We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Training To Carry A Gun.


Jennifer Mascia has just republished an article which should be required reading for everyone who’s interested in reducing gun violence.  This is valuable research because she has figured out how many states allow people to carry a gun who have not taken any training at all.  And don’t forget to notice the picture that goes with the story showing some dopey kid in Utah sitting in a gun class with his finger right on the trigger of his Sig 226.

torso             It turns out, according to our intrepid Trace reporter, that 26 states have no live-fire training or live-fire certification of any kind.  In other words, you can walk into a gun shop and buy a gun, walk out with the gun in your pocket to protect yourself from all those street thugs, having never actually fired that gun, or any gun for that matter.  And Gun-nut Nation has the absolute, unmitigated gall to reject mandated gun training while, at the same time promoting the idea that ‘armed citizens’ protect us from crime. Oh well, we have a President who says with a straight face that cutting 40 million people off of medical insurance will make us healthier all around, so why shouldn’t the NRA tell just as big a lie when it comes to talking about guns?

What I found interesting about Jennifer Mascia’s story, however, was not the fact that more than half the states don’t require any kind of training before someone can ‘strap on’ a gun. Rather, it’s the idea that the states which do require training are, in fact, mandating anything that could even remotely be considered responsible or serious training at all.  Because if anyone actually thinks that the 24 states which do require some form of training before issuing a CCW license have instituted some kind of system that will prepare someone, anyone, to use a gun properly for self-defense, think again.

Know how long the ‘average’ gun fight lasts?  About three seconds, and by the way, the target is usually moving during that brief span of time.  Know how many shots are fired during such an encounter?  Two, or maybe at best, three. Now when was the last time you or anyone you know went to a shooting range and tried hitting a target that was ten feet away with two or three rounds?  And let’s not forget that the three seconds you have to complete this exercise also includes the time you need to yank out the gun.

Our friend Jennifer quotes a gun trainer in Kentucky who claims that his state is going about CCW training the right way. And in his case, what this means is a class which is mostly book-learning and QandA, but also includes a live-fire qualification at a private range.  The qualification consists of firing at a torso target placed seven yards away, and the student has to hit the target 11 out of 20 times.

Forgetting for a moment whether hitting the target means putting a hole anywhere on the torso, note that the shooter can take as long as he/she likes, there’s no timing requirement at all.  And the target, of course, is stationery, which means that neither the person doing the shooting or the ‘person’ getting shot is simulating anything that might be considered a real-life event. And this exercise is believed by an experienced gun trainer to be an effective way to determine whether someone should be able to walk around with a gun.

I’m not suggesting in any way that Jennifer Mascia’s piece is either misleading or wrong, and she gets kudos for pointing out just how easy it is in most places to get a concealed-carry permit and walk around with a gun. But the idea that anyone with a CCW has actually developed the skills necessary to use that gun to defend us against all those street thugs is some kind of sick joke. But such jokes now abound in the Age of Trump.



Do Armed Citizens Protect Us From Crime? The Cops Don’t Think So.


If you want to check out one of the truly great internet marketing scams, take a look at the website of the Concealed Carry Association of America, an outfit started by a guy named Tim Schmidt who developed something called ‘tribal marketing’ which entices people to join (and spend money) on websites promoting the idea that membership is a very special kind of thing.  And what’s more special than believing you’re fulfilling God’s work by walking around armed? Tim’s CCAA website gets a membership ‘retention’ rate three times’ longer than the average membership website, and the longer the members hang around, the more they’ll spend.

tombstone              And believe me, there’s plenty to buy, including books, videos, clothing, gifts and novelty items, and all sorts of other stuff. Next month you can go down to Fort Worth and enjoy a fun-filled three days at the annual CCAA trade show, which includes a live-fire range where you can bang away with real guns and a guest appearance by none other than the prancing master, Colion Noir.

When I say that CCAA is a ‘scam,’ it’s not because you don’t get anything for your membership fee.  To the contrary, you get a slick magazine, a pretty decent personal liability insurance policy, a newsletter and, of course, a nice decal to stick on the window of your car. But no matter what CCAA gives you for joining, the real reason it’s a scam is because there’s simply no truth (as in none) that walking around with a gun makes you safe.  I didn’t say that you might be a little safer; I didn’t say there was a chance that carrying a gun made you safe, I said there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that you will be safe or safer if you carry a gun.

I know, I know, examples abound about all these armed citizens who pulled out a gun and chased the bad guy away. There’s only one little problem; all these armed citizens who engaged in what we call defense gun use (DGU) don’t really exist. Gun-nut Nation still cites Gary Kleck’s 1993 survey conducted which pegged yearly DGU’s at maybe 2 million and maybe more.  Funny, but the same folks who promote this survey never seem to mention the study Kleck published in 2004 where he couldn’t find any difference in outcomes for resisting crime by crime victims who didn’t use guns.

