Does Gun Violence Include Defending Yourself With A Gun?

Want to know the basic issue dividing Gun-nut Nation and Gun-control Nation?  It’s whether or not guns are good things or and things to have around the house. The whole argument gets down to that.  Period.

VPC logo            In 1992 and 1993, Art Kellerman and Fred Ricard published two articles which claimed that higher rates of gun homicide and gun suicide were found in homes with guns. Then Gary Kleck published an article in which he claimed that armed citizens prevented upwards of 2.5 million crimes each year. And these three pieces of research, alternately applauded and damned by pro-gun and anti-gun activists, still continue to set the parameters for what the argument about guns is all about.

The latest contribution to the debate is a brief report just issued by our friends at the Violence Policy Center, which says that “for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 334 criminal homicides.”  In other words, the positive social utility of gun ownership is clearly outweighed a ton by the negative social utility of guns. The data behind this proposition comes from the usual suspects – the CDC and the FBI.

I would be a little careful about using FBI data on justifiable homicides, if only because their numbers on the other category of justifiable shootings which is called ‘legal intervention,’ and that means civilians being shot by cops, may be off by as much as half.  At least this is what is claimed by the Washington Post which has been tracking police gun-violence for several years. But anyway, back to the VPC report.

I would be the last person to promote the idea that armed citizens should be considered as a protective shield against violence or crime. That someone could maybe hit an unmoving, paper target and then walk around ready to take on society’s enemies with a real gun is nothing more than a stupid, childish fantasy except it’s being played out in real-life terms. Want to pretend you’re ready to blow away all the bad guys?  Go to a video arcade and play one of the shooting machines.

Unfortunately, the VPC report comparing what one might call offensive gun use (OGU) to what has often been called defensive gun use (DGU) is based on a comparison which doesn’t conform to what the two sides say about how personal-defense guns are used. The DGU supporters basically argue that just about all the successful events where a gun prevents a crime don’t actually involve anyone getting shot at all. Gary Kleck’s famous (or infamous) DGU study found that a gun was discharged in a DGU event less than 15% of the time.

When the VPC defines a DGU as an event when a gun is discharged and then compares such events to all the gun homicides committed each year, of course the difference in numbers is enormous to the point that there’s really no comparison at all. But if there ever was an orange to apples comparison in the gun world, this is it. The whole point of using non-shooting DGU numbers to promote the positive social utility of guns, is that you don’t have to rely on any real data at all. And this is where things get difficult for our friends in Gun-control Nation, because the folks at the VPC and other advocacy organizations would like to believe that people can be persuaded to support reasonable gun-control policies because, after all, arguments are won and lost based on facts.

In the case of guns, the facts really have no bearing on the debate. How else do you explain that a majority of Americans really believe that access to a gun keeps you and your family safe? Until and unless the VPC and like-minded groups explain this remarkable instance of cognitive dissonance, all the reports and all the data won’t make much difference at all.

 

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The Russian Spy And The NRA: The Story’s Fading Fast.

If there is still anyone out there who still believes that the Keystone Cops story about Maria Butina running around as a secret Russian agent trying to help Sleazy Don rig the election, last week’s New York Times story should finally put all that nonsense to rest. In fact, what has now been revealed isn’t the Keystone Cops – that’s way too professional.  It’s really a script right out of Laurel & Hardy, or maybe Cramden & Norton. But whatever it is, the idea that this half-witted little playgirl got together with the NRA to somehow subvert our political system is beyond absurd.

25butina_dc-jumbo   butina2           Even the NYT reporters, who had previously been pushing the Mata Hari storyline, felt it necessary to cover themselves by admitting that “during her time in the United States, she surrounded herself not only with high-profile American conservatives but also with dubious characters who seemed bent on making a fast buck — and it was not always easy to tell one from the other.” Not easy to tell one from the other – no sh*t Sherlock.

