Category Archives: Gun Issues

Birds of a Feather in the Refuge

Wampler “Birds of a feather, flock together.” So sayeth all grandmothers offering advice about the accumulation of friends and acquaintances.  For all the palaver about a “peaceful” occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge from the Bundy Boys, they’ve kept company so far with the two notorious cop-killers in southern Nevada, and now it comes to light they have an armed felon in their midst.

Neil Wampler, California patricide, “…Wampler was a ubiquitous presence at the start of the occupation, often seen roaming the compound and talking to reporters. He said he drove to Oregon from his home near San Luis Obispo after seeing an online call for people to support the cause in Burns.” [Oregonian]  And, yes, by his admission, he’s armed.

Little wonder Mr. Wampler’s concerned about gun rights, as a convicted felon (2nd degree murder of his father during a drunken fight) Mr. Wampler doesn’t have any.   As a convicted felon he is prohibited from firearm ownership in California, and in Nevada, and in Oregon.   Mr. Wampler doesn’t agree, however:

“California and federal law generally prohibit felons from possessing firearms. Wampler told The Oregonian that he can legally possess a gun. Cipolla, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said Wampler cannot have a gun because of his murder conviction.” [Oregonian]

Thus we can assume that Mr. Wampler is a law unto himself; if he says his criminal record doesn’t prohibit his gun toting, then his sovereignty must be respected? This position seems to capture the sovereign notion that the law applies to thee but not to me.  And, Mr. Wampler isn’t the first of the Malheur Loons to make threats, he just seems to be the most recent:

“We are peaceful people, I certainly am,” he says. “And the only circumstance, the last extremity, I think that any gunshots would be fired is if the federalists tried to root us out of here. They would find out then, that we are not playing. We’re not gonna give an inch. And I say that very seriously.” [Oregonian]

Shorter version: If the authorities try to make us leave the Refuge we’re going to start shooting people, even if we Loons have worn out our welcome in the county. [Oregonian]

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Filed under Gun Issues, terrorism

Profiles in Cowardice: GOP Soft on Terrorism

Gun Congress I should have known, given that Senator Dean Heller’s last campaign material came from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, that he’d cave to NRA radicals on the following bit of legislation: S.Amdt. 2910 to S.Amdt. 2874 to H.R. 3762

All those links refer eventually to a simple amendment —

“To increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists.” {Sen}

And, how did the junior Senator from Nevada cast his vote?  Here’s the roster from vote # 319 —

Heller Terrorist Vote 319That’s right – all those “Nay” votes were to prevent the Department of Justice from refusing to approve gun sales to those on the Terrorist Watch List.  In other words, spoken so often in the last 48 hours, Senator Heller doesn’t want terrorists flying but he evidently has no problems allowing them to waltz into a gun store and loading up on – say,  “1600 rounds of ammunition, another 4,500 rounds ‘at home,’ two assault rifles and two semi-automatic handguns.” [ABC]   

“Senators will need to decide where they stand. Or do they stand with the NRA?” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday, declaring that the Senate had been “complicit through our inaction” in the 355 mass shootings that have taken place in the United States since the start of the year. “Those who choose to do the NRA’s bidding will be held accountable by our constituents.” [WaPo]

That pretty well sums it up.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Heller, terrorism

Blood Money and Nevada Politicians

blood money Indeed, it’s time to “politicize” the gun violence issue in this nation; and, it should be done in this election cycle.   The top “gun rights” advocacy groups in terms of money spent on candidates are: (1) The National Rifle Association, which spent $952,252 during the 2013-14 season; (2) Safari Club International, which spent $694,640 during the same period; (3) Gun Owners of America, $270,157; (4) National Shooting Sports Foundation, $169,250; (5) The Ohio Gun Collectors Association, $35,500; and, (6) The Dallas Safari Club, $9,250.  [OpenSecrets]  And now – Who has been collecting some of this money in Nevada?

