Why Do Some People Own Guns? A New ‘Scientific’ Explanation.

              Because I fervently believe that we must try to find some way to eliminate the scourge of gun violence, I tend to be somewhat more accepting of arguments for gun control than for pro-gun arguments made by the ‘other side.’ But every once in a while a narrative floats around Gun-control Nation which is either so dumb, or so arrogant or so both, that I feel compelled to respond with the same degree of hostility and dismissiveness that I usually reserve for the jerks who lecture about the sanctity of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

One such narrative floating around gun-control land is an article in Scientific American that claims to be based on a ‘growing number of ‘scientific studies’ which explain why white men are stockpiling guns. If these articles represent science, Galileo must be turning in his grave, or in his tower, or wherever he ended up. In fact, these so-called studies are nothing more than junk science designed to appeal to an audience which may be committed to scientific inquiry, but also happens to be an audience that doesn’t know squat about guns.

The scientific approach to understanding gun ownership claims that guns are increasingly found in larger and larger private arsenals owned by white men “who are anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market, and beset by racial fears.” So says a sociologist who her study based on interviews with a whole, big sample of people who applied for concealed-carry licenses in Texas –  she talked to 20 men. That’s some definitive sample, I must say.

The most disturbing finding from this and other scientific investigations into the minds of guys who are stockpiling weapons is that many of them also harbor strong, racist beliefs and worse, often channel these beliefs into opposition to gun-control laws and support for conservative (read: Republican) politicians and right-wing political ideas.

Then there’s another foray into scientific research by two sociologists at Baylor University who claim to have uncovered a connection between white guys who use gun ownership to feel empowered after losing their jobs. Yet white women and minorities who suffered financial setbacks did not feel demonstrate the same affinity to guns, which obviously meant they had developed “other sources of meaning and coping when facing hard times.” Yea, they probably stuffed themselves with Fritos while sitting in front of the tv. Other sources – my rear end.

Let me break the news gently to all these intrepid researchers who are pushing the boundaries of scientific gun research to new extremes. White men have always owned most of the guns in this country. Gun owners have always been politically conservative and vote the Republican line. Gun owners also tend to be less educated because guns are most frequently found in rural areas where opportunities for higher education still lag behind.

In other words, all of these so-called scientific studies designed to explain why a certain group of people keep acquiring more and more guns, don’t tell us anything new about Gun-nut Nation and worse, completely ignore the way in which gun ownership has dramatically changed over the last several years.

You would think that, if anything, the alignment of the gun industry with the most reactionary and racist President of all time, a President who went out of his way to use the threat of gun violence as a motif for explaining his political success, would motivate all these conservative, GOP-voting, racist gun owners to stock up on even more guns. In fact, exactly the opposite has occurred. Gun sales continue to drift downward, there has yet to be a single month since Sleazy Don was inaugurated where NICS-FBI checks on gun transfers was higher than the same month of the year before. Back in 2015-2016 you couldn’t buy a new AR for less than a thousand bucks. America’s ‘favorite gun’ is now priced at $600 or less.

The Scientific American article isn’t science – it’s fake news. But since when do we need to rely on facts to develop or validate any idea at all?

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Want To Keep Guns Out Of The Wrong Hands? Check The 3rd Grade.

While the gun violence community (GVP) approaches the question of reducing gun violence from many different perspectives, there does seem to be a basic consensus around the idea that the 120,000+ gun injuries (more than 35,000 fatal) suffered each year by Americans can be substantially lessened by keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’  This basic approach was embodied in the first, major effort at gun regulation, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA68), which stipulated that certain individuals who were felons or fugitives, among other unsavory types, shouldn’t be allowed to get their hands on guns.

voting            Over the years a few more ‘wrong hands’ categories have been added to the list, as well as attempts to make it more difficult for wrong-handed people to get access to guns which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is what was behind the FBI-NICS background check system implemented under the Clinton Administration and has become the great GVP battleground over the extension of background checks to secondary sales.