On the other hand, to cement the image of a nefarious NRA leadership hell-bent on doing whatever illegal or unethical things were done to promote Sleazy Don’s campaign, we now have the appearance of yet another suspicious character whose agenda was also being shaped by a connection the pro-gun gang, in this case none other than Donna Keene, wife of David Keene, who happens to be a former President of the NRA.

Donna Keene is described in the NYT article as a ‘well-connected Washington lobbyist,’ whose connections – surprise, surprise – all happen to be on the Far Right. She currently makes appearances for an outfit called The Leadership Institute, which was founded in 1979 as a place where young conservatives can learn how to promote the right-wing message on college campuses, social media, political movement, the whole bit.

The way she got involved with the Russian ‘spy,’ however, had nothing to do with politics, or lobbying, or the NRA, or anything else.  Keene reached out to Maria Butina because she allegedly was fronting for some guy who wanted to buy Russian jet fuel and, after all, since  Butina had taken husband David on an NRA junket to Moscow, why not ask her for help?

Why not? Because Butina didn’t know anyone who had any connections at all in the Russian energy industry, and she was so obvious in her attempts to promote herself and make a buck that even her boyfriend, or her ex-boyfriend, or whatever he is, another two-but hustler named Paul Erickson, admitted that he actually wrote all the emails which Butina then cut and pasted so that it looked like she knew what to say.

The whole, stupid deal collapsed because there never was a deal. All that happened was that Butina asked Donna to put up $25,000 as a ‘good faith’ payment; we all know where that money would have ended up.

Let me break it gently to my good gun violence prevention (GVP) friends. The NRA was founded in 1876 to promote gun ownership and the safe use of guns. For reasons having absolutely nothing to do with Trump, or Putin or anyone else, gun owners have always been politically conservative and are easily persuaded that political liberals are against gun ‘rights.’ If you want to come over here from anywhere else and try various shlock schemes that will appeal to folks on the right, my suggestion is that you’re wasting your time going to a meeting of the local chapter of moveon.org.

So far, super-spy Butina has tried to promote the AK-47 assault rifle without any success; she’s now tried to make a connection between an unnamed American and an unidentified Russian who may or may not be able to come up with some jet fuel for sale. This is how you get the NRA to help you subvert the American political system?  As my grandmother would say, “gai mach,’ which means blow it out your proverbial rear end.

Should The ACLU Defend The NRA?

The decision by the ACLU to defend the NRA against an attack by Andy Cuomo raises a significant issue that needs to be considered and understood by everyone involved in the debate about guns. What I am referring to is the brief filed by the ACLU supporting the NRA’s lawsuit against Andy who sent a notice to banks and other financial institutions telling them to avoid doing business with the NRA, a strategy which the NRA claims is not only  a financial disaster for America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ but is also a violation of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.

Republican National Convention              One quick word about the relationship between Andrew Cuomo and the gun industry which I have yet to see mentioned in any media coverage of this case. In fact, it was Cuomo who, as Secretary of HEW under Clinton, cobbled together the infamous deal that would have allowed Smith & Wesson to avoid any and all tort claims, in return for adopting a code covering the behavior of its dealers which would have basically ended the company’s ability to make and sell guns. So, Cuomo is not only a real bête noir for Gun-nut Nation, he’s basically at the top of the list. Is there any chance that Andy may have been motivated to pursue this gambit because he was feeling some electoral pressure from Cynthia Nixon, an actress and activist who was putting together a primary challenge from the Left?

Evidently there has been a significant amount of turmoil within the ACLU of its decision to give the NRA a helping hand. Which is hardly a new situation within the ACLU, given its long history of defending the free speech of various right-wing groups, including the American Nazi movement which had ACLU representation when it went to court in 1977 to secure a permit to march through Skokie, a Chicago suburb whose residents included a substantial number of Jews.

