What Matters Is Not What He Says, It’s That Obama Says Something About Guns.

The big news this week is the looming possibility that the Bomber will make good on his promise (or threat, depending on how you look at it) to issue an Executive Order on gun control, and already the Gun Nation is gearing up for the fight.  Trump has announced he will “veto” these orders (someone might want to give Trump the Shlump a quick lesson on Constitutional law), Christie has jumped on the Obama the Dictator bandwagon, and never to be outdone by any candidate’s attempt at gross stupidity, Rand Paul is drawing up legislation to block the President from issuing any Executive Orders about guns.

 

Best gun salesman ever!

I don’t know exactly what the President is planning to do, but he appears to be getting ready to say something on this issue during his State of the Union speech next week.  The President talked about gun regulations during his 2013 State of the Union speech, but these remarks were delivered less than two months after Sandy Hook.  There was no mention of gun control in his 2014 remarks, nor last year.  Now the issue if gun violence is back on the front burner, and it appears that he will try to do something about extending background checks by coming up with a more precise definition of what it means to be a dealer in guns.

As regards the current definition, I’m quoting from the relevant Federal code: “any person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail,” which is about as precise as the Man in the Moon.  The problem here is not figuring out what constitutes a firearm, but what the phrase “in the business” really means.  Part of the problem is the fact that guns, unlike most consumer items, don’t for the most part wear out, so acquiring and then re-selling them is part and parcel of what most gun enthusiasts like to do.  And despite the fact that private, non-NICS gun transactions are considered anathema by the GVP crowd, selling a gun to or through a dealer instead of directly to another individual means that the seller gives up a chunk of dough either because the dealer wants to make a profit in the re-sale or the buyer will have to pay the dealer to conduct the NICS background check.

The real problem is that the average gun owner, and most gun owners are, in fact, very law abiding (otherwise they really can’t own guns) and doesn’t believe there’s any connection between the way he transfers a gun and the gun violence that kills and injures more than 100,000 Americans every year.  I happen to live outside of Springfield, MA, whose gun homicide rate last year was somewhere around 15 per 100,000, about five times the national rate.  Less than two miles from the neighborhood where half these murders occurred is a fairground where a big gun show is held four times a year. If you walked up to anyone at this show and told him that the private sale he had just completed might result in another gun murder across town, he’d stare at you in disbelief.

I don’t think that folks who support the extension of background checks need to justify this policy by trying to prove that reducing private gun transfers will, ipso facto, bring the rate of gun violence down.  I also don’t think they need to fall back on the judgement of legal scholars (not that the judgement hurts) to support the President if he decides that this is what he wants to do.

I have been saying for the last three years that when it comes to the argument about gun violence, I simply want a fair fight using evidence-based data as opposed to promoting gun ownership out of fear. It doesn’t matter whether extended background checks will reduce mass killings or gun killings overall.  What matters is that we have a serious and honest discussion about gun violence and a State of the Union address is the perfect place to begin.

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There’s A Petition Out There You Really Should Sign.

There’s a new petition in town that deserves your support.  It’s a project of the group called Doctors For America, whose founders back in 2008 included a guy named Vivek Murthy whom you might remember had some initial difficulties becoming Surgeon General because of another guy named Rand Paul. I’m playing a little tongue-in-cheek here because I can’t remember another politician who made as much of a jerk out of himself as Rand Paul did by temporarily blocking Murthy’s nomination because Murthy didn’t appreciate the virtues and benefits of guns.  After all, as a physician, why should Murthy or anyone else be concerned about 100,000 gun injuries and deaths every year? Oh hell, messed it up again; we know that it’s people who kill people, right?  When they use a gun to kill someone else it must have been to stop a crime.

cdc                Anyway, to return to reality, the DFA petition asks Congress to restore funding of gun research by the CDC.  Incidentally, for anyone who’s interested in numbers, what we are talking about is a whopping $3 million or less each year which is probably about what Congress spends on replacing worn-out parking meters in downtown DC.  In a funny way I suspect that one of the reasons the funding ban continues is precisely because it represents a budgetary item which hardly anyone can see, and therefore doesn’t attract enough attention to turn its annual defunding into a political fight.

