It’s Not Just Gun Sales That Matter, It’s The Argument Behind The Guns.

The FBI just released its figures for NICS background checks processed in March, and the number of background checks for gun transactions, as opposed to gun licenses, has swung slightly back up.  This information, of course, has unleashed paroxysms of joy in Gun-nut Nation, because everyone has been saying that gun sales will continue to slip during the Age of Trump. Now one month’s sales don’t really tell you all that much, particularly since I suspect that many of those sales represented consumers taking advantage of price cuts by gun retailers who have to move unsold inventory off their shelves.

 

lott

John Lott

To me, the much more important impact of the Trump election is not the impact on sales, but the degree to which his pro-gun stance alters the basic narrative about the value and importance of guns. Because let’s not forget that the NRA and the other purveyors of guns as the all-American item of choice were able to promote gun sales primarily by arguing, with some degree of truthfulness by the way, that a guy like Obama in the White House meant that guns might be taken away.  And the same argument was used against Hillary’s Presidential bid and the same arguments about alleged ‘threats’ to 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ have been used to spur gun sales over the last twenty or thirty years.

But now the NRA is hoisted by its own petard, because you can accuse the Trump administration of all kinds of things, but one of the things you can’t accuse them of being is against guns. And just today our friends at The Trace posted a quick analysis of the views of incoming Justice Department attorneys, and all of them are decidedly (and somewhat stupidly) very pro-gun.

A secondary theme supporting the idea of a gun in every garage is the notion that we need all the protection we can get in an age when terrorists can penetrate the country as quickly as a new strain of the flu, and can or will mount deadly attacks wherever and whenever they please. But this argument also falls flat in the face of constant bromides from Herr Trump about how he’s going to keep us all safe. After all, if the new, tough Trump government is going all-out to protect us from harm, how can one argue that we should be concerned about personal protection at all?

So if the pro-gun narrative that preceded Trump is no longer working, what happens to the people and organizations whose mission is to spread that narrative every chance they get? I’m thinking, for example, about the fortunes of my good friend John Lott, whose books and lectures on the value of guns to protect us from violent crime has made him a visible media personality on shock-jock radio and FOX.

John runs something called the Crime Prevention Research Center, basically a home-grown website devoted to spreading his version of gun information far and wide. Actually, the site is an advertisement for his media appearances and public speeches; the truth is that John is an advocate much more than a researcher – I don’t recall the last time he actually published peer-reviewed research unless the definition of ‘research’ includes any time that someone opens their mouth.

The website and John’s advocacy activities are funded by donations from loyal supporters but the revenue levels recently haven’t done so well.  In 2013 the CPRC brought in $218,106, the following year donations zoomed upwards to $310,839, and then they dropped in 2015 to $166,736.  I don’t see the 2016 numbers but I did see an interesting comment from those idiots Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership site, who quoted an email fundraising appeal from Lott: “Unfortunately, the CPRC is literally almost out of money.  Donations have fallen off dramatically since the election.”

Gee, what a surprise. Gun-nut Nation doesn’t have to worry about losing their toys so support for pro-gun noisemakers like Lott immediately dry up. Will the same situation also begin to impact the NRA?

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The Myth Of The ‘Sensible Gun Owner.

In 1890 the U.S. Census declared that wilderness no longer existed in the continental United States. And this announcement provoked the first, public debate in this country between the fledgling conservationist-naturalist movement on the one hand, and the proponents of unrestrained, economic growth on the other.  This debate continues in the present day except now it has taken on a global perspective known as Global Warming, but the two sides – conservation versus development – haven’t really changed their respective positions at all.  And the reason the debate is so rancorous and unending is that neither side seems willing to engage in an effort to find some kind of compromise middle ground which will allow us to preserve part of what is still natural while, at the same time, giving economic development incentives to spread.

heston            This same profile – two sides unwilling to meet somewhere in the middle and compromise over basic goals – exists in the argument over guns and, more specifically, the argument over violence caused by guns.  On the one hand we have seen a recent growth in the size and activity of groups and organizations dedicated to reducing gun violence; on the other we have an entrenched and well-organized pro-gun community which denies that guns are responsible for any violence at all.  Or if there is a bit of violence that results from someone using a gun in an inappropriate way (Sandy Hook, Pulse, et. al.,) it’s a price we need to pay because of the value of gun ownership in terms of history, tradition, freedom, sport and most of all, self-defense.

