Gun Violence Isn't a Problem — it's actually 5 Problems, with Different Solutions

I’ve written extensively on gun violence, spoken on international TV and radio on the subject, and even pursued a gun license in the strictest city of one of the strictest states in the country. Despite my first-hand experience, the most ardent defenders of the Second Amendment — like those who marched on Richmond, Virginia this weekend to protest "Jim Crow" gun laws — will still tell me things like, “We don’t need more laws! We need to enforce the laws on the books!” or “We can’t stop every shooting because that’s just the price of freedom.” Those same #2A Avengers will of course acknowledge that yeah, okay, maybe NICS has some problems, or maybe those Parkland cops should have done something earlier, and then swiftly retreat back into the same tribalistic mindsets that always prevent human progress.

So I wrote this essay, hoping to have a rational conversation. It was originally published on Medium in 2018, but it remains frustratingly relevant, so I'm posting it here.

Naming something gives you power over it.

That’s the basic idea behind all the magic in every folktale dating back for centuries, from “Rumpelstiltskin” to the Rolling Stones’ “Hope you guessed my name.” Ancient shamans didn’t practice “magic”; they just had knowledge, and names for things like “eye of newt” that no one else could understand. To name something is to know it, and knowledge is power.Think about the relationship between “spelling” and “spells” and you won’t be so surprised that Harry Potter has been all over the gun violence conversations lately, on both the Left and the Right—which makes sense, considering that they have a word you memorize and practice reciting in order to kill people. Read the rest

Most "black market" guns in America are purchased legally across state lines

States' rights are one of the greatest impediments to reducing gun violence in the United States.

This was something I noticed when I chronicled the journey of getting my gun license in Boston. It's also all-but-confirmed by the recent release of the ATF's gun tracking data. From The Trace:

According to the most recent ATF statistics, released in August, the bureau traced 332,101 guns in 2018. The average time-to-crime of those weapons was 8.8 years. That’s why a particularly short time-to-crime raises red flags for law enforcement, since it often suggests the weapon was acquired for criminal purposes.

[…]

In California, for example, 12 percent of the guns recovered in the state had a time-to-crime of less than one year. When you isolate only those guns that originated in Nevada and were recovered in California, the figure jumps to 23 percent — almost one in four. (Nationally, 10 percent of all guns had a time-to-crime of less than one year.)

For the pro-gun NRA crowd, this essentially proves that gun regulation doesn't work; that's a reason they love to talk about Chicago so much, even though most of the illegal guns there come from Indiana. But I don't actually buy that at all. The issue is and always been about ease of access. Most people aren't going to go out of their way to navigate the black market, trading Bitcoin over Silk Road just to get a gun. If you live in California, and have a cousin in Nevada (or even just know a guy who knows a guy), it becomes less of a "black market" trade, and more of a favor. Read the rest

Seattle authorities used "Red Flag" gun laws to disarm a Neo-Nazi

Kaleb J. Cole (aka "Khimaere") is the 24-year-old leader of the Washington State cell of the Atomwaffen Division, an international network of violent Neo-Nazis. Aside from generally spewing hateful rhetoric, Cole had also been seen participating in Atomwaffen's "Hate Camps," sharpening his rifle skills for more extremist violence.

Fortunately, he no longer has access to any guns. From The Daily Beast:

[Cole] had his guns seized on Oct. 1st, according to King County Court records. The move came after the Seattle Police Department filed a 62-page “Extreme Risk Protection Order” petition against Cole on Sept. 26, according to electronic court records. Among the weapons that had been in Cole's possession were a pistol and an AK-47 variant with a high-capacity drum magazine.

To be clear, Cole has not been charged on any specific crimes. As far as anyone's aware, he hasn't killed anyone—at least not yet, although there is arguably reason to believe that he plans to. In addition to the target-practice videos where he can be seen chanting "Race war now" with the rest of his buddies, Cole has openly admitted to his fascist beliefs, and support for armed insurrection.

Again: not technically crimes. But valids cause for concern. That's where the "Red Flag" or "Extreme Risk" laws come in. They're basically restraining orders, but for guns.

One of the biggest struggles with reducing gun violence in America is that a lot of the proposed legislation also infringes on civil liberties. For example: the various "No-Fly Lists" that the government maintains have no clear criteria or due process, which ends up punishing people innocent Muslims, government employees, and literal fucking babies. Read the rest

Is this the most effective political ad of 2016?

US Senate candidate Jason Kander was consistently trailing incumbent Roy Blunt in the Missouri race until this month. Many attribute the shift to a simple and memorable ad in response to criticism of Kander's position on gun background checks. Read the rest

Christians ‘serious about their faith’ should get a handgun carry permit, says TN politician

Just days after yet another mass shooting in America, Tennessee's Lieutenant Governor says Christians who are ‘serious about their faith’ should consider buying guns. The unbelievably idiotic decree to God-fearing citizens by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) was delivered via Facebook, where indeed, so many idiotic decrees are delivered. Read the rest

The 17 states where guns kill more people than cars do

Motor vehicle deaths continue to drop in the US this century. Firearm deaths continue to rise. If the CDC's WISQARS data holds its path since 2013, guns will soon be America's top killing machine. The 17 states (and one district) in order are: Read the rest

NRA's top lawyer was convicted of murdering his girlfriend's mother in 1964

The cover story for Mother Jones this month is about Bob Dowlut, NRA's general counsel, "who for 30 years has been the architect of the National Rifle Association's legal and cultural agenda." (Gawker) Read the rest