Now That Trump Wants Us All To ‘Work Together,’ Can The NRA Be Far Behind?

One of the privileges of being a Life Endowment member of the NRA is that I get a daily email from either Chris Cox or Wayne-o asking me for dough.  You might ask, by the way, how come I give Gun-nut Nation so much dough?  It’s very simple, I like to be piss inside the tent even though I sometimes piss outside the tent anyway. But look what the boys from Fairfax will send me if I respond to this email with a check – a beautiful windbreaker embossed both with the NRA seal and the NRA-ILA logo. Just what I need to add to the pile of clothing that I will stuff into one of those supermarket bins one of these days.

NRA gift             What caught my eye about this little gift, however, wasn’t the windbreaker itself but the gear which you can load into the shirt – very interesting stuff. Hiking shoes, climbing equipment, walking sticks, a pair of binoculars and a nice outdoor tool.  What about the gun we are all supposed to be carrying when we step outside our homes? To be honest, this giveaway looks like it was prepared for people who belong to the Wilderness Society; i.e., one of those tree-hugging organizations which invariably comes out against guns. The NRA? What’s going on?

I’ll tell you what’s going on. The NRA has decided they have pushed their leadership of the alt-right about as far as they can, and like their guy in the White House, it’s time to start acting sensibly if they want to avoid being pushed out to the fringe. Notice how all of a sudden there’s no mention of the ‘failing’ New York Times? Notice how all of a sudden the ‘obstructionist’ Democrats have been replaced by Nancy and Chuck? Notice how all of a sudden Steve Bannon needs backslaps from a warmed-over Fox blabbermouth like Pat Caddell? And notice how all of a sudden all those neo-Nazis who were protecting all those Confederate statues seem to have crawled back under their rocks?

I’m not saying that Trump is done acting like an asshole and I’m certainly not saying that racism, anti-Semitism and hatred are relics of the past. What I am saying is that Trump’s approval numbers among Republicans (which are the numbers that really count) have started to edge back up slightly since he began promoting the idea that we all need to work together in order to get things done. Which is a message that won’t work if some of your most fervent supporters (read: NRA) continue to pretend that the only thing which keeps us from descending into total chaos are all those patriots marching down the street with their Confederate flags and their guns.

If I could run one concession at the annual NRA show each year it would be the concession which rents those motorized carts that people use who can’t walk. And the popularity of this concession isn’t due to the fact that so many members of Gun-nut Nation are in physical distress; it’s because you’ve never seen so many morbidly obese men and women in one location until you go to the NRA show. Believe me, if these folks use this very nice windbreaker which they will receive for responding to today’s fundraising appeal to store anything at all, it won’t be rappelling equipment or a flashlight or anything outdoorsy like that; it will be a sandwich, some potato chips, a bag of oreo cookies and a full-calorie drink.

If America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ goes back to its roots and once again becomes an organization devoted to safety, hunting and the outdoors, such a shift might cause some concerns for gun violence prevention (GVP) advocates who have lately, and with good reason, pictured the NRA as being in the vanguard of not just the alt-right, but the loony right at that.

Know what? My friends in the GVP community should always have such problems.


The NRA Wins A Big One Which Doesn’t Mean Anything At All.

In return for helping to secure the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the NRA had its Congressional toadies undo a Presidential Executive Action which mandated removing guns from people receiving disability benefits for mental disorders.  The NRA has been braying about the need to ‘fix’ the mental health system in lieu of expanding background checks to secondary gun transfers, but this didn’t stop America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ from leading the charge to protect mentally-disabled gun owners who otherwise might have been separated from their guns.

bomber             As usual, the NRA’s statement about this issue was nothing short of a complete and total fabrication as to whether Obama’s action was based on anything other than the former President’s hatred of guns.  The action said that people who receive Social Security Administration (SSA) disability payments for mental disorders and, more important, have an ‘assigned representative’ who manages their financial affairs, would be reported to FBI-NICS and therefore could not purchase or own guns.  Did this new procedure spring from the deranged brain of our 44th President as the NRA would like everyone to believe?  In fact, it is found in the criteria for legal gun ownership as defined by the ATF, and the ATF has been using this criteria for years.

