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Samantha Lachman   |   April 25, 2014    5:19 PM ET

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre sees a lot of haters out there, from President Barack Obama's administration to the media, who "scheme to destroy our country."

Speaking at his group's annual meeting in Indianapolis Friday, LaPierre stoked fear of an erosion not just of Second Amendment rights, but of other values too, according to a transcript released by the NRA:

Freedom has never needed our defense more than now. Almost everywhere you look, something has gone wrong. You feel it in your heart, you know it in your gut. Something has gone wrong. The core values we believe in, the things we care about most, are changing. Eroding. Our right to speak. Our right to gather. Our right to privacy. The freedom to work, and practice our religion, and raise and protect our families the way we see fit. Those aren't old values. They aren't new values. They are core freedoms, the core values that have always defined us as a nation. And we feel them -- we feel them -- slipping away.

LaPierre laid out a spectrum ranging from "terrorists" to "haters," all of whom could presumably be stopped with guns:

We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and carjackers and knockout gamers and rapers [sic], haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all. I ask you. Do you trust this government to protect you? We are on our own.

Without specifically mentioning Democrats, LaPierre pledged defiance against those whom he says would strip away individual rights.

This election is going to be a bare-knuckled street fight. They're going after every House and Senate seat, governor's chair and statehouse they can get their hands on -- laying the groundwork to put a Clinton back in the White House. They intend to finish the job, to fulfill their commitment -- their dream -- of fundamentally transforming America into an America you won't recognize. But mark my words: The NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight.

A new coalition of gun control groups called Everytown for Gun Safety released a new ad Friday, just a week after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $50 million campaign aimed at beating the NRA in policy battles across the country.

Several prominent Republicans appeared at the NRA event Friday, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Despite LaPierre's remarks, there is little evidence to suggest that the so-called "knockout game" is a real phenomenon.

Read the full text of LaPierre's speech here.

Why I'm Going to the NRA Convention

Rebecca Bond   |   April 25, 2014   11:00 AM ET

I'm a gun responsibility advocate and I'll be attending the NRA Convention in Indianapolis this weekend. Sound like an oxymoron? Well, it shouldn't be. Evolve, the gun safety and responsibility organization my husband Jon and I founded, believes that something as important as responsible gun ownership should not be politicized.

I will be going to the convention with my gun-loving, safety-and-responsibility-advocate brother, Troy. One of the reasons I asked Troy to join me is that he personifies everything good about gun culture: tradition, family values, safety, calling out irresponsible behavior when he sees it. Troy lives in rural Minnesota, has some chickens that lay some eggs (not enough to feed the family, but the kids love it) and makes an honest living running a property maintenance company while fixing the occasional car on the side. Troy is not a politician. But he believes that his community -- the gun community -- should lead the safety and responsibility messaging.

We're going to the convention to talk to gun owners and manufacturers about the work of Evolve. Sandy Hook was a wake-up call for me and for millions of other Americans, not just because of the terrible human toll suffered by the families who lost loved ones, but because the senseless slaughter provoked a national standoff about gun safety. A standoff that has the potential to send the gun safety and personal responsibility conversation right down the drainpipe of politics. Again.

My husband and Evolve co-founder, Jon, is an ad guy, raised in a quintessentially Woody Allen-esque family. I come from more traditional Lutheran Scandinavian Minnesota, and my brother's love of guns reflects my family roots. But the vitriolic debate that broke out after Sandy Hook convinced Jon and me that the politicized arguments were not going to help in remaking an aspirational culture of safety and responsibility. One that can be owned by everyone.

We looked at other times when a national consensus developed around the issue of safety; for example, the National Safety Council, which grew out of efforts to promote safe driving when America began its love affair with cars. The Council wasn't interested in taking cars away from drivers, even unsafe drivers. But it did, and still does, evolve motivational and innovative ideas around safety and careful driving messages. The new campaign efforts around the issues of safety now emphasize the need for drivers, particularly young drivers, to understand the dangers of texting while they drive.

Another example is Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which began in 1980 but really took off when public service announcements appeared in movie theaters in 1988 reminding us to designate a "safe" driver who would stay sober so that everyone else could have a good time and still return home safely. Like the Safety Council, nobody was asked to give up drinking. But the language and culture about safe driving and alcohol was changed forever. Change the language around an idea and we change how people think about it. What is significant is that the alcohol industry has actively supported responsible drinking. Think about it, how effective would "designated driver" be without the support of the key stakeholders -- bars and restaurants? The Century Council, for instance, is comprised of virtually all the major spirits companies that "aims to fight to eliminate driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible decision-making regarding alcohol use." They lead the safety and responsibility message; they make it cool to be educated and talk about alcohol. In addition, they are creative and open to working with new partners to make sure their message is heard by all. This is good business and politics -- because if you "self-regulate" then the government and its citizens tend to leave you alone.

