Don’t Forget Self-Defense When You Celebrate The 4th.

In case you want to be a real American tomorrow and celebrate July 4th the way real Americans are going to celebrate, here’s an eye-catching advertisement I received from one of the websites that sells all the most important stuff to Gun-nut Nation on this most patriotic day. Actually, the most important stuff for the 4th is the case or keg of beer. But after that item, what counts is how you go about making sure that your personal protection is up to date.

armor3              Let’s see.  Body Armor – Medical Kits – Targets.  Those are the must-have items in case of a terrorist attack, or better yet, making sure you can defend yourself and your loved ones from a flood of illegals from you know where. Trump says that those kids in Texas will be sent to military bases here and there – I can see the FEMA trailers rolling right now into Fort Bliss or Fort Hood.  Let’s not forget to string the barbed wire around the trailers so that the kids can’t escape because all you need is one twelve-year-old invading the town and then God knows all kinds of Hell might break loose.

Now if such an invasion does occur and you and your loved ones are facing a threat, having a complete set of body armor is a prerequisite for personal defense.  You can choose between soft armor, designed for ‘pistol threat protection’ or hard armor, which is ‘rugged, reliable and ‘stress fracture resistant,’ cost based on size and weight.

Do you know what an EPIK is?  Do you have an EPIK?  Well, if the answer to either of those questions is ‘no,’ you better get with the program and purchase an EPIK today.  That’s right – today! Because if you don’t buy your EPIK today, you won’t have it ready for July 4th, which means you won’t be able to protect yourself and your loved ones from come what may.

The EPIK is an Emergency Personal Injury Kit to be used against ‘life-threatening bleeding injuries,’ specifically designed to ‘stop bleeding fast from a gunshot, knife, or other traumatic bleeding wound.’ And this particular product is extremely versatile because you never know how or where the threat may appear.  You can buy an EPIK to fit in your ‘Pocket, Plate Carrier, Backpack, Glove Box, Range Bag, and Survival Kit, anywhere you need it.’ And your personal EPIK starts at only $39.99.

Now you may think that the purpose of this column is to give free advertising to the company that makes and markets all this crap. But that’s not it at all. What today’s column is all about is my continued amazement at the ability of American entrepreneurship to come up with new ways to sell Gun-nut Nation stuff they don’t need.

Of course, what nobody really needs is another self-defense gun, and if what I see and hear from the gun shops around here is any indication of how gun sales are going across the fruited plain, just about everyone in Gun-nut Nation has also bought every gun that they could ever need to own. One of the local gun stores has a big sign out front telling customers that they can take 50 bucks off the retail price of any gun. The dealer won’t make a dime on the sale, but at least he’ll move some iron off the shelf.

Remember Glenn Beck peddling freeze-dried foods that would be edible even after sitting in your backyard bomb shelter for thirty years?  That’s right – the same Glenn Beck who’s now bankrupt. How could anyone in their right mind believe they need to drive around with a personal injury kit, particularly when the average adult doesn’t know squat about how to deal with any kind of traumatic medical injury at all?

God bless America, God bless the free enterprise system, and most of all, God bless our sacred duty to protect ourselves and our loved ones by spending a few bucks on some worthless junk.  Have a great 4th!

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Guns And Black Swans Go Together.

As the gun violence prevention community (GVP) continues its search for narratives about gun violence which may find a responsive echo within the gun ‘rights’ movement, I suggest that everyone take some time and read Nasim Taleb’s remarkable book, Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Because the basic point in this work is the degree to which strongly-held beliefs are based on things which are simply not true. And if there’s one Black Swan belief which is as improbable as any, it’s the idea that walking around with a gun will protect you from crime.

swan             That gun ownership is a necessary response to crime is the fundamental axiom upon which the entire gun ‘rights’ movement and narrative is built. After all, being able to protect yourself is a God-given right, recognized in every legal tradition. And if packing a gun gives you the best chance of defending against an attack, how could anyone support any law that might threaten or limit the ownership of guns?

The fact is, however, that credible studies clearly show little, if any connection between access to a gun and protection from crime. This is mostly because the probability that someone packing a gun will actually be attacked ranges from scant to none. Further, even if John Lott is correct in arguing that because criminals believe that more Americans are frequently armed, this tends to make them shift their criminality to non-violent crime, the data to support this idea remains in dispute.

