A New Partnership To Reduce Gun Suicides Which Might Help.

How many people die annually from gun violence?  If you’re a gun-control advocate, you’ll usually say that it’s somewhere around 31,000.  On the other hand, if you’re pro-gun, you’ll say it’s 11,000, give or take a few. The difference is whether or not suicide is considered a type of gun violence, because every year more than 20,000 Americans end their own lives by using a gun.  And if you want to meet your Maker before He wants to meet you, there’s nothing as efficient as pulling out the ol’ firearm, aiming it at yourself and – bam! Gun suicide is effective 90% of the time, no other life-ending behavior is half as good.

gun-suicide            According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence is defined as someone who attempts to injure themselves or someone else.  So from a medical point of view, gun suicide is certainly a type of gun violence.  But the disagreement between pro-gun and anti-gun forces isn’t about medicine, it’s about politics, messaging and whether we need guns around or not.  Which is why until recently, the gun industry has preferred to keep discussions about gun suicide on the back burner, but that’s about to change.

Last year the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the industry’s lobbying and trade organization began talking to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in an effort to find some common ground.  And what has emerged from these talks is a four-state, pilot program that will put suicide prevention messaging in gun shops and shooting ranges, a program that will then be widened with the goal of reducing gun suicides 20% nationally by 2025.  The project was officially kicked off with a press conference at this week’s SHOT show, and is publicly displayed on the websites of the AFSP and NSSF.

Predictably, the fringe elements in Gun-nut World were reluctant to jump on board unless this initiative and other similar programs would steer clear of any explicit or implicit attempt to use this activity to regulate guns.  Alan Gottleib, whose 2nd Amendment Foundation is really a cover for his very-profitable mail solicitation business, helped craft a bill before the Washington State legislature that establishes a ‘safe homes’ task force that will create messaging and training materials for ‘voluntary’ use by gun dealers. The Task Force membership includes Gottleib and a rep from the NRA. I don’t notice any representation from the groups in Washington State that pushed through an extension of background checks over the vigorous opposition of the NRA and the Gottleib gang.

This is the problem with the new suicide initiative announced by the NSSF and the AFSP, namely, that it’s a voluntary effort, which when it comes to educating about gun violence is where the gun industry always draws the line.  Gun-nut Nation’s phobia about government mandates is about as extreme as the phobia that some people have about immunizing their kids against disease.  And frankly, both phobias come from the same place; i.e., mistrust of government and a total misrepresentation of the facts. Fact: There is absolutely no connection between NICS-background checks and national registration of guns.  Fact: There is absolutely no connection between immunizations and autism, despite what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says.

If you walk into a gun shop today, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see a ‘Don’t Lie For The Other Guy’ poster on the wall.  This is a long-standing partnership between the ATF and the NSSF to discourage straw sales at the counter-top, a project that is dear to the hearts of everyone in the GVP community as well.  In fact, displaying this message is mandatory, although ATF agents don’t check to see if the poster is hanging on the wall or not.

Of course we would like gun-suicide prevention programs to have some teeth. Of course we would like Gun-nut Nation to stop opposing sensible laws that would enable family members of at-risk individuals to remove their guns.  Of course, of course, of course.  But the NSSF-AFSP partnership is a good start.

Advertisements

What? The Trace Actually Tries To Use Facts To Figure Out If More Women Own Guns?

I want to congratulate Alex Yablon and The Trace for getting to the virtual apex of gun journalism which can be defined as any commentary or article that receives a full-length response from the NSSF.  As you know, the NSSF represents the gun industry the same way the NRA represents gun owners; i.e., what’s good for guns is good for America, and in this particular instance, the NSSF felt it necessary to correct all kinds of errors and misstatements about the number of women who are buying guns.

traceThe NSSF’s editorial opens with their half-baked crap about how The Trace is owned by Bloomberg, so of course nothing can be true.  Right away this tells us that we’re dealing not with journalism that has the slightest pretense towards objectivity, but just indulges in whatever smear campaign happens to fill the bill.  The commentary then goes on to score Yablon for relying on data from the General Social Survey (GSS) which has to be wrong because, after all, it is based on “methodological limitations” that seriously undercount gun ownership throughout the United States.

