Bloomberg’s 5 Strategic Blunders

From Guns.com comes this excellent piece?regarding Bloomberg’s recent announcement. Here’s the quick summary and some commentary:

1. New name, same stink
You can?t polish a turd. In other words, they can call it whatever they like, but as long as Bloomberg is at the helm of the organization they?re going to encounter heavy opposition to their cause.

I genuinely think he doesn’t get that outside of the Northeast and anti-gun places like Chicago, people aren’t so keen on him. Pretty much nobody likes out-of-town billionaires telling them how they should do things.

2. Timing is everything
If it?s true that timing is everything, then one has to question why Everytown chose to announce this move approximately two weeks before the National Rifle Association?s annual show and convention, which is the gun lobby?s one weekend during the year in which they are certain to garner mainstream media coverage and reach millions of Americans.

Yeah, that’s weird.

3. The real objective to background checks
Various polls show that there is widespread public support for universal background checks yet many gun owners are opposed to a law mandating them. Why is this?
The reason gun owners object to universal background checks is not over the notion that private transfers shouldn?t be subject to background checks, but over the implementation of the measures lawmakers proposed.

The article goes on to suggest that rather than mandating that all purchases go through an FFL, where a record of sale is kept, private individuals?should have access to NICS (or at least a basic version that says “Proceed” or “Consult FFL”) in the form of a smartphone app or something otherwise easily accessible. They also mention a useful?thing that’s often overlooked: having the app be able to save and print out a receipt/record of sale, so the seller could have a record Just In Case.
I, for one, would be totally fine with a law opening up NICS as an option for private sellers, so long as (a) it’s optional and (b) that’s all the law does. No registration, no data retention, no mandated FFL transfers, etc.
If I’m going to sell a gun to a buddy I’ve known since I was a kid, there’s no need for me to do a NICS check — I know he’s good, but if I were to sell to someone from Armslist, someone who responded to a classifieds ad, or someone I met at the range?it’d be nice to check to make sure?they’re not a prohibited person. Criminals will, as usual, simply ignore the law?so it makes no sense to mandate the checks.

4. Why go to war, when compromise is possible?
It appears that Everytown is gearing up for war when it?s quite possible that they could have cut a deal with gun owners and saved Bloomberg millions of dollars.
Suppose […] Bloomberg?s being sincere in his remarks ((?Nobody is going to take anyone?s gun. Nobody is going to keep you from hunting or target practice or protecting yourself,? said Bloomberg on Wednesday during an appearance on the Today Show. ?Just making sure that a handful of people, who we all agree shouldn?t have guns, don?t get their hands on them.?)), I bet most gun owners would readily sign a deal that established national, ?shall-issue? concealed carry reciprocity laws in all 50 states and created a federal law banning?bans [AZR: emphasis mine] on ?assault weapons? and ?high capacity? magazines in exchange for an improved background check system, tougher laws cracking down on domestic abusers and increased funding for suicide prevention and the safe storage of firearms.

Easy: For Bloomberg it’s not about the guns, it’s about control. He doesn’t want a deal, he wants to win.?If he actually gave a damn about increasing public safety there’s about a zillion other things he could with $50 million that would be enormously more effective.
Lest anyone think his “nobody is going to take anyone’s gun” remarks are sincere, look at the history of gun control activists: they always say they don’t want to take anyone’s guns, then they ratchet the restrictions?tighter?when they can.
One need look no further than Sunnyvale, California, where they recently banned even the possession of grandfathered “high-capacity” magazines and require that people turn them into the police. It should be obvious that “universal background checks” is a stepping stone. Indeed, MAIG and MDA, both funded by Bloomberg, have explicitly stated that they want to ban “assault weapons” (which are, of course, the most popular guns owned by ordinary people and some of the least-likely types of guns to be used in crimes)?, restrict magazine capacities, and work to eliminate the “gun culture”.

5. All this for what?
Before one wages a $50 million war, they ought to know what they stand to gain if they win. And in this particular instance, what?s achieved by expanding background checks to cover private transfers is not quite clear, meaning that there?s no statistically significant evidence to suggest that universal background checks would have a positive effect on crime rates.

Again, Bloomberg wants to win. He knows that “universal background checks” aren’t going to do squat against criminals, and probably so do the people at MDA, the Brady Campaign, etc., unless they’ve all been drinking the kool-aid. It’s just the camel’s nose in the tent and a point of leverage for future encroachments; baby steps, if you will.
They realized that asking for the whole pie isn’t going to work, so they’re asking for just a teensy-tiny slice. Then, in the future, they’ll ask for another and another until eventually they get where they want. We have to counter them at each step lest they gain a new foothold.
Edit: Minor corrections to grammar. I really need to proofread before posting.

Skepticism on Anti-Gun Studies

I’m a bit skeptical on a new study. The BBC says,

Researchers claim a new study provides some of the most compelling evidence yet for tighter gun controls in the US.
The team followed the consequences of the State of Missouri repealing its permit-to-purchase handgun law in 2007.
The law had required purchasers to be vetted by the local sheriff and to receive a licence before buying a gun.
Reporting soon in the Journal of Urban Health, the researchers will say that the repeal resulted in an immediate spike in gun violence and murders.
The study links the abandonment of the background check to an additional 60 or so murders occurring per year in Missouri between 2008 and 2012.