But what about all those surveys which show that a whopping super-majority of Americans and even a substantial majority of gun owners support the idea of ‘sensible’ restrictions on guns?  The latest polls disclose a near-90% positive response to the question of whether background checks should be conducted on all transfers of guns and even four out of fine gun owners, according to the recent surveys, also endorse this particular form of ‘sensible’ restrictions on ownership of guns. So if just about everyone agrees that a ‘sensible’ strategy like universal background checks is a good thing, how come all these sensible folks, particularly gun-owning sensible folks, don’t show up to vote for expanded background checks whenever the issue appears on a state-level ballot or is the subject of a debate on Capitol Hill?  Yes, California passed a law mandating background checks for ammo purchases, but a ballot initiative in Maine to extend background checks on gun transfers failed.

So where are all these ‘sensible’ gun owners that the gun violence prevention (GVP) community will tell you really exist?  The truth is that their existence is more apparent than real.  And the reason it’s more apparent is because not one of those surveys which keeps discovering the existence of all those sensible gun owners ever asks the crucial follow-up question which is: Do you support the NRA?  Because if the polls did ask that question I guarantee you that the same four out of five gun owners who say they are in favor of expanded background checks would also state that they support America’s ‘oldest’ civil-rights organization, whether they are NRA members or not.

And guess what?  Back in August the NRA announced unequivocally and without reservation of any kind the organization’s total and unalterable opposition to expanding background checks, “because background checks don’t stop criminals from getting firearms, because some proposals to do so would deprive individuals of due process of law, and because NRA opposes firearm registration.” And that’s that.

If one were to go back and ask all those ‘sensible’ gun owners whether they agreed with the NRA’s stance on background checks they would probably say ‘no.’  But if you were to then ask them whether this disagreement would make them withdraw their support for the NRA they would stare at you in shock and reply, “Who’s going to support my right to own a gun? And that last statement is the reason why the notion of the ‘sensible’ gun owner is a myth.

What Do States That Vote GOP Have In Common? They Love Their Guns.

Take a look at the projected electoral map on Nate Silver’s website.  Now take a look at the map which shows state-level gun-violence rates constructed by our friends at the Center for American Progress (found on Page 6 of their report, America Under Fire.) Notice anything?  I’ll give you a little hint: The states with the highest levels of gun violence are also the states that will probably end up voting for the GOP.  And if you want to talk about the elephant in the living room when it comes to guns, this is it.  Simply put: red states are where most gun violence occurs.

conference-program-pic           You won’t ever see this elephant if you listen to Gun-nut Nation, because as far as they are concerned, gun violence is only a problem in minority neighborhoods, and many, if not most of those neighborhoods are located in cities (Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles) within states which contain relatively few voters who back the GOP.  So when The Groper stands up at one of his Klan rallies and says that violent crime will go down if we make sure to be armed when we walk around those crime-infested spots, he’s pandering to the racist mentality of the lunatic fringe, but he’s also saying something that simply isn’t true.  Gee – what a surprise that Groper Trump would say something that isn’t true.