Evolve wants to help do the same thing with guns. The NRA, NSSF, and others in the industry have paid lots of attention to gun safety. There is a legacy of safety messaging. But the fact of the matter is that most efforts are exclusive to the gun industry. History shows that responsibility campaigns that remain insular, not embracing a spirit of inclusiveness, can run the risk of inside baseball and can end-up talking only to themselves. And not talking to the wide range of people who should be thinking and talking about it.

There are always new and emerging segments of owners and motivating interests -- today's gun owners don't all come from a heritage of gun family traditions -- so "it takes a village." It's not enough to advocate for ownership and not make safety and personal responsibility also the coolest thing on the block. For everyone.

Now that's not a problem for the automobile industry because everyone drives a car. But a majority of Americans don't own guns, and the gun industry could also be willing to learn how to talk to non-gun owners, as well, so that gun safety and responsibility can become a part of popular culture, with everyone at least owning the basics. By combining objective outsiders, who know marketing and popular culture, with industry support, perhaps we could create the new gun equivalent of "friends don't let friends drive drunk" -- perhaps with the gun shop owners and gun manufacturers taking on the role of the bar -- and a larger coordinated message effort emerging from that.

Evolve says "safety is not a side" because we don't think something as important as gun safety and responsibility should be politicized. We only care about the biggest and most innovative safety and responsibility campaigns and tools. Campaigns that continue to evolve and talk to everyone.

For those of you wondering, we are completely independent and we depend entirely on ourselves for support. Our first video "The Bill of Rights for Dumbasses," which has been viewed by nearly 100,000 people, was totally financed by us and in-kind services. We know that politicizing safety is not a big enough idea and there are plenty out there who want a new playbook. Troy and I look forward to meeting many of you this weekend.

Learn more about Evolve on Facebook

  |   April 24, 2014    9:49 PM ET


By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. April 24 (Reuters) - A bill banning the sale of single-shot handguns that can be modified into semi-automatic weapons advanced in the California legislature on Thursday as lawmakers sought to close what the bill's supporters say is a loophole in the state's gun safety laws.

Gun control advocates say thousands of weapons are sold in California each year without a required safety feature that indicates when a bullet is in the chamber, endangering children and others who may be shot accidentally.

"Right now there is a very large opening in the law that permits guns that otherwise we wouldn't consider safe for sale and purchase in California," said Sacramento assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a Democrat who authored the bill.

Under existing law, semi-automatic weapons must have an indicator showing when there is a bullet in the chamber. But many manufacturers do not include the feature, leading some dealers to convert guns to single-shot weapons before selling them, just to change them back later, Dickinson said.

The most populous U.S. state has some of the nation's strictest gun control laws, and Dickinson's measure is the latest of dozens of bills introduced in the state in the wake of mass shootings in 2012 in Colorado and Connecticut.

Last fall, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who has tacked to the center despite large Democratic majorities in the legislature, vetoed several of the bills, rebuffing efforts by fellow Democrats to enact a sweeping expansion of firearms regulation.

The proposed ban on converted semi-automatics without the safety feature is a priority for the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, said the group's legislative expert, Amanda Wilcox.

The loophole was created after single-shot weapons were exempted from the safety requirement to protect collectors of antique guns, Dickinson said.

After the rule went into effect in 2007, the number of guns being sold as single-shot weapons in the state skyrocketed, which Dickinson said indicated many were being converted.

In 2013, more than 18,000 single-shot gun sales were registered in the state, up from 134 in 2007, the state says. But Assemblyman Brian Jones, a San Diego-area Republican who voted against the bill, said that doesn't mean all purchasers are trying to get around the law.

The National Rifle Association said the measure would hurt law-abiding citizens by "eliminating the only options for Californians to purchase numerous handguns that are commonly owned throughout the rest of the country."