This seems a bit strange to me: gun buyers are still required to undergo a NICS check at the gun dealer (even if they don’t need to get a permit from the sheriff, who also presumably runs the buyer through NICS), so how would doing away with a duplicate check and permit from the local sheriff result in an increase in gun murders?

The team said it took account of changes that occurred in policing levels and incarceration rates, trends in burglaries, and statistically controlled for other possible confounding factors such as shifts in unemployment and poverty.
The team counted a doubling of handguns shortly after sale being recovered from scenes of crimes or from criminals.

Interesting, though I wonder how they define “shortly after sale”. The article does not mention if the handguns being traced were originally purchased in Missouri or brought in from other states. Also, it doesn’t mention how they were able to get access to trace data in the first place, what with the Tiahrt Amendment still being in effect.
According to the article, the study was conducted by “Prof Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.” I note that they forgot a key part of the research center’s name: the proper name is the “Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center for Gun Policy and Research”.
Being a scientist myself I’m a big fan of science, but I’m skeptical of research produced by think-tanks, particularly those with major funding from a heavily-biased source.
Either way, the study is irrelevant: owning a gun is a Constitutionally-protected right. Requiring a permit or license to exercise any right, even if such permit or license is routinely granted, is wrong, period.

America currently has more than 300 million handguns in circulation. But the issue of gun control remains a hugely contentious one.

I was under the impression that the US had somewhat more than 300 million guns of all types, not just handguns. This was probably just an editing error on the part of the BBC.

Veterans for Responsible Solutions: a new anti-gun astroturf group

So, Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords have started a new branch of their gun-control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions. This group is supposed to bring “the experience of military veterans who’ve sworn to defend the Second Amendment and have themselves been well versed in the use of firearms”, according to CNN, who continues with the following:

“I’ve been shot at” while flying, Kelly told reporters on a conference call organized to promote the initiative.
Moreover, there are guns in the Arizona home Kelly shares with Giffords he said, guns used for self-defense and target shooting.
The point Kelly was trying to prove is that neither he nor any member of his organization is looking to repeal or limit Second Amendment rights, likely because the perception of any move against gun ownership in the United States is bound to incite fierce opposition from the powerful pro-gun lobby.

Ok, let’s focus on the last paragraph, where Kelly says he and this group are not trying to repeal or limit Second Amendment rights. While I agree that he’s not trying repeal the amendment (you can’t repeal rights), I’m curious how he can claim to not want to limit the right when his group states that its policy goals are:

  • Criminal Background Checks
  • Limiting High Capacity Magazines
  • Limiting Assault Weapons
  • Stopping Gun Trafficking

The only one of the four policies that wouldn’t infringe or limit the Second Amendment is the last one, as it focuses solely on criminal traffickers of guns. The other three goals seriously infringe on people’s rights: mandatory background checks on all sales would be ineffectively without a registry (else how would you know if a check had been performed?), limiting magazines with a capacity greater than some arbitrary limit (7 in NY, 10 in CA, 15 in CO) puts artificial limits on what people can use for sport or self-defense, and banning the most popular types of guns in the country (which are almost never used in crime) serves no purpose at all except to restrict people’s rights.
In short: essentially everything this group wants to do ends up restricting and limiting the rights of ordinary, law-abiding people while doing essentially nothing that would be effective against crime.
Also, CNN talks about “the powerful pro-gun lobby” as if it were some nebulous, diabolical group instead of tens of millions of law-abiding, gun-owning (and/or gun-rights-supporting) fellow Americans.

Vance Coleman, a retired Army major general, said on the call that he also owns guns. But not everyone should, Coleman continued, namely criminals and the mentally ill.
“They should not own guns and the Congress needs to do something about that,” Coleman said.

Incredibly enough, it’s already illegal for criminals and the mentally ill to own firearms. Their rights can be restricted after due process (e.g. being convicted of a disqualifying crime or being adjudicated mentally defective, involuntarily committed to a mental institution, etc.).

The exact functions of the veterans initiative remains fluid.

In short, it’s an astroturf group that intends to use appeal to authority (that of military vets) to push it’s unconstitutional agenda, but they haven’t quite worked out the details.

Politically, gun control has proven largely unpalatable, particularly with the successful recall elections in September of a pair of Democratic legislators in Colorado who helped push gun control measures.

Indeed. It’s probably wise for politicians to remember this point.
Hat tip to Sebastian. How he keeps up with all the news to find these stories, I have no idea.