Contributions from all cycles to date as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics show:

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) $101,565

Representative Joe Heck (R-NV) $31,415

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV) $25,765

Representative Cresent Hardy (R-NV) $1,000*

During his 2012 election campaign Senator Heller was presumably pleased to have five contributions from the Safari Club International totaling $6,000. [FEC]   FEC records show more recent money coming into the Cresent Hardy* (R-NV4) campaign from pro-gun sources: there was a $1,000 contribution from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund on June 19, 2015, and a $2,000 contribution from Safari Club International on June 30, 2015. [FEC]

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) collected $2,000 from the Safari Club International (6/22/15) thus far in the 2016-2016 season; he collected $2,500 from the National Rifle Association on 9/15/14, $1,000 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (9/22/14), and $1,000 from Safari Club International on 6/21/13.  The gun lobby was generous to Representative Amodei in the 2011-2012 season as well, with three contributions (8/1/2011) (12/20/2011) (7/27/2012) totaling $4,000 from the National Rifle Association.  Then, he received four more contributions from Safari Club International for $1,000 (8/9/2011) another $1,000 (3/19/2012), a boost of $2,000 (2/4/2012) and yet another $1,000 late in the season (9/8/2012).

Counting

While the politicians were collecting contributions from the pro-gun organizations, the CDC reported 16,121 homicides in the US in 2013 of which 11,208 were attributable to firearms. [CDC] As of 2011, the CDC reported, there were 41,149 suicides in this country, of which 21,175 were attributable to firearms. [CDC]  Worse still, we’re not even sure exactly how many children we’re losing every year to gun violence. [WaPo] [NYT] As close as we can infer is that between 2007 and 2011 an average of 62 children under the age of 14 were accidentally shot and killed each year. This is probably, as the Post pointed out, an undercount. [ERorg.]  The politicians collect more contributions, and the count rises.

Counting is important because the gun violence argument is becoming entangled in the differentiation between causation and correlation.  Gun fetishists will be delighted to find that FactCheck is criticizing one of the President’s recent comments about gun regulation and death rates as not being one of causation. No one appears to be disputing the correlations.  What’s interesting is that the original comment, “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths” doesn’t seem to imply a causal relationship (or even a near perfect positive correlation of .98)  Perhaps for the purists, he might have expressed it as: “There appears to be a correlation between the efforts of a state to enact and enforce gun safety legislation and a lower overall gun violence death rate.”

Additionally, as the FactChecker points out counting suicides and accidental gun deaths is problematic because we lack a standard reporting system, an issue which muddies the clarity of statistics on accidents involving children as described in the links above.  Accurate information (data collection as in “counting” as accurately as possible) would also allow us to treat gun violence as a public health issue.  [Gupta CNN]

Counting and Will Power

If we go by the numbers, none of us can avoid the No. 1 cause of death until we reach 44 years of age – the heart disease and cancer causation kicks in. Unintentional injury is the leading cause for those aged 1-44.  However, when we look at the second leading cause of death in those between the ages of 15-35 it’s suicide, and the third leading cause is homicide.  [CDC]  Surely, if we have these kinds of statistics before us we can observe a public health issue of the first water.

Consider for a moment: Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, and Gastrointestinal infections were leading causes of death in 1900; in 2010 the leading causes were heart disease and cancer. [I09]  We treated TB, Pneumonia, and gastrointestinal infections as public health problems, studied causes, promoted research to find preventative measures and cures, and made a political decision that we would address these three killers with the funding and resources to defeat them.  However, as long as the merchants of lethal weapons continue to pay off politicians, and dispute even the most common sense elements of a potential solution, and won’t even consider funding basic research … our public health problem will persist as a matter of ill-advised political policy.

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I’m Tired: Of Defeatist Gun Glorifiers.

Blood splatter Another week another mass shooting, and yet another round of the old tired clichéd talking points from the defeatist – demoralized – ammosexuals. 

