Don’t Forget: Owning A Gun Protects Your Freedom To Sell A Poster Like This.

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poster2One of our good friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community put a pic of this poster on her Facebook page and said it was for sale at the Trump rally in Nashville. I have no doubt that this was true. Over the course of the campaign, Trump’s rallies, particularly in Southern states, were more like Klan rallies than anything having to do with electing the next President of the United States – the only difference being that Hillary was White, not Black. But this didn’t stop Trump or some of his mouthpieces (ex. Rudy Giuliani) from appealing to the lowest, common social denominator they could find. And what’s lower than someone who tries to make a buck out of pretending that you can craft an effective political message by putting someone’s face behind a target that will be used to sight in a gun?

The strategy of using crosshairs to ‘target’ political opponents wasn’t started by Trump.  In fact, it appeared on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page when she was raising money for her PAC which she actually believed would keep her politically alive. And along with the graphic which has targets superimposed over various states were her usual dopey comments designed to make the connection between her politics and Gun-nut Nation even more real, comments like “this is just the first salvo” or “we’ll aim for these races,” the usual, know-nothing verbal crap.

Palin’s attempt to combine fundraising with allusions to going into political campaigns ‘loaded’ for action turned out to be one, sick attempt at political communication when, several months after she posted this screed, Jared Loughner took her seriously and gunned down Rep. Gabby Giffords who had been identified as a ‘target’ on Palin’s map. Of course leave it to the liberals to defend Palin on the basis of free speech; after all, Loughner was just typical of the basic problem which creates 120,000 gun deaths and injuries each year, namely, that every once in a while a gun gets into the hands of some nut.

Now the fact that a gun gets into the hands of some nut because maybe, just maybe we have too many guns lying around – oh well, that’s the price we have to pay to be ‘free.’  And what’s more important when it comes to defending our freedoms than my ability to walk into a gun shop, tell the guy behind the counter that I’m a law-abiding citizen and walk out with a gun? Please don’t give me all that nonsense about how we need to ‘balance’ out our God-given freedoms with concerns for the rising rates of gun violence in cities like Dallas, Memphis and San Jose.  The answer’s very simple, lock ‘em up and throw away the key.

I wasn’t at that Trump rally in Nashville earlier this week but I guarantee you that at some point during his rambling remarks no doubt #45 got a big cheer out of the crowd by telling them that despite an attempt by a couple of federal judges to make the country unsafe, his administration would ‘crack down’ on the criminal element and put them, along with Hillary, behind bars.

But why waste previous federal dollars on locking up ol’ Hills? Why not just gun her down and, if necessary, take out a few of those ‘illegals’ as well? Our new, tough President won’t let anyone prevent me from carrying around my AR with a magazine that holds 30, 40 or 50 rounds. Then I’ll be armed and ready when the Commander in Chief tells me to go out and help keep America free.

I really believe that the dopes who buy into such nonsense are the same dopes who also believe that the government still delivers food to the Martians who landed at Area 51. And no doubt one or two will read this column and tell me that I better watch out. Maybe Betsy DeVos can figure out how to better educate their kids.

 

Sarah Palin Believes That God And Guns Go Together But She Might Look At Her Home State.

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Now that Sarah Palin has decided America is the Home of the Free and Land of the Brave because of its devotion to God and the 2nd Amendment, I thought I would do a bit of research about gun violence in her own state.  According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Sister Sarah’s home state ranks 44th out of the 50 states in terms of the having the most lax gun laws, and is also the 4th highest gun-exporting state, with a gun-export average twice the national state average, notwithstanding that to take a gun from Alaska down to the lower 48 is really quite a trip.

Not only does Alaska impose no state requirements on gun ownership, it doesn’t even require gun dealers to be licensed by the state.  Get yourself an FFL and you’re good to go.  When I was a gun wholesaler in New York back in the 1980s, we had a customer in Fairbanks who ordered loads of Ruger hunting rifles from us all the time, but this reflected the fact that hunting was and is a major source of tourist dollars in Alaska; I doubt if many of these guns came back to the Lower 48 to be picked up as crime guns.

palin On the other hand, Alaska’s violent crime rate is remarkably high in and of itself, the rate of aggravated assault twice the rate for the country as a whole, the homicide rate also above the national rate.  But yet on the other hand, both the aggravated assault and homicide involving guns is well below the national stats, so maybe Sister Sarah’s on the right track by exhorting us in Jesus’ name to get out there and buy more guns.  Except that when it comes to gun violence there’s an elephant in the living room that I haven’t yet mentioned, and that’s the violence which occurs when someone picks up a gun and aims it at themselves.

