Smart Guns Take A Giant Step Forward.

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The development of ‘smart’ guns has been flopping around for more than twenty years, largely because the gun industry regards the technology, with good reason, as something that might be imposed on them by the government, and if you think that any industry looks favorably at government regulation, spend some time around Wall Street and you’ll quickly discover that when it comes to government, the business community just wants to be left alone.  The gun industry faces a double whammy in this regard, because not only does the government regulate what kinds of products it can make and sell, it also regulates the behavior of gun consumers, because it sets the criteria for who can and cannot legally buy and own guns.

smart             But the long-time opposition to ‘smart’ technologies by gun makers and their supporters also reflects a more subtle but nevertheless powerful factor at work, namely, the perception created by the ‘smart gun’ community that guns are inherently a risk. Forgetting for a moment that numerous credible studies indicate that all categories of gun injury go up in households with access to guns, the gun industry has tried, with some success, to promote the idea that whatever small risk might be incurred by keeping a gun in the home, this is more than counterbalanced by the ‘fact’ that guns make us safe.  Actually, they don’t. But why quibble over facts when emotions can carry the argument any day, right?

Last year, a former NYPD officer turned State Senator and now Borough President of Brooklyn, Eric Adams, announced a ‘smart gun’ competition with a prize of one million dollars going to the team which submitted the best proposal; the entrants being connected to a college-level engineering program located in New York. Yesterday the five finalists presented their concepts to a press conference at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall, and the group from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering walked off with the prize.

In the interests of full disclosure, as they say, Mike the Gun Guy was a member of the panel that chose the recipient student team which received the award. But it was a tough choice because all the submissions were serious, contained multiple technologies, and most of all indicated a great deal of thought and hard work. The fact that four teams did not win doesn’t mean that any of the student engineers will necessarily abandon the quest. In fact, there is no reason why the group from NYU wouldn’t profit from ideas generated by research conducted by other teams.

The truth is that making a ‘smart’ gun doesn’t mean that someone has to make a new gun. Most current handgun designs are modular, consisting of a frame, a slide, a barrel, a trigger and hammer assembly – stick the parts together like a jigsaw puzzle and, as my Uncle Ben (who was a gun maker) used to say, det’s it. If you want to add some smart technology, figure out whether you need an RFID chip or a print-reader or whatever will be used to authenticate the user and stick the components into the gun.

The real trick is not developing the technology itself, but making sure it really works. But here is where the student developers have a real advantage, because remember they are training to become engineers. And no matter what kind of engineering these students want to pursue, if it doesn’t work they might as well go back to school and learn something else. So becoming an engineer means not only designing a product, but also designing a valid test methodology which will move your idea from R&D to something sitting on a retailer’s shelf.

What safe gun development has lacked first and foremost is an industry standard which will define a safe gun and a test protocol that will validate that standard as a workable idea. The million-dollar award announced by Eric Adams is a major step in meeting those requirements which means that, yes Virginia, safe guns will appear.

What Happened To Hillary? Here’s What Happened.

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In April 1994, I drove across better than half the country and spent several hours each day listening to Rush. This was the first time I heard him and was also the first time I heard the beginnings of what we now refer to as the alt-right. The internet only sent brief messages without pictures or sound, Fox News as a cable network didn’t exist, Glenn Beck was enrolled in a sobriety program, Sean Hannity was working at a small, AM talk-show radio station in Georgia and Alex Jones was sitting in a classroom in Austin Community College twiddling his thumbs.

poster2              So here I am driving through Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois, and listening to Rush who talked endlessly about Whitewater without telling his audience that his entire story-line was picked up each day from the Whitewater coverage in the most mainstream of all mainstream publications, a.k.a., The New York Times.  The Times was obsessed with Whitewater, probably because they blew the Watergate scoop, and it was their reportage, particularly error-riddled stories written by Jeff Gerth, which provoked more than six years of government investigations that ultimately came up with nothing at all.

What was most interesting listening to Rush’s daily excoriation of possible Clinton malfeasance was what happened every time that Rush opened the phone lines and took a listener’s call. Just about every caller told Rush he was doing a ‘great’ job by exposing the Clinton’s dark side, but the real anger was directed at Hillary, not Bill. A story had just broken that Hillary cleared nearly $100,000 in commodity trading with an initial investment of $1,000 in 1978-79. Where was the story? In The New York Times. Rush never mentioned Whitewater without also talking about the commodity profits, reminding his audience that it was Hillary, not Bill, who profited from those trades. And the people who called in to voice their reactions to Rush’s daily riff always emphasized that Hillary was the villain, the evil force behind all the shady deals.

