When It Comes To Reducing Gun Violence, Here’s The Real Deal.

There’s a small group of gun-control activists in Florida, who in the space of just several months, have done more to advance the cause of reducing gun violence than all the national, gun-control organizations put together.  I am referring to an advocacy group in Florida that has a website but also something much more important than a web presence – a public partnership with another advocacy group, Americans for Gun Safety Now, (which has both a website and a Facebook page) representing not just a bunch of tree-hugging, anti-gun liberals, but a cross-section of major Republican Party donors and other conservative-minded folks.

BAWN-AFGSN             Let’s get serious, okay? Remember the last time that Jack Nicklaus, the Jack Nicklaus, attached his name to anything remotely connected to liberal politics at all?  If you do, then it wasn’t this Jack Nicklaus who publicly supported Trump in 2016 and campaigned for Romney in 2012. The AGSN group was founded by a major Republican supporter, Al Hoffman, who was not only the Ambassador to Portugal, but also was the former RNC Finance Chair. In other words, when Al picks up the phone and contacts any Republican anywhere in the United States – they listen, okay?

The alliance between these two groups is the most momentous event in the entire history of gun-control advocacy because what has otherwise characterized the debate between Gun-control Nation and Gun-nut Nation is that the latter group can always depend on GOP politicians and GOP-leaning citizens to support their point of view. There’s a reason why our friends in Fairfax, VA are major sponsors of the CPAC meeting every year but don’t show up at the annual meeting of the ADA.

What both created and brought these strange bedfellows together was, of course, the massacre at Parkland, which happens to be a community largely built by Al Hoffman’s real estate development company, but he’s hardly the only big bucks behind the AFGSN group. I noticed that the lineup includes Norman Braman, who just happens to own more than 20 car dealerships in Florida and was a major backer of Marco Rubio’s Presidential bid in 2016. Here’s the bottom line: You don’t get a couple of heavyweights like Al Hoffman and Norm Braman to come out for a liberal issue like gun control every day of the week, or any day of the week, for that matter.

This unlikely collaboration revolves around an unlikely issue, an attempt to put a state constitutional amendment banning assault rifles before Florida voters in 2020, which just happens to be the next time these same voters will be pulling a lever for either the 45th or 46th President of the United States. Until Parkland, Florida was always considered the ‘gunshine state,’ with a strong and organized pro-gun movement run by Granny Marion Hammer, former President and now state lobbyist for the NRA.  She recently sued a Miami resident, Brian Fitzgerald, for cyberstalking, because he sent her several nasty and profane emails after Parkland, a lawsuit which is more embarrassing than real. If our NRA friends think that the old lady is a match for Hoffman, Braman and Nicklaus, they better think again.

When all is said and done, Gun-nut Nation can scream and yell all they want about how gun-control laws rob gun owners of their civil rights, their Constitutional rights, whatever right they want to invent to hold onto their guns. But the bottom line is that when Marion Hammer and other gun-nut zealots refer to advocates for gun control as ‘traitors,’ it’s a strategy that the NRA needs to carefully consider before running it up the flagpole against guys like Braman, Hoffman, et. al. And if Republican stalwarts in Florida now believe that gun violence needs to be contained, let’s not forget for one moment that these folks have plenty of friends in other states where mass shootings have occurred….

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Will Gun Shows Go The Way Of The DoDo Bird? They Just Might.

I have lived most of my 73-plus years on the East Coast, but whenever I go out to the West Coast, as a confirmed gun nut I try to schedule my trips when a Crossroads of the West gun show is being held in the city where I’m going to be. I can’t purchase a gun at these shows unless I’m willing to wait 10 days for the dealer to ship the piece back to a dealer back home, and my rule of thumb is that if I see a gun I really like, I want to walk out with it right then and there.

shows             Notwithstanding this serious limitation, I like the Crossroads shows because there are lots of guns, lots of good food concessions and the atmosphere is enjoyable, homey and nice. If I have to choose between the stuffy, pretentious San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where if you speak above a whisper someone immediately tells you to shut-up, versus going up and down the aisles at the Cow Palace looking at endless piles of guns and sharing a joke with another gun nut or an ATF agent, it’s no contest at all.