Remember a little ATF form known as the 4473?  This is the form that everyone must fill out when purchasing a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer, and it is the form which the gun dealer then uses to conduct the instant background check by contacting FBI-NICS. And here’s the relevant text from Question 11f: “Have you ever been adjudicated a mental defective OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution?” And this question is then explained in a footnote to the 4473 form which says that such an individual has been found by a ‘lawful authority’ to lack the mental capacity “to contract or manage his own affairs.”

Now between 2001 and 2014 I sold more than 12,000 guns in my retail store, and every, single sale required the purchaser to fill out a 4473.  And not a single person who ever bought a gun in my shop ever answered Question 11f by saying ‘yes.’  So when the NRA Congressional toadies rolled back Obama’s Order which required that the Social Security Administration simply comply with what the ATF has been requiring for many years, I decided to take a look at how the SSA actually defines these mental disabilities which would prevent such folks from owning guns.

The definitions of mental disability employed by the SSA, which then allow an individual to receive disability benefits, are found in an SSA publication, ‘Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,’ which can be read here. These mental disabilities are divided into 11 separate categories (neurocognitive, schizophrenic, depressive, etc.) but in every category, a determining factor is whether the individual can ‘function independently,’ which certainly precludes anyone who can’t manage their own financial affairs.

When the SSA initially issued this ruling on May 5, 2016, and invited everyone and anyone to submit comments which were summarized when the rule was finalized on December 19, 2016.  The SSA received 91,000 comments of which 86,000 were identical statements sent in by members of ‘one advocacy group’ whose identity you can use to test if you or anyone you know is mentally impaired.

I’m not a mental health professional so I’m not going to get into the question about whether people who are mentally impaired are threats to themselves or others if they own guns.  If you want to understand this issue, try reading an important collection of scholarly articles edited by Robert Simon and Liza Gold. But what I find interesting is the NRA’s ability to mount a successful campaign about this issue and generate a huge public outcry even though their position simply isn’t true. But the NRA now has a friend in the White House whose public statements and policies also appear to scrupulously avoid any connection to facts or the truth. So we’ll see what we see.

Did The Gun Vote Swing This Election? I Don’t Think So.

As an unrepentant, yellow-dog Democrat, I wasn’t enamored of the election results from last night.  But the first thing that caught my eyes as the returns started to roll in was the drop-off in vote totals from four years’ before.  Trump is going to end up with about the same number of votes as Romney got in 2012; Hillary’s total will probably be somewhere around 3.5 million less than what Barack pulled that same year. Trump will end up getting something less than 59 million votes this year; he won because lots of Democratic voters didn’t show up, not because he was so strong at the polls.

trump4The decline in both red and blue vote totals at the statewide levels was also evident in the two really surprise states, namely, Wisconsin and Michigan which, had they gone for Hillary, she still would not have awakened this morning with a larger Secret Service detail guarding her house, but the results in those two states probably would have been reflected in the count from Pennsylvania and other states as well.  Trump’s totals from Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania will end up somewhere south of 7 million; Hillary won’t be far behind. Trump will end up pulling about 300,000 more in PA than came out and voted red in 2012, but in Michigan and Wisconsin the 2012-2016 totals will be the same.

Where I am going with these numbers is to try and judge the impact of the ‘gun vote’ on the outcome as a whole.  Because from the very beginning of this campaign, gun and gun violence played a central role in how these two candidates presented themselves both to those who ended up voting as well as to the substantial numbers who didn’t bother to vote. Hillary kick started her primary battle against Bernie in a take-no-prisoners statement after the shooting at Umpqua CC.  And Trump never stopped reminding his audiences that he was the NRA’s official candidate almost before his campaign began.