What are these ‘methodological limitations’ that render the GSS a useless source for understanding anything about guns?  It’s the same ‘limitation’ that pro-gun noisemakers like Gary Kleck and John Lott have been using for more than twenty years to discount serious gun research, namely, the canard that Americans won’t disclose ownership of guns to anyone who might then leak such information back to the Feds.  Of course neither of these phony intellectuals has ever actually asked anyone whether they are reluctant to disclose information to a government agency or to anyone else. But when you earn a living appealing to an audience that’s pre-disposed to be suspicious of government anyway, it’s not hard to convince such folks that a government or quasi-government survey isn’t worth salt.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that it flies in the face of reality. If anything, gun ownership in the current climate has become a badge of good citizenship, patriotism, and any other cultural symbol that, if embraced by everyone, would make America great again.  It’s pretty hard on the one hand to celebrate the spread of unquestioned CCW to almost every state while, on the other hand, continuing to claim that Americans are afraid to disclose legal ownership of guns.

But has the pro-gun noise machine ever been concerned with aligning its arguments with facts?  And this is the ‘problem,’ if you will, with Alex Yablon’s attempt to figure out whether or not women really represent a new market for guns, because as a serious journalist writing for a serious journalistic enterprise, he is required to look at the facts.  Which means that since the FBI doesn’t publish data on the gender breakdown of NICS-background checks, everyone who wants to research whether there are more women into shooting has to rely, to a certain extent, on data that simply cannot be exact.

Want a quick lesson in how to take hot air and turn it into ‘facts?’  Take a look at the 2014 NSSF survey on women and shooting which the organization claims contains “well-explained” findings about all those gals who now own guns. In fact, its so-called findings are based primarily on interviews with women who attended the SHOT show, which happens to be an industry-only exhibition, which means that most of the women interviewed for this report were either gun shop owners, employees, or spouses-partners of men who work in the gun trade.  Now that’s a real objective survey, right?

This past Saturday I stopped in at four gun shops because I was in the mood to buy a gun.  Together these four shops had 10-11 customers other than me.  How many were women?  As many as the number of guns I ended buying – none.  But that’s because nobody had a German-made PPK in the counter or a 20-guage Ruger Red Label on the wall.  I’ll match my ‘scientific’ survey against the NSSF any time.

Want A New AR Rifle? Don’t Buy A New Gun, Just Buy A New Part.

One of highlights of the gun business is going to the SHOT Show each year and looking at new products.  The gun industry is awash each year in new products for the simple reason that gun makers have to find ways to sell more guns to the same consumers, even if these same consumers already own more guns than they really need to own.  Actually, the last time the gun industry changed the basic design of any product was when Gaston Glock substituted a striker for a hammer and stuck it inside a polymer frame. Otherwise, all the various doo-dads that you find on guns may change the look, the finish or the feel, but a gun is still a gun.

ar              This may not be the case with a new product from an AR custom shop out of Nevada, Franklin Armory, that specializes cobbling together various components to create various different styles of black guns.  And while a gun is a gun is a gun, this time around the folks at Franklin Armory appear to have come up with not just a new type of AR rifle, but a new technology design which differs very significantly from the traditional way in which assault rifles actually work.

It’s called a binary-trigger system, which means that you don’t just get off a shot every time you pull the trigger, you also get off a shot by letting the trigger snap back to its standard firing position rather than waiting for the trigger to snap back to the firing position while the bolt slams shut and then pulling it again. In other words, because the firing mechanism is activated by the trigger moving in either direction, you are getting 2 shots even though you are only pulling the trigger once.

