The Sandy Hook Case Moves Forward.

              On December 14, 2012 a 20-year old first murdered his mother, then shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School, quickly killing 20 young kids and 6 adults before taking his own life.  He left behind a community so devastated that the school building had to be torn down.

              Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court, that’s the court with all those pro-gun judges, declined to hear an appeal of a decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court to allow a lawsuit against the gun maker to go forward. After seven years, it appears that the parents of some of those victims will finally get their day in court.

              The gun industry will also get its day in court. And when this day dawns, the gun industry will, for the very first time, have to prove that at least one of its products isn’t too dangerous to be manufactured and sold.

              Way back in the good old days, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the gun industry made most of its products for hunting and sport. Companies like Winchester, Ithaca, Remington and Harrington & Richardson made millions of rifles and shotguns that could be found in just about every rural home. When those homes all disappeared, ditto the guns.

The gun industry, not wanting to go the way of the companies that made mixmasters or typewriters, moved quickly into new product lines based on the idea that guns make us safe and secure. The studies which claimed that guns protected their owners from crime had more holes than a slice of Dorman’s swiss cheese, but since when do we decide what to buy based on facts?

The bottom line is that the guns which started to sell more frequently beginning in the 1990’s weren’t designed for hunting or sport. They were designed to do one thing and one thing only – to kill or injure men, women and children, regardless of how or why those killings and injuries occurred.

The gun industry knew full well that pretending that a military rifle like an AR-15 was just another ‘sporting gun’ had no basis in truth. But so what? Nobody was going to sue gun manufacturers just because they came up with a clever slogan as a way to sell more guns.

At the same time the gun industry was avoiding the issue of product lethality, our friends in Gun-control Nation were doing exactly the same thing. Instead of holding gun makers accountable for the dangerousness of their products, they began promoting the idea that we can reduce gun violence by keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ But what happens when it turns out that most of the mass shooters commit their rampages with an perfectly legal guns?

The two sides in the gun debate avoid the issue of lethality because each side feels it incumbent upon themselves to pretend reverence for the cherished 2nd Amendment.  The pro-gun side never misses an opportunity to ballyhoo (and usually mis-state) the Heller decision, even though prior to 2008 Americans were armed to the teeth without the benefit of any Constitutional protection at all. The anti-gun gang has no choice but to pretend an equally-strong belief in the 2nd-Amendment. After all, who among us would ever dare question the validity of Constitutional ‘rights,’ even if one of those ‘rights’ allows me to yank out my Glock and pop a cap on your head?

The Sandy Hook case cuts through all that nonsense and puts the issue of lethality right where it belongs; namely, whether the manufacturers of this particular commodity can pretend that this item is no more dangerous than any other product bought at the corner store.

The courts have long held that government has a ‘compelling interest’ to protect the community from harm. If someone knows anything more harmful than some jacked-up kid wandering around with an assault rifle and a bunch of 30-shot mags, I’d like to know what it is.  

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What’s The Best Way To Regulate Guns?

              Coming up shortly is a debate in the U.S. Senate about a bill which passed through the House extending background checks to all transfers of guns. At the same this issue wends its way through Congress, another approach to reducing gun violence is going through the courts in the form of the lawsuit against Remington brought by some of the parents of victims killed at Sandy Hook.

              These two initiatives represent different methods for making us safe (or at least safer) from a type of behavior which kills and injures more than 125,000 people every year.  This behavior which is referred to as gun violence because it occurs whenever someone picks up a gun, aims it at themselves or someone else and goes – bang!

              I happen to believe that the latter approach is a much more effective method for dealing with this problem. My proof for that statement lies in the fact that the gun-control method embodied in the DeSoto v. Remington case aligns itself with the way in which other countries deal with gun violence, which is the reason why other countries have gun-violence rates far below our own.

              We are the only advanced society which has decided that the most effective way to regulate a consumer product known as a gun is to regulate the behavior of the consumer who owns the gun. Therefore, in order to be a legal gun owner in the United States, you have to prove that you do not fall into a particular behavioral category which prohibits owning or buying guns. These categories are all listed on the 4473 background check form which is filled out when someone buys a gun, but they apply equally as well to owning a gun, no matter how that ownership status came about. The background check bill currently before the Senate basically extends the certification of ‘good’ behavior to any way in which someone gets their hands on a gun. But like the current system, it is still regulating how people behave with a particular consumer product, not how the product is designed or sold.

