It’s Time For Some Real Push-Back About Violence Caused By Guns.

I’m going to make a prediction that my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community won’t like but it needs to be said nonetheless. And my prediction goes like this: Unless and until the advocates for reducing gun violence get it together and start slugging it out toe-to-toe with the pro-gun gang, the possibility that we will see a significant decline in gun violence will remain somewhere between nothing and nil. Let me give you an example.

kim             Last week the boys in Fairfax posted a story about Kim Kardashian’s latest attempt to inject a little reality into the debate about guns. Basically she called for more restrictions on people who are convicted of a misdemeanor, or have been served a temporary restraining order; in other words, closing some of the loopholes which allow an awful lot of dangerous people to legally get their hands on guns.

The NRA referred to Kardashian’s comments as ‘barely-intelligible’ and ‘ignorant’ despite the fact that what she said about legal loopholes wasn’t all that different from what we know to be true. Would her comments pass muster in an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court? Of course not. But when was the last time that any mouthpiece for Gun-nut nation said anything that remotely aligned with the truth?

On the same NRA webpage which carried the attack on Kim, the NRA also linked to a Breitbart posting that calls out Shannon Watts for promoting female political candidates who, once in office, will push more gun-control laws. Of course there’s nothing about Shannon’s views which should surprise because she’s simply a creation of Bloomberg’s big bucks.

In these two stories alone I count at least five errors along with slanted, misleading opinions and a generally nasty attitude towards two women who don’t deserve to be attacked by media organizations which claim to be publishing the latest ‘news.’ But if we have learned anything from the last six months and our sleep-deprived President, it’s that what used to be the line between facts and opinions has disappeared. And nowhere is this more the case than in the so-called ‘debate’ about guns.

But in fact there isn’t any debate about whether the existence of 300 million personally-owned guns gives the United States a level of gun violence that is seven to twenty times higher than gun-violence rates in the rest of the OECD. In a recent column I mentioned that a new study by pediatricians at Mt. Sinai Hospital found that 80% of all gun injuries suffered by children occurred in the 16-19 age group, whereupon a pro-gun advocate told me that these gun-violence victims were all gang members or criminals, hence, they weren’t ‘kids.’ This is the kind of nonsensical thinking that Gun-nut Nation employs every time that any credible research on gun violence appears. Is it different from stating that anything Kim Kardashian or Shannon Watts says is stupid and wrong because they are being promoted by Bloomberg’s big bucks?

Enough is really enough. If James Comey can sit down in front of a Senate Committee and call that schmuck in the Oval Office a ‘liar,’ then it’s high time that GVP took off the gloves and started talking like they mean it as well. With all due respect to my public health friends at Harvard and Hopkins, evidence-based research just won’t do it alone; you also need to push back with the same degree of anger and volume that appears in every comment made by the other side.

When a right-wing ‘think’ tank says that banning assault weapons won’t do anything to curb gun violence, they are lying and they need to be called ‘liars’ in direct and no-nonsense terms. When an organization that is supported by a publicly-granted tax deduction says that guns don’t kill people, only people kill people, they need to be told that what they are saying is a BIG LIE. The problem with GVP is that it’s too polite. And politeness only provokes the other side to behave even worse.

 

 

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Just Because I Don’t Think That Guns Make Us Safe Doesn’t Mean I’m Right.

My friend Shannon Watts received an interesting email the other day on her Facebook page, and since she shared it with all of us, I feel comfortable responding to what the writer of that message had to say.  I’ll quote the relevant words: “Until you can guarantee me my safety, and that of my loved one, I will continue to take care of myself and my loved ones, as i have done these many years.”

 

watts

Shannon Watts

The writer then went on to add the usual semi-literate comments about ‘asshole liberalism,’ and other turns of a phrase. Shannon receives comments like this all the time so what else is new? But I want to look at what Gun-nut Nation means when they talk about ‘guaranteeing’ safety, because I think this notion gets to the heart of what the gun debate is really all about.

Do you notice how #45 (if he’s still #45) never lets an opportunity go by without saying that he wants to make the country ‘safe?’ He’s building a wall to keep us ‘safe.’ He’s restricting immigration to make us ‘safe.’ I’m sure that if the GOP had managed to jettison the ACA that this colossal act of political stupidity would have somehow been seen as making us ‘safe.’

