Tag Archives: Gun control

Misunderstanding U.S. Gun Violence by Counting Mass Shootings

by Lois Beckett, ProPublica
December 4, 2015

According to articles this week across the Internet, there has been an average of one mass shooting every day in the United States: 355 so far this year. It’s a jarring statistic, and one that has gone viral in the wake of this week’s massacre in San Bernardino, California.

But there are two problems with the number: It doesn’t actually provide a clear estimate of how often the country has seen shooting rampages like the one in San Bernardino. And it obscures the broader reality of gun violence in America.

Counting “mass shootings” is notoriously complicated and contested, since there is no standard definition of what they are. Is it best to count shootings that injure or kill a certain number of people? Or should the definition focus more narrowly on attacks in which the motivation of the shooter “appears to be indiscriminate killing“?

Mother Jones, which has been tracking mass shootings since 2012, has counted just four mass shootings this year, and a total of 73 since 1982, as Mother Jones editor Mark Follman has noted in The New York Times.

In 2014, the FBI released its own count of “active shooter” incidents, focusing on events where law enforcement and citizens may have the chance to intervene and change the outcome of the ongoing shooting. It tallied a total of 160 of these events from 2000 to 2013–including high-profile shootings at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, and Sandy Hook Elementary School– with an average of 11 per year.

The “355 mass shootings this year” that has been rocketing around the Internet comes from a crowdsourced Reddit initiative that gathers media reports of shootings in which four or more people were shot.

The Reddit count includes many incidents that Mother Jones, the FBI, and others leave out: for instance, a home robbery, a drive-by shooting, and a gang fight.

The Reddit project’s organizers suggest this broader approach does a better job of capturing the burden of gun violence–including the suffering and costs of treating people who are shot and survive.

“The most obscene incidents of gun violence usually do not make the mainstream news at all,” the project’s introduction says, citing a nightclub shooting in Tennessee in which 18 people were shot and only one person killed. “We believe the media does a disservice to mass shooting victims by virtually ignoring them unless large numbers are killed.”

Yet bundling together all incidents in which four people or more people are shot doesn’t capture the bigger picture.

As ProPublica detailed last week, gun murder in America is largely a story of race and geography. Half of all gun murder victims are black men. The gun murder rate for black Americans is dramatically higher than it is for white Americans. And the burden of violence tends to be concentrated in certain neighborhoods of certain cities.

Reddit’s Mass Shooting Tracker does not include any breakdown by race. In response to questions about the group’s numbers, one project organizer, GhostofAlyeska, wrote, “Our intent is not to analyze the causes or cures for gun violence, but simply to expose the available data. We’re volunteers working from a reddit community, nothing more.”

The Reddit project cites 462 people killed under its broad definition of mass shootings. The number of gun homicides of black men killed in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 5,798.

Baltimore alone has seen a total of 316 total homicides so far this year–the vast majority of them shooting deaths of black victims, according to the Baltimore Sun’s homicide map. The city’s homicide rate is now at a record high. The Reddit tracker captures eight of those deaths.

San Bernardino has two entries in this year’s Mass Shooting Tracker: yesterday’s attack, and a nightclub shooting reportedly linked to gang violence. The area has long struggled with poverty, gangs, and homicide. “My son was shot to death with an AK–47. My nephew was murdered and his body was burned and buried,” San Bernardino resident Marisa Hernandez told Vice News on Wednesday. “This type of mass shootings happens everyday here to our kids and nobody stops it, nobody does anything.”

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No safe place left in America — NRA to blame

Concerned citizens attempted to deliver petitions signed by over 235,000 Americans in 2012, calling on the NRA to stop blocking gun control legislation.

Concerned citizens attempted to deliver petitions signed by over 235,000 Americans in 2012, calling on the NRA to stop blocking gun control legislation. © Josh Lopez, Creative Commons

December, 2015

“Just another day in the United States of America, another day of gunfire, panic and fear.”

That was how the BBC began its coverage of the shootings in San Bernardino, California, which left 14 people dead and more than 20 injured.

Just another day in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Shootingtracker.com is a site that counts the number of mass shootings that take place in this country. It defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, and injured or killed. So far, in 2015, there have been 350 mass shootings. That’s more than one a day.

Here’s the truth about the United States of America. There are no safe places left: not schools, not churches, not hospitals, not Christmas parties, not workplaces, not private homes, not office buildings, not public streets. Nowhere. Americans live in a war zone of gun violence. It is not as dangerous what residents of Syria and Iraq face, it is overwhelming.