              The majority opinion in DeSoto v. Remington correctly understood that what is at issue in this case is not the behavior of the shooter per se, but the conscious effort by the manufacturer to advertise the product in a way that would attract consumers who wanted to use this gun to inflict injuries to other human beings. To quote from the decision: “The AR-15 and M16 are highly lethal weapons that are engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency.” Which is hardly how guns designed to be used for ‘sport’ can best be described.

              On the other hand, as long as a gun doesn’t fire in automatic mode, it can be bought and sold by anyone who doesn’t have a behavioral history indicating that the person  buying or owning the gun is at risk for using the weapon in a violent way. Adam Lanza, who shot and killed himself and 27 other kids and adults in Newtown, used his mother’s rifle but if he had waited a few months until he was 21, he could have walked into any gun shop in Connecticut and purchased the same gun himself.

              I’m not saying that extending background checks to secondary sales won’t have an impact on whether or not guns end up in the wrong hands. But as long as we continue to regulate this consumer product by believing that purchase and ownership of products as dangerous as an AR-15 require only meeting minimal standards for lawful behavior, the number of such guns floating around in private hands will continue to increase. And as the number of such guns goes up, the number used to commit violent acts will also go up.

              If a consumer product is dangerous because of the way it’s designed, either you change the design or the product can’t be sold. How do you make an AR-15 safer so that it can’t be used to mow down a classroom filled with kids? You can’t.

According To The NRA, Sandy Hook Was Just A Frivolous Event.

              It took our NRA friends at Fairfax less than 24 hours to respond to the opinion published by the Connecticut Supreme Court after the Court deliberated Soto v. Bushmaster for more than 15 months. And what the boys from Fairfax said is what is always said by the alt-right when a legal decision goes the other way, namely, that it was the product of an ‘activist’ court; ‘activist’ being a code-word for any judicial opinion they don’t like.

              The reason Gun-nut Nation doesn’t like the decision is because it may start a trend around the country where busybody tree-huggers and other liberal types who hate guns will dig up some consumer-protection statute in their state which can be used to take away from the gun industry its beloved federal protection from torts, a.k.a. the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a.k.a. PLCAA.  This law exempts the gun industry from the kind of lawsuits that have been plaguing the tobacco industry for years, namely, taking responsibility for damages from their product even when the product is sold in a lawful way.

              When PLCAA was passed in 2005, the law contained certain exemptions for state laws that gave consumers a basis for legal redress if the product’s use created an injury or a financial loss. Connecticut has such a law, known as the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practice Act (CUTPA), and it was this law which was used by the Sandy Hook plaintiffs to ague their case. It was also this law that the CT Supreme Court majority held to be applicable while a minority of the justices said it was not. I’ll deal with each in turn but first I have to mention a detail of the case that may prove difficult for some to read.

              On the morning of December 12, 2012 a 20-year old named Adam Lanza woke up, took a bolt-action, single shot rifle and shot his sleeping mother in the head. He then took an AR-15 rifle with multiple, hi-capacity magazines, drove to the Sandy Hook Elementary School and within five minutes killed 26 adults and children, then pulled out a pistol and took his own life.

              Adam Lanza didn’t own the AR-15. His mother had purchased the gun a year earlier, and at no time did she state that she had purchased the gun for him. This is the reason that the case could not go forward under the doctrine of negligent entrustment, because the plaintiffs would have been required to prove that the actual purchaser of the product had used it in an unsafe manner, which was obviously not the case.

At the same time, the CT Supreme Court majority held that the case could proceed under CUTPA, because that law “authorizes any person who has suffered an ascertainable financial loss caused by an unfair trade practice to bring an action,” no matter who committed the unfair act. The majority further found that the PLCAA law exempted CUTPA because even though PLCAA exempted only laws which specifically referred to firearm commerce, the CUTPA statute prohibited unfair or deceptive advertising in any kind of commerce, which would supersede the specific limitation found in PLCAA.

              What was the minority opinion which the NRA grasped like a veritable last straw? It was the idea that since PLCCA only covered state laws which contained specific reference to guns, that the CUTPA law couldn’t be used  by the plaintiffs in this case. And if there is any doubt about where the NRA stands on this issue, they applauded the minority dissent because it would protect the gun industry from – ready? – frivolous litigation, obviously a category which includes the Sandy Hook case.

