Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

New studies about guns and gun violence

So what's new regarding gun ownership and gun violence? New studies have revealed some interesting things. First is a more careful look at the gun industry's hype before the Christmas holidays about gun background checks increasing dramatically proving that there were more sales of guns for the holiday. This article by Josh Horowitz of the Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence takes a harder look at the data and dispels the myth about this line of reasoning. From the article:
"The source of these stories? Reporters, as always, were being pitched to by the gun lobby--specifically the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the National Rifle Association (NRA). Here's the funny thing, though. The gun lobby doesn't actually provide any gun sales data to the media. The NSSF (the trade association for the gun industry) and the NRA have this data--because gun manufacturers have to understand what their dealers are selling in order to produce the proper amount of product and maximize profits. But the gun lobby has blocked public access to this information for decades. Instead, they offer reporters data on background checks run through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)."
Hmmm. Now why would the gun industry want us to think there are more gun sales?
So why do the NSSF and NRA continue to refuse to give reporters access to actual sales data (which they get from every other industry in America)? The answer to that question is obvious. The gun lobby is desperate to perpetuate its image as The Lobby That Cannot Be Crossed by Politicians in the face of a very harsh reality: Declining gun ownership in the United States.
So what's the truth here? Who is buying all the guns that the industry itself is claiming are bought? And who is hyping the information to the media and why does the media believe it in the first place?
How much longer will the combination of lazy (or sensationalist) reporting, along with the NRA's desire to prop up its gun industry benefactors, lead to widespread misinformation about the state of gun sales in America? We can all appreciate that reporters need stories, and "sexy" material brings ratings, but it's time to correct the record. If Microsoft or Ford tried to send a reputable news outlet information on some tangential metric and pitch it as "sales data"--while simultaneously blocking access to the real figures--they would be laughed at and deemed backwards. It's time to hold the gun industry to the same adult standard.
Second, there is a new study out from the Violence Policy Center, which you can find in this press release about the study. The study examined homicides of California youth. The study's findings are not really a surprise given that we know that guns cause most of the homicides but the study reinforces the knowledge we already have and should make elected leaders and Californians stand up to do something about it. From the summary of the study:
The study finds overwhelmingly that firearms, usually handguns, are the weapon of choice in the homicides of youth and young adults. The study also shows that there are vast disparities between groups: in California, young African-Americans are more than 22 times more likely to be murdered than young whites; young Hispanics are more than five times more likely to be murdered than young whites.
There is some good news here in that the overall homicide rate for Californians aged 10-24 dropped from 2009-2010. But still, overall, the rate of gun homicides per 100,000 is higher in California counties than in most other industrialized countries not at war. Given that, the study makes a point about the use of firearms in homicide deaths in this age category:
The study concludes that "homicide, and particularly gun homicide, continues to be one of the most pressing public health concerns in California among youth and young adults ages 10 to 24" and states that "effective violence prevention strategies must include measures that prioritize preventing youth and young adults from accessing firearms, especially handguns." 
Good research and examining the truth and the numbers often shows us things we need to know and points out the real problems. This is important if we are to understand the effects of firearm use and ownership in our communities. What we can learn from the above is that firearms still account for most homicides, not only in Californians of ages 10-24, but also in general for our country as a whole. And while there may have been more FBI background checks before and during the recent holiday season, do the background checks have a linear relationship to actual gun purchases? And do we know that this has resulted in more actual people buying more actual new guns? It turns out the answers are no and no. The gun lobby is desperate to make us think there are more gun owners in the country because if there aren't, just who are our elected leaders representing when they loosen our gun laws to allow more people to carry more guns in more places? And who are our elected leaders representing when they ignore the victims and stand in the way of reasonable gun laws? Gun permit holders are about 2-3% of us. For a shrinking number of gun owners, the NRA gets the power and influence to make and change our country's gun laws? For a small percentage of Americans who are gun permit holders laws allowing this small group to carry loaded guns around in more public places could be making us less safe instead of more safe. So why, then, are elected leaders listening to this small group of Americans? Follow the money.

