Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is Evolve a false flag front group?

The key problem is to prevent the bang in the first place. That cannot be seen to in a law code; it must happen between the shooter's ears.

Around the blogosphere, suspicious voices are asking whether Evolve, the group that is behind the engaging little founding fathers skit about not being a dumbass when it comes to guns, is acting from ulterior motives. Is Evolve's real plan to portray gun owners in general as dumbasses, whose rights deserve no respect, and who should be handed further legal restrictions? Or is it really only their intent to say that some people do dumbassedly dangerous things with guns and that these people should consider their ways?

Time will tell. I support the second version of the message, not the first. Doubtless what Evolve intends to say will become clearer. I am, though, happy at this point that they are drumming up attention on the safety question.

You see, my posts on gun safety are always among the least read posts on this blog. That concerns me, for the topic is among the most important I address here. I would like more people paying attention to the issue and maybe Evolve has figured out how to get them to do it.

I will be watching to see in which direction Evolve goes. If they steer their message toward pushing laws and restrictions they are wrong. We have plenty of those already. After the fact, you are in big trouble over a gun accident; the law holds you responsible. If the criminal law does not get you civil court lawsuits surely will, and Protective Services may take your children. The key problem is to prevent the bang in the first place. That cannot be seen to in a law code; it must happen between the shooter's ears. If Evolve's direction is toward voluntary compliance with the good sense of established gun safety practices they are on the right track. We have the greatest abundance of laws but not quite enough good sense to go around.

I see why people are suspicious of Evolve. Lately guns, gun owners and gun organizations have been under attacks of every sort, often dishonest ones that vilify, twist and distort nearly everything to do with guns and gun ownership. We're touchy. Even hinting that we are "dumbasses" is a bit too much at the moment. Evolve needs to do a follow-up piece praising responsible and safe gun owners, which almost all of us are. Perhaps they could write their next skit as a contrast, A and B, A as the responsible shooter with B cast as a 'don't be that guy' dumbass. That would do a great deal to allay the blogosphere's suspicions.

In case you missed them, below are two of my insufficiently-read safety screeds; please copy and distribute them, or link and tweet or whatever it is you do to get the word out. This safety thing really is something all gun people need to be involved in. Yes, I know, accident rates have been dropping for many years due to the NRA, NSSF and others talking up the issue. Excellent! Let's keep driving the numbers down. Here's hoping Evolve is actually here to help.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gun safety's Four Rules: Don't get your name in the newspapers

I do something that is perhaps peculiar. When I read the news I look for stories about gun accidents. Each time I find one, if the reporting is clear at all, I can figure out which gun safety rule was violated, or which rules, for often it's not just one.

Colonel Cooper's Four Rules of Gun Safety are the distillation of what you need to know, a short simple set of precepts that anyone can remember. Here's the thing: In every accidental shooting for which I've gotten a clear account, it is clear that at least one of these rules was ignored.

Therefore I am a big fan of the Four Rules and promote them when I get the chance. I think that each shooter should know them by heart. If he forgets them, he should lock away his gun until he refreshes his memory.

1. All guns are always loaded! Some have criticized Cooper's phrasing of this rule, but his intent was to be as emphatic as possible. Treat every gun as a loaded gun (the denotative sense intended) and you will never have to whine, "But I didn't know it was loaded." Of course you did, because all guns are always loaded. That is the way you must treat guns, or they may do things you do not expect.

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. This stands to reason. The purpose of a gun is to destroy what it is directed at. Negligently pointing your gun at things and people that don't need shooting is a bad business.

3. Keep your finger OFF the trigger until your sights are ON the target. There is no need to shoot if you have not lined up on the target, thus no need to have your finger on the trigger. There is every reason to keep your finger off it. A great many accidents, perhaps the majority of them, involve violation of this simple and obvious rule.