I will shortly be reviewing a remarkable new book on guns and mental illness that blazes important paths on issues gun-related suicide, so I’m not going to get into that whole issue just yet.  But I do want to make it clear that anyone who believes that gun violence and gun suicide should be treated as autonomous and unconnected issues is just trying to find a reason why the public health risks from guns should be ignored.  You simply can’t kill yourself as quickly and efficiently any other way; and the moment you contemplate some other method to end it once and for all, you are increasing the possibility that an intervention will occur that will save your life.

And this is where the data from Alaska makes a mockery of Palin’s cynical nonsense about how God’s plan includes ownership of guns.  Because of all the 50 states, Alaska has a suicide rate and, in particular, a suicide rate among Alaskan Indians and, even more particularly, a gun-suicide rate among Alaskan Indians that’s a wonder to behold.

The Western states lead the country in suicide with an overall regional rate of 14.13 per 100,000, well above the national rate of 13.02 and far above the Northeast which comes in at 10.38.  The highest suicide state is Montana, with 23.94, but right behind it is Alaska at 23.26. But only 60% of the suicides in Montana are committed using a gun, while nearly 70% of suicide victims in Alaska pull out the ol’ firearm when they decide that enough is enough.  But here’s the real number to contemplate: Alaska’s Indian population has a suicide rate twice the state’s rate as a whole, and these unfortunate folks have no trouble getting their hands on guns.

Palin’s message is pure crap and she should be ashamed of herself for pandering to the lowest mental denominator she can find.  There’s simply no excuse for someone from a state with such horrific gun violence numbers to be promoting God and guns.

Did Jesus Carry A Gun? That’s What Sarah Palin Would Like You To Believe.

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Back in the 1980s, when the Republican Party discovered that it could build a base among Christian conservatives, the social niche issues were all about opposition to what they called ‘alternate’ life-styles; i.e., gays, feminists, pro-choice and the like.  Only a funny thing happened between Jerry Falwell and the SCOTUS decision known as Obergfell v. Hodges, namely, that all the worst excesses of secular progressivism and liberalism have, de facto or de jure, come true. Now let’s not get into an argument amongst ourselves as to whether everyone and everything really is equal in every sense of the word; when it comes to social issues that the Right can use to help sway election results, their victories have been few and far between.

palinBut in the run-up to 2016, the Right appears to have found a new issue, or at least an old issue that they are using for the first time, and the issue is guns. This doesn’t mean that Republicans ignored gun owners; various Republican Presidential wannabees always show up at the NRA convention to burnish their gun-loving credentials in front of the gun-owning crowd.  But these appearances are no different from requisite appearances that all politicians make in front of their traditional constituent groups: Democrats talk the civil rights talk before the NAACP and the UFT; Republicans greet the faithful in pilgrimages to Liberty University and the KofC.

Back in 2010 Rick Perry made headlines when he allegedly pulled a Ruger out of his jogging outfit and shot a coyote who was allegedly menacing his dog. This incident, in fact, was the beginning of the end of Perry’s political career, or at least a career that he hoped would land him in the upstairs apartment at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Put simply, the attempt to create an image of himself as a latter-day Annie Oakley got himself dismissed as a buffoon.

I wonder how Perry feels this time around when the Republican Presidential race so far has centered not on lowering taxes or cutting the cost of government, but on the degree to which each candidate supports the 2nd Amendment and who among them is walking around armed.  This nonsense started with Trump following the Virginia shooting of two television journalists, but the notion of an armed citizenry has become the de rigueur Republican response to every issue involving safety and security, particularly in the wake of the Paris attacks and concerns that the ISIS-led rebellion in Syria may be getting out of hand.

The recent attempt by the NRA to market guns as a life-style is tailor-made for helping to boost the Republican brand.  Because the polls seem to indicate that Republican support gets weaker as one goes down the age pyramid, ditto interest in guns.  When Colion Noir dresses up hip and cool and prances around the NRA video channel with his AR-15, he’s trying to promote a ‘life-style’ that will appeal to the young and non-White demographics whose support the GOP desperately needs.  When Dana Loesch tells all those soccer Moms they should be carrying guns, she’s sending a similar message to another population group that, hopefully, will vote Red instead of Blue.