The bill passed the assembly 48-25, and goes to the state senate. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)

State Firearm Laws Could Reduce Gun-Related Injuries in Children

Kate C. Prickett   |   April 24, 2014    1:13 PM ET

Regardless of where one comes down on the debates about gun control, everyone seems to agree that keeping firearms out of the hands of unattended children is a good idea. After all, firearm-related injuries remain one of the leading causes of death among U.S. children, with close to 3,500 killed a year. The small and seemingly simple step of securing firearms in a locked cabinet makes a huge difference in protecting young children. By our estimates, approximately 5 percent of preschool age children live in homes in which their parents reported that they owned guns but did not store them in a secure and locked place. To address this problem, many states have implemented Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws. This collection of legislative approaches range from suggestive guidelines for storage behaviors in families with minors to more stringent requirements and harsher penalties for noncompliance, holding gun owners criminally liable regardless of whether someone gets hurt.

Unfortunately, little research exists to test whether these laws are actually associated with family firearm safety behaviors. A primary goal of our study, just published in the American Journal of Public Health, was to understand how gun storage behavior in families with young children varied across states with different CAP laws, controlling for a wide range of parent, family, and state-level factors that are often associated with gun ownership, generally, and gun safety behaviors, specifically. We found that the efficacy of state CAP laws seemed to rely on the general firearm legislative climate in each state. CAP laws were only associated with decreased likelihood of unsafe gun storage behaviors in states that had strong firearm legislation overall. Although we cannot infer causation from these findings, we hypothesize that parents may not be aware of the specific laws in their states but are more generally aware that their state has many laws that regulate gun use, prompting them to be more careful about the purchase and storage of firearms. We also think that having stronger general state laws could potentially affect which families own firearms -- parents who own guns in a state without any regulation may constitute a very different pool of people than those who own firearms in a state in which they have to jump through hoops, such as a background check, to get them.

Overall, these findings highlight that a significant proportion of children in the U.S. are living in homes where they can potentially access firearms, and these estimates are likely conservative due to underreporting arising from not wanting to share private or potentially embarrassing information or from parents' loose interpretation of what constitutes a 'safe' or 'locked' gun. Moreover, even laws that do not directly target the types of behaviors that result in young children accidentally accessing firearms could have potential spillover effects for the safety of children.

This is why comprehensive firearm legislation -- even legislation that doesn't seem to necessarily solve the immediate public health issue that politicians are responding to (such as a school massacre) -- could potentially be important.

Take, for example, proposed federal legislation on background checks that would have closed loopholes in firearm purchases at gun shows. Recent polls show broad bipartisan public support for this type of legislation, and, although it likely won't stop school massacres, it has potential spillover effects that may affect minors' access to firearms. Parents who do not keep their guns safe at home probably will not show up in a database of people with a diagnosed serious mental health illness, but having a mandated background check or waiting several days to return to a store to purchase a gun may create enough friction that could stop some parents who may be less able or inclined to take heed of their pediatrician's recommendations or abide by their state's CAP laws.

Ms. Kate C. Prickett is a PhD candidate with the Population Research Center and the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Alexa Martin-Storey is an assistant professor with the Département de Psychoéducation, Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

Shootings in Chicago

Jeff Danziger   |   April 23, 2014    1:34 PM ET

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What's Wrong With Gun Registration?

Tom Harvey   |   April 22, 2014   11:05 AM ET

I live in Maryland, whose nickname is the "Free State," and I am no less free because of the laws in my state require registration of handguns and prohibit the more dangerous varieties of firearms, magazines and ammunition. In fact, I feel more free because I have less fear of being blown away, freedom and all, than I would have if guns were less regulated.

Very few people have serious objections to registration of activities in many other contexts; we register our cars, dogs, bicycles, burglar alarms, births, deaths, marriages and our kids into schools every day. Even with no military draft, we have draft registration. Many people have totally given up on privacy in giving any information to businesses. But guns are treated differently. Why? One reason is that we are inundated by demands that we do so from loud gun proponents stirred up and financed by a cynical commercial gun lobby. Another is we all have at least a little bit of rebellion in us and we can dream of throwing off the restraints of civilization and of running wild.

But we should not forget that this dream is a dream of going back to the state of nature and, as every one knows, the state of nature is where life is "nasty, brutish and short." It certainly was short for the twenty children and six teachers who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the thirty thousand or so who died from gun incidents last year.

The slogan or talking point "registration always leads to confiscation" has been taken up and repeated so many times that it seems impossible to trace its origin. Of course, law enforcement agencies, whether tyrannical or benign, have seized illegal items as part of their duties throughout history; but the picture being painted by gun zealots is of "jack-booted thugs" from the federal government taking the tools of liberty from true patriots. An example of this is currently happening in New York State where the SAFE Act requires registration of assault weapons. Many owners are being reported as unwilling to comply.

