The NRA Wins A Big One Which Doesn’t Mean Anything At All.

In return for helping to secure the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the NRA had its Congressional toadies undo a Presidential Executive Action which mandated removing guns from people receiving disability benefits for mental disorders.  The NRA has been braying about the need to ‘fix’ the mental health system in lieu of expanding background checks to secondary gun transfers, but this didn’t stop America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ from leading the charge to protect mentally-disabled gun owners who otherwise might have been separated from their guns.

bomber             As usual, the NRA’s statement about this issue was nothing short of a complete and total fabrication as to whether Obama’s action was based on anything other than the former President’s hatred of guns.  The action said that people who receive Social Security Administration (SSA) disability payments for mental disorders and, more important, have an ‘assigned representative’ who manages their financial affairs, would be reported to FBI-NICS and therefore could not purchase or own guns.  Did this new procedure spring from the deranged brain of our 44th President as the NRA would like everyone to believe?  In fact, it is found in the criteria for legal gun ownership as defined by the ATF, and the ATF has been using this criteria for years.

Remember a little ATF form known as the 4473?  This is the form that everyone must fill out when purchasing a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer, and it is the form which the gun dealer then uses to conduct the instant background check by contacting FBI-NICS. And here’s the relevant text from Question 11f: “Have you ever been adjudicated a mental defective OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution?” And this question is then explained in a footnote to the 4473 form which says that such an individual has been found by a ‘lawful authority’ to lack the mental capacity “to contract or manage his own affairs.”

Now between 2001 and 2014 I sold more than 12,000 guns in my retail store, and every, single sale required the purchaser to fill out a 4473.  And not a single person who ever bought a gun in my shop ever answered Question 11f by saying ‘yes.’  So when the NRA Congressional toadies rolled back Obama’s Order which required that the Social Security Administration simply comply with what the ATF has been requiring for many years, I decided to take a look at how the SSA actually defines these mental disabilities which would prevent such folks from owning guns.

The definitions of mental disability employed by the SSA, which then allow an individual to receive disability benefits, are found in an SSA publication, ‘Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,’ which can be read here. These mental disabilities are divided into 11 separate categories (neurocognitive, schizophrenic, depressive, etc.) but in every category, a determining factor is whether the individual can ‘function independently,’ which certainly precludes anyone who can’t manage their own financial affairs.

When the SSA initially issued this ruling on May 5, 2016, and invited everyone and anyone to submit comments which were summarized when the rule was finalized on December 19, 2016.  The SSA received 91,000 comments of which 86,000 were identical statements sent in by members of ‘one advocacy group’ whose identity you can use to test if you or anyone you know is mentally impaired.

I’m not a mental health professional so I’m not going to get into the question about whether people who are mentally impaired are threats to themselves or others if they own guns.  If you want to understand this issue, try reading an important collection of scholarly articles edited by Robert Simon and Liza Gold. But what I find interesting is the NRA’s ability to mount a successful campaign about this issue and generate a huge public outcry even though their position simply isn’t true. But the NRA now has a friend in the White House whose public statements and policies also appear to scrupulously avoid any connection to facts or the truth. So we’ll see what we see.

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Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.

Although it’s less than a month before the replacement of that notorious gun-grabbing President with a guy who really understands the need to carry a gun for self-defense, the real question is whether the next four years will be a milestone or a millstone for the gun industry, since gun sales have traditionally been a function of whether or not you can buy a gun. And if there’s a chance you won’t be able to buy a gun, you run out and grab as many as you can. But if there’s no gun ban on the horizon, oh well, need a new set of tires for the car.

trump5            The problem in trying to figure out whether the gun industry will continue strong under (ugh) Trump or begin to slow down is difficult to figure out because it’s next to impossible to get a real fix on exactly how many guns are actually sold.  Or to put it more exactly, how many new guns are sold.  Because remember, a NICS background check is conducted every time a gun goes across a dealer’s counter, and since most gun shops carry a healthy assortment of used guns, many NICS phone calls just mean that a gun already in the civilian arsenal is changing hands. Ditto for many of the guns which go from an auction website to a dealer’s shop, particularly for interstate sales.  Obviously, the civilian gun arsenal increased enormously under Obama – Smith & Wesson stock didn’t jump from $5 to $30 between 2009 and 2016 just because the company makes some nice-looking guns. On the other hand, that same stock has lost 30% in value since November 8th, which says something about the industry’s future prospects under a President named (ugh) Trump.