The company has sent relevant engineering and design documentation to the ATF, and while they haven’t gotten an official ‘yes’ as regards this new design, they also haven’t received a ‘no.’  The ATF test lab is the last word on whether any gun can be sold in the United States, which means that right now there’s a teeny chance that all guns sold with this firing system will have to be recalled, but I wouldn’t bet the barn that this would happen anytime soon.

You can catch a discussion about this new firing technology on a video posted on the Guns America website following SHOT.  You can also see the BFS system in actual use by going to the recoil.com website linked above. In the interests of full disclosure, I have not personally tested the Binary Firing System myself.  But if it performs the way it appears in the videos I have watched, there may be a real change in assault-rifle technology looming ahead.

The AR-style platform is popular because of its modular design, which means you can pull out just about any part of the gun and replace it with another, similar part of your own choice.  It’s the ability of gun owners, particularly younger owners, to customize virtually every piece of the AR which makes the gun so popular because you don’t have to buy a new gun to get a new product, all you have to do is buy a new part.  And if or when Franklin Armory gets the official go-ahead from the ATF, I’ll guarantee they will start selling this BFS module to any AR owner who wants to use it with their own gun.

Now here’s the problem for my friends in GVP.  Because of the way the binary trigger works, a gun with this system delivers shots faster than the standard AR. It’s not a full-auto gun, but you are basically shooting semi-auto mode twice as quickly as when the trigger has to be pulled for every shot.  If I need to spell out the implications of this technology to anyone who is concerned about the lethality of an AR, I suggest you go back and read this column again.

 

If You’re A Liberal, It Doesn’t Mean You’re Against Guns.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how the gun-sense gang can build a grass-roots movement to equal the strength and tenacity of the NRA and I always come up short.  After all, the NRA’s been in business for nearly 150 years, they publish two great magazines which you receive as part of your membership, they have local chapters which run monthly social events and, of course, they get media attention at the drop of a hat.  Not that I want to put the NRA out of business; I’d just like to see a level playing field because if there was a group out there whose members numbered the same 4 million that the NRA claims its total membership to be, maybe the NRA would be less inclined to promote some of the totally-false ideas (‘good guys with guns protect us from bad guys with guns’) that are used to make us believe that guns don’t need to be regulated at all.

liberal                But maybe I just found the answer in a little-known organization, The Liberal Gun Club, which I have joined by paying the annual dues of 25 bucks.  Actually, I could have joined by paying 10 bucks, but I opted for the high-falootin’ premium membership, which probably gets me nothing at all.  Except, of course, I can go into the club’s forum, read what all the other gun-owning liberals have to say and, because I’m Mike the Gun Guy, shoot my mouth off until they tell me to shut up.

But I’m not sure they’re going to shut me up because their mission states that they “provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports.”  And if you take a look at some of the comments on their blog, you’ll find that they do tend to depart from the usual NRA cant, even though when it comes to the ownership of guns, they sound a little bit more like the NRA than the ADA.  And the reason I say this is because even though they appear to be concerned about the issues which form the liberal play book – racism, poverty, inequality – they’d rather try to solve these big problems than worry about little things like guns.

It turns out that the Liberal Gun Club has something else in common with the NRA, namely, their intention to hold an annual meeting in October, complete with shooting range visits, a welcoming reception, a headquarters hotel and a few other activities here and there.  They’ve taken a block of rooms at the Aliante Hotel/Casino which is a very nice joint.  I can attest to that because American Airlines once comped a room for me there when they cancelled my flight back from the SHOT show and I had a great time.  But since when do you not have a great time in Vegas, particularly when it’s on the arm?

Even though I’ve been a member of the Liberal Gun Club for less than two hours, I already have an idea that could get the organization from front-page news.  It occurs to me that Democratic Presidential candidates routinely show up at meetings of the NAACP, the United Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.  But what if Bernie and Hillary were invited to appear before a group of gun owners?  I’ll bet you that just sending them the invitation would make news.  Remember when Joe Biden said that his wife kept a shotgun in her house for self-defense?  The Republican noise machine stupidly criticized him for this remark, even though for the first time a national Democrat had endorsed the use of a gun for self-defense.

