Don’t Count The NRA Out.

              Now that the gun-control movement finds itself in an alliance with the House majority, instead of the House minority, joy abounds. And why not? How long has it been since Nancy wielded the gavel? Wow! And not only do we have friends in high places, so to speak, but the vaunted Trump-NRA combine which first reared its ugly head back in 2016, now seems to have collapsed.

              Granted, banning bump stocks is nothing more than a cosmetic attempt to pretend that something is being done to reduce the toll of gun violence, but you can’t tell me that anyone in Gun-control Nation would have predicted that even this mild rebuke of the joy of shooting was going to occur under the Trump regime, right?

              But even more to the point, when was the last time you picked up a copy of The Trace at your friendly internet news stand and not read a story about how the NRA is being accused of illegal campaign contributions, or how the NRA is going broke, or how a Russian ‘spy’ used the NRA to infiltrate America’s political elite. Just my luck, I give America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ money to set up an endowment, and it goes down the drain. But to all my friends in Gun-control Nation, do yourselves a favor and don’t start dressing for a big funeral at Fairfax just yet, okay?

              Yesterday I received my daily email from Friends of NRA ( I also receive daily emails from Everytown and Brady, just to balance things out) which invited me to “Join Second Amendment Supporters in Your Community for an Evening of Fellowship, Firearms, and Fundraising for the Shooting Sports!” The email then goes on to list social events that are already planned in New England between March and September in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont. How many evenings of fun and fellowship are on the calendar so far?  Try 20 events. That’s twen…ty events, not five or ten. Twen…ty.

              And by the way, although folks in New England tend to stay indoors in January and February, the national gun show calendar lists 79 weekend shows just between January 18th and January 27th in other parts of the country, and I guarantee you that by March, there will be a gun show every weekend in at least one New England state.  Does the NRA do a booth and sign up members at every gun show? Does the bear sh*t in the woods? Is New York a city? No – it’s a jungle! Anyway….

              The point is that anyone who believes the NRA is on the verge of collapse is whistling Dixie, believe it or not. Because the one thing they have going for them, actually the two things, are: 1) they are a real membership organization in a way that none of the gun-control groups can even begin to compare; and 2) this membership shares one, very fundamental trait, namely, they love to get together and talk about their guns.

              Groups like Everytown and Brady attract supporters who agree that something needs to be done to reduce the violence caused by guns. Fine. But believe it or not, people don’t join the NRA because they want to show their support for 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Yea, that nonsense goes with the package when you get your membership kit, and Wayne-o will get up at the 2019 national meeting in Indianapolis and whine that ‘our God-given ‘right’ to defend ourselves is under attack.’ You think any NRA member who comes to the show because he has been coming to the show every year really cares?

              If you ask the average NRA member whether his organization bears any responsibility for the 125,000 Americans who are killed or injured each year with guns, he’ll stare at you as if you just landed from Mars. And this is the reason why the NRA right now may be down, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet.

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Michael Siegel: Why Did Wisconsin Physician and Emergency Physician Groups Combine with the NRA to Fight Universal Background Checks in Wisconsin?

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows, and here we have a perfect example of that. Two of the major physician groups in Wisconsin—the Wisconsin Medical PAC and the Wisconsin Emergency Medicine PAC—joined the NRA in financially supporting the gubernatorial campaign of Scott Walker over his challenger, Tony Evers, who was opposed by the NRA primarily because he supports state legislation that would require universal background checks for gun purchases in Wisconsin. Despite the best efforts of the NRA and these Wisconsin physician organizations, Evers defeated Walker and so the prospect of meaningful firearm violence prevention legislation in Wisconsin remains alive.

In addition to the NRA, which gave Governor Walker an A+ rating in 2014, other major contributors to his gubernatorial reelection campaign for the 2018 cycle, according to an open secrets project run by the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, included the Wisconsin Medical PAC, which represents the Wisconsin Medical Society, and the Wisconsin Emergency Medicine PAC, which represents the Wisconsin chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  

Given that physician organizations such as the American College of Emergency Physicians, have been boasting about their commitment to preventing firearm violence and that individual physicians are orchestrating a campaign (#ThisIsOurLane) to convince the public that gun violence prevention is appropriately in our domain, it is shocking to see that behind the scenes, these physician organizations have been fighting against the very causes they purport to champion. While ACEP, for example, has endorsed universal background checks, Wisconsin ACEP has been working against the implementation of this policy by contributing to the NRA A+ rated Scott Walker, who Wisconsin ACEP knows would never sign such legislation. And while most major national physician groups purport to champion gun violence prevention policies, the Wisconsin Medical Society has also worked behind the scenes to help ensure that these policies never see the light of day in the state of Wisconsin.

