Guns And Drugs: What’s The Connection?

CIA Map of International drug pipelines

CIA Map of International drug pipelines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much of the discussion about gun violence revolves around illegal drugs because both are found in abundance in inner-city neighborhoods where a majority of gun homicides occur.  And since members of drug gangs are known to carry and use guns to protect their turf or keep a drug deal from going wrong, it’s assumed that we can’t do much about gun violence unless we attack inner-city poverty and joblessness that creates the environment in which drugs flourish and guns are kept ready at hand.

I’m beginning to wonder if there’s any truth to this argument at all.  To be sure, drugs play a role in many gun homicides; after robberies it’s the single, largest category of felony circumstances in which murders with a firearm occurs.  But I’m not thinking so much of circumstances as I am thinking about causality, in particular the alleged connection between poverty, drugs and guns.

In 1995 Professor Michael Porter of Harvard published a seminal article on returning inner cities to market competitiveness.  Noting that most anti-poverty programs address social, but not economic issues, he argued that many inner cities possessed advantages which were true engines of economic growth. These advantages are:   1. Strategic Location – Inner-city neighborhoods are often located nearby major business and residential centers.  2. Local Market Demand – Inner-cities have high population density and thus strong demand for consumer goods.  3. Regional Cluster Integration – Inner cities often connect to nearby clusters of related companies that are competitive nationally or globally.  4. Human Resources – Inner cities contain large numbers of employable people who might trade off less than maximum wages in order to secure a job.

In this and subsequent articles, Professor Porter and his Harvard colleagues wrap this model around a dynamic agenda to invigorate inner cities through a combination of private-sector investment and public sector cooperation.  But rather than argue for something that is still largely a theoretical model, we should take a look at an economic success story of the inner city which has been utilizing Professor Porter’s model long before he ever dreamed it up.

I’m referring, of course, to the illegal drug market, what in polite terms we refer to as ‘controlled substances,’ which generates some $70 billion in revenues each year, most of which comes from street transactions in the inner cities.  Until 1906, opiates as they were called were unregulated, but a combination of Progressive reformism and pressure from the expanding pharmaceutical industry (and medical profession) pushed the Federal government into regulating and gradually criminalizing addictive drugs.

The watershed moment took place in 1971 when Nixon declared “war” on drugs,  efforts were expanded under Reagan and again under Clinton, resulting largely in more men behind bars and more drugs out in the street.  The United States, which has always been by far the largest consumer of addictive substances, supports both a substantial retail market at home as well as a global network of manufacturers and suppliers abroad.

When it comes to understanding how the drug market operates in our inner cities, Professor Porter’s model couldn’t be a better fit.  As regards strategic location, for every dollar that ghetto residents spend on drugs, middle-class buyers spend twice as much or more, easily driving through a nearby poor neighborhood in order to score.  It goes without saying that local demand plays an important role in inner-city drug markets and dealers have no trouble integrating themselves to regional clusters in order to maintain their supply.  Finally, the ghetto gangs provide the human resources that dealers use to sell and deliver the goods.

What role do guns play in all this?  According to the research of Lizotte and others, guns are a necessary tool of the trade, so to speak, and begin to appear in the hands of gang members for protection in their adolescent years and then to enforce drug deals or protect turf as they move into their mid-20s and become sellers and distributors of drugs.

If drugs are a response to poverty, then it seems to me that it’s a very rational response operating along normal market lines.  In which case gun violence that accompanies the drug trade shouldn’t be seen as a manifestation of violence growing out of hopelessness but rather as an efficient mechanism required to enforce market rules.  After all, drugs are illegal, so you can’t just walk into small claims court when the guy doesn’t show up with the dough.

 

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Time To Play The Great American Crime Game

Every year when the FBI publishes the Uniform Crime Report and the Bureau of Justice Statistics publishes its report on crime victimizations, all the criminologists and crime researchers get to play what I call the Great American Crime Game.  It’s a game where you take the data from the FBI and the BJS, plug it into other types of numbers and then try to figure out why crime has gone up, or gone down, or not changed at all.