              How many people have to get killed by someone wielding an AR-15 before such an act would’nt be considered frivolous?  Only 17 people were killed at Parkland, so I guess that one was even more frivolous an event than what happened at Sandy Hook. Maybe we should set the bar at 50 dead bodies, maybe 100, maybe more.

What Happened At Sandy Hook.

It took the Connecticut Supreme Court more than fifteen months to issue a ruling in the Sandy Hook case, but when the opinion was announced, it was a doozy. Not only did the Court reverse the Superior Court’s ruling and hold for the plaintiffs against the gun maker whose product was used to kill 26 adult and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the decision got right to the fundamental issue which the gun industry has been trying to wish out of existence for at least the last twenty years.

When gun makers realized that hunting was going the way of the dial telephone, they came up with a brilliant marketing plan to keep the factories humming, namely, the idea of guns as being essential for self-defense. Now the fact that most Americans never find themselves in a situation where they need protection from a criminal threat isn’t at issue here. What is at issue is that enough consumers believed this malarky to keep the gun industry from sliding into the red.

With the advent of terrorism, non-ending battle engagements in the Near East and a generalize fear that something like 9-11 might happen again, however, the whole notion of armed, self-defense was transmogrified into messaging which blurred the traditional boundary between civilian and military weapons, with the gun industry finding its strongest new market in something called ‘tactical’ guns.

Of course the gun industry also knew, particularly after the Heller decision in 2008, that they couldn’t push this move into military-style armaments too far, because Scalia specifically refused to grant 2nd-Amendment protection to what he referred to as ‘weapons of war.’ So the industry invented the idea that guns like the AR-15 weren’t military weapons; they were ‘modern sporting weapons,’ meaning that the word ‘sporting’ could be applied to any gun which fired in semi-automatic mode.

The CT Supreme Court decision is quite lengthy, primarily because it deals not only with the state laws covering consumer protection (CUTPA and negligent entrustment) but it also explains in detail why the gun industry in this instance cannot use the federal tort immunity law – PLCAA – to shield itself from legitimate damage claims. And on Page 12 of the opinion, the rubber meets the road with the following accurate and very strong text: “The AR-15 and M16 are highly lethal weapons that are engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency. Several features make these rifles especially well suited for combat and enable a shooter to inflict unparalleled carnage. Rapid semiautomatic fire ‘unleashes a torrent of bullets in a matter of seconds.’ The ability to accommodate large capacity magazines allows for prolonged assaults.”

Folks – the CT Supreme Court got it right. The AR-15 wasn’t designed to be a ‘sporting’ gun, unless you want to define ‘sport’ as the ability to kill 26 human beings in 4 minutes or less. And if a shooter can deliver that amount of lethal firepower in such a short period of time, it makes the idea of differentiating between full-auto and semi-automatic modes a stupid and sick joke.

What happened at Sandy Hook is that someone used a product that is too dangerous and too lethal for civilian sale. Because the product was used precisely in the way it was designed to be used – to kill as many human beings as possible in the briefest period of time. In all of this my great regret is that in order to force the gun industry to acknowledge the lethality of this product, beautiful and precious lives had to be lost.

Want A Good Conspiracy Theory About Mueller? Try Sandy Hook.

Today our friend Charles Blow has a column comparing Trump’s reaction to Mueller to how Nixon and Clinton responded to Watergate and Lewinskygate in previous years. The difference, however, is that Mueller’s investigation has yet to uncover a specific connection between the Russians and Trump. And until or unless such a connection is found, is Trump all that wrong when he says that Mueller’s work is just a big ‘witch hunt?’

jones2   On the other hand, it takes one to know one, and if there’s one person out there who knows how to fabricate a conspiracy based on unproven assertions, it’s the guy sitting in the Oval Office whose public persona was nourished on conspiracy theories, beginning with the ‘birther’ conspiracy, which Trump continued to peddle even after Obama released a bone-fide birth certificate proving his live birth in the United States.

Trump’s infatuation with conspiracy theories took a big jump forward when he appeared on InfoWars and told Alex Jones that he wouldn’t let Jones down. This was several years after Jones first began promoting the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was a government-organized hoax, a continuing signature story that eventually got him sued for defamation by parents of some of the children who were shot and killed.