What could possibly explain this level of hypocrisy?

As I teach my public health students, when you see organizations sacrificing their stated principles like this, it usually amounts to one thing: money. In fact, the major reason why physician organizations in Wisconsin and throughout the country are supporting NRA-backed candidates is that at the end of the day, these candidates will protect physician salaries by opposing wholesale adoption of universal health coverage or mandated insurance coverage systems that might otherwise pose a threat. And clearly, these groups are placing a higher priority on protecting physician salaries than on fighting gun violence.

By the way, I have no problem with that decision. I do not begrudge anyone or any organization the right to place a high priority on self-protection of their financial well-being. HOWEVER, what I do not accept is for those organizations to make such a decision and then tell the public that they are working to fight gun violence. You can’t have it both ways. Either you make fighting gun violence a priority, or you don’t. And if you don’t, then you can’t come out here and tell the public that you are a public health champion when it comes to preventing gun violence.

If gun violence prevention is truly “our lane,” then in 2019, there is a course of action that every national and state physician organization should take. And every physician who is promoting the #ThisIsOurLane movement should put pressure on their national organizations and state chapters to take this action.

The action is simple: pledge to never again make financial contributions to any political candidate who takes NRA money. Divest from NRA-backed candidates. This would send a powerful message to the public. It would show that medical organizations are willing to put their money where their mouth is. It would demonstrate that physician organizations will no longer act like hypocrites and say one thing while doing the exact opposite behind the scenes. Most importantly, it would have a profound effect on the NRA’s ability to influence public policy.

Federal policymakers receive more money from medical and physician organizations combined then they do from the NRA. If it became clear to federal candidates that by taking NRA money, they would be sacrificing their ability to receive any donations from physician groups, they would seriously think twice about accepting that money. The physician groups have a tremendous amount of leverage with their campaign contributions.

This is why I am working with several other physicians to initiate a campaign in 2019 to encourage all physician organizations to pledge to discontinue financial contributions to candidates who take NRA money.

This idea is not a new one. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former Baltimore City health commissioner, state of Maryland health department secretary, and deputy FDA commissioner, who is now a Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published a paper with his father – Dr. Steven Sharfstein – in 1994, criticizing the American Medical Association for contributing to federal candidates who opposed handgun regulation, supported federal subsidies to promote tobacco sales, and promoted a ban on abortion counseling at federally funded clinics. Dr. Sharfstein went on to write an article promoting divestment of physician PAC contributions from political candidates who took money from Big Tobacco.

If we as physicians want to be able to sincerely claim that gun violence prevention is our lane, then the first step is to ensure that the organizations that represent us – all national and state-level physician associations – stop giving money to politicians who are financially backed by the NRA and who we know will oppose any and all gun violence prevention policies. Enough is enough. We can’t have it both ways any longer.

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH

Professor

Department of Community Health Sciences

Boston University School of Public Health

801 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd Floor

Boston, MA 02118

Did Voters Think About Gun Violence When They Went To The Polls?

              Yesterday I received my weekly (sometimes daily) email from our friends at Everytown asking me to give them some bucks. If it weren’t for the fact that a gun-nut friend of mine wants to sell me his Smith & Wesson Model 41 for $700, I’d respond positively to Everytown’s solicitation today. But I’ll get another email from Mayor Mike tomorrow. I won’t see another Model 41 out there for $700 bucks, okay?

              What caught my eye in the Everytown email was not the request for dough, I will send them something soon. It was this statement which sums up the Everytown analysis of the election results in 2018: “For the first time, it’s clear that across the country gun safety is a winning issue.” Which happens to be what every Gun-control Nation organization is saying about the mid-terms, by the way.

