The NRA Apologizes – Kind Of.

I began to get the feeling, after the shooting in Santa Isla, that the patience of Americans to continue to put up with the gun industry’s resistance to any degree of new regulation was coming to an end.  Don’t ask me why, don’t ask me how, but the meek and almost non-existent comments reminding us about the sanctity of the 2nd Amendment were decidedly less strident than what the industry and their supporters were saying after Sandy Hook.  Now I’m not talking about loudmouths like Joe the Plumber, whose rant about the relative importance of his guns versus the unimportance of human life is just a reminder that the 24-hour information cycle will make room for anyone who wants to shoot his/her mouth off, no matter how stupid or uninformed their comments happen to be.  I’m talking about the comments from various right-wing politicians who, like Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, refused to explicitly exonerate the gun industry even though her campaign ads show her shooting at a target while a voice-over intones how she’s going to “take aim” at waste in DC.

Yesterday I received a digital letter from the NRA-ILA, which represents the NRA in legislative battles in Washington and in the individual states.  The letter didn’t mention the Santa Barbara massacre per se, instead it covered episodes in Texas, where 2nd-Amendment supporters demonstrated their reverence for their Constitutional rights by showing up at Jack in the Box and Chipotle outlets openly carrying AR-15’s.  In both cases the restaurant managers told them to take their gun rights out of the stores, which of course provoked the usual flurry of on-line yelling about how the poor gun owner is always misunderstood. But the NRA, to my utter amazement, didn’t side with the idiots who walked into those restaurants waving their AR-15’s.  In fact,  they characterized the behavior of the gun-toters as “weird,” which is the first time I can ever recall the NRA saying anything negative about any gun owner at all.

lapierreBut what was really interesting was the explanation given by the NRA for why the behavior of the Texas dopes didn’t add up.  And here is what the letter says:  “If we exercise poor judgement, our decisions will have consequences.  These consequences could be simple and transitory, such as watching a trophy buck bound away into the woods after a missed shot from an improperly sighted rifle. They could also be lasting and consequential, such as turning an undecided voter into an antigun voter because of causing that person fear or offense. In ways small and large, we are all in this together, and we all have a role to play in preserving our cherished freedoms for ourselves and future generations.”

The truth is that if a bunch of raucous kids storm into a Burger King with loaded AR’s, one of the damn things might just go off, which could be a much more “consequential” result of mis-behavior with guns than anything having to do with changing a voter’s mind.  But in more than twenty years of listening to the NRA, I have never heard them ever make an appeal that had anything to do with changing or influencing the opinions of people who don’t own guns.  The NRA has enlarged and motivated its membership by indefatigably adopting an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ approach to every public discussion about guns.  Gun owners are the ‘good guys’ and everyone else is, well, everyone else.  Believe me when I tell you that this communication marks a very dramatic change.

I suspect the gun lobby quietly understands that their belligerent and ‘take no prisoners’ approach to talking about gun regulations may be coming to an end.  The Republican optimism about the upcoming elections has faded; even Rand Paul is trying to appeal to the mid-stream.  For that matter, the great upsurge in gun sales has also come to an end, which doesn’t augur well for continued growth in the membership of the NRA.  It will be interesting to see whether they can figure out how to talk to people who don’t bow down and scrape every time the 2nd Amendment is used to excuse bad behavior with guns.

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All We Need To Solve Gun Violence Is To Fix Mental Health, Right?

The NRA will let one week go by and then they’ll issue a statement about the Elliot Rodger shootings in Santa Barbara.  Actually, they’ll issue two statements which they always have ready to go.  First they’ll say that the slaughter shows that the mental health system is ‘broken’ and needs to be ‘fixed.’  Then they’ll say that a ‘good guy’ with a gun would have stopped the ‘bad guy,’ and they’ll remind everyone that CCW is impossible to get in California so there are no ‘good guys’ walking around in Isla Vista anyway.

The truth is that neither statement is true and have never been true.  But they sound like they’re true, which gets the NRA off the hook.  They can promote gun sales all they want but also come down on the side of safety and responsibility because it’s the mental health system that needs to be fixed, right?

Last week Dr. Richard Friedman, a Professor of Psychiatry, explained that the link between mental illness and violence is tenuous at best and accounts for less than 5% of overall violence at worst. Which means that if every nut lost his guns, the 10,000+ gun homicides we endure each year would drop by a whole, big 500 or so.  Wow – talk about ending gun violence by “fixing” the mental health system.  Some fix.

free school                As for all those ‘good guys’ walking around with guns, the FBI says there are roughly 300 justifiable homicides each year, a number that hasn’t changed even with the CCW upsurge in the past year.  Yea, yea, every year armed citizens ‘prevent’ millions of crimes just by waving their guns around in the air.  I also know that Martians actually did land in Parrump.