What gave a bit of credibility to the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists was, unfortunately, the fact that the national media who invaded Newtown right after the massacre began releasing information that again and again turned out to be wrong. The first mistake was made by CNN, which identified the shooter not as Adam Lanza but as his older brother whose driver’s license was found in the car that Adam drove to the school. The ‘honor roll’ of news organizations that had to go back and change something they initially said, included CNN, CBS, AP, The New York Times and NPR. Once these seasoned reporters admitted that they were wrong, their admissions of wrongdoing made it easy for the conspiracy gang to claim the whole thing was a mis-managed, government affair.

I can’t think of a more delicious irony than the idea that the Mueller investigation is just another conspiracy theory, this time peddled not by the Right but by the Left. Because the truth is that the liberal mainstream still can’t believe that someone as seasoned, as professional, as experienced, as deserving as Hillary Rodham Clinton, could have lost this election to a know-nothing, rabble-rousing racist and moronic loudmouth like Donald Trump.

Now the fact that she spent twice as much money on her campaign as he did on his, the fact that she couldn’t be bothered to make a campaign stop in Michigan where she lost the whole state  by less than 16,000 votes; somehow these kinds of facts seem to have vanished from the post-election narrative being peddled by Hillary’s friends. And please, please do me a favor and shut up about the so-called need to change the Electoral College, okay?  I didn’t notice anyone complaining when Bill Clinton won the 1992 election with a whopping 43% of the popular vote, thanks to the presence of Ross ‘I’ll talk to my people and you talk to your people’ Perot.

The big difference between the Mueller conspiracy theory and the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory is that the latter was based on the idea that the government created something out of nothing in order to push through some kind of ban on privately-owned guns. The funny thing about Obama’s attempt to pass a gun-control bill, which went nowhere the following year, is that it was backed by a guy named Trump, who five days after the massacre, tweeted his support for Obama’s stand.

If Trump really wants to pull the rug out from underneath Mueller, what he needs to do is figure out some kind of connection between Mueller’s investigation and the continuing efforts of David Hogg and the Parkland kids to generate support for a national, gun-control bill. Run that story on InfoWars and Brietbart and it will take on a life of its own.

 

The Lawsuit Against Alex Jones Injects Reality Into The Gun Debate.

Every time a gun-control law is upheld, our friends in the gun-control movement (I think the idea of trying to convince Gun-nut Nation that we don’t want to ‘control’ guns is absurd) exult and rightly so. But the lawsuits filed against Alex Jones by a group of Sandy Hook parents has more significance than any particular legal statute could ever have. What the Sandies are saying is that they have suffered threats, harassment, public humiliation and invasions of their privacy because Jones keeps blaming them for what happened at the elementary school. Which is what conspiracy theory is all about: identify a vulnerable victim and then pile on.

jones   Ultimately, the argument over gun violence is going to get down to how the average person thinks about guns, and the influence of someone like Jones over the public gun debate has been an important factor in the way the argument has gone along until now. The problem in this case isn’t the issue of determining what happened at Newtown, it’s the way that folks who are shocked and dismayed by these kinds of events react by getting involved in activities which might prevent such horrendous massacres from happening again.

I guarantee you that if the Sandy Hook parents had just suffered their silent grief and decided, individually and collectively to stay out of public view, that the conspiracy theories which ramped up immediately after December 14, 2012 would have quickly gone away. But the Sandies formed an organization devoted to promoting alternatives to violence in schools; they journeyed as a group to D.C. to help Obama with his attempt to get a new gun law;  they continue to advocate for restrictions on guns; and worst of all, the sued the gunmaker who manufactured the AR-15 which was used to kill 20 little kids and 6 adults in a five-minute rampage inside the school. Oh, that AR-15 isn’t too lethal for civilian sale.  It’s just a sporting rifle, right?  Yea, right.

The reason that Jones continues driving down the conspiracy path with Newtown, he’s claimed the same thing about the Aurora massacre, by the way, is because much of his audience happens to come out of the gun-owning fringe who feel that even the NRA is too tame to represent their beliefs. Think I’m kidding?  Take a look at his interview of Ted Nugent, whose high-intensity slurs and insults against the liberal ‘menace’ often put Jones to shame.

Jones says that he first got turned onto his political world view because his father was a member of the John Birch Society – remember them?  The Birchers were the first group that created an entire political belief-system around conspiracy theories, in particular the notion that there was a worldwide conspiracy of Communists, liberals, and other enemies of freedom which unless we were all endlessly vigilant, would rear its ugly head. They group has become somewhat more respectable over the last few years, their website is simply another imitation of Breitbart which, thanks to DD Trump has determined that ‘illegal aliens’ are now the big threat.