There is a movement in our country to make sure our leaders represent the majority of us. That is what the Occupiers are all about. When 1% of Americans are paying less in taxes and making more money than the 99%, it makes people angry. When the light of day is shed on the truth in these studies and it shows that the minority is getting their way over the majority, it makes people angry. That is why the gun lobby does not want the truth to be known. That is why common sense is necessary to make change in our country.

28 comments:

  1. Japete, there is no big secret that the gun industry is hiding. In fact, the ATF provides most of the information that the study says is not out there. Check out this link (H/T to Sebastian):

    http://www.atf.gov/statistics/

    You’ll find detailed PDFs on manufacturer’s data down to who made how many guns in what caliber. It also tallies all the exports so you can see how many of these guns stayed in the country. This is total guns sold domestically by US manufactures. That does not include imports. I did more digging to find that data- also from the ATF:

    http://www.atf.gov/publications/firearms/121611-firearms-commerce-2011.pdf

    So I spent a little time this morning adding up all the guns made domestically, subtracted the ones that were exported, then added imported guns to come up with this breakdown by year which represents total new guns to the market- down to the last gun (i.e. sales):

    1998 – 4,509,105
    1999 – 4,731,796
    2000 – 4,781,532
    2001 – 4,190,476
    2002 – 4,845,376
    2003 – 4,632,994
    2004 – 4,869,964
    2005 – 5,153,487
    2006 – 5,715,325
    2007 - 6,461,824
    2008 – 6,676,095
    2009 – 8,968,180
    2010 – 7,820,445



    Feel free to check my math. I did that this morning after reading your post. Why couldn’t a funded CSGV study do this?

    Japete: “do the background checks have a linear relationship to actual gun purchases?”

    Yes. They are not the same thing, but there will be a strong correlation because they directly involve each other (kind of like “guns” to “gun violence”). I know you want a count of exactly who owns how many guns, but that is something the gun community has been fighting for decades, so you’ll just have to make do with total sales.

    Japete: “The study's findings are not really a surprise given that we know that guns cause most of the homicides but the study reinforces the knowledge we already have and should make elected leaders and Californians stand up to do something about it.”

    But, you guys did stand up, and you already did something about it. California already has your entire bullet point wish list of gun laws.

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  2. Thanks TS. Interesting. I will take a longer look at this. Many CA guns come from states near by with laxer gun laws.

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  3. TS- not sure this adds up to the number of firearms actually sold.

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  4. TS, these are manufacturing numbers and not gun sales. How many of the guns are sitting in a warehouse or on the shelves in gun stores? We don't know. Those are not being sold- they are just part of the inventory. In addition, what the VPC was getting at is that background checks can not be equated to gun sales which the gun industry and the gun lobby are trying to do to make their own points, which, by the way, are dishonest. If the industry wants to make a case about the rise in gun sales, then we need to see sales data, not NICS checks or manufacturing data. And we need to know the relationship between new and used gun sales just as the car industry provides, for example. Moreover, the industry is claiming that more women are buying guns and that the date shows more first time gun buyers — it does no such thing. NICS checks are not sales figures. Where are the true sales figures? You have not provided those in your data either. The ATF is not charged with keeping track of sales. That is for the industry to do, just as other industries do.

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  5. A friend of mine was the CO of a Iowa Nat. Guard unit in Afghanistan. He asked me to receive special order handguns that the unit ordered. I received 90 handguns. All of them were distributed to the guys without 1 background check. Everyone in Iowa has to have at the least a permit to purchase a handgun. That is 1 check per person. One of the guys took possession of 8 of them. there were several that ordered multiple gun that they received with the permit. This proves that the number of NICS checks isn't a true reflection of how many guns are sold. Most states allow the purchase of guns without a background check if they have a permit to either carry or purchase. Multiple purchases are also not a indication of criminal activity.

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  6. Thanks, Robert. Minnesota is one such state. One permit to purchase handguns and assault type guns for one year. In that time, as many guns as are wanted can be done with one background check- used or new. So indeed, the numbers of background checks do not reflect gun sales one way or the other. But we are unlikely to see the real numbers because the gun lobby and the industry don't want us to know. And multiple purchases, though suspicious and sometimes reported by FFLs, are not a clear indication of criminal activity. I am thinking about the Minnesota legal gun purchaser who bought a lot of different kinds of guns from a FFL and was trafficking those guns to Mexico illegally. He was reported to the ATF by the FFL and arrested. So though it doesn't necessarily mean that, what the heck do people do with that many guns? I'm just asking. One is all you need for self defense unless you are a collector. And several for hunting.