              When either side in the great gun debate makes a claim, I try to verify the statement before I accept it as being true; I’m just a contrarian when it comes to noise made by advocates on either side . Take a look, if you will, at the House races where major donations from Bloomberg helped Democratic candidates grab the brass ring.  Of the 44 seats which will now be occupied by Democrats and were either GOP seats or vacant last year, 19 of those races evidently turned on major cash infusions from Bloomberg, either monies he directly gave those campaigns or money which he gave to other outside organizations which then used the dough to bolster those same campaigns. These campaigns also received money from the Everytown PAC, so we can assume that for these contests, the gun issue was a ‘winning issue,’ correct? The answer: yes and no.

              In Virginia’s 2nd CD, a pro-gun Democrat, Elaine Luria, beat out a ‘pro-gun’ incumbent. In Virginia’s 10th CD, the defeat of Barbara Comstock had nothing to do with the gun issue at all. In both of these races, the issue was Trump. In New Jersey’s 11th CD, an open seat, Mikie Sherrill won an open seat against her GOP in a race where guns meant nothing to either side. Take a look at the issues in Pennsylvania’s 6th CD, guns aren’t mentioned by either side. And even in a race where the blue candidate, Jason Crow, touted his gun-control bone fides against NRA stooge Mike Coffman, the loser was against an assault weapons ban but he supported a red-flag law, too.

              The one race where guns were certainly front and center was Georgia’s 6th CD, where the incumbent Republican, Karen Handel, lost her seat to a first-time Congressional hopeful, Lucy McBath. What created the noise in this race was the fact that McBath has been a spokeswoman for Everytown, following her son’s shooting death in 2012.

              Am I saying that gun-control issues didn’t make a difference? No. Am I saying that the energy and determination of Gun-control Nation didn’t outdo the efforts of the other side? No. Am I saying that the NRA’s lack of fungible cash wasn’t a factor in how the mid-terms turned out? No.

              What I am saying, however, is that the gun issue, in and of itself, just doesn’t explain how most electoral contests turn out.  The CNN exit polls for House races found that support for stricter gun laws ran 59% in favor, 37% opposed. But 76% of Democratic voters favored stricter laws, while 76% of Republican voters were opposed. The Parkland kids generated lots of media attention, but if you’re a Democratic candidate, you’re in favor of expanded background checks. If you’re a Republican, you’re not.

              What my GVP friends need to remember is that while NRA political contributions went down the drain in 2018, lobbying expenditures slipped from the previous year but were $1 million higher than 2016. Wishful thinking about the demise of the NRA to the contrary, the balance sheet of America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ shows them $26 million in the black.

              Want to reduce gun violence? Maybe the fight’s just begun.

Another Gun Expert On The Death Of The NRA.

              As a member of the National Rifle Association since 1955 and currently a Patriot Life Benefactor (whew!) Member, it pains me to consider the possibility that the power and influence of America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ may be coming to an end. At least this is what E. J.Dionne, an academic know-it-all, believes may soon occur.

              Here’s the announcement from atop Mount WaPo: “Taken together, the events of 2016 and the results of the 2018 election will be remembered as the beginning of the end of the gun lobby’s power.”

              As a former academic know-it-all, I would like to politely disagree. And I would like to disagree because Professor Dionne’s argument is based on information being produced, promoted and believed by individuals and organizations who would like the NRA to go the way of the dial telephone and the do-do bird; in other words, they simply don’t like guns.

              Dionne’s argument about the de-fanged NRA kicks off with the case of Maria Butina, the Russian poster-girl who is pleading guilty to the charge that she used her connections in the gun business to promote Russian governmental interests; i.e., she was an ‘agent’ for Russian political interests and part of the grand scheme to get Trump elected in 2016.

              What’s glossed over again and again in the Butina story is the fact that her handler,Alexander Torshin, happens to be a Board member of the bank which finances a company called Izhmash, which happens to manufacture the original AK-47 assault rifle, which happens to be the single, most popular gun sold anywhere in the world today. The Russian gun maker has been trying, so far without success, to bring the rifle into the American market. If they could pull it off, the deal would probably be worth at least $500 million in net profits.  Right now, an American gun nut who wants to own an AK-47 has to buy a gun slapped together with crummy, after-market parts from Rumania or some other place. The real-deal AK would easily sell 5 million units to Gun-nut Nation, and a markup of $100 bucks would still leave the sticker price in the affordable range.

