How Come The Gun Violence Numbers are Wrong, Wrong and Wrong?

              I know full well the pressures of finding enough content to publish a daily blog, but sometimes bloggers create stories which aren’t necessarily ready for prime time just yet. And an example of this, and I’m not besmirching the motives or talents of the blogger involved, is a story put out by our friends at The Trace about the downward drop in gun violence this past year.

              According to Jennifer Mascia, it looks like overall gun deaths in 2018 will be roughly 7% lower than the previous year, in this case deaths count fatal injuries other than suicides, which may in fact end up being higher in 2018 than in 2017. The data comes from our friends at the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which posts a daily listing of shootings based on whatever comes over the digital transom, a.k.a. open-source feeds from all over the World Wide Web.

              The GVA readily admits that its data does not include gun suicides, because rarely, if ever, do these events get any digital mention at all. I am just as happy that the GVA doesn’t include gun suicides in its daily report, because I have all kinds of problems with considering suicides as ‘gun violence,’ even though the World Health Organization defines violence as an attempt to injure either yourself or someone else. Everything connected to suicidal behavior is so different from any other type of violent behavior (most of all our continued reluctance to deal with suicide) that it may make gun violence appear to be a more serious threat, but it shouldn’t be used to justify any changes to the system we use to regulate guns.

              Getting back to intentional injuries committed by one person against someone else, the good news is that the GVA number for gun homicides is close to the number published by the CDC, but the number for non-fatal assaults is so far off from the annual CDC count as to have no real meaning whatsoever. The head of GVA, our friend Mark Bryant, is quoted in The Trace article as putting this discrepancy down to “issues with the CDC’s methodology.”

              C’mon Mark and Jennifer, you can both do better than that. In 2016, the most recent year for numbers on non-fatal injuries for the CDC, the agency said that 95,195 people were the victims of non-fatal gun violence. That same year, according to GVA, there were 30,645 non-fatal gun assaults. So we’re not talking about a discrepancy that can simply be put down to an issue of methodology, we’re talking about a discrepancy which is so great as to render any discussion based on either number null and void.

              In her article, Jennifer says that “we don’t know what has caused the apparent drop in gun violence,” noting that fatal shootings have gone up in Philadelphia and D.C. With all due respect, I don’t think there’s the slightest chance that we will ever know why gun homicides go up or go down as long as we continue to think of fatal shootings as somehow different from the non-fatal ones.

              They’re not. They are exactly the same. The only difference between the guys who end up dead and the guys who get stitched up is that the guy who shot the latter types didn’t shoot straight. I just re-read Jimmy Breslin’s classic book, The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight, and if there’s one thing that Jimmy captures better than anyone else who has ever written anything about guns, it’s the idea that banging away at someone other than yourself creates the overwhelming possibility that you’ll miss.

              But if we are ever going to reduce gun violence, we have to understand why less than 10% of the people who really want to hurt someone else, try hurting them with a gun. And you simply can’t understand this, or figure out what to do about it, if you don’t have the faintest idea where, when or how this kind of violence really occurs. Sorry, but fatal gun violence isn’t the whole story by any means at all.

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Lots Of Folks Have Lots Of Guns But It Only Takes One.

Gun-sense Nation is all agog because of some news out of Harvard and Northeastern which claims that roughly 3% of Americans adults – which is 7.7 million – between them own 8 to 140 guns each, for an average personal ownership of 17 guns.  These ‘super’ gun owners, according to the not-yet-but-soon-to-be released study, together have 130 million guns sitting around their homes which constitutes what Mother Jones calls the ‘craziest’ statistic about guns.

buyback            Let me break the news gently to my friends in Gun-sense Nation: having 17 guns around is nothing.  Down in Chesterfield County, SC, ol’ boy name of Brent Nicholson’s got, according to the County Sheriff, an ‘ass-load’ of guns, probably around 5,000 or so. Out in Southern California in the ritzy neighborhood known as Pacific Palisades, the cops broke into the home of a fellow who had been dead for a couple of days and found over a thousand guns.