What is true is that gun violence appears to correlate most of all with lax gun laws, which is a polite way of saying that in many red states that there are no gun laws at all.  Or if there are any laws covering guns, they tend to be laws that actually give people more, not less legal use of guns.  The worst in this respect are ‘stand your ground’ laws (SYG) which allow people to use any level of lethal force if they believe they might otherwise face imminent harm, and they do not have to retreat or otherwise try to avoid the problem before yanking out a gun.  These laws now exist in 22 states, of which The Groper will probably win 17 or 18 of those states unless he screws things up a bit more. And what happens when an SYG law is put into effect?  According to a very comprehensive study from Everytown, the justifiable homicide rate goes up by more than twice.

Why are red-leaning states so resistant to passing laws that reduce gun violence, in particular laws which in other states appear to work?  Why is it so hard, for example, to get extended NICS-background checks in these states when all the polls show that even a healthy majority of gun owners believe that requiring background checks for private transfers would be a good thing? It would be tempting to put it down to the fact that since these are the states where most people own guns, therefore Gun-nut Nation can easily rally the troops, so to speak, whenever a new gun is being discussed.  But the issue goes deeper than that, and here is what it’s really all about.

The most powerful argument that Gun-nut Nation puts forth to block any kind of gun regulations is the ‘slippery-slope’ argument; i.e., if you let ‘them’ have any new law at all, then they’ll take another bite here, another bite there, and sooner or later there won’t be any guns at all.  And there happens to be a bit of truth to this argument, if only because most gun-sense activists, no matter how much they claim to ‘respect’ the 2nd Amendment, would be just as happy if all the guns really did go away.

Because the truth is, and here’s the real elephant in case you didn’t know, there’s one thing and one thing only which accounts for every act of gun violence, and that’s the existence of a gun. I apologize for putting it in such clear and uncompromising terms, but if you pull the trigger of a loaded gun, it’s going to go – bang!

 

 

Sorry, But What’s Wrong With Gun Control?

I’m probably going to get a lot of bad press for what I’m about to say, but it goes with the territory so I might as well say it right now: I don’t see anything wrong with talking about gun control. Not responsible, not reasonable, not sensible.  Gun control.  Control, control, control.  And the reason I believe in gun control is very simple: It’s the only way we can hope to really make a dent in a public health issue that kills or injures more than 125,000 Americans every year.

conference-program-pic              Right now I am listening to a very good podcast from an online forum called The Other Washington entitled “Gun Responsibility,” which covers the events leading up to the passage of Initiative 594 in Washington State which expanded background checks to all transfers of guns. And the commentators point out that expanded background checks have overwhelming support, even among gun owners, which makes this kind of regulatory initiative ‘sensible’ because everyone thinks it should be done.  But then the commentators veer off in another direction, justifying I-594 by noting that states with the ‘strongest’ gun laws have the lowest rates of gun violence.

Guess what?  Know what the phrase ‘strong gun laws’ means?  It means gun control, folks, period, end of story. And I happen to live in one of those states, Massachusetts, which is given a B+ rating for its gun laws, and if the gun laws in my state don’t amount to gun control, then I don’t know what does.  In Massachusetts private transactions must be registered not with NICS but with the state, police have the arbitrary authority to deny or impose conditions on the issuance of a gun license even if the applicant passes the background check, and the Attorney General can determine which handguns can and cannot be sold based on whether the design of the weapon is considered child-safe; which means that a civilian can’t buy, among other products, a Glock.  And by the way, the safe storage law, if violated, carries a four-year stretch in jail.

It just so happens, no surprise, that Massachusetts also has the second-lowest gun violence rates of all 50 states. So if ‘strong’ gun laws lead to less gun violence, and gun laws are usually ‘strong’ precisely because they regulate the movement of guns and the issuance of licenses to own guns, why do we continue to pretend that words like ‘sensible’ and ‘responsible’ mean something different from what the words ‘gun control’ mean? And if anyone actually thinks that by avoiding the term ‘gun control’ that somehow the NRA will hang an ‘out to lunch’ placard on the office door when a ‘reasonable’ gun regulation is being discussed, I strongly enjoin you to think again.  Because Gun Nation isn’t interested in any law, any regulation, any kind of anything being done to change or redefine America’s alleged love affair with guns.