For all their talk about protecting everyone’s rights, the NRA doesn’t want to share the issue of guns with folks from both sides of the political divide.  Monopolizing guns as a conservative talking-point increases the leverage of the NRA, particularly when Republican Presidential hopefuls dutifully line up at the annual NRA show.  The Liberal Gun Club might consider offering Democratic candidates their own home in which to roost.

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

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.

Score One For Everytown: Leno Quits Shot.

That didn’t take long.  On Tuesday the word started going around that Jay Leno had been booked to appear at the 2015 SHOT Show, and by Wednesday afternoon, faced by a Tweet onslaught from Everytown and other gun-control groups, Leno pulled the plug and agreed not to show up.  The SHOT show is the gun industry’s premier trade event, allegedly open only to people who are connected to the gun industry in some way.  The truth is they’ll let you in even if your industry connection consists of the fact that you own guns, and if you wear a military uniform you don’t even have to own the gun yourself.

I started going to SHOT back in the early 1980s and the only thing that’s changed over the years is the products have become increasingly ‘tactical,’ with more emphasis on self-defense and much less interest in hunting and outdoor sports.  Lasers have replaced glass optics, hunting camo has given way to the military-wannabe look, and of course the guns are small, polymer and advertised as giving you the “edge” over bad guys, be they foreign bad guys, domestic bad guys, or whatever bad guys.  The show is a fraction of the size of a real, consumer-product show like COMDEX, but it’s the one place each year where dealers can see, touch and feel what they will be selling in their stores, and SHOT revenues make up a big chunk of the annual budget of the show’s sponsor, the NSSF.

leno                I’m not sure when the State of the Industry dinner started to attract headliners like Jay Leno.  But the truth is that since he left the Tonight Show earlier this year, he’s not such a headliner.  The last time I went to the Industry Dinner the performer was a right-wing comedian named Dennis Miller, who gave a standard, and somewhat stale anti-Obama spiel that even a room full of gun nuts didn’t receive with any great degree of response.  I used to occasionally watch Leno’s monologue and he always threw in a few wisecracks about whoever was sitting in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  I suspect that his publicist lined up the SHOT gig knowing they could always dig up a few one-liners that would go over with a pro-gun crowd.

I’m not surprised that Leno caved so quickly once Shannon raised the red flag.  Now that he’s off the tube, a guy like Leno depends on personal appearances to make ends meet, and the last thing he needs is an Everytown-led boycott a la what worked so well with Target stores.  I also suspect that whoever booked Leno into SHOT never imagined that anyone would know or care where his client showed up.  As they say in show business, a gig’s a gig, you take what you can get.

But what I did find interesting was the snarky and somewhat mealy-mouthed response of the NSSF.  The public statement began by noting that Leno “unilaterally” cancelled his appearance, obviously implying that the NSSF didn’t want him to quit, and then went on to decry “the bullying political tactics of the gun control groups that seem to have as little respect for the First Amendment as they continually demonstrate with regard to the Second Amendment.”  Gee, I had no idea the NSSF and the gun industry was so sensitive to 1st-Amendment issues, given their attempts to muzzle the free speech of physicians who might actually believe that a gun could possibly pose a health risk.

The statement concluded with the usual pat on the back the NSSF always gives itself for its phony safety program ChildSafe which allegedly distributes gun locks and gun safety literature hither and yon.  Except there has never been a single attempt by the NSSF or anyone else to figure out whether this program has even had a minimal safety effect.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t care whether Leno or anyone else shows up at SHOT, entertains the dinner crowd and leaves town with a check. But Shannon and her Everytown continue to level the playing field when it comes to talk about guns.  And that’s something the NSSF better not forget.