Right now I’m kinda light when it comes to guns that I personally own; last time I looked my pile was somewhere around 60 or so, and I hope my wife doesn’t read this column because she’ll tell me to sell some more.  I got a call from a fellow the other day who’s step-father just died, his mother found a bunch of guns down in the basement and doesn’t want them around the house so I told him that I would buy the whole bunch, sight unseen, for five thousand bucks.  To which my wife then said, “we don’t have any room for the damn things so do me a favor and sell some of the ones you have.” I don’t see her selling any of her shoes, btw, but I gotta sell my guns, right?

I get lots of nasty comments from members of Gun-nut Nation whenever I refer to my guns as ‘adult toys.’  But that’s exactly what they are.  Owning all that metal doesn’t in any way make me ‘free’ (actually it ties me down because I can’t imagine packing the damn things up and moving them all to a new home); it doesn’t protect me from terrorism or any other kind of threat; it doesn’t support my 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’  I own all those guns because I like owning guns – it’s as simple as that.  I had toy guns around me from almost the time I could walk, I bought my first, real gun when I was twelve years old, over the sixty years since then I have probably bought and sold more than 1,000 personal guns. Sound like a lot?  That’s a little more than one a month. That’s no big deal.

And by the way, between 1956 when I bought my first real gun and 2008, not a single one of those transactions was protected by any kind of Constitutional ‘right,’ and not a single one of those transactions was in any delayed or prohibited because I didn’t have any kind of Constitutional protection for owning a gun.  If the 2nd Amendment is what keeps a gun-grabber like Hillary from taking away my guns, how come gun-grabbing liberals didn’t try to ban guns before Dick Heller took his case to the Supreme Court?

You can invest gun ownership with any kind of social, cultural or legal rationale that you choose, but the only reason why most people actually own guns is because there’s nothing that says they can’t. They might want to believe that their guns will protect them from crime, and on very rare occasions someone actually does use a gun to keep a bad guy from breaking down the back door, but a lot more people accidentally shoot themselves than shoot someone else who otherwise might cause them harm.

Is there any connection between the number of guns I own or have owned and the fact that 115,000 Americans get injured or killed each year with guns?  There sure is.  Called a gun.

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.

Does Knowledge About Guns Laws Promote More Gun Laws? Maybe Yes, Maybe No.

A new study conducted by researchers at Yale University and covered in The Trace appears to confirm a truism in how people develop and hold opinions, namely, the more you want to believe in something, the more you can make yourself believe in something.  In this case, the issue is guns, and what two Yale researchers discovered in a survey of 1,384 people, is that people who support stronger gun-control laws also know that background checks are not conducted on all gun transfers, whereas people who are less inclined to support less gun-control laws believe that universal background checks are already in place. In other words, if you believe there is a gun “problem” and you further believe that new laws could help solve the problem, you will be in favor of more laws.  And to quote an old Spanish saying: If not, not.

peacenow              I have two issues with this survey, but I want it understood that I am not trying to throw out the baby with the bathwater; I’m just trying to make the bathwater a bit more warm.  To begin, I am always somewhat suspect of public surveys about guns if the survey purports to reflect the views of a ‘representative’ group of Americans without distinguishing whether this particular group includes gun owners or not. Because on any issue related to guns, these folks are going to have plenty to say, particularly if they happen to be among the minority if gun owners who really do ‘cling’ to their guns because it’s a lifestyle and a hobby that is very important to them.  They are not necessarily the majority of gun owners and it certainly isn’t a majority of Americans, but it may be a majority in certain gun-rich states and it’s for sure just about everyone who turns out when a new gun law comes up for debate.

In this respect the Yale researchers ask the following question: “Could it be that public misperceptions of existing gun control laws also contribute to the absence of public mobilization for new legislation?”  Let me break it gently to our GVP colleagues from Yale – the folks who are against new gun laws never have any trouble mobilizing for a public debate, whether they know anything about the law in question or not.  It’s the 89% of respondents to this survey who both know there are no universal background checks and want an expansion of gun-control laws who usually don’t show up.