I’m not saying that most or even many gun owners walk around thinking that the only thing they can depend on in this terrible unsafe world is that 20-ounce piece of steel and polymer which has the unfortunate tendency to flop onto the floor when they pull their pants down and squat on the can. Most gun owners are like me (and I own lots, really lots of guns) – the guns have always been around, I like having them around, it’s something fun and that’s the end of that.

But then you get those jerks like the jerk who wrote that dopey Facebook note to Shannon who really believe they need to have a gun because it makes them feel ‘safe.’ And you could tell someone like that again and again that there are countless studies which show that guns won’t make you any safer and what you’ll get is a blink, a nod, and a restatement of the ‘fact’ that he ‘knows’ that his gun will make him ‘safe.’

We’re not talking reality here, folks. We’re talking emotions, pure and simple, and emotions, particularly fearful emotions, always trump facts.  It’s like my friend Al who takes 5 days to drive to back and forth to Florida each Winter because he’s afraid to fly. I can tell him from today to next year that he’s much safer in an airplane than trundling down I-95 and he’s still going to drive.

When you stop and think about it, the decision of the gun industry to market their products by appealing to fear is a brilliant master stroke. Because I can’t think of another consumer product whose basic use has been transformed so radically even though the way the product functions hasn’t changed at all.  Pull the trigger and it goes – bang! That’s the way a gun works and has always worked. But using a gun to bring down Bambi, a high-flyer or clay bird is one thing, using it to ‘guarantee’ your ‘safety’ is something else.

If we’ve learned one thing from the power of advertising media, it’s that people can be made to believe all kinds of things which may bear no relationship to reality at all. But who made me the ultimate authority on what’s believable or what’s true when it comes to guns? The fact that I write about guns and I own lots of guns doesn’t mean that anyone else should necessarily to adopt my point of view.  And if I can’t persuade Al that he’s safer flying to Florida than driving down there in his truck, why should someone who really believes that his gun ‘guarantees’ his safety want to rethink his own point of view?

 

Shannon Watts Gets Attacked For The Usual Reason: Telling The Truth.

Yesterday Shannon Watts got into a Twitter kerfuffle with home-school queen Dana Loesch and gun-toting enthusiast Kimberly Corban about whether guns could be carried into the NRA’s annual meeting in Nashville.  What set off the argument was Shannon’s tweet that guns weren’t allowed into the hall where Wayne-o gave his pep talk to the crowd: “@NRA fails to mention that its annual meeting was a ‘safe space’; no guns while their chief lobbyist spoke,” a comment that was branded a lie by the Gun-nut Nation noise machine, a judgement then seconded by Loesch who accused Shannon of ‘blocking and obsessing’ rather than telling the truth.

 

watts

Shannon Watts

The truth is that what Shannon said about the NRA show was absolutely true. If you were licensed to carry a gun in Nashville, you could bring your gun into the main exhibition hall.  But guns weren’t allowed into the auditorium where Wayne-o rallied the troops, ditto during the appearance of Trump.  Which is exactly what Shannon said; i.e., no guns when Wayne-o gave his speech.

What caught my eye, however, was not that Ms. Watts was criticized for saying something she didn’t say.  If Shannon had a nickel for every time she’s been accused of saying something that wasn’t true when what she said happened to be true, she could pay off the mortgage on her house.  So that kind of attack is hardly new news.

What I found interesting about this exchange was the statement by Kimberly Corban that carrying a gun around creates a ‘safe space.’ What space is she talking about?  I guess she’s referring to the space that was between her and the guy who came through a window into her apartment in 2006, held her against her will and then raped her; an attack that she immediately reported to the police and then followed through by testifying at the trial in which the creep was convicted of sexual assault. According to Kimberly, the situation would have been different if she had been able to grab a gun even though by the time she woke up the attacker was already standing next to her bed.

I’m not trying in any way to downplay the terrifying ordeal and subsequent emotional trauma suffered by Kimberly Corban or any other woman who is the victim of rape.  But a year after the attack she was training rape counselors at a local center, and now she’s morphed into a national celebrity, complete with the requisite appearances on Fox, as well as challenging President Obama during his CNN town hall gun debate.

So the woman who claims that she wants to “educate the public on sexual assault” now basically spends her time promoting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’  Which makes her a perfect pitchman for the NRA’s continuing effort to get a gun into every American home, because who’s going to argue with a woman who knows how it feels to be unable to defend herself from a rape?