If you want to attempt a serious and honest look at whether guns keep us all that safe, I suggest you take a look at the article just published by Julie Mack, who interviewed law enforcement officials in Michigan’s 15 most populated counties asking them whether they knew of any DGUs in their jurisdictions, and “most officials could not cite a single incident in their jurisdiction within the past 12 months.” Now this doesn’t mean that the cops are necessarily opposed to concealed carry (CCW); in fact Detroit’s chief, James Craig, is an outspoken and ardent supporter both of CCW and of Donald Trump. But being in favor of CCW  and knowing that an armed citizen prevented a crime just aren’t the same.

Undaunted by their inability to actually validate the ‘widespread’ occurrence of DGUs, Gun-nut Nation has fallen back on the notion that the increase in CCW licenses, estimated at roughly 14 million nationwide, has been a significant factor in the continued decline of violent crime. Once again, the research shows that this rationale for spreading the gospel of concealed-carry simply isn’t true.

Want to play cowboy, walk around with a gun and pretend you’re in Dodge City, you go right ahead. But Dodge City experienced, at best, two murders each year and Dodge City banned guns in the 1870s, a law that was strictly enforced by lawmen like Wyatt Earp. I don’t know a single man, including myself, who didn’t have a Roy Rogers revolver when he was a kid. But I grew up and some of my Gun-nut friends might think of growing up too.

The War On Drugs Didn’t Work, So Why Should We Expect It To Work With Guns?

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Back in 1963 I got a summer job in a Kentucky shingle mill and reported to the foreman of my shift, a redneck named Slim.  And Slim assigned me to go around the plant helping out ‘that boy sittin’ over there.’ It turned out that the ‘boy’ was a Black man named Gladys Turner who was sixty years old.  We became good friends, at one point I even bought a Browning Hi-Power pistol from Gladys, and we used to joke about how the Whites in the factory referred to him as a ‘boy.’

jail             That was my first but certainly not my last experience regarding the issue of race and, in particular, the assumptions made by most Whites that Blacks were somehow not even with them.  I’m not talking about legal equality; the Civil Rights bill was passed just a year after Gladys and I drove around the shingle factory picking up trash. I’m talking about something less objective but more powerful, namely, the culture of racial beliefs.

Which is why I finally got around to reading Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, which is an argument about how the War on Drugs has resulted in the mass incarceration of Blacks. Once they are in the penal system as prisoners, parolees or ex-cons, Blacks become a sub-caste denied de facto all the basic socio-economic amenities (employment, affordable housing, voting rights, etc.) that are basic for all.

Professor Alexander argues that over the thirty-year period beginning in the early 1970’s, the American incarcerated population increased from 300,000 to 2 million, that these convicts were disproportionately Black young men, and that most of them were in jail because of convictions related to drugs. In addition to the number of Black prisoners behind bars, there are another 5 million who are marginalized politically and economically because they are on parole or under some kind of supervision in lieu of being behind bars. For Professor Alexander, this is what creates what she refers to as the ‘new Jim Crow,’ because convictions and jail sentences for drug offenses among Blacks is seven times higher than convictions and sentences for Whites – even though there are little racial differences in the number of people who use or sell illegal drugs.

Now why would I write about this book when I usually write about guns? Because it’s when you get to the end of the book where the author discusses advocacy strategies for dealing with the new Jim Crow that what she says could equally apply to the strategies adopted by advocates who are fighting to reduce the violence caused by guns.

On pages 225 et. seq., Professor Alexander raises a difficult and challenging question, namely, why is the issue of mass incarceration largely absent from the discussions and priorities of the organizations that continue to push for civil rights? And while part of the answer, she believes, is that many civil rights organizations are more comfortable engaging in strategies based on challenging laws that deny equal status or opportunity based on race, she also claims that there is a generalized reluctance of the established civil rights coalition to demand legal protections for individuals who, because they have been convicted of a drug offense, are considered by the average person to be a criminal, regardless of their race.

The gun violence prevention (GVP) community faces the same problem, when all is said and done. Because of the 120,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun injuries suffered each year, at least 75,000 of these events also happen to be crimes. And like it or not, every time GVP advocates propose any kind of gun regulations, the other side immediately jumps up and yells, ‘We’re law-abiding gun owners. Want to end gun violence? Lock up all the thugs!’

Alexander’s book makes a convincing case that there’s really no connection between the size of the incarcerated population and the incidence of drug crime. Shouldn’t we say the same thing about Trump and Sessions’ plan to ‘get tough’ on gun  crimes?