I was recalled this when I read Hillary’s new book, What Happened, which puts her back into the center of things thanks to a fifteen-city publicity tour. The book is actually about Hillary and what she likes and doesn’t like, eats and doesn’t eat, wears and doesn’t wear, along with an exhaustive list of the wonderful, talented and extraordinarily expert people who worked on her campaign. A little mistake here and there? What the hell, we’re human and we all make mistakes.

On the other hand, the chapter on the gun issue is very well done, perhaps the clearest and least self-aggrandizing section of the book. But here again, it wasn’t her, it was that damned NRA which has become “one of the most dangerous organizations in America” because Wayne-o saw Hillary as such a mortal threat.  Hillary admits that her gun-control rhetoric was particularly aimed at female voters in swing states. So how was it that in those critical swing states most of the Republican women stuck by the man?

I’ll tell you why. Because those female voters, along with many voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, didn’t vote against the message, they voted against the messenger who has been a toxic presence in the political arena since I started listening to Rush. I’m not sure how and why Hillary has been such an easy target for the alt-right/white, but the bottom line is when it came to going after her, the NRA couldn’t wait.

Hillary did the GVP community an important service by bringing the gun issue back out of the closet where it had been snoozing since the alleged impact of the pro-gun vote in 1994. But if we learned anything from the unthinkable success of You Know Who last year, voters are as much or more influenced by who says it than what they say.

Want to use the next election as a mechanism for promoting sensible gun regs?  Find a candidate whom the voters really like, not someone with a shopworn name.

 

 

When It Comes To The Armed Citizen, One Good Scam Deserves Another.

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Once upon a time there was an organization called the National Rifle Association, started out by two Civil War veteran officers who were concerned because most of the troops they commanded in the war didn’t know how to shoot. In those days the Federal Government built a national army by calling up militias from the states and these militias were comprised of volunteers who showed up with their own guns. So the idea behind the NRA was to prepare civilians for military duty before they were called up because we didn’t yet have a military draft and we didn’t stick new draftees in boot camps in order to teach them how to march, fire their weapons and other military things.

CG             Once we began maintaining a ‘standing’ army either with draftees or volunteers, the whole idea that we needed to train civilians in the proper use of firearms disappeared.  But just around the same time (post-1900) that hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and naturalists like George Grinnell realized that hunting was inextricably connected to conservation, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ began combining safety training and marksmanship with sport and preservation of the outdoors as its primary goals.

These themes predominated in NRA messaging until the 1980s when open range started to disappear along with the hunters who took guns out to the country to engage in sport. In fact, the whole definition of ‘outdoor sports’ veered away from hunting and fishing to embrace hiking, camping, trekking and kayaking down a whitewater stream rather than sitting in a rowboat and casting a line into the pond.

If the gun industry and groups like the NRA hadn’t discovered a new reason to buy and own guns, there would be no gun industry.  And the new reason, as we know, is the idea of using guns for self-defense which previously had been nothing other than a marginal issue basically to justify the manufacture of the little teenie-weenie pocket guns like the Baby Browning or the 1908 Colt.

This is not the time or the place to discuss why some Americans have recently decided that the only thing which stands between their survival and complete annihilation is access to a gun.  Suffice it to say, however, that the armed-citizen subculture is invariably promoted by Gun-nut Nation and certain pro-gun sycophants as being much larger and more vibrant than it actually is (the lack of attendance at the recent concealed-carry expo in Milwaukee being a case in point.) Nevertheless, since concealed-carry appears to be the only issue that is keeping the industry alive, there’s no end to the new products being rolled out to meet market demand.

And one of those new product lines is the concealed-carry insurance program, Carry Guard, being sold by the NRA.  Today I just received an email from Carry Guard which gives me the opportunity to download a ‘free guide to lawful self-defense’ basically a come-on for selling me the insurance package that will ‘protect’ me in case I have to pull out the old banger and bang away.

The guide, written by ‘experts in the field,’ offers advice on such issues as: What to do with my gun after I shoot someone; how much should I talk to the police; what should I say to bystanders, etc.  In other words, the information in this guide is designed to protect me after I used my gun to protect me.

This guide is so stupid that either the NRA believes its members would score below the idiot level on an IQ test, or they really believe that people will always respond to any ‘free’ offer, or maybe both. If anyone spends one second considering any legal advice from anyone other than their personal attorney, then they deserve to get scammed. Which is exactly what this Carry Guard product is – a complete scam. But since the idea that walking around with a gun will protect you is simply not true, one good scam deserves another, right?

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

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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.

Want To Play A Live Video Game? Try NRA’s Carry Guard.