But, you counter, it’s not the NRA we are trying to convince.  It’s all those undecided, decent folks in the ‘middle’ who could be brought over if we convince them that we aren’t trying to ride roughshod over the 2nd Amendment and push all gun owners down that veritable slippery slope.  I think this is wishful thinking and I also think it denigrates the ability of most Americans to understand issues when they are given all the facts.  The Surgeon General’s report on smoking risk was released in 1964, a time when less than 50% believed that smoking was a health risk. By 1980, more than 80% of Americans believed that smoking caused lung cancer, and since then no state has made smoking illegal, but 28 states have passed laws prohibiting smoking in most public places, including restaurants and bars.

Guns are lethal.  Guns are dangerous.  Guns are a risk to public health.  Controlling guns is not sensible or responsible.  Controlling guns needs to take place.  And you won’t speed up the process by trying to somehow camouflage what it is you want and should do.

The New York Times Weighs In On Crime Guns.

Now that The New York Times devotes a portion of its editorial space to gun violence, we are treated to the contribution of op-ed writer Charles Blow.  And what Blow has decided to talk about is what is truly the elephant in the living room when it comes to gun violence, namely, the issue of stolen guns.  Obama mentioned the issue twice in the official White House press release outlining his new EO agenda on guns, but he tied it to expanding background checks by bringing more gun transactions under the rubric of regulated sales.

atf              To his credit, Blow dug up Sam Bieler’s 2013 article which cites data from Phil Cook’s 1997 article which estimates that as many as 500,000 guns might be stolen each year.  And having discovered this incredible number, Blow then throws up several remedies for the problem which will have no real impact at all.  They won’t have any impact because registering guns or requiring insurance for their ownership simply isn’t going to occur.  As for the idea that gun theft will go down as safe guns enter the civilian arsenal, even if a few were to finally hit the market, we still have 300 million+ unsafe guns lying around.

On the other hand, there are some steps that could be taken right now that would, I believe, have a substantial impact on the ability of law enforcement to identify and trace crime guns, a process which right now occurs in the most slipshod or piecemeal fashion when it occurs at all.  And these steps wouldn’t even require any legislation or executive orders; they could be accomplished easily and quickly if someone, anyone, would make the regulatory division of the ATF do what it is really supposed to do.

Why does the GVP advocacy community put so much time and effort into pushing the expansion of NICS-background checks into secondary transfers and sales? Because the ATF has been whining for 20 years that they can only trace a gun through its first, legal sale.  This is a lie.  The fact is that every time a gun is acquired by an FFL dealer it must be listed in his Acquisition & Disposition book.  This A&D book, along with the 4473 forms used to conduct background checks, can be inspected by the ATF whenever they enter a store.  Now It happens that 40% or more guns that are sold by retail dealers are used guns, many of which were sold previously out of the same store. Or they were first sold by the gun shop in the next town. Can the ATF ask a dealer to tell them the particulars of the last, as opposed to the first sale of a particular gun?  Of course they can – they own the entire contents of the A&D book.

The ATF trumpets the development of time-to-crime data which, they say, alerts them to questionable dealer behavior because the average TTC right now is about 12 years, so if guns sold by a particular dealer have a much shorter TTC, that dealer must be pushing guns out the back door.  But the fact is that since 40% of the sale dates of guns used to calculate TTC might not represent the last, legal sale, the TTC numbers published by the ATF are, to be polite, meaningless at best.

The ATF still sends trace requests by fax; the rest of the world, including all gun dealers, has discovered email as a more accurate and certainly efficient way to communicate back and forth.  If the ATF required dealers to keep their A&D book in Excel (which they actually recommend,) the dealer could scan his entire book immediately looking for a particular serial number and the ATF and local police would have a better chance of figuring out how and when a crime gun moved from legal to illegal hands.