When the NRA and its puppet Congressman Jay Dickey first pushed through the ban, the rationale they used was that the CDC was supporting not gun research per se, but gun-control advocacy which was not a proper way to use taxpayer’s funds.  Actually, it wasn’t the CDC that was doing the advocacy; rather, it was the GVP community that was utilizing the results of CDC-funded research to support its point of view.  Which shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone since what CDC-funded scholars were discovering was a rather remarkable state of affairs, namely, that guns were actually lethal weapons, a finding which came as a complete surprise to the NRA!

You have to understand something about the gun nuts who work at Waples Mill Road in Fairfax, VA.  Some of them, perhaps a majority of them actually believe that there’s no risk from guns.  Or to put it more exactly, if there is some kind of risk, it’s clearly outweighed by the benefits of owning a gun. Now when I joined the NRA back in 1955, owning a gun usually meant a rifle or shotgun which was used for hunting if you lived out in the country or for some kind of sport shooting if you lived closer to town. My father had one friend who owned a handgun, but it was a slightly-rusted Colt pistol that he brought back from World War II. But this began changing in the 1980s when hunting and sport shooting began to disappear and the gun industry recalibrated its products by launching an all-out campaign to sell handguns as a necessary response to crime.  The research that supported the notion that guns make us safe was so shabby that it would never have been published had it been funded by the CDC.

Over the nearly twenty years since the CDC ban went into effect, private funding sources have continued to support gun research and the evidence continues to mount that guns represent a risk that far outweighs the benefits of ownership, whether the gun industry agrees or not.  But most people who support the efforts of the GVP community really don’t need more evidence to convince them of what they already know.  Because what they know is that when you pick up a loaded gun and pull the trigger, someone in the way of that bullet is going to get badly hurt. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a good guy or a bad guy; gun violence is a national shame that can’t be ignored.  Sign the petition. Sign it now.

Who Won And Who Lost In The Battle Over The Cop-Killer Ammo? Everyone.

A week before the ATF was going to stop receiving public comments about its proposal to ban so-called ‘armor-piercing’ ammo the agency shut down the whole process, announced they were going back to the drawing board and, at some later date not specified, would revisit the whole issue again. The ATF received more than 80,000 emails and if you think some of them came from the International Bible Holiness Movement or another of the frontline anti-gun violence groups, think again.

And if you don’t believe the NRA isn’t celebrating, you’re wrong on that one, too.  They immediately posted victory statements from Wayne and Chris, sent news releases out to ever-welcoming Fox which featured their next President, Rand Paul, speaking out against the ATF, and of course went out of their way to label the ATF decision as a “defeat” of their arch-enemy and all-time best gun salesman, a.k.a. Barack.

atf                Any time the gunnies can push back the U.S. Government on a gun issue, they’ll celebrate their victory as yet another step towards enshrining the 2nd Amendment as the unquestioned law of the land. By the same token, the gun-sense folks will bemoan yet another defeat at the hands of a seemingly all-powerful NRA and try to figure out how to keep this embarrassing loss from happening again.

I happen to think that both sides are barking up the wrong tree.  Whether they know it or not, the ATF’s decision to shelve its new armor-piercing guideline is actually a victory for all of us who want laws to be reasonable, responsible and fashioned to reflect both reality plus a dose of good old common sense.  The Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act which created the whole issue of armor-piercing ammunition in the first place was a careless and thoughtless example of legislative stupidity that should never have been proposed, never passed and never signed into law.  If the ATF’s determination to step back from enforcing this statute turns it into a dead letter, nobody who’s committed to government as a force to secure the common good should be at all upset.