Into this newly-found Republican marketing scheme jumps none other than Sister Sarah Palin, who just released a book that unites faith, freedom and guns.  It’s a collection of devotional verses that can be read every day, and Sarah chose to hype it on her Facebook page by saying that Jesus would “fight” for the 2nd Amendment because otherwise only the ‘bad guys’ would have guns.

I feel sorry for Palin; she’s reminds me of a wannabe Anita Bryant who ended up trying to prevent gay marriage and now runs some kind of online ministry which sells the usual inspirational junk. If uniting guns and religion is how the Republicans believe they’ll expand their base, it just opens the door for the faith-based GVP groups to remind their followers about turning the other cheek.

 

Dre Buys A Gun And We Learn A Lesson About Gun Violence.

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Now that Anthony Anderson has replaced Bill Cosby as the African-American whose family life proves that most families face the same, universal problems regardless of race, the show’s writers have to come up with situations reflecting issues that come up when everyone’s sitting around the dinner table, or running off to school in the morning, or getting ready for bed.  That being the case, what better issue to inject onto the screen in Black-ish’s second episode this season than the issue of guns?

     Anthony Anderson

Anthony Anderson

And before I go any further, I just want to remind my readers that the gun industry has been trying like all get out to convince African-Americans to own guns because the typical gun owner, an older White man like me, owns more guns than he knows what to do with them anyway, so demographics like minorities, women and new immigrants hopefully represent new consumer targets who need to be convinced to buy guns. It hasn’t worked in the African-American community, by the way, no matter how many times Colion Noir prances around on the NRA video screen.  Nor have women been flocking into gun shops because a pathetic, Sarah Palin wannabe named Dana Loesch stands there in a tough leather outfit delivering a vapid monologue on how her gun protects her family from thugs.

The “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Gun” episode of Black-ish on the other hand, is both funny and profound, the former because the script simply doesn’t miss a trick when it comes to spoofing just about every sacred cow we have; the latter because interspersed with terrifically comic lines are serious statements about guns and gun violence that honestly capture both sides of the gun debate.  The argument about guns, after all, gets down to whether the benefit derived from using a gun for self-defense outweighs the risk of keeping an altogether lethal consumer product around the home.  And if you listen closely to the dialogue, you’ll realize that the folks who created this script for Black-ish have taken the trouble to read and understand both the obvious and the subtle issues that inform the gun debate.

Example: Dre wants a gun in the house, his wife Bow does not.  In fact, men are much more likely to be gun owners than women by a margin of eight or nine to one. Example:  Miles, the six-year old, gets very excited over the prospect of a gun, his older brother Andre, who spends all his time on the computer, couldn’t care less.  In fact, young children are the most vulnerable to gun accidents because they are naturally curious, have no sense of risk and everything to them is a toy.

Finally Bow gives in and Dre goes out to buy a gun.  There’s a remarkably funny moment inside a gun shop involving an older Asian-American woman who has just bought a shotgun, but I’ll leave its description unsaid.  So now the gun is in the house and one night it sounds like the veritable bad guy has broken in so everyone crowds into Dre’s bedroom because he’ll protect them with the gun. Except that the door opens and in stumbles Dre’s father played perfectly by Laurence Fishburne who doesn’t get shot only because Dre can’t figure out how to actually use the gun.

Of course the show has already come in for the usual stupid and snarky comments from the pro-gun gang, but there’s no question that Black-ish captures the truth about the risks embodied in owning a personal-defense gun.  And the final moments invoke a very profound insight when Dre confesses to his father that the reason he wants to own a gun is because he felt scared as a young boy and wished he had a real gun back then.  The GVP community often finds pro-gun fervor to be inexplicable and difficult, if not impossible, to understand in logical terms.  Is there a chance that Dre’s admission of childhood fears provides an important clue?

Want To Argue About Gun Violence? Let’s All Follow The Same Rules.

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Yesterday I called for my friends in the gun-sense community to declare a moratorium on debating about guns with pro-gun advocates who really on everything except fact-based evidence in order to support their point of view.  Let me make it clear that I have no issue with anyone who wants to promote or argue in favor of gun ownership, I just want the gun debate to be conducted on a level playing-field.  The pro-gun community has gone out of its way to encourage and support pro-gun arguments that tilt the playing-field in their direction precisely because their arguments are devoid of facts.