You don’t need a new law, you don’t an Executive Order, you don’t need anything except some basic knowledge about the gun business in order to figure this out.

The ATF Issues A New Directive Defining Dealing In Guns But What They Say Is Not So New.

As someone who has sold more than 12,000 guns retail, which included selling guns at gun shows and over the internet, I think I know a little bit more about whether today’s White House announcements will have an impact on gun violence than does Mike Huckabee, who has already announced that he will “repeal” every one of Obama’s gun initiatives, even though most of what the President intends to do has nothing that could be repealed at all.

atf              Coincident with the White House news release and media blitz, the ATF has issued a new publication which attempts to define their notion of what constitutes being in the “business” of selling firearms, which is one of the key elements in the new Obama plan; i.e., people who sell guns privately at gun shows or online may now be required to operate as federally-licensed dealers, which means that they must conduct NICS-background checks on every gun they sell – unless, of course, the gun is transferred to another dealer.

I have read this publication with care, in particular a series of brief vignettes that give examples of people transferring guns as a business transaction as opposed to people transferring guns where no real business activity occurred.  In my judgement, this publication is totally consistent with relevant laws as well as a reflection of the approach usually taken by the ATF in regulating firearm sales: “As a general rule, you will need a license if you repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit. In contrast, if you only make occasional sales of firearms from your personal collection, you do not need to be licensed.”  And this rule applies to every venue that might be possibly used for selling guns – your store, retail space, trunk of your car, laptop computer or anywhere else.

I never had a problem complying with this rule when I sold guns at shows or over the internet because I was always a federally-licensed dealer; hence, every gun in my inventory needed to be identified as to where it came from and to whom it was then sold.  And since as a licensed dealer I could only sell to individuals after completing a background check, it didn’t matter what sales venue I used.  The ATF could (and did) inspect my documentation to insure that every gun in my inventory was properly acquired in and transferred out, and if I couldn’t produce the requisite paperwork for any particular transaction they would raise holy hell.

To provide some guidance as to what constitutes dealing in firearms, the ATF has appended 9 examples of different types of gun transfers of which 5 instances would require a dealer’s license and 4 others would not.  This is a pretty comprehensive series of examples which, to my mind, honestly reflect the basic requirements of operating with a federal dealer’s license as opposed to an individual who has a personal need or desire to transfer some guns. On the other hand, anyone behaving like the 5 ‘repetitively buying and selling’ examples who doesn’t currently have a dealer’s license should be prosecuted not just for illegal sale of guns, but for being a complete and unmitigated dope. And any current FFL-holder who sells guns to someone knowing or suspecting that this individual is engaging in repetitive, for-profit sales, is aiding and abetting straw sales – period, that’s that.

The truth is that most gun dealers buy from and sell to the same people all the time.  Even my internet sales, which were always dealer-to-dealer transactions, went to the same dealers because I trusted them and they trusted me.  Although the term ‘straw sales’ never appears in this publication, when someone buys a gun from a dealer intending to resell it privately to someone else, that’s exactly what constitutes a straw sale, and anyone who actually believes that this infringes on 2nd-Amendment rights, also probably believes that Mexico will pay for Donald Trump’s new fence.

 

 

What Matters Is Not What He Says, It’s That Obama Says Something About Guns.

The big news this week is the looming possibility that the Bomber will make good on his promise (or threat, depending on how you look at it) to issue an Executive Order on gun control, and already the Gun Nation is gearing up for the fight.  Trump has announced he will “veto” these orders (someone might want to give Trump the Shlump a quick lesson on Constitutional law), Christie has jumped on the Obama the Dictator bandwagon, and never to be outdone by any candidate’s attempt at gross stupidity, Rand Paul is drawing up legislation to block the President from issuing any Executive Orders about guns.

 

Best gun salesman ever!

