults, invectives and lies, he will be making an important and necessary contribution to the current political debate.

GO MIKE!

Advertisements

Run Mike, Run.

So this morning I started off 2020 by taking a look at Mike’s website and volunteering to help his campaign. I’ll get into the reasons why I am supporting him below (actually it’s one reason) but before that, I took a look at what he has to say about guns. After all, if Trump’s the first President to fashion an entire political image around his so-called support of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ so Mike’s the first Presidential candidate who has made a national name for himself by trying to do something about the violence caused by guns.

And in case you slept through the 2018 Congressional campaign, there may be a whole bunch of first-time members of Congress who owe their seats to the money they received from Mike, along with millions of dollars he put up to support gun-control initiatives in various states. And let’s not forget that he also has been instrumental in helping our friend Shannon build the first, truly grass-roots organization which fights the good fight against guns. But back to his 2020 campaign.

Mike has a whole section on the website devoted to his plan for controlling guns. To his credit, there isn’t a single word on his website about supporting the 2nd Amendment. He isn’t pandering to Gun-nut Nation by talking about ‘sensible’ gun laws, a la Liz Warren, or ‘respecting’ the 2nd Amendment, which is what Joe says on his site. I really wish the Democrats would stop pretending that anyone believes them when they say how much the 2nd Amendment can somehow co-exist alongside ‘reasonable’ gun laws. Give me a friggin’ break, okay?

Mike’s plan to deal with gun violence is basically to apply the same gun laws throughout the United States that have existed in New York City since 1912; i.e., the strict licensing of all guns which requires a permit prior to every purchase along with registration of all guns.

There’s only one little problem with this approach, however. And the problem happens to be the fact that while New York City now has a remarkably low level of gun violence, a trend that started under Rudy’s administration, accelerated under Mike but now have jumped up again under Bill, the city’s gun laws haven’t changed one bit no matter who is in charge, except that Mike did increase the licensing fees.

Why did gun violence decline so much in New York after it rose to epidemic proportions in 1993? Nobody really knows, except that the downward trend in the Big Apple occurred in virtually every large city throughout the United States. And endless books, articles and hot-air to the contrary, we don’t really know why that happened either, for that matter. All we know is that it did.

So I’m not going to bat for Mike because of his stance on guns. I’m going to support him because I believe, with all due respect to my friend Joe, that Mike has the best chance to beat Trump. And I further believe that in order to beat sh*t-head Trump or sleazy Don or whatever you want to call him, Mike just has to do one thing:

When the time is right Mike, just release your tax returns and that will be the end of that.

Have a great 2020 everyone!

Bloomberg-Watts Vs. LaPierre Isn’t A Fair Fight.

              I went to my first NRA show in 1980. It was held in Philadelphia (of all places) and featured an appearance by a Presidential candidate named Ronald Reagan. I don’t recall his speech attracting much attention, I also don’t recall that there were any vendors promoting ‘tactical’ products or any of the other crap which currently provides the gun industry with its marketing mantra about how and why guns are needed for personal defense.

              That was then, this is now. The last time I went to the NRA, which was the 2014 Indianapolis gathering, you would have thought we were one step away from having to defend ourselves from an ISIS invasion or from a complete and total disarming of the American population, or both. No matter where you looked, there was endless signage exhorting everyone to prove their patriotism by making sure that liberals, gun-grabbers and all sorts of other left-wing radicals (including the African-born occupant of the White House) would never get a chance to take away ‘our’ guns.

              At some point during the Indianapolis hoopla I wandered into the business meeting where the now-deposed head of the NRA-ILA, Chris Cox, was giving a speech. And here was the sentence that I remember most of all: “The 5 million members of the NRA will not allow Michael Bloomberg to lie his way, buy his way, or bully his way into taking away our Second Amendment rights!” The reason I remember this line was because the week prior to the show, the New York Times carried an article which claimed that Mayor Mike had decided to ante up $50 million to promote gun-control programs, chiefly through investing in the growth of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, founded by Shannon Watts.