You can point the finger of blame for this unbelievable toll at many individuals and organizations. But in reality it is a toxic stew of many ingredients, each perhaps harmless by itself. When all are thrown together, and stirred vigorously by the National Rifle Association and its puppet masters the gun manufacturers, and promoted unthinkingly by media, you end up with staggering statistics.

Some, including myself, previously pointed to gun regulations enacted in nations like Canada and Australia after their own mass shootings. But it’s time to forget about that. The United States is not Canada. It’s not Australia. The love of guns is so ingrained in the American culture and mythology that I daresay that trying to end it could provoke another civil war. I’m not joking.

The U.S. takes this gun-loving culture and combines it with a paranoid distrust of government (particularly among those who own multiple guns). It’s added to a society where white males in particular see themselves diminishing in power and numbers (which helps to fuel their anger at almost every minority group). Then, there’s a rising chorus of right-wing media and conservative demagogues who promote racial imbalance in an effort to gain money and power. Put all this together, and very bad things happen.

It seems to me that Americans have lost the ability to talk things out. Instead, the solution to grievances, whether on a personal or societal level, is to grab your gun and start shooting.

Are you upset at the way you’ve been treated at work? Then head to your nearest gun show, load up on semiautomatics and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and go to your office. Tired of how you’re being treated at school? Angry at a professor who didn’t give you the mark you needed on your dissertation? Then take out your anger with a gun. Angry at someone who believes in a different cultural value than you do? Then crash into their clinic and fire at will. Face discrimination because of your religious beliefs? You don’t have to take it, you could shoot your way to paradise. Think there are too many Blacks, or Muslims, or uppity women, or Hispanics, are responsible for all the troubles in your life (because that’s what the talking heads on conservative media have told you)? You know how to deal with them.

And at the apex of this pyramid of violence stands the NRA and American gun manufacturers. Now the NRA in and of itself doesn’t shoot anyone. It’s not pulling the triggers. It is just doing everything in its power to make sure that any individuals who want to use a gun to express anger and frustration at other people or society, they can access all the weaponry and ammunition that they desire.

It’s not just that the NRA is opposed to common sense gun regulations: it actively seeks out and undermines those who propose them. Under the leadership of Wayne LaPierre, a man the New York Daily News has designated a “terrorist,” the NRA has not only pushed to put guns in every possible place in America, including churches and schools – and bars – it has helped to promote laws like Stand Your Ground in Florida and Texas that encourage people to settle disputes with guns.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this was the man who murdered another man in a movie theater when he didn’t stop looking at his cell phone prior to the start of the movie. The shooter immediately claimed Stand Your Ground as a defense, because he said he felt threatened when he and the other man were arguing.

The NRA claims to promote its position based on its belief in the Second Amendment, but in reality it is helping its corporate masters, the gun manufacturers, make staggering profits. It is unrepentant in its venal motives and does not hesitate to try to spend or bribe its way to victory over anyproposed law that would restrict its agenda.

And here’s the kicker. The NRA can count on the support of the American public as it marches on. Scared to death by the overwhelming number of shootings, whipped into a frenzy by conservative media that promotes hatred and gun ownership, and fueled by mythology that says you can’t be an American without a gun, I can promise you that nothing, nothing will happen to change these grim outcomes.

Think I’m wrong? Gun stores all across America reported increased sales on Black Friday and after the San Bernardino shooting – as if someone with a handgun could take down two shooters armed with semi-automatic weapons. That is the world of the NRA has created in America.

You want to feel safe? Don’t press your politicians to come up with real long-term solutions, don’t try to find a way to help include those who feel alienated, don’t look at a long-term strategy towards possible acts of terrorism that might actually work. No. Just buy a gun. You’ll make Wayne LaPierre’s day.

And the mass shootings will go on and on and on and on…



Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com


Gun stores expect to see increase in sales after San Bernardino shooting, ABC: http://abc7news.com/news/gun-stores-to-see-increase-in-sales-after-san-bernardino-shooting/1107809/
Mass shootings in 2015, Shooting Tracker: http://shootingtracker.com/wiki/Mass_Shootings_in_2015
Terrorist Attacks are Strategic: The Response Should Be, Too, Foreign Affairs: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2015-12-01/terrorist-attacks-are-strategic?cid=nlc-twofa-20151203&sp_mid=50169381&sp_rid=YnBldHplbkBnbWFpbC5jb20S1&spMailingID=50169381&spUserID=OTgzNzM0MTEzNjQS1&spJobID=820493626&spReportId=ODIwNDkzNjI2S0

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.