In the current confrontation between Cuomo and the NRA, the organization and its ACLU defenders are basically saying that if a public official can use his authority to intimidate and/or punish the gun-rights group for their offensive speech, then what would stop another public official from using the same bully pulpit to go after a group like Black Lives Matter, or any group with which the official disagreed? The argument is a little specious, if only because BLM isn’t out there selling insurance and other financial products to its members, nor does it rake in two hundred million bucks every year from membership dues. But the 1st Amendment protection does not and cannot be applied only to groups who are vulnerable because of their small checkbook balances; the ‘rights’ stand by themselves regardless of whose ox gets gored.

On the other hand, our friends down in Fairfax at NRA headquarters have a rather interesting approach to the question of how they promote and affirm their support of free speech. Because they aren’t just defending someone’s right to get up and shoot his or her mouth off about the ‘right’ to own and use a gun. The NRA also defends and strives to promote the idea that gun owners can also show up at public events openly carrying their guns. After all, isn’t this the essence of the NRA’s demand to abolish gun-free zones?

Don’t give me any nonsense about how the idiots who stood in front of the 2016 Republican convention with their ARs at the ready were exercising the ‘right’ to free speech. They were reminding the media that a Presidential candidate was about to be nominated whose campaign would receive an unprecedented load of cash from the NRA.

I have no problem with the boys in Fairfax supporting Sleazy Don. I do have a problem with anyone who walks around toting an AR in a public space. That’s not free speech. That’s childish and stupid behavior, neither of which has ever been protected by the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

 

I Would Still Like To Know Why Gun Owners Love Their Guns.

Despite what some of my dear Gun-nut Nation friends may think, I have no ego invested in explaining why some of the beliefs they share for reducing gun violence or explaining gun violence are simply wrong. Nor have I decided to go over to the ‘other side’ and make common cause with Wayne-o, Chris Cox or John Lott. Folks should understand that pointing out what may be errors in GVP policies or research supporting those policies isn’t a backhand effort to justify violence caused by guns.

NRA showI joined the NRA in 1955. At that time the organization focused on the use of guns for hunting and sport. There was a bit of talk about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ but nobody within the organization believed that the occasional gun-control bills introduced in Congress reflected the coming of Armageddon or any attempt to turn America into a Fascist state. Even the Gun Control Act of 1968 was a half-hearted attempt, at best, to pretend that dividing the population up between good guys and bad guys would help the cops in their fight against crime.

Obviously, the world has changed in many respects over the intervening sixty-plus years. But I still believe that guns play a positive role in my life because I enjoy buying them, selling them and even occasionally shooting them since those activities usually afford me the opportunity to get together with other gun nuts like me. And don’t ask me how and don’t ask me why, but I always have a good time talking to other gun nuts about guns.

On the other hand, I will not and cannot accept the idea that we should ever assume that armed citizens can or should take the place of police in keeping the community safe. Sorry, but listening to someone drone on for a couple of hours and then shooting a few rounds into a non-moving, paper target doesn’t qualify anyone to either walk around with a self-defense gun or even think they are prepared to use that gun in a proper and effective way. I’m not saying there aren’t instances, documented or not, where a gun-owner picks up his/her gun and prevents some serious crime from taking place. But handguns and assault rifles are designed to do one thing and one thing only, namely, to shoot someone else. And to quote the great novelist Walter Mosley, “If you walk around with a gun, it will go off sooner or later.”

Notwithstanding my implacable and determined stance against self-defense guns, I am still waiting for someone in the GVP research community to explain how and why a remarkable example of cognitive dissonance exists when it comes to how America feels about guns.  Ready?

In 1959, a Gallup survey found that 60% supported a ban on private ownership of handguns. Not more restrictive licensing, not some kind of permit-to-purchase, but an absolute ban. This number has now dropped to slightly above 20%. At the same time, public health researchers have published endless studies showing that guns increase risk. And since less than 40% of American adults own guns, obviously the idea that a gun is not a risk but a benefit, is shared by many non-gun owners as well.

I cringe every time a GVP-leaning outfit produces a survey showing that Gun-control Nation and Gun-nut Nation agree on various ‘reasonable’ gun regulations (example: comprehensive background checks) because these so-called ‘reasonable’ policies invariably reflect the agenda of folks who want more regulation of guns, not the other way around. How come these surveys never include ask the two sides how they feel about getting rid of gun-free zones or a national, concealed-carry law?