              Yesterday the Washington Post took some time out from celebrating the doomed Presidency of Schmuck-o Trump to interview Shannon Watts, the headline reading: “The NRA is weaker than they’ve ever been.” Which, if anything, is something of an understatement given what has happened to the boys in Fairfax over the last couple of years. America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ has gone from getting the red-carpet treatment at the White House to shutting down its media channel, losing Board members and spending what little dough it has in the  bank account to defend itself from legal threats all over the place. You think the investigation into the NRA‘s non-profit status being conducted by the state whose Governor wrote the infamous Clinton plan to regulate the gun industry isn’t a serious threat?  Think again.

              In the olden days, the only reason the NRA was considered such a powerful force was that the other side, the gun-control side, didn’t have any kind of financial or organizational clout. But once Mayor Mike decided to move into the business of growing a gun-control movement, I knew that the NRA‘s dominance in the public discussion about guns would quickly come to an end. And I didn’t have to be any kind of self-appointed genius to figure that one out. I simply made a quick comparison between the achievements and experiences of Mike Bloomberg versus Wayne LaPierre.

              Mike Bloomberg took a $10 million partnership payment from Salomon Brothers in 1981 and created an international media company which today has locations worldwide, employs more than 20,000 and may have annual revenues in excess of $10 billion bucks. He’s probably worth more than $50 billion, which makes Wayne-o’s alleged financial excesses look like chump change.

On the other hand, Wayne LaPierre has never worked in the private sector and his experience in building any kind of organization adds up to zilch.  When he took over the NRA in 1991, he pushed the membership from 2.5 to 3.5 million; in the process he entirely used up the organization’s financial reserves. So much for Wayne-o’s business acumen.

If the NRA stops trying to lead the alt-right and goes back to representing the legitimate needs of hunters and sport shooters, this would be a very good thing. Going up against Shannon and Mike is something they better avoid.

Levi-Strauss Understands Gun Violence – It’s The Gun.

,             If there’s one brand name out there which we associate with the Old West, it’s not Smith & Wesson or Colt, it’s Levi’s, as in Levi-Strauss.  Their signature product, denim jeans held together with copper rivets rather than just plain thread, didn’t really become a mass market item until long after the frontier was closed, but the name and those leather labels still evokes everything which symbolizes how and when the U.S.A. was formed.

levi's             All of a sudden it seems, the company has decided to make a very strong and very public statement about guns. And it’s not a statement about how Winchester and Levi-Strauss won the West. To the contrary, in an open letter to Fortune Magazine, a publication you’ll find on the coffee table of virtually every business leader in the United States, Levi’s CEO, Chip Bergh, is urging the business sector to take what he calls a ‘stand on gun violence, which follows from a company policy announced in 2016 which banned guns from all Levi’s stores. The policy even applies to stores located in jurisdictions where carrying a gun is permitted by law.

Did the company receive the usual assortment of nasty emails and threats from the usual collection of pro-gun trolls?  Of course. Did Bergh and the company’s other executives back down?  Here’s his final comment from the 2016 piece: “In the end, I believe we have an obligation to our employees and customers to ensure a safe environment and keeping firearms out of our stores and offices will get us one step closer to achieving that reality.”

Did Levi-Strauss suffer at the cash register the way that a gaggle of alt-right trolls is claiming Nike will see its sales collapse because of the new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick that even has Sleazy Don weighing in to remind everyone that he’s America’s Patriot Number One? Levi’s has been privately-owned so we can’t determine whether they have paid any kind of price with falling revenues since they announced the ban.  The company has left open the issue of enforcement but the message is clear: one of America’s most storied and celebrated business organizations has decided to turn its back on guns.

In addition to the open letter, the company is also putting its money behind its mouth in the form of a million-dollar Safer Tomorrow Fund that will support what it calls “the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.”  The company is also doubling the match it donates when employees support organizations that get involved with the Fund. Most important, and this is a point which needs to be emphasized by anyone and everyone who supports the decision by Levi-Strauss, the company is going to partner with a new group of business leaders who want to reduce gun violence; it’s called the Everytown Business Leaders for Gun Safety, started by you-know-who.