Popularity of pro-gun and anti-gun groups on social media

Gun control groups routinely tout that they’re representing some large fraction of Americans in order to boost their claims to legitimacy. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about this, since various public records seem to show extremely low numbers of paid members among gun control groups, and high numbers of paid members of gun-rights groups.
I generally consider paid membership numbers to be more reflective of actual interest, as paid members are putting their money where their mouth is. Still, knowing how popular various groups are on the two major social media services — Facebook and Twitter — can yield some insight, particularly into how interested slightly-to-moderately motivated subset of the population is in what they say. Clicking a button to “Like” something on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter requires basically no effort and allows one to get updates from those that they “Like” or “follow”. Since there’s essentially no barrier to entry, I’d expect that social media numbers would be a good way to measure the relative interest in what the different groups have to say.
I reviewed the numbers of Facebook “Likes” and Twitter “followers” (hereafter referred to as “subscribers”) for gun rights groups, gun companies and industry trade groups, and anti-gun groups on November 8th, 2013 at about 9:00pm UTC. Here’s what I found:

Gun Rights Groups:

  • National Rifle Association (Facebook): 2,748,839
  • National Rifle Association (Twitter): 191,692
  • Gun Owners of America (Facebook): 276,867
  • Gun Owners of America (Twitter): 22,786
  • Second Amendment Foundation (Facebook): 119,810
  • Second Amendment Foundation (Twitter): 4,962

Gun Industry:

  • National Shooting Sports Foundation (Facebook): 157,718
  • National Shooting Sports Foundation (Twitter): 21,104
  • SHOT Show – run by NNSF (Facebook): 44,573
  • SHOT Show – run by NSSF (Twitter): 23,649
  • Glock, Inc. (Facebook): 614,185
  • Glock, Inc. (Twitter): 63,336
  • Smith & Wesson (Facebook): 680,937
  • Smitth & Wesson: (Twitter): 54,447
  • Sturm, Ruger & Company?(Facebook) 345,734
  • Sturm, Ruger & Company?(Twitter): 18,310

Gun Control Groups:

  • Americans for Responsible Solutions (Facebook): 89,414
  • Americans for Responsible Solutions (Twitter): 210,708 ((There is no official ARS Twitter account, so this is the sum of followers for Rep. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, as their individual accounts are mentioned specifically on the ARS website and who have 139,800 and 70,908 followers, respectively.))
  • Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Facebook): 19,271
  • Demand Action – MAIG on Twitter (Twitter): 26,860
  • Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Facebook): 122,938
  • Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Twitter): 12,254
  • Brady Campaign (Facebook): 58,650
  • Brady Campaign (Twitter): 17,170
  • Violence Policy Center (Facebook): 20,571
  • Violence Policy Center (Twitter): 1,934
  • CSGV (Facebook): 46,314
  • CSGV (Twitter): 9,575

What does this tell us? First off, it’s noteworthy to point out that all groups except Americans for Responsible Solutions had far more subscribers on Facebook than on Twitter. Perhaps the ability to post arbitrary-length messages on Facebook is preferable to the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter?
The fact that the NRA has the largest number of subscribers is unsurprising: they are a huge organization and have ~5 million dues-paying members and a very active public outreach group. They also have a substantial number of subscribers on Twitter.
I was surprised by the number of subscribers to the Gun Owners of America Facebook account: the GOA is a no-compromise group that, while having about 300,000 dues-paying members, also has nearly that many Facebook subscribers, about 77% the number of Facebook subscribers to all the gun control groups combined.
I was also surprised at the number of subscribers to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The NSSF is the firearms industry trade group and I don’t normally think of it catering to the general public. Still, it has more Facebook subscribers than all but one of the gun control groups. The SHOT Show, an annual trade show for the shooting sports industry, is not open to the public yet still has more Facebook subscribers than the CSGV, VPC, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns and more Twitter subscribers than all but two of the gun control groups.
Glock and Smith & Wesson, both gun companies, each have roughly 2x the number of Facebook subscribers of all of the gun control groups combined. Each has more Twitter followers than all but one of the gun control groups. Ruger has roughly as many Facebook followers as all the gun control groups combined, and more Twitter subscribers than half of the gun control groups.
Even though there’s essentially no effort involved in subscribing to a group’s Facebook or Twitter feed and people can subscribe with a single click, the gun control groups have a rather poor showing: the only group to exceed 100,000 subscribers on Facebook (something achieved by every pro-gun or industry group, with the exception of the SHOT Show) was Moms Demand Gun Sense in America. They are roughly tied for subscribers as the Second Amendment Foundation, a group more normally found successfully fighting legal battles in courtrooms rather than reaching out to the public on social media. MDA has fewer Twitter followers than any individual pro-gun or industry group with the exception, again, of the SAF.
The NRA alone has more Facebook subscribers than all of the Facebook and Twitter subscribers of all of the anti-gun groups combined. Talk about the 800lb gorilla in the room.
It’s pretty clear that the pro-gun-rights side has far more popular support, not only among dues-paying members, but also among people who need only click a mouse button to register their support.
As to whether or not these levels of support hold when extended to include the general public, I leave as an exercise to the reader and the professionals.
If anyone has details on other groups, either pro- or anti-gun that you’d like me to add to the list, please let me know and I’d be happy to add them. I just picked the groups that I happened to be aware of and that had at least a moderate presence on these two social media platforms.