This is the first time that the noise being made by Gun-control Nation seems to be matching, if not exceeding, the noise made by the other side. But arguments need to be based not just on noise, but on facts. I’m still waiting for my GVP research friends to supply some of those much-needed facts.

 

Can The Gun Business Recover From The Trump Slump? Elect Lizzie Warren in 2020.

On August 8, 2016, Smith & Wesson stock was selling at just under $30 bucks a share.  Yesterday, the stock closed at $9.39.  On August 8, 2016, investors paid around $13 for a share of New York Times stock.  This morning the stock opened at $23.  In the last two years, Smith & Wesson has dropped by two-thirds, the price of New York Times shares have gone up by almost 50%.

charQuestion: What accounts for such a radical difference in the performance of these two companies?

Answer: Donald Trump.

This past Saturday I walked into a nice, little gun shop in Vermont and bought 300 rounds of 22LR ammo which we use for running the gun-safety course in my shop. This wasn’t cheap stuff; this was the best 22LR ammo you can buy – CCI.  I paid 7 cents a round ($20 for a 300-round box) which is about half of what I paid for the same ammunition back when Smith & Wesson stock was selling for $30 a share.  Want to know how the gun business is doing? Just check the price of ammo.

If Hillary had done what she was supposed to do, namely, win in a landslide, I guarantee you that Smith & Wesson stock would now be selling for $50 a share and the price of New York Times stock would be somewhere around $5 or less.  Know why? Because Hillary would have gone out of her way in her inauguration speech to make a big deal out of gun control, if only because Gun-control Nation was one of the groups which went all out to try and get her moved back into the White House.

Would there have been a national walk-out after Parkland if Hillary’s campaign staff hadn’t run the worst and most inept Presidential campaign of all time? And anyone who doubts what I just said, btw, should ask themselves how she could have lost Michigan – Michigan! – by less than 11,000 votes. Would Lockton have stopped selling liability insurance to the boys in Fairfax if they hadn’t responded to mass shootings by trying to become the leading voice of the alt-right?

The problem facing Gun-nut Nation isn’t the existence of Trump in the Oval Office per se, it’s the fact that Trump has chosen again and again to communicate to his so-called ‘base’ in violent and incredibly stupid ways.  Remember what he said about Charlottesville, that there was ‘violence’ on both sides? There was only one little problem – the counter-protestors who showed up and marched against the Nazis and the Klan weren’t carrying AR-15s. And the fact that Trump didn’t understand how the ‘average’ American would react to seeing a gun-toting jerk with an assault rifle slung over his back shows how little understanding he really has about all those ‘average’ Americans whose interests he claims to represent.

For that matter, the NRA leadership appears not to have understood this as well. Over the last two years, they have produced some of the dumbest video messaging of all time, in particular the rants of Dana Loesch, who has tried to convince her audience that it’s the leftist elite which is responsible for violence against Trump, not the other way around. By the way, monthly visits to the NRA website since February, 2018 have dropped from 3.2 million to 860,000. So much for how Gun-nut Nation does such an effective social media job, right?

In July, 2016 the FBI conducted 1,143,824 background checks on gun transfers. Last month the same number was 739,968.  That’s not a drop in month-to-month sales, it’s a collapse. Frankly, I’m surprised that a share of Smith & Wesson stock is still worth $9 bucks. On the other hand, if the Congress turns blue in November, and Trump announces he’s out in 2020, and Lizzy Warren’s campaign starts to take on some steam, maybe buying some Smith & Wesson shares (NASDAQ: AOBC) isn’t such a bad idea….

 

 

NRA In Trouble? Don’t Bet On It.

It’s hard to remember but less than two years ago the boys in Fairfax were sitting on top of the world, enjoying not just the election of the first President who they endorsed before he was even the Party’s candidate, but also experiencing a level of access that was the envy of every other lobbying group in and around Washington, D.C.