#1.  “Oregon has strict gun safety laws and the incident happened in Oregon, therefore gun laws don’t work.” No matter how many times another state or municipality is inserted into this framework it’s still the southbound product of a northbound bull.    Not sure? Go to this report of a study of the subject.

#2.The shooter was a ___________”  Another dropping of “product.”  I don’t care if the shooter was a bright green aubergine striped believer in the Great Pumpkin.  The shooter was able to secure lethal firepower all too easily and the entities which allowed him to do so are not held accountable in any meaningful way.

#3.It’s the parent’s responsibility to instruct and acculturate their children.”  Yes, and too many have decided on instructing children in the use of firearms without teaching the elements of responsibility thereof and  have begat another generation, some members of which think using a firearm is a way to vent, rage, and settle domestic disputes.  Again – more bull “product.”

#4.  “Banning guns leaves citizens unprotected.”  More male bovine “product.”  Really? Unprotected from what? Criminals? A gun in the home is more likely to be used in a crime, an accident, or a suicide than it will be to protect the Castle.  Need some real information? Try here.

#5.The shooter was mentally ill.”  This piece of “product” usually comes up when the shooter is a white male.  (Other shooters are Black (thugs), Muslim (terrorists) or if brownish (Un-American.)  So, I ask, what was a mentally ill individual doing with a lethal weapon?  Did a parent allow access? Did a store fail to run a background check? Did a private seller not perform due diligence?  Did the state legislature decide that only those who have been adjudicated mentally ill would be precluded from obtaining lethal weapons?

Ok, enough of the NRA publicity points, enough southbound product of northbound bulls.  We can, and should, make every effort to make our country safer.  We will never achieve perfection, but if we listen to the demoralizing, defeatist ammosexuals we’ll never even try.  We can do something:

  • Require universal background checks for firearm purchases. All firearm purchases.
  • Legislate to limit the practice of straw purchases of firearms.
  • Legislate to limit the amount of purchases.  One gun per month seems reasonable.  A person would have every right to purchase guns, just not all at once.
  • Limit the magazine capacity. 
  • Ban the sale of assault rifles.  Soldiers need them, civilians don’t.
  • Keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.
  • Fund and assist scientific studies into the causation and effects of gun violence.
  • Repeal liability immunity for gun manufacturers, in short make them as responsible for their product and any other manufacturers.
  • Enact safe storage laws.
  • Pledge to vote against any politician supported by the NRA, the Shooting Sports Foundation, Gun Owners of America, or any other manufacturing lobby promoting the sales of lethal weapons in this country.

If the defeatist, demoralizing, gun enthusiasts want to keep spouting their talking points, want to keep making excuses for doing nothing – fine, however I’m tired of their defeatism, their demoralization, their ranting, and their irrationality.  We cannot achieve perfection, but we can certainly do something to make this country and its citizens safer.

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Nevada’s Unfortunate Export

Guns In the last published annual report from the Nevada Department of Corrections FY 2013 (pdf) we discover that 24.87% of the men admitted into the Nevada prison system were being incarcerated for drug related offenses. Property crimes accounted for 24.24% of the admissions, sex crimes for 7.91%, and crimes of violence 36.79%.  DUIs and “other” accounted for approximately 6.2%.  Various trafficking crimes are included in Category A and Category B felony provisions in Nevada. 

A person can get into major trouble under Nevada law, as in Category A felony categorization territory, for trafficking in Schedule I drugs (28 grams or more) or trafficking in Schedule II drugs (400 grams).  Trafficking in persons is covered in Category B felonies, carrying penalties of from 1 to 20 years.  Sex trafficking can yield sentences between 3 to 20 years, with no probation or suspended sentences if the conviction involves a child.  What kind of trafficking won’t get a person into the Nevada prison system?