The most insidious and intellectually-bankrupt pro-gun argument is based on the notion that guns protect us from crime.  The NRA began peddling this nonsense in the 1990s when they discovered that fear about crime, particularly crime committed by a certain easily-definable population which happened to live in inner cities, was a smart strategy to rebuild the organization’s membership which had declined by more than 12% after it came out that a particularly active NRA member happened to be named Timothy McVeigh.  The anti-crime issue then morphed into a growing anti-government, New Right sentiment whose niche issues – abortion, busing, school prayer – would drive conservative politics from Newt Gingrich to Sarah Palin and beyond. What this meant was that supporting the 2nd Amendment means that you will protect your family, your neighborhood and everything else that we hold near and dear.  In Marketing 101 that gets an A+.

2A                Meanwhile, on the other side, clinical research published in peer-reviewed journals was busily establishing that gun ownership was more of a risk than a benefit in social terms; i.e., owning a gun increased the possibility that someone in the family would use the weapon to shoot themselves or shoot someone else.  And the incidence of deliberate or accidental shootings by gun owners was far greater than the number of times that these same gun owners used a gun to defend themselves or their families against crime.

Don’t get me wrong.  The early research showing guns to be more a risk than a benefit was incomplete; there were numerous research gaps that remained to be filled in, and much of what would have eventually been published and discussed was stymied by the prohibition on CDC-funded gun research rammed through Congress in 1997 and continuing to this day.  Meanwhile, what was the research produced by the pro-gun community to support the notion that guns represented a positive social good?  It took the form of one major effort by the criminologist Gary Kleck who ran some questions past 213 randomly-chosen individuals and, based on their entirely-unsubstantiated responses, announced that guns were used more than 2 million times each year to prevent crimes.

Kleck’s paper appeared in 1994 and was published in a student-run law journal which made absolutely no pretense to being peer-reviewed at all. And from that time until the present, the debate over guns has been based on one side by a continued reliance on scientific, peer-reviewed publications and on the other side by a reliance on political hyperbole, character assassination and access to right-wing web media and Fox News.  Kleck had an opportunity recently to refute two new critics, the editors of the blog Armed With Reason, and his response was in keeping with virtually every pro-gun response to peer-reviewed research, which is that the research isn’t valid because the researchers are anti-2nd Amendment, or what Kleck referred to as the “prohibitionist position” on guns.

Yesterday my column advocated that the gun-sense community declare a moratorium on arguments about whether or not we suffer from gun violence.  I’m going to amend that position somewhat and instead ask my friends who believe gun violence is a threat to sit down and draft some ‘rules of the road’ for debating the other side.  What’s important is holding the debate on a level playing-field, and once that field is established either the other side shows up or they don’t.

 

 

 

Want To See The Gun Industry Flex Its Creative Muscles? Go To SHOT.

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I went to my first SHOT show in 1981, and I can tell you that the only thing about the show that hasn’t changed from then until now is the name, which stands for Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade show, but has about as much to do with outdoor sports like hunting and old-fashioned shooting as a man in the moon.  I’m not saying that the old stalwarts like Browning or Leupold or Mossy Oak clothing aren’t there.  Outdoor sporting goods manufacturers are at SHOT in abundance, because it’s the only time all year that gun industry manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and customers get to mingle under one roof, check out new products, place orders and spend time doing what is always done at trade shows – schmoozing, eating, and after the show closes down, drinking.

nssf                But don’t for one minute imagine that the crowd at SHOT just can’t wait to run out of the Sands Convention Center and paint the town.  Actually, a majority of the attendees are Ma and Pa types from smaller towns, fairly conservative, older, hard-working White folks who form the backbone of the gun industry because that’s who still owns a majority of the guns.  And since the gun business may be the last consumer product category which still relies on small, independent shopkeepers for the great majority of retail sales, the show attendance tends to reflect this traditional demographic both in terms of attitudes and tastes.  It goes without saying, of course, that you can’t walk very far without seeing some kind of anti-Obama poster, and Sarah Palin drew a crowd when she appeared at the Outdoor Channel booth to plug yet another onscreen effort to make people forget that she’s really faded from the political scene.  Next year’s SHOT will no doubt attract all the Republicans who are hoping to succeed the gun industry’s most successful salesman, and talking about sales, the mood at the show was definitely upbeat.