Nobody on either side of the gun issue should underestimate the importance of this move. And the importance isn’t a function of the deep pockets of Mike Bloomberg, although that never hurts. What’s really important about this new campaign is that we finally have an effort to focus gun violence where it really belongs, namely, on the companies who create the 125,000 gun deaths and injuries each year because they make the guns.

I don’t know of another advocacy campaign aimed at reducing injuries from a consumer product in which the companies which make the product are so hidden from public view. And please don’t make the mistake of thinking for one minute that the 2nd Amendment is any kind of protective shield behind which gun manufacturers can hide. It’s not. Period.  But again and again the gun-control movement tries to come up with policies and laws that regulate the behavior of gun owners while exempting the gun makers from greater scrutiny and regulatory review.

Recall the 1992 Presidential campaign slogan ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Now replace the word ‘economy’ with the word ‘gun’ and you have the real importance of what Levi-Strauss plans to do.

 

The NRA Goes After Mike Bloomberg Over Soft Drinks.

Anyone who says that guns aren’t a threat to public health is either consciously lying or doesn’t understand what the words ‘public health’ actually mean. And what those two words mean is anything which might be a community-wide health threat and could be monitored or regulated by public authorities. Which is why the self-appointed as well as paid representatives of Gun-nut Nation have been proclaiming that guns shouldn’t be considered as anything having to do with public health, because the whole point of their strategy is to eliminate all government regulation of guns.

bloomberg              Except now the pro-gun narrative seems to be going beyond a concern about regulating guns to an attack on regulating anything else having to do with threats to health. And what I am referring to is a commentary on the NRA-ILA website which attacks Mike Bloomberg not just for funding an effort in New Mexico to expand NICS background checks, but also for pushing an attempt in Santa Fe, NM, to impose a 2-cent per ounce ‘soda tax’ on sugar-filled beverages, an effort which, along with the background check initiative, ultimately failed.

Now why would the NRA link background checks for gun transfers to whether consumers should pay more for caloric drinks?  Well, for one thing, any time they can dump on Bloomberg they’ll give it try, if only to remind Gun-nut Nation that even with Adolph Trump in the White House, there still are threats to the 2nd Amendment lurking around. But I think there’s something even more insidious going on when the NRA equates the ‘freedom’ to drink high-caloric soda with the ‘freedom’ to own a gun.  Which is exactly what the NRA-ILA statement says: “And make no mistake: he’s just as focused on coming for your guns as he is on coming for your Dr. Pepper.”

Remember a guy named Ronald Reagan?  It was during his Presidency that we first stuck warnings on packs of cigarettes. And then what happened is that we started passing additional taxes on cigarettes to discourage people from starting or continuing to smoke. And we did it because smoking is a serious risk to health.  Which also happens to be true when we talk about high-caloric drinks.  Every day, at least 5 percent of all adults add 567 calories to their food intake by drinking soda and juice with sugar; one in four adults adds at least 200 calories to their daily food intake with sugary drinks. Right now we spend nearly 200 billion a year treating the health conditions caused by obesity and the complications from obesity are probably responsible each year for 300,000 deaths.  We also probably lose 480,000 Americans to smoking every year, but that number has been going down while the obesity number keeps going up.

The amount of money spent by Bloomberg on anti-smoking campaigns around the world has gone above one billion bucks.  When it comes to personal freedom, you don’t hear the NRA or anyone else saying that Bloomberg’s attempt to get more stringent anti-smoking laws is a threat. But that’s because as loony as the NRA’s messaging has become, nobody would take Wayne-o or Chris Cox seriously if they told the membership to demonstrate their support of the 2nd Amendment by buying a pack of cigarettes and enjoying a smoke. But public opinion hasn’t yet come to a consensus on how sugary drinks contribute to the epidemic of excess weight, so the NRA can pretend that regulating soft drinks, like regulating guns, is another example of government overreach into an area of personal choice which should be left alone.