Now the fact that the NRA ran television spots in gun-rich states like Georgia, Texas and Tennessee probably didn’t affect the results in those states at all.  A majority of residents in these states, wishful thinking to the contrary, will always vote for the GOP, and they don’t need the NRA to remind them that no matter who sits atop the national Democratic ticket, that individual represents a ‘threat’ to their guns.

But it’s in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania where the value of the gun issue needs to be understood.  Because all three states have large, urban populations who are generally resistant to any appeal about guns, but they also have many rural residents, almost all of whom are gun owners and, in theory, might come out in force to protect their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

The NRA is already taking credit for getting their man into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the overall and most statewide numbers belie their claim. What cooked the Clinton goose was not the turnout for Trump; it was the fact that she was unable to retain the voting strength that the Bomber demonstrated in 2008 and 2012.

Which brings me, of course, to the obvious question: given the fact that all three branches of the federal government are now or will shortly be red, what will be the future for GVP?  First of all, three states passed significant ballot initiatives: banning hi-cap mags in California, extending background checks to private sales in Nevada and temporarily blocking hi-risk individuals from access to firearms in Washington State.

There are now 19 states that require background checks beyond the initial point of sale.  There were six states that granted unrestricted concealed-carry licenses in the mid-80s; it took the NRA twenty-five years to extend shall-issue to just about all 50 states. So the issue is not where GVP stands today; it’s where it was ten years ago and where it will be ten years from now.  Remember – if reducing gun violence was so easy, there wouldn’t have been anything that needed to be reduced.

The NRA Doesn’t Believe That Gun Suicide Is Gun Violence Since They Don’t Believe That Guns Cause Violence At All.

If you are active in the field of Gun Violence Prevention, you can tell you are making a difference if you get attacked by the NRA, or better yet by Breitbart, which is one and the same thing.  Breitbart has been pimping for the NRA since it first started up in 2007 because if you want to become known as the loony voice on the Right, what better way to do it than to say something crazy about guns?  And at least for the next couple of months the craziness will be spread even further by a guy named Trump.

suicideSo it was no surprise to me that yesterday’s NRA-ILA political blog would carry a lead story attacking (and distorting) the views of one of our most dedicated and distinguished public health scholars, who happens to be Shannon Frattaroli, a faculty member at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Professor Frattaroli has been an outspoken advocate in many areas of gun violence, in particular helping to frame the discussion around taking and keeping guns away from individuals involved in domestic disputes.  She is also an authority on the issue of restricting gun use by persons who are strong self-harm candidates, and helped the California Legislature draft its 2014 law that allows family members and intimate partners to directly petition a judge to determine if an individual might be a threat to themselves or someone else.

The gun industry has always been reluctant to acknowledge the fact that two-thirds of gun deaths each year are caused by people who use a gun to end their own lives.  For some of the more extreme Gun-nut Nation elements, this isn’t a worrisome aspect of gun violence, it’s all about ‘personal choice.’  But there are more enlightened approaches being taken about gun suicide by the gun-owning community, witness the recent announcement by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to partner with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to develop resources for gun dealers, shooting ranges and gun owners about suicide and guns.

About the last thing that the NRA is going to endorse is any effort by anyone to develop ‘educational’ resources about anything; their definition of ‘education’ is to have an invented YouTube character with a phony name like Colion Noir prance around with his AR, or home-school queen Dana Loesch come down from her perch and lecture all those soccer moms on how they could defend the ‘real America’ if only they would all go out and buy guns.

But when the NRA really wants to concoct an argument completely out of whole cloth, they can always count on Breitbart to help them out.  And the story they relied on for this week’s attack on Shannon Frattaroli comes right out of the Breitbart land of make-believe.  Pulling some of Frattaroli’s comments out of context from an article in New America Media, the Breitbart writer, a Gun-nut Nation noisemaker named AWR Hawkins, accuses her of trying to disarm the senior, gun-owning population because older gun owners tend to be the most adamant supporters of 2nd-Amendment rights.

