Want To Stop National Concealed-Carry? Start With This Video.

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Remember Larry Craig? He was the Republican Senator from Idaho who was the staunchest gun advocate in the U.S. Congress and was even a member of the NRA Board. My friends in Fairfax had the good sense to dump old Larry after he spent a little too much time in an airport toilet, but before that unfortunate incident occurred, he was known chiefly for introducing the first national concealed-carry bill in 1997, which this year finally has a chance of becoming law.

carrier             The bill, (SB446 or HB38), not only allows someone with a CCW permit issued in his state to carry a concealed weapon into any other state, but even allows someone who lives in a state that does not require a specific CCW permit to go armed into states where a CCW permit is required for residents in those states. In other words, the ability to carry a concealed weapon throughout the United States becomes even easier than what is required to drive a car from one state to another, because every state requires that you can’t drive without a valid driver’s license, but at least 12 states don’t require any licensing for CCW, a number which may go to 15 or 16 states before the end of this year. And by the way, at least 24 states do not require any kind of training or performance certification before you strap on the old gun.

Folks, let me break the news to you gently. If national CCW becomes law (and Trump promoted the idea again and again during the campaign,) as far as I’m concerned, Gun-nut Nation has won. It’s not the idea that concealed-carry gunnies are necessarily more dangerous than anyone else, or that CCW would mean an increase in violence and crime. What it really means is that walking around with a gun is just as normal and mainstream as walking around with a droid. And the whole point about guns and gun violence is that don’t ask me how and don’t ask me why, but like my man Walter Mosley says, walk around with a gun and it will go off sooner or later.

So this bill represents a real threat to everyone who believes that we shouldn’t be tolerating 120,000 deaths and injuries each year because of guns. And my friends at States United to Prevent Gun Violence have just rolled out a remarkable video to drive this point home. It’s called Carrier or Killer and consists of 5 scenes after which the viewer has to guess whether the person on the camera could or should be considered a threat with a gun.  I actually got one of the five wrong because I swear that this kid standing in a convenience store was holding a gun. He wasn’t, and by the way, he’s now dead.

The most chilling video shows a young man innocently entering a building; there’s absolutely nothing in his dress, demeanor or what he is carrying that might make you believe that he would commit violence with a gun. The video, it turns out, is Dylann Roof entering the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston just before he shot nine people dead.

Folks, you have to watch this video. Then you have to watch the YouTube trailer. Then you have to get involved, put it on your Twitter, or your Facebook, or your Instagram, or however you connect with everyone else. Because national concealed-carry not only represents dreams come true for Gun-nut Nation, it’s a cynical and exploitive attempt to promote gun ownership for all the reasons that guns don’t need to be owned.

You don’t need to carry a gun because you’re afraid. You need to figure out what is causing the fear and deal with the cause, which isn’t the same thing as buying into the gun industry’s nonsense about protecting yourself with a gun. Unless you’re willing to put in hundreds of training hours which you’re not, the gun just increases the risk to you and everyone else.

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Another Crackpot Almost Joins The Trump Team.

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Take a look at the change.org website and you’ll find a petition which asks Senator Chuck Schumer to have #45 declared mentally ill and removed from behind the Oval Office desk. The petition was started by a psychiatrist, John Gartner, who specializes in treating personality disorders and is convinced that Trump-o’s mental state puts the country at risk.

manson             I thought that the endless lying, braggadocio and confused thoughts of the Trump campaign persona were just a good act. I never thought it would carry over to his behavior as President, in particular the degree to which he continues to say things which any ‘normal’ person would know are simply untrue. He got up before a group of sheriffs last week and said that the murder rate had reached a 45-year high; in fact it has hit a 45-year low. So is Trump unable to tell the difference between fantasy and fact, or is he relying on a staff which is hopelessly unable to figure anything out?

It may be a combination of both, but the bottom line is that Dr. Gartner’s petition now has 50,784 signatures, even though it’s not clear to what degree a physician should publicly identify an at-risk individual if the physician has not actually examined the person himself. But the issue of Trump’s mental stability will no doubt be a priority for the doctor who was a finalist but didn’t get the #2 job at HHS. He’s a New York psychiatrist named Michael Welner, who wanted to head up mental health initiatives for the government, and would have played a leading role in the debate about mental health and guns.