NRA buildingThen in quick order we had Vegas, then Parkland, then Santa Fe, then Maria Butina, then 3-D guns, and ‘America’s oldest civil rights organization’ finds itself in a dizzying free-fall which may be dragging the NRA down to a level of public criticism and condemnation which it has never experienced before.

Earlier this week our friends at the Center for American Progress released an internet survey showing that a majority (54%) of the 1,000 sampled voters held an ‘unfavorable’ view of the NRA, with 57% saying that corporations should not provide benefits to NRA members. To be fair, the polling company, GBA Associates, works for Democratic candidates, and the respondents’ political leanings were more blue than red, which certainly skews the results somewhat. On the other hand, if this survey is at all representative of the current national mood about guns, the NRA has some catch-up work to do, because even Republican-leaning voters are expressing unease about the current stance and direction of the gun-rights organization.

The real issue, of course, is whether the NRA is feeling this discontent here it counts most – in the bottom line.  In 2016, the organization’s total revenue was $366,889,703, of which $181,265,880 came from membership dues and event revenues and $124,433,466 represented contributions (along with some $28M in advertising fees, etc.) For 2015, total revenue was $336 million, derived from $180M in dues and revenues and $95M from contributions.

Unfortunately, as impressive as these numbers appear, digging a bit below the surface shows that the emperor may be starting to lose some of his clothes. Revenue from dues are flat, which means that membership isn’t increasing. And while contributions increased substantially from year to year, other revenue vehicles, such as their vaunted Carry Guard insurance program, isn’t ringing bells at all. In fact, what has really created a storm cloud on the group’s financial horizon is their inability to put together a liability insurance package covering training and media communications, both of which could cause significant financial problems in the years ahead.

Don’t get me wrong.  The NRA happens to be without doubt the best membership organization of all time when it comes to the care and feeding of its members. I also belong to the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society and the National Parks Foundation. Know how often I hear from those groups?  Once or twice a year. How often do I hear from Wayne-o or Chris Cox?  Multiple times every day. Anyone who wants to believe that the NRA is teetering around on its last legs is somewhere in the middle of a dream sequence that has no reality behind it at all.

Even if it turns out that the House goes from red to blue because a strong gun-control message works in swing districts here and there, this doesn’t mean that a new, gun-control alignment will suddenly appear on Capitol Hill.  Right now, the Blue Dog Coalition, a Congressional group which calls themselves ‘conservative Democrats,’ has 18 members, of whom several, in particular Mike Thompson from California, have been fighting the good fight for gun reforms over the last several years. But to win back the House, this group would find themselves augmented by additional members coming from districts where gun control will never be the order of the day.

Like it or not, a majority of Americans believe that a gun represents a good thing to have around the house. This trend didn’t reverse when Democrats last controlled the Hill, and I wouldn’t be quite so quick to consign our Fairfax friends to the ash-heap of history – there are still lots of Americans around who love their guns.

Here We Go Again: More ‘Fake News’ From Gun-control Nation.

I really hate to use the phrase ‘fake news,’ but the recent attempts by Gun-control Nation to rev up the noise level, first Butina, then plastic guns, seems to me increasingly to embrace a narrative which is simply not true. First, we had a big ta-ra-rum about the alleged backdoor funneling of Russian money to the Trump campaign via the NRA; now we have the bigger ta-ra-rum about how plastic guns are a national security threat.

butinaToday we’re back to Butina again in the form of a Buzzfeed story making its rounds through Gun-control Nation, a story which alleges that Butina and her boyfriend, a sleazy so-called political consultant named Paul Erickson, were laundering all kinds of dough as part of a “Russian campaign to influence American politics.”  Federal investigators have now leaked the fact that they are looking at the transfer of more than $100,000 from Butina’s Russian bank account to American accounts, much of the money then pulled out from ATM’s and spent God knows where or how.