The authors focused this survey on questions about background checks because, according to them, “universal background checks for gun purchases could substantially reduce the number of gun-related deaths in the USA.”  They cite two well-known studies to bolster this statement, but that’s not what either study actually says.  The research by Eric Fleelger and his group correlates gun fatalities with the presence or absence of gun laws in every state, but background checks are just one of 17 different legal procedures that are used to monitor public traffic of guns.  As for the study by Daniel Webster, et. al., on the effect of the repeal of Missouri’s handgun-purchase law, a permit-to-purchase procedure conducted at the state level is, by definition, a much more rigorous method for weeding out unqualified handgun purchasers than a 60-second conversation between a gun shop owner and an FBI staffer at NICS.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying or implying that the problem of gun violence can be effectively addressed without additional laws.  I am also not saying that researching the effect of gun-control laws with an eye towards making those laws more effective shouldn’t be done.  But what I am saying is that if we believe in public policy as a mechanism for change, then the question we really have to ask is not whether folks understand the ins and outs of specific policies, but whether they are willing to come out and show themselves when a public policy is being addressed.  Perhaps that’s the question which should have been asked.

 

Want To Live Where You Don’t Need Training To Walk Around With A Gun? Live Just About Anywhere.

Anybody who thinks The Trace isn’t a source for serious journalism about gun violence ought to think again. Last week Mike Spies authored a story about the conflict between hunters and ranchers in places like the Malheur Reserve, and went far beyond any of the cliché-ridden nonsense that spewed forth from the media before and after the Bundy Boys tried to protect their Constitutional rights.  This week we have another important contribution to GVP journalism with Jennifer Mascia’s report on training required for concealed-carry permits, although her research clearly demonstrates that in most cases this so-called training amounts to no training at all.

training              You may recall that before he was found groping between stalls in a public toilet, Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) had introduced the first national, concealed-carry bill. The bill went nowhere, but it has of late been gaining steam, and last year fell just a few short of getting a positive Senate vote.  It goes without saying, of course, that the entire clown act running for the Republican Presidential nomination would sign such a bill into law.

What Mascia’s article points out is that even without formal, national reciprocity, Gun Nation has managed to create a state-by-state reciprocal infrastructure which allows CCW-holders to carry concealed weapons in a majority of states and, in many cases, to do so without being required to experience any live-fire instruction or proficiency-testing whatsoever.  And why does an organization allegedly devoted to training and gun safety like the NRA promote such dangerous behavior?  Because, as one trainer told Mascia, “I agree with it from the safety perspective, but disagree with it constitutionally.”  In other words, according to this constitutional expert-turned-gun-trainer, the 2nd Amendment grants Americans the unfettered right to own and use a gun, and nobody can be prevented from exercising this ‘right’ just because in the process of doing so they might prove to be dangerous to themselves or someone else.

Now let’s not waste anyone’s time by reminding the ‘I can do whatever I want with my gun’ crowd that, in fact, the majority opinion in District of Columbia vs. Heller explicitly gives public agencies authority to regulate the use of guns.  And let’s also not waste anyone’s time by reminding the same crowd that the courts have said again and again that “preventing danger to the community is a legitimate regulatory goal.” Because the truth is that Gun Nation believes that walking around with a gun is, in fact, a way of preventing community danger, and they cling to this belief even if it means that people are out there protecting the rest of us by carrying guns that they haven’t shot at all.

Or maybe they shot the gun a whole, big 25 rounds which is what the Nevada CCW requirement entails. Does anyone in their right mind actually believe that standing in front of an unmoving paper target and taking as much time as needed to hit a humanoid outline 4 out of 5 times prepares someone to safely deliver lethal force with a gun?

Never mind shooting the gun.  How about just holding it?  Take a look at the picture of the concealed-carry class in Utah which adorns the top of Mascia’s text.  Notice the kid is sitting in a crowded classroom with his finger on the trigger of his gun. Of course he knew the gun was empty, of course he knew. He checked, right?