I don’t know exactly what the President is planning to do, but he appears to be getting ready to say something on this issue during his State of the Union speech next week.  The President talked about gun regulations during his 2013 State of the Union speech, but these remarks were delivered less than two months after Sandy Hook.  There was no mention of gun control in his 2014 remarks, nor last year.  Now the issue if gun violence is back on the front burner, and it appears that he will try to do something about extending background checks by coming up with a more precise definition of what it means to be a dealer in guns.

As regards the current definition, I’m quoting from the relevant Federal code: “any person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail,” which is about as precise as the Man in the Moon.  The problem here is not figuring out what constitutes a firearm, but what the phrase “in the business” really means.  Part of the problem is the fact that guns, unlike most consumer items, don’t for the most part wear out, so acquiring and then re-selling them is part and parcel of what most gun enthusiasts like to do.  And despite the fact that private, non-NICS gun transactions are considered anathema by the GVP crowd, selling a gun to or through a dealer instead of directly to another individual means that the seller gives up a chunk of dough either because the dealer wants to make a profit in the re-sale or the buyer will have to pay the dealer to conduct the NICS background check.

The real problem is that the average gun owner, and most gun owners are, in fact, very law abiding (otherwise they really can’t own guns) and doesn’t believe there’s any connection between the way he transfers a gun and the gun violence that kills and injures more than 100,000 Americans every year.  I happen to live outside of Springfield, MA, whose gun homicide rate last year was somewhere around 15 per 100,000, about five times the national rate.  Less than two miles from the neighborhood where half these murders occurred is a fairground where a big gun show is held four times a year. If you walked up to anyone at this show and told him that the private sale he had just completed might result in another gun murder across town, he’d stare at you in disbelief.

I don’t think that folks who support the extension of background checks need to justify this policy by trying to prove that reducing private gun transfers will, ipso facto, bring the rate of gun violence down.  I also don’t think they need to fall back on the judgement of legal scholars (not that the judgement hurts) to support the President if he decides that this is what he wants to do.

I have been saying for the last three years that when it comes to the argument about gun violence, I simply want a fair fight using evidence-based data as opposed to promoting gun ownership out of fear. It doesn’t matter whether extended background checks will reduce mass killings or gun killings overall.  What matters is that we have a serious and honest discussion about gun violence and a State of the Union address is the perfect place to begin.

Will Universal Background Checks Solve The Problem Of Gun Violence? It’s A Start.

According to rumor, the White House will shortly close a legal loophole that currently lets a large number of guns move from one set of hands to another without a background check.  Evidently Obama will issue an EO that redefines what it means to be a gun dealer by substantially reducing the number of private transfers that can be made, thereby forcing gun owners to acquire a federal license which will effectively require that every gun transfer beyond a minimum number go through a NICS-background check.

Which brings up the ultimate question, namely, if we had universal background checks, what would this mean in terms of reducing gun violence overall?  Right now the CDC tells us there are 30,000+ intentional gun deaths and 65,000 intentional gun injuries every year.  There are also 17,000+ unintentional gun injuries, fatal and non-fatal, each year.  We can probably discount most, if not nearly all unintentional injuries because they usually involve the legal owner of a gun and/or his/her children or friends.  We can also discount the 20,000+ suicides, which leaves somewhere around 75,000 acts of gun violence each year for which, in theory, universal background checks should help reduce the toll.  But by how much?

In fairness to the researchers who are concerned with this problem, they were not trying to figure out the impact of universal background checks per se.  Webster and Wintemute have come up with a very comprehensive summary of research on the effects of policies designed to “keep firearms from high-risk individuals” published between 1999 and 2014. This article covers more than 60 peer-reviewed works and looks both at policies designed to regulate the supply of guns to high-risk individuals (i.e., dealer practices) and policies designed to make it more difficult for high-risk individuals to get their hands on guns (i.e., background checks and other licensing practices.)