Now I never met a salesman who didn’t believe that things were always going to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday or are today.  And the takeaway from this year’s show was that innovation and new products were back in the forefront because the industry needed to flex its “creative muscles” after spending the last several years filling all those backorders that piled up thanks to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and his stance on guns.  The good news for the gun industry is that, practically speaking, there’s little that Obama can do to hurt gun owners now that both chambers of Congress are painted bright red.  But this didn’t stop Steve Sanetti, President of the NSSF which owns the SHOT show, from getting up at the big SHOT dinner to report that the “state” of the gun industry was “determined.”  And what was the industry determined to do?  According to Sanetti, the industry is going to expand its efforts to counter the “mis-information” about gun violence spread by the “anti-gun lobby, close-minded legislators and sensationalist-seeking media.”

And how did Sanetti demonstrate that the anti-gun folks were refusing to accept the value of guns?  By trotting out the same, old, incorrect statistics on how violent crimes have gone down while gun sales have gone up.  If you’re interested, take a look at the NSSF’s own website and you’ll see that since 2001, as gun sales have soared, gun homicides have not declined one bit, and have actually moved slightly back up.

I don’t really blame Sanetti for getting up in front of the faithful and promoting the gun industry in glowing, albeit fanciful terms.  He’s a salesman, gun sales have slumped dramatically, and his job is to promote the product in good times and in bad.  But one of the exhibitor booths I found most interesting at SHOT contained products made by a company out of Troy, Michigan named BulletSafe Vests.  Now what’s a bulletproof vest company doing hawking its products at a shooting, hunting and outdoors show?   If this is how the gun industry is flexing its innovative muscles, then shooting sure ain’t what it used to be.

Can The NRA Sell Their Message To The Millennial Generation?

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Even though violent crime has declined by more than 50% over the last twenty years, it’s not surprising that Wayne LaPierre and other promoters continue to justify gun ownership as our first, last and most sacred form of personal defense.  After all, guns are found most frequently on farms, rural communities and smaller towns.  Bye-bye farms and rural living, bye-bye guns. Thirty years ago a majority of small arms manufactured in the United States were rifles and shotguns; now more than 60% are handguns and the percentage would be even higher were it not for a surge in assault-style rifles which are often sold as weapons that can be used by the ‘good guys’ to keep the ‘bad guys’ out of sight.

Going forward the news for the gun industry and its advocacy organizations like the NRA doesn’t hold any silver linings, at least any that can be found in a very detailed poll conducted by the Pew Foundation on the outlook of the Millennial generation, aka, persons aged 18 to 29.  The Pew poll summed up Millennials as follows: “They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history. Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.”

Wow.  That’s hardly the profile of the NRA stalwarts who gathered last week in Indianapolis to hear Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, Oliver North and the other harbingers of doom tell them that the country was quickly going to hell in a handbasket and that only a gun and a good dose of patriotism would keep the criminal hordes away from knocking down their doors.  In the first four minutes of her speech, Sarah Palin referred to the anti-gun threat sixteen times and made it clear that only a Republican sweep in November would guarantee American freedom and basic rights.  And what did the audience look like that whooped and hollered as these well-worn bromides were being served?  Mostly male, mostly 50 or older and totally White.

The NRA and the gun industry have done a really great job making that kind of audience feel like they are under attack. They’ve done an equally good job pushing the idea that modern life is fearful and fear can be overcome if you own a gun.  The problem is, that even after a prolonged recession when many younger people had great difficulty finding jobs, the Millennials are the most optimistic and the least fearful of all population groups, and remain the most convinced that their future dreams will come true.  They aren’t tying these thoughts to a Republican win in November; they see the world through their own eyes, and those eyes aren’t focused on the NRA.

If Millennials maintain this very distinct world view as they get older, the problem of gun violence may take care of itself.  Because even though many younger people think that guns are “cool,” (after all, they were raised on video-games,) they don’t see the world as a dark or forbidding place.  And it’s that dark and dangerous world that the gun industry and the NRA has been using to sell more guns since everyone started leaving the farm.

evolve-badgeWant to see the kind of gun message that Millennials will like?  Take a look at this video produced by my friends Jon and Rebecca Bond for their organization called Evolve.  It’s, hip, it’s cool, it delivers a serious point about guns but makes it in a clever and sophisticated way.  I have never seen a message like this coming from the gun industry because they haven’t figured out how to speak to the generation that will either become or not become their customers and supporters in the years ahead.  And if  they don’t figure out how to do it the Bonds and other Millennial-conscious organizations will end up owning the debate.

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