Anyone who thinks I applaud this journalism because The Trace is anti-gun can go lay brick.  If Gun Nation had one, single media venue whose concern for accuracy and evidence-based reportage was even a fraction of what is practiced in The Trace, we might actually engage both sides in a serious and substantive discussion which might yield some fruit. But as long as pro-gun organizations continue to deflect concerns about gun violence through some half-baked reference to their 2nd-Amendment rights, we might as well ignore the 30,000+ gun deaths each year because nothing’s going to change.

 

Does Gun Violence = American Exceptionalism? Sure Does, Particularly In The South.

If you find yourself in a discussion with someone who doesn’t think that gun violence is a problem, just refer them to Jennifer Mascia’s great article in The Trace where she aggregates the data for 2015.  Or better yet, memorize some of her statistics and repeat them to the person with whom you are talking and if he doesn’t admit that we do have a gun violence problem, he can go lay brick.  Because along with some very nifty graphics, Jennifer really does look at a variety of data points that clearly illustrate how far we still have to go to change a gun violence trend that shows little, if any signs of ending soon.

traceBottom line according to Ms. Mascia: 2015 is going to be a “bloody year.” And it’s not ‘mass shootings’ or domestic terrorist attacks that account for all that blood being spilled; it’s the day in, day out random shootings that claim two children every day, fifteen black men every day and more than 50 suicides every day.  No wonder Trump and the other Republican clowns don’t want any more gun laws.  After all, if you make it more difficult for people to get their hands on guns, thus making it more difficult for them to shoot themselves or someone else, you can kiss this particular form of American exceptionalism goodbye, right?

But in looking at the numbers, I’m not so sure that our affinity for gun violence is necessarily an American problem. Because like so many other things, there are some remarkable regional variations in gun violence rates, and when you break the problem down on a regional basis, just as the numbers begin to change, so maybe the discussion about gun violence needs to change as well.

In 2005, according to the CDC, 30,694 Americans were killed by guns.  This number covers every type of gun violence – homicide, suicide, unintentional injury – and it’s probably somewhat less than the real total but the CDC is as close as we can get (although the numbers from the CDC-Wonder database are slightly more accurate).  In 2014 the total was 33,599 and estimates from the GVA folks point towards another increase this year.  In 2005, the Southern census region accounted for 44% of all gun deaths; in 2014 the South accounted for 46%.  The South, incidentally, is the only part of the country in which the percentage of gun deaths is higher than the percentage of the country’s population as a whole.  Further, while the gun violence rate between 2005 and 2014 fell in the Northeast and the West and stayed just about even in the Midwest, in the South it rose by 4%. If gun violence is an exceptional American phenomenon, it’s particularly exceptional in the South.

There is one other category of gun violence which is remarkably exceptional in the South, and that’s when the shooter points the gun at himself.  We can be gender-specific here because 90% of gun suicides are committed by men. And where do most of these events occur?  In the South.  In 2005, the South accounted for 44% of all gun suicides, it rose to 46% in 2014.  Meanwhile, the percentage of gun suicides in every other region has not changed over the last ten years, even though on an overall basis, gun suicides now account for 65% of all suicides, whereas they were 40% of suicides in 2005.

I’m not sure why the South has such a love affair with gun violence, but if the Southern numbers on gun violence were similar to the rest of the country, America’s most exceptional social phenomenon would look very different indeed.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the South’s exceptionalism just reflects the disparity in gun violence between Blacks and Whites.  What is the only region of the country where the percentage of Whites killed by guns is higher than the percentage of Americans living in that region as a whole?  Where else?

HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE HOLIDAY AND IF YOU GO TO A PARTY, PLEASE LEAVE THE GUN AT HOME.

Where Do Crime Guns Come From? Not Necessarily From Where You Think.