Actually, what Frattaroli is really saying reflects nothing more than common sense, namely, that guns are problematic when they are on the hands of an aging population, because the older we get, the more we become susceptible to physical and mental conditions that make us more vulnerable to the risks posed by guns. The CDC reports that in 2014, for example, while the overall gun-suicide rate per 100,000 was 6.54, the rate for ages 70 and above was 12.4, more than twice as high.

The NRA has never felt comfortable with saying anything about guns which leads to a discussion about risk.  This is because the only gun-risk they believe exists is when you don’t own a gun. Which is why they find it convenient and necessary to attack what Shannon Frattaroli says.  All the more reason why it’s very important to read what she has to say.



Don’t Miss This Important Report On Gun Violence.

A serious and substantial report on gun violence and minority communities has just been issued by the Joyce Foundation, the Urban Institute and The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, accompanied by a national survey conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group. Is there any crossover between the fact that Joel Benenson happens to be a leading consultant for Hillary who just happens to have made gun violence a central plank of her Presidential campaign?

conference-program-pic           This effort largely reflects meetings held with more than 100 members of minority communities in Stockton, CA, Milwaukee, WI and Richmond, VA, in an attempt to create a new strategy to deal with gun violence which, as the report points out, is the first and second leading cause of death respectively for Black and Hispanic males, ages 15-34.

Much of the discussions held with community representatives, along with a majority of the report’s content, deals with relations between minority residents and the police.  And this should hardly surprise, given the fact that the types of gun violence examined in this report all happen to be crimes.  Of the report’s four categories of recommendations, only one category – Improve Relations Between Police and Communities of Color – yielded more than two basic recommendations because, as the report says, “police must be viewed as a legitimate authority in the communities they serve.”

The Benenson survey casts some doubt on whether minorities believe that cops riding down their streets represent any legitimacy at all.  Benenson found that a majority of Blacks and a third of Hispanics reported having a ‘negative interaction’ with law enforcement, although there still was overwhelming support for the idea that, on the whole, most cops were professionals with a few ‘rotten apples’ giving police a bad name.

In tandem with its publication was a public event at the National Press Club featuring an analysis of the survey by Joel Benenson, along with a roundtable discussion involving researchers and activists who contributed to the report.  What I found most interesting about this discussion was the conviction on the part of all participants that successful implementation of the recommendations for reducing gun violence would require giving ‘everyone’ a seat at the table whenever new policies or programs would be discussed.

Which got me thinking: How come there was nobody at the National Press Club representing the folks who always have the most to say about gun violence, namely, the folks who represent the sector that is wholly and completely responsible for all gun violence, namely, the folks who make the guns?  Because the truth is there would be no gun violence, not one, single, solitary gun injury if the gun industry hadn’t convinced Congress and the Supreme Court that guns were legal commerce and should be allowed in every home.  And by the way, the Benenson survey discovered once again that even in minority neighborhoods that are racked by gun violence, a majority of residents believe they would be safer if they owned a gun.

Now just wait until the NRA-ILA gets its hands on that one! I can see the headline now: Hillary’s pollster admits that minorities need to own guns. What if this report had been authored, say, by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, funded by the Scaife Foundation which supports every cockamamie right-wing policy idea?  The report would have denied the existence of gun violence, would have chastised minority communities for not keeping their kids under control, would have trotted out Detroit’s Police Chief who believes the most effective way to deal with gun violence is to make sure that every citizen is armed.

I believe there should be a seat at the table for everyone who needs to be present in a discussion about gun violence.  But just understand that several of the chairs won’t be filled no matter how many invitations go out. And I’m still waiting for the report that explains how we are going to deal with that bunch.




Another 2nd Amendment Battle To Help Good Guys Keep And Use Their Guns.

I am a member of the NRA.  In fact, I’m a Life Member.  This means, among other things, that every few days I receive an email from the lobbying arm of the organization, NRA-ILA, which contains some scary stories about threats to my 2nd-Amendment rights, followed by a plea from Chris Cox to send some dough.  Most of the stories are the usual Obama-this and Obama-that, God only knows what the NRA will do to stave off total collapse if the Republicans run the table in 2016. But every once in a while some story catches my eye and it’s my civic duty as a gun nut to bring it to everyone’s attention, NRA members or not.