Gun trafficking.   Nevada does have some statutes pertaining to the transfer and sale of firearms. NRS 202.310 does provide that: “Any person in this state who sells or barters to a child who is under the age of 18 years, with reckless disregard of whether the child is under the age of 18 years, or with knowledge or reason to know that the child is under the age of 18 years, a pistol, revolver or a firearm capable of being concealed upon the person is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.”  We might want to come back to this provision sometime to discuss what constitutes “recklessness” in this instance, but for now it’s enough to know that it is unlawful to sell a gun to someone under the age of 18 without parental supervision.  There are other classifications of persons to whom firearms shall not be sold in this state.

NRS 202.362  Sale or disposal of firearm or ammunition to certain persons prohibited; penalty; exceptions. 1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, a person within this State shall not sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to another person if he or she has actual knowledge that the other person:  (a) Is under indictment for, or has been convicted of, a felony in this or any other state, or in any political subdivision thereof, or of a felony in violation of the laws of the United States of America, unless the other person has received a pardon and the pardon does not restrict his or her right to bear arms;  (b) Is a fugitive from justice;  (c) Has been adjudicated as mentally ill or has been committed to any mental health facility; or (d) Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.  2.  A person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000. (emphasis added)

The requirement that the seller have “actual knowledge” of a person’s status with regard to a gun sale, obviously the “knowledge” of a seller is diminished by the fact that Nevada doesn’t require universal background checks, but the “actual” knowledge is further restrained by the fact that Nevada applies no penalties to those who lie in order to purchase guns.  Washington, Oregon, and California have criminal penalties for “buying a gun  using false information,” Nevada does not. [TTG] [Wash. 9.41.113] [Oregon 116.470] [AG CA pdf]

Indeed, Nevada has NO statutes which establish criminal penalties for buying a gun on behalf of someone who may not legally purchase one otherwise;  as seen above, the individual who buys the gun may be prosecuted but not the seller.  Nevada has NO statute(s) preventing someone from selling a firearm to some buyer who has a record of serious misdemeanors – only felonies will do.  And, since Nevada has no universal background check law there are no criminal penalties for selling a firearm to someone without having made a proper background check.  The result of all this?

As of 2009, Nevada had the 9th highest rate of “crime gun exports” in the country.  making Nevada a “net exporter” of guns used in serious crimes in other states – 781 such guns were imported into Nevada and 808 were “exported” to other states.  [TTG]  But! 204 crime guns came from California. Yes, and California has a total population of 38,802,500 while Nevada has 2,839,099. [Census] We have 7% of California’s population and we’re doing more than our share of exporting weapons used in crimes.

Making gun trafficking even more likely is the simple fact that Nevada has no restrictions on the sales of multiple guns. [SGL]  We know the exportation of “crime guns” drops when restrictions are placed on multiple sales because it worked in Virginia between 1993 and 2012. During that period Virginia imposed its “one gun per month” rule, and the odds the gun was purchased in that state (as compared to other southeastern states) dropped by 71% of guns recovered in NY, 72% for guns recovered in Massachusetts, and 66% for guns recovered in NY, NJ, CT, RI, and MA combined. [SGL]

Nevada would be a much better neighbor if the next session of the State Legislature would give serious consideration to:

  • Imposing criminal penalties for buying firearms for individuals who are not legally allowed to possess them.
  • Imposing criminal penalties on those who seek to purchase firearms in this state who provide false information to the seller.
  • Requiring universal background checks for the sale of all handguns.
  • Imposing criminal penalties for those who deliberately sell firearms without conducting a background check on the purchaser.
  • Limiting the number of firearms which can be purchased in any single transaction.

Trafficking guns should at least carry some of the same penalties we apply to those entering our prison system convicted of drug and sex trafficking?