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  7. Japete: “these are manufacturing numbers and not gun sales. How many of the guns are sitting in a warehouse or on the shelves in gun stores?”

    That would be very poor business management to make millions and millions of guns that nobody is buying. It would be impossible for them to stay in business. And the FFLs would be going out of business left and right if they were buying guns from distributors only to sit on their shelves. And what for? To fake like there is more interest in guns than there really is? It would have to be a giant conspiracy where all the gun manufactures colluded to spend billions of dollars expanding production facilities/hiring employees to make over 10 million guns that sit in warehouses just to fool you guys. Note that the increases are across the board as opposed to just a few big producers.

    Yes these are manufacturing numbers- not sales. But supply and demand economics dictates that the two are nearly interchangeable. Since supply traditionally follows demand, manufactures are usually just trying to keep up during times of demand peaks- that means no guns sitting on shelves. It is possible that 2010/11 saw a surplus especially if manufactures overestimated the trend. The overall message is that gun sales have skyrocketed over the past five or so years, and this manufacturing data is incontrovertible proof of that. Sales numbers are different, but at best you’re a quibbling over a few hundred thousand when we are taking about increases in the millions.

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  8. Sorry TS- your numbers don't work.I guess you are believing in an undocumented myth.

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  9. All manufactured guns (with the exception of a negligible amount for in house testing, etc.) are made to be sold. If any manufacturer makes too many one year, they’ll back off production the next year to sell off the surplus. A company won’t last long in a capitalist society by making things and not selling them. There was an 85% increase in production and imports from 2004 to 2009. An increase like that HAS to be market driven. There is no way companies can survive spending that much more money and getting nothing in return (not to mention the increase in inventory management). I thought you said these companies are all about profit?

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  10. You're not going to give up are you TS?

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  11. Japete: “your numbers don't work.I guess you are believing in an undocumented myth.”

    And what do you mean by “my” numbers? These aren’t my numbers- these are the ATF’s numbers. Is the ATF in the pocket of the NRA to spread myths?

    Japete: “You're not going to give up are you TS?”

    …Ok. I’ll give up now. :)

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  12. The numbers you provided TS are not sales of guns. That was my point. Until we see the real sales numbers we have no idea. If all we have to go by are NICS checks, that doesn't work. And you didn't provide sale numbers. The ATF doesn't really deal in sales so we are back to wondering what the real numbers are. That's my point of course and the point of the VPC article.

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  13. I am confused. According to ATF statistics more guns left the manufacturers and importers. According to the FBI NICS checks are up. Both of these are indices. The last step for a gun sale is the NICS check. Multiple sales can be done on one NICS check and in a number of states a CHL or FOID bypasses the NICS check. Some checks will be declined. Nonetheless, the checks are up indicating more sales. True, we can't tell whether they were new or used guns, just that there were transactions.

    Why does it matter? You contend that the NRA represents fewer and fewer people. Their membership is up and so is their budget. All the gun control organizations memberships and budgets are down. Without the support of the Joyce Foundation and George Soros, many of them would have to close their doors.

    Is this really what your arguments have come down to? Despite the evidence gun sales are down and the NRA is a paper tiger?

    Don't you have a common sense suggestions of any thing that might really work? You know, something that might be defensible on its merits?

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  14. Robin- you missed the whole point of the post. NICS checks are not gun sales. The industry doesn't release numbers. Are gun sales really up? Who knows? Let's hear the real numbers. Are the NRA's numbers up? Money means power and influence and it isn't coming from the members of the NRA. It is coming from the gun manufacturers and wealthy donors. Otherwise, it wouldn't be able to stay in existence. The leaders of the NRA are paid more than healthy salaries to keep the myths going.

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    1. No. I got your point. Guns sales aren't really up so the NRA isn't as powerful. I just don't follow your reasoning. The NRA has 4.3 million members. The Brady Campaign is the largest of the anti-rights groups has 28000 possible members.