I’ll leave a discussion about dealer practices for another time, insofar as our concern here is the issue of universal background checks. As for that question, W&W argue that the prohibited persons categories defined by GCA68 and used as the basis for disqualifying transactions through NICS “would not disqualify the majority of individuals who commit gun violence.”  What does seem to have a significant impact on gun violence is where states have gone beyond the federal definitions of prohibited persons and passed laws that make it easier to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

conference program pic              The most rigorous licensing in this regard is known as Permit to Purchase (PTP), which requires that the purchase of every gun, in particular handguns, be approved following an application to acquire the specific gun.  This is, in fact, the procedure in New York City since the 1911 implementation of the Sullivan Law, but there is virtually no connection between how this law has been administered over the past century and changes in the rates of violent crime.  On the other hand, W&W cite numerous studies, including Webster’s study of the effect of abolishing PTP in Missouri, which indicate that when states strengthen the licensing process beyond NICS-background checks, gun-violence rates tend to go down.

The evidence to date does not appear to support the notion that universal background checks will have a substantial impact on gun-violence rates unless it is accompanied by more rigorous gun-control policies at the state level.  Which is not an argument against universal checks, just a warning about setting expectations too high. What I find frustrating in the whole ‘guns in the wrong hands’ discussion, however, is the continued lack of interest or concern about stolen guns.  Webster and colleagues studied the source of 250+ crime guns used by prison inmates in 13 states and as many as 85% of those guns could have entered the illegal market through theft.  This situation won’t change because we strengthen the licensing process for acquisition of new guns; it just requires diligence for the guns we already own.

Dana Loesch Opens Her Mouth About Guns And Gets It Wrong Again.

When the NRA has to join forces with the paranoid fantasists who shoot their mouths off on The Blaze, you know that a decision has been made by the folks in Fairfax to abandon even a shred of reality-based discussion in order to hold onto their ever-dwindling base.  And like it or not, the number of Americans who own guns keeps dropping, which means that in order to sell more guns, a way has to be found to convince current gun owners to buy more, and more, and more.  And the game plan that has always worked in this regard is to sell the idea that Armageddon in the form of gun confiscation is right around the corner or lurking down the block.

The most successful use of this strategy occurred over the last seven years due to the fact that our President made no bones about the fact that he was, generally speaking, anti-gun.  So it was easy for the gun industry to remind its supporters that Obama was the tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a conclusion that spoke for itself.  Of course the problem now is that he can’t run again; but until January 20, 2017 we can remind the gun folks that he’s still capable of doing terrible things.

loeschnranews               And who better to push the most conspiratorial argument from this point of view than Dana Loesch, who got going as a right-wing noisemaker promoting her own, nutty view of the world on The Blaze, but has now been hired by the NRA.  And her inaugural video, which floated onto YouTube yesterday, is a combination of conspiracy, fear-mongering and downright falsehoods that could put even the most ardent conspiracy theorists (I’m thinking of Jade Helm, for example) to shame.

The only statement in Dana’s entire spiel that even remotely aligns with the truth is when she says early on that Obama is considering using Executive Orders to expand government regulation over guns.  In fact, the Kenyan has made it clear that he is looking at options to close some loopholes which, under current gun laws, let individuals transfer large quantities of guns without undergoing NICS-background checks.  And what this would amount to is making a clear distinction between the gun owner who buys, sells or transfers guns from time to time because he’s a hobbyist and he just enjoys fooling around with guns, as opposed to the guy who brings 50 ‘personally-owned’ handguns into a gun show, sells these guns and then restocks his inventory to sell more guns for profit at the next show.  I’m not saying that a gun transferred without a NICS-background check is necessarily going to wind up in the ‘wrong hands.’  But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that someone who can’t pass a background check today still won’tencounter any great difficulty if he wants to get his hands on a gun.