The UCR is based on crimes reported to the police and, according to the FBI, aggregates this information for law enforcement agencies that cover 95% of everyone living in the United States. The BJS report, on the other hand, is compiled by conducting at least two interviews with more than 160,000 respondents living in different, but representative  localities throughout the United States.

Both reports present data on what is called ‘index’ crimes which, according to the FBI, are the most serious crimes against persons or property and for which definitions of each type of crime tend to differ only slightly from state to state.  The most important crime for my purposes is aggravated assault, because it is within this category that most gun violence occurs. In 2012, for example, more than 427,000 serious crimes took place involving firearms, according to the BJS, of which the majority were assaults followed by robberies, with homicides (which BJS doesn’t count) placing a very distant third.

Now that you understand where the data comes from, you too can play the Great American Crime Game. What you do is take the data and correlate it with other data, such as population, employment, education and so forth.  And if a particular type of number, let’s say household income or employment correlates with crime numbers, i.e., they both go up or they both go down, then – voila! – we have an explanation for why crime is getting better, or getting worse, or whatever crime is doing.

The Great American Crime Game has been particularly popular since 1993, because that year marked the high watermark of violent crime, after which it has tumbled more than 50 percent in the following two decades.  Article after article, and book after book have been published on this unprecedented drop in violent crime, all of them built around various versions of the Great American Crime Game.

There’s only one slight problem.  The number of violent criminal victimizations reported by the BJS is about twice as high as the number of crimes reported by the UCR.  But that’s because the FBI only publishes crime data derived from crimes reported to the police, whereas the BJS asks and counts all criminal victimizations whether they were reported or not.  And they candidly admit that underreporting of serious violent crime runs at more than 50 percent.  In 2012 for example, the FBI report shows 657,545 aggravated assaults, the BJS shows 996,110 in the same category.

I have been reading crime studies for years, and virtually every article and book repeats two basic maxims that are accepted up and down the line: (1). violent crime rates in disadvantaged neighborhoods are much higher than anywhere else; and (2). inner-city crime is underreported compared to reports of crime everywhere else.  I can’t remember the last time I read a scholarly article on crime in which the author didn’t raise a cautionary note based on one, if not both of those views.

There’s only one slight problem.  It’s not true. In fact, even though African-Americans are twice as likely as Whites to believe that the cops aren’t interested in responding to crime, the BJS report indicates that 60% of all violent crimes are reported by Blacks, whereas only 45% of violent crimes are reported by Whites.  And if we drill down a little further to examine aggravated assaults with weapons, 76% of such crimes were reported by Blacks and only 49% were reported by Whites.

I’m not saying that the ghetto is safe.  But the discrepancy in these numbers is so significant that it makes me wonder whether playing the Great American Crime Game has taught us much at all.  On the other hand, why should I be surprised?  We sent 60,000 young men to their deaths in Southeast Asia based on a naval attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that never took place.  So should we be overly concerned about the validity of a shooting or a knifing here or there?

Hunters in the Wilderness

Hunters in the Wilderness 

 

 

ON SALE NOW

 

Will The Bloomberg – Moms Merger Make A Difference?

Starbucks Touchscreen Storefronts

Starbucks Touchscreen Storefronts (Photo credit: DavidErickson)

The NRA better watch out.  There’s a new gun in town and it’s called, well, actually it doesn’t have a name but it’s a combination of two gun control groups – Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense which, according to their merger announcement, will “soon be stronger than any gun lobby.”  And who can argue with that claim when you put together Mike Bloomberg’s gazillions with the tireless energy of Shannon Watts and other moms, right?

The Moms claim they have more than 130,000 members and Bloomberg has enrolled more than 1,000 mayors in his club.  But who knows what those numbers really mean?  Moms also has 130,000 Likes on its Facebook page and when I went to their website it appeared that if I sent them an email with my name and address, that this made me a member.  As for Bloomberg’s membership, I took a quick look at the list for Massachusetts, my state, and guess what?  I couldn’t find a single Massachuetts Mayor who’s a Republican, but I did find Dominic Sarno, the Mayor of Springfield, where the gun homicide rate this year will probably top out at four times higher than the national average. Way to go, big Dom!