The story begins with the following headline: “Foster Family Loses Children For Exercising Second Amendment Right.”  It comes out of Clark County, Nevada, (a.k.a. Las Vegas) where a couple, Kristi and Rod Beber, had three foster children taken away from them following a disturbance in front of their home.  It turned out the Bebers kept a loaded, unlocked handgun in their home which, according to the Department of Family Services, “did not describe an adult exercising sound judgment.”

safety2                The Bebers, of course, have become rock stars on the red-meat digital network, with stories about their suffering (basically a reprint of the local news story linked here) popping up on Breitbart, The Blaze, various gun blogs, all the usual crap. What I can’t find is whether Clark County DFS removed the kids because the Bebers owned a gun per se, or was it the result of details that came out of the specific incident that resulted in the cops being called out to their home. What I did find interesting is the fact that the DFS website’s home page carries a large advertisement for the county’s shooting range, the Clark County Shooting Complex, which is called Nevada’s ‘Five-Star’ Range.  Oh well.

In June the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill that, according to the Bebers, the NRA, the Breitbart gang and Glenn Beck gave Rod Beber the right to do exactly what he did, namely, to use his gun to defend his family from harm: “This bill authorizes a person who holds CCW to carry a concealed firearm on the premises of a family foster home if it is stored in a locked secure storage container except when used for certain lawful purposes.” The bill was passed in June, the incident at the Beber residence took place in April; hence, he wasn’t covered by the law and, even if he were, it’s not clear that he was actually using the gun that night for ‘certain lawful purposes.’  We’ll get all the facts when Beber shows up to speak at the NRA annual show next year.

But let’s suppose, just for a minute, that Beber has a case.  Let’s suppose that he really did lose his 2nd-Amendment rights just because the incident at his home occurred two months before the law was changed.  And let’s even forget the cautionary words written by Antonin Scalia in Heller and seemingly forgotten by everyone: “Nor does our analysis suggest the invalidity of laws regulating the storage of firearms to prevent accidents.” What I really find interesting about the Beber case is the fact that the law was changed at all.  I mean, how many people in Nevada could the DFS regulation on foster-care gun ownership really affect?

What’s happening is that the NRA is methodically and relentlessly poring through laws and regulations in state after state to find every, single instance in which anyone faces any kind of regulation of their so-called gun rights.  And while the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence offers a pretty good description of current state gun laws, is anyone out there tracking the ongoing effort to weaken and/or abolish those laws?  I don’t think it’s being done at all and I’m hoping it’s not too late.


Even When The NRA Fudges The Facts, It Doesn’t Really Matter At All.

I just received my weekly email call to arms from Chris Cox, who runs the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.  It’s not really a call to arms, it’s a call to my wallet so that the NRA can continue to protect my 2nd-Amendment rights.  And this week’s appeal has a cute twist to it because it solicits me to take a poll called the 2015 Gun Rights Action Survey.  So in the interests (to quote don Corleone) in keeping my friends close but my enemies closer, I opened up the poll and I want to share the questions with you.

Basically the poll asks me whether I support or oppose laws that have been introduced at the federal level and in various states.  The answers will go a long way, according to Cox, to refute the lies told by Obama, Hilary, Mike and the rest of the gun-grabbing gang which, if left unchallenged, would surely result in my guns being taken away.

     Chris Cox, NRA-ILA

Chris Cox, NRA-ILA

Here’s a question which illustrates the kind of ‘lie’ the gun grabbers want me to accept: “Do you support or oppose H.R. 1217 – a new proposal in Congress that would implement Barack Obama’s national gun registration scheme?”  Of course I oppose it. What freedom-loving American wouldn’t oppose it?  How dare Obama try to set up a national registration that will then lead to confiscation, right?

