Did The Gun Vote Swing This Election? I Don’t Think So.

As an unrepentant, yellow-dog Democrat, I wasn’t enamored of the election results from last night.  But the first thing that caught my eyes as the returns started to roll in was the drop-off in vote totals from four years’ before.  Trump is going to end up with about the same number of votes as Romney got in 2012; Hillary’s total will probably be somewhere around 3.5 million less than what Barack pulled that same year. Trump will end up getting something less than 59 million votes this year; he won because lots of Democratic voters didn’t show up, not because he was so strong at the polls.

trump4The decline in both red and blue vote totals at the statewide levels was also evident in the two really surprise states, namely, Wisconsin and Michigan which, had they gone for Hillary, she still would not have awakened this morning with a larger Secret Service detail guarding her house, but the results in those two states probably would have been reflected in the count from Pennsylvania and other states as well.  Trump’s totals from Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania will end up somewhere south of 7 million; Hillary won’t be far behind. Trump will end up pulling about 300,000 more in PA than came out and voted red in 2012, but in Michigan and Wisconsin the 2012-2016 totals will be the same.

Where I am going with these numbers is to try and judge the impact of the ‘gun vote’ on the outcome as a whole.  Because from the very beginning of this campaign, gun and gun violence played a central role in how these two candidates presented themselves both to those who ended up voting as well as to the substantial numbers who didn’t bother to vote. Hillary kick started her primary battle against Bernie in a take-no-prisoners statement after the shooting at Umpqua CC.  And Trump never stopped reminding his audiences that he was the NRA’s official candidate almost before his campaign began.

Now the fact that the NRA ran television spots in gun-rich states like Georgia, Texas and Tennessee probably didn’t affect the results in those states at all.  A majority of residents in these states, wishful thinking to the contrary, will always vote for the GOP, and they don’t need the NRA to remind them that no matter who sits atop the national Democratic ticket, that individual represents a ‘threat’ to their guns.

But it’s in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania where the value of the gun issue needs to be understood.  Because all three states have large, urban populations who are generally resistant to any appeal about guns, but they also have many rural residents, almost all of whom are gun owners and, in theory, might come out in force to protect their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

The NRA is already taking credit for getting their man into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the overall and most statewide numbers belie their claim. What cooked the Clinton goose was not the turnout for Trump; it was the fact that she was unable to retain the voting strength that the Bomber demonstrated in 2008 and 2012.

Which brings me, of course, to the obvious question: given the fact that all three branches of the federal government are now or will shortly be red, what will be the future for GVP?  First of all, three states passed significant ballot initiatives: banning hi-cap mags in California, extending background checks to private sales in Nevada and temporarily blocking hi-risk individuals from access to firearms in Washington State.

There are now 19 states that require background checks beyond the initial point of sale.  There were six states that granted unrestricted concealed-carry licenses in the mid-80s; it took the NRA twenty-five years to extend shall-issue to just about all 50 states. So the issue is not where GVP stands today; it’s where it was ten years ago and where it will be ten years from now.  Remember – if reducing gun violence was so easy, there wouldn’t have been anything that needed to be reduced.

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Do Americans Spend A Lot Of Time Thinking About Guns? An Interesting Answer From Google.

My friend David Yamane runs a pro-gun blog called Gun Culture 2.0.  In fact, what he really does for a living is teach sociology in North Carolina, and this year gave a course on the sociology of guns which included a trip to a shooting range, along with lectures on just about every facet of the gun world, along with off-line arguments with me.  Make no mistake about it, Yamane’s a pro-gun guy.  But he’s also a smart guy, a diligent researcher and someone who’s not afraid of the facts.  Which makes him somewhat unique among pro-gun folks, most of whom are about as interested in evidence-based discussions as I’m interested in staying on my diet.

trump2In any case, he’s just published some very interesting data on his website that was inspired by a bit of internet research conducted by his wife.  The research consisted of a state-by-state listing of all Google searches performed in 2015, which caught Mrs. Yamane’s attention because one of the most popular search terms listed for their state of North Carolina was “concealed weapons permit.”  And it turns out that this term was also one of the most popular search terms in Florida.  And then it turns out that if one takes the trouble to read through the popular search terms for all 50 states, the term doesn’t appear anywhere else.

Now wait a minute.  Didn’t we just go through two months of Republican Presidential clap-trap in which every one of those clowns endorsed the idea of carrying a gun?  Didn’t Donald Trump proclaim his own preference for concealed-carry after the Virginia shooting of two journalists followed by the Umpqua mess?  I don’t ever remember anything having to do with guns playing such a central role in any political campaign, and yet the issue at the center of the argument hardly gets a ripple at all.