The bill was originally introduced by Congressmen Jack Brooks of Texas and Mario Biaggi of New York.  There were actually two separate pieces of legislation, the Brooks bill being somewhat less restrictive than Biaggi’s measure, but they would ultimately be combined into one law that would eventually get through Congress and go to President Bush’s desk in 1986.  The bill had support from most of the national police associations and while the NRA cautioned against passage, the gun-rights group kept most of its powder dry for another day.

The law was passed by voice vote in both chambers so that none of our elected representatives had to go on record for supporting or opposing the measure, a cute compromise which also made it easy for the NRA to pretend it opposed the law even though some of the organization’s most staunch supporters, such as Brooks, could appear to be pro-gun while actually voting for the bill.  If you think that a non-recorded vote creates a little stench, you’ll really have to hold your nose if you read the testimony about the issue that was given before the House Judiciary Committee in May, 1985.

It turns out that nobody knew how to define ‘armor-piercing’ ammunition and no serious testing was conducted to determine which types of ammunition should be covered by the law. Unable to define the what, why and how of ammunition that might penetrate a vest, the Committee relied on testimony from ex-cops like Mario Biaggi who wanted to outlaw all kinds of ammunition shot from handguns because people didn’t normally use rifles to attack the police.

The serious testing and research that Congress should have demanded was never carried out and now all we have is a law that creates a good stink. The NRA should hardly be claiming a big victory nor should the other side be wallowing in defeat.  We all lost on this one back in 1986.

 

 

Between Bushmaster And Murthy It Wasn’t Such A Great Week.

It hasn’t been such a great week for the gun business.  First and most important, gun sales are really in the tank and don’t show any signs of improving. Ruger stock, which hit an all-time high of $85 a share back in January, closed yesterday at under $35. Smith & Wesson, which was at $17 in June, is now selling for around $9.  Nobody expected these companies to maintain the sales numbers they posted over the last several years when everyone believed that a new gun bill would somehow squeak through in DC.  But nobody also thought that the industry would bottom out so deep and so fast.  I walked into a gun shop on the North Shore this past weekend and walked out with a Colt H-Bar AR-15 for a little over seven hundred bucks.  It was used but mint and six months ago the same gun would have fetched at least a grand.

Talking about black guns, the long-rumoured lawsuit by parents of children shot by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook was filed just before the deadline that would have made such wrongful-death claims null and void.  The suit goes after Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the XL-15 that Lanza evidently used with terrible results the day he walked into the school.  The good news for the plaintiffs is that Bushmaster is owned by a private investment group, Cerberus, which has some really deep pockets.  The bad news is that the suit has to somehow get around the 2005 law which immunized gun makers from most claims of negligence or product liability and stymied other victims of mass shootings, such as the Aurora Theater massacre, from seeking damages from the gun maker even though suits against the theater and the seller of the ammunition used by James Holmes have gone forward.

      Vivek Murthy, M.D.

Vivek Murthy, M.D.

What’s different about the Bushmaster suit, however, is that it takes issue with one of the most cherished missives in the gun industry, namely, the idea that the AR-15 is a perfectly-acceptable weapon for civilians because, as opposed to its military likeness, the M-16, it fires only one shot every time the trigger is pulled, whereas the M-16 is a machine gun that fires a massive amount of ordnance and therefore is unsuited and illegal for civilian use.  The moment the lawsuit was filed, various gun experts began pushing the semi-auto versus the full-auto story to explain why the legal argument wouldn’t work.  The only problem with the alleged difference between the M-16 and the AR-15 is that it’s simply not true.  Most of the M-16 rifles currently carried by U.S. troops in Iraq and elsewhere are semi-auto guns (a small number can also shoot 3-shot bursts) because the military long ago discovered that automatic fire was not only inaccurate and a waste of ammunition, but also would heat up the barrel to unacceptable temperatures leading to battlefield failures of the gun. Bushmaster touts the sale of its rifles to the U.S. military on its website – the gun purchased by Nancy Lanza was one and the same thing.