Want To Buy Another Gun? There Are Plenty Lying Around.

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Now that America’s greatest all-time gun salesman has departed from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, leave it to the NRA to try and pretend that #45 is filling his shoes.  Because after ponying up $30 million for Trump television campaign ads, the last thing the boys in Fairfax will admit is that the result of spending all that dough given by their loyal members (like me) will result in the gun industry going down the tubes. And I guarantee you that as the purchase of new guns continues to slide, the NRA will push out this phony argument and those phony numbers again and again to pretend that Americans still want more guns.

bomber             The fact is that the gun industry has always been a boom-and-bust industry, sales trends driven by fears that guns might be taken away. There simply is no truth to the argument I hear from various Gun-nut Nation mouthpieces that all kinds of new demographics – women, minorities, millennials – are into guns. The percentage of American households that report legal gun ownership has declined by nearly half over the last twenty years, and the explosion of gun sales during the Obama ‘regime’ (at least we won’t hear Limbaugh ratcheting up that disgusting remark for the next four years) basically represented people who owned guns buying more guns.

But leave it to the NRA to come up with a post-election narrative on gun sales which twists the facts in a way to prove that the gun industry will remain alive and well even when nobody needs to be worried about whether they can buy another gun.  Here’s the headline from the NRA-ILA blog: “‘Trump Slump’ Proved False By Strong Background Check Numbers,” a response to articles in the financial press predicting that gun sales in 2017 will decline by 20 percent.

Actually it should only be that background checks on over-the-counter sales in January and February dropped by 20 percent.  In fact, the 2017 drop so far is more like 50% from the monthly totals in November-December, 2016, with the NRA trying to claim that the February, 2017 sales were the ‘third-best’ February sales of all time. And the NRA also skimmed over the fact that since the FBI-NICS background check system went online in 1999, that checks for license applications and renewals last month exceeded background checks for gun transfers for the very first time.

There’s a reason why Smith & Wesson recently changed its corporate name and stock listing to something called American Outdoor Brands.  Never mind the fact that the company has never successfully sold anything except guns; back in 2005 they even tried to hondle bath towels, blankets, bed sheets, pots and pans. But as the Motley Fool politely noted, “The rugged outdoors business can help smooth out the peaks and valleys of the gun business.”

Peaks and valleys – I love it. How about peaks and ravines? Remember when you couldn’t find a Smith & Wesson AR-15 ‘modern sporting rifle’ for less than a grand?  You can buy them online now for $600 and change. Or how about the Model 637, the lightweight version of the little, snub-nose revolver which first rolled out when the factory was still located in downtown Springfield on Stockbridge Street? The company lists the MSRP at $469 but I can buy the gun right now for $359. When was the last time you could buy a new Honda for more than 20% under MSRP?  I’ll tell you when: never, as in not ever, okay?

The good news about the gun business is that, all the nonsense about the ‘armed citizen’ to the contrary, most of the customers are hobbyists and if a gun maker comes out with a new product there will always be some sales.  But designing and manufacturing a new product means investing profits from the sale of current products and right now those profits aren’t there. Sorry folks, but the NRA make-believe isn’t a substitute for hard cash.



What’s The Connection Between ‘Weak’ Gun Laws And Gun Violence? I’m Not Sure.


Now that the Trump Administration has made it clear that creating new gun regulations is hardly a national priority, I’d like to recommend to my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community that perhaps they would step back and rethink the issue of the alleged connection between federal gun laws and gun violence; i.e., the belief that fewer federal gun laws leads to more criminal and accidental misuse of guns.

traffic             I’m not saying that we should do away with laws which regulate the purchase, ownership and use of guns.  I’m saying that GVP needs to be a little more sensitive to the assumption that more federal guns laws equals less gun violence because at the federal level we aren’t about to see any more laws. And what the GVP community needs to do most of all is stop assuming that just because a bunch of guns from one state end up getting sold to bad guys in another state, that this means the way to fix the problem is to pass new federal laws.

Here’s a fer-instance:  The Brooklyn DA announces that he is charging 24 putzes, most of whom are Blood members, with trafficking 217 guns into Kings County, including 41 assault weapons, and selling them on the street.  The weapons, according to the DA, were ‘purchased’ in Virginia and his indictment ‘highlighted the need for federal gun control to help stem the flow of thousands of illegal guns from the South.’  And what was the evidence produced to show that these jerkoff gun sellers were exploiting (as one media report called it) the ‘weak’ gun laws in Virginia?  It was a wiretap comment made by one of the jerkoffs named Antwan Walker (a.k.a. Twan) that he could go into any gun store in Virginia and buy as many guns as he could put into a car and take up to New York.