We are all familiar with surveys which show that a majority of gun owners now say that the primary reason they own a gun is for self-defense. But is this a classic Black Swan or is it based on some degree of reality or truth?  I decided to test this Black Swan with a survey which I am asking gun owners to take, and nearly 100 self-described gun owners have been engaged. You can view the survey here.  My selection methodology is based on running Facebook ads sent to FB pageholders who have indicated an interest in guns with the usual key words: guns, hunting, shooting, etc.  In another week or so I am going to publish the final results, but here is what I have learned so far.

Nearly 80% of the respondents believe that having access to a gun makes them less afraid of being a victim of violent crime. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 1% of the American population age 12 or over are victims of a violent crime each year.

In my survey, 4% have been victims of a violent crime. One of the victims claimed that his sister was raped, one was assaulted, another was held up while pumping gas late at night. One victim, a man above the age of 50, was kidnapped but provided no details.

I inserted a number of demographic questions in the poll to make sure I was capturing real gun owners and I am.  Respondents are, on average, older white males, have owned guns for more than 15 years, purchased a gun in the last 12 months and 65% live in the Midwest or the South.

Now here’s the Black Swan. I didn’t ask poll-takers to tell me whether they had ever used a gun for self-defense. But 96% of the respondents couldn’t have done so because they had not been victims of a serious crime. So why do more than 80% of the respondents believe that having access to a self-defense gun will make them safe?

Here’s what I have learned from the more than 90 people who took the time to answer my survey. Just about everyone who believes in the validity of armed self-defense is holding that belief for reasons other than what has happened to them. And all these surveys which show that a majority of gun owners support self-defense use of guns don’t tell us anything at all. In particular, these surveys shed no light on how to turn the Black Swan into a White Swan.

 

 

Do We Have A ‘Right” To Self-Defense? Not Unless The Government Says So.

Show me a single statement from anyone in Gun-nut Nation who justifies gun ownership without invoking the ‘individual’ or ‘inalienable right’ to self-defense and I’ll send a hundred bucks to the charity of your choice. Why, do you ask, would I be so quick to give away some of my hard-earned money? Because the idea that we have a right to protect ourselves which goes beyond the 2nd Amendment has been a stock-in-trade of gun ownership long before Charlton Heston stood up at the NRA meeting in 2000 and dared anyone to take the plastic version of an old flintlock rifle out of his ‘cold, dead hands.’

heston             The idea that self-defense is a ‘natural’ right which exists outside the legal system is about as true as the idea that Charlton Heston’s real name was Charlton Heston.  In fact, his name was John Carter, but how could Hollywood let someone with such a prosaic moniker bring down the Ten Commandments? On the other hand, pro-gun advocates have always felt comfortable justifying their ownership of guns as a religious commandment, so if a name could be invented for the actor who received the most holy of all religious texts, why not invent a God-given reason to own a gun?

There’s only one little problem. You can cite this biblical text or that biblical text all you want, but the notion that we have a ‘right’ to defend ourselves isn’t found anywhere in the Constitution at all. And despite what you might glean from those narcissistic tweets which keep tumbling out of the Oval Office, we still have to abide by what the Constitution says, not what we think it says or hope it says. That’s it.

If you want to understand what the Constitution says and doesn’t say about self-defense, I suggest you read the superb article by Darrell Miller, “Self-Defense, Defense of Others, and the State, which was one of the papers presented last year at the Brennan Center Symposium on the 2nd Amendment and can be downloaded from the Duke Law Journal linked here. Miller points out that even though the Heller decision rested upon a ‘basic’ and ‘deeply rooted’ pre-Constitutional ‘right,’ in fact, the legal definition of this self-protection “has been heavily conditioned and constructed by the state.” Further, “the core self-defense right identified in Heller is not as indisputably individualistic, inalienable, and innate as is often assumed. Instead, the state’s role in this concept has been dominant throughout history.”

Miller’s argument creates a serious problem for Gun-nut Nation, because the last thing they want to admit or believe is that the government should be able to define self-defense, because if it can, this means the government can regulate what types of self-defensive behavior can be allowed, which means the government can regulate – oh my God – the use of guns.  And the whole point of promoting self-defense as some kind of ‘natural’ right is to remove gun regulations from the purview of the state, particularly if the state happens to be controlled by gun-grabbers like you know who.