The other piece of bad news for the industry was the confirmation of Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, an appointment that was contested loudly and continuously by the NRA and its most ardent Senate supporters, in particular Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. These two guys started taking pot-shots at Murthy because they saw it as a quick and easy way to begin building support among the conservative, Republican base as a possible step towards a White House bid in 2016.  The NRA has been trying to push physicians away from any discussion about guns because virtually every medical society has for years confirmed the bizarre idea that maybe, just maybe guns are a threat to health.  Now the fact that more Americans have died from gun violence in the last ten years than died during World War II doesn’t mean that guns are necessarily harmful, does it?  If you want to agree with the NRA on that one, you probably also believe that last week didn’t hurt the gun industry at all.

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For sale on Amazon.

Why Not Let The NRA Protect Us From Ebola?

Last year you may recall that the self-certified ophthalmologist, Rand Paul, derailed the nomination of Vivek Murthy to become Surgeon General because Murthy actually believes that guns are contraindicated to good health.  Now it looks like the nomination may go forward again, and to rev up support for Murthy, the States United campaign and MSNBC put out a statement blaming the NRA for a possible Ebola crisis in the United States, the logic being that any lapses in the CDC’s response to Ebola can be blamed on a lack of leadership, which can be blamed on the Senate’s failure to confirm Murthy, which can be blamed on the NRA.

Not one to ever back down from a good argument, the NRA called the charges against them “outlandish,” and went on to say that “gun control supporters will use any human tragedy to advance their anti-gun and anti-NRA agenda, no matter how ridiculous and desperate it reveals them to be.”  So what Philip Cook and Kristin Goss call The Gun Debate once again becomes the gun argument with both sides appealing to emotions and fears rather than evidence-based information, aka, facts.  The fact is that there’s no connection between an airport security guard who didn’t check a boarding pass and the absence of a Surgeon General in Washington, DC.  There‘s also no connection between Vivek’s views on gun violence and whether Americans need to protect themselves from crime, terrorists or anything else with guns.

      Vivek Murthy, M.D.

Vivek Murthy, M.D.

Speaking about terrorism, yesterday I received an email from a company marketing a product which appears to be a “must have” accessory for my AR-15.  It’s a handy little gadget called a Field Survivor Tool that stores in the rifle handgrip and allows me to adjust my sights, tighten the rails, fix the ejector, clean the bore and gas key, all for only $79.95.  And what’s really important about this little gizmo is that, according to the manufacturer, it’s “the one tool necessary for every AR to keep you safe in COMBAT or in play at the range.”  Combat?  I bought an AR so that I could go into combat?  I was drafted in 1968.  That’s when I would have gone into combat.

On the other hand, maybe there’s a new definition of combat that, like many millennial cultural expressions, has passed me by.  Take a look at the website of the Michigan Militia, some of whose members were interviewed by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine and I quote from their Home page: “We are on yellow alert, which means a situation is probable. This is due to threats from ISIS and a completely unsecure border.  There are reports that some form of attack is imminent on the Southwestern border.  Check your gas tanks and water containers.”  What are they planning to do?  Drive from Michigan to the Rio Grande to protect the homeland?

But you don’t need to cross the United States to get into combat.  It’s a situation that could flare up at any point during the day.  Here’s some advice from Ted Nugent, who avoided military service but knows a good combat situation when  he sees one: “Those who carry guns had better gun & ammo up no matter where you go, carrying at least 10 spare mags or 10 spare speedloaders because the allahpukes are confident they will once again methodically slaughter walking cowering whining cryin helpless sitting ducks capable of zero resistance.”  Gun and ammo up and don’t forget the handy Field Survivor Tool for just $79.95.

Want a brilliant satire on current gun culture?  Take a look at this video produced by a kid from Texas named Ike Stephens.  He’s a gun guy for sure, but he knows a good marketing pitch when he sees one.  And with all due respect to advocates for gun control like States United, what they seem to miss is there are lots of grownups out there who really wish they were still kids but can pretend to be soldier-boy using real guns.  How do you connect concerns about gun violence to those kinds of folks?  Because if Ebola did start ravaging the United States, I guarantee it would re-start the demand for AR-15s.