References: Department of Corrections, State of Nevada, “Annual Statistical Abstract” (pdf) FY 2013.  Category A felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf), Category B felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf); Category C felonies, NV Legislature (pdf); Category D felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf); Category E felonies, NV Legislature (pdf); Nevada Revised Statutes 202;  Office of the Attorney General, State of California, “California Firearms Laws Summary,” (pdf);  Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Multiple Purchases, Sales of Firearms Policy;”

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Silver Bullets and Straw Man Arguments: Gun Legislation in Nevada (Updated)

OK Corral Here we go again.  Another spate of gun violence yields another editorial assault on common sense gun regulation from conservative sources, this time the editors of the Las Vegas Review Journal.  The title says it all, “Expanded gun background checks not a cure all.”  There are at least a couple of things wrong with this argument.  First, it’s a straw man argument. No one is claiming that universal background checks will cure the American violence problem.  The claim is that closing the gun-show loophole and requiring background checks for sales to non-family members will reduce the probability of gun violence.  Secondly, as the editorial itself acknowledges, background checks can prevent gun sales to domestic abusers.

Even this legislation, SB 175, didn’t really go far enough, and in some respects represents a step backward in terms of controlling access to firearms.  Those guilty of domestic violence, who are subject to an extended order of protection, are forbidden from purchasing or otherwise acquiring a firearm during the period the order of protection is in effect. To get this small attempt at controlling firearm access by domestic abusers, meant the NRA won state control of all gun related issues, county concealed carry permits in Clark County went by the wayside, and expanded language was added to liability in instances in which a “reasonable person might be afraid” for his or her life.

The second logical issue with the editorial is good old fashioned circular reasoning.  The authors logic appears to be that (1) effective background checks require efficient offender databases; (2) Nevada has an inefficient offender data base system; therefore (3) Nevada cannot have effective background checks.  This logic works IF one is prepared to skip blithely over the question of how to make the Nevada offender data base more efficient – and is perilously close to the old Undistributed Middle.

And then comes the perfectly predictable: “Regardless, as has been shown countless times, criminals are not going to follow any gun control law.”  So, if we extrapolate this to its obvious, and much referenced conclusion, there is no reason to enact sanctions against bank robbery and bear baiting because criminals are not going to follow the law?

Now back to the Domestic Violence issue.  What was gained by victims of domestic abuse in SB 175? Answer: Precious Little. [DB April 2015]  Under Section 5 of the bill a domestic abuser (the Adverse Party) was forbidden to purchase firearms for the duration of an extended order of protection.  Please recall that Nevada has two types of restraining orders, temporary and extended, and it can take up to 45 days to get an extended order. [NRS 33.031]   Meanwhile, the statistics are available for the period from April to June 2015. (pdf)

Between April and June 2015, there were 16,245 “contacts” made by authorities concerning domestic violence, and 10,637 were “first time,” another 3,537 were “repeats,” and there were 2,071 “follow up contacts.” Of the 10,637 victims 9,938 were women (93.4%), 699 were men (4.27%).  The age of the victim was not reported in 4,316 instances.  There were 1,479 female victims between the ages of 18-29; 2,577 female victims between the ages of 30-44; and, 1,193 female victims between the ages of 45-64.  Arrests were made in 1,490 cases, no arrest was made in 1,648 cases, and 135 cases are pending.  During the period between April and June 2015 there were 3,327 temporary orders of protection prepared.  2,402 temporary orders of protection/restraining orders were provided.

Assuming that law enforcement and the judicial system were functioning effectively, we had 2,402 cases in a three month period in which it was determined that the victim – most likely a woman – was deserving of a temporary order of protection.  However, the “adverse party” would be free to retain possession of firearms during the length of the temporary order, and for 45 days until an extended order of protection could be issued.

These numbers take on some urgency when put in the context of domestic violence in Nevada.  Back in 2012 25 of the 84 homicides within Las Vegas police jurisdiction were related to domestic violence, the numbers were worse in 2013 when 33 of 105 homicides were related to domestic disputes. [LVRJ]

More alarming still, the national report published by USA Today, on mass killings and family problems.  We have a “mass killing” about every two weeks (since 2006);  the FBI counted 172 between 2006 and 2011.  These numbers may be an undercount because of erroneous and excluded cases, leaving the FBI with a 57% accuracy rate.  And here comes the disturbing part:  Of those mass killings, in 53% the victims were family members. (Other 21%, Public 15%, Robbery/Burglary related 11%) A break up of some kind is the tipping point in 1 out of every 4 mass killings that aren’t connected to strangers, gang violence, or a robbery gone wrong. One in four victims were close family members, children, siblings, spouses, etc. In 77% of the mass killings the weapon used was a gun.  One-third of the victims were under the age of 18; and, 75% of the guns involved were handguns.

