Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be

The Handgun, Stupid: Anti Gun Violence Organizations’ Gift to the NRA


Big organizations lobbying to stop gun violence, here’s the sign to post in your offices: “The handgun, Stupid.” Gun violence groups’ obsession with assault rifles and automatic weapons is more about the posturing and political points they hope that they can score short-term than it is about addressing the real causes of gun deaths and injuries in America:

Handguns, and their improper storage and use.

Can the anti-gun violence organizations really tackle the armed 400 lb. gorilla in the room?

The gun safety groupthink seems to be that they have no winning point to beat back the hell and fury  that the National Rifle Association will unleash on anyone talking about taking away Joe Citizen’s handgun. Even if granpa Joe left it out for his grandson who just blew away his granddaughter, or if Joe had a bit too much to drink at his favorite tavern,  wandered back to his car, found his trusty sidearm, and started unloading it into the patrons of the bar one night. Or wandered home and shot his wife and ate his gun after reading the latest eviction notice topping the stack of unpaid bills.

What are the leading causes of gun death in America?  Based upon our American Gun Victims Wall coverage, nationally the top ten are:

  1. Domestic disputes (A broad category to be discussed below)
  2. Suicides/Suicide by Cop/Murder-Suicides
  3. Police-involved shootings (Failure to comply or direct threat responses)
  4. Mass killings (Four or more shot)
  5. Collateral shootings (Stray bullets)
  6. Illegal business-related shootings (Drugs, gun-running, mobs, gangs, etc.)
  7. Accidental discharges
  8. Random shootings (Thrill kills/Gang Initiations)
  9. Armed Robbery/Home Invasions
  10. Family Annihilator/Suicides (The family edition of mass killings)

This may shock NRA true believers, but “crime”like armed robbery or physical assault by unknown assailants is low on the list after family, friends, and neighbors. Even many “robberies” are by people with a social history with the victim.

Most mass shootings, defined as four or more people, are not at schools like Sandy Hook or Columbine, or a movie theater.  They’re at home, work, or, most often, a bar or club. Mayors Against Illegal Guns put out a study which the Washington Post picked up that suggests that there is about one mass shooting per month in America.

Bar fights and other petty beefs, all domestic in nature, are the majority of this class of gun death and injury.

Domestic Disputes

Domestic disputes are the overwhelming source of American gun violence.  They’re not just domestic violence, either.

They are the arguments and petty squabbles of friends, neighbors, and strangers in which the gun forms the punctuating period at the end of the final word. They’re the eraser for the mathematical equation of love triangles. The road rage taken over the edge. The bar fight that ends in bullets, not fists.

  • Guns are the most convenient tools of impaired judgment, poor judgment, rage, and mental illness to gain superiority in a conflict. 
  • Guns in any household greatly increase the risk of turning a person from citizen to criminal, or from a citizen to corpse. They increase the risk of homicide by more than 40%, according to the New England Journal of Medicine and Bloomberg.
  • The vast majority of all of this violence is conducted not by “criminals,” but by average Americans. “Law abiding” citizens all, until they step over the line and pull that trigger with the bullet(s) finding human flesh on the receiving end.
  • 98% of the stories that we see are the result of handguns and shotguns. No assault weapons of any kind. 87% of weapons recovered by police from the commission of gun crimes are handguns [1].

Why don’t gun safety lobbies  do more about handguns and shotguns?

Gun safety groups’ fixation with assault weapons is like lobbying for the banning of Formula 1 race cars from freeways in an attempt to reduce speeding and traffic deaths on America’s highways.

Yes, it is that ridiculous.

Most press less for handgun legislation because the more lethal semi-automatic pistols that are found in the majority of shootings are not really very sexy and so commonplace as to be ignored.  Sandy Hook gets attention.  In some places, a death by a firearm in a local town may warrant no more than a sentence from the local paper, if that.

Assault weapons are big. They’re baaad. They’re headline-grabbing news.

Anti-gun violence groups, like early anti-smoking groups, keep playing on the monied courts of the industry. The gun manufacturers and the NRA always frame the debate.

They call it gun control. They play on the terror-strings of a group of fearful people who already bought guns to protect themselves from the bogeymen that the industry has them taught to fear by scaring them even more about banning all guns.

The auto industry bucked safety for decades. Years of putting the death and injury statistics out into the public mindset slowly won life-saving features like seat belts, airbags, mandatory insurance, and improved traffic laws even though the  industry fought most of it at every turn.