But if I had a nickel for every time a stock went up or down because market predictions turned out to be incorrect, I also could buy a new set of tires for my Subaru without selling one of my guns.  Remember when gasoline prices went over $2 a gallon back in 2005 and the experts were all predicting a $10 price by the end of the decade?  We’ll have some rough idea about the health of the gun market when Smith & Wesson releases its 10-Q for the quarter ending September, 2017.  But the number of new guns produced and sold each year is not necessarily an accurate measure of whether a pro-gun President like (ugh) Trump will help or hurt gun sales.

The real problem is trying to figure out the size of the potential market; i.e., how many people out there might be interested in buying a gun. Because when all is said and done, the success of any consumer product is based not so much on its replacement rate (consumers who already own the product buying a new one) but on the number of new consumers who decide that a particular product is something they just must have.

What apparently has happened under Obama is that the replacement rate for guns has soared – the same people who started out as gun owners in 2008 just kept buying more and more guns. These folks didn’t need to be educated on why Obama was a threat; as long-time gun owners they always knew that a gun ban might be in the works. And most gun owners had lived through the terrible Clinton gun and magazine bans enacted in 1994.

As for new consumers entering the gun market, I’m not so sure that the slow but steady decline in the percentage of American households with a legal gun will continue under (ugh) Trump, and I’m going to tell you why. Because what this election showed, if nothing else, is that a lot of people bought Trump’s message that government doesn’t work.  Which is exactly the long-time message used by the gun industry to sell self-defense guns. On the other hand, if Trump (ugh) makes government more efficient, do you really need to protect yourself with a gun?

              Wishing Everyone a Healthy and Happy 2017.

 

Has The Number Of Gun Dealers Declined? Not Lately.

Our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC) have just released a new report which details a 77% decline in federal gun dealers since 1994, which they believe reduces the number of dealers who might be “a known source of weapons for criminal gun traffickers.”  Exactly how large a role FFL-dealers actually play in pushing guns into the ‘wrong hands’ has never been adequately analyzed or explained, but looking for any piece of silver lining when it comes to regulating guns in the Age of Trump isn’t a bad thing.

vpc             The only problem with this particular piece of silver lining, however, is that the data actually gives a somewhat different perspective on the whole issue of FFL-dealers than what the VPC would like us to believe. Because while it is true that the number of FFL licenses has declined by more than two-thirds over the past twenty years, the number has actually increased by more than ten percent in the last nine years.

And why has there been an increase in FFL dealers after the drop in license-holders after 1994?  Remember this guy named Obama and a doubling in gun sales beginning in 2008? Remember an even greater sales increase after the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook and an abortive attempt to widen NICS-FBI background checks to cover secondary sales?  Between 2007 and 2016 the number of gun dealers increased in 38 of the 50 states.  North Carolina dropped from 6,486 dealers in 1994 to 1,327 in 2007, but FFLs in the Tar Heel State are back up to 1,921, an increase of 45%!  In South Carolina the numbers went from 2,332 in 1994 down to 529 in 2007 and now back up to 886, not a bad jump in just nine years.

The real reason that FFLs dropped so steeply after 1994 (mentioned in the VPC report) was the cost of the license went up from $30 to $200, which meant that many of the pre-94 dealers were not really in business so a 700% increase for the license fee was just too steep. But it’s not as if the Treasury Department lost any money when all those guys buying guns for themselves at wholesale prices gave up the ghost. The license fees under the pre-94 regime would have generated around 7 million bucks.  When the fee went to $200 the revenue from the 56,000 current dealers amounted to 11 million and change.