Here’s how the NRA sums it up: “we’ll happily join the residents of Santa Fe in toasting liberty with the soft drink of their choice, whatever its sugar content might be.” And on the way back from the Mini-Mart, why not stop off at your local gun shop and pick up some ammo or even another gun? After all, you can still strap on your Glock even if you can’t fit into your pants.

 

Everytown And Cosmopolitan Get Together And Get It Right!

What I find to be the most significant change in the gun debate recently is the extent to which the whole issue has become a topic of mainstream conversation. It started with the decision by Hillary to inject gun violence into her Presidential campaign, the very first time that guns became a talking-point in a national political contest, and it has now spread to the mainstream media through such venues as Marie-Claire and now Cosmopolitan magazine.  And what the Cosmo gals have done is partner with Everytown to produce a new project, SingledOut, which gets right to the issue of how and why women think about guns.

everytown logo                Before I get to the Cosmo-Everytown effort, I just want to remind the readers again that Gun Nation has been making a loud and concerted effort recently to promote the idea of women and guns.  There’s no end to NRA videos that now feature women commentators like Home-School Queen Dana Loesch; you can also read an entire report and graphic on the emerging female gun market courtesy of the NSSF.  But a recent survey of 5,000 gun owners, the most comprehensive survey ever published in this field, reveals that 5% of the women who own guns bought one in the past five years!  So much for the idea that women are joining Gun Nation in droves.

The video produced by SingledOut is, to my mind, the best video on the gun debate ever produced.  And it gets right to the point at the beginning when the gunsplaining guy tells the woman he’s hitting on that guns are what protects us from ‘tyranny,’ while he proudly shows her that he’s packing a chest-full of guns.  And the woman, who is active military, responds by telling him that his comment means that soldiers like her might come and take them all away. Beautiful, just beautiful.

Of course Gun Nation wasted no time responding to this new effort, putting out the usual ‘Bloomberg is Enemy Number One’ comment which then found its way to the mélange of pro-gun sites that faithfully reproduce anything that the boys in Fairfax have to say.  But I notice that in all the responses to SingledOut by Gun Nation, the one issue that is studiously avoided is exactly what Gun Nation has been promoting as the most important reason for owning a gun, namely, that guns keep us free.  And if the producers of the SingledOut video wanted to find one, single statement that could be used to illustrate the stupid, condescension of pro-gun noisemakers when it comes to talking about guns, they couldn’t have picked a better comment than what the ‘good guy’ said in the bar to explain what guns mean to him.

Now let’s be honest.  It’s 2016, a Presidential election is looming ahead, and the NRA makes no bones about the fact, 501c3 status notwithstanding, that the organization wants to have an important voice in determining the outcome of state and national electoral events.  And since the Republicans can’t get any more mileage by claiming that Obama wasn’t born in America (which, by the way, may be used by Trump against Cruz), they’ve come up with a new one, namely, that Obama has been shredding the Constitution and thus undermining American freedoms; in other words, under the Democrats, ‘tyranny’ is just one step away.

Let’s get one thing very clear: Republican presidential candidates can defend the 2nd Amendment all they want in front of red-meat audiences on the campaign trail, but asking a majority of Americans to support their pandering to Gun Nation is a very different kettle of fish. And while every word that plops out of Wayne-o’s mouth ends up as unquestioned content on various Gun Nation websites, you can’t tell me that any of those outlets get a fraction of the mainstream audience that Cosmopolitan reaches every month.

 

 

The NBA Takes On The NRA And I’ll Take The Short Odds On The NBA.