And since this new combination will soon be bigger than any gun lobby, let me tell you a little about that other lobby.  There’s been a lot of back and forth over the size of the NRA membership, with the gun organization claiming 4.5 million and various critics scaling this down to 3 million or a bit more.  I’m willing to cut both estimates in half and assume that they have somewhere above 3.5 million, even though even they admit that their recent increase was partially due to a one-year cut in dues paid by new members and it remains to be seen whether all these folks will re-enlist when they have to pay a higher price.

But the fact that Moms doesn’t have any dues not only makes me wary of their membership claims, but also raises the more important question of exactly how effective they can be.  Because it’s not very hard to use today’s social media to create the image of an organization whether something really exists or not.  The Moms group garnered lots of publicity when they showed up at Starbucks and sent a letter to Howard Schultz demanding that the company ban guns from all their stores.  But the company sidestepped the issue by issuing a statement ‘asking’ but not requiring gun owners to keep their guns outside, but even as strident (and usually stupid) a pro-gun outlet as the Washington Times covered the issue in very timid terms because it turns out that lots of gun owners didn’t want to risk the possibility that Starbucks might eventually get a little backbone and ban them permanently. After all, would anyone elevate the 2nd Amendment above that steamy latte?

Of course an advocacy organization can play an important role in any public debate regardless of its size.  But the trick is to figure out who you’re really talking to and whether or not they will listen to what you have to say.  If the Moms want to have a real impact in the argument over guns, why don’t they talk to gun owners and stop wasting their energy on convincing people who don’t need to be convinced?  And you don’t talk to gun people by throwing up a website or a Facebook page and just ‘invite’ them to post a comment or engage in a chat. Sometimes that strategy works when you’re selling a product, but it’s rank arrogance or simply stupid to confuse marketing a product with marketing an idea.

Every weekend there are dozens of gun shows all over the United States.  Each of these shows, on average, count 10,000 admissions. So do the math: if you went to one gun show every weekend, set up a booth, gave out a flyer and shot your mouth off, by the end of the year you would have talked to 500,000 gun guys (and gals.) And don’t think for one second that nobody would talk to you.  Gun folks love to talk – that’s why they go to those shows.

I’d love to walk into a gun show or some other gun-friendly place and see those Moms promoting their point of view.  Would they get an argument from gun folks? Sure.  Would the argument sometimes get nasty or offensive?  It might.  But if Moms or any other gun-control group believes they will make a difference by not going out and meeting the other side, they’re barking up the wrong tree.

What Happened To All The Concern About Guns?

For a few months after Sandy Hook, it looked like the government was going to pass a new gun control law, specifically aimed at keeping guns out of the “wrong” hands. The president got behind a bill, ditto the gun-control advocacy groups, the pundits wrote and spoke, even the lamentably tragic Newtown parents had their moment on the White House porch.

Meanwhile, everyone forgot the simple fact that the Democrats could barely muster 60 votes for any kind of legislation, a weakness that was exploited by the NRA and its allies to a remarkably-effective degree. All the polls showed a majority of Americans favored stricter gun control, but those numbers didn’t translate into 60 votes on the Senate floor, so Manchin-Toomey quickly died.

Then nine months and one day after Adam Lanza went on a rampage in Newtown, another loony named Aaron Alexis killed 12 people at the Navy Yard in DC and the response from the White House and Capitol Hill was no response at all. But here’s the more important news: Four days after the Navy Yard shooting, Gallup conducted its annual poll on whether Americans thought we needed stricter gun control, and the percentage of respondents who wanted stricter laws declined significantly from the previous year!

Gallup has been running this poll since 2000, and the question is always the same: “Do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?” The high watermark for making the laws more strict was the first year of the poll, with 62 percent wanting the laws to be more strict and 31 percent wanting them to remain the same.