But the world, even the gun world, does change, and right now it appears that the Crossroads of the West gun show at San Francisco’s Cow Palace may be going the way of the Passenger Pigeon, the Dodo Bird and the dial phone.  The next show is scheduled for June and it will go on as planned, but if several state legislators have their way, these events will come to an end in 2019. A bill has just been introduced that would end gun shows at the Gun Palace in 2020, and while the last such effort was vetoed by Jerry Brown in 2013, I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollar on these shows continuing given the new, post-Parkland attitude about guns.

When the Governor Abbott of Texas – Texasannounces that he will convene a roundtable on gun violence that will include school officials, victims and relatives of victims, gun rights and gun control advocates; when he says, and I quote, “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” there’s something new and different going on. And it turns out that California now has their own version of Parkland’s Emma Gonzalez in the form of Erica Mendoza, a 16-year old who led the Parkland walkout at Jefferson High School, a building which just happens to be located 2 miles from where the Cow Palace gun show takes place.

If the proposed gun show ban becomes law, the biggest, single loser will be a nice guy named Bob Templeton, who started Crossroads in 1975, and now operates more than 50 shows each year in all the Western states. Bob just published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, his basic argument being “the closure of the show will not prevent criminals from obtaining guns from the sources where they have always obtained them.” And just so you don’t think that Bob is some kind of red-neck entrepreneur with blood on his hands, his column approvingly quotes none other than the sainted, gun researcher Garen Wintemute, whose criteria for how a gun show should be operated is not only met but exceeded by procedures followed at all Crossroads shows.

It should be admitted that Templeton’s article does indulge in a bit of both historic and analytical whimsy because his statement that there have been “no known incidents of gun violence resulting from activities at the show” is kind of true but only in a very narrow sense. In fact, a show visitor accidentally shot his friend at a 2015 Crossroads show in Phoenix, and there is simply no way to determine how many guns purchased at any Crossroads event eventually wind up in the wrong hands.

If California passes a law banning gun shows, I guarantee you it will spread. After all, let’s not forget that what has ruined gazillions of cups of coffee – half & half – also started in the Golden State.

How Do We Define Mass Shootings? Let Me Count The Ways.

If I had a nickel for every different definition of ‘mass shooting’ that’s floating around out there, I could go back to sleep this morning instead of getting dressed to go to work. Last time I counted, there are at least four different ‘mass shooting’ definitions appearing in the media based on how many people get killed, how many people get shot whether they die or not, where the event takes place, and whether or not to include ‘domestic’ acts of violence, aa if anyone has a definition of ‘domestic’ that fits every case.

LV2             The issue of mass shootings has taken on a certain importance not just because of Parkland, but because the organizational response of the gun-control movement has been to push one of their favorite ideas, namely, a new assault weapons ban (AWB.) The idea, of course, is being vigorously contested by the other side, whose chief ally in this regard is DD Trump, who seems to have a peculiar affection for getting rid of gun-free zones. And since Trump is now tying mass shootings to gun-free zones, all the more reason why the #resist movement would try to get more traction for a new AWB.

Let’s get back to the definition of a ‘mass shooting,’ because here is where the rubber meets the road.  Earlier this month our friend Lott published a critique of what is an important book on mass shootings, Rampage Nation, in which the author, Lewis Klaveras, argues that mass shootings declined during the 1995-2004 AWB, despite the fact that the number of mass shootings involving the use of an ‘assault weapon’ was: a) quite small; and, b) didn’t change during the years covered by the ban.

Klarevas has responded to Lott’s criticism by saying that the latter’s definition of ‘mass shootings’ is “arbitrary,” when, in fact, it is the definition employed by Klarevas himself (6 or more deaths) which has never been used by Lott or any other gun researcher, including the folks who write the reports on mass shootings for the FBI. Lott uses the FBI definition which sets the number of deaths at four and excludes shooting events that are either gang-related or occur within a domestic situation, a definition with which I wholeheartedly agree.

What makes mass shootings such terrifying events is not just the loss of life; it’s the randomness of the event and the anonymity of the victims who are injured or killed. Steve Paddock didn’t know the name of anyone attending the rock concert in Vegas when he opened fire on October 1st. Nikolas Cruz had been a student at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, but he didn’t go to the school to hunt down a specific kid or kids. With all due respect to my many GVP friends, John Lott is absolutely correct when he says that mass shootings are unique events in which the motives of the shooter can’t be simply explained because someone holds a grudge against someone else.