What does all of this have to do with Russia and the NRA?  Practically speaking, next to nothing. First of all, the amount of money handled by Butina, no matter where it went, is chump change to the point that if the Russians thought they would get an inside edge with Trump by using the NRA as a cash conduit to his campaign, they never bothered to ask themselves how much political campaigns actually cost.

And by the way, the $30 million which the boys in Fairfax gave Trump may have represented about 9% of all the money he raised but taking that much dough out of the NRA piggy bank didn’t even dent the balance sheet of America’s first civil-rights organization at all. Know how much money the NRA was sitting on at the end of 2016?  Try over $200 million bucks, and that was after giving The Donald his $30 million rake-off, okay?

In other words, the NRA needs to fool around with illegal Russian money like it needs a hole in its head. And despite what Mother Jones thinks, the fact that Butina helped pay for a bunch of NRA supporters and stooges to go to a fashion show in Moscow, from the point of ‘influencing’ the election, doesn’t count for zip. The NRA goes out of its way to encourage foreign gun owners and foreign gun makers to get involved with the domestic firearms market. After all, the NRA’s job is to build support for private gun ownership, remember?

The most interesting aspect of the latest Butina noise from Gun-control Nation is that, if anything, the Buzzfeed story contradicts the idea of Butina and Erickson acting as conduits for Russian influence over the election because almost all of the suspicious cash transfers being tracked by investigators took place after November 2016. Here’s a Buzzfeed quote: “In summer 2017, the two made about $93,000 in wires, checks, transfers, and cash transactions that were deemed suspicious, including more deposits to Butina’s Russian account.” What do these transfers have to do with the election? Not one thing, as in nothing.

The story goes on to say that Butina’s handling of cash, including paying a D.C. limo service, is not only being examined by banking investigators, but is also being look at by ‘counterintelligence officials’ who want to figure out how the funds were used. This little twit, Maria Butina, is the subject of a counterintelligence operation? If that’s really true, then I have to agree with Trump when he said that the intelligence agencies’ claim about Russian interference were running the flag up the wrong pole.

I’m not saying that the Russians didn’t try to tilt the election towards Trump – the evidence is overwhelming that something was going on. But if Gun-control Nation wants to really do something constructive about gun violence, get real and start talking about something which matters and stop spending time on Maria Butina and plastic guns.

An Open Letter To Ted Nugent.

Hey Bro!  Why don’t you stop appealing to the lowest, common mental denominator and start talking seriously about guns?  Nobody doubts your fervent joy in hunting with a bow or a gun, nobody can argue with the fact that you honestly believe in 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ But the fact that our current President uses profanity and insults to explain his positions on various public policies isn’t a reason that you should do the same. You make a very powerful argument when you tell Andy Parker that the Constitution gives him the freedom to protest your promotion of guns. But other than selling a few more concert tickets, calling him a ‘piece of sh*t’ or a ‘dumb fu*k’ does nothing to explain or justify your beliefs

nugent1If you would take the trouble to actually sit down and think through the issue of the Constitution and guns, you would discover that the most powerful defense of the 2nd Amendment was made not by your buddy Alex Jones, but by a pointy-headed, liberal intellectual named Sandy Levinson, whose 1989 Yale Law Review article first raised the issue of the 2nd Amendment as a ‘civil right.’ Basically, what Levinson argues was that if liberals wanted to be taken seriously in their defense of 1st Amendment guarantees, particularly the protection afforded speech, then they also needed to defend the 2nd Amendment’s protection of guns. Levinson’s liberal defense of private gun ownership, not surprisingly, became part of the argument made by gun-rights advocates in the run-up to the Heller decision in 2008.

Which happens to be the same argument that you are making, Bro, about the 2nd Amendment, with one difference. And the difference happens to be your continued attempt to present yourself as some kind of right-wing, radical noisemaker who won’t accept the slightest degree of compromise when it comes to the issue of guns. And maybe this is your way to keep your name in front of your fans, maybe it’s a way to sell a few more albums, maybe it’s simply something you do because you have nothing better to do except when you’re on a stage strumming your guitar.