After Sandy Hook, Democrats called for tighter gun regulations, Republicans wanted more attention paid to keeping guns away from the mentally ill. Now in fact mental illness, particularly mental illness which requires hospitalization or some other form of intensive treatment, is not usually a factor in explaining gun violence, even though people who kill other people aren’t ‘normal’ like you and me. But promoting the alleged connection between mental illness and gun violence is an easy way to avoid or ignore the degree to which Americans have basically free access to guns. And it is the ability for just about anyone to get their hands on a gun which drives our homicide rates far above other OECD violence rates.

If you’re looking for a physician to help drive the Republican agenda on mental illness and crime, then Dr. Welner’s ‘da man.’ He has developed a ‘depravity standard’ which measures whether a crime is just a crime, or whether it was depraved, heinous, atrocious; what prosecutors call ‘aggravating circumstances’ which may influence the sentence up to a death penalty, or considerations about early release from jail. The standard is based on a survey which anyone over the age of 18 can take.  It asks participants to rate the level of depravity for various behavioral, criminal acts, such as inflicting severe pain, choosing certain types of victims, influencing others to commit criminal acts; you rate the level of depravity from 1 to 100 and your answers build a database that will help judges, prosecutors and juries determine proper punishment levels in serious crimes.

What’s behind Welner’s research is an attempt to define evil, which is exactly what gets him into trouble, because there is no clear or concise definition of evil, just as there really is no clear definition of the word ‘depraved.’ But Welner is no stranger to tacking labels onto behavior, whether they fit or not.  Last year he went on CNN and not only said that Trump’s narcissism was positive and healthy, but also claimed that Hillary’s statements about Benghazi showed that she was the ‘pathological liar’ in the campaign.

Michael Welner’s crackpot theories are perfect for Trump. I can see him on CNN saying that we all need guns to protect us from ‘depraved’ criminals because that’s another crackpot theory which Trump will no doubt proclaim when he talks in front of the NRA. One good crackpot deserves another.

Trump Comes To NRA And Tells Them What They Want To Hear.

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None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. — Goethe.

              This coming Friday, April 28th, Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the NRA meeting in Atlanta, the first time a sitting President has appeared before the faithful since Saint Ronald showed up in 1983. And what did Reagan tell the group he was doing in Washington to advance their 2nd-Amendment rights? He went on and on about how his administration was being ‘tough on crime.’  And he also singled out a group in Arizona called the Sun City Posse, which was ‘just individuals who patrol their neighborhoods in their cars,’ the way that George Zimmerman was patrolling his neighborhood when Trayvon Martin happened to walk by.

Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C Groundbreaking Ceremony             I’ll bet you Trump will basically roll out the same tough guy nonsense when he appears before the NRA later this week. And why not? Getting tough on crime has always sold well for the Republican brand, and come to think of it, fighting crime didn’t hurt the political fortunes of a Democrat named Bill Clinton as well. But Clinton didn’t tie his crime-fighting strategy to the promotion of guns; in fact, the passage of the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban marked him as the most successful anti-gun President we ever had.

Which is why the NRA had such an easy time of it during the Obama ‘regime,’ because sitting in the Oval Office, right in front of America’s gun owners, was a black guy who was determined to expand the so-called ‘assault’ on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ And what better way to keep your followers energized and excited (and opening their wallets) than to remind them again and again that the ‘enemy’ is not only at the gates but is actually inside the hen-house looking out?

Which is exactly the problem now facing the NRA because the enemy has been replaced by their seemingly best friend, which means they have to shift from attack dog to tame dog without missing a beat. And this isn’t so easy when the person you pledged to help and support not only changes his political stance every day, but has backtracked on many of the issues which led you to help him in the first place. Remember how Trump-o was going to ‘get tough’ on China trade? Remember how he used to be against the ‘dream act?’  Remember all that nonsense about how America could only become great again if we didn’t stick our nose into other country’s affairs?

Take a look at this article in Politico which really nails how the ditherings of the Trump administration has fractured what was the unquestioned alliance of the Conservative media and the organizations they represent when this mutual relationship of Obama-haters were on the outside of political power looking in. Know what happened the day that Trump announced the (brief) elevation of Steve Bannon to be his right-hand man? Everyone else who had been slavishly promoting the Trumpian agenda said ‘how come him and not me?’