Year after year the trends narrowed until 2011-2012, when the percentage of Americans who wanted stricter gun laws versus those who saw no reason for change were basically the same. Then we had Sandy Hook, and for the first time since the poll was initially conducted, respondents by almost a two-to-one margin once again opted for stricter laws covering guns.

And yet, according to the latest Gallup finding in the aftermath of both Newtown and the Navy Yard, for the first time since 2008, less than 50 percent want stricter gun laws and the percentages who want the laws unchanged (37 percent) or want the laws to be less strict (13 percent) have both gone up.

How is it that a majority of Americans now believe gun laws should be weakened or remain the same? Part of the answer lies in the degree to which the NRA and the NSSF have continued their grass-roots efforts to mobilize their memberships while the gun control groups, lacking a legislative push on Capitol Hill, have gone back to sleep. The gun folks have become obsessively safety-conscious, just take a look at the NSSF’s Project ChildSafe website and you’ll get my point.

But the real reason for this attitudinal change is because public opinion doesn’t push politics, it’s usually the other way around: political leadership shapes public opinion. The jump in public demand for more gun control after Sandy Hook occurred because the president made guns an issue in every speech he gave. Once Obama and the Democrats stopped talking about gun violence, so did everyone else.

If you believe that we need stricter gun laws, then the year since Sandy Hook should give you no comfort at all. You might cynically believe that gun control will remain on the back burner until another massacre takes place, but if it happens when political agendas are focused on other issues, even the slightest attempt to push a common-sense response to gun violence probably won’t get very far.

What Does That NRA Small-Arms Treaty Really Say?

Case O' Guns

Case O’ Guns (Photo credit: Gregory Wild-Smith)

Last month the Obama Administration joined 114 other countries and signed the UN Arms Trade Treaty, immediately setting off howls of protests by the NRA and its Congressional supporters insisting that this was just another example of the Administration’s desire to disarm America and take away all our guns.  According to Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) the treaty undermines the 2nd Amendment guarantees of gun ownership because, among other provisions, it requires importers to identify end-users for whom small arms have been bought.

I have read every word of the treaty, it’s not a terribly lengthy document, and I think it would be worthwhile if I spend one post explaining what the treaty actually says.  Not that I’m assuming that anything I say will change anyone’s mind about the treaty, or the 2nd Amendment or anything else related to guns. But in all the hysteria that has been drummed up about this document by the NRA and its allies and friends, I have never seen the treaty text itself.  So here goes.

The treaty begins with a preamble that “reaffirms the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.”  This statement isn’t buried in some footnote; it’s found at the very beginning of the treaty itself.   Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this mean that our government, and not the United Nations, gets to figure out how guns will be handled within the United States?

But what about the question of end users, because here’s where the NRA believes there lurks an attempt to create not just a national, but an international registry of all guns.  I quote again from the treaty text: “Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations, of its issuance of export authorizations or its actual exports of the conventional arms….”  Now note what it says about imports: ” Each State Party is encouraged to include in those records: the quantity, value, model/type, authorized international transfers of conventional arms actually transferred, details of exporting State(s), importing State(s), transit and trans-shipment State(s), and end users, as appropriate.”

This is in fact no different than what U.S. exporters and importers must now do to comply with State Department and ATF regulations on export and import of small arms.  But the operative word here is encouraged; not required, just encouraged.  Signatories to this treaty are not bound by any requirements to either compile lists of import end-users (which we compile already) or deliver such lists to any international body.  The only required record-keeping involves the destination of exports, and correct me if I’m wrong, but only American citizens possess 2nd Amendment guarantees.

The NRA, the Washington Times, and all the other pro-gun stalwarts who make a living by ginning up the fears of gun owners every time that someone says anything even remotely connected to gun control might do us all a favor and stop concocting arguments out of whole cloth.  I know, I know, Obama’s a liberal which means he hates guns and he’ll do anything to  take them away.  But maybe it’s time to stop worrying about Obama and start thinking about how to convince rational and reasonable people that responsible gun ownership is the American way.