Duhhh . . . wrong.  Because if you take the trouble to actually read the text of H.R. 1217, you’ll discover that the bill does nothing of the kind.  In fact, what it does is provide money to help states update the mental health records that they are supposed to send to NICS, a policy that the NRA has been supporting for years.  Remember Wayne-o’s demand after Sandy Hook that we need to “fix” the mental health system at the same time we put an armed guard in every school? I got news for you – that’s exactly what this bill does.

H.R. 1217 was introduced by Peter King (R-NY), who got a ‘D’ rating from the NRA because he voted for a bill that would have provided some scant, and I mean scant regulation over gun show operators.  He also voted for several bills that would have made gun dealers liable for the “criminal misuse” of any gun they sold, and he also voted ‘yes’ to require NICS background checks to be completed within 24 hours if the gun was purchased at a gun show. So King is hardly any kind of rock-ribbed gun grabber, but tell that to the folks who work for the NRA-ILA.

In any case, his H.R. 1217 bill does the following: it gives grants to states “to improve the automation and transmittal of mental health records and criminal history dispositions.” There’s some other boilerplate language but that’s what the bill does.  Period.  Want to know what it doesn’t do? It doesn’t “allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry.”  Now I’m not paraphrasing or summarizing the bill – I’m quoting the language directly.

So how does a piece of legislation that specifically prohibits the creation of a ‘federal firearms registry’ turn into a bill that would “implement Barack Obama’s national gun registration scheme?”  I’ll tell you how.  It happens because Chris Cox simply lied.  Period.  End of story.  And want to know why he can lie with such impunity?  Because nobody who gets this email is going to read it anyway, nobody other than a few miserable contrarians como yo.

The NRA has done a superb job creating an army of devoted and loud followers who not only believe everything they’re told, but want to believe it, no questions asked.  And they know they can depend on the NRA to stick up for their gun rights, even if they catch Chris Cox in a little lie.  The problem with gun-safety advocates is they believe their concerns about gun violence should align with the facts.  It’s time to wake up to the fact that the other side doesn’t care.

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.


Do Guns Protect Us From Crime? The NRA Says Yes, The FBI Says No.

Ever since the gun industry realized that hunting was a sport that was slowly disappearing, they have tried to convince Americans that owning a gun is the best and most affordable way to protect themselves from being the victims of a crime.  This research that stood behind this marketing was first done by Gary Kleck, a criminologist in Florida, who figured out that people carrying guns prevented upwards of 2.5 million crime each year.  He figured this out, incidentally, on the basis of a totally-bogus telephone poll that reached a whole, big 213 respondents, but never mind, the NRA began using this ‘guns prevent crime’ nonsense to promote the sale of guns.

Kleck’s work was ramped up to the next level by John Lott, an economist who trained with Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, who in 1997 published a book, More Guns, Less Crime, which argued that every time a jurisdiction changed the law and allowed people to carry concealed guns, the crime rate in that area went down.  Maybe Kleck only interviewed 213 people for his study but at least he could show the raw data from his telephone poll.  In the case of Lott, when other scholars asked him to produce his data so they could validate his results – ooops – the hard drive crashed and there was no data to be found.  So we ended up with two studies, one which didn’t meet even the minimal standards for polling analysis, the other which may have been based on no real data at all, but the gun industry happily rolled these two bromides into a marketing campaign which remains the basic argument and justification for gun ownership today.

fbi                Want the latest attempt to convince Americans that they should all go out and buy a gun to protect themselves from crime? Check out the new headline on the NRA-ILA website which says that the violent crime rate fell to another all-time low in 2013 while Americans kept buying more guns. According to the NRA, since 1991 violent crime decreased 19 of 22 years while, during the same period, Americans purchased 135 million new guns.  This is basically the same story that the NRA ran in 2010, when they used the FBI crime report and said, “gun ownership rises to all-time high, violent crime falls to 35-year low.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the arguments for what I call the positive social utility of guns is how coincidence becomes causality, as if the fact that crime rates go down and gun ownership goes up have anything necessarily to do with one another.  But when you create a world that is neatly divided between ‘good guys’ who use their guns to protect us from crime versus ‘bad guys’ who use guns to commit crimes, it’s easy to confuse coincidence with causality.  Throw in the idea that the ‘bad guys’ not only include the criminals but also the elite, gun-grabbers of whom the most prominent happens to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania in Washington, DC, and you’ve got a solid argument for owning more guns, regardless of the facts of the case.