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“Black Lives Matter” and “Cops Lives Matter” are not the same thing

September, 2015

It’s hard to be a cop. To be a cop in the United States that is.

Many police forces around the world don’t require their officers to carry weapons, the British bobbie perhaps being the most vivid representation of this philosophy. There are numerous reasons for this approach to policing, perhaps the most relevant being a strong emphasis on proper gun control and regulation in whatever country they serve. When British cops go out on the beat, they may always face violence in some form, but the reality is that it probably will not come at the end of a gun.

It’s different in the United States.

Here there are more guns than there are stars in the sky. Thanks to the National Rifle Organization, it’s more difficult to buy a bottle of wine in your local grocery store, where you are required to show your ID regardless of your age, than it is to buy a gun when in most cases almost no ID is necessary at all. So, as I’ve written before, any time an American police officer goes into any kind of a situation, he or she has to assume that the person they are dealing with is armed.

There is no scientific justification for this observation. A recent study out only in the last month or so has shown that police are more likely to shoot people in states with lax gun laws than in states that have tougher gun regulations.

So yes, it is not easy to be a police officer in the United States. But to some degree that is kind of beside the point.

I’m sure that no police officer signs up thinking “I’m likely to be shot in the line of duty today,” but if they are not aware that this is a distinct possibility, they are in the wrong line of work. Police work is inherently dangerous work. (Although will statistics show that there’s never been a safer time to be a police officer in the United States, regardless of what you might hear on Fox “News” or on Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.)

And this is where the idea behind “Cops Lives Matter”, and “Black Lives Matter” diverge.

African-Americans are being shot by the police at an alarming rate. And has been shown repeatedly in recent situations, they are often shot without provocation or when the police officer in question is not in danger of any kind. And while it is true that the police are shooting innocent people of all colors too often these days, studies have shown that police in America are more likely to shoot African-Americans at three times the rate they shoot whites or other minorities.

And the point that Black Lives Matter is trying to make is that this is not okay.

Black Lives Matter organizers say they are tired of the diuretic platitudes that too many white politicians in particular trot out when asked to deal with this issue. And so the organizers have decided to take a more confrontational approach, one which I totally support.

This does not make them, in the words of one moronic white southern sheriff from Georgia, “a terrorist group.“ But that is the typical reaction from those on the right; it seems that any time any African-American group forcefully stands for black community’s rights, conservative media labels them “thugs” or, as in the case above, “terrorists.”

Confrontation is almost always a more difficult road to travel. Not every reaction to it will be a positive one. Heavens knows that Bernie Sanders supporters were outraged when Black Lives Matters organizers confronted him during a campaign speech.

But when you’re dealing with the kind of violent and ingrained racist attitudes that seem to lurk in so many police departments across the country, it’s pretty obvious that reasonable conversations aren’t going to get the job done.

There have been numerous articles written in various publications over the years, about how black parents, regardless of their economic background or level of education, are forced to give their sons, “the talk” – which is not about sex, but about how they have to behave around the police so they don’t get shot.

And so sometimes you have to take more dramatic steps to get people’s attention, which is exactly what Black Lives Matter is doing. And if they ruffle a few feathers, but those ruffled feathers actually work to make meaningful changes, so much the better.

It’s important to note that most police officers in America go about their jobs day by day treating people fairly and resolving tough situations in a nonviolent matter. They deserve our respect and appreciation for the tough job that they do.

But they also need our feedback and criticism when they’re not getting the job done, or when their actions betray a not-so-subtle racist attitude towards African-Americans or other minorities.

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com


Is there really a ‘war on cops’? The data show that 2015 will likely be one of the safest years in history for police: https://www.aei.org/publication/is-there-really-a-war-on-cops-the-data-show-that-2015-will-likely-be-one-of-the-safest-years-in-history-for-police/

More Police Killed in States With Higher Levels of Gun Ownership: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/police-killings-state-gun-ownership

Blacks Are Killed By Police At A Higher Rate In South Carolina And The U.S.:





Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.







*Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us with a donation (below), by telling others about us, or purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page. 