There’s only one little problem.  Granted, Kimberly’s experience makes her testimony about rape a compelling and deeply-troubling description of this traumatic event.  But that terrible moment doesn’t make her an expert on how to defend herself or her kids. And it certainly doesn’t give her any expertise at all when it comes to defending herself or others with a gun.

Want to consult an expert on using a gun for self-defense?  Let’s start with Gary Kleck, the famed criminologist who invented the idea that Americans used guns to protect themselves from crimes more than two million times each year. And while Kleck doesn’t believe his own numbers any longer, leave it to ‘experts’ like Kimberly Corban to continue promoting the myth.  Contrary to that nonsense, Kleck published an article in 2004 which showed that resisting sexual assault with a gun was no more effective than using other self-defense measures, like yelling for help.

Hey Shannon, keep telling it like it is. Keep pushing back on self-promoters like Kimberly Corban and Dana Loesch. The worst result from your efforts is that people will learn the truth.

 

The NRA Used To Own The Politics Of Guns But Not Any More.

When Hillary decided that gun violence would become a signature issue of her Presidential campaign, she was warned by all the ‘experts,’ including husband Bill, that she was making a big mistake. You don’t mess with the NRA; that’s been the mantra since Al Gore lost his White House bid because allegedly the NRA prevented him from carrying his home state.  And Obama also learned that messing with the NRA could cost him dear; he couldn’t even get a puny, little gun bill through Congress after the horrendous massacre at Sandy Hook.

 

         Shannon Watts

Shannon Watts

When it comes to putting up the green to persuade our elected representatives how to vote, the NRA doesn’t really hold a candle to what flows into campaign coffers from big-league players like the banks, the insurance companies, the lawyers; i.e., the folks whose decisions really make a difference in all our lives.  For that matter, the NRA doesn’t even come close to the lobbying efforts of environmentalists.  I mean, who’s going to argue with a tree? Finally, it really doesn’t take much of a political backbone if you’re from Oklahoma, Missouri, or some other gun-rich state, to stand up and pledge allegiance to the 2nd Amendment, and funny, but just about all the dough that the NRA passes out around Capitol Hill goes to Members of Congress with safe seats in red states.

But where the NRA has always sat on top of the heap is when it comes to promoting or challenging gun laws at the local and state levels since it has always been assumed that their vast membership can provide the necessary ‘feet on the ground’ every time a local political event takes place.  After all, what other gun organization claims a membership of 4 million?  Or is it 5 million?  I’ve heard both numbers over the years, but either way, these folks can and do generate lots of emails and telephone calls to elected officials if and when the gang in Fairfax wants to make some noise about guns.

When it comes to creating political noise about guns, until recently the pro-gun folks more or less had the field to themselves.  Organizations like the Brady Campaign, Violence Policy Center, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and others have done important work to heighten public awareness about gun violence, as well as conducting research and engaging in lobbying on the Hill, but these groups and others did not focus on building the kind of grass-roots, action-oriented member activity for which the NRA constantly pats itself on the back.

I don’t think that Hillary would have been willing to put gun issues on the top of her campaign agenda were it not for the fact that organizations pushing for more sensible gun regulations are now equal, if not ahead of the NRA when it comes to the number of feet on the ground.  First and foremost in this regard is the Everytown-Moms Demand Action combine spearheaded by Shannon Watts, who understood that the issue of gun violence could be raised at the point where everyone sooner or later appears, namely, the entrance to the supermarket, the shopping mall, we all go out and buy stuff we do or don’t need.  And the key to Shannon’s success was the awareness that decisions about things like family safety are usually vested in the family Mom; hence the name of her organization, hence finding women who will get up and lead, hence a remarkable record of growth and achievement in less than four years!

Every once in a while there’s a setback, a campus-carry bill is vetoed in Georgia but becomes law in the Lone Star State.  The latter won’t be the first time that the hard work of Moms and other groups will go for naught. But if Hillary moves back into the White House in 2017, it will be in no small measure due to what groups like Moms Demand and others have done to elevate the discussion about guns.  And that’s a good thing.

Can Gun Violence Prevention Take On And Beat Trump’s NRA? They Sure Can.