              Since Professor Dionne writes about guns from time to time, perhaps he should spend a day at an NRA show to learn something about the business which he postures himself to be an expert on the pages of WaPo.  In fact, I’ll meet him at the 2019 show in Indianapolis, walk him around and introduce him to God knows how many overseas visitors who, just like Butina, have some kind of gun-related product they want to promote.  Know why Americans own at least 40% of the small arms floating around the globe?  Because we are the only country which has a retail gun market, okay? Professor Dionne can also chat with Wayne-o, who makes a point of stopping at the booth of every vendor to thank him for supporting the show. How do you think Maria Butina first met Wayne LaPierre?

              Dionne’s other argument about how the NRA’s power is waning is based on the fact that what the NRA put up as political contributions in 2018 was a substantial decrease from what they gave out in 2016, mostly having to do with the $30 million they handed to Donald Trump. But what Dionne doesn’t mention is that,on average, the NRA contributes less than 3% of the money which GOP office-holders spend on their campaigns.  Even the total amount that the NRA gave it’s A+-rated, House members in 2018 was less than this same bunch received in political donations from the American College of Emergency Physicians.

              What happened in the last election cycle is that national gun-control organizations like Brady and Everytown have been energized by the attention paid by the media to the kids from Parkland, whose national tours were basically the handiwork of a certain, former Mayor of New York City whose first name begins with M, not R. But something else about guns has been happening in the last several years which E. J. Dionne seems not to have noticed at all.

In 1990 and 1992,two remarkable scholars, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara, published research which indisputably showed that access to a gun increased the risk of suicide and homicide in the home. Know how the average American reacted to this news? The  percentage of Americans who believe that a gun in the home is more of a benefit and less of a risk continues to go – up!  And given the fact that, at most, only 40% or less of American homes contain one or more legal guns, obviously there are lots of non-gun owners who also buy the NRA’s basic argument about the positives of owning a gun.

              If E. J. Dionne wants to inform us about the state of the gun business, maybe he would attempt to explain this remarkable case of cognitive dissonance, which is a much more important harbinger of the long-term health of the NRA. But the truth is that E. J. Dionne will stick with his usual bromides because his audience doesn’t like guns.

Why Do We Suffer From Gun Violence?

              Now that Nancy Pelosi has given Sleazy Don a quick lesson in how to negotiate a deal, everyone in Gun-control Nation believes that some kind of gun bill will emerge from the Democratic-controlled House. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  But if any kind of bill is going to get voted through, the very least we should try to do is craft some kind of measure which will respond to the issue itself. And if the issue is what we call ‘gun violence,’ then we need to make sure we understand what that term really means.

              According to the World Health Organization, violence means an intentional injury committed against yourself or someone else. So gun violence would include suicide, homicide and assault, which reduces the CDC-based number of total gun violence from 124,761 to 106,624 because accidents don’t count. And accidents shouldn’t count in the overall scheme of things unless, of course,Gun-control Nation isn’t telling the truth about its support for 2nd-Amendment‘rights.’

              But of course they are telling the truth. After all,isn’t that why gun-control groups like Everytown only want to pass ‘sensible’ gun laws? Here’s what Everytown says: “Support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people.”  The Giffords group is even more explicit: “we can enact gun safety measures that save thousands of lives and do not threaten Second Amendment rights.”

              Wonderful, just wonderful. Not only does Gun-control Nation want to protect us from gun violence, they also take it upon themselves to protect Constitutional ‘rights.’  Now I’m confused. I thought the NRA was America’s ‘first civil rights organization.’ I thought it was the boys in Fairfax leading the charge to keep gun owners from facing a world without a 2nd-Amendment security blanket.  I mean, why did I give Wayne-o and Chrissie enough money to become a Life Patriot Endowment NRA Member if tree-huggers and Communists like George Soros and Mike Bloomberg are now making sure that we enforce a law which was ratified in 1791? Something’s not right here, something’s really not right.