But I happen to find facts rather interesting, particularly when they don’t support a particular point of view.  And in this case, if we go below the headlines and take a look at the FBI crime numbers, all of a sudden the argument about crime and guns doesn’t really add up.  In 2012 the FBI recorded 12,765 homicides of which 8,855 were committed with guns.  In 2013, total homicides were 12,253 with 8,454 guns.  Yes, the homicide rate went down from 2012 to 2013, but the percentage of homicides committed with guns went up.  The truth is that more people aren’t walking around with guns to protect us from crime; more people are using guns to commit the most violent crime of all.  If that’s an argument for owning more guns, it sure beats hell outta me.


All Of A Sudden The NRA’S Armed Citizens Aren’t So Armed

Maryland was one of a number of states in 2013 that enacted gun control statutes in the wake of Sandy Hook, and last week a Federal District Court Judge upheld the state’s authority to ban most of the popular brands of assault-style rifles, along with limiting gun magazines to 10 rounds or less.  This is a very significant ruling for two reasons.  First, ,notwithstanding the fact that the NRA would like you to believe that armed citizens are the first line of defense against crime, the ruling affirms that government has a “compelling interest” in protecting public safety which allows for the regulation of guns.  Second, the ruling flies directly in the face of the gun industry’s effort to legitimize assault-style weapons as no different from any other type of gun that might be used for personal defense.  And while the 2008 Heller decision explicitly recognized the right of citizens to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense, it did not vacate the government’s right to regulate the types of weapons that might be used.

In their attempt to overturn the Maryland law, the plaintiffs, including the NSSF, argued two basic issues:  (1). Banning assault-style weapons was a violation of the 2nd Amendment because it deprived shooters of a product that was in common use; (2). Banning assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines deprived individuals of a weapon that was frequently kept and used in the home for self-defense.  I found it interesting, incidentally, that the plaintiffs did not try to push the notion of AR-15s as “modern sporting rifles,” a totally phony nomenclature invented by the gun industry to overcome the resistance of big-box, chain stores like Wal-Mart who believed that such products interfered with their image as destinations for family shopping.

assault                As regards the argument that a ban on assault guns would deprive Maryland residents of an increasingly popular type of firearm, Judge Blake noted that while the total number of the banned guns was upwards of 8 million, this represented less than 3% of all firearms held by civilians.  Further, the Judge, using numbers from the NSSF, found that assault-style rifle ownership tended to be concentrated, with the average assault gun owner possessing more than 3 such weapons, meaning that less than 1% of the entire American population owned any assault weapons at all.  [Pages 19-20.]

As for the question of using an AR or AK rifle for self-defense, the ruling cited a report submitted by Lucy Allen, who has been called as an expert witness in other cases involving sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  This report, based on data from the NRA, found that assault weapons are rarely used in instances of armed self-defense, nor did persons discharge more than ten rounds when using their guns in instances of armed self-defense.  The plaintiffs, in arguing against Allen’s evidence, claimed that she did not “independently verify” the data on which her report was based, a claim rejected by the Court since the evidence came from the NRA, which although not a formal party to the case, certainly was in favor of a decision that would uphold the plaintiff’s suit.

The NRA has been promoting the idea that armed citizens protect themselves and others with guns for as long as I can remember.  They now have an online repository for these anecdotes and you can submit a self-defense story, real or imagined, which is then edited and republished for all to read.  And yes, even if you don’t have a story, the NRA will send you an armed citizen bumper sticker.  The NRA claims that millions of Americans use guns in self-defense every year, but when someone uses the evidence posted on their website to contradict their claims about the self-defense value of AR-15s, all of a sudden the data is no good.  I really can’t imagine how Judge Blake wrote that part of her decision with a straight face.