The fact that there are roughly one-quarter the number of FFL-holders today as compared to 1994 says absolutely nothing about the relationship between the number of dealers who actually sell guns to consumers as opposed to selling guns to themselves or to a few friends.  Even with the ATF’s backslapping about their vaunted programs to keep dealers in line, probably no more than 5,000 dealers are actually bringing new inventory to the civilian market and thus might be contributing to the spread of crime guns.

Where do I get that number?  It’s simple – just go to the website of Smith & Wesson or Glock or one of the other gun manufacturers and do a search for their stocking dealers in any particular state.  Gun makers go out of their way to promote product sales by listing every dealer who stocks and sells their wares.  Glock lists 272 dealers in North Carolina and the ATF says there are 1,921 FFL-holders in the state.  Smith & Wesson has about 50 dealers in its home state of Massachusetts and there are 386 active FFLs in the Bay State.

If you want to write about regulating any industry you need to know how to figure out how to understand the industry itself.  And you’re not going to get a complete view by using information created outside the industry by regulators like the ATF. Remember, in the Age of Trump it doesn’t matter whether anything is based on facts or not. All the more reason why folks who don’t share his love of the gun industry need to know how that industry really works.

 

Rudy Giuliani Thinks He Understands Gun Violence. He Doesn’t.

When I was a kid, we used the term ‘racist’ to describe the actions or views of people who justified racial inequality because the racial group on the ‘bottom’ didn’t have the intelligence or the motivation of the racial group on the ‘top.’  And while there were always African-Americans who made stupid or hateful statements about Caucasians (think Jesse Jackson’s ‘Hymietown,’) these dopey attitudes didn’t qualify as racism because Whites who were sometimes demonized by Blacks were still on top.

BLM           This rather obvious Black-White interrelation blurred when the legal barriers upholding racial segregation began to collapse.  It blurred some more as African-Americans, some African-Americans, a few African-Americans made it into the middle class or became visible and successful in entertainment and sports.  And of course the idea that racism presupposed inequality became blurred even further when a certain Kenyan-born person moved his family into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, an address from which, unfortunately, he will soon have to depart.

But what has really confused the issue of racism is a conscious and continuous effort by the right-wing noise machine, aided and abetted by the Republican party and Fox News, to pretend that African-Americans are also racists whenever they raise concerns about their own status, as if questioning the behavior of Whites toward Blacks is some kind of ‘proof’ that Whites can be victimized by racism and racist attitudes as well.

This nonsense erupted in response to the emergence of Black Lives Matter following the execution of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood-watch activist who happened to be walking around with a gun.  “What do you mean, Black lives matter?” thundered Rush Limbaugh, “Don’t all lives matter?’  And since BLM is only concerned about their ‘own’ kind, this is proof pari passu that the organization’s perspective and strategies are racist to the core.

Now the fact is that police violence is endemic to inner-city communities where most African-Americans happen to live. The fact is, the fact is, the fact is, but who cares about facts when you can earn a living by running your mouth off on television and say whatever happens to be in your stupid head?

And the numbskull I am referring to is Rudy Giuliani, who went on Fox and accused BLM of being ‘inherently racist’ because the real danger of a Black kid getting shot was not from a cop but from another Black kid. So why does the BLM movement spend all its time talking about the behavior of racist cops?  Because the cops are White, the BLM movement is Black, and it’s the racism of the BLM movement which keeps them from talking about Blacks shooting other Blacks.

I’m not trying to posture myself as an expert either on politics or race.  My expertise extends only to the issue of guns.  So I’m going to correct Rudy G not from a racial perspective, but from the facts (here’s that damn word again) about gun violence no matter whose skin color happens to be involved.