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Always positively identify what you are shooting at. Mistaken shootings occur, but should not. A hunter has no business shooting a human under the misapprehension that he is shooting an animal. A householder has no reason for shooting a family member who arrives at home late and unexpected; use a flashlight to see who it is. The "what is beyond" part of the rule concerns the backstop and the downrange danger posed by your projectile. You do not want your bullet sailing past or through your target to do harm elsewhere.

As a mnemonic to help me remember the rules, I use "LS/MFT," a catchphrase from my youth. Only now it means, "LOADED, STUPID! Muzzle. Finger. Target." Remember the rules in any way you like, but remember them. Then I won't be reading about you in the newspapers.


 Sunday, June 9, 2013

Secure gun storage

The Guardian Express, a web outlet that covers the US news beat, today has an opinion piece entitled "Handguns and Their Irresponsible Owners," written by James Turnage. I dislike the tone of the piece, and take issue with one or two minor points. But I agree with the big point of it. If you have a gun, you must store  it safely. It is something I have preached for years. Unless the gun is under your direct and immediate control, which means carried on your person or placed within reach, it should be rendered inert, inaccessible or preferably both. My logic on this point is airtight. If you really need a gun, you need it ready to hand. If you really do not need it, it should be secured.

It's all quite simple to manage. Take, for example, the double action revolver. Swing open the cylinder and snap a sturdy padlock around the top strap. The gun will not work, and an attempt to twist off the lock will wreck the gun before the lock gives way.

The above is a variant of a cop trick from the old days when cops carried revolvers. The trick was as follows. Take a pair of handcuffs, loop one of the bracelets through the gun's frame, as above. The gun is now disabled. If you also want to keep the gun from walking away, you can take the other bracelet and cuff that around a bedstead, a sturdy plumbing pipe or some other object likely to stay put.

There are many purpose-built devices meant to disable guns: trigger locks, cable locks, trigger guard inserts with padlock holes, and others. There are more besides that enclose the gun completely, such as lock boxes and safes; I think these are a bit safer; out of sight, out of mind. They also do more to discourage theft.

As to the Guardian Express article, I agree that it is senseless and tragic that a four year old managed to get his hands on an unsecured gun and fire it, killing his father. A toddler is too young to remember or to understand the Four Rules, thus cannot apply them, and thus must never handle firearms. When sensible gun handling is not sufficient safeguard, and it never can be when small children are involved, the guns must be locked up.

There is, though, a statement in the article that I find difficult to parse. The author says, "I do not own a gun for two reasons. I don't want to, and I refuse to live in fear." To the first part, very well, but I am puzzled by the second. It is not clear what the author is refusing to be afraid of. If it is fear of having a gun around, that is easily remedied and he lists the remedies: "Several methods are foolproof. There are trigger locks, gun safes and methods that will prevent a tragic accident like the one above." So I think what he means is that he courageously chooses not to defend himself against such dangers as a gun might be useful against; if that is his meaning I cannot agree. I live the less in fear for owning a gun--stored safely--and being a passable shot with it.

 As a minor quibble, trigger locks are far from "foolproof." The lock must be a reasonable fit to the trigger guard of the gun or it can slip back and forth, negating the value of the lock. It is something that must be checked case by case. Not all trigger locks are good on all guns. I find it curious how often the anti-gun contingent talks about trigger locks as a panacea, when trigger locks, unless they fit properly, are less positive than other methods.

I certainly agree with Mr. Turnage that there are too many accidents related to unsafe storage of guns. Any are too many, for the problem is so easily solved. If you have disabled your gun with a properly fitting trigger lock, or a cable lock, handcuffs or something else, or have locked it up in a safe, any use of that gun by an unauthorized person is going to involve burgling your precaution, and that shifts the moral and legal burden squarely onto the one doing it.

What is to be avoided is a set of narrowly specific storage requirements enforced by law, such as they have in some countries, for one size fits all turns out to mean an impractical solution for everyone. What we need is a talking-up campaign to make sure everyone is kept aware that proper gun storage is important. Indeed, it is an essential aspect to safe and responsible gun ownership.