Seizure of weapons that are illegal, held by prohibited persons or not brought into compliance with licensing requirements is being presented as a sinister conspiracy rather than normal law enforcement. A U.S. congressman, Steve Stockman (R-TX), has just introduced a bill to cut off federal funds to states engaging in "registration" or "confiscation" of guns.

The NRA expresses fear of government tracking in amazing detail. For example, it filed a Friend of the Court brief against National Security Administration data collection on the grounds that such data could identify firearm ownership, siding with the ACLU. 

Lots of people have frustrations about the current state of society and it's easy to project these frustrations onto the government, but we don't live in a tyranny and President Obama isn't a totalitarian dictator. We have an amazing array of freedoms which would be severely put in jeopardy if we did have a revolution. The existence or even the perception of armed angry people hiding their identity among us and waiting to spring forth diminishes our ability to find happy, productive and unmolested lives. In our society, the vast majority of our citizens stand for enforcement of the law as it is adopted by our representatives in legislatures or Congress, and even the NRA calls for the enforcement of laws while they work to make that enforcement impossible.

So those of us who don't live our lives in paranoid fear and can sleep without having a gun under our beds can ask why we would want to insist that guns be registered with the government. The most important reason is to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Our existing system for that purpose is to background check some sales of guns, but there is an immense loophole for private sales in most states. Anyone with an interest in getting a gun knows where to buy one without a check being performed. The background check system also is dependent on identifying from the entire population, not just those wanting to acquire guns, those who are prohibited and keeping that list in databases. A registration and permit system would apply to all sales and require determining the suitability of only those wanting to buy a gun at the current moment.

Another limitation of background checking is that it assumes that a person passing the check will remain a legal gun possessor indefinitely. Many of the situations that are denounced as confiscation consist of a government moving to seize guns already in the hands of people who are later convicted of crimes that make their continued gun possession illegal. Getting these guns out of the hands of their now illegal owners is critical to protecting the public but is slowed and blocked by resistance from legislatures and pro-gun forces.

A gun registration system can also serve the goals of preventing legal owners from letting their guns get into illegal hands in secondary ways. It can include a requirement that gun transfers, losses and thefts be reported. This will help greatly in investigation of illegal guns seized on the street and of incidents of gun violence.

If firearm registration remains politically infeasible, there is another way to accomplish most of these goals. That is to have insurance, starting at manufacture and requiring continuance of insurer responsibility through all transfers unless replaced by new insurance. Readers who know my writing know I spend most of my time advocating such insurance in the face of massive resistance from both the gun and the insurance industry.

  |   April 21, 2014    2:32 PM ET

SHANGHAI (AP) — A quarter of the police in Shanghai began carrying guns during routine patrols for the first time this week as part of a China-wide boost in police firepower following a deadly mass knifing blamed on Xinjiang separatists.

Ordinary police in China generally don't carry firearms, and none of the officers patrolling the train station in the southwestern city of Kunming on March 1 was armed when at least five assailants began rapidly hacking at victims with long knives.

Steven Hoffer   |   April 21, 2014   11:54 AM ET

Police say a 2-year-old Utah boy passed away Friday after his 3-year-old sister accidentally shot him in the stomach with a rifle.

Authorities in Cache County said that the girl fired a .22 caliber weapon in the deadly incident, KSL reports.

"The gun had been used earlier in the day by the victim's father and was set down after returning home," said Cache County Sheriff's Lt. Mike Peterson, according to KUTV. "The gun was in an unloaded state but did have live rounds in the magazine. We believe the three-year-old had to manipulate the action enough to chamber a live round prior to the incident occurring."

The children's parents were at home when the gun discharged, and the boy's mother immediately called for help. The boy was rushed in critical condition to Logan Regional hospital for surgery, before being flown to Primary Children's Hospital, where he later died, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

While authorities believe that the shooting was accidental, a report will be sent to the county Attorney's Office for review. The county attorney will decide if charges will be filed.

The victim's name was not immediately released.

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  |   April 17, 2014    5:45 PM ET

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Hand over your email address to a political campaign, and typically all you can expect in return is an endless stream of solicitations for money.