So Wayne-o was invited to journey out of his lair in Fairfax on Easter to the White House to help roll some eggs on the lawn; notice how Trump’s dinner with alt-right icons Palin, Nugent and Kid Rock didn’t even make his Twitter account? You can accuse Trump of this or that, but one thing you can’t accuse him of being is loyal to his friends. The fact that the NRA spent more than $30 million of its membership dues to get #45 into the Oval Office, to quote my beloved grandmother, they can go ‘chub en drerd.’ Which means go lay brick.

But in the meantime, claiming you’re tough on crime is always a safe bet. Which is why the NRA for years has been promoting the utterly false idea about the role of armed citizens in fighting crime. There’s only one little problem – there just ain’t much crime in places where most people live who own legal guns. But Goethe’s quote about false beliefs has never been more true than now.

 

Does Steve Ballmer Really Understand The Facts About Guns? I’m Not Sure.

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Like many people with an IT background, I have been wondering what Steve Ballmer has been up to since he left Microsoft back in 2014.  And thanks to an article published earlier this week in The New York Times, now I know.  Along with a group of researchers and academics (none of whom are identified, by the way) Steve has constructed a website that allows viewers to gain a “data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society.”

usafacts             Steve claims that the website has ‘no political agenda,’ but he gives himself away when he says that “We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government.” And if you don’t believe that ‘reasoned and informed debate’ doesn’t constitute a political agenda, I invite you to take a look at Trump’s daily tweets. Okay?

Anyway, what initially caught my eye was a statement by Steve justifying only using government-sourced data so as to avoid accusations of bias. But this strategy creates its own challenges, and the challenge cited by Steve in this respect involves the issue of guns. “You know,” he is quoted as saying, “it’s not legal to know how many firearms that are in this country? The government is not allowed to collect the number.  I’m shocked! But the N.R.A. has apparently lobbied in such a way government can’t report the data.”

With all due respect to Steve’s effort to report on what the government does with every dime it collects, I just hope his knowledge of laws and regulations about how the government operates is more accurate than his understanding of how the government regulates guns.  Because the fact that we can’t find information doesn’t mean that there is a law preventing the collection of such information or that it is illegal to go looking for it. Which is what Steve is saying about data on the number of guns owned by Americans, and what he says happens not to be true.

The issue about how many privately-owned guns are sitting in American households is never far away from any debate about gun violence or gun anything else. Both sides accept the rough estimate of 300 million firearms, number used either to promote the idea that guns are as common (and useful) as apple pie, or that so many guns results in an unacceptable level of gun violence – take your pick.  But the problem of coming up with an accurate count on what we call the American ‘gun stock’ is due to the fact that the government didn’t start regulating gun manufacturing until 1968, when gun makers first started reporting annual manufacturing numbers to the ATF, and we had absolutely no idea how many guns were floating around prior to the 1968 date.

It might come as something of a surprise, but for that matter we really don’t know how many privately-owned automobiles are sitting in driveways, garages or up on cinderblocks in the front yard. Because the fact that someone doesn’t register an automobile and pay for a set of plates doesn’t mean that the car doesn’t exist and can’t be driven down to the mini-mart or anywhere else. Ditto with guns.

The real problem in estimating gun ownership rates is breaking it down to individual states or localities within states. For example, the Brennan Center has just published an authoritative report on crime which shows that half the homicide increase in the 30 largest cities occurred in only three: Baltimore, Chicago and DC. Do we have any idea how many guns might be found in those locations? No idea at all.

We can always follow Steve’s lead and blame the data gap on the nefarious activities of the NRA. But the NRA has never opposed national registration of all firearms for the simple reason that such a procedure has never been proposed. I’m a data junkie so I’ll have lots of fun playing around on Steve’s new site. But when it comes to guns, perhaps he should let the data or lack of data speak for itself.

 

 

 

Are Guns Weapons Of Mass Destruction? Yep – They Sure Are.