My friends at The Trace have just published a document that has floated around gun circles since it first appeared in 2003 as an affidavit in a liability case against the gun industry that was one of a number of class-action torts which came to a crashing end in 2005.  Bob Ricker, the deposition’s author, had been an NRA attorney and gun-industry lobbyist who then went over to the ‘other side’ and began working in favor of more stringent industry regulations as a way to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’

gun safe              Much of what is in this document was similar to what the Clinton Administration said about the gun industry when it tried to get gun makers to adopt better self-policing in return for an immunity from class-action suits.  This effort ultimately went nowhere, but much of what Ricker claims to have been standard practice in the industry has influenced discussions within the GVP community, along with shaping strategies that are followed by GVP advocate to this day.  Which therefore leads me to ask two questions: (1). What does Ricker actually say, and (2). Is what he says really true?

Here’s the key point as quoted from the affidavit itself: “The firearms industry has long known that the diversion of firearms from legal channels to the black market occurs principally at the distributor/dealer level.” Not only does the firearms industry know this, but so does everyone else.  And the fact that the industry, according to Ricker, had not taken “constructive voluntary action to prevent firearms from ending up in the illegal gun market” is, in and of itself, neither here nor there.  The reason it’s neither here nor there is that the one, voluntary action that Ricker mentions (Par. 12 of the affidavit) is that manufacturers and wholesalers could more closely monitor the sales practices of dealers, rather than just shipping guns to anyone with a valid FFL.

Ricker’s affidavit goes on to tie better policing of FFL business practices to the illegal diversion of guns to criminal hands through straw sales, gun shows and the like.  The only problem is that while we have all heard about ‘bad apple’ dealers as well as the proliferation of unregulated internet sales as two sources of illegal guns, nobody including the ATF has ever come up with an evidence-based number for exactly how many guns move from legal to illegal commercial channels each year.  Garen Wintemute estimates that as many as 40,000 straw sales were attempted annually, but he has no data on how many of those attempts actually result in a gun moving from an FFL’s inventory into illegal hands.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute and pretend that all of those 40,000 attempted straw sales go through.  Sounds like a lot of guns going into the wrong hands, doesn’t it?  In fact, it’s a pittance compared to the way in which most guns in this country wind up in the wrong hands, and I don’t notice anyone talking about that issue at all.

Back in 1994, Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig published the most comprehensive survey on gun ownership that I have ever seen. Now if the Nobel Prize Committee decided to give an award for gun research, it would have to go to Phil Cook.  He not only practically invented the entire field of gun violence research, but his work, then and now, is impeccable and should be accepted without question as the best of breed.

And what did he learn about how guns get into the wrong hands?  He learned that perhaps as many as 600,000 guns were stolen every year, this at a time when the total number of guns owned by Americans was 50% less than it is now!  Are you telling me that we can have a substantive conversation about reducing gun violence without asking how to prevent the theft of guns? Gun theft isn’t the elephant in the GVP living room, it’s the whole house.

 

Here’s A New Chapter In The Great DGU War.

The latest salvo in the DGU War has been shot off, and this barrage may go a long way to permanently cripple the argument that guns are used several million times each year (ergo, Defensive Gun Use)to prevent crimes.  DGU has been the rallying-cry of the ‘armed citizen’ and concealed-carry movements since the gun industry decided that personal protection would replace hunting as a way to sell guns.  And any time a politician wants to pander to a right-wing base (and there’s going to be lots of such pandering over the next 16 months), he can always prove his love of the 2nd Amendment by  insisting that gun ownership protects property and saves lives.

conference program pic                The idea that guns are used each year to prevent millions of crimes was invented by a criminologist, Gary Kleck, who published a survey in 1995 of 225 respondents that was immediately promoted by the pro-gun community and still remains the so-called proof that a gun in hand every day keeps the criminal away.  I say ‘invented’ not because of the significant analytical lapses that have been pointed out again and again, but for the very simple reason that he did not ask the respondents to describe in any way, shape or form the actual crime for which their access to a gun kept from taking place.  What Kleck only learned is that some 220 people thought they were going to be the victims of a crime, not that any crime could or did take place.

Now you would think that testing the ability of people who randomly answered their telephone to create a make-believe scenario about something that may or may not have happened would be dismissed out of hand as just so much intellectual junk.  But I don’t remember the last time pro-gun folks argued for an extension of concealed-carry onto college campuses or other public venues without citing Kleck or other proponents of DGU.