What makes the legal actions against Jones so compelling is that it forces people to confront the fact that gun violence, which kills and injures an average of 340 people every day, is something that actually takes place.  Let’s say, for example, that a particular locality suffers from a high degree of gun violence and decides to enact a new gun-control law.  What’s to stop someone like Alex Jones from saying that the 24 gun murders which occurred in a certain city so far this year weren’t just staged?

When the NRA says that it’s not the gun that kills people, it’s people who kill people, they are promoting a false narrative which is no different than Alex Jones claiming that Sandy Hook never took place. It’s high time that such cynically-proffered delusions get challenged not just in the law courts, but in the court of public opinion as well.

 

Conspiracy Theorists Aren’t The Only Ones Who Got It Wrong At Sandy Hook.

I’m not sure that the defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones by Sandy Hook parents Pozner and Heslin is a good thing or a bad thing. Obviously, anything that would take a little wind out of Jones’ sails is a good thing; the bad thing is that Jones will promote himself as an innocent ‘victim’ and use the suit to inflame and widen his audience a little more.

jones             You should know that Jones is hardly the only conspiracy theorist to trot out the idea that the massacre at Sandy Hook never took place.  Another conspiracy theorist, James Tracy, lost a tenured position at Florida Atlantic University because he not only promoted the idea that the whole episode was a hoax, but was accused by one of the Sandy Hook families of harassing them in an attempt to dig up more details. A conspiracy video called ‘The Sandy Hook Truther – Fully Exposed,’ racked up over 5 million views within the first week after it aired on YouTube in 2013.

The problem with the conspiracy gang is that the main target of all their conspiracies, a U.S. President who was born in Kenya, is no longer around. So, it’s not clear the degree to which this kind of nonsense will maintain its audience share when the last thing that someone like Alex Jones will do is to accuse D.D.D. Trump of using the government to promote his nefarious ends. After all, it’s pretty tough to attack the guy whose entire political agenda is based on cleaning out the ‘deep state.’

But getting back to the issue of Sandy Hook, unfortunately, self-promoters like Alex Jones were aided in their efforts to push the conspiracy line by the mainstream media, whose representatives descended on Newtown like locusts in a wheat field and very quickly began screwing their news reports up, down, sideways and everywhere else.  Early that afternoon news reports began identifying the shooter by name, except the person who allegedly shot everyone wasn’t Adam Lanza, rather, it was his older brother Ryan who was on his way home from his job in lower Manhattan when he learned that he was being accused of killing a whole bunch of school kids.

How did the media blow this one so bad?  Because directly after the shooting scene was secured, the cops searched Adam Lanza’s car and found Ryan’s driver’s license which was in the car for reasons that were never made clear. During the search, a reporter grabbed one of the cops, asked him what they had found, and the cop said, “Oh, we know who it is because he left his driver’s license in the car.”  And once this news got out, every network and every media venue reported it all over the place.

Six days after the massacre, NPR ran a detailed account of the mistakes made by media in the initial reportage about Sandy Hook, and named themselves, The New York Times, CBS and the Associated Press among others who got it wrong before they got it right. The lack of early media diligence was explained by the hyper-competitive situation which now characterizes all media news, but the bottom line is that the moment that a mainstream media venue had to retract or change a story, this gave the conspiracy theorists all the ammunition (pardon the pun) they would need.

I would hope that our friends in the responsible media would learn from this episode, particularly because Sandy Hook parents like Leonard Pozner and others continue to suffer from this outrageous fusillade of lies while still trying to overcome their grief. But I am still waiting for the Las Vegas Police Department to explain how photographs from within Stephen Paddock’s hotel room appeared on the internet before the cops even confirmed the shooter’s name.

It’s easy to blame Alex Jones for pushing a false story about Sandy Hook. But are we so sure that we can trust our friends in the mainstream media to tell us what really happens when someone starts banging away with a gun?

How Come Gun Sales Haven’t Shown A Parkland ‘Spike?’

Whenever a mass shooting occurred under the Obama ‘regime,’ the President would deliver a teary speech, the usual suspects in Congress and the gun violence prevention (GVP) community would call for a new gun-control law and gun sales would go through the roof.  This was the scenario after Aurora, after the shooting of Gabby, after Sandy Hook.

march              Parkland has been different because the gun-control organizations won’t be getting their marching orders from the liberal political establishment and Draft Dodging Trump; this time the whole shebang is being led by a bunch of kids. And if you don’t think that Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg haven’t pushed the whole issue of gun control into a totally different context, just ask Laura Ingraham how she’s doing getting new sponsors for her television show.