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The good news out of Florida is that the 2017 NRA legislative agenda for the Gunshine State appears to be dead.  The bills, which would have legalized open carry in most public locations, along with concealed-carry in airports and college campuses, didn’t make the calendar of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, which means they will not be reviewed by the committee during the 2017 session, which means their sponsor, Greg Steube, will have to re-introduce the bills again next year.

florida logo1             Incidentally, if the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would ever give an award to the dumbest, piece of pro-gun legislation introduced in any state legislature each year, Senator Steube would win the contest hands down. Because in addition to the bills mentioned above, he also tried to put in a bill that would allow someone who was shot in a public premise which had a gun-free policy to sue the owner of that location for making the shooting victim vulnerable because he couldn’t protect himself with a gun.

The GVP community and its Congressional allies have been attempting, without success, to pass legislation at the federal level that would take away the PLCAA immunity which gun makers use to avoid being sued when someone is shot with a particular gun maker’s gun. Steube’s dumbness whopper was something of a response to the attacks on PLCAA and had it passed muster in Florida, it would no doubt have begun to spring up in other states. Know how crazy things like Ronald Reagan and Half-and-Half started in California and moved East? When it comes to crazy, pro-gun laws, they start in Florida and then spread everywhere else.

Maybe the rational-minded members of the Florida legislature decided this year, particularly after the massacre at the Pulse and the airport shooting in Orlando that enough is enough. Or maybe the NRA lobbyist, Granny Hammer, has just been a busybody for too long. But whatever the reason(s), this year Florida decided that it was no-go for any extension of gun ‘rights.’ Which brings me to the point of this column, namely, the idea that being able to do whatever in hell you want to do with a gun is considered by Gun-nut Nation to be some kind of ‘right.’

According to the Heller and McDonald decisions, the only ‘right’ contained in the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment is the ‘right’ to keep a loaded, unlocked gun in your home for self-defense.  That’s it. Period. End of story. Pro-gun advocates can twist this one around all they want, and in fact many states and localities have approved laws which go far beyond the 2nd Amendment in terms what gun owners can do with their guns – carry them outside the home, carry them openly, sell them, trade them, whatever they want. But none of those activities represent any kind of Constitutional ‘right.’  And I really wish that the GVP community would react with a louder and more aggressive response whenever the issue of ‘rights’ rears its ugly and completely false head.

Know what I think guns represent? I think they should be considered and explicitly referred to as ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ or would you rather continue to believe that a particular product which causes more than 120,000 serious deaths and injuries each year isn’t a WMD?  Last week credible news reports put the human toll from the gas attack in Syria at 70, with another 100 people treated in hospitals near where the attack took place.  Know how many Americans are killed and wounded by guns every weekend each year?  Try 450 and I’m probably off by a hundred or more.

I really don’t think this kind of violence and loss of human life has anything to do with ‘rights,’ There’s nothing in the Constitution which allows it, and it appears that at least some members of the Florida legislature understand what the Constitution says and doesn’t say.

Another State Wants At-Risk Gun Owners To Protect Themselves From Their Guns.

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Last week I wrote about a bill in the Oregon legislature that would allow family members to petition a court for removal of guns in cases where a gun owner was an immediate risk to himself or someone else.  The bill, known as a measure to be used only in instances of ‘extreme risk,’ would require the gun owner to surrender his firearms for up to one year, but the gun owner could also appear in court and present evidence that his access to guns no longer represented a risk to himself or anyone else.

gun-suicide             The Oregon initiative follows the adoption of a similar law in California, which allows family members to ask for a restraining order on access to guns. But this week the virus seems to be spreading to the other coast, because a similar measure has just been introduced in the Massachusetts House, and it appears to have enough sponsors to be taken seriously when and if the Massachusetts legislature stops arguing over the annual budget.

I learned about the Massachusetts law because of an email I received from my friends at the NRA, which linked to a statement about the law by the NRA-ILA.  According to America’s oldest civil rights organization, the Massachusetts law, if enacted, would “result in the immediate suspension and surrender of any license to carry firearms and firearms identification card which the respondent may hold.  The respondent would also be required to surrender all firearms and ammunition.” The NRA then goes on to repeat the usual canard about how such an order would be issued based on ‘little, if any real evidence,’ but that’s simply not true.

But the best part of the NRA’s attempt to explain Constitutional law to its membership is the sentence which reads: “Constitutional rights are generally restricted only upon conviction of a felony.”  Did the legal geniuses at Fairfax ever hear of something called ‘prior restraint?’ The rights enumerated in the Constitution are all subject to ‘reasonable’ restrictions imposed by governmental authority, as long as those restrictions meet basic tests regarding the intent and result of what government intends to do. Such restrictions are even explicitly stated in the landmark Heller decision, which states that “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited, and “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.”