And it’s not as if the Republican campaign was absent from the Google search engine.  In fact, Trump and other Republican candidates were mentioned 16 times in the most popular internet searches, which was 6% of all Google search terms – to put that into perspective, ISIS was searched exactly twice. I should add, incidentally, that one-third of the search terms for Presidential candidates were racked up in New Hampshire, which should hardly surprise given the fact that the Granite State probably suffered through more political visits than all other 49 states combined.  Bear in mind that the Google listings did not break down each term by specific number of searches; it just listed the most popular searches in each state.

While concealed-carry was obviously on the minds of residents in North Carolina and Florida, there were a few other states where something having to do with guns was also a popular search term.  The term ‘2nd Amendment’ was popular in Arizona, ‘mass shootings, in Colorado, ‘gun control’ in Idaho, ‘right to keep and bear arms’ in Missouri, and believe it or not, ‘NRA’ in Tennessee.  Wyoming must be a real gun-nut state because of the 6 most popular search terms ‘guns’ and ‘AR-15’ both made the list.

So the bottom line is that of the most popular 250 Google search terms throughout the United States, something having to do with guns made the list 3% of the time.  Again, be advised that I don’t have specific metrics for each term; for all I know maybe residents in Wyoming searched for AR-15s more than five million times.  But since the state’s total population is less than 600,000, this work would have kept every man jack, woman and child busy in Wyoming for a long time.  Get it?

I think the data presented by David Yamane (and his wife) is an important contribution to the GVP debate. Because if nothing else, it perhaps reflects the fact that guns aren’t quite the mainstream issue that the NRA would like you to believe. And if that’s the case, is it really all that important whether Donald Trump walks around with a gun?

 

 

 

The GOP Response To San Bernardino: Nearer My God To Thee.

Want to know what the pro-gun crowd thinks about gun violence?  Or I should say, what the pro-gun crowd wants everyone else to think about gun violence?  All you gotta do is wait for a mass shooting to occur, then check the Twitter accounts of the so-called GOP Presidential candidates. I say ‘so-called’ because the idea that any of this bunch has demonstrated even a sliver of leadership, never mind the slightest attention to facts, makes me wonder how we could remotely imagine one of these clowns sitting in Oval Office after January 20, 2017. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

san bernardinoI knew we were in for a know-nothing treatment of gun violence when, in putting together a game plan for 2016, the GOP decided that the 2nd Amendment would be the ‘values’ niche issue this time around. They used to have abortion and then gay marriage to gin up the base, but when Donald Trump started boasting about defending himself by carrying a gun, I knew the NRA’s wildest dream about defining the social agenda for America was finally coming true.

Then we had the shooting of two television journalists in Virginia, and while killing only 2 people is hardly worth mentioning in the same breath as dispatching ten victims in Oregon, nine in Charleston, never mind fourteen in San Bernardino, what was impressive in a bizarre way about the Virginia shooting was that the entire thing was caught on tape.  And the very next day, there was Trump telling us that the problem had nothing to do with guns, it was caused by the lack of mental hospital space which was needed to lock all the crazies away.

Once Trump defined the issue in accordance with the standard NRA lexicon that it’s not guns that kill people, etc., everyone else fell into line.  The next opportunity for the GOP pretenders came a month later in Oregon when the killing of ten faculty and students at Umpqua Community College unleashed a torrent of pro-gun commentary from the GOP Presidential field.  Once again Trump knew the nuts were “coming out of the woodwork;” Ben Carson called for better detection of “early warning signs,” and in case there was any doubt about why the shooting occurred, we had self-appointed gun fantasists like John Lott telling us that we couldn’t expect anything else to happen in a gun-free zone.

This time around, however, the Republicans might have overshot their mark. Because when Hillary spoke out about the Umpqua massacre, she made a point of tying it to enacting “sensible gun-control measures,” and promised to lead the effort after she took over the Oval office in 2017.  This was the first time that the Democrats made gun ownership a campaign issue, and it caught the GOP entirely off guard.  Let’s remember it was Hillary’s husband who decided that Democrats lost the White House in 2000 due to the power of the NRA. So I knew that, going forward, the GOP would have to come up with a revised game plan to avoid having to appear condoning gun violence while still keeping the gun-nut vote on their side.

And to the credit of their campaign PR teams, it seems to me that the Republican Presidential wannabes have indeed come up with an approach to gun violence which gets them all off the hook; namely, that gun violence is an act of God, so what can mere mortals do?  Here’s a selection of Twitter feeds from last night: Trump – “Good luck to law enforcement and God bless.” Cruz – “Our prayers are with the victims.” Bush – “Praying for the victims.” Paul – “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims.”

Any mention of guns?  Here’s Hillary: “We must take action to stop gun violence now.”  And what Hillary knows is what the pro-gun gang and its new crop of Presidential pretenders don’t want to imagine; that maybe most Americans are sick of the shootings, sick of guns, and fed up with the NRA.