Now let’s assume for the sake of argument that my man Twan was actually telling the truth, even though the chances that he has ever told the truth about anything is probably about as great as the chances that we will ever hear a truthful statement from #45. But the point is that if Twan could go into a licensed gun dealer and buy even one gun, he had to be able to pass a NICS background check, which means he had to have a clean record or else he would not have been able to walk out of the store with the gun.

Guess what?  The gun law which allowed our the gun-trafficking expert Twan to go into a shop and buy 50 guns and take them up to New York was the exact, same federal law which would have regulated the sale of those guns to Twan in whatever state he happened to live. So the idea that all those Southern guns are coming up to New York because Southern states have ‘weak’ gun laws isn’t necessarily true.

Now someone might say but Mike, isn’t it easier to buy guns in Virginia because that state doesn’t require background checks for secondary (i.e., non-dealer) sales? Which happens to be the case in 39 other states besides Virginia, but our young gun trafficker (a.k.a. Twan) didn’t say anything over the phone about getting guns through private sales.  Know why? Because Twan and everybody else who wants to move guns from gun-rich states like Virginia to gun-poor cities like Big Apple doesn’t have to pay for the merchandise at all. They just have to walk down any residential street, break into a private home and I guarantee you they’ll find plenty of guns to steal.

With reliable estimates of between 200,000 and 400,000 handguns stolen each year, why does the GVP community sit around bemoaning the fact that there are so many ‘straw’ sales? I’m totally in favor of extending background checks to secondary sales BTW; I just don’t think it has much to do with how those guns end up on Brooklyn streets, no matter what Twan was heard to say.


Here We Go Again: Another Bogus Attempt To Get Guns Into The ‘Wrong Hands.’


When it comes to reducing gun violence, Gun-nut Nation and its new fuhrer have the perfect solution: lock up every criminal who ever carried a gun and oh, by the way, ‘fix’ the mental health system to make sure that the nutty guy who uses a gun to settle some delusional score or another isn’t allowed to get his hands on a gun.

mental             I’ve been listening to this nonsense for the past twenty years, and while there certainly is something to the idea of removing violent criminals from the streets, the only people who believe that the phrase ‘fix the mental health system’ means anything at all are the same folks who stand around the fence outside Area 51 hoping to see a Martian space ship come down. But the problem is that every once in a while someone from that bunch gets elected to Congress (or the White House) and when they try to rewrite a law which makes it easier for mentally-ill people to get their hands on guns, then the nonsense takes a more serious turn.

And the latest piece of legislative nonsense is a bill just filed by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) called the “Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act,” which basically undercuts the process by which the VA declares someone to be considered ‘mentally incompetent’ and thus unable to own or buy a gun.  This is a replay of the action taken last month by Congress to annul Obama’s regulation requiring the Social Security Administration to report to FBI-NICS the names of persons who were no longer handling their own financial affairs. In this case, the new regulation goes even further because not only is a judicial exercise required before a final determination of mental incompetency can be made, but the court has to find that the mental impairment is such that the individual would be a “danger to himself or herself or others.”

Incidentally, Congressman Roe is not only a physician (OB-GYN) but is co-chair of something called the ‘GOP Doctors Caucus,’ which claims to be leading the fight for patient-centered health care which, if they inserted the word ‘rich’ before the word ‘patient’ might aptly describe the GOP’s effort to ‘replace’ the ACA.  But either way, if this group of physicians-turned pro-gun legislators believes they are bringing needed clarity to the determination by the VA as to which veterans should have guns and which shouldn’t, it’s about as much clarity as what Trump has brought to the discussion about his connections to Putin and the Russian money-mob.

The proposed law not only calls for a court procedure to determine gun-owning fitness by veterans who collect VA benefits, but requires this procedure to be conducted by a court which doesn’t actually exist. And worse, the law also stipulates that the only criteria which this non-existent court can use to determine gun-owning fitness is that it would have to be shown that the particular veteran was a ‘danger’ to himself or others.

Now I agree that the fact that I designate someone else to handle my financial affairs doesn’t, in and of itself, necessarily create the suspicion that I am prone to engage in dangerous behavior. But that’s not the point. The argument for keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands’ has never been based on any foolproof test that can be used to predict violent behavior before it occurs. The argument is based on the idea that certain people who behave in certain ways (violent criminals, mentally ill, etc.) are more prone to behave violently and the easiest way to commit a violent act is to use a gun.

If the Republicans decide to undo the ‘wrong hands’ argument for determining fitness for gun ownership, they will be erasing public policies that go back to the first federal gun law passed in 1934.  But since every gun-control law has been the handiwork of Democratic administrations, isn’t it time we gave the other side a chance?

Trump Won But The NRA’s Biggest Battle May Still Be Ahead.

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