              I’ll tell you what’s not right.  What’s not right is the attempt by my friends in Gun-control Nation to pretend they are committed to the idea that every ‘responsible’ and ‘reasonable’ American should be able to own a gun.  If there really is a chance to get a new gun law through Congress next year, why don’t we cut the bullsh*t, okay? 

              Would someone from Everytown please explain to me what is ‘responsible’ about walking around with a Glock pistol which holds 16 military-ordnance rounds? And if you don’t know the history of the 9mm cartridge, do me a favor and learn something about guns before lecturing me on your commitment to ‘reasonable’ gun laws.  Because in my state – Massachusetts – if you haven’t been arrested and convicted for some serious offense and you snooze your way through a gun-safety course which doesn’t require you to shoot a gun at all, you have just met all the sensible and reasonable requirements,Constitutional and otherwise, to walk around town with a gun. What are my friends at Everytown and Brady going to say about that?

              I’m really sick and tired of listening to my friends in Gun-control Nation tell me that we can end gun violence by just making sure that the ‘bad guys’ don’t have guns. Gun violence isn’t caused by guys, bad or otherwise. Gun violence is…caused…by…guns. I mean,you just can’t do to someone’s head with a baseball bat what you can do to their head with a gun.  I once accidentally whacked my brother on the side of his head with a Louisville Slugger and he suffered from double vision for a couple of days. He wouldn’t have suffered at all if I had blown his head off with my 1911 Colt pistol – he would have been dead.

              I don’t think it would be so terrible if Gabby Giffords stood up and said that she just doesn’t like guns.Who’s going to blame her for saying that?

Want To End Gun Violence? Join The NRA.

From time immemorial I have been listening to my friends in Gun-control Nation complain about the power and influence of the NRA.  They have so much money, so many political connections and now they even have an unabashed booster in the Oval Office, even though his boosterism seems, of late, to have begun to fade.

              There’s no question that America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ has hit a rough patch. Revenues are have gone South, corporate partnerships are in disarray, their vaunted, new training program CarryGuard is a flop, and viewership of the NRA-TV media channel is down and staff has been laid off.

The biggest problem the NRA faces is that the gun industry has not shown any recovery from the doldrums into which it sank immediately after out first Kenyan-born President moved from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into a private home.  Try as they might, gun makers have simply never found a marketing message which makes people want to buy guns unless these same people are afraid that they won’t be able to buy or own guns.

Putting all these factors together means that an organization that was able to count on the unquestioned support and loyalty of four or five million gun owners, all of a sudden finds itself on the wrong side of the curve. But there is an answer to their problem which Gun-control Nation should address. The NRA doesn’t  have any membership requirement that forces a member to own a gun. For that matter, the boys in Fairfax also cannot demand that any member necessarily agree with what the organization says or does. The last thing the NRA is about to do is impose some kind of membership qualification based on speech. After all, how can America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ be seen as being against free speech?

What does it cost to become a member of the NRA? A whole, big $45 bucks a year.  You can join right here, and very quickly you will start receiving a monthly magazine of your choice, along with at least one daily email from Wayne-o or Chris Cox. And don’t tell me you can’t afford the 45 bucks, okay?  I paid that much for a party pizza and a couple of six-packs last weekend which lasted until half-time of the Patriots and Jets (boy do my beloved Jets suck this year.)

I know a number of Gun-control Nation fanatics who tell me they would never join the NRA because such an act would be tantamount to giving care and comfort to the enemy. But that’s a very short-sighted and self-defeating view. What if MOMS, Brady, Everytown and Gabby told all their supporters and Facebook followers to sign up?  Could the NRA find itself with a million new email addresses?  Sure. Could these new members form their own social media groups and respond to every email from Wayne-o and Chris by publicly announcing their objections to what the NRA leaders have to say?  Of course.  What would happen if Ollie North received 500,000 emails from NRA members which told him to dry up and get lost? Think that wouldn’t make media headlines?  Think again.

I would understand Gun-control Nation’s anger over NRA messaging were those messages coming from a closed, private group.  But joining the NRA takes about 5 minutes, and all of a sudden, you are now part of an organization which never forgets to tell its members that they are special and unique.