Bloomberg Gives Boost to Gun Control

Adam Winkler   |   April 16, 2014    4:07 PM ET

Today's announcement by billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg of the creation of Everytown for Gun Safety, a new political organization committed to electing pro-gun control legislators, is just the boost the gun control movement needs. The failure of Congress to enact reform in the wake of Newtown, despite widespread support in the polls, has discouraged many gun control supporters. When proposals to enhance background checks has 90 percent support but fail even to get through the Senate, gun control advocates have reason to be worried.

That's why Bloomberg's new organization is so important. Background check reform was defeated by the effective political mobilization of gun enthusiasts by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups. The NRA and its allies were able to swamp senators offices with calls, letters, and emails against reform. Senators, especially from swing states, became convinced that voting to improve background checks would stir up single-issue, pro-gun voters on Election Day. Not without reason has the NRA been considered one of the most powerful political players in Washington.

Bloomberg is promising to bring those same types of political operations used by the NRA to the gun control movement. Everytown for Gun Safety will be devoted to identifying and scoring pro-gun control candidates; providing them with contributions and independent expenditures; and turning out the vote for them on election day. Everytown also aims to be an active membership organization for supporters of gun safety laws -- connecting them up in a political network that will promote the sharing of information and additional means of raising funds. With $50 million in financing from Bloomberg, Everytown will have funding unprecedented among gun control groups devoted to political advocacy.

Bloomberg understands that the lack of political mobilization has cost gun control advocates. The NRA is effective because it can turn out voters for its candidates. The same is true of other major effective political groups, like Planned Parenthood. Although the gun control movement has other important political players, like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Gabrielle Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions, Bloomberg is promising to build an active membership organization with a few million members. That's something the gun control movement has never really had.

There are obvious hurdles to any gun control advocacy group. There are a lot of single-issue, pro-gun voters in America but not a lot of single-issue, pro-gun-control voters. Everytown, to be successful, will have to inspire more people who support gun control to make this the sole issue they vote on in primary and general elections. It's also easier for gun rights advocates to mobilize because they are united by a common hobby -- shooting -- and all that it entails. They network at gun ranges, read similar periodicals and websites, and follow the same Twitter feeds. That means that information can reach them easily and they can be political mobilized to call officials or support a given candidate. Gun control advocates aren't united in the same way, which makes mobilization more difficult.

Perhaps Bloomberg's $50 million will help. That's what he's betting on -- and why gun control supporters should be buoyed by today's news.

Samantha Lachman   |   April 16, 2014    9:52 AM ET

Congressional candidate and Montana state Sen. Matt Rosendale (R) makes a point about federal government intrusion by seemingly firing a shot at a drone in a new TV ad released Monday.

Rosendale is one of a handful of Republicans running for Montana's only House seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) as he runs for the Senate. The Billings Gazette reports that Rosendale's ad will run on statewide television.

The ad begins with a drone's eye view of Rosendale standing in the snow. He "shoots down" the drone, which appears to fall out of the sky as the screen flashes with a message reading "signal lost."

"The federal government is too big and too powerful," Rosendale says, adding "spying on our citizens" is "just wrong."

Rosendale's suspicion of the federal government doesn't just relate to drone surveillance. Mother Jones reported in January that he attended a seminar in December featuring a speaker who argues that environmentalists are "domestic terrorists" and that a small group of international banking families surreptitiously control global politics.

The state senator took out $500,000 in personal loans to run his campaign.

The National Republican Congressional Committee put Rosendale "on the radar" under their "Young Guns" program, which supports and mentors both challengers and open-seat candidates.

Montana's primary is set for June 3.

Stupid Rises, Nation Declines

Craig Giesecke   |   April 15, 2014    3:34 PM ET

It takes a little while to read and digest all the numbers in this year's version of the annual Social Progress Index, but it's not difficult to see some things need fixing here in good ol' Murica. But a valid question is whether we can or even want to, given our historically large division in Congress and in the electorate as a whole.

Anymore, we can't agree our ass is on fire even if someone held up a full-length mirror. Part of the reason is we're constantly being given false choices by our major political parties. Like teenagers of years gone by, we're being pushed to buy the whole album just to get one song. If we decide we're, say, pro-choice then we're also told we have to be anti-gun. If we're pro-business, we need to be waving a Bible. About all we can agree on anymore is supporting the troops and that something needs to be done about immigration. One day. Really. We'll get to it. After the election.