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Maybe this time America won’t run away from better gun laws

August, 2015 

Alison Parker and Adam Ward, gunned down by an enraged former co-worker at the WDBJ7 TV station in

Alison Parker and Adam Ward, gunned down this month by an enraged former co-worker at the WDBJ7 TV station in Roanoke, Virginia.

In all important social movements, there is a moment when you sense things begin to change. Obstacles that seem impossible to overcome or resistance that seems unsurmountable slowly begin to crumble away.

Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic (heaven knows I thought this would come before now), but I think we might be at such a crucial moment in the long history of trying to enact stronger gun regulations in the United States, and finally putting the demon of the National Rifle Association behind us.

I originally thought that moment would happen after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. After all, how can the status quo survive, when so many elementary school age children are mowed down by a gun-obsessed madman?

But nothing did happen. After a brief flourish of anguish that was soon snuffed out by the relentless propaganda of the NRA about our “constitutional rights,” and politicians fled from the issue like chickens fleeing from a fox.

This time, however, something is different. This time the brutal murder of two journalists who worked in a TV station in Roanoke, Virginia, may have turned the tide. The key factor in this – video. This time there was video of the murders, not only from the camera of the murdered videographer but also from the camera of the murderer, who in an act that imitated the horrific killings of the Islamic state in Iraq, decided he was going to film his murders. 

Imagine how different the response might have been to Sandy Hook if we had video of the gunmen using his Bushmaster semi-automatic on the children. Imagine how different the response might have been from the average American who is content to express concern about guns but then let it pass like so much indigestion after a bad meal.

America is a video culture.

Whether it’s cable TV, or YouTube, or Instagram or Twitter, nothing really happens anymore if we don’t see it on video. Think of how the National Football League was forced to react with video surfaced of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his wife out in an elevator, and then dragging her out. Think of how the nation has reacted to the numerous videos of police brutality, as cameras embedded in smart phones have turned everyone into a videographer, making it extremely difficult for the police to explain away or ignore countless acts of brutality as they did in the past.

When the New York Post and the New York Daily News decided to feature stills taken from the video of the actual murders, they were criticized by some people. I disagree. While their motives may not have been pure (or maybe only purely financial) I think they actually did a great service. People need to see how the tsunami of guns in our culture is taking the lives of so many Americans.


Just as Matthew Brady was said to have laid the dead of Antietam at the feet of the nation with his exhibition of photos after the American Civil War battle, perhaps these papers have done the same for us.

It wasn’t as if the NRA hadn’t already started to feel things slipping away. Several courts had upheld tighter gun regulations enacted by various municipalities across the US despite the efforts of the NRA to scuttle them. Meanwhile, in another huge blow last fall, Bill Gates financially supported a ballot measure in Washington state to have universal background checks on gun purchases. It passed with a 60% vote of support. And just the other day, Wal-Mart announced it would no longer sell the Bushmaster, the weapon of choice of so many American mass murders. (Wal-Mart said it wasn’t a political move, but there is no way in the current climate how it won’t be seen that way.)

The NRA, of course, has already started to try to undermine the stronger gun control message. In an interview Friday on CNN, Jim Gilmore (former governor of New Jersey, make-believe GOP presidential candidate and board member of the NRA) trotted out the same old tired constitutional rights argument that totally ignores the issue at hand. But there was a difference – it really did feel tired and rote this time.

Contrast the stale appearance of Gilmore with the emotional interview with the fathers of three young people killed in various gun massacres (including the father of Alison Parker, the murdered journalist). The impact was night and day. Two things in particular stood out for me in the interview: one was the three fathers understanding that change on this issue needed to be done state-by-state, and they were going to do it that way. The second was their plea to parents across the country to help them make these changes before their children were murdered.

Because it is slowly starting to sink in to Americans that it could happen to any one of us at any time. (There have been more mass shootings in the United States this year than there have been days in the year.) And now, as sad as it may be, we have a video to underlay that message: video that has been shown again and again and again on regular cable TV, not to mention the millions of times it has been shown on the various social media channels on the Internet.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps the nefarious NRA will triumph once again and nothing much will change. Perhaps once again politicians will flee from the issue like the cowards they’ve always been in the past.

But the time is coming. The tide is beginning to turn. You can feel it in the way these murders were covered in the nation’s media. You can feel it in the conversations that you have with people on the streets of your town. You can see it on social media, where more and more people who have been silent on this issue in the past are speaking out, trading stories, giving out links about stronger gun regulations.