Gun violence between civilians is overwhelmingly intra-racial, and in eight out of ten instances gun violence occurs because two or more people get into an ongoing argument and sooner or later someone pulls out a gun. With whom do people have disputes?  With people they know because they live together, or they live on the same block, or they go to the same school. And even if it’s an argument over drugs, Rudy’s favorite form of gun violence, the argument erupts between two members of the same gang.

On the other hand, police are supposed to be trained to keep the lid on disputes with citizens so that violence between law enforcement and civilians, particularly gun violence, is kept under control. If the shootings in Louisiana and Minneapolis are part of a wider problem of cops too often using their guns on minorities, than the problem has to be corrected now, and no amount of demagoguery from nincompoops like Giuliani should prevent that from taking place.

How Much Will Trump Owe The NRA? If He Wins – Plenty.

If anyone thought for one second that the NRA wouldn’t have Street Thug Trump in their pocket if he’s elected President, today’s announcement should make you think again.  Because the NRA is going to drop $2 million on an ad campaign that will remind voters about how Hillary was in some way responsible for the Benghazi attack.  And while the ads are starting to run at the same time that Trey Gowdy’s House Committee was unable to pin any Benghazi blame on HRC, never mind details or even basic facts, if you want to believe that Trump is the man who can protect us from terrorism, this advertisement is where you can start.

trump2            But what the advertisement really does is get Street Thug’s name on some television screens and computer panels without costing him one dime.  Which is actually more important than what the advertisement actually says because Street Thug doesn’t have a dime to spend on any advertising these days, nor does he have two nickels to rub together or even two cents here or there.  Now he claims to have raised $3 million was his first, big email campaign, but that figure is disputed not just by liberal pundits, but by the conservative National Review as well. The headline of their online article referred to Trump’s fundraising claims as ‘lies.’  I thought that only Street Thug could use a word like ‘lie’ when talking about the Hillary campaign.  Now a conservative source is pasting that epithet on him? Hmmmm.

I’m not really all that worried about the impact of this ad because increasingly Street Thug appears to be talking only to his solid but diminishing band of supporters who just aren’t going to make a majority dent when we all go to vote on November 8th.  Leaving alone the slippage at the national level, what caught my eye was the first, serious poll to come out of Texas, which shows Street Thug ahead, but not by enough to say that he can even win in that reddest of all red states.

The Texas poll shows Trump ahead by 41 – 33 in a head-to-head matchup (slight declines for both when Libertarian Gary Johnston is added to the mix.)  This leave a large, undecided vote but when everything was counted back in 2012, Romney beat Obama 58 to 32!  In other words, if the undecided vote breaks even from here on out, Trump barely ekes out a majority in a state that handed the 2012 Republican candidate an overwhelming win.

We won’t know until late next month whether Trump’s alleged fundraising is more fantasy than real.  But right now it can honestly be said that without the ads being produced by the NRA, the Street Thug’s media campaign is still the handiwork of Fox News.  But what’s interesting about the NRA ad is that it doesn’t mention guns or the 2nd Amendment at all.  The ad pans what is described as a veteran’s cemetery (which may be illegal to show) and the speaker who says he was posted at Benghazi then intones the usual anti-Hillary complaint that she didn’t protect us when and where it counted the most. And it took Street Thug 46 minutes to mention the 2nd Amendment at his rally rant last night in St. Clairsville, OH, means that the subject that used to be his stock-in-trade for ramping up the crowd has now almost disappeared.

And my theory for the disappearance of gun ‘rights’ as a motif for Street Thug’s campaign is very simple, namely, that the energy and activity of the Gun Violence Prevention community, in particular since Orlando, has tipped the scales the other way.  But if, God forbid, Street Thug somehow pulls it off, he’s going to owe the NRA big-time because they stuck by him while others faded away.

So let’s not forget that there are 132 days left until either we win or we lose.  And we better not lose.  No way.

 

Is The Obama Gun Surge Finished? I’m Not So Sure.