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Fast on the heels of their floparoo NRA Carry Guard expo in Milwaukee, the boys from Fairfax are now ramping up their promotion and huckstering of the insurance and training products that are aimed (pardon the pun) at what they believe to be the ‘armed citizen’ market whose potential will somehow make up for the fact that gun sales continue to go down.

training             The latest FBI-NICS numbers confirm that it ain’t that rosy in Gun-nut Land, with handgun and long gun background checks for August down 10% from August, 2016 and dealer sales of handguns for the first eight months of this year down more than 10% from the year before.  Meanwhile, the stock price for Smith & Wesson (oops, sorry, it’s now something called American Outdoor Brands) has now dropped to $13 bucks a share, having been up to more than $28 the day that You Know Who shocked the world by finishing in first place.

On an earnings call last week, S&W President Jim Debney announced some more bad news, saying that shipments of both long guns and handguns were way down in the last quarter and that quarterly revenue was off by 40% from the same quarter last year. Our friend John Feinblatt told The Guardian that the Springfield gun maker acquired Gemtech, an outfit which produces silencers, in order to bolster overall revenues. Let me break it to both John and Jim gently: When consumers stop buying guns, they also stop buying all the accessory crap and paraphernalia which goes along with guns.

So what do you do to boost revenues when your product market is saturated? You sell services which enhance the value or the utility of the products that are already owned. And here is where the NRA seems to be leading the pack by rolling out their new brand, Carry Guard, which so far consists of insurance protection and training for folks who want to walk around carrying a gun.

The Carry Guard insurance is advertised as ‘America’s Most Complete Self-Defense Insurance Program,’ but if you believe that hype, you probably also believe that Martians keep landing at Area 51.  Recently a writer for a concealed-carry blog posted a comparison between the Carry Guard insurance and the insurance offered by the United States Concealed Carry Association, and if the comparison is accurate, I can only say that the NRA product basically offers a lot less and costs more. The Carry Guard program also gives you ‘access’ to the training program but anyone can sign up for the ‘gold standard’ training courses whether you buy the insurance or not.

And what exactly are these new training courses? Here’s what they say: “The mission of the NRA Carry Guard instructors is to provide the skills, education and training necessary for today’s changing conflict space.” Would someone please explain the phrase ‘today’s changing conflict space?’  Are they talking about all those antifa people who are going to assault you while you’re strolling down the street?

You can sign up for a three-day, live-fire course which costs $850 but you must bring 1,500 rounds of ammo which will run another $300 or more. First you learn the ‘fundamentals,’ such as stance, grip, holster draw, sight alignment, blah, blah, blah. Then after shooting your 1,500 rounds (that’s 100 hi-cap magazines over 3 days) you get to play some ‘real world’ training scenarios with Airsoft guns (those are toys, by the way.) In other words, over a long weekend you’ll progress from a complete novice to an expert at protecting yourself with a gun, right?  See how well your hands hold up.

The NRA started as a training organization and as a trainer certified in six, different NRA specialties I can tell you that when it comes to defining how to shoot a gun safely, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ has it down pat. But Carry Guard isn’t training, it’s video gaming with live guns. What do you expect, now that the video-game generation has come of age?

 

 

 

Can The New York Times Survive Dana’s Attack? Of Course It Can.

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Now that Dana ‘clenched fist’ Loesch has decided to take on the ‘failing’ New York Times, many of my liberal friends, particularly in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community believe that the NRA has really gone over the edge.  Endorsing Trump was hardly unexpected, pumping millions into his campaign was certainly the least the boys from Fairfax could do given how pro-gun Trump appeared to be. But lately, the tone and rhetoric of NRA messages, particularly the ones read off the teleprompter by Home School Queen Loesch seem to be almost open invitations to the use of violence in order to protect the ownership of guns.

nyt             Her first message in this respect was an angry rant directed at nobody in particular but clearly aimed (pardon the pun) at the liberal ‘elite’ who just can’t bring themselves to accept the Age of Trump.  The second video stupidity was a direct attack on The New York Times, complete with endless misstatements about the paper’s coverage of Benghazi and other events, and closing with an ominous ‘coming to get you’ line right out of a Rambo flick

It’s one thing to accuse GVP-minded folks of being against the 2nd Amendment, that’s par for the course. And if the NRA wants to burnish its rather flimsy claims to relevance by describing itself as ‘America’s oldest civil rights organization,’ that’s okay too.  For all their talk about ‘defending gun rights,’ Americans owned more than 250 million firearms before the Supreme Court ever said that the 2nd Amendment protected private ownership of guns. Protecting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ Big, friggin’ deal.

Since the issue of gun ‘rights’ appears to be settled, at least as long as the Oval Office is occupied by You Know Who, the NRA needs a new message to maintain the allegiance of the faithful, and instead of just protecting our guns, the organization wants to be known as an outfit which will protect us from the menace and threats of the ‘radical Left.’  And since they can’t openly call for armed violence, even under President Trump this might land Wayne-o in jail, they want everyone to be openly armed as a warning against whomever – Muslims, leftists, terrorists – might be planning an attack.