The real enemy of gun owners isn’t Washington and isn’t the UN.  The real enemy is any discussion in which facts and logic give way to noise and a lack of common sense.  I don’t need the NRA or Mayor Bloomberg to tell me about guns.  I can read as well as the next person and figure out what’s really going on. So can you.

 

 

 

Can Hunters Do What Beavers Do?

Previous posts explained the primary role played by hunters in exploring, opening and ultimately settling the Western wilderness, an experience motivated by financial rewards from the trade in furs. But it would be a mistake to assume that this took place only as we pushed West.  In fact, from the moment that white Europeans first set foot on the East Coast, moving inland was as much a taming of the wilderness as would later happen when we began moving across the territory that we owned by dint of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

According to the biologist and agriculturalist Toby Hemenway, within a decade after the first landing by the Mayflower in 1620, at least 100,000 beaver pelts were shipped back to Europe, and by 1640 as many as 800,000 beavers had been slaughtered over the previous ten years.   The demand for animal fur, largely beaver but also including bear and wolf, continued to grow over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the point that more ships crossed the Atlantic carrying furs than were used to catch and carry fish.

Trappers and hunters who extended the fur trade beyond the Missouri after 1810 found that Europe’s demand for furs was now subordinate, in many cases, to home-grown demand from within the United States. Cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston now had large populations whose tastes in clothing meant that furs were treated and re-sold within the domestic market rather than being sent overseas.  When fashion began changing in the 1840s and fur garments gave way to leather goods, the Western hunters shifted away from slaughtering beavers and quickly made the buffalo almost extinct as well.

While hunters and trappers were still exploring and opening the Western wilderness, in the East the process of moving from farming to industry had begun. Factories began springing up all over New England by the 1840’s, with textile, firearms and clothing manufacturing combining natural resources like furs and hides from the West with abundant energy from the fast-moving streams in the East.  The growth of a huge internal market based on cheap resources from the frontier combined with cheap energy from what had previously been the frontier launched a half-century of economic expansion that no other country has experienced before or since.

Beavers at work: stream, marsh and woods.

Beavers at work: stream, marsh and woods.

What lay behind this enormous economic growth was the handiwork of hunters whose ability to kill off beavers brought about a crucial change in the ecosystem that allowed all those New England factories to create the goods and satisfy both domestic and foreign demand.  The deep gullies and fast-moving streams that created energy for factories was not a natural feature of the New England landscape; it was what happened to slow-moving and gentle ponds when, as Toby Hemenway says, they were fed by “beaverless watersheds.” Beavers create environments that hold maximum amounts of water and soil on the land.  Remove the beavers and the water turns into a cascade.

Beaver activity creates a natural cycle of environmental replenishment. Ponds become marsh, then meadow then woodland, and then the beavers build another dam, and the cycle repeats again.  We’ve tried to do the same thing in many places where the hunters killed off the beavers, because this let us us build factories. Except the factories then collapsed.  A paper factory in Monroe, Massachusetts first gained a workforce when it opened in 1866 because farmers in the surrounding Monroe Plateau were happy to trade their plows for a steady wage.  The town lived off the mill for more than one hundred years, but when it was shuttered in 1985, the town basically shut down as well.

Monroe, Massachusetts

Monroe, Massachusetts

Nobody has come up with a plan for these towns; fancy catchwords like rural reindustrialization can’t  do for this environment what the beaver could do for its environment with a flat tail and some sharp teeth. I can tell you, however, that most of the remaining residents in Monroe and other small, country towns love to hunt.  Who knows?  Previous generations of hunters sparked an economic miracle, maybe it could happen again.

Based on my book, Hunters in the Wilderness.  Volume II in the series, Guns in America, to be published in December.

Think Doctors Shouldn’t Ask Patients About Guns? Think Again.

English: A roadside sign at Santa Clara Valley...