Mark Twain once said, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” and for those in the GVP who might take some comfort in the idea that the great gun surge under Obama is finally coming to an end, Twain’s missive might apply here as well.  Because despite a recent tumble in the value of Smith & Wesson stock and a collapse in the prices of AR-15 assault rifles, the NICS background check numbers are singing a different tune.

bomber          Now hold the presses!  After all, according to The Trace, the FBI has just announced that NICS checks in April dropped 16% from the previous month, from 2.5 million checks down to 2.1 million. And the latter figure represents a drop of 35% in NCS checks since the high water-mark of 3.3 million checks was hit in December, 2015. So in the face of those numbers, how can I sit here and tell you that gun sales are still strong?

Answer: Because numbers from NICS have to be understood for what they really are.  First and foremost, the monthly number of NICS checks announced by the FBI is anywhere between 30% and 50% higher than the NICS checks that occur when a gun is transferred or sold.  The NICS system is used by states that want to check the validity of licenses to own or carry guns, a NICS background check is also performed every time someone walks into a pawn shop and redeems one of their own guns. Of the 2.5 million checks conducted in March, 2016, more than 1.2 million involved something other than the sale of a gun.

If you go back to December, 2012, the month that shattered all previous months for gun sales due to a combination of Obama’s re-election and the tragedy at Sandy Hook, handgun and long gun NICS checks that month reached more than 2 million, while license checks were one-quarter of that total, and nearly half of all license checks came from Kentucky, which alone of the 50 states submits all resident gun licenses for a background check every month. Kentucky’s license checks now run more about 300,000 every month, but license checks for the entire country are now in excess of 1 million monthly, which is a much greater increase than anything having to do with the sale of guns.

If we assume, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t, that regulating guns as a response to gun violence starts with vetting the qualifications of everyone who owns a gun, then the growth in NICS license checks is a positive step in that direction and should not be ignored.  At the same time, using the FBI’s number of total NICS checks to judge the gun industry’s health or lack thereof doesn’t necessarily work.  Yes, NICS checks for guns did, in fact, decline by 15% from March to April of this year, but handgun checks comparing April, 2015 to April, 2016, went up by the same amount.

Yesterday I received an email from Chris Cox asking me to sign a petition demanding that President Obama stop his anti-gun executive actions NOW!  The email says that we (gun owners) are in the “fight of our lives” because Obama intends to go around Congress and unilaterally take away our guns.  I’ve been getting the same email from the NRA for the past twenty years, and while it doesn’t necessarily motivate me to go out and buy another gun, that’s only because I own about ten times more guns than I actually need.

Come to think of it, I don’t really need any of the four Glocks, two Colts, five Smiths and two Walther pistols (among other guns) that I currently own. I just like guns. And if I walk into a gun shop today and see another banger that I like, I’ll happily submit to a NICS check in order to own that gun. And that holds true for every other gun nut who walks into a shop.

By Protecting The 2nd Amendment, Scalia Also Protected Gun Violence.

The body’s still cold, Scalia’s body that is, but Gun Nation and its sycophantic noisemakers aren’t wasting any time getting the word out that the 2nd Amendment will be the first thing harmed if Obama actually gets the chance to put a new face on the Supreme Court.  Now much of this is just stupid posturing because if anyone actually believes that a sitting President can be denied his lawful opportunity (indeed his responsibility) to nominate a justice to SCOTUS, well, there are crazier things being said in this year’s political campaign, but not that many when all is said and done.

The crazy sweepstakes already have a possible winner in Ted Cruz, who immediately shot off a tweet that Scalia’s death means that “we are one Justice away from a Supreme Court that would harm our Second Amendment rights.”  And while the NRA hasn’t yet figured out how to use Scalia’s death to promote their fundraising agenda, you can get a preview of where they will be going with the tweet they posted thanking Scalia for his “unwavering” defense of the Constitution, which means protecting 2nd-Amendment rights.

scalia               All of which made me start thinking about how and why the NRA really promotes the utility of the 2nd Amendment, i.e., why is it so important that Americans have access to guns? Because in case you haven’t noticed, a majority of Americans don’t own guns, and the number of gun-owning folks, relatively speaking, keeps going down.  Which means that maybe, just maybe, the Supreme Court really is just one vote away from rolling back all those pro-gun decisions.  Which made me start thinking: What would be the result if, in fact, free access to guns currently guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment came to an end?