The self-satisfied folks who really believe that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people,’ simply refuse to accept the fact that if you pick up a gun, point it at someone else and pull the trigger, that the result is going to be very serious injuries or loss of life.  There Is no other way, including running over someone with a car, that has such a devastating effect.  The NRA gets around that problem by promoting, with an almost mystical reverence, the notion of using guns for self defense.  John Lott’s nonsense to the contrary, there is absolutely no evidence which proves that guns save more lives than they destroy.

Now don’t get me wrong.  If you’re already sending a comment about how Mike The Gun Guy is really Mike The Anti-Gun Guy, why don’t you save the HP screeners a little time and at least wait until you read this entire blog?  Because believe it or not, I’m not anti-gun.  I have said again and again that 99.9% of all gun owners are safe and responsible with their guns.  I have also said, but it bears repeating, that we should be able to figure out how to end gun violence without making lawful and careful gun owners jump through more legal hoops, including expanded background checks.

This morning I received an email from one of the largest internet gun-sellers who is dumping new, name-brand  AR-15s for under 600 bucks.  These are guns that were selling for twice that much a year ago and, as the email warned, “any sudden media attention topoliticalsituations, restrictive laws and regulations can drive prices through the roof again overnight.”

The gun industry sits on the horns of a dilemma.  They can moan and groan all they want about gun control but it’s high-profile shootings that ignite the debate which then leads to stronger sales.  The NRA claims that it’s all about safe gun ownership but let’s not make it too safe.  Because if we do, it will be more than just a couple of Tea Party politicians giving away free AR-15’s.

America Is Going All Out To Help John Lott Conduct His Gun Research.

If you have followed my blog you no doubt have seen mention more than once of John Lott.  He’s the NRA acolyte whose book, More Guns, Less Crime makes the argument for armed citizens based on the alleged link between issuance of CCW and decline of crime.  And even though his research is often based on rather dubious assumptions, never mind occasional disappearances of the data, he still appears with regularity on Fox and other news outlets that shape their content to a conservative point of view.

Now Lott has taken his research to a new level and started a think tank called the Crime Prevention Research Center that will “conduct academic research to prove that guns protect citizens and reduce crime.”  And to get the whole thing started, he’s put together a fundraising campaign with $300,000 as the initial goal.  According to Lott, the purpose of the Research Center is to provide “honest, accurate, academic quality analysis of the issues” to counteract the “flawed” public health research promoted by Obama, Bloomberg and the rest of the liberal, anti-gun gang.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m in favor of honest, academic research regardless of whether I agree with the conclusions or not.  And while I have often publicized public health research on gun violence that represents what I believe to be a valid contribution to the field, I also have no trouble raising doubts and voicing concerns when a piece of public health research on guns might perhaps need to be re-thought.

John Lott

John Lott

But where I draw the line is when someone claims they are going to do research on an issue for which they have already figured out the end result.  And if the point of John Lott’s new Research Center is to come up with information that shows that he’s correct and the public health cabal is wrong on the issue of whether armed citizens protect us against crime, then he’s not doing research at all.  He’s just doing what he’s always done; peddled ideas that appear to have an academic pedigree when, in fact, there’s nothing academic about them at all.  Lott’s not a researcher, he’s an advocate, and while there’s nothing wrong with wearing first one hat and then the other, he should at least be honest enough not to pretend that you can fit both hats on your head at the same time.

The good news is that Lott’s attempt to make people believe that he can really put together a “think” tank even though he’s going to be promoting, not researching, doesn’t seem to be working out very well.  Back on April 21 he started his fundraising campaign on a public fundraising site, indiegogo.com, with an announced goal of $300,000 to be raised by June 10.  To date this national campaign has raised slightly over $30,000 which, at that rate he’ll hit about forty grand by the time the campaign is done.

And don’t think that an indiegogo fundraising campaign can’t tap into serious money if your idea is what people really want to support.  There’s a company out there called Solar Roadways that is developing a solar panel that can be used to pave roads and parking lots while, at the same time, absorbing sunlight and generating power.  They set a 30-day, million-dollar goal and with three days left have raised more than $1,500,000.  Or if you want to be a little more idealistic, you can donate money to a family that is buying a farm where people can visit and play around with the pet – pigs!  Esther The Wonder Pig campaign has raised over $150,000 in less than 30 days.

Lott’s been around for years, he’s promoted himself tirelessly and endlessly on Fox and with the NRA.  But you know what? When a sadly-depressed kid can get his hands on some high-powered pistols and go around shooting up a lovely town because he couldn’t get a date for the prom, no amount of snide comments about Obama’s gun-grabbing agenda is going to help us figure out what to do.  And while it doesn’t cost anything to add your two cents in a comment on John Lott’s (or my) blog, plunking down real cash just to hear the same half-baked opinions that you’ve heard for years doesn’t make any sense. Even if you agree with the opinions.