A long-time critic of Kleck has just published a new DGU study that uses as its inclusion criteria an admission by the survey respondent that an attempted or completed crime actually occurred.  And the survey data, drawn from the National Crime Victimization Survey, goes to great lengths to validate that what the respondent says about the criminal incident can more or less assumed to be true.  And this survey, based on interviews covering 14,000 criminal events, is that defensive gun use before or during the commission of a real crime is a pretty rare event.  Not only did a DGU occur in less than 1% of the total crimes (127 events) but the result when the victim used any kind of defensive action was basically the same as when the victim defended himself or herself with a gun.

You can get details of the study in today’s article in The Trace, written by the Armed With Reason duo, DeFilippis and Hughes, who tangled with Kleck earlier this year. They make a persuasive case for the strength of the analysis in this new piece, but I suspect that the pro-gun noise machine will reject their arguments, as well as defend Kleck’s DGU nonsense on the following grounds.  First, they will argue that since Kleck asked respondents about whether they used a gun to stop a crime before it occurred, comparing such behavior to situations when a gun was used after the crime began to take place is to make a comparison that simply isn’t fair.

The second and to me much more important reason why pro-gun and DGU proponents will dismiss this new work is that, when all is said and done, these folks have no interest in any discussion about guns that is rooted in evidence-based facts.  I don’t know what Kleck was thinking when he devised (and still defends) a survey which made no attempt whatsoever to validate what people said, but his work comes in handy when it comes to selling guns.

Gun Nuts Discover The Trace And Guess Who Wins?

It took about three weeks for The Trace to earn its first rave review from the gun-nut community in the form of a rant delivered by Larry Keane, a Senior Vice President at the NSSF.  And it only took Larry less than two sentences to deliver what is always the first and foremost reason why something, anything is a threat to all those nice folks who own guns, namely, the word Bloomberg which works every time.  Come to think of it, I can’t recall any statement by the NSSF over the last several years about alleged threats to gun ownership that hasn’t mentioned the word Bloomberg, unless the statement substituted the word Obama for Bloomberg, although many NSSF rants about threats to gun ownership usually mention both.

Since this online newspaper got some start-up dough from Bloomberg, there’s no question that you can’t trust anything it says.  And gun owners, according to Keane, are wise to the nefarious ways of Bloomberg because they know just how biased and anti-gun he is.  The proof that the pro-gun community is savvy to the Bloomberg anti-gun strategy is the fact that The Trace “has readers outraged over one-sided reporting on issues and reckless disregard for facts.” Which is an interesting statement coming from Keane since nowhere on the Trace website do we find any statement from readers at all.

trace                I guess what Keane is referring to is The Trace Facebook page which, like all Facebook pages, does allow visitors to make statements about content that is posted on the site.  So in the interests of fairness, I thought I would test the NSSF’s claim about the degree to which readers are “outraged” by all this one-sided, anti-gun reportage spewed forth by the Bloomberg cabal on this new site.  I chose as my test of Keane’s assertion a link back to a story about the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s plan to melt down 3,400 guns seized over the past year, a Facebook posting which in the following 15 hours received almost 80 comments from viewers of the page.

Before I share the results of my little survey, I should say that there aren’t many things that piss off gun-nuts more than the destruction of guns.  After all, we know that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  So why get rid of the guns?  I’ll tell you why: because the Los Angeles County Sheriff is caving into pressure from gun-grabbers like Bloomberg who want to get rid of all the guns.  And what better way to get rid of guns than to melt them down? That being the case, if readers are truly “outraged” by the anti-gun bias of The Trace, we should certainly find this outrage expressed in the comments posted on their Facebook page.

So I read all the comments about the gun meltdown and if this story provoked reader “outrage,” all I can say is that I’d love to see my weekly Huffington column generate such an outrageous response.  Here’s an example of the kind of outraged reader comments posted on the site, beginning with the initial comment to which five other readers then made a response:

Comment:  The Los Angeles police department should sell those guns and distribute the proceeds to various crime diversion programs. …

Response #1: You honestly believe that is the solution

Response #2:  NO ! Read the article , the whole idea is to destroy the guns SO THAT they cannot be used against innocent people ever again !!