What I think it comes down to is the unwavering belief on the part of Gun Nation that owning a gun is a basic protection against danger and crime.  The idea that owning guns makes us ‘free’ is all well and good, but it’s really too abstract a concept to be applied in everyday affairs, and nobody really believes that all those half-baked militia idiots arrested at Malheur Refuge could protect themselves or anyone else from the slightest degree of armed threat. So it gets down to the notion that having a gun is a simple and tangible way to express the natural desire to be safe.  And as John Lott is quick to remind us, there must be some truth to this idea because otherwise how do you explain the fact that more than 12 million Americans have now taken the trouble to secure the legal right to walk around with a gun?

Which brings me to a bit of research that I did earlier today on the CDC website which gives very detailed data on the five categories that comprise every different way in which a gun can cause an injury – unintentional death, unintentional injury, homicide, suicide and aggravated assault.  And it turns out that in the period since 2001, during which time the size of the civilian arsenal and the number of people with concealed-carry licenses probably doubled, the number of people killed or injured by guns has also increased by 27 percent!  In 2001 the total number of gun injury victims was 109,223.  Of this number, homicides were 26%, suicides were 15% and assaults were 42%.  In 2013, the total for gun violence was 138,787, of which homicides were 24%, suicides were 15% and assaults were 48%.  This remarkable increase in gun violence was not because a particular category went up; it was because every significant category of gun violence increased.

The next time you find yourself in a discussion with someone who tells you that Scalia’s death could jeopardize the 2nd-Amendment, you might refer to the numbers above and point out how they have changed in the recent years. Which as far as I am concerned is the real legacy of Scalia’s stalwart defense of Constitutional rights.

What You Hear Is What You Get – The NRA Response To Obama.

It didn’t take Wayne-o 48 hours to respond to Obama’s remarkable SOTU speech, and his response really points up both the success of the GVP movement to date, along with the challenge faced by GVP going forward. The fact that LaPierre felt compelled to call the President a ‘liar,’ ‘narcissist,’ ‘dishonest,’ ‘long-winded,’ ‘gas bag’ and basically a shill for the Hillary campaign, reveals the degree to which Gun Nation and Trump-ist political rhetoric have merged; i.e., if you insult your opponent enough times, you can avoid any serious talk.  What’s the difference between Trump bellowing ‘Make America Great Again’ and LaPierre saying that Obama has “laid waste to the America we remember?”  No difference.  And that’s a good thing.

lapierre              It’s a good thing because the GVP strategy shouldn’t be based on trying to convince 2nd-Amendment nihilists that there are sensible solutions to the problems caused by guns.  Obama’s attempt to push a small percentage of gun transfers into the ATF-FBI-NICS framework by requiring individuals who make a ‘continuous’ profit from gun sales is hardly an attack on gun-owning rights, and LaPierre’s totally false description of this effort obliterates even the slightest possibility that his video message was an attempt to engage in an honest exchange.

We like to say that Obama has been the gun industry’s best salesman because gun revenues have soared over the past seven years.  But he’s also been a magnet for the NRA’s attempts to expand its own ranks.  According to Advertising Age, the circulation of the American Rifleman magazine surged by nearly 30% from 2012 to 2013, although the total circulation of all NRA membership magazines still doesn’t nearly add up to the 5 million members that the NRA now claims to represent. But numbers are one thing, the message going out is something else.  If you take the time to watch Wayne-o’s video (quoting don Corleone, “Keep your friends close but your enemies….”) you’ll quickly realize that the organization which claims to speak for America’s gun owners has abandoned even the slightest pretense for anything remotely connected to reality, facts or common sense.