      You maintain that the NRA money is coming from "gun manufacturers and wealthy donors." Yours is coming from the Joyce Foundation and a felonious billionaire.

      Is this really what the entire debate is coming down to? How many guns were really sold and how much the NRA leadership is paid? Just as a point of reference, how does the salary of the leadership compare as a percentage of total income for the VPC, Brady Campaign, and CSGV as compared to the NRA?

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  15. At least the figures for where the money for the NRA is coming from are legitimate as reported by many articles about the large gun manufacturers and their multi-million dollar contributions. Yours on the other hand- " You maintain that the NRA money is coming from "gun manufacturers and wealthy donors." Yours is coming from the Joyce Foundation and a felonious billionaire. "- wish it were true, but,alas, is not. But you guys can think what you want.

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  16. Japete: “Until we see the real sales numbers we have no idea.”

    Oh, we have an idea. We have an extremely good idea based on manufacturing and import numbers. All you can reasonable say is that we don’t know EXACTLY what the slight differences between sales and manufacturing data is for a given year (though the net over a period of time it will be effectively the same). Can we draw the conclusion that guns sales are up? Yes- unequivocally. Look at the ATF numbers. In the first half of the aughties (are we calling it the “aughties”- has this been decided?), 23,692,297 guns were manufactured or imported for the US market. For the second half of the decade, that number rose to 35,641,869- a difference of 11,949,572 guns. To suggest that guns sales didn’t go up, is saying that the industry just wasted 12 million guns over a 5 year period. That is nonsense. They may as well bury them in a ditch if no one is buying them (it would be cheaper than storing them in a warehouse). Mind you that we are talking about hundreds of manufacturers (including the small producers) all ramping up production at the same time. And you are saying it is without a market demand? So all these manufacturers in response to a surplus in 2006 would decide to double down and make even more guns the next year- and even more the following, etc… Even if they only sold half the new guns (still economically unfeasible) and stored 6 million guns- it would STILL mean that sales are up by over a million units a year. Finally those millions and millions of guns waiting to be sold would be driving down the end prices- yeah, we’re certainly not seeing that.

    Japete: “Money means power and influence and it isn't coming from the members of the NRA. It is coming from the gun manufacturers and wealthy donors.”

    What money??? You just suggested the industry wasted billions of dollars in collective operating costs by making or importing 12 million guns that no one bought!

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  17. Good grief, TS. Stop already. You still have not sent me actual records for gun sales. It's time to stop this now. I've seen the stockpiles of guns at gun shows. Do they sell all of those guns sitting on their tables? Hardly. You are still talking about manufacturing numbers. There are no real sales numbers here. Give it up already. As you know, the point of mine and Josh Horowitz is that NICS numbers DO NOT indicate sales numbers. Why do you continue to ignore that? It's not an honest way of looking at gun sales.

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  18. Obviously you are getting annoyed, but I just want to say one more thing.

    Japete: “I've seen the stockpiles of guns at gun shows. Do they sell all of those guns sitting on their tables? Hardly.”

    You are confusing “stock” with “surplus”. Of course there is a stock of guns waiting to be sold. And of course some of the guns manufactured in 2011 end up being sold in 2012. The point is there is a “flow in” to the stock through manufacturing and imports, and a “flow out” through sales. When the stock is being depleted, manufacturers and importers know to ramp up in response to the market demand. That is what we saw in the second half of the decade. What other explanation is there? 2010 didn’t meet the same demand as 2009, so we saw the producers respond with a decrease.

    Japete: “As you know, the point of mine and Josh Horowitz is that NICS numbers DO NOT indicate sales numbers. Why do you continue to ignore that?”

    I am not talking about NICS numbers, I am talking about ATF production and imports counts. It is far more accurate at confirming the question you both are asking- and the answer is yes, gun sales are up. You’re stuck on this idea that manufacturing is different than sales, but they are directly related for every single capitalist manufacturer of any product in the world. You can’t sell stuff that you don’t make, and if you keep making stuff that you don’t sell, you won’t stay in business very long. The trend is there, and this is not some cooked up NRA propaganda number- it is from the ATF.