Now that Donald Trump went down to North Carolina and sent a clarion call to Gun-nut Nation to save his Presidential bid by going after Hillary with everything they’ve got, we might take a minute to try and figure out exactly what the 2nd-Amendment gang can really bring to the attempt to change the color of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from blue to red. Of course Trump will say that his victory would once again make the White House really white, if you know what I mean, heh heh.

gun control           It does seem that the Trump Express has not only run off the rails, but in the process just about run out of steam.  Those huge leads in the polls are now a distant memory, even with all that money he allegedly raised last month basically the campaign is broke.  The Fox News freebies meant a lot more when he was running in the primaries against other Republicans whose supporters also only watched the ‘fair and balanced’ news shows that used to be produced by a fat, old philanderer named Roger Ailes.

If the GOP can’t beat the most vulnerable candidate the Democrats have nominated since I don’t know when, they can’t beat anyone at all.  Which means the GOP may also lose the Senate and there are whisperings that the House might be in play. If that happens, we will have the one political alignment in Washington which produced the gun-control laws in 1968 and again in 1994, namely, a Democratic Congress and a liberal President with strong ties to the South.

Anyone who tells you that HRC will be content with a gun bill that just widens the NICS background check system to cover secondary gun transactions doesn’t know the history of the Clintons and gun control at all. Because one of the big, unfinished pieces that was left behind in 2001 when Bill and HRC departed from the White House with some of the silverware in tow was an agreement with Smith & Wesson that basically required the company to not only forge ahead with smart gun technology and other safety standards, but also made the company responsible for downstream behavior of everyone – wholesalers and dealers – who sold their guns.

I don’t think it would have been possible for the company to have met those terms and retain a fraction of its current financial strength and manufacturing size; I also believe that this is the kind of regulations that might just reappear in a Clinton-sponsored gun bill next year. Because the truth is that many of the provisions of that agreement have become the stock-in-trade of the Gun Violence Prevention movement today, and if Mister Trump owes something to Gun-nut Nation for helping him secure the Republican nomination, HRC will certainly owe GVP big-time if she ends up grabbing the brass ring.

The problem of course, is that everything else which Trump used to pull himself to the top of the primary heap when he was talking only to Republicans, particularly the most activist Republicans, won’t count for all that much against the other side.  And this is the first general election in which even the vaunted power of the NRA membership will be competing against a motivated and large GVP community which didn’t even exist in any real numbers just four years ago.

Shannon didn’t sit down at her kitchen table and start contacting her Moms until after Obama beat Romney in 2012.  Guess what?  Moms Demand Action now counts more than 3 million energetic members which ain’t chopped liver when it comes to grass-roots activity and support.

The NRA’s attacks on Hillary are right out of the same playbook they have been using for twenty years.  And to me, even Trump’s snarky and stupid threat muttered in North Carolina sounded a little stale. If he thinks that the NRA still has the playing field to itself when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, he better think again.

 

Texans Will Make A Big Decision On January 1st. Do They Want A Burrito Or A Gun?

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment gave Americans the Constitutional right to keep a loaded, unlocked handgun in their homes to use for self-defense, the pro-gun nation has been trying to push the notion of armed, self-defense beyond the home and into the street.  This strategy has taken two paths; on the one hand promoting concealed-carry licensing, on the other, bringing weapons into gun-free zones.  There’s nothing but anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that a gun can protect its owner from crime, but there’s plenty of serious research which shows the opposite to be true.

open               The latest effort to widen the scope of armed defense is about to be unveiled in Texas with the law allowing open carry to take effect on January 1st.  This law was the brainchild of a former Army Master Sergeant, C.J. Grisham, who parlayed an argument with a cop over how he was openly carrying a gun into a statewide movement which even made him briefly consider a run for the State Legislature until his campaign ran out of dough. Bottom line is that even though an earlier attempt to promote open carry in Texas was condemned by the NRA, those fearless advocates for gun rights in Fairfax, VA, eventually saw the light and lined up behind the bill that Governor Abbott signed into law.

Believe it or not, I’m really happy to see the open carry law go into effect in Texas, because I think the result is going to be exactly the reverse of what the pro-gun nation hopes to achieve.  First of all, the law has an opt-out procedure known as 30.07, which allows merchants to post signs at the entrance to their establishments stating that only shoppers who carry their guns concealed will be allowed on the premises after January 1st.  And I am frankly astonished at the extent to which major merchandisers in Texas have announced that they will not welcome folks openly carrying guns into their stores.