Miller goes all the way back to the origins of common law following the Norman invasion in 1066 and shows that from then until now, the state, either the king or later the Parliament, was always involved in defining who could and couldn’t use self-defense as a justification for committing a capital crime. These definitions changed over time, but the state never withdrew from being the ultimate arbiter of how, when and why someone could engage in an act of self-defense.

Miller’s article is persuasive because it flows from a clear and balanced reading of legal opinions and texts. But when was the last time the pro-gun gang based anything it believes or promotes on a clear or balanced presentation of opinions or facts? With all due respect to the excellent work by Professor Miller and his colleagues who research and write about guns and law, I suspect that much of what they say never gets read by those who need to read it most.

 

We Don’t Need Cops Because We Can All Carry Guns, Right?

Back in the 1970s I lived in Columbia, SC, and while my house was inside the city limits, I could jump in my car and within 5 minutes get to a nice, sand pit on the edge of town. So what I would do was reload a couple of hundred rounds of 9mm or 45-caliber brass, then take either my Browning Hi-Power or my Colt 1911 out to the sand pit and bang away.  I made the bullets by melting down and then casting wheel weights that I could scavenge from any gas station around.  At that time a box of factory, 9mm ammo ran about ten bucks, to shoot 50 reloads probably cost me about 60 cents.

ccw            This was what handgun shooting was all about in the 1970s – you loaded your own ammo, went out to a pit or the woods and banged away.  But that’s all changed now because according to Gun-nut Nation, a handgun is an indispensable ‘tool’ for protecting yourself against violent crime, terrorism, God knows what.  Now the fact that all of those folks who stand in line to get concealed-carry permits will almost never be victims of a violent crime is beside the point.  After all, we know for a fact that voter fraud will get Hillary elected this year, even if there’s no evidence whatsoever that there’s any voting fraud at all.  It’s still a fact!

The same thing holds true when we talk about guns.  It’s now more than 20 years since Gun-nut Nation began touting the idea that gun-toting Americans save us from being crime victims at least several million times every year. Now there must be some truth to this argument because handgun sales continue to go up while violent crime rates continue to go down. Of course the possibility that one trend may have absolutely nothing to do with the other is beside the point.  As a gun instructor was quoted by Angela Stroud in her brilliant book, without a gun she didn’t have a ‘self-defense plan.’

Now I always thought that the way you defended yourself against a possible crime, and in fact this happens to be the way it is usually done, is to open your mouth and scream.  Or maybe dial 911.  Or maybe, God forbid, back down. But what Gun-nut Nation wants you to believe is that none of those strategies compares to the protection afforded by pulling out a gun. And in case you need more proof, the Martians have landed at Area 51.

A new study by Andrew Papachristos and colleagues, based on a study of 911 calls in Milwaukee from 2005, found that inner-city residents appear to share Gun-nut Nation’s aversion to viewing police as the primary defenders against violent crime.  The decline in 911 calls took place after a biracial Milwuakee resident, Frank Jude, was severely beaten by several white, off-duty police officers which eventually led to the firing of nine cops following protests in the black community when the news of the attack got around.  The researchers estimate that more than 20,000 calls were not made because of mistrust of the police following the Jude affair, and when people stop asking the cops to protect them from crime, the crime rates have a funny way of going up.

I’m not saying there aren’t occasions when having access to a gun or some other kind of weapon will make it easier to defend against a crime.  What I am saying is that Gun-nut Nation wants you to think that a gun should always be your first line of defense. After all, the average person walking around with a concealed handgun isn’t usually required to demonstrate any competence in using the weapon or, for that matter, even understanding how to determine whether a particular situation might be life-threatening or not.  But citizen-protectors don’t need any training because, after all, the 2nd Amendment gives them the ‘right’ to walk around with a gun.

Colion Noir Is Having Trouble Finding People Who Like Guns.

I don’t usually give the pro-gun gang free publicity, but I think that everyone who is concerned about reducing gun violence should take out 15 minutes and look at the recently-posted NRA video with Colion Noir. Nobody would pay Colion much attention if it weren’t for the fact that he’s such an atypical gun owner that he gets noticed no matter what he says or does.  He’s Black, hip, cool, a real dude in Armani clothing who talks the talk and walks the walk, the talk being how much funs it is to be into guns.  And in particular he talks up the whole issue of armed, self-defense which has become the rallying-cry for the surge in gun sales over the last few years.

noir                Actually, the real reason why gun sales have nearly doubled in the last few years has to do with one thing and one thing only, namely, the Kenyan, or the Muslim, or whatever Donald Trump thinks the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue happens to be.  And if someone like Trump or any other red-meat Presidential pretender moves into the People’s House in 2017, I guarantee you that gun sales will fall back down to where they were under George W. Bush, 9-11 or no 9-11.