What makes NRA members so special?  Allegedly it’s because they own at least one gun. If anything, I think that NRA members who didn’t own guns would constitute an even more unique and special group. So why not take advantage of the opportunity to pay the paltry sum of $45 a year and use your membership to promote Gun-control Nation’s views on guns from inside the tent, rather than always standing outside and trying to piss in? Remember, it’s only going to cost you what you’ll pay for another party pizza delivered before the 3rd quarter begins.

 

Are Americans Finally Getting Fed Up With Guns?

Sleazy Don can talk all he wants about how the mid-term election was a big win, but yesterday announcement that a bump-stock ban is coming out of the White House is just more proof that he and his Beer Hall gang took the November 6th results right on the chinny, chin-chin. Had the House remained under GOP control, particularly with a gun nut like Keven McCarthy in the Speaker’s seat, I can guarantee you that the last thing which would have come out of the White House was anything that smacked in any way of being anti-gun.

              For that matter, another story started floating around the ‘drive-by’ media yesterday that the GOP has also given up on trying to finish work on Gun-nut Nation’s most cherished dream, a.k.a., a national concealed-carry law that would let anyone and everyone wander all across and through the ‘fruited plane’ with a gun. I enjoy using various Rush Limbaugh catch-phrases like ‘drive-by’ and ‘fruited plane’ because as we move towards the convening of the 116th Congress on January 2, 2019, the alt-right noise machine led by hot-air balloons like Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, et. al., is going to have to find something more important to talk about than whether the Mexican caravan represents a global terrorist threat.

Meanwhile, in what might or might not be a more important development in Gun-nut Nation was the news, reported by our friend Alex Yablon at The Trace that the media folks who produce some of the shows for NRATV have been let go. Is this because the NRA has hit a rough revenue patch, or is it because viewing numbers are down, or a combination of both? There is also the possibility that the boys in Fairfax are perhaps re-thinking a video messaging strategy that has promoted some of the worst, dumbest and lowlife pandering that I have ever seen.

Between home-school queen Dana Loesch talking about the ‘violent Left,’ or that dopey, speech-mangled lawyer with the made-up name – Colion Noir – prancing around a shooting range extolling the virtues of self-defense with an AR-15, the NRA video channel has been nothing more than a platform for keeping the NRA image beyond even the Breitbart fringe. But maybe the fact that the House of Representatives went blue because a number of gun-loving GOP members lost seats in gun-rich states has caught the NRA by the seat of its political pants.

One of the more outstanding myth that floats around Gun-control Nation is the idea that the NRA sets the tone for the gun ‘rights’ debate and the organization’s members then line up and repeat whatever the NRA tells them to say.  I happen to believe this narrative is simply not true.  If anything, the NRA tends to reflect the views of its members rather than the other way around. For example, the group’s endorsement of  Sleazy Don in May, 2016, a departure from their usual endorsement near the end of a Presidential campaign, simply reflected the fact that the Republican National Committee had already declared Sleazy Don to be the presumptive GOP nominee.

What may really be happening is that the financial and media problems within the NRA are just another reflection of the overall slowing down of the gun business and perhaps a turning-point in America’s love affair with guns. The FBI reported that NICS-background checks for Black Friday was the lowest number for the great sale day since 2014. And even though the gun industry’s feel-good mouthpiece, the NSSF, tried to balance this bad news by claiming that gun sales on days prior to Black Friday were up, anyone who thinks that the gun business is in recovery mode should check today’s Smith & Wesson stock price.

Next week I’ll do my monthly report on the exact state of the gun industry when official FBI-NICS background check numbers are released. In the meantime, if you want to make a million in the gun business, maybe you have to start not with two million but with three.

Should Social Media Play A Role In Letting People Own Guns?

A friend who labors for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (send them a few bucks) sent us the text of a new bill just introduced in the New York State Senate that would amend the process of issuing handgun licenses in a rather interesting and unique way. The bill, NYS09191, would require that anyone applying for or renewing a handgun license give the cops approval to review the following social media accounts – Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram – and search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing. The purpose of this review, according to the text of the bill, would be to “ascertain whether any social media account or search engine history of a licensee presents any good cause for the revocation of a license….”