Despite the stupidities of Gun-nut Nation regarding the uselessness of background checks, I’m willing to bet that the NICS system has probably been somewhat responsible for the more than 50% decrease in gun violence between 1995 and 2005, but while the system has become more efficient over the last ten years and secondary background checks are now conducted in 20 states, the overall rate of gun violence has plateaued over the last ten years and now appears to be edging back up.  So perhaps it’s time to re-examine the entire ‘wrong hands’ approach to dealing with gun violence, if only because more ‘bad hands’ seem to be getting their hands on guns every year.

The basic assumption that lies behind ‘wrong hands’ is the idea that people who behave in violent ways will become even more violent if they get their hands on a gun.  But the problem is that even if we had airtight reporting of all criminal behavior, even if the NICS database contained an absolutely complete and comprehensive list of everyone convicted of a violent crime, particularly crimes related to domestic abuse, these records only reflect the behavior of adults, which is way too late to predict who might be a threat to themselves or others when/if they got their hands on a gun.

The life-cycle of gun access has been studied by some of our most eminent public health and criminology researchers and they all agree: guns start showing up in the ‘wrong hands’ beginning around age twelve.  Because a real gun in the hands of any twelve-year old is, by definition, a gun in the ‘wrong hands,’ but that’s when they start showing up.  And the kid who starts carrying a gun to show off at twelve will be carrying it to use it when he’s sixteen. And he will have used it or had another gun used against him over the next ten years.  The studies that confirm the recidivism of gun violence by perpetrators and victims are conclusive in this respect.

But here’s the problem. By the time the kid with a gun reaches the age of sixteen, he no longer can be found.  And he can’t be found because he dropped out of school at age fourteen.  And now he’s wandering the nabes or the hood and he supports himself by doing things that require carrying or using a gun.  The city of Springfield, MA has a gun-homicide rate more than three times the national rate.  It also has a school drop-out rate of 40%. Who’s watching these kids?  Nobody’s watching these kids.

Youngsters don’t wake up one day in the 9th grade and announce they are quitting school.  These are kids with all kinds of behavioral and learning issues which appear by the 2nd or 3rd grade.  And then, ten or fifteen years later, they get shot or go to jail for shooting someone else.  Want to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands?’ Those hands are attached to someone jumping around in the classroom right down the hall.

 

Do Attitudes Of Gun Owners And Non-Gun Owners Differ That Much? I’m Not So Sure.

You may recall that several months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the New England Journal of Medicine published a survey on attitudes towards gun regulations that was developed by the gun violence research group at The Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Which means, of course, that the survey was designed to promote the gun-grabbing agenda of Mayor Mike.

hopkins            I’m being a bit sarcastic in what I just wrote because there is simply no way I can hold a conversation or direct anything I write towards a dialog with Gun-nut Nation, because thanks to Street Thug Trump, Gun-Nut Nation is rapidly becoming a haven for the lunatic fringe.  And if you want proof of that last statement, I direct you to a missive from a gentleman named Dr. Michael Brown, described on the Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership website as a “pragmatic Libertarian environmentalist,” who writes in detail about what he calls “The Ten Favorite Lies of the Gun Control Lobby,” And Lie #6 just happens to be the findings of the Johns Hopkins survey which found that a majority of gun owners want “more gun control.”

When the Hopkins survey was released back in 2013, attention was riveted on an attempt to get the scope of FBI-NICS background checks expanded to cover secondary (i.e., private) transactions and sales. The bill ultimately went nowhere fast, but the findings from the Hopkins survey were used by Manchin-Toomey supporters to help build their case. In light of the claim by Michael Brown that these findings were nothing more than a lie, I decided to take another look at what the details of that survey really show.

The survey was actually two surveys, one covering gun policies, the other devoted to guns and mental health.  I’m going to focus only on the former because this is the part of the survey which has been characterized as a “lie.”  The survey was completed by 1,865 respondents, of whom one-third reported that there was a gun in the home.  Here are some of the findings:

  • Banning purchase of assault weapons: Non-gun owners yes – 75%.  Gun owners yes – 46%.
  • Confiscation of currently-owned assault weapons: Non-gun owners yes – 63%, Gun owners yes – 37%.