All this has led to the rise of the independent voter and increased support for third parties. But, really, this only makes things worse as no one gets any real traction. Third parties can certainly affect election outcomes, but quickly run out of gas in the actual lawmaking process. Ultimately, independent, third-party and single-issue voting remove the heavy lifting from the major political parties because they no longer feel pressured to make compromises.

What's gotten us where we are is the rise of dumbassery. Basically, as voters, we've given our elected leaders pretty much an open road to Idiotville. Not that this hasn't always been an issue, since our nation has a long and proud history of putting various dimwits in elected office (and, yes, including the White House). Matter of fact, our own Founding Fathers realized this and were concerned about the kind of jacklegs that might be elected in the several states. This was one of the reasons given for passage of the 17th Amendment.

But we seemed to have reached a new apogee (or perigee) in our national tolerance for the boneheaded, as if Ernest P. Worrell was suddenly plopped into power. Some enactments are outwardly offensive but, overall, relatively harmless, such as the ongoing effort to make the Bible the official state book of Louisiana. But others, such as the severe abortion clinic rules in Texas have huge and regressive effects on the general health of an entire state, flying in the face of well-established law, history, statistics and social success.

Oh, and our public schools are tanking too (despite the valiant efforts of so many). Creationism is crap. Stop using public money to teach our kids the world is only a few thousand years old. If you want your kid to be stupid, do it in your own church school on your own dime. We won't interfere. Promise.

I'm not sure which is more troublesome -- the idea that some legislators actually think it's a good idea to take us back to 1950 or there is enough electoral clout by a collection of dim-bulb voters to put them in office to do so. Each time I see something about another blatant voter-suppression effort, my jaw clanks to the floor and my eyes bug out like I'm in a Tex Avery cartoon. It's not that I object so much to someone having to show a photo ID before voting (though I do, if they've voted before) -- it's that I have serious issues with curtailment of early voting, poll hours and even allegedly but laughably serious excuses to just blocking the otherwise qualified from casting a ballot.

Similarly, I've learned to avoid anything or anyone referred to (usually by themselves) as a "patriot." This simple word has somehow morphed into a euphemism for "someone who has no clue how poorly the Articles of Confederation worked on a national basis, so we had to come up with a Constitution to keep from flying apart like loose bolts in a blender." The confrontation in Nevada this past week is a good example. Seriously? This isn't 1888, cowpoke. We're a nation with rules and laws and fees and, yes, sometimes they do tread on you. Yes, I own a firearm and, yes, I've raised cattle on family land so don't give me this "heritage" horse hockey. Only the good sense of government agents, faced with a lot of guns Obama didn't take away, prevented things from getting out of hand. Who's the thug now?

We are, these days, being jerked this way and that by a noisy minority that is, thankfully, fading from our national control room. It is not going quietly, nor should we expect so. But I think the more we, as voters, can ignore the noise and demand the same from our elected leaders, the faster the exit process will be. It's the job of our representatives to make tough choices and explain it the best they can. Otherwise, our national decline will continue.

....but it's going to be a rough ride.

Skin Color Is Not a Crime: Why Stop and Frisk Doesn't Work

Evan DeFilippis   |   April 14, 2014    4:41 PM ET

The Inconsistency of Our Outrage

The stop-and-frisk debate is instructive in that it spotlights the inconsistency in outrage that both conservatives and liberals display over the violation of constitutional rights. Many conservatives appear completely insensitive to the empirical reality that stop-and-frisk policies have led to fourth amendment violations against minorities time and time again. They argue that the benefits derived from such policies, in terms of crime and homicide reduction, is valuable enough to outweigh fourth amendment concerns.

In the same breath, however, many of these same conservatives appear scandalized by even the most basic and reasonable gun regulation, arguing that any second amendment violation goes too far, irrespective of the potential public health benefits. Curiously, they appear quite willing to empower the police state with stop-and-frisk policies, insisting that "training" and "discipline" is more than sufficient to inoculate the entire police force against bad judgment and racism, and then, with no apparent irony, turn around and argue that they need assault rifles at home because the police can't be trusted. The second amendment has become sacred, the fourth amendment optional.

Liberals often display a similar inconsistency. They are offended that conservatives can so callously dismiss the constitutional protections of minorities, ignoring data that might point to the empirical benefits of targeted policing, but are quite willing to dismiss second amendment violations if a public health benefit can be shown.

In both cases, the constitution functions as an ideological Rorschach test, you see what you want, and feign outrage when others don't see the same thing as you. If we truly care about human well being, we need to stop shouting "Constitution!" whenever it's convenient, and root our