Tougher gun regulations are coming, and there’s nothing the NRA can do to stop it.

Copyright Tom Regan 2015 

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com


Wikipedia page for Sandy Hook school shooting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Hook_Elementary_School_shooting

Wikipedia page for  Battle of Antietam: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Antietam

Condolences page for Alison Parker and Adam Ward at WDBJ7 TV: http://www.wdbj7.com/news/local/condolences-for-wdbj7/34925820

VIEWER WARNING: link shows graphic, violent content: 
SHOCKING COMPLETE VIDEO SHOT FROM VIRGINIA GUNMAN’S POINT OF VIEW, InfoWars.com: http://www.infowars.com/graphic-shocking-complete-video-shot-from-virginia-gunmans-point-of-view/


Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.







Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us with a donation (below), by telling others about us, or purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page. 



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Meet the American Doctor who Donated $1 Million to Fund Gun Research


by Lois Beckett, ProPublica
April 22, 2014

Federal funding for research on gun violence in the United States has been restricted for nearly two decades. President Barack Obama urged Congress to allocate $10 million for new research after gunman Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. But House Republicans say they won’t approve it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget still lists zero dollars for research on gun violence prevention.


Garen Wintermute, photo by Karin Higgins, provided by University of California, Davis

One of the researchers who lost funding in the political battle over studying firearms was Dr. Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. Wintemute is, by his own count, one of only a dozen researchers across the country who have continued to focus full-time on firearms violence.

To keep his research going, Wintemute has donated his own money, as the science journal Nature noted in a profile of him last year. As of the end of 2013, he has donated about $1.1 million, according to Kathryn Keyes, a fundraiser at UC Davis’ development office. His work has also continued to get funding from some foundations and the state of California.

We contacted Wintemute to talk about his research, the politics of studying firearms, and how much we really know about whether gun control laws work.

At the end of one of our conversations, Wintemute volunteered that he is also a donor to ProPublica, something the editorial staff had not known. (He and his family’s foundation have donated less than $1,500 over four years.)

Here is the condensed version of our conversations, edited for length and clarity.

What research were you doing when the CDC ended your funding?

We were looking at risk factors for criminal activity among people who had legally purchased handguns. A person can have a misdemeanor rap sheet as long as his arm and still be able to purchase firearms legally in most parts of the country.

In California, there is an archive of handgun transfers. You could draw a random sample of people who purchased handguns and see their overall risk of committing crimes later. We found people who had misdemeanor convictions for nonviolent offenses were five times as likely to commit violence in the future than people with no criminal records. People who had multiple prior misdemeanor convictions for violent crimes [like simple assault and battery or brandishing a firearm] were 15 times as likely to be arrested down the road for crimes like murder and rape and robbery and aggravated assault.

What happened when the CDC cut off your funding?

As I recall, we were in the middle of our project period. We had the expectation that we would be continuing the funds according to the initial award.

When CDC’s funding went away, some private foundations stepped up. But there was a growing sense that little or nothing was going to be done about the problem, at least at the federal level. Why put your money into this one when Congress won’t be doing anything about it?

When did you start donating your own money to keep your research going, and what does the money support?

There came a point when I decided that the work we do is as important as the work of the other nonprofits to which I gave donations. I decided, I’m going to keep the lights on. I told our small staff — three people besides me — I will make that happen personally if need be.

A million dollars is a lot of money. Where does it come from?

Some of it is gifts from stock that was given to me by my father. He’s a businessman. He ran a small company that did well and that’s done well in his retirement. I didn’t earn that. I’ve always seen myself as the steward of that resource.

Some of it is my cash. It boils down to this: I earn an ER doc’s salary. I lead a very simple life. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have a television. My rent is $840 a month. It’s easy to save. I don’t drive a fancy car. I don’t go out to eat.

One recent study from Harvard researchers found that there were lower gun death rates in states with more restrictive gun laws. The study got a lot of press. But you’ve been very critical of its conclusions. What’s wrong with this kind of analysis?

Almost all the effects they had seen from mortality in the study had to do with suicide. But the laws were largely intended to prevent homicide.

Number two: Correlation is not causation. Rates of gun deaths are lower where rates of gun ownership are lower. That’s true. We know that. It’s also easier to pass laws like this where the rates of gun ownership are lower. There aren’t that many guns around, there isn’t that large a constituency of gun owners.