 

When Is An Epidemic Not An Epidemic? When It’s Caused By Guns

It was back in 1996 that Congressman Jay Dickey (R-AR) inserted language into the 1997 budget that prohibited gun research funded by the CDC.  And from that time forward, physicians and public health researchers have been a favorite target of the NRA.  The most public example of this attempt to demonize the notion that guns constitute a health risk is, of course, the Florida law (“Docs versus Glocks”) which potentially criminalizes physicians who ask patients about guns. Yet another instance in which gun “rights” were used to distort the role and value of physicians was the successful attempt by Rand Paul, the self-certified opthalmologist from Kentucky, to block or at least temporarily derail the appointment of Vivek Murthy to be head of the CDC.

Rand’s opposition to Murthy’s nomination was nothing except an attempt to pander to a receptive audience, i.e., hard-core NRA members and other right-wing folks, whose support he will surely need if and when he announces a bid for the White House in 2016.  I actually have no issue with Paul or any other political candidate saying whatever has to be said to get his ducks lined up in the water in order to try and latch onto the gold ring. But when Rand politicizes the importance and value of public health as regards guns or anything else, he’s stepped across a line that ordinarily demarcates stupidity from common sense.

            Ebola virus

Ebola virus

Last week the first case of someone infected with Ebola was confirmed. It turned out to be a man who came into contact with an Ebola patient in his native country of Liberia shortly before coming to the United States.  And while he evidently told hospital staff in Texas that he had recently been in an infected zone, the hospital in Dallas mistakenly released him back into the general population and God knows how many individuals may have come into contact with this poor guy before he was properly diagnosed.

The challenge now facing Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is to identify every person with whom this patient may have had contact, get them isolated and tested and hope that the disease hasn’t spread.  But I’ll tell you this: If there’s even the slightest hint that the Ebola virus might appear in Dallas or elsewhere, guess which agency the entire American population will expect to step in?  It won’t be the NRA, that’s for sure.  Despite the fact that the penultimate guardians of the 2nd Amendment, along with Rand Paul, claim to know what doctors should and shouldn’t do, the burden of dealing with Ebola will fall right where it should – on public health researchers and the CDC.

I’m not saying that gun violence is as much a threat to public health as Ebola.  In roughly a month, the WHO estimates that the “epidemic” has killed more than 3,000 people  in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  Representatives from more than twenty countries are now meeting in London to figure out how to get more medical aid and resources to contain the deadly spread.  In Sierra Leone there are five new cases reported every hour of every day.

Hey, wait a minute.  The Ebola mortality rate is estimated at 50%, which means that 30 people will die each day from the virus in Sierra Leone, which is about one-third of all the cases that are being reported throughout West Africa at this time.  Do the arithmetic, as Bill Clinton said, and this adds up to 30,000+ Ebola victims in West Africa over a full year.  Isn’t that roughly the same number of people who die from gun violence each year in the United States?

But let’s not forget that the CDC isn’t allowed to figure out what to do about gun violence and if it were up to the NRA, every state would follow Florida’s lead in gagging doctors who want to talk to their patients about guns.  If 30,000 Ebola deaths in Africa constitutes an epidemic, what do you call 30,000 gun deaths which have occurred every year in America for the past twenty years?

 

A Different Perspective On Docs Versus Glocks

I’m going to paraphrase President Obama’s quip about Cliven Bundy at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: If someone starts off by saying that doctors shouldn’t invade the privacy of patients by asking about guns, you don’t really need to know the rest of it. But an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal caught my attention because the writer came up with a rather ingenious reason why gun ownership should not be considered a risk when compared to other, much more serious health risks that physicians don’t treat at all.  And what is the risk that physicians overlook in their obsession to take away all our guns?  Flat feet.