 

Know What Ben? It’s Time For You To Shut Up.

Ben Carson isn’t the first physician to run for President and, in fact, isn’t the only doctor trying to get into the White House in 2016.  He may be the only board-certified doctor, because it’s not clear whether Rand Paul is certified or not.  Carson certainly is.  All the more reason that when he says something which violates the Hippocratic Oath we should ask whether he has the credentials even to claim that he’s a bone-fide physician, never mind credentials to be the next President of the United States.

Let me make one thing clear about the Hippocratic Oath.  It’s not mandatory either to subscribe to it or to follow it.  There are some medical schools that don’t, in fact, administer the oath to new graduates, there are also various versions of the oath floating around.  But the Hippocratic Oath is a reminder that medicine is a profession whose effective practice requires attention not just to science and learning, but to compassion and ethics as well.  After all, we vest the responsibility and often the authority for making life and death decisions within the medical profession.   So it’s heartening to know that this profession expects its members to think and behave according to certain basic and well-tested rules.

hippocratic                And rule number one is: Do No Harm.  Now these words aren’t, in fact, found in the text of the oath itself.  But ask any physician to tell you what it means to subscribe to the Hippocratic Oath and he or she will state either those exact words or words to that effect. Which brings us to the recent statements made by Ben Carson following the slaughter at Umpqua Community College that produced a sickening amount of harm.

The first statement was on Ben’s Facebook page, although he scrubbed it when the responses began pouring in.  Nevertheless, here’s the exact quote:  “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.”  In other words, if Carson was practicing in a locality that had very strict gun-control laws like, for example, Washington, D.C., he would claim that the inability of a D.C. resident to carry around a handgun was a greater medical risk than if that same individual was brought into the ER with a bullet lodged in his head. So much for Carson’s ability to stratify gun violence risk, adopt the proper medical response and thereby reduce harm.

Just to make sure that ol’ Ben keeps his bone fides alive with the pro-gun crowd, he then went on CBS and said that if he were facing a mass shooter, the first thing he would do is put up a fight.  He would also advise other people in the vicinity to do the same thing. Of course macho man Carson has absolutely no idea of the degree to which such behavior increases risk, and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at the active shooter guidelines issued by the Department of Homeland Security: Run, hide, if all else fails, fight.

Every time Carson opens his mouth about gun violence, he says something that increases risk.  If he wants to say something stupid, that’s fine.  But when he advises people to do something that increases risk, he’s not just being dumb, he’s violating the Hippocratic Oath.  The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has posted a petition asking Carson to apologize to the survivors and victims’ families at Roseburg because of the comments he made on Facebook and ABC.  The petition says that Carson’s remarks are “offensive and beyond the pale.”

I think it’s now time for the medical community to tell their colleague Ben Carson that he should stop putting the initials ‘M.D’ after his name. Because no doctor who takes his work seriously would make statements like that. Ben doesn’t  just offend the Umpqua survivors, he offends the profession which he claims to represent.  Shut up Ben, just shut the f***up.

 

What Did Adam Lanza and Chris Mercer Have In Common? Moms Who Lived Guns,

So it turns out that the Oregon shooter, Christopher Mercer, got into gun s the old-fashioned way – he learned to enjoy the shooting sports from his mother.  And his mother, according to an article in today’s New York Times, was no shrinking violet when it came to exclaiming on the virtues and values of gun ownership, posting for example the following statement on the internet: “I keep two full mags in my Glock case and the ARs and AKs all have loaded mags. No one will be ‘dropping’ by my house uninvited without acknowledgement.”  Sweet.

lanza                Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook, was similarly enabled and supported by his mother when it came to guns.  Momma and son visited gun shops together, they shot at the range together, they probably sat and cleaned the guns together.  Adam had access to all the guns in the house, which made it easy for him to drop a cap on the old lady before going over to the elementary school where he made his feelings really known.

What’s really scary in this tale of two massacres is that along with building warm and loving relationships with their sons over guns, both mothers were also keenly aware that neither boy would have qualified for the mental stability award of the year.  Lanza’s mother dragged him from one mental health professional to another; Mercer’s mother posted that he suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and she encouraged other parents of troubled children to contact her for advice.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not even hinting at the idea that children (or adults) who demonstrate any kind of mental disorder should, ipso facto, be considered risks to themselves or anyone else. I’m also not saying that the fact that these two boys were encouraged to use and shoot guns means, ipso facto, that they would be more disposed to commit horrendous gun assaults.  But in all of the post-Oregon chatter what we hear from a certain group of public officials who want to become the 45th president of the United States, is that the Umpqua CC massacre “proves” that no amount of gun control will make any difference because people like Adam Lanza and Christopher Mercer will always ‘fall through the cracks.’