The USA Today report drilled down further: semi-automatic hand guns were involved in 49.6% of the shootings; handgun/revolver in 22.4%; and automatic pistols in 0.9%.  Single shot rifles were used in 9.5%; semi-automatic rifles in 8.6%; and automatic rifles in 0.4% of the cases. A shotgun was used in 8.6% of the deadly events.  One third of the perpetrators will be dead at the scene.

It’s certainly true, a domestic abuser will resort to whatever weapon may be at hand from guns to kitchen knives to baseball bats and to manual strangulation… however, as these statistics suggest the outcome is more likely to be deadly if a firearm is involved.

So, should the “little woman” be armed, does the gun in the home constitute an “equalizer?” The answer is no.

“A recent meta-analysis concluded what many people already knew: the availability of firearms is a strong risk factor for both homicide and suicide. But the study came to another conclusion that is rarely mentioned in the gun control debate: females are uniquely impacted by the availability of a firearm. Indeed, the study found that women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher rates than men.

It has long been recognized that higher rates of gun availability correlate with higher rates of female homicide. Women in the United States account for 84 percent of all female firearm victims in the developed world, even though they make up only a third of the developed world’s female population. And within American borders, women die at higher rates from suicide, homicide, and accidental firearm deaths in states where guns are more widely available This is true even after controlling for factors such as urbanization, alcohol use, education, poverty, and divorce rates.” [LATimes]

In another study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers interviewed 417 women across 67 battered women’s shelters. Nearly a third of these women had lived in a household with a firearm. In two-thirds of the homes, their intimate partners had used the gun against them, usually threatening to kill (71.4 percent) them. A very small percentage of these women (7 percent) had used a gun successfully in self-defense, and primarily just to scare the attacking male partner away. Indeed, gun threats in the home against women by their intimate partners appear to be more common across the United States than self-defense uses of guns by women. [LATimes]

Another large case-control study compared women who were murdered by their intimate partner with a control group of battered women. Only 16 percent of the women who had been abused, but not murdered, had guns in their homes, whereas 51 percent of the murder victims did. In fact, not a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership. Though there are examples of women using a gun to defend themselves, they are few and far between, and not statistically significant. [LATimes]

Thus much for the advocacy of yet more guns, and yet more permits to be able to conceal those guns?  And yet more reason to take note of the statistics on domestic violence, the presence of guns in unstable households, and the need to remove firearms from volatile domestic situations.

Questions Remain

  • When do the NRA talking points asserting there is no magic single solution to gun violence become stale and hackneyed?  When does the public come to understand that this is a straw man argument which does little good for the safety of the state and the families residing in this state?
  • When does the profoundly illogical argument that because something might be difficult, or even require more effort, that the desired outcome (less gun violence) is therefore impossible, become a clear example of circular reasoning and unfounded assertion?
  • When do we act on the statistics which strongly suggest that the presence of a firearm in a home increases the probability of lethal domestic violence and suicide? Not to mention tragic incidents involving children.
  • When do we take into consideration the fact that there are some 45 days under Nevada law during which a domestic abuser is free to retain firearms, indeed, free to obtain more “firepower” during that period?
  • What additional arguments must be made before those who advocate for zero restrictions on firearm ownership/possession understand that in a civilized society the temporary removal of firearms from a volatile domestic situation doesn’t mean there is a violation of a Constitutional right?

Update: The Violence Policy Center released its national report today. Nevada is 5th in the nation in female homicide rate.

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Filed under domestic abuse, Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Women's Issues

Armed and Dangerous or Unarmed and Disingenuous?