Take the alleged ‘failure’ of the Obama Administration to prosecute gun crimes. According to LaPierre, the President could simply pick up the phone and direct his Justice Department to mount a scorched-earth campaign to rid Chicago of every drug dealer, violent felon and gangbanger currently prowling the Windy City’s streets.  This statement, incidentally, is made less than one minute after Wayne-o accused Obama of using his executive authority to destroy the Constitution, as if one can find anywhere in the Constitution the legal grounds for using a federal agency to deal with local crime.

You may recall that back in 1995, Wayne-o sent out a fundraising letter referring to ATF agents as ‘jack-booted thugs’ who were the shock troops in the “final assault to eliminate firearms ownership forever,” rhetoric that caused President George H. W. Bush to resign from the NRA. Now he’s at it again, claiming in this video that Obama is creating a ‘federal gun force’ that will be four times larger than the number of Special Forces currently leading operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  I don’t think that combat against ISIS has cost the lives of more than a handful of our beloved and heroic troops but gun violence kills more than 80 Americans every day.  More resources to respond to domestic gun violence as opposed to overseas terror attacks?  Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me.

Watch the entire video because Wayne-o saves the best for last.  After referring to the President in the most indecorous and insulting terms, he then flips and obsequiously asks Obama to engage in a one-on-one debate.  I can see it now – Wayne LaPierre in the Oval Office lecturing the President on the 2nd Amendment and why Michelle should be walking around with a gun.  If the NRA thinks that such amateurish grandstanding appeals to anyone beyond their most devoted members, they better think again.

Is Obama Correct When He Calls Gun Violence An ‘Epidemic?’ He Sure Is.

Whenever there’s a terrible, mass shooting, like Umpqua or San Bernardino, leave it to the pro-gun gang to wait 48 hours or so, and then remind us that it’s not such a big deal because: a) mass shootings only account for a tiny fraction of all gun shootings; b) gun homicides continue to decline; and, c) there’s nothing we can do about it anyway, so who really cares? And in case a little more juice is necessary to push the argument away from the problems caused by guns, we can always count on Johnny-boy Lott to pronounce that, once again, a mass shooting took place in a gun-free zone.

white house              But of course if you bother to look at the numbers on gun violence, and you take some time to understand what the numbers really mean, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to quickly figure out that this whole notion that gun violence being on the wane is simply and irretrievably not true.  And anyone who says otherwise either doesn’t know the facts or thinks that if you tell a lie enough times maybe someone will think you are telling the truth. So let’s start with the facts.

Gun violence is falls into five categories, according to the CDC: intentional homicide, unintentional homicide, intentional injury, unintentional injury and suicide.  And I don’t care about the NRA nonsense that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people;’ the fact is that every one of the events which are counted in those five categories occurred because of the presence of a gun.  Now obviously you can kill other people or yourself without using a gun; ditto for injuries suffered by yourself or someone else.  But you can’t kill anyone as quickly as you can when you use a gun, and gun injuries are, medically-speaking, the most damaging and costly injuries of all.  So now let’s really get to the facts.

In 2001, the total body count for the five gun-violence categories was 92,031, of whom 29,821 ended up one way or another in the morgue, and the remainder, 62,210, lived to see another day.  Now the physical and mental condition in which these survivors actually continued their lives has never been calculated in any general sense, but a not atypical example is provided by the experience of Antonius Wiriadjaja who was hit by a stray bullet in Brooklyn, from which he then endured seven months of physical therapy to regain basic functions, along with 18 months of psychiatric treatment to prevent the onset of PTSD. Gun injuries are devastating, the costs of gun morbidity is calculated to be at least 40% higher than the cost of treating any other kind of injury, and Wiriadjaja got off with less post-injury trauma than a lot of other victims of gun wounds.