All the more reason why the gun industry is trying to convince everyone that a gun is the best protection against crime.  But there’s only one little problem.  Violent crime keeps going down.  Or at least it keeps going down in neighborhoods where most gun owners happen to live.  Because most gun owners are married, White men who live in smaller cities or rural areas, and these are locations that, generally speaking, don’t experience a lot of crime.

Enter Colion with this video attempt to make gun owning to the demographics that don’t seem particularly interested in buying guns: racial minorities, urbanites, women and millennial men.  He’s got them all in this video; more than twenty people appear and most actually have something to say.  The only problem is that by the end of the production, you really understand what the industry will be up against when the current White House tenant moves back to Illinois.

The video begins with a very realistic and forbiddingly well-done scene in which a young woman screams her head off because someone has just broken down her door.  We then segue to a series of discussions between Colion and passerbys on a Houston street, some conversation snips between him, this guy and that guy, a stupidly-banal verbal exchange between Colion and four old high school friends, the requisite appearance of two hip-looking lesbians, and a final, philosophically-concerned exchange between Colion and his female friend, Ja-Mes Sloan.

In this final scene Colion gives the whole thing away because in responding to the doubts about gun ownership voiced by Ms. Sloan, here’s what Colion has to say: “I have the right to defend myself however I choose to defend myself.”  He’s a lawyer and he said that?  He has the ‘right’ to decide for himself what kind of a weapon he’s going to use? Even gun-nut Antonin Scalia said in Heller that the government can regulate and even outlaw weapons considered too dangerous for civilian use.

But maybe what we’re looking at in this video is Colion’s own attempt at cinema verité because if I were Colion, I’d be pissed off and frustrated by the time I got done speaking with all these old and new-found friends.  And the reason I might feel that way is that not one single person says that he or she would ever want to own a gun – not one!  In fact, the only person who expressed an interest in self-defense said she would rather get herself a dog. So here we have a video produced by the NRA which starts out with a home invasion but then says that when push comes to shove, most Americans would rather trust Man’s Best Friend, and that friend isn’t a gun.

 

Does the 2nd Amendment Guarantee A Right To Self Defense? The Courts Disagree.

The NRA keeps referring to the 2nd Amendment as a “sacred” right, but I always thought that anything sacred was usually somehow given to us by God.  But in fact, the right of Americans to own guns without any connection to some kind of military unit didn’t come from God at all. It came down from a 2008 Supreme Court decision that was decided by one vote.  And in fact, the NRA was reluctant to push the Heller case to the Supreme Court because it looked probable, if not likely, that Justice Kennedy would swing over to the liberal side of the nation’s highest tribunal and that would be the end of that.

scalia                Immediately after Heller, various pro-gun groups began challenging state and local laws which allowed for private ownership of guns, but made the licensing process so onerous or arbitrary that owning a gun was difficult enough, using it for self-defense, particularly self-defense outside the home, was basically a non-existent right.  In Washington, D.C., the U.S. District Court ultimately found the city’s license requirements unduly restrictive, but in California, a fairly restrictive process in San Diego County for the issuance of concealed-carry licenses was upheld.

This past week another California gun case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, but by a 7-2 margin, Kennedy, Alito and Roberts all moving to the other side, the Court refused to hear a case from San Francisco whose law states that “no person shall keep a handgun within a residence owned or controlled by that person unless the handgun is stored in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock.” The law was challenged by, among others, an “elderly lady” who believes that she could never defend herself against an intruder if she had to “find her glasses, turn on the light, find the key to the lock box, open the lockbox….”  If this isn’t a civilian version of the Keystone Cops, I don’t know what is.