              The bill was introduced by Kevin Parker, who represents the 21st Senate District, which happens to cover Flatbush but borders on two other neighborhoods, Brownsville and East New York, which remain serious contenders for suffering from high rates of gun violence every year. Since Parker is the Democratic Whip, and since both chambers of the Legislature are now controlled by the blue team and the author of the state SAFE law is still the executive in charge, what do you think are the odds that this new bill will become law?  I’d say the odds are good to better than good. Which means that using social media as a criteria to determining the issuance of gun licenses in ‘may issue’ states will probably spread beyond the borders of the Empire State.

When and if this law gets to a public hearing, you can bet that Gun-nut Nation base their opposition to this law on their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ because they oppose every gun law based on their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ But I’m willing to bet that America’s ‘oldest civil-rights organization,’ the NRA, will also oppose this law based on their fervent belief in the 1st-Amendment’s protection of free speech. After all, isn’t that what social media’s all about?

Putting aside the rantings and ravings of the gun-nut lunatic fringe, the fact is that this amendment to New York State’s gun-licensing process really does move the issue of gun control into uncharted waters that will certainly need to be explicated by an appellate court.  The courts have held again and again and again that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in public safety, which means that the cops can always be asked to decide whether any particular individual might be a threat to public safety, and then take steps to reduce or eliminate the threat.  But until now, the authorities have based such decisions on overt acts of potentially threatening behavior, as in ‘I’d like to shoot that m-f,’ or other such declarations of intent.  That being said, does the fact that some guy goes on Google to search for ‘mass shootings’ mean that the guy has any intention to precipitate such an event?

The kid who walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 and shot the place apart had access to an AR-15 that his mother kept in their home.  The kid also spent much of the previous year compiling a large, digital library on mass shooting events.  But there is no evidence that he ever said anything about committing such an act himself. The Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in 2011 used the internet to share and spread hatred-filled remarks about the Muslim threat, but again, never made any specific mention of wanting to gun people down.

I have no problem with cops using social media to determine my fitness to own a gun; more than 150 jurisdictions have spent nearly $6 million to equip themselves with social media tools which are used to deal with crime. But giving law enforcement carte blanche to create a profile of me based on how I meander around the World Wide Web raises all kinds of issues which need o be sorted out.

That being said, I think Senator Parker is onto a good thing.

Don’t More Gun Injuries Mean More Business For Emergency Rooms?

Last week our friends at The Trace published an article on a brief but noisy exchange which broke out between a group of ER doctors and the NRA. The physicians have put up a website which claims to be collecting and distributing funds that will be awarded to gun researchers to make up for gun-research dollars no longer provided by the CDC.  The NRA is the NRA.

            This same bunch of physicians, whose gun-violence research credentials are impeccable, also put up a chain letter that could be sent to the NRA.  The letter was in response to an op-ed on the NRA website which basically told the medical community to stick its concerns about guns you know where.  The NRA editorial was the organization’s response to yet another medical article which found that, believe it or not, a connection between guns and gun injuries. Gee, what a surprise. And of course it’s even a bigger surprise that the NRA would deny that such a connection even exists.

Physicians and public health researchers have been publishing credible research on gun violence for more than twenty-five years. Know what these well-meaning and dedicated researchers have gotten for all their efforts? The elimination of CDC funding for gun research. That’s it. Period. Zilch. In fact, over the last several years, gun-violence rates appear to be going back up.  Oh well, oh well. Maybe another research article on gun violence will push the rates back down, right?  Wrong.

The good news, of course, is that the physicians who want you to sign their chain letter to the NRA also happen to be members of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the folks who usually have to figure out how to keep someone alive who has a bullet in their head. And they are remarkably skilled in this respect; of the 75,000 or so who suffer injuries from gun assaults each year, only 12,000 or so end up dead. The rest come back to the hospital on a much too-frequent basis and after a few more visits, also end up dead.

And how does the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) respond to this problem? They give substantial financial support to the politicians who make a career goal out of preventing even the most minimal gun reforms from moving ahead.

How does this happen? It happens because the ACEP has a PAC which over the last two election cycles donated almost $150,000 to the election campaigns of 15 House members who are rated A+ by the NRA. The NRA gives an A rating to just about every member of the House GOP caucus, but these 15 are in a group all their own. They are the spear-carriers, the most pro-gun guys in Congress, and they do whatever is necessary to make sure that no gun legislation rears its ugly head.