So I encourage you to talk it up. Though I disagree with the way he said it, Mr. Turnage and I are oddly on the same side of the issue.


  1. Is Evolve a false flag?

    There's nothing much you can say when people are predisposed to not trust you. What we can do is talk to everyone we can - hopefully, that trust can be earned over time. We've turned down funding from sources to earn that trust, and have funded Evolve personally. That means we also rely on some support from the gun world to do our work, which is to build on what the industry has done, and accelerate the reduction in needless deaths from irresponsible behaviors, which you accurately portray as being all about what's 'between the ears.’ We believe that safety is not a side, or at least it shouldn't be.

    As for the ‘Dumbass’ campaign, we are applying marketing techniques similar to the state-of-the-art drunk driving work that the alcohol industry has been doing for the past couple of decades. Some people suggested after the ‘Dumbass’ piece came out, that we are calling all gun-owners dumbasses. That's like saying that drunk driving campaigns are attacking all drinkers. If you aren't a dumbass drunk driver or irresponsible gun owner, you shouldn't be offended.

    We appreciate the educational component of the current industry efforts, and the '4 rules' of gun safety, but our experience is that there is a huge difference between education and motivation. People change behavior due to peer pressure, and no one wants to be called a dumbass. You pointed out that your posts on safety are the worst read of anything that you write. That's our point precisely. Getting more people to care. And mostly to be more motivated to act. We did not set out to make an earnest advocacy message that no one wanted to talk about.

    You suggested that we take a more 'balanced' approach and give credit to the majority of gun owners who use guns responsibly. Probably the best way to do that is again to create peer pressure. Not being a dumbass and asking others to do the same is pretty cool and aspirational. That said, there are many innovative campaigns that can be developed to build off safety priorities. That takes commitment by lots of people to consider reinventing – or looking at the current campaigns through another creative lens. Responsible gun ownership is aspirational to everyone in our society. Rather than just a given that you should follow the rules, can we make it part of a larger ethos?

    The other technique not being used enough is safety campaign segmentation for existing and emerging gun owners. A segmentation strategy allows you to talk to groups in ways that most resonate, as opposed to addressing everyone with similar messages. Guns are marketed using creative - and updated - segmented campaigns, so why wouldn’t safety be packaged using the same methodology? It’s also why most people like cable TV better than network, it's narrow and more relevant.

    For example, young gun owners just getting into the hobby are like all young people, prone to taking short cuts and engaging in risky behaviors that they will regret later with the benefit of experience and wisdom. Anyone with kids knows that they are very different than older, more established people. That's one of the reasons why the ‘Dumbass’ commercial gets a lot of traction on YouTube. If something is getting a lot of traction, then it’s likely that something good is happening here. But in the end, it doesn't matter if anyone likes our campaigns. That's politics. Or simply whether you like lizards or ducks in commercials. What matters is if people pay attention, talk about, and inevitably do something about it. That's where we think we are on the same page with you, and hopefully the industry.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

  2. There is, though, a statement in the article that I find difficult to parse. The author says, "I do not own a gun for two reasons. I don't want to, and I refuse to live in fear."

    Kendal, I support both the content of pretty much everything you say. But I do think that there is a somewhat counter-intuitive aspect to gun ownership, at least for some people. Rather than feeling safer, I suspect possession of a gun makes some feel more threatened and less secure and more likely to misuse their weapon. I don't know if there is research to support this, but it would be very interesting to find out. I suspect this is what Turnage was referring to in his column. Appreciate your work.

    1. I do not know any research on that heading either.

    2. An update on this:

      From NRA-ILA

      Record-Level of Support for Guns in the Home

      Posted on November 14, 2014

      In short, Gallup finds that 63% of Americans over all think that owning a gun makes you safer, and the breakdown is interesting: 81% of Republicans think so, 64% of Independents and 41% of Democrats.