Response #3: The point is to get guns off the street DA

Response #4: My point exactly.

Response #5: So, selling guns to people who can pass background checks automatically means these guns will be used against innocent people? Basically, gun owners that can pass background checks are “guilty until proven innocent”.

 

Some outrage, right?  And what I have reproduced above is fairly typical of the comments attached to every story posted by The Trace.  The NSSF won’t ever admit that a gun story can be published which would generate thoughtful, intelligent and respectful comments from both sides, because they don’t want the gun debate to be based on informed opinion or facts.  Which is exactly what makes The Trace such a threat to gun-nut promoters like Larry Keane.

 

 

 

 

A New Approach To Gun Violence May Make A Big Difference In How We Talk About Guns.

There’s a new gun in town, pardon the pun, when it comes to news about gun violence.  It’s called The Trace, and it’s a Bloomberg-backed web informational startup that may turn out to be a very important development in the ongoing debate about guns.  It’s not a blog and thank God doesn’t let readers post their comments after each story so what we get is a combination of content from various media outlets plus in-depth reportage from Trace writers themselves.  In other words, it’s a real online newspaper entirely devoted to the question of what to do about guns.

trace                Well, not so much what to do about guns, but what to do about gun violence.  Which is what distinguishes it somewhat from the NRA media outlets which never mention ‘guns’ and ‘violence’ in the same sentence because guns don’t have anything to do with violence at all.  That guns account for 30,000 deaths and 60,000 injuries each year – that’s just a figment of the Bloomberg imagination.  And the number of gun violence incidents that is updated (and undercounted) every day on the front page of The Trace?  A small price to pay for those millions of crimes that are prevented by all those armed citizens patrolling their homes and streets with guns.  Like the way George Zimmerman was patrolling his street, remember?

Anyway, the point is that this new venture not only injects some reality into the gun debate (boy, are the gun nuts going to whack me around about that one) but, as far as I know, it’s the only media outlet whose entire focus is on gun violence and, what gives it real strength, is that the content is not dependent on the usual snip-snip from other online sources, because in addition to links here and there, you can read original stories by experienced journalists like Alex Yablon and Jennifer Mascia, both of whom have covered gun issues for such small-time outfits as New York Magazine and The New York Times.

In an interview, one of the site’s financial backers  stated that the online publication would aim at winning a Pulitzer.  I like that approach for two reasons.  First, it’s refreshing that anyone would set their sights so high, given the schlock that usually passes for information in the gun world. More important, this venture may be able to do what nobody else seems inclined to do when it comes to guns, namely, to reach beyond the ranks of the most committed pro-gun or anti-gun activists and engage the wider audience in the debate about gun violence.  If The Trace becomes known as a source for original, first-class writing, it will attract a readership that, generally speaking, wouldn’t otherwise be interested in anything having to do with guns.  And those are the people who can and should play a much more informed and active role in this state of affairs.

The second reason I like this new effort is that Pulitzer-level reporting not only requires an attention to detail and honesty bolstered by facts, but also demands that the story-line embraces the whole informational spectrum, no matter whose precious ox gets gored.  In this respect, the staff of The Trace may find themselves on occasion having to deliver critical, rather than informational reports on activities carried out by the gun-sense side, but that will only increase their credibility with the non-affiliated audience that the gun debate needs to attract.

I went to my first anti-war demonstration in 1964, but it wasn’t until 1972 that everyone agreed that we were fighting the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And this happened because Frances Fitzgerald published a story, “Fire In The Lake,” in The New Yorker Magazine, which then became a best-selling book.  The book won a Pulitzer and all of a sudden everyone was talking about nothing other than Viet Nam.  It could happen again around the issue of gun violence and it could happen again because someone publishes exactly the right story in The Trace.  Ultimately, words are much more powerful than bullets or guns.