But here’s the point, Bro.  There’s a good chance that the Congress may shift from red to blue next year, and if that happens, I guarantee you that a new gun-control law will wind up on 45’s desk. And if you think for one second that your buddy Trump wouldn’t shove the NRA under a bus if, all of a sudden, he has to make some kind of deal with Democrats on the Hill, then you don’t know your ass from your elbow about Donald Trump. Want to know how much he really values the loyalty of his friends? Just ask Mikey ‘I’ll do anything to protect the President’ Cohen – he’ll be glad to fill you in.

As of today, Americans believe two to one that gun laws should be stricter than they are right now. The last time we had numbers like this was 1993, right before we got both Brady and the Assault Weapons Ban. For gun nuts like you and me Bro, those laws are just a pain in the rear end, because neither us nor just about any other legal gun owner needs the government to tell us how to behave properly with our guns.

Which is why someone like you needs to be given a seat at the big table when it gets down to talking about a new gun bill. Not that you have to compromise your views, but what you should do is stop pretending that gun ‘rights’ are the next best thing to Godliness and start talking without indulging in the profanity and vulgarity that some of your fans enjoy, but for the rest of us just mark you down as being a big, dumb jerk.

I want people promoting gun ownership whom I can respect, not because I agree with what they say, but because they say it in a proper and decent way. Maybe you can, but maybe you can’t.

 

Sorry, But Butina-gate Isn’t What You Think.

Gun-control Nation couldn’t be more ga-ga over the news that a young Russian woman who has been hanging around the NRA for the past several years has been indicted not once, but twice by the Justice Department for ‘Conspiracy to Act as an Agent for a Foreign Government,’ according to the indictment itself. And the conspiracy consists of ‘developing and executing a plan to identify and exploit personal connections with U.S. persons having influence in American politics, who were in positions to advance the interests of the Russian Federation.’

butina             So now we finally have the connection between the Russian government and the Trump Administration, a linkage fostered and developed through our friends at the NRA.  What could be a better story for stoking up anti-NRA (and anti-gun) feelings than doing what Robert Mueller hasn’t been able to do in  fourteen-month investigation, namely, show that Trump is now controlled by Putin via connections made at various NRA events? Wow!  Just as the Parkland kids seem to be fading off center stage, we’ve got a new media personality named Maria Butina whose behavior can be used to energize Gun-control Nation to rally against the ‘rights’ of Americans to own guns.

Yesterday our friends at Everytown issued a press release demanding that the boys in Fairfax answer six questions about the organization’s relationship with Ms. Butina, starting off with this: “Have any NRA officers, directors, employees, or affiliates testified in front of the Grand Jury or otherwise been questioned by the FBI?” Since the head of Everytown, John Feinblatt, happens to be an attorney, perhaps he should tell his PR staff that the whole point of appearing before a Grand Jury is that such activity requires an absolute guarantee of secrecy on both sides.

But since when does legality or honesty have anything to do with how Gun-control Nation or Gun-nut Nation frame the issues which they want their followers to believe? The indictment of Maria Butina is a God-given gift to Gun-control Nation because no matter what anyone says, the bottom line is that: a) she evidently was working for a foreign government; b) she was hanging out with persons who had ‘influence’ in American politics; and, c) these influential persons could therefore ‘advance’ the interests of the Russian Federation.

Except there’s only one little problem. According to the indictment, Ms. Butina was working for Alexander Torshin, a buddy of Putin who had been in the Russian legislature and then moved over to a position in the Russian Central Bank.  But the Bank isn’t actually part of the government; it’s an independent entity which operates very similarly to the way we operate our Fed, namely, it’s responsible for currency and making sure that the country’s banking system runs in a stable way.

Now granted, Maria may have lied on her visa application when she stated that her employment as a representative for Torshin and the Central Bank ended in 2016. But the fact that she stayed in contact with Torshin and used his flopping around at NRA meetings to promote herself and her cocky little organization that supported Russian gun ‘rights’ (talk about a contradiction in terms) doesn’t necessarily mean that she was representing anyone at all other than herself.