The Ninth Circuit admitted in its ruling upholding the law that it was creating a “burden” on the core right of the 2nd Amendment, but it found this burden to be outweighed by the evidence presented by the City of San Francisco that “guns kept in the home are most often used in suicides and against family and friends rather than in self-defense and that children are particularly at risk of injury and death.”  Uh-oh, here comes all that public health research by Kellerman, Hemenway and others about the risks of unlocked guns rearing its ugly head in a federal court.  The pro-gun folks have lavished no end of expense and energy trying to discredit such research, and what they got for their efforts was the research was used to justify a limitation on their most sacred right.

The plaintiffs in this case, of course, produced some research of their own, which consisted of data from the Department of Justice showing that 60% of all home robberies take place between 6 P.M. and 6 A.M., precisely the period when people might be sleeping and their need for self-defense is “most acute.” But there’s only one little problem with this data because it also shows that only 1-2% of all forcible home robberies resulted in serious injury to someone present in the home, which means in terms of real numbers that only 10,000 individuals nationwide might have needed to defend themselves against a criminal assault.

The next case which might be reviewed by the SCOTUS involves a challenge to the San Diego law which makes it difficult for anyone to carry a concealed gun for self-defense.  Let me give the plaintiffs in that case a little free advice:  I wouldn’t push the self-defense argument too far even if Scalia used it as the basis for Heller in 2008. What the SCOTUS recognized in that decision was the fact that 300 million guns are floating around in civilian hands.  But that’s not the same thing as saying that every pair of those hands can walk around with a gun.

 

 

Guns On Campus? Who Says That’s Such A Great Idea?

Not a day goes by, it seems, when the media isn’t carrying another story about sexual assaults on our college and university campuses.  And it’s not just an issue at jock-party-frat schools like Virginia, it’s also happening at elite schools like MIT. But while educators and parents alike struggle to find answers to what appears to be a growing problem, leave it to the gun folks to come up with the same solution that they use in every discussion about crime and safety, namely, get yourself a gun.

I am referring to an organization called Students for Concealed Carry, which has the requisite website, Facebook page and Twitter channel, all devoted to the idea that students should be allowed to carry guns on college campuses because self-protection is a “human right” and everyone knows that the best way to protect yourself is by carrying a gun.  Of course the organization is not affiliated with the NRA and is at pains to present itself in a non-partisan way, its leadership representing “conservatives, moderates, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, etc.”

campus                I’m always amazed at how non-partisan these pro-gun groups claim to be.  Of course I have never seen any of these groups ever advocate a gun policy that wasn’t straight out of the RNC playbook, but that’s neither here nor there.  After all, self-protection shouldn’t be a partisan issue, right?  Except for one little thing.  By advocating self-protection with a gun, groups like Students for Concealed Carry aren’t advancing human rights at all and they certainly aren’t promoting strategies that make us more safe.  The leadership of this organization, whether they know it or not, is advancing an agenda that has not only been discredited in terms of research, but has been cynically promoted by the gun lobby as a way to sell more guns.

The nonsense about the protective value of gun ownership started in 1994 when a criminologist named Gary Kleck published the results of a telephone survey in which he asked people whether they had ever used a gun to prevent a crime from taking place.  On the basis of 213 responses, Kleck stated that armed Americans prevented upwards of 2.5 million serious crimes annually, even though he made no effort to validate whether people were telling him the truth, or whether the person against whom they brandished a gun was actually going to commit a crime.  The study was manna from heaven for the gun industry, which was trying to figure out how to replace its traditional hunting market with new reasons for people to own guns.  And since the early 1990’s which saw a major rise in urban crime largely due to the spread of crack cocaine, connecting the public fear of crime with the supposed protective value of a gun made perfect marketing sense.

I wrote a detailed critique of Kleck’s so-called research in my latest book on guns, and pointed out that the biggest problem with his argument was the fact that his survey only asked respondents if they had resisted a crime by using a gun.  It seemed to me that if you really wanted to prove that guns were a positive means for self-protection, the least you would have to do is compare the outcome of using a gun for self-defense with other options, such as running away, yelling or calling the cops.

But that research has finally been done and the author of that study, first published in 2005 and just republished this year, is none other than the selfsame Gary Kleck.  And guess what the champion of gun self-defense found when he compared using a gun to other forms of self-defense in instances of rape and assault?  There was really no difference at all.  Oh, there were a few caveats about not having enough data to understand exactly whether guns made a difference or not, but the bottom line is that you don’t defend yourself from a rape or an assault any better if you do or don’t carry a gun.  The folks who run Students for Concealed Carry might want to rethink their ideas.