You may recall that before he was appointed Attorney General that Eric Holder gave an interview in which he said that the way to deal with gun violence was to tell kids that guns “weren’t cool.”  That statement a storm of acrimony from the NRA and its various noisemaking minions, all of whom were committed to a strategy that promoted guns to millennials and other non-traditional gun-owning demographics on the basis that they were cool.

spike              Probably the most outrageous attempt to sell this nonsense has been the video antics of an African-American lawyer who calls himself Colion Noir, who has been prancing around on the NRA video channel coming up with all kinds of hip and cool reasons why we should all own and carry guns.  The folks who write his scripts have come up with some kind of concocted blather about using guns for self-defense, but what’s really going on here is an effort by the NRA to capture the hearts and minds of younger minority folks, most of whom don’t appear to be all that interested in guns.

Of course the truth is that Colion Noir and the NRA in general have about as much to do with defining “cool” as the veritable man in the moon.  Most NRA members are older, White men who listen to country music and live in Southern states and smaller, Midwestern towns.  They represent a demographic that’s about as far away from anything hip and cool as could ever be imagined; getting this audience to respond to an inner-city, jive-talking Black dude would be tantamount to bringing back the Miles Davis Quintet to play the weekly barn dance at Grand Old Opry in Tennessee.

Which is why I sat up and really took notice yesterday when a group of NBA players announced that they were joining with Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown to run ads on messages about gun violence that will appear during a series of marquee games that will air on Christmas Day. The ads will feature NBA players like the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and the Clippers’ Steve Paul, along with testimonies from survivors of shootings and relatives of folks killed by guns.

I knew something was when I noticed that Spike Lee was becoming very visible on the gun violence issue, particularly when he and Al Sharpton announced a gun violence initiative following the premiere of Spike’s new movie, Chi-Raq, which is all about gun violence on Chicago’s South Side.  At that press conference, Spike and the Reverend Al pledged to hold a series of summit meeting in various cities, but you can’t begin to compare the impact of such meetings to the power and force of the ads that will appear on national tv.

These ads represent a level of interest and concern that could be (pardon my pun) a real game-changer when it comes to the national discussion abut guns. Because the people featured on these ads don’t represent cynical politicians scurrying around for votes by lamenting the loss of our ‘freedoms,’ they don’t represent noisemakers for the manufacturers who want to sell guns, and they certainly don’t represent some amateur-hour video huckster who wants you to think he’s a real dude because his skin color happens to be something other than white.

I never thought that gun violence was about race, or poverty, or inner-city life or anything of that sort.  I always thought that gun violence was about one thing and one thing only: guns.  And the remarkable thing about this effort is that every person who appears in these ads says something about guns and what guns have done to their lives and to the lives of people they love and used to love.

I’m going to catch these ads on Christmas because I want the ratings of these games to reflect how I feel about gun violence. And I don’t think it would be a bad idea if someone (hint, hint) would let us all know when future ads will appear.

 

An Open Letter To Professor Alex Gourevitch: Guns Are One Thing, Racism Is Another.

You recently published a long and detailed commentary on gun control and racism which I have read with interest and care.  Your basic point seems to be that the usual response to mass killings, as reflected in President Obama’s first remarks about Charleston, is to call for stricter gun control laws which you believe will have the ultimate effect of increasing the racism of our criminal justice system while having no real impact on controlling gun violence, particularly mass gun violence.  You assert that there are already too many arrests of minorities, too many racially-motivated defendant pleadings and too many incarcerations, all of which would simply increase if we institute more criminal laws to control gun violence in response to events like the slaughter at the Emanuel AME Church.

roof               You also bring to the discussion some comments about research by scholars like Levin, Fagan and others concerning stop-and-frisk policing methods employed by the NYPD whose value in allegedly bringing down gun crimes has been evaluated in both positive and negative terms. Some of this research argues that stop-and-frisk was entirely based on racist assumptions about who might have been walking around with illegal guns, and that this strategy, useful or not, was yet another example of an extra-legal effort to combat gun violence that served only to engender racism between the police and the community whom they are sworn to protect.