The author of this remarkable missive, a Pensacola resident named David Dodson, was reacting to the newspaper’s editorial which called on physicians, particularly pediatricians, to willfully ignore the law and continue to ask their patients about guns.  What drove Dodson to respond to the newspaper’s opinion was not just the invasion of privacy that occurred every time a physician asked a patient about guns, but his discovery that other, much more important medical issues were being ignored during examinations, in fact, were no longer part of the medical school curriculum.

The result of this negligence, according to Dodson, is s veritable “epidemic” (his word) that physicians have needlessly “thrust” on children by not treating their bad feet which then leads to “bad knees, bad hips, bad backs and lame adults.”  And how did it come about that such an important part of the human anatomy is completely ignored in consultations between physicians and children?  Because “the care of children’s feet is not taught in medical schools anymore.”

docs versus glocks                Dodson’s information on medical school curriculum was told to him by a “member of a national board of pediatrics” which, unfortunately, he neglects to identify or name.  This is too bad because if there is such an organization, it’s probably an offshoot of the medical board that allowed Rand Paul to certify himself as an ophthalmologist.  Maybe Dodson’s a podiatrist, maybe he’s just a nincompoop, and maybe he’s just one of these retired guys who strolls over to the local park every morning to engage the other, self-professed retired experts in whatever important news issues were discussed that morning on Fox.  Whatever he is, physicians and other medical professionals should be heartened by the fact that his op-ed piece was printed by the Pensacola News Journal as a response to its editorial about doctors and guns.

The way it works in the news media is that if an editorial board publishes an editorial on any given subject, they usually feel obliged, in keeping with the notions of balance and fairness, to publish something which gives the opposite argument to what the editorial actually said.  But since the readers don’t see every response to an editorial, we have to assume that the editors can pick and choose based on what they hope their readers will learn from being exposed to both points of view. And I have to imagine that in their decision to publish Dodson’s response, the editors of the Pensacola News Journal wanted their readers to understand exactly why the law criminalizing physician’s seeking information about guns was proof, as they said, that the Florida legislature was “sick in the head.”

Defending the Florida law as an “assault” on the 2nd Amendment, like Obama said about Bundy, just doesn’t go very far.  And anyone who talks about the issue on that basis will wind up talking only to people who don’t have a clue.  But here’s a guy who doesn’t want physicians to ask about guns because he knows that medical school anatomy cuts the human body off somewhere below the knees.  And if we don’t believe him, we can always trust his unidentified source. Now if this is the best that the gun community can produce to keep physicians from asking about guns, on this issue the physicians clearly have the upper hand. The Florid legislature may be sick in the head, but I doubt if the illness will spread all that far.

 

 

Who’s To Say Whether I Should Carry A Gun?

The NRA decided years ago that there’s no seat at the table for physicians when the committee hearing or the funding agency gets together to talk about guns.  They don’t even want physicians talking to their own patients about guns and they certainly don’t want the Surgeon General  ever to say anything about guns. But while such aggrieved nonsense may play well with the NRA faithful, particularly repeated by a putative Presidential candidate, those who live in the real world know that we all need a physician when it comes time to make critical decisions about our health.

One of the critical health decisions for which people might need medical counsel is whether or not to carry a gun. Now I know that the pistoleros who spend every vacation sharpening their skills at shoot-em-up amusement parks like Gunsite or Thunder Ranch don’t need help deciding whether their eye-hand coordination will let them emerge victorious from the fray, but there must be plenty of people among the eight million Americans now holding CCW privileges who don’t have the physical or mental dexterity that handling a lethal weapon requires.

paul                Even though a majority of now states issue CCW on a “shall” (required) rather than a “may” (discretionary) basis, there are hardly any states that do not grant the official issuing CCW the authority to deny a permit if the applicant, regardless of legal background, might use a weapon to endanger himself or someone else.  The NRA would probably say that one of their local members should be consulted in cases like this, but you and I know that the licensing authorities will turn to a physician because a doctor is the only professional they can really trust.