States with lots of laws have lower firearm death rates, but the fact that two things occur at the same time does not mean that one of those things caused the other.

So is there any evidence that denying people the right to legally purchase guns has an impact on crime?

[In 1991] California began denying people who had been convicted of violent misdemeanors. Our group took advantage of this natural experiment. Everyone in the study tried to buy a handgun from a licensed seller. One group tried to do it under the terms of the new policy, and their purchases were denied. The other group tried it in the two years before the policy, and their purchases were approved.

The people who got their guns were 25 to 30 percent more likely to be arrested for crimes involving firearms or violence. There was no difference in arrests for crimes that did not involve violence. The difference was specific to the types of crimes the law was supposed to affect.

We also looked at denial for felons and found the same effect. Felons who were denied had a lower risk of being arrested for crimes of violence down the road than were people with felony arrests who were able to purchase their guns.

So do we know whether background checks for all purchases — as President Obama has proposed — would actually prevent violence?

There are not hard data on whether universal background checks work better than what we have at the moment. But there’s lots of suggestive evidence.

One piece of that evidence we have comes from the state of Missouri, a new study by Daniel Webster. Missouri had universal background checks and repealed them. In very short order, there was evidence of increasing gun trafficking. The guns that were recovered after use in crime were getting newer. The inference was it was much easier for people to acquire guns for criminal purposes.

You are planning a broad study about whether comprehensive background checks work. What will that research look like?

Six states — Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Illinois and New York — have just adopted comprehensive background checks, and they’ve all taken effect already. The provisions of their laws vary, and they started from different places.

The intent of our study is to come as close as possible to determining whether there is a causal relationship between comprehensive background check policies and important measures like crime and mortality.

Do you think there’s any chance the CDC will get new funding to resume gun violence research?

I think hell will freeze over before this Congress gives them money. The good news is that funding from other sources is starting to pick up. The National Institute of Health — it’s the first time in their history that they have issued a formal program announcement, a request for proposals on firearms violence.

The NRA has been critical of your work, and says you’re funded by anti-gun groups.

I won’t take money from advocacy organizations.

So, what groups would be on that list?

The National Rifle Association, The Second Amendment Foundation, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Actions, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Have you ever accepted funding from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

I have not.

How do you draw the line between nonprofits whose funding you do accept, and “advocacy organizations”?

I’ve been offered money to do studies where the conclusion was basically determined from the design of the study. It wasn’t really science. The organization that was offering to fund the study was also going to control the interpretation of what the analysis meant. They were going to make the decision of whether or not the study got published. As a scientist, I just can’t enter into such an agreement. We have to let people know what the truth is, even if the truth makes someone uncomfortable.

Has your research ever made gun control advocates uncomfortable?

I did a gun show study. When I started crunching numbers on gun show sales, and looking at the surveys, I came to realize — as interesting as this is, gun shows themselves are not a big part of the problem. I felt obligated to add this into my report.

Before we released the study, I had a conference call with a bunch of organizations that I knew were interested in working to close the gun show loophole, and I told them what we were saying. That was a very uncomfortable conversation. People got very angry. It was going to make it more difficult for them to do what they wanted, which was to close the gun show loophole.

You recently did a large survey of federal firearms dealers. What was the most interesting finding?

We learned that a majority — not a large majority, but a majority — of gun dealers and pawn brokers are in favor of comprehensive background checks.

Do you know why some dealers supported background checks and others didn’t?

There is a sense in the country that retailers who have lots of traced guns [i.e. guns that show up at crime scenes] are themselves bad guys, and I just don’t believe that is always the case.

Retailers who had higher frequencies of attempted straw purchases, higher frequencies of attempted off-the-books-purchases, were more in favor of comprehensive background checks. They’re in the business. They know that when they say “no” to somebody, that guy is just going to go somewhere else to someone who says, “yes,” and they don’t want it to happen. They said “no,” so they want the system to say, “No.”

One of the policy proposals you’ve been looking at is whether people with a history of alcohol abuse should also be banned from purchasing firearms. Is this ever going to be a realistic policy — that two DUIs could mean that someone could lose their legal right to buy guns?

Yes. Last year, I floated the idea to the California legislature, and the legislature passed it. The governor vetoed it, or we’d have it now. His veto message said there’s not enough evidence. There’s tons of evidence of alcohol as a risk factor of violent activity. I think he meant evidence specific to gun owners. We’ve started one study, and are in the process of another. We’ll come back with the evidence.

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