Dana Loesch and other paid NRA-panderers can always lash out verbally at anyone who is guilty of aiding and abetting those murderous hordes on the Left, and what better target in that respect than the ‘failing’ New York Times? This is where, it seems to me, the NRA is transforming itself into an organization which wants to promote not just gun ownership and gun ‘rights,’ but also to lead the debate over what should constitute the American way of life. No doubt this strategy will help promote aggressive marketing of the consumer crap on display this weekend at the NRA’s Milwaukee show, but since when did political and consumer huckstering not go hand in hand?

I don’t think that anyone in the GVP community or anywhere else in the level-headed world should be all that concerned about Dana or the possibility that her contrived sputterings will set off a tidal wave or even a small ripple of anger towards the ‘mainstream media’ or The New York Times. I have been in the gun business for more than 50 years, I have met thousands of gun owners, and the only gun owner I know who reads The New York Times is – me. In fact, while Dana has 600,000 followers on Twitter, which is a pretty good number, the Old Lady’s Twitter is just a tad under 40 million – Trump should be doing so well.

Dana and the other NRA hirelings are preaching and selling to the converted. She only breaks into the mainstream when the mainstream reacts to something she says. After all, when was the last time The New York Times carried an ad for the new NRA insurance or their ‘gold standard’ Carry Guard training program? Don’t worry – it’s just more marketing schlock.

 

Is The Narrative on Gun Violence All It Should Be?

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Our friends at Media Matters have just posted a new report on gun violence prepared and published by a California gun violence prevention (GVP) group, the Hope and Heal Fund, which looks at how the media has and hasn’t covered gun violence issues. The report, which can be downloaded here, looked at 218 newspaper articles and thousands of tweets in 2016-2017 in an attempt to develop a baseline understanding of the gun violence narrative in California, as well as making some suggestions about how the narrative might be changed.

hope-and-heal_LOGO              The researchers found that gun policies were the dominant conversation in print and social media, accounting for 40% of the total narrative, with mass shootings provoking another 15%, crime and policing covering 15% more. In other words, nearly three-quarters of the entire public discussion about gun violence in California focused on issues other than the issue which accounts for just about all gun violence, namely, the individual gun shootings – suicide, street gangs, domestic disputes – which account for nearly all intentional gun injuries both in California and everywhere else.

As to what the report calls the ‘messengers’ who were quoted on gun violence, again the data was skewed in favor of public policies because 40% of the people who had something to say about the issue were identified as politicians, whereas researchers, advocacy groups and victims each constituted 9 percent. Taken together, these three groups would constitute in broad terms the California GVP community, and what’s interesting is that as one group, the number of times they delivered a message about gun violence was more than twice as frequent as what the researchers identified as the ‘gun lobby,’ whose total participation in the public media discussion was 12 percent.

Maybe because it’s California and not Texas or some other gun-hugging state, I am nevertheless surprised that the gun-control contributions to the media coverage of gun violence is so much greater than what Gun-nut Nation was able to produce. You would think that given the fact that there have been major changes in California gun laws over the last several years, as well as highly-publicized gun ‘rights’ legal cases such as Peruta v. California, that the NRA and other pro-gun organizations would have been all over the social media world blasting about this gun issue or that. But this report tells a much different story about the relative strength of the two sides, at least in the Golden State.

Now we come to the part of the report which gives me some concern.  “Based on our findings,” says the Report’s conclusion, “we have developed the following recommendations for Hope and Heal Fund’s efforts to change the narrative on gun violence in California.” The recommendations involve: more attention to suicide, domestic violence and gangs; reminding people that much policy work remains to be done; highlight the words and deeds of community leaders; look to the public health area for more research; highlight personal stories about victims; and, “depoliticize gun violence by appealing to common values. Sidestep political opposition by crafting messages that emphasize universal values like safety, opportunity and freedom from fear.”

Sidestep political opposition? Who’s kidding whom?  The California gun-rights gang just got the Los Angeles City Council to end a ban on sale of ultra-concealable handguns (guns less than 6.75 inches long) although it’s not clear how many of the really little guns would meet compliance standards of the state law. But if anyone believes that people who are buying guns because they are afraid of crime or terrorists or whatever are going to be persuaded that there are other ways they can legally protect themselves, perhaps you could enlighten me as to what these non-gun options might be.

I’m not against any of the proposals for strengthening the gun-control narrative but I think there’s one proposal which the writers of this report appeared to have missed, namely, just get rid of the guns. Shouldn’t someone be doing some social media messaging on that?

 

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