The survey also asked whether a physician whose patient expressed a desire to hurt himself or others should be allowed to contact the NICS system to prevent such individuals from having a gun for a period of six months.  Actually, the survey question is slightly confused because NICS covers purchases, not ownership of guns. But the bottom line is that 75% of non-gun owners believed that physicians should be able to intervene in instances where a patient’s access to guns demonstrated a risk. Ready? 72% of gun owners felt the same way. Wow.

The results of this survey are astonishing in terms of what it says about how attitudes of gun owners and often differ from the usual narrative that we get about guns. If nearly four out of ten gun owners agree that assault weapons should be confiscated, if nearly half current gun owners believe that the purchase of assault weapons should be banned, if seven out of ten gun owners think that physicians should have the authority to help prevent at-risk patients from access to guns, then I think it’s time for Gun Violence Prevention advocate to stop worrying about being demonized for wanting to ban certain guns, and it’s time for physicians to drop their concerns about raising valid medical issues that  might make them appear to be anti-gun.

It will probably be difficult for the remainder of this campaign cycle to distinguish between the rantings of Gun-nut Nation and what might be in the minds of average folks who happen to own guns.  But if things turn out the way they should on November 8th, a serious and substantive gun debate might actually take place.  The Hopkins survey clearly indicates that there are reasonable voices on both sides.

A Modest Proposal For How To Expand Background Checks.

Now that the Senate is trying to come up with some kind of law that will enable everyone to say we are safer than before a young man who claimed ISIS sympathies shot 49 people in an Orlando club, I’d like to offer a modest proposal that might make a difference in whether any new gun regulation will have the desired effect.  And the desired effect in this case is to keep guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands; i.e., the hands of suspected terrorists, whatever that means.

And the reason I say ‘whatever that means’ is that to be suspected is one thing, to have it proven is something else.  Which is known as ‘due process,’ a very important legal protection that might take a real shellacking in this particular case.  Because as I understand it, the government will be able to deprive someone from being able to buy a gun just by putting their name on some kind of ‘watch list,’ a process that will take place in a secret court.

ar           Adam Winkler, whose book on the Heller decision is now required reading by everyone on both sides of the gun debate, claims that this process wouldn’t deprive anyone of their Constitutional protections because it’s no different than what happens now when the government goes into court for approval to wiretap your phone.  But it is different because even if the FBI listens to my rantings on the telephone, I can still get off the phone, leave my house and go out to buy a gun. And since buying that gun is currently another Constitutional ‘right,’ which Constitutional protection should disappear first?

So I have a modest proposal that I somehow hope will be considered by all the lawmakers who are discussing this issue right now.  I also hope it will be considered by lawmakers who will be considering an expansion of background checks to cover private sales, which is another amendment to the bill that was offered by Senator Chris Murphy last night.  And finally, I hope my modest proposal will be considered by the vast galaxy of pundits and influencers who are all offering their own ideas for what to do, along with the public health researchers and legal scholars who are also weighing in on the issue at hand.  Note, by the way, that I don’t care whether Street Thug Trump or the NRA read what I have to say; Donald’s getting his hair in place for a fictitious Manhattan fundraiser that’s not going to raise him millions of bucks, and the NRA is getting ready for whatever they are getting ready for, as long as it involves some disparaging remarks about Hillary, gun-grabbers, so on and so forth.

It seems to me that just saying that we want to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ is putting the veritable cart ahead of the veritable horse.  Because the real question that we should be asking is: what kinds of guns? The Orlando shooter would never have walked into The Pulse with a bolt-action rifle like a Remington 700, or a semi-auto hunting rifle like a BAR.  For that matter, he also wouldn’t have showed up with a pump or semi-auto shotgun because, like the guns mentioned above, none of these weapons would have allowed him to get off multiple shots in the few minutes it took him to create mayhem inside the club.