English: A roadside sign at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. This sign is an example of how the U.S. state of California requires all hospitals with emergency rooms to include text like “Comprehensive Emergency Medical Service” and “Physician On Duty.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s been a lot of talk in and out of gun circles about the attempt by Florida to criminalize physicians who ask patients whether or not they own guns.  The law, passed in 2011, was  overturned in Federal Court but now is headed for another hearing in the 11th Circuit.  At issue is whether physicians can inquire about the ownership of guns, even if no clear threat to health is perceived. Supporters of the law insist that because most physicians are anti-gun, what they are really trying to do is disarm law-abiding Americans.  To quote the NRA-sycophant Dr. Timothy Wheeler:  “doctors are following a hidden agenda laid out for them years ago by the American Academy of Pediatrics — an agenda that would take guns away from Floridians.”

But the question is not whether physicians are following some hidden agenda.  The real question is whether they are following federal law.  And the law I am referring to is the law that covers all hospitals and physicians delivering medical services covered by Medicaid and Medicare, which in the case of hospitals basically covers every hospital treatment facility in the United States.  This law is regulated by an agency known as the CMS, whose treatment manuals define medical care.  And here is what the CMS has to say about what a physician must do when a patient walks into an Emergency Department and requests care: “In such a case, the hospital has incurred an obligation to provide an appropriate medical screening examination (MSE) for the individual and stabilizing treatment or an appropriate transfer. The purpose of the MSE is to determine whether or not an emergency medical condition exits.”

Notice that I say “walked” into the emergency room.  Obviously if someone is wheeled into the emergency room bleeding from a gunshot wound, the attending physicians don’t have to figure out whether an emergency medical condition exists.  But most people who visit emergency departments don’t present such obvious symptoms of distress.  Rather, they show up because they “don’t feel good,” or have a pain here or a pain there.  Many are suffering from mental distress, others have been victims of domestic violence that, if left untreated, might get much worse.

How many of these patients are caught in a vortex of physical or mental deterioration that could wind up in a gun being shot off?  According to Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician in Providence, patients who are treated for gun wounds have a one-in-five chance of returning with another gunshot wound within five years. Wouldn’t there be a good possibility that many of these patients would re-appear in an emergency room in the intervening period and shouldn’t an attending physician need to know whether that individual had access to a gun?

Let me quote a little further from the CMS: “Individuals coming to the emergency department must be provided an MSE appropriate to the individuals’ presenting signs and symptoms, as well as the capability and capacity of the hospital. Depending on the individual’s presenting signs and symptoms, an appropriate MSE can involve a wide spectrum of actions….” So what should a doctor do when a patient says that he or she feels “depressed” or “upset,” or reports some other sign of mental distress.  Should the attending physician ignore all the data that indicates a clear correlation between household gun ownership and successful suicide attempts?

It’s time to set aside all the nonsense about how physicians have some kind of secret agenda to take away the guns.  Let’s remember that it was the CDC’s announcement in a 1981 morbidity report regarding deaths from an “unknown” lung infection that eventually led to treatments for AIDS.  If the NRA wants to pretend that 31,000 annual deaths and 75,000 injuries don’t constitute a health issue that’s fine.  But I’ll close this post with a quote from the novelist Walter Mosely: “If you carry a gun, it’s bound to go off sooner or later.”  Physicians need to figure out if the gun is going to go off, and when it does, what to do about it. That’s not a secret agenda, that’s the law.

 

 

 

 

Want To Play A Shooting Game? Buy A Redfield Scope

When I was a kid, which was before most of the readers of this blog were born, the gun industry made two very different types of guns. They made rifles and shotguns for hunting, and they made handguns and military-style rifles for the armed forces and the police.  There was some cross-over in products of course, largely because most adult males did military service thanks to the draft, so if they wanted to own a handgun as a civilian they would naturally gravitate to a Colt .45 pistol or a Smith & Wesson revolver.  But if you walked into a gun shop in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s you were in a place that sold arms, ammunition and accessories for outdoor sports, which meant hunting, with an occasional self-defense handgun thrown into the mix.