I don’t really blame Trump, Fiorina, Bush, et. al., for saying something as stupid as that.  After all, it’s a tight race and pro-gun voters could be decisive in primary states like Iowa and South Carolina. What’s the old saying? You do what you gotta do?  And let’s not forget that the idea that we can’t do anything about mass shootings until we ‘fix’ the mental health system didn’t emerge full-blown from Trump’s Twitter account.  It was announced with unrestrained finality by Wayne LaPierre after Sandy Hook.

Truth to tell, it probably isn’t possible to do anything that would allow us to predict with any degree of accuracy who might be the next person to walk into a school, a movie theater, or some other public venue and see how many people could be mowed down before flipping to the next mag.  Which is why the whole point about ‘fixing the mental health system’ to deal with gun violence is nothing more than an argument that has been invented to avoid talking about gun violence at all.

Because the truth is that mass shootings are pretty hard to pull off if you are carrying a bolt-action hunting rifle which, loaded to full capacity, only holds five rounds.  And the idea that anyone would take an AR-15 with a 30-shot mag into the woods to look for Bambi is nothing but pure crap.  But when sport shooting and hunting are replaced with the safety afforded by the ‘armed citizen’ versus the dangers of ‘gun-free’ zones, the result is a debasement of language to the point that no substantive discussion can ever take place.  Which pretty much sums up the strategy of the pro-gun movement when it comes to gun violence.

 

Does The Oregon Shooting Prove That Gun-Free Zones Are Dangerous? Only If You’re Trying To Sell Guns.

It’s too early to tell what went off in the head of Chris Mercer that made him walk into a classroom in Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR with either three or four guns, then start a shooting rampage that left 10 dead and 7 wounded. In fact, since he was killed by police, we’ll probably never know.  But what’s the difference?  Just chalk one up for the folks who keep reminding us that the biggest thing we have to fear is not the violence caused by guns, but the violence caused by ‘gun-free zones.’

loesch                Megyn Kelly couldn’t get Donald Trump to appear on her show last night so she predictably called up Dana Loesch who couldn’t wait to tell everyone that she has renamed gun free zones ‘criminal protection areas.’  But of course Dana didn’t get out there quite as quickly as the self-appointed head of the universal CCW campaign, John Lott, who immediately posted the Umpqua CC campus security rules, which declare the school a gun-free zone.

Now that the gun industry has gotten concealed-carry of handguns to be recognized in just about every state, the idea that Americans should be able to carry a concealed weapon anywhere, anytime, helps push the ‘armed citizen’ argument to the next level, which is the stupid idea known as ‘constitutional carry,’ namely, that ownership of a gun entitles someone to carry it without undergoing specific CCW licensing or training at all.  The fact that most police officers don’t receive adequate training to help them determine whether a situation actually calls for the use of lethal force, never mind whether they can actually hit the target when they pull the trigger should not be of concern if we have all those armed citizens walking around who don’t need to demonstrate that they even know how to properly hold their gun.

The fact is that there is not a single, credible study which even vaguely shows any deterrent effect on the behavior of a mass shooter because he believes that the place he has chosen to commit mass carnage might have civilians walking around with guns. After Elliot Rodger’s 2014 rampage in Isla Vista that left 6 dead, John Lott went on Fox and declared that the manifesto written by Rodger was ‘proof’ that guns were a deterrent to mass shootings, because Rodger chose to stay away from locations where he knew that he would encounter people with guns.  The only problem was that Lott was lying, because Rodger specifically said that the guns he saw were being carried by police.  Which is exactly why we have police, right?

The GVP community is rightfully horrified by this latest act of gun violence which transforms what the Brady Campaign calls “a sanctuary for education” into “the latest memorial of victims lost to America’s gun violence epidemic.”  Everytown’s comment said, “Once again a college community has endured a tragic mass shooting.” Predictably, the White House called for strengthening gun laws knowing there’s no chance this will occur.

But what do we say if it turns out that the shooter legally acquired his guns?  How do we respond to people like Loesch and Lott who use these tragedies to promote both themselves and the ownership of guns? My response goes like this.  When I was a college undergraduate I had the good fortune to study with an economist named Paul Baran.  Educated in Germany, he came to the United States to escape the Hitler regime and taught at Stanford until his untimely death in 1964. With reference to the Nazis he once said, “a meaningful discussion of human affairs can only be conducted with humans; one wastes ones time talking to beasts about matters related to people.”

I think we waste our time trying to argue the moral imperative of gun violence with people like Dana Loesch, John Lott or Wayne LaPierre.  I don’t care how many gun nuts actually believe that good guys with guns stop bad guys.  Good guys don’t need to carry guns.