But this brings up a little problem.  Because it turns out that many physicians don’t trust themselves to make competency decisions about whether people should own or carry guns.  The American College of Physicians conducted a poll which revealed that two-thirds of its members didn’t counsel their patients on firearms because they didn’t know enough about how to treat patients at risk for misusing their guns.  A similar poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2013 said the same thing.

We now have a new poll that asked physicians in North Carolina whether they felt comfortable responding to requests from county sheriffs who needed to verify the physical or mental competency of someone wanting to carry a gun. This poll, of whom one-third of the respondents indicated they owned guns, found that 60% of the physicians did not feel they could “adequately assess” whether their patient was physically capable of carrying and using a concealed gun, and nearly 50% felt they could not determine CCW competency on mental grounds.  As for those who think that the medical profession has been cowed into submission by the lunacies of a self-certified Kentucky opthamologist and a small, pro-gun fringe, a majority of the respondents did not believe that the doctor-patient relationship would suffer if they didn’t certify the patient as being fit to carry a gun.

The real knowledge deficit created by defunding CDC gun research is not whether guns are a medical risk.  The bigger issue is the fact that, when confronted with a patient possibly at risk to commit (or be the victim of) gun violence, many physicians don’t know what to say or do. Now that the American Medical Association has just endorsed the idea of medically-accredited gun violence education, perhaps the gap will begin to close.  And if anyone out there thinks their physician is now their enemy because he wants to talk about guns, perhaps you should make an appointment for your next checkup with Doctor Rand Paul.

Hey Rand – Time To Stop Scamming Gun Owners

Last week NRA members, myself included, received a letter from Senator Rand Paul, asking us to donate to The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), an organization which, according to its website, is the fastest-growing gun rights organization in the United States. Senator Paul’s letter, which is the second I have received soliciting funds for the lobbying efforts of the NAGR, led off with a quote from President Obama stating that he would use “whatever power this office holds” to ban guns. The fundraising appeal then goes on to list the usual scare-mongering attacks on Biden, Feinstein and the rest of the liberal, anti-gun crowd.

There’s only one little problem. The President never said what Rand Paul claims he said. He didn’t even come close. What he said, right after Sandy Hook, was that he would use the powers of his office to “engage my fellow citizens in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.” Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to paint Barack Obama as a friend of the gun lobby. He’s not. But it seems to me that a United States senator, particularly one who is evidently running to succeed Obama in the White House, needs to be a little more careful with the words he uses.

paulOn the other hand, Rand Paul’s fundraising appeal struck me as a bit more strange than just the fact that he misquoted the president because the letter had Paul’s return address as being in Virginia, and I thought he was from Kentucky. But it turns out that the letter wasn’t sent from Paul at all; it was actually produced by a political PR firm called Saber Communications, whose address is the same town in Virginia which is the headquarters of the NAGR.

So here we have a very interesting three-way connection between a putative presidential candidate, a PR firm that does work for the candidate and a so-called advocacy group that claims to represent the interests of gun owners nationwide. What exactly is this advocacy group known as NAGR? Turns out it was founded in 2001 by a conservative political operative in Colorado named Dudley Brown, who used to claim that he graduated from Colorado State University when, in fact, henever graduated from Colorado State or anywhere else. Brown operated primarily at the state level until he was able to piggy-back onto Glenn Beck, the Tea Party and any other right-wing group to which he could attach his organization’s name.

In addition to tirelessly sending out fundraising appeals, the NAGR also has an affiliated PAC which ostensibly lobbies in Washington on issues involving gun rights. In a press release of October, 2013, Brown claimed that his group spent more than $1 million and “led the effort against gun control” on Capitol Hill. But I’m not sure if the money spent by NAGR went into political campaigns, or lobbying efforts, or is being spent primarily on phony and misleading fundraising appeals like the one I recently received. I took a look at NAGR’s tax return for 2010, and of the $1.6 million in revenue for that year, direct lobbying was $118,000 but nearly $1 million went for internet marketing and direct mail. And I’ll bet that most of that dough was paid to Saber Communications whose owner, Michael Rothfield, sits on the NAGR Board.