I’d like to respond to the second issue first.  It’s true that New York City experienced an unprecedented drop in gun violence first under Rudy and then continuing with Mayor Mike.  And much of this decline is tied to stop-and-frisk policing tactics which is obviously tied to racial profiling which is tied to racism, etc.  But you have to be careful about perhaps pushing this argument too far.  The decline in violent crime and gun crime in particular since the mid-1990s (although the decline largely flattened out after 2000) occurred in virtually every metropolitan center whether a change in policing and police tactics took place or not.  In fact, an entire cottage industry has grown up around figuring out why America and other OECD countries appear to be less violent over the last twenty years. I am not sure that any of the multiple crime-decline theories explain the issue pari passu, but inconvenient or not,  scholars have yet to settle on a single, determining factor when it comes to explaining criminal behavior with guns.

Now let’s move to your central argument, namely, that from the perspective of the inner-city community, more gun control means more criminal laws and, hence, more racism in the legal and penal systems that minority populations disproportionately endure.  Nobody would or should argue that the penal process delivers equal justice to minorities and the poor.  And with all due respect, we really didn’t need Dylann Roof to walk into Emanuel AME Church with a Glock 21 to remind us that racism is still alive and well.  But where I think your argument falters is the assumption that because the President calls for more gun control, there will be more criminal laws that will result in more minorities getting arrested, going up before a judge on some trumped-up charge and then going off to jail.

What is really happening is that laws making it easier for anyone to gain access to a gun, or carrying a gun on their person, or bringing that gun into what was formerly a gun-free zone have increased exponentially, while laws that restrict gun access or restrict ‘gun rights’ are the exception, not the rule.  One year after Sandy Hook, 70 new laws had been passed easing gun restrictions, while only 39 more restrictive measures had been signed into law, half of which concerned updating mental health records, a strategy with minimal impact on controlling the violent use of guns.

We need to defeat racism and we also need to defeat violence caused by guns. But each issue deserves to be challenged on its own terms.

 

Mayor Bloomberg Wants To Indoctrinate The Media But He Can’t Fool The NRA.

In mid-January the NRA warned its members about an insidious effort by Enemy Numero Uno (Mike Bloomberg) to make yet another attempt to rob Americans of their Constitutional right to gun ownership by sponsoring what they call an “anti-gun indoctrination camp” to teach gullible reporters and other media folks how to research and write about guns.  What Bloomberg’s really trying to do is foist his own ‘discredited’ research on attendees at this conference in yet another effort to distort and cover up the real (i.e., positive) truth about guns.

bloom                What’s really interesting about this two-day workshop to be held in Phoenix this coming May is the degree to which attendees will actually hear from both sides in the gun debate, a significant and I believe first-time coming together of scholars and influencers whose views run the spectrum of how advocates on both sides defend their views on guns.  On the one hand, speaking for what is now known as the gun-sense crowd, we have Garen Wintemute, an ER physician out of California, who has been a thorn in the side of the gun industry since he published studies on the manufacture of small, cheap handguns whose only real use was to arm people who wanted to commit crimes.  At the other end of the spectrum, showing up to push the “guns are good” message, will be Sarah Cupp, whose attacks on Bloomberg and other gun-control ‘threats’ gets her airtime on the usual pro-gun outlets like Fox and the Blaze, as well as crossing over to the other side with appearances on MSNBC.

Standing in the middle will be an economist by training but a gun researcher by vocation named Philip Cook, who has been conducting important and valid research on the social utility of guns for more than forty years.  In general, Cook’s work has focused on the economic costs of gun violence and his conclusions in these studies, as well as other work on gun violence, leaves no doubt as to where he stands; i.e., he’s no friend of the folks who claim that Americans need to own more guns.  But this past year Cook and his colleague, Kristin Goss, published a balanced and reasoned summary of the gun debate, and while they didn’t attempt to hide their own concerns about the proliferation of guns in American society, they also found good reasons why many Americans don’t want to give up their guns.

The fact that the NRA should attempt to malign a public conference whose speaker’s list contains one of their most ardent supporters shows you how unwilling or unable they have become when it comes to listening to any voice other than their own.  But a quick look at some of the information that has lately appeared on their own website makes me think that perhaps the NRA  research and editorial staff might benefit from attending a conference where they might learn how to understand and explain facts.