I’m not trying to deny the possibility that Russia actively intervened in the 2016 election; Mueller didn’t indict 12 different Russian operatives for stealing and disseminating politically-sensitive emails without having some degree of real evidence that this bunch was up to no good. But Butina has been at NRA meetings at least since 2014, she led a delegation of NRA somebodies and gun nuts to Russia in 2013, and Torshin’s Central Bank happens to be a major investor in the Russian arms company which has now set up an AK-47 manufacturing plant in Boca Raton.

The indictment of Maria Butina doesn’t prove anything about a connection between Trump, Russia and the NRA. Frankly, if I want to promote myself in the gun business, I’d also go to the NRA show.

What’s The NRA – Russian Connection? It’s Called The AK.

Since everyone in Gun-control Nation is piling on the Marina Butina case, I’ll offer my two cents as well.  The Brady Campaign, for example, issued a press release saying, among other things, that “we have serious concerns about a Russian national with deep ties to the NRA, an organization that helped fund and elect President Trump, being arrested on charges of espionage.”  Shannon Watts posted photos on her Twitter of Butina with Wayne-o, Scott Walker and former NRA President David Keene.

AK47             The arrest of Butina for allegedly trying to connect various Russians with various Americans tied to the Trump campaign, is the latest in a swirling mass of interesting NRA– Russian tidbits which, according to our friend Ladd Everitt, who has compiled an online dossier of these contacts, goes back at least to 2010. The big question, of course, is whether the Russia-NRA connection resulted in back-door money going from Russia to the MAGA, insofar as at least $30 million went from the boys in Fairfax to the 2016 Trump campaign.

In fairness to the Fairfax bunch, it should be pointed out that there is little, if any evidence which ties payments to the NRA from Russian citizens, which would be a violation of American law were such payments made in the form of political donations which then found their way into any American political campaign.  A major story in Rolling Stone (and cited by Everitt) paints the picture of a conscious Russian effort to ‘infiltrate’ the NRA and use the organization to promote various right-wing politicians with the intention of becoming and ultimately directing the shape of American politics from within the political system itself.

Is this behavior any different from what the Soviet Union attempted to do when it infiltrated the American Communist Party and used this connection to set up various front-organizations before and during the Cold War?  After all, didn’t an American President named Richard Nixon owe most of his political success to unmasking an alleged Communist spy within the U.S. government named Alger Hiss? So Russian meddling in the American political system is hardly new, but I have yet to see any actual evidence of how, when and where all this secret Russian money actually changed hands.

What is clear, however, is that the Russians have designs on another important American activity for which an NRA connection can’t hurt at all, in this case the activity happens to be what the NRA is all about, namely, convincing every American to own a gun. And the gun which the Russians would love to see in the hands of every American is the AK-47, without doubt the single, most popular small arm ever made.

Down in Boca Raton there’s a little factory called Kalishnikov – USA, which almost got a nice tax break from the Florida state government until it turned out that the company’s owners back in Russia were the same bunch whose gun company was hit by U.S. sanctions after Russia invaded the Ukraine. And along with those investors, another Russian has been deeply involved in the finances of this company, a banker and political buddy of Putin named Alex Torshin, whose payroll also includes a young lady named Maria Butina – gee, what a happy coincidence for all concerned.

The Kalishnikov company had a booth at the 2018 SHOT show but has yet to actually produce or ship the gun. On the other hand, their advertising sets the retail price for the AK-47 at $1,300, give or take a few nickels and dimes, which would probably net the company about $300 on the sale of every gun.

If the AK-47 finally gets into retail stores, and if the gun tests out as well as it should, the Kalishnikov company could easily sell 50,000 units every year, which means a net profit of 15 million bucks – believe me, the Kalishnikov brand is that strong. And that’s enough of a reason for the Russians to try and get into bed with the NRA.