The attempt to generate income for a for-profit PR operation by chasing gun owners for donations hasn’t escaped the attention of gun folks, many of whom consider NAGR to be nothing more than a fundraising scam. Gun owners tend to be careful with their money, so comments made about NAGR on such gun blogs as AR-15.com,Smith & Wesson Forum and Gun Broker Forum. Com should alert Senator Paul to the fact that a population he considers to be solidly in his corner won’t be there much longer if he doesn’t polish up his act and stop allowing the NAGR to use his name just to enlarge the revenues of a privately-held PR firm.

He’s At It Again: Rand Paul Protects Gun Owners From Nothing

In February I wrote a post about Rand Paul’s effort to block the nomination of Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General because of Murthy’s comments about guns.  Paul’s early efforts to inject himself into the 2016 Presidential race is being run on a shoestring, all the more reason why he needs to pander to groups like the NRA. But now Paul has taken several more steps to the Right and is sending out fundraising appeals for a lobbying organization – The National Association of Gun Rights – which calls itself the “conservative alternative” to the NRA.

paulThis time around Paul is taking aim at an old enemy, the United Nations Small Arms Treaty and its outgrowth, a UN-sponsored project known as the International Small Arms Control Standards, a.k.a. ISACS.   The task of the ISACS is to create the actual methods and mechanisms to be used by treaty signatories on a voluntary basis to monitor and control illicit manufacture and shipments of small arms.  Despite the howling and yowling about the treaty by pro-gun groups, including the NRA, virtually all of the standards being developed to identify and track illicit movements of small arms are already in place for anyone who wants to bring guns into, or ship guns out of, the United States.

But even if the U.N. Small Arms Treaty never gets passed by a two-thirds Senate vote, the U.N. (and of course Obama) are already “plotting” the next step, namely the imposition of the following “radical anti-gun initiatives” on every nation that signs the treaty including: (1). National “screening’ for everyone who wants to own a gun; (2). licenses required for all sales of guns and ammunition; (3). restrictions on the number and amount of guns and ammunition that anyone could own; (4). bans on magazines with capacities of more than ten rounds; (5). bans on concealed-carry licenses for self defense.

According to Senator Paul, this treaty and the Control Standards being implemented behind it amount to a complete loss of national sovereignty and an end to gun ownership in the United States.  Incidentally, the Senator not only knows what the treaty and the standards document contain, he also knows that the United Nations is “plotting” to put it all into effect. The only person I know who sees more plots going on around him than Rand Paul is Glenn Beck.  In the case of the U.N. Small Arms Treaty and ISACS, however,  it’s simply not true.

There is not a single word in either the treaty or the standards that have been drafted to date that mandates or even talks about anything having to do with legal, private ownership of small arms. The whole point of the U.N.’s small arms effort is to help countries, particularly in underdeveloped areas, control the shipment of small arms because so much of the anti-government violence and instability in these countries is fueled by underground or black-market supplies of ammunition and guns.  Many third-world governments (e.g., Somalia) simply do not have the resources to either monitor their own borders or maintain stability because it’s so easy to transport and distribute small arms.  Recall that our troops paid a heavy price because even we couldn’t control shipments of illicit small arms into Afghanistan and Iraq.

I have no objection to Rand Paul seeking aid and comfort from political allies like the NRA or the NAGR.  I donate money to the candidates of my choice, so why should I be upset when a politician whom I don’t particularly respect hits up people who might be aligned with his point of view?  But going after the gun vote is one thing, inventing reasons for my support out of whole cloth is something else.  There is not a grain of truth to what Rand Paul is saying about the U.N. Small Arms Treaty, and he’s insulting me and every other NRA member by sending out a fundraising appeal loaded with statements that are just wide of the mark.