February 1, 2013
A Long, Long January
As we begin a new month, a quick wrap up of some of the many events in what can only be described as a very long and highly-contentious January, a status check on critical issues today, and look forward to what February might have in store for us. Notice I wrote "might" - predicting the future isn't in our tool kit. But trendspotting is something that might give contextual clues to the future.
In January, Washington's gun control legislators hoisted straw men by the dozens as they rolled out their new, improved and even less-founded-in-reality "assault weapons ban". California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) jumped squarely astride her favorite white mule and brayed her way across the media with a proclamation that her bill would make America safe again.
This Friday, it's safe to ask: was that "safe again" or "say again" Madame Feinstein?
In the cold light of political reality, many of the democratic legislator's fingers up testing the wind of public opinion appear to be middle ones in that regard. They're also aimed directly at Feinstein for once again asking members of her party to commit political suicide by passing an assault weapon ban. It's a guarantee of election for Feinstein, and it's a quick trip to the unemployment line for many democrats in moderate districts.
Two party leaders, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are among the many not signing on for this mission.
Yesterday, while Leahy said he would endorse "common sense reform" that would close loopholes in current gun laws and enforce background checks, but he stopped considerably short of endorsing Feinstein's measure. "I know gun store owners in Vermont," said Leahy, "They follow the law and conduct background checks. Why should we not try to plug the loopholes that allow..buying guns without background checks?"
One possible reason plugging these alleged loopholes won't really do much to prevent crime is simple: criminals don't DO background checks. That's why they're called criminals.
In most of the United States, that's called common sense. In Washington, common sense apparently isn't quite so common.
When we began 2013, there was a red-hot run on guns and ammunition.
As we start February, that red-hot market has changed. Now it's white-hot. Gun, magazine, ammunition and component manufacturers are absolutely swamped in orders. Small retailers across the country find themselves looking at empty shelves, with nothing coming from distributors because of their low sales volumes. They're facing the possibility their businesses may be in peril because they have no product to sell.
Walmart is limiting ammunition sales to three boxes per customer, per day. Many of their stores are reporting customers lined up at their gun counters each morning in anticipation of either guns or ammunition having come in over night.
It's not that much different at most big-box outdoor retailers and online companies like Brownells and MidwayUSA.
Having seen an AR-style rifle that sold new for $1,600 only a few weeks ago sell for nearly double that amount last weekend, I know there's no one hyping the demand.
Large independent retailers with ranges report capacity-crowds from before their ranges open in the mornings until shooters are shooed out at closing time.
It's even more obvious on February 1 that many of the people buying guns are buying for the first time. As further evidence of new shooters, there is a huge demand for general firearms instruction and, where required, certification training for concealed-carry permits.
In January, the tide of public opinion seemed to be preparing to sweep away the Second Amendment in the public demand that something- anything- be done to prevent another Sandy Hook tragedy.
At no time was that blood-lust more obvious than during the NRA's poorly-executed announcement of their proposed Operation School Shield program. An already negative mainstream media dropped all pretense of objectivity as they pilloried the "absurd" proposal.
Just over a month later, it appears the NRA's suggestion that "the only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" isn't quite so hard for Americans to swallow outside New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
School districts have quietly explored the idea of school safety officers being under arms on campuses in nearly every state. In Flagler County, Florida a mother has donated $11,000 to help pay the cost of hiring Flagler County deputies to patrol the elementary school her child attends through the end of the school year. Later this month, the Flagler County school board will consider a plan that puts armed deputies at all its schools. Armed guards are already on the job at Flagler's middle and high schools.
And the conversation over gun control isn't going away.
Last night, NRA President David Keene was scheduled to appear CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. NRA Board Member and former NRA President Sandy Froman was to take part in a CNN town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, NRA-ILA head Chris Cox was set to appear on Lou Dobbs Tonight on Fox Business Network and on Sunday, NRA EVP Wayne LaPierre is scheduled to appear on Fox News Sunday.
There have also been some valuable lessons learned the hard way in January.
UK-owned Reed Exhibitions learned the hard way that classifying AR-style rifles as undesirables at a long-established outdoor show was an ill-advised move. So many exhibitors pulled out of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show that Reed was forced to "postponed" the event and return millions of dollars in fees. Reed also took an estimated $44 million out of the economy of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Looking into February, it's safe to say that Reed will most likely find itself the "former partner" of the NSSF and SHOT Show. After the NSSF repeatedly asked Reed to reconsider, they made it abundantly clear that "all options" were on the table, including a new SHOT management partner.
We're also expecting February to provide even more of these valuable lessons to people who confuse civility of gun owners as weakness. More than 1100 former Green Berets, for example, have written a letter that puts forward their suggestions for how to deal with what they call a "complex sociological problem" not a "gun problem".
1) Support the Second Amendment
2) Support State and Local School Boards in establishing safety protocols in "whatever form they deem necessary and adequate". They point out that state and local governments can be creative in solving problems and there is no one-size-fits all solution.
3) Advocate for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) laws in every state. Those allow the courts to order certain individuals with mental disorders to comply with treatment while living in the community. In every mass shooting, they point out, the perpetrators have been mentally unstable.
4) Support the return of firearms safety programs to schools. Those courses can be taught in schools by sworn peace officers or other trained professionals.
5) Work to discourage glorification of gratuitous violence in movies and games be discouraged. Note that our best warriors say that war and war-like behavior should not be glorified. As they say "War is not a game and should not be 'sold' as entertainment to our children."
6) Support the repeal of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. They point out it may sound counter-intuitive, but the fact is that they just don't work.
7) Border states should take responsibility for implementation of border control laws to prevent illegal shipments of firearms and drugs. With the "dismal performance record that is misguided and inept ("Fast and Furious"), they believe that border States are far more competent at the mission than the federal authorities.
8) Everyone take personal responsibility for their choices and actions, not abdicate responsibility to someone else under the illusion that we have "done something that will make us all safer".
"We have a responsibility to stand by our principles and act in accordance with them," they write, "Our children are watching and they will follow the example we set.
We'll keep you posted.
-- Jim Shepherd