So here’s how Dana puts it: “You see, the President could use his pen to require that even the simplest transfer of a firearm between family members, like if my husband handed a rifle to his oldest son, be treated in accordance with FFL requirements.” She then goes on to paint a frightening picture of the ATF coming into the home of every gun owner, kind of a throwback to Wayne-o’s calling the ATF ‘jack-booted thugs,’ in a fundraising letter sent to the membership in 1995.

This extraordinary mangling of gun law, you should know, comes out of the mouth of someone who claims to have written a book about guns and Constitutional law.  But the fact is that the entire FFL system, as defined by GCA68, has nothing to do with personal transfers at all.  Dana obviously doesn’t know the difference between personal transfers on the one hand and business transactions on the other.  But why should she care? Do you honestly believe that anyone who takes her rubbish seriously is interested in an evidence-based discussion about guns?

Does It Matter Whether Hillary Is Wrong By Claiming That 40% Of Guns Are Sold At Gun Shows And Online Sites? No.

Glenn Kessler writes a column called Fact Checker for the Washington Post where he critiques statements made by politicians that don’t align with the facts.  Recently he reviewed a statement about gun violence made by Presidential candidate Clinton and judged her comment to have “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”  The statement in question was made by Hillary last week when she said that “forty percent of guns are sold at gun shows, online sales.”  Kessler argues that the offending statement is based on “very stale” data collected in 1994 and not subsequently verified by anyone else.  But the 1994 figure refers to guns that individuals received without first undergoing a background check, which was the point of Hillary’s speech; i.e., the need to expand background checks to all transfers of guns

hillary                Hillary’s comment and my fifty-year experience in the gun business got me to thinking: is her statement about gun show and internet sales so far off the mark? Let’s try to build a little data.  There are probably around 500 gun shows held in the U.S. every year.  Some of these are mega-shows, like the Tulsa show, but most are local or regional affairs, usually hosting several hundred exhibitors with a few thousand gun nuts wandering around.  I have probably been to 200 shows and have had a dealer’s table at 20-30 such events.  Reflecting on that experience I would say that an average show might contain 10,000 guns available to be bought and sold, maybe half are on tables rented by people who do not have an FFL  Are there 2.5 million non-FFL guns on display at gun shows each year?  I’ll bet I’m not far off.

What about the internet?  I have sold guns on big auction sites like Guns America and Gun Broker, and I have also bought guns from listings on Armslist.  I belong to two private Facebook groups where members buy, sell and trade guns, there are also hundreds of gun blogs which allow registered members to buy and sell guns.  Every one of these sites contains very clear admonitions to the effect that everyone must conform to all applicable federal, state and local laws.  The only problem is that in most localities there are no state or local laws. And if two people who live in the same state want to transfer a gun, there’s no federal law requiring any paperwork at all.

Some of the guns sold on internet websites are posted by retail dealers who also sell guns on their own websites and at local shows.  A study of Armslist postings by Third Way found there were 15,768 listings by private sellers in 10 states, which might indicate that 75,000 privately-owned guns are listed for sale at any one time, which is roughly 75% of all the guns for sale on the Armslist site.  Gun Broker, the largest online gun auction site, claims to contain 500,000 listings at any given time, but probably half these listings are for ammo, optics and various non-gun crap.

Between the auction sites, the buyer-to-seller sites and the gun blogs, I’m probably not off by much in estimating that one million guns are available for sale on the internet, of which maybe 750,000 guns could be transferred without conducting a background check.  And despite the rush towards a totally digital marketplace, most communities still have print newspapers and most of these papers carry classified ads for guns.  I just took a random look at a local shopper, Thrifty Nickel, in Idaho Falls, and found ads to sell a Taurus revolver and a Para 45.

What Hillary meant to say was that 40% of all gun transfers occur without a background check and she may not be far off the mark. Kessler is concocting a straw horse by criticizing her for what was nothing other than a verbal slip.  What she knows is that more background checks equals less guns going to the ‘wrong hands.’ And Glenn Kessler loses all credibility by not pointing that out.