Guns If only the advocates of gun proliferation were as well armed logically as they are with cop-killer ammunition and magazines with 30 rounds?  Some of the arguments have become tiresome, others tedious, and most specious or spurious.

There are altogether too many categories of gun violence incidents in this country to make any definitive pronouncement about the specific nature or that violence or to state with any assurance that one type of legislation will address the incidents in their totality.  And, the proliferation advocates have used this concept as a platform for renouncing all responsibility for controlling the violence.  “This” would not have prevented “that,” they say, countering that universal background checks would not have prevented Incident X.  Or safe storage laws will not prevent work place gun attacks. Or mental health checks would not have prevented a specific hate crime. And, so it goes.   What is disarming our discussion and make our civic discourse disingenuous is the lack of a larger framework.

Is gun violence a function of (1) social displacement or discomfort; (2) poorly developed social skills, including conflict resolution; and/or (3) a combination thereof?

What is it about the “gun culture” which makes the manufacturer oriented message of the NRA so attractive to some people?  Here’s one explanation:

“The gun rights platform is not just about guns. It’s also about a crisis of confidence in the American dream. And this is one reason gun control efforts ignite such intense backlashes: Restrictions are received as a personal affront to men who find in guns a sense of duty, relevance and even dignity.” [LATimes]

Let’s separate the crisis of confidence from the American dream portion for a moment.  It certainly makes sense that those who feel their economic security slipping away, or who feel a disquieting sense of futility about making their lives better, would feel an attachment to a powerful weapon that makes them feel more masculine, relevant, and empowered. However, this seems a highly personal matter.  For all those in the Rust Belt portions of the country who’ve watched manufacturing jobs disappear, and those who are subsequently trapped in the morass of low paying part time employment, who use the gun as an emotional crutch, there are others who don’t.  In fact, the statistics tell us that in 1977 54% of American households contained a gun, while in 2014 that percentage dropped to 32%. [WaPo] There are more guns being sold, but to those who seem to be stockpiling them. [CNN]

These statistics don’t refute the argument that guns make the insecure feel better, however they might indicate that those who do use the guns as social/emotional support are procuring more of them.

Too Close To Home?

However, gun ownership isn’t necessarily an index of the levels of gun violence.   It does inform studies of fatal incidents of domestic violence.  The Wintemute Study in 2003 found that “females living with a gun in the home were nearly 3 times more likely to victimized at home than in any other place.”  The Grassel Study (2003) also found that “women who were murdered were more likely, not less likely, to have purchased a handgun in the three years prior to their deaths, again invalidating the idea that a handgun has a protective effect against homicide.” [VPC]

That “protective effect” is asserted by handgun purchasers who have bought guns to feel more secure in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities.  But once again we are missing some crucial information?  While our attention is directed at stranger perpetrated violence in movie theaters and other public spaces, most mass shootings are domestic.

“We found that in 57 percent of mass shootings, the shooter targeted either a family member or an intimate partner. According to HuffPost’s analysis, 64 percent of mass shooting victims were women and children. That’s startling, since women typically make up only 15 percent of total gun violence homicide victims, and children only 7 percent.” [HuffPo]

And the statistics go a step further toward explaining why the “protective effect” is illusory in domestic situations: “If a domestic abuser has a gun the victim is 8 times more likely to be killed.” [HuffPo/NCBI]  If a gun purchaser believes that the ownership of a firearm will make his family more secure, as do about 60% of Americans, then that 6 out of 10 hasn’t been paying attention to other numbers.

“For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.” [MJ]

What self-respecting person would want to protect his family by making the members more statistically likely to suffer homicide, suicide, or accidental death?  Total gun ownership doesn’t necessarily mean that the people who are supposed to be protected by the guns actually will be.  It may mean that there are a declining number of households in this country which are now at a statistically greater risk of fatal violence?