What has also changed since Parkland is the degree to which the gun industry can no longer live off of panic buying generated by fears that guns will no longer be around. The FBI has just released its NICS numbers for March, an event which used to be greeted by Gun-nut Nation with paroxysms of joy, but the numbers for last month landed with a dull thud.

Here are the relevant numbers:  Handgun checks in March 2018 were 781,452; the number for March 2017 was 751,866, which is basically the same. Overall month-to-month NICS checks did increase from 1,274,419 in 2017 to 1,417,463 this year, a gain of 11%, but checks in February 2013, when Obama was ramping up his post-Newtown gun bill were more than 1.5 million, a number that won’t happen again.

One interesting caveat is that the number of NICS checks for the category known as ‘other’ doubled from 38,684 in 2017 to 68,192 this year.  For the most part, a background check classified as ‘other’ is used when someone buys a serialized receiver which isn’t connected to a barrel or a stock. The transaction still requires a background check but the owner has to then add various components so that he actually can fire the gun, which is increasingly how AR-15 rifles are now sold. One of the reasons the AR-15 is so popular is that the polymer frame can easily be adapted to all kinds of accessories and do-it-yourself parts; this also reduces the price of the gun by as much as half.

I truly believe that the Parkland kids have accomplished what none of the organizations which comprise the GVP community have ever done before; namely, they have shifted the argument about gun violence away from the political arena to where it really belongs, namely, as an issue which ultimately needs to be decided by the people who own guns. Because either the gun-owning community will realize that they simply don’t need to own any more of the damn things or people who don’t own guns will decide that they don’t need to own them at all. If Gun-nut Nation stops registering its fears about losing their guns by stampeding into gun shops every time a liberal politician says something about needing more gun control, passing sensible and effective gun laws will be a piece of cake.

In the interests of full disclosure, however, I must add a note about the current regulatory environment itself. I am not particularly sanguine about enhancing gun regulations if it means granting more power or authority to the ATF.  The ATF lab is probably the best forensic lab in the world, but the regulatory division contains the biggest bunch of liars, inept fools and misfits who could ever be put together in any federal agency at all. This is the bunch that violated countless laws because they thought that a repair garage in Arizona was converting semi-auto AK rifles into full-auto jobs. This is also the bunch which convinced themselves that David Koresh was making machine guns in his compound outside of Waco, a totally-mistaken belief which cost 75 lives.

I am really happy that a bunch of kids are leading the effort rather than a bunch of GVP organizations taking their cues from on high. But give the ATF more authority to regulate guns?  Please.

 

 

 

Thomas Gabor–The Myth of the Benefits of an Armed Citizenry.

Following the slaughter of elementary school children in Newtown (CT), Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, stated: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  This statement was not only highly insensitive in removing the focus from the children and their grieving families, but was also cynical and dishonest, as LaPierre suggested that arming school staff was the only way to avoid such slaughters.  Every other advanced country has figured out a way to protect their children without turning schools into armed fortresses.

armedConsider the logic of arguing that more guns will reduce incidents of gun violence.  It is like saying that the best solution to opiate addiction is to make opiates more accessible or that our best means of tackling an influenza epidemic is to expose more people to the agent involved.

Following America’s worst church mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, much was made by gun rights advocates about the confrontation of the shooter by an armed resident as he left the church and the pursuit by truck of the shooter by the resident and another individual.  The church shooting was not stopped by the armed man but it has been claimed that the perpetrator may have harmed others had the armed citizen not intervened.  That is an unknown but the large-scale shooting (26 killed, 20 wounded) occurred before the armed resident became involved.

Previous incidents illustrate how infrequently armed private citizens intervene successfully to stop a shooting.   An FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents from 2000-2013 found that just one of these incidents was stopped by an armed civilian. By contrast, 21 incidents were resolved when unarmed individuals restrained or confronted the shooter.  Louis Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation, examined potential and actual mass shootings from 1966 to 2015 and found that just one twentieth of one percent (about one in every 2,000 cases) is successfully stopped by an armed civilian.