The pro-gun nation is up in arms (hopefully not literally) because the President keeps referring to gun violence as an ‘epidemic.’  Would the same bunch argue with the notion that we had an outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in 2014? Of course not.  Know how many people died worldwide from Ebola that year?  Roughly 30,000.  Isn’t that roughly the same number that have died from a gun injury in the United States every year over the past 30 years?

Not only do we suffer this carnage year after year, but the numbers keep going up! In 2001 all gun deaths and injuries totaled 92,031.  It was 99,968 in 2005, dropped down to 97,550, then steadily increased to 117,146 in 2013. This 25% increase in the overall number is largely driven by intentional injuries, which since 2001 have exoanded by nearly 50%

Know who benefits from this trend in a rather perverse way?  Trauma surgery residents get more training which means they can save more lives.  It’s their skills that are keeping gun deaths fairly constant while overall gun violence continues to increase.  The President isn’t wrong when he talks about a gun epidemic.  If anything, he’s understating the case.

The New York Times Weighs In On Crime Guns.

Now that The New York Times devotes a portion of its editorial space to gun violence, we are treated to the contribution of op-ed writer Charles Blow.  And what Blow has decided to talk about is what is truly the elephant in the living room when it comes to gun violence, namely, the issue of stolen guns.  Obama mentioned the issue twice in the official White House press release outlining his new EO agenda on guns, but he tied it to expanding background checks by bringing more gun transactions under the rubric of regulated sales.

atf              To his credit, Blow dug up Sam Bieler’s 2013 article which cites data from Phil Cook’s 1997 article which estimates that as many as 500,000 guns might be stolen each year.  And having discovered this incredible number, Blow then throws up several remedies for the problem which will have no real impact at all.  They won’t have any impact because registering guns or requiring insurance for their ownership simply isn’t going to occur.  As for the idea that gun theft will go down as safe guns enter the civilian arsenal, even if a few were to finally hit the market, we still have 300 million+ unsafe guns lying around.

On the other hand, there are some steps that could be taken right now that would, I believe, have a substantial impact on the ability of law enforcement to identify and trace crime guns, a process which right now occurs in the most slipshod or piecemeal fashion when it occurs at all.  And these steps wouldn’t even require any legislation or executive orders; they could be accomplished easily and quickly if someone, anyone, would make the regulatory division of the ATF do what it is really supposed to do.

Why does the GVP advocacy community put so much time and effort into pushing the expansion of NICS-background checks into secondary transfers and sales? Because the ATF has been whining for 20 years that they can only trace a gun through its first, legal sale.  This is a lie.  The fact is that every time a gun is acquired by an FFL dealer it must be listed in his Acquisition & Disposition book.  This A&D book, along with the 4473 forms used to conduct background checks, can be inspected by the ATF whenever they enter a store.  Now It happens that 40% or more guns that are sold by retail dealers are used guns, many of which were sold previously out of the same store. Or they were first sold by the gun shop in the next town. Can the ATF ask a dealer to tell them the particulars of the last, as opposed to the first sale of a particular gun?  Of course they can – they own the entire contents of the A&D book.

The ATF trumpets the development of time-to-crime data which, they say, alerts them to questionable dealer behavior because the average TTC right now is about 12 years, so if guns sold by a particular dealer have a much shorter TTC, that dealer must be pushing guns out the back door.  But the fact is that since 40% of the sale dates of guns used to calculate TTC might not represent the last, legal sale, the TTC numbers published by the ATF are, to be polite, meaningless at best.

The ATF still sends trace requests by fax; the rest of the world, including all gun dealers, has discovered email as a more accurate and certainly efficient way to communicate back and forth.  If the ATF required dealers to keep their A&D book in Excel (which they actually recommend,) the dealer could scan his entire book immediately looking for a particular serial number and the ATF and local police would have a better chance of figuring out how and when a crime gun moved from legal to illegal hands.

You don’t need a new law, you don’t an Executive Order, you don’t need anything except some basic knowledge about the gun business in order to figure this out.