I am referring to a story that just appeared on the NRA-ILA website attacking Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group founded by Gabby Giffords, for what the NRA says is a ‘bogus’ claim that the number of people who die from gunshots each year equals the number of people killed in accidents involving cars. The story is bogus, according to the NRA, because the number of people who die from shootings that are ruled as accidents are a tiny fraction of the number of dead people pulled from vehicular wrecks.  But of course that’s not the point of the ARS story at all, unless perhaps we should figure out and compare gun deaths to the number of car accidents in which a driver actually tried to kill someone else using his car.

That Bloomberg is asking professional media folks to come together and listen to both sides of the gun debate is a refreshing and important event.  Refreshing because it hasn’t happened previously, important because public policy is only successful when it reflects every valid point of view.  I hope the conference is a great success.

 

What Does I-594 Mean Going Forward? It Means Trouble For The NRA

As expected, in Washington I-594 won and I-591 lost.  The margins of victory and defeat were about equal, which meant that, at least in this state, voters know how to read because the way the two propositions were worded, a ‘yes’ vote on both would have effectively cancelled them out. But proponents of gun safety were smart enough to see through the cynical ploy by Alan Gottlieb, who uses a non-profit called the 2nd Amendment Foundation to disguise what is a very successful right-wing direct mail operation and he put- 591 on the ballot because he knew that I-594 was going to pass.

Basically, I-594 makes Washington the sixth state to restrict all gun transactions to NICS checks.  This closes what has always been considered a major loophole in the effort to keep guns out of the “wrong hands” because in those states where all gun transfers must go through NICS, a person with a criminal record or other disqualifying issue would not be able to get a gun no matter when or where the gun became available, as opposed to the current system in which individuals who do not meet legal qualifications for gun ownership can only be denied gun ownership at the initial point of sale.

nics                The NRA has steadfastly rejected an expansion of background checks because, they claim, it targets law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to prevent crime.  Imagine, says the NRA, “if your mother had a prowler at her home, having to do a background check on your own Mom before you could give her one of your guns for protection.”  Now I can’t figure out how someone’s going to get a gun to dear old Mom when the prowler is already in her home, but that’s hardly the only thing the NRA says about armed defense that I can’t figure out.  Without a shred of evidence-based data they have been tirelessly promoting the idea that an armed America is a safer America for the last twenty years, but why let facts stand in the way of a good marketing campaign, right?

The good news is that the voters in Washington didn’t buy this nonsense and, the last time I looked, were approving I-594 by a margin of nearly 20 points.  Taking this issue directly to the voters was a smart move for the issue’s supporters, first of all because they knew that the NRA would bottle up such a bill in the Legislature, but second of all because universal background checks appear to have wide popular support.  Even groups that generally support the NRA, such as Republican men, appear to favor NICS checks on most, if not all gun transactions, and ballot initiatives are a clever way to turn such grass-roots support into laws.

If gun safety advocates use the experience in Washington as a template and begin moving ballot initiatives for background checks into other states, they will not only negate the lobbying power of the NRA at the legislative level, but can use the financial resources of their chief supporters to equalize or overcome the monies that the NRA doles out for political campaigns. In the I-594 contest the supporters spent nearly $8 million to gain what will probably be somewhere above 1 million votes, the measure’s opponents spent slightly under half a million and vote-wise fell far short.  Bloomberg kicked in $2.3 million, the Microsoft boys – Gates & Ballmer – threw in another $1.6 million and Paul Allen added half a mil. Gates, Ballmer and Allen are all residents of Washington, but if Mayor Mike decided to move his funding cavalcade to another state he’d no doubt dig up a few wealthy friends to help foot the bill.

Don’t get me wrong.  You could fund a citizen’s initiative on background checks in Alabama with a gazillion dollars and it would probably fail.  But the first state to legalize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2004.  Now the list is up to 32…