There’s good and bad news in terms of workplace violence as well. The good news is that from 2002 to 2009 the rate of nonfatal workplace violence declined by 35%, and that after a 62% decline in the rate from 1993 to 2002. The bad part is that between 2005 and 2009 while firearms were used in only 5% of the nonfatal workplace violence incidents, shootings accounted for 80% of workplace homicides. [BJS pdf] If nothing more, the numbers support the assertion that guns do, in fact, kill people. 

Who’s taking it personally?

Duty, relevance, and dignity may be the rationale for some gun owners, but their cohort may have other ideas?

“A June 2015 study found that “310 million firearms estimated to be in private hands in the United States are disproportionately owned by people who are prone to angry, impulsive behavior and have a potentially dangerous habit of keeping their guns close at hand.” There is a “co-occurrence of impulsive angry behavior and possessing or carrying a gun among adults with and without certain mental disorders and demographic characteristics.”

Almost 9% of people who “self-report patterns of impulsive angry behavior” also have a firearm at home, and 1.5% (or nearly 85 people out of 5,653 surveyed for this study) carry their guns in places other than their home. The authors found that, when studying violence and anger, it is more effective to look at the arrest history of individuals rather than seeing if they have a mental illness. Arrests could show “a history of impulsive or angry behavior (for example, criminal records of misdemeanor violence, DWIs and domestic violence restraining orders),” which “would likely serve as a more feasible and less discriminatory indicator of an individual’s gun violence risk.”  [CSGV]

We might also conclude that some of those who express a wish to be more dutiful in protecting their families – by firearms, more relevant, and more “dignified,” may also be some of the people who are more angry, impulsive, and potentially dangerous?

And then there’s the racism angle…

This is the uncomfortable topic in modern American life, but it is no less a function of gun sales, gun ownership, and gun culture – we ignore it at our peril:

“Those with racist views are more likely to oppose gun reform. In an October 2013 study, Kerry O’Brien, Walter Forrest, Dermot Lynott and Michael Daly concluded that “Symbolic racism [is] related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in U.S. whites.” The study defined symbolic racism as “racial resentment…an explicit but subtle form and measure of racism.” While the reasons for owning guns and being opposed to gun violence prevention legislation vary and are complex, “it has been suggested that sociocultural factors such as fear of black violence may be associated with gun ownership, and with opposition to gun controls.”

Professors Benforado and Young also supported this statement in their respective works. In his 2010 study, Benforado writes, “Advances in implicit social cognition reveal that most people carry biases against racial minorities beyond their conscious awareness. These biases affect critical behavior, including the actions of individuals performing shooting tasks. In simulations, Americans are faster and more accurate when firing on armed blacks than when firing on armed whites, and faster and more accurate in electing to hold their fire when confronting unarmed whites than when confronting unarmed blacks.”

Similarly, in his 1985 study, Young writes, “The ownership of firearms for protection is influenced by the interaction of racial prejudice and perceptions of crime and crime fighters. Moreover, the impact of prejudice is sufficiently strong that the mere physical proximity of a relatively large black population is enough to increase gun ownership among highly prejudiced men, even in the absence of concerns about crime.”

Discomforting as this may be, the “average” gun owner in America is white, married or divorced, relatively high income, and over 55. [CSGV]  Those armed with sufficient information from scientific studies can conclude that gun regulation efforts will be opposed by mostly white males over 55 years of age who promote a gun culture agenda which actually makes this country (and its women and children) less safe than if guns were not proliferating.

The facts have been out since forever – and facts aren’t going to move the debate in radical segments such as those who believe that any restriction on guns is a violation of their Constitutional rights, that any regulation of gun purchases is an act of Fascism, that any diminution of gun ownership is an indication of a loss of personal freedom.  Combine prejudice, bias, insecurity, and anger and we get the most vocal of the anti-regulation voices.  Unfortunately, these voices are getting equal face time in the media for their essentially minority view of common sense gun regulation in a society that has yet to acknowledge that guns are NOT a device for conflict resolution.

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