Even though hunting remains popular in certain parts of the country, nobody can deny that the consumer taste in guns hasn’t changed.  In 2010 for the first time, American gun companies manufactured more handguns than long guns, and more than 200,000 of the 1.8 million rifles manufactured that year were military-style AR-15s.  This blending of military and civilian styles isn’t just a function of the design of guns.  It’s taking over the nomenclature of the industry to the point that you can hardly tell the difference between what a soldier carries into the field and a hunter carries into the woods.  Take, for example, the Redfield Optics Company.

The company was founded in 1909 by John Redfield, an avid sportsman and hunter, whose product line was aimed at the “middle market” consumer who could afford to pay a bit more for his equipment but expected some quality in return.  Like many smaller companies in consumer optics and electronics, Redfield fell prey to overseas brands in the 1980s, limped along for another few years and eventually shuttered the doors in 1998.  One thing led to another and in 2008 the brand name was purchased by the most iconic American optics company – Leupold – who now sells Redfield products through their multiple channels both here and overseas.

To see where I’m going with this post, take a look at the Redfield website.  The scopes haven’t changed, they are the same mid-level, mid-priced optics that the company has been selling for more than one hundred years.  But the old scopes had names like Partner, Widefield and Accu-Range, the last being a 3x-9x scope that was originally mounted on a variation of the Remington 700 rifle  used as a sniper gun by the Marines. What does Redfield call its scopes now?  Names like Battlezone, RevolutionCounterstrike and Revenge, the last being their standard hunting scopes that can also be mounted for archery hunts. Naming a hunting scope Revenge?  What are the hunters avenging themselves about? Because the deer ate some apples off a tree?

A new study says that violence in PG-13 movies is more common than in popular, R-rated films.  Which means that children are being exposed to shootings and violent gun use at a younger and younger age. Why wouldn’t companies like Leupold take advantage of this trend towards more violence?  After all, there’s really no difference between a movie, a video game and a real AR-15, right?

 

Obama’s Putting Together an Arsenal Thanks To The TSA

There’s been a rumor floating around (thank you Glenn Beck) that Obama has been putting together a secret army that will surround the White House and protect him when the real Americans – the 3 percenters and all the other patriots – finally rise up, take our country back and preserve our God-given, constitutional rights. So I’m here to announce that I have found Obama’s arsenal, and if you don’t believe me, just ask the TSA.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You see, the TSA is responsible for security at all the airports, and even though there are warnings and signs all over the place telling passengers to stow their weapons in checked luggage, the folks who screen carry-on bags before passengers go to their gates just keep finding more and more guns.  In 2011 the TSA found more than 1,200 guns, in 2012 the number was over 1,500.  If the 2013 rate continues, by the end of the year the number will exceed 2,000.  That’s nearly 4,000 guns in three years.  Not a bad haul.

Of course some of the guns don’t look like they would be carried by any kind of army, unless it’s an army that has a special need for really small-caliber weapons.  In the three weeks from September 27 through October 17, for example, TSA confiscated 99 guns, of which 6 were 22 or 25 caliber, but there were also 27 pistols that were 9mm, 40 or 45-caliber, and that’s plenty of firepower for any army, whether in the pay of the President or not.  And the good news is that most of the guns were loaded, 84 of the 99 found over those three weeks, which means that the Presidential militia doesn’t even need to stop off at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Cabela’s to get ready to rumble because gun-toting Americans have made sure that the guns they’re taking on airplanes are ready to go.

Unfortunately for the President, his arsenal seems to be mainly handguns; after all, it’s not all that easy to stash an assault rifle (oops – a modern sporting rifle) into your carry-on before getting on a plane.  But Americans have always been an ingenious lot, so while the Presidential militia may be short on long guns, they’ll have enough explosives to help them carry the day.  In the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport someone walked through the line with a live, 40mm grenade; in Grand Junction there was 6 lbs. of black powder, detonation cords and a timing fuse; and a live blasting cap was found on a passenger in Richmond, Virginia.  I know, I know, they all just ‘forgot’ that they were carrying explosives onto a plane.  When was the last time you forgot that you were carrying explosives? When was the last time you carried explosives anywhere?