I am beginning to believe that gun-violence arguments based on numbers are a dead end. I say this, first of all, because in other columns and studies I have addressed the fact that most of the data we use to create numerics about gun violence are at best rough estimates, at worst simply made up out of whole cloth. And if we can’t even agree on the numerical definition of mass shootings, how could we ever come up with a rational strategy to deal with mass shooting events at all?

So I’m going to go out on a limb and offer a definition of a mass shooting which at least might get us beyond the useless arguments being engaged in today. A mass shooting is when someone points a gun at someone else, pulls the trigger and keeps firing until he’s out of ammo and has to reload. I like this definition because it gets around behavior or motive and simply acknowledges a basic truth: Guns aimed at human beings will kill them faster than any other device that we know.

 

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

On July 1, 2016, a stock called American Outdoor Brands (AOBC) hit an all-time high of $30 bucks a share.  In case you didn’t know it, AOBC is actually Smith & Wesson, whose ownership decided to diversify the company into an outdoor sporting conglomerate basically to cover up the fact that all they really make and sell are guns. The company President, Jim Dabney, announced the new name back in December 2016 with this statement: “We believe that American Outdoor Brands Corp. is a name that truly represents our broad and growing array of brands and businesses in the shooting, hunting and rugged outdoor enthusiast markets.”

sw             This strategy replaced an earlier strategy which had S&W marketing all kinds of consumer crap – blankets, clothing, watches, jewelry – that can now be found on eBay for a fraction of what the stuff originally cost. Once the geniuses who run S&W realized that the only thing which consumers would purchase that carried the company’s distinctive name were guns, forget about promoting the brand through other channels, let’s just buy some small companies with other brand names.

Except the problem is that consumer brands that don’t carry a high price-tag usually don’t market products that anyone really wants to buy. Ever hear of a brand called Bog-Pod? How’s about Hooyman or Old Timer?  These are some of the products which the company claims will help it build a “rich, diverse product and brand offering to address new opportunities in the rugged outdoor markets.”  Hey guys, stick with the guns, okay?

Actually, for a few years the boys at 2100 Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield read the handwriting on the wall correctly, marketing a cheap line of AR-15 rifles, which boosted overall revenues significantly and got the company into the expanding tactical rifle market at exactly the right time.  The company first began shipping its ‘black gun’ in 2006, by 2010 they were selling more than 100,000 units each year, the other major assault-rifle manufacturers (Bushmaster, DPMS) were producing about half that number each year.

There’s only one little problem with the success story, however, which is that what goes up in the gun business can also go right back down.  Which is exactly what happened to AR sales by the end of the Obama regime, if only because at a certain point everyone who wanted to own what is euphemistically referred to as a ‘modern sporting rifle’ had one sitting at home.

But gun makers are used to dealing with market saturation because, if nothing else, the things they manufacture don’t wear out.  If you sell someone a droid, for example, chances are that a certain number will have to be replaced within a year or so. Selling someone one droid usually means that the manufacturer will rack up another sale. Not so with guns, which is why companies like S&W knew that at some point sales of their assault rifles would go flat.

But what S&W didn’t know, what nobody in the gun industry could predict, was the firestorm which erupted after the Parkland massacre which was aimed at the whole gun industry, but obviously is a bigger threat to companies which make black guns, of whom S&W happens to be the biggest target of all.  When a global asset manager like Black Rock and a commercial bank like Bank of America announce they want to meet with gun makers to see what the industry’s response will be to what happened in Parkland, we’re not talking about the ‘arm teachers’ nonsense peddled by the White House idiot, we’re talking what counts: bucks.

What we say in the gun business is that if you want to make a million, start with two million. If you bought 50,000 shares of S&W on July 1, 2016 yesterday the joke would have come true.

Which is why S&W stock closed yesterday at under $10, the lowest price since the end of 2014.  If you owned 100,000 shares of S&W  on July 1, 2016 and held those shares today, your investment would have lost  2 million bucks.