So here we have a remarkable situation in which some physicians use social media to advance their gun-control agendas (and their public personalities) while their professional organization uses their dues monies to advance the cause of the NRA. Now you would think that when a doctor named Michael Siegel began writing about this issue, his concerns would be shared and amplified by the members of APEC who would like you to believe they are tirelessly working to end gun violence, right? Wrong again.

The Trace article quotes one of the self-appointed, gun-violence leaders of the medical community, Garen Wintemute, who says that physicians should ‘privately’ approach politicians about gun violence because to raise these issues publicly would be ‘divisive’ and would hurt “relationships with elected officials with whom they work on a range of policies”.

Let me break the news to you gently Garen – you don’t know what you’re talking about, but God forbid you would admit to nec sciunt quicquam and keep your mouth shut. More than any other profession, doctors should be the loudest and most vociferous contributors to the public debate on gun violence, which means first and foremost telling public officials to stop being handmaidens for the NRA.

 

 

Is The NRA Over The Hill?

Our friend Bob Spitzer has just published an interesting op-ed in The [‘failing’] New York Times, which not only goes into detail about how the gun issue impacted the outcome of various political races, but also raises the idea that maybe the vaunted invincibility of the NRA is coming to an end. In a careful and well-documented piece, Spitzer shows that the NRA was not only outspent in this election cycle by the gun-safety side, but also saw a number of House seats flip from red to blue in districts where gun-control messaging had previously been a dead end.

              I was pleased to review the latest edition of Spitzer’s book, The Politics of Gun Control, and I’m happy to give it a plug here as well. And while he makes it clear that he’s no advocate for Gun-nut Nation, both this book as well as the op-ed piece are balanced efforts to explain both the recent failures as well as previous successes of the NRA.  His basic point is that the election returns ‘suggest’ that the NRA may not possess the clout of former years, but this doesn’t mean that the boys in Fairfax are just going to shut up and fade away.

Not only is America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ not about to disappear (pardon the double negatives)  but anyone who thinks that the NRA can’t recapture its dominance in the gun debate doesn’t appreciate how or why the organization has been in the forefront for so long.

Looking first at the money:  Spitzer says that gun-control groups outspent the NRA by $12 million to $11 million in the mid-terms, largely due to the combined efforts of Gabby and Mike.  As of October 26, Open Secrets put the amounts at slightly less than $10 million and $8 million respectively, but either way, gun-safety groups come out ahead.

On the other hand, what counts going forward is the amount spent not just on political campaigns, but on day-to-day lobbying of elected officials. After all, when it comes to gun-control laws, this is where the rubber meets the road.  Over the last five years, gun-safety groups have spent a total of $8.6 million on Capitol Hill; lobbying for gun ‘rights’ during the same five-year period adds up to $60 million bucks! Even in 2018, the impoverished NRA has outspent Gun-control Nation’s lobbying efforts by almost ten to one – $10 million to $1.5 mil.

Can our friends at Everytown and the Giffords Law Center begin to match those numbers year after year?  I doubt it and my doubt is based on the NRA’s one basic strength which the gun-control groups simply do not share. This has to do with the fact that when all is said and done, at heart the NRA is a membership organization, and they have the care and feeding of their members down pat.

In addition to the NRA, I also belong to the Wilderness and Audubon Societies, along with AARP.  Like the NRA, I pay annual dues to these groups, monies which they use for lobbying and donating to political candidates who protect their interests and promote their views. Every year I receive a lovely calendar from Audubon and Wilderness, every month I get a magazine from AARP. That’s it.

I not only receive at least one email from Wayne-o and Chris Cox every day, I also get the monthly magazine and most important, I can meet other gun nuts at frequent NRA dinners and other social events, or attend hundreds of gun shows every weekend where the NRA has a hospitality booth right at the front door.

I’m happy that Gun-control Nation has begun to level the playing-field when it comes to the public debate about guns. But if my gun-control friends want to get the football across the gun-nut goal line, they have to understand it’s not just money that counts. People support the NRA because they like guns. Can the other side advance an argument as compelling as that?