    What I don’t understand is why you don’t embrace this and readjust your strategy. Increasing gun sales doesn’t mean that you have to drop gun control. You could phrase the debate in terms of needing even more gun control as shooting sports grow in popularity. You can continue to push your meme that the Über-powerful gun industry buys off congress, and since they are selling more and more guns, they are getting richer and richer. This is a common theme of yours, but it is diametrically opposed to the idea that the gun industry is dying or stagnant. They would have to be losing boatloads of money if sales remained stagnant given the increase in production, which you would think would affect how much money they give to prop up the NRA.

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  19. Josh Horowitz: “The NSSF (the trade association for the gun industry) and the NRA have this data--because gun manufacturers have to understand what their dealers are selling in order to produce the proper amount of product and maximize profits.”

    Josh says sales and manufacturing are directly tied to one another. They “produced the proper amount of product” to match the sales.

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  20. What kind of business says that manufacture of items is the same as sales of items?

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  21. Are NICS checks the same thing as sales of guns?

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    1. No, NICS checks are performed only on sales of handguns and assault class firearms. "Normal" shotguns and rifles (hunting style for example) are not subject to the NICS check. Nor is the private sale of a gun in any form, however, if you knowingly sell a gun to a felon, your now a felon too. I personally believe NICS checks should be performed on every gun sold, regardless if its a Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun, or even black-powder guns. Problem with using the number of NICS checks as a basis for number of guns sold in the U.S. lies right there.

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    2. "NICS checks are performed only on sales of handguns and assault class firearms." In what world is it that rifle and shotguns are exempt from NICS checks? Because I have never been able to buy one from a dealer without the check. Blackpowder firearms and weapons made before 1898 are the only ones that are exempt. If you don't have to undergo an NICS check it is because you have a permit showing you have already undergone investigation such as a FOID.

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  22. japete writes: "Minnesota is one such state. One permit to purchase handguns and assault type guns for one year. In that time, as many guns as are wanted can be done with one background check- used or new."

    This is not correct.

    MN law requires a Permit to Purchase or a Permit to Carry to be presented at the time of purchase (from a dealer) for a handgun or for a long gun classified as an "assault weapon" under MN law.

    In addition to the permit being presented, the NICS check has to be run as well. Holding a Permit to Purchase or a Permit to Carry does not exempt one from having to complete a Form 4473 and undergoing the NICS background check.

    There isn't a waiting period, however, just what I've outlined above.

    So every firearm purchase from a dealer in Minnesota is going to result in a NICS check. Granted, you can buy multiple firearms in a single purchase with a single background check through NICS.

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  23. japete writes:
    "So though it doesn't necessarily mean that, what the heck do people do with that many guns? I'm just asking. One is all you need for self defense unless you are a collector. And several for hunting."

    Why do you only need one for self defense? What if you want more? What if you want two of the same gun in case one goes down for a maintenance issue?

    In any event, why does it matter?

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  24. japete writes: "At least the figures for where the money for the NRA is coming from are legitimate as reported by many articles about the large gun manufacturers and their multi-million dollar contributions."

    The majority of the NRAs income comes from member dues, not industry contributions. This information is publicly available in their IRS 990 filings.

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  25. " The depth and breadth of gun industry financial support for the National Rifle Association makes clear that the self-proclaimed “America’s
    oldest civil rights organization” is, in fact, the gun industry’s most high-profile trade association. While the NRA works to portray itself
    as protecting the “freedoms” of its membership, it is, in fact protecting the gun industry’s freedom to manufacture virtually any gun or
    accessory it sees fit to produce. As NRA Board Member Pete Brownell, owner of Brownells, “the world’s largest supplier of firearms
    accessories and gunsmithing tools,” wrote on his website in his successful campaign to join the NRA's board:" from this article http://www.vpc.org/studies/bloodmoney.pdf
    " Corporate contributors to the NRA come from every sector of the firearms industry,
    including: manufacturers of handguns, rifles, shotguns, assault weapons, and high-capacity ammunition magazines; gun distributors and
    dealers; and, vendors of ammunition and other shooting-related products. And they come from outside the firearms industry—including
    Xe, the new name for the now-infamous Blackwater Worldwide. "

    etc., etc.

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