Take, for example, a company like Simon’s, which operates malls and discount outlets in 39 states.  They run 35 major shopping destinations in Texas, including such flagship locations as the Gateway in Austin, The Galleria in Houston (which includes the first Webster boutique outside of Florida), and the Shops at Clearfork in Fort Worth.  Simon’s is opting out of open carry, and so are major food chains, like H-E-B, which has supermarkets in 150 towns, and national chains like Safeway and Whole Foods.  Opting out of open carry is also now spreading through the religious community, with the Catholic Diocese in Lubbock, Dallas and other areas posting notices that guns aren’t welcome on hallowed ground.

The public discussion over this new law has also given GVP advocates like Moms Demand Action an opportunity to engage store owners and other operators of public venues with their unique message about gun violence, as well as providing 30.07 signage and instructions for opting out of the new law.  Anyone who thinks that Shannon Watts and her ladies aren’t playing a visible role in promoting 30.07 at the grassroots level will be in for something of a surprise as more signage denying access to open carry continues to appear.

I believe that wearing a gun in a public venue does nothing to promote public safety.   And the merchants who have opted out of open carry evidently agree, with most citing concerns about guns endangering rather than protecting their customers, particularly in places where alcohol is served. In that regard I am particularly interested in the fact that Gringo’s Mexican Chicken and Jimmy Changas, two of Houston’s most popular Tex-Mex restaurant chains, will be going 30.07, because if gun folks like to do anything more than argue about the 2nd Amendment, they love to eat. And when all is said and done, I predict that consuming a burrito will turn out to be more important than wearing a gun.

 

 

Women Are Getting Into Shooting, But Not In The Way That Keli Goff Wants You To Believe.

Whether she knows it or not, feature writer for The Beast, Keli Goff, has just published an article about the alleged increase of women in the shooting sport which reads right out of the NRA-NSSF playbook on how to win friends and influence people about guns without knowing anything about guns.  Keli has unquestioned liberal credentials and a piece she did last year on guns and ghetto crime said all the right things from a GVP perspective, but this time she seems to have gone into the deep water and I’m not sure that her life-jacket can keep her afloat.

loesch              Keli begins by noting what we all know, namely, that recent surveys show that the popular mood has shifted from gun control to gun rights, and since women have historically been more supportive of gun control than men, Keli uses the shift from gun control to gun rights as proof that women are increasingly interested in guns.

Of course making assumptions about the relationship between public opinion surveys and buying habits is one thing; proving a connection is something else.  But having obviously done well in Journalism 101, Keli knows that she needs to come up with some real numbers in order to prove her point.  And since the FBI doesn’t track or aggregate gender data from the NICS checks (I know, because I asked the FBI for this data) and at least 40% of all gun transactions occur without any background check at all (I believe this figure to be correct), Keli has no choice but to support her argument by going to what she hopes will be a credible, second-hand source.

And what source does she use?  The NRA, which is about as reliable a source for valid information about the gun business as Exxon would be a valid source for the effects of global warming.  So it should come as no surprise to the readers of Keli’s column that the NRA claimed that between 2004 and 2011 there had been a 77% increase in the number of women who own guns.  Now even if this number is true, all it really reflects is that before 2004 the participation of women in the shooting sports was virtually nil.

It would be wrong to assume there hasn’t been an uptick in female ownership of guns. After all, more than 40% of all households now count women as the primary earner and traditional male-female gender roles continue to blur or disappear.  If there has been any slight increase in lady shooters, however, it is largely due to the unending attempt by the gun industry to use right-wing noisemakers like Dana Loesch and the slightly over-the-hill Sarah Palin to promote female ownership of guns.

Know what’s really changed as regards women and guns? It’s the degree to which women have moved to the forefront of the effort to limit, not expand gun ownership, a subject that Keli Goff handles in a rather disjointed and unfair way.  To be sure she was careful to grab a few quotes from two female GVP activists, Donna Dees Thomases and Colette Martin, but she then contrasts the alleged growth of female gun owners to a “lack of momentum” in the gun-control movement of today.

Let me break the news to you gently, Ms. Goff.  I have been involved with guns since 1965 and I have never seen a GVP movement as determined, widespread and active as what I now see.  And whether it’s Colette, Donna, Shannon and so many others, what stands out in the current GVP environment is the energy, activity and public presence of women who want to see gun violence come to an end.

Keli – your story is not just short on facts, it’s a slap in the face to women whose efforts have levelled the playing field with the NRA. Your article represents quickie, digital journalism at its worst, and other than wishing you a Merry Christmas, there’s nothing more to say.