Safety and public welfare are the primary functions of government. Yet we have so few laws that really address gun safety, mostly because the gun safety lobby has earned a big fat F for failing to make safety sexy.

What can we do to really fix the gun violence problem in America?

Mandatory Insurance

All gun owners who are homeowners, if they don’t want their insurance cancelled, already insure for gun liability at home. Their insurance carrier increases their premium for what they might do in the home with their weapon(s) , based on the actuarial tables that tell the people who pay out that guns are liabilities.  Even small injuries can mean million dollar claims.

Many gun owners don’t have insurance. Renters. Folks who live in generational homes like farms. Just as we did with the automobile, it’s time to make sure that everyone who owns a gun has coverage.

Those who carry their weapons out, either concealed or in approved storage in a vehicle, should all have property and bodily injury insurance for that weapon. An umbrella policy for the liability.  If you defend yourself from “bad guys” and miss, you should be liable for the damage that you do to property and bystanders.

All gun owners should be required to provide proof-of-insurance to law enforcement officers.

Some might say that this will add to the illegal gun trade, but it would actually reduce it. If police could impound any weapon where the owner did not have the proper insurance, the routine stops that produce uninsured weapons would remove more illegal guns from the streets. Most death and injury comes from legally obtained weapons anyway.

Mental Health Screenings.

  • Mandatory background checks in ALL sales are the one thing that the anti gun violence lobbies have been pushing for that is essential. Companies do background checks in hiring. Many  conduct psychological evaluations as a part their job intake process.  No one complains.
  • Psychological screenings in the purchase of a firearm should be equally routine. We make students entering college take alcohol awareness tests online.  Make prospective gun owners take pscyh evals and state-approved education courses online prior to owning a firearm. This is pro forma in many countries.
  • There should be an appeals process so that people can challenge denials. There should also be the ability for people with medically controlled depression to own firearms that are stored at shooting ranges, and hunting facilities for their recreational enjoyment, without endangering themselves, their families or their neighbors.

Complete Permitting

  • All guns, including hunting rifles, should be registered. Catering to the paranoid hysteria of the “Red Dawn” crowd should end. The government not knowing who owns a gun is just plain bull.  Millions of households with home insurance report the guns to their carriers.  If you think that the NSA and the men in black can wiretap your skull, then you have to imagine cracking State Farm’s computers is not a big stretch for them.

Periodic Certification

  • Every state should have a Department of Firearm Safety (DFS). Periodic testing of handgun owners’  ability to operate a firearm every few years, as we do with automobiles is a must.  States can license private ranges and inspectors qualified to evaluate both the shooter and their gun. They’re a win for the ranges, as it sells more firearm safety classes, and keeps the private sector shooting ranges as a good resource for people who want to use guns but have more marginal abilities to possess them at home.
  • Firearms should be inspected to make sure that they are in proper working order.
  • The owner should show proof of insurance.
  • Concealed carry owners should be required annually to take  a certain number of hours of the same kind of situational stress training that is taken by police who carry weapons. Many people think they’re Rambo, but when trouble hits, they freeze, and get shot, shoot someone else, or have the gun turned on themselves.

PUI Laws

  • Much tougher Possession Under the Influence laws are needed. A huge number of gun deaths and injuries happen because guns and alcohol and/or drugs don’t mix. If you carry while impaired, you should be looking at stiff penalties to go hand-in-hand with those stiff drinks.
  • No gun should be within 1000 feet of a bar that is not in a breathalyzer safes or has a UI lock on it, stored in a car. Auto and home insurers should give incentives to gun owners to buy these safes to reduce their risk of misuse.
  • Cops should be able to conduct random trunk-checks in bar parking lots or in cars within range of the bars/clubs on public streets, just as they do random DUI stops on streets.  Most multiple shootings happen around bars and clubs, not schools.

Counseling & Treatment.

A large number of the domestic violence calls ending in shootings are long-simmering problems, often well known to the police.

  • Providing police the ability to temporarily confiscate weapons in domestic situations where violence is escalating, and letting judges proscribe proper counseling and/or treatment for rage and aggression, particularly of anyone with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), would save a lot of lives.
  • Anyone who attempts suicide, or to kill their families and/or themselves, or get the cops to kill them should also be put into supervised use or have their ability to own a gun restricted for a proscribed period of time by a court of law with due process.