 

If arming civilians produced a net benefit with regard to public safety, we would expect places with more guns to have fewer crimes.  The US has about 90 civilian-owned guns per 100 people, the largest civilian arsenal on the planet.  At the same time, the US stands alone among high-income countries with a gun homicide rate that is 25 times that of the aggregated rate for other high-income countries. This pattern is repeated at the state level where states with higher levels of gun ownership tend to have more, not fewer, gun deaths.  In the five states with the highest gun death rates, half of all homes own a gun.  In the five states with the lowest gun death rates, just one in 7 homes owns a gun.

 

Each year, 90,000 US households are interviewed in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).  This survey, which does not cover homicides or suicides for obvious reasons, reveals about a half million gun crimes a year.  In addition, based on surveys of the prevalence of domestic violence, there are likely several hundred thousand gun threats each year against targeting domestic partners and other family members.  If the number is 200,000 (a conservative figure), the total number of harmful gun uses a year is in the 750,000 range.  The NCVS finds that the annual number of defensive gun uses against attackers is under 50,000.  Therefore, criminal and other harmful uses of guns likely outnumber defensive uses by a ratio of at least 15:1.

 

David Hemenway and Sara Solnick of Harvard used NCVS data to see examine the frequency and consequences of defensive gun uses in 14,000 personal contact crimes committed when the victim was present.  They found that fewer than one percent (.9%) used a gun in self-defense. They also found that using a gun for protection, as opposed to taking some other protective action, did not diminish the chances that a victim would incur an injury.

 

Genuine defensive gun uses are not just infrequent; gun carrying raises the risks of deadly mistakes and confusion during active-shooter incidents.  On July 7, 2016, an individual opened fire and killed five Dallas police officers.  The officers were on duty to provide security at a demonstration in which the killing of African-American men was being protested.  About 20-30 open-carry activists were also on the scene, carrying assault weapons and wearing fatigues and body armor.  Police Chief Brown stated that the armed individuals impeded the law enforcement response as they created confusion as to who the shooter was and whether there were multiple shooters.

 

Another side effect of an increase in gun carrying is more gun thefts from cars.  These thefts are skyrocketing—2-3.5 million firearms have been stolen in the last decade– and they are more commonplace in states in which more people carry firearms outside the home.  States in the South (e.g., Texas, Georgia, and Florida) with the most permissive gun laws are overrepresented among states with the largest number of guns stolen between 2012 and 2015.

 

Currently, 12 states do not require a permit to carry a firearm and this list has been growing.  Even in states requiring a permit, the vetting and training of permit applicants do not even approach the standards for law enforcement officers.  Since May 2007, concealed carry permit holders have killed more than 1100 people and have committed many other crimes, including 31 mass shootings and 19 police officer killings.

 

Joseph Vince is a former agent with the ATF for 27 years and is one of the leading experts on firearms and gun-related crime.  He and his associates state that for a citizen to carry a firearm, training should include mental preparation, knowledge of the law, judgment, as well as expertise and familiarity with firearms. They recommend basic initial training to receive a permit and biannual recertification to maintain the permit.  Both training and recertification should consist of decision-making during real-life scenarios, shooting accuracy in stressful situations, and firing range practice.

 

While half the states require some firearms training in relation to an application for a gun carry permit, most of the features emphasized by Vince et al. are seriously lacking in most states.  For example, Florida law does not specify the content of these courses, only the qualifications necessary for instructors.  There is no test for retention of the information covered about the law or the handling of a firearm, no test of marksmanship—a few shots are fired down the range or into a barrel—and no training with regard to judgment (when to shoot and not to shoot), no recertification, just an online renewal every 7 years.

 

Pete Blair trains law enforcement personnel to respond to active shooter situations.  Real-world scenarios prepare police officers for high-stress situations. Blair notes that one would expect people without training to “freeze up or not know what to do, and to have difficulty performing actions correctly.”  Research and police records show that even trained police officers miss their targets more often than they hit them during stressful combat situations.   Several analyses show that, in combat situations, trained officers miss the mark more than 80 % of the time.

 

Harmful and criminal uses of guns outnumber genuine defensive uses by a wide margin.  The average violent attack is over in 3 seconds.  Poor training makes it unlikely that a civilian without police or military training will use a gun successfully against an attacker and makes deadly mistakes more likely.  Poor vetting means that individuals who pose a serious risk to the public may gain access to arms through legal channels.  Yet the gun lobby and a certain segment of gun owners keeps trying to sell the fable of the armed citizen.  The evidence is clear that arming the average citizen seriously undermines public safety.