If background checks were required only for all transfers of assault-style rifles and concealable handguns, this would cover the weapons that are probably responsible for 95% of the gun injuries which occur every year.  Less guns that require regulation would also make it easier for the regulators to do a more effective job. And while the ATF is certainly not going to relinquish an inch of their regulatory authority without putting up a fight, what we really don’t want is another Orlando-type massacre because another suspected something-or-other slipped through the cracks.

 

What You Hear Is What You Get – The NRA Response To Obama.

It didn’t take Wayne-o 48 hours to respond to Obama’s remarkable SOTU speech, and his response really points up both the success of the GVP movement to date, along with the challenge faced by GVP going forward. The fact that LaPierre felt compelled to call the President a ‘liar,’ ‘narcissist,’ ‘dishonest,’ ‘long-winded,’ ‘gas bag’ and basically a shill for the Hillary campaign, reveals the degree to which Gun Nation and Trump-ist political rhetoric have merged; i.e., if you insult your opponent enough times, you can avoid any serious talk.  What’s the difference between Trump bellowing ‘Make America Great Again’ and LaPierre saying that Obama has “laid waste to the America we remember?”  No difference.  And that’s a good thing.

lapierre              It’s a good thing because the GVP strategy shouldn’t be based on trying to convince 2nd-Amendment nihilists that there are sensible solutions to the problems caused by guns.  Obama’s attempt to push a small percentage of gun transfers into the ATF-FBI-NICS framework by requiring individuals who make a ‘continuous’ profit from gun sales is hardly an attack on gun-owning rights, and LaPierre’s totally false description of this effort obliterates even the slightest possibility that his video message was an attempt to engage in an honest exchange.

We like to say that Obama has been the gun industry’s best salesman because gun revenues have soared over the past seven years.  But he’s also been a magnet for the NRA’s attempts to expand its own ranks.  According to Advertising Age, the circulation of the American Rifleman magazine surged by nearly 30% from 2012 to 2013, although the total circulation of all NRA membership magazines still doesn’t nearly add up to the 5 million members that the NRA now claims to represent. But numbers are one thing, the message going out is something else.  If you take the time to watch Wayne-o’s video (quoting don Corleone, “Keep your friends close but your enemies….”) you’ll quickly realize that the organization which claims to speak for America’s gun owners has abandoned even the slightest pretense for anything remotely connected to reality, facts or common sense.

Take the alleged ‘failure’ of the Obama Administration to prosecute gun crimes. According to LaPierre, the President could simply pick up the phone and direct his Justice Department to mount a scorched-earth campaign to rid Chicago of every drug dealer, violent felon and gangbanger currently prowling the Windy City’s streets.  This statement, incidentally, is made less than one minute after Wayne-o accused Obama of using his executive authority to destroy the Constitution, as if one can find anywhere in the Constitution the legal grounds for using a federal agency to deal with local crime.

You may recall that back in 1995, Wayne-o sent out a fundraising letter referring to ATF agents as ‘jack-booted thugs’ who were the shock troops in the “final assault to eliminate firearms ownership forever,” rhetoric that caused President George H. W. Bush to resign from the NRA. Now he’s at it again, claiming in this video that Obama is creating a ‘federal gun force’ that will be four times larger than the number of Special Forces currently leading operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  I don’t think that combat against ISIS has cost the lives of more than a handful of our beloved and heroic troops but gun violence kills more than 80 Americans every day.  More resources to respond to domestic gun violence as opposed to overseas terror attacks?  Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me.

Watch the entire video because Wayne-o saves the best for last.  After referring to the President in the most indecorous and insulting terms, he then flips and obsequiously asks Obama to engage in a one-on-one debate.  I can see it now – Wayne LaPierre in the Oval Office lecturing the President on the 2nd Amendment and why Michelle should be walking around with a gun.  If the NRA thinks that such amateurish grandstanding appeals to anyone beyond their most devoted members, they better think again.