Social Awareness Campaigns

Smoking was de-mystified over forty years. A big push was education to the dangers.  States and the anti-gun groups should be providing far more money to massively re-educate Americans. Guns may not kill, but they’re sure used by the majority of people to finish arguments because they’re convenient.  Educate people to back away and think before they react and shoot.

Pressure needs to be brought to bear on the film, television, gaming, Internet and recording industries to end the lust-cult of gun glorification in media.  Mothers will gladly send their kids to watch a couple of hundred people brutally slaughtered, but freak out if a breast is exposed for a quarter second on camera. That messaging needs re-education.

America’s fear-soaked culture is not going away. We told you about the whole culture of the gun and its history in “In Guns We Trust.” As the SCOTUS defines the 2nd Amendment, neither are guns. Millions of Americans hunt and sport shoot and should be able to exercise their free right to do so. People who believe that guns protect them, and want one in their home, should be able to do so.

Applying the same product safety standards that we use for other common, potentially lethal products in our world to deal with those who misuse them should be a no-brainer. If only the elected officials bought off by the industry weren’t no-brainers…

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

6 comments on “The Handgun, Stupid: Anti Gun Violence Organizations’ Gift to the NRA

  1. Watzy Norman
    August 19, 2013

    Number 7. Is incorrect. It needs to read, “Negligent discharge.” A negligent discharge causing a homicide will be tried under involuntary or constructive manslaughter. Unless of course it’s being tried as a voluntary manslaughter, murder, etc. Firearms Do Not load themselves. Owners need to take responsibility for their actions. That’s why we have child access prevention laws in most states.

    • Brian Ross
      August 20, 2013

      Child access laws are completely irregular, and applied with equal irregularity. It is why a woman goes to jail in a black neighborhood but a white woman gets a misdemeanor bench ticket in West Virginia, where a similar incident had a black woman’s kids taken from her.

  2. Andrea
    August 21, 2013

    This is a great summary. I disagree with the assault weapons part though. Yes, handguns are the biggest issue, so if we have to go in order and tackle one after another, then lets tackle handguns first. AW’s are still showing up often enough on my list though to make them not quire irrelevant. 4 instances (where the victim died) in May and that’s only where the weapon was mentioned in the article. Most articles do not mention the type of weapon used.

    I also disagree with 1 mass shooting per month. 1 “successful” shooting maybe, but attempted are many more. Many people are still shot in what would be mass shootings if the victims didn’t survive. There were 12 attempted mass shootings in Mar, 7 in Apr and 9 in May.

    • Brian Ross
      August 21, 2013

      We’d agree with you that Assault Weapons show up, but they’re a drop in the bucket compared to handguns unless you’re in high combat zones like Los Angeles or San Diego or perhaps border towns in Texas and Arizona. The mass shooting statistics aren’t ours, and we’d have to agree with you there too that there are more than are being recorded, because most records are “kills.” Woundings don’t get much play in the statistics or they would be astronomical across the board.

      Check out the American Gun Victims Wall

  3. Rob
    September 4, 2013

    You are completely delusional. Seek help. Then crack a history book.

    Keep going with your crusade. I’ve never made any bones about it, ONE new federal gun law and I’ll make sure the Gun Control Act of 1968 is thrown out as unconstitutional. Then felons, psychopaths, domestic abusers, ANYONE can have a gun unmolested. Background checks go out the window. Yes, I WOULD and CAN do that.

    Learn to be happy with what you have, because you’re not getting any more.

    • Brian Ross
      September 5, 2013

      I cracked several. The only crack you seem to have done is out of an NRA vial. There are all kinds of laws that have been put on the books since 1968 that address guns. Mostly ones that aim at using weapons in the commissions of crimes. Guess what? They worked! Robberies, overall, are way down from the 1960s, and most robbers are more physically violent than lethal because of the extra sentence you pull for using one.

      Unless this is one of the board members of Smith and Wesson, and you seem a bit less pragmatic and too gun zombie for that, dream on.

      This morbid fear that regulating weapons to keep them out of the hands of patently dangerous people is going to mean your comfort phallus gets taken away from you is just utter nonsense. We don’t advocate abrogating the Second Amendment. Just keeping the mentally ill, substance abusers and people with rage issues that land them in a jackpot with the police away from that kind of lethality.

      Of course, given your rant, you might actually fail a psych test.

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