Getting back to the would-be passengers whose guns were taken away – know what?  It was clearly a violation of their 2nd Amendment rights.  And worse, they just wanted to bring their Glock into a ‘gun-free zone’ so that the rest of us would be protected from the nuts who figure they can shoot the place up because nobody’s got a gun.  In the light of District of Columbia versus Heller we really need to re-think our policy about allowing guns on planes.  And Obama needs to stop using the TSA to build his secret weapons cache.

Four thousand guns in three years? By the time Obama leaves office the TSA will probably be sitting on 10,000 guns.  Any chance that the TSA will let me buy the whole pile to increase the used gun inventory in my store?

Coming Up: The Next SCOTUS Gun Case

NRA Headquarters, Fairfax Virginia USA

NRA Headquarters, Fairfax Virginia USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may recall that in the debate over a new gun bill earlier this year, the major issue was whether to expand the FBI background check system to cover private sales. Proponents of expanded checks (Bloomberg, et. al.) argued that background checks helped prevent “straw sales,” thus keeping guns out of the wrong hands; opponents of the measure (NRA) said that there was no reason to further restrict law-abiding citizens from exercising their constitutional rights to own guns.

Now the Supreme Court has decided to hear a straw sales case concerning a transaction that took place in Virginia where a former state trooper, Bruce Abramski, was convicted of committing a straw sale purchase because he bought a gun for his uncle but stated on the background check form (ATF Form 4473) that the gun was for himself. Abramski argued that there was nothing illegal about the sale because his uncle was, in fact, legally able to buy a gun. Therefore, since the intent of the statute and the background check was to keep guns from getting into the wrong hands, the defendant’s transfer of the gun to his uncle didn’t violate the law at all.

Abramski is represented by the NRA, whose attorneys discovered a split at the federal appellate level over how to handle straw sales. Several circuits have upheld the government’s contention that making a false statement on the 4473 is, in and of itself, a violation of the law, regardless of the intention or additional facts in the case. But the Fifth Circuit held in US vs. Polk, that purchasing a gun for someone else, as long as the latter individual also qualified to own a gun, was completely permissible within the statute that applies to the 4473. The SCOTUS has agreed to hear the case and resolve the apparent dispute between the different appellate courts.

Who was this guy Polk whose conviction for lying on a 4473 Form was overturned by the 5th Circuit? It turns out that Polk didn’t actually purchase the gun or guns in question; the real straw purchase was committed by a guy named Davidson who was acting on instructions from Polk. And the reason that Polk instructed Davidson to buy more than 40 guns for him, along with plastic explosives, grenades, a light tank anti-weapons system and a machine gun was that he allegedly represented an organization called ‘Constitutional America’ that was planning a rebellion to restore America to its “common-law roots.” Polk was finally arrested, charged and convicted of soliciting various crimes of violence, along with “aiding and abetting” a straw purchase even though he didn’t actually fill out the 4473.

The NRA wants SCOTUS to exonerate the Virginia state trooper who lied on the 4473, using as precedent a wacko in Texas who got somebody else to lie on his behalf. It would be nice if Mother Theresa was the defendant every time an attorney wanted a conviction overturned, but a guy who wants to blow up IRS offices and assassinate judges and police officers all over the country deserves just as much consideration if the law was used improperly to get a conviction in his case. On the other hand, it seems to me that the NRA is really scraping the bottom of the barrel by trying to assert a constitutional right to gun ownership because everyone involved in the transaction is legally entitled to own a gun. The 4473, with all its shortcomings, doesn’t give the purchaser the right to decide for himself whether the gun will eventually wind up in law-abiding hands.

Abramski could have avoided the entire problem by having his Virginia dealer send the gun directly to his uncle’s dealer in Pennsylvania; licensed dealers do this all the time. If the SCOTUS decides this case in favor of Abramski and the NRA, we might as well get rid of the background check system all together. But isn’t that what the NRA wants?