Which is exactly what these ‘extreme risk’ laws are designed to do, namely, keep guns out of the hands of individuals who have shown a disregard for the traditional rules of behavior under which we all live. Sorry, but telling someone that you are depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide isn’t just an idle threat. Ditto stalking or threatening someone who told you to leave them alone. The Constitution doesn’t enshrine such behavior and such behavior becomes a much greater threat when it might involve a gun.

But remember who we are dealing with here, namely, an organization which increasingly promotes the idea that there should be no restrictions of any kind on the ownership or use of guns. Believe it or not, I would have no problem with the NRA or any other pro-gun advocacy group if they would just drop the nonsense about how guns aren’t really dangerous because we can use them to protect us from crime.  If the NRA would admit the truth, namely, that guns are extremely lethal and that access to a gun increases risk, I would fold up this website immediately, stick my guns, my wife and my cats in the Subaru and take off to a trailer park in the Florida Keys.

The fact that something is dangerous doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be owned. I know a guy who keeps rattlesnakes but treats them with extreme caution and care.  Are we asking too much of my gun-owning friends to behave the same way with their guns?

Here’s An Easy Way For The NRA To Prevent Gun Accidents.

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According to the CDC, in 2014 slightly less than 16,000 Americans accidentally shot themselves or someone else and survived their wound.  Back in 2009, the number was 18,610.  Which means, according to the gun industry, that guns are getting safer all the time.  And of course when it comes to accidental shootings which result in death, the number has not only been declining year after year, it’s so paltry now that the whole gun safety issue is not even worthy of concern.

nra4              After all, how can anyone get worked up over a few hundred deaths when we all know that folks walking around with guns prevent millions of serious crimes from being committed every year?  And if you doubt that figure, just take a look at the NRA’s Armed Citizen website, which shows that 38 armed Americans used their guns to protect themselves and others from criminals in the month of March alone! Now if you read the fine print you’ll discover that 8 of those armed citizens turned out to be off-duty cops who are supposed to have their guns handy even when they aren’t on the job, which gets us down to around 30 times when someone exercised their 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to defend themselves with a gun. And a little bit of math that even I can do gets us up to a whopping 360 armed-citizen protective incidents a year. Wow! How could you even begin to doubt the value of civilian gun ownership when all we lose to gun accidents is less than five hundred folks each year?

Of course leave it to those troublemakers at Harvard’s School of Public Health to point out that official counts on fatal gun accidents may, in fact, be undercounted by at least half.  And this is because coroners are often reluctant to rule a gun death as an accident since many such events end up being reviewed in court. As one coroner told the researchers, “If one person kills another person, we usually call it homicide and let the courts decide whether there was any wrongdoing” So that’s the end of that.

In any case, there may be a chance, although I doubt it, that Gun-nut Nation will take a somewhat less benign view of gun accidents given what happened at the gun range in NRA headquarters this past week. Evidently an employee of the NRA was in the process of holstering his gun after banging a few; the gun went off, the bullet hit the guy in the ‘lower part of his body,’ he was taken to a nearby hospital at Fairfax, treated and released – no harm done.

What I found interesting in this report was that the accident evidently occurred during a training session at NRA headquarters; it wasn’t just a case of someone going down to the range on their own time to fiddle around with their gun. And the NRA training manuals repeat ad nauseum the idea that you must keep your finger off the trigger at all times unless the gun is pointed at the target that you intend to shoot.

Which brings up the whole issue of gun safety that Gun-nut Nation tries mightily to avoid, namely, that when it comes to making a mistake with a gun, there’s no oops. And the problem is that we are human, and as humans we are all careless and we will sooner or later forget. That’s the reason we mandate seat belts but we can’t put a harness around a gun.

But I have an idea for how my friends at the NRA can prevent such accidents from happening again. Why don’t they just declare NRA headquarters to be a gun-free zone? I’m not talking about the old guns in the museum – those guns are all sitting behind glass. I’m talking about the guns that folks wear in the building because, of course, there’s always a chance that a criminal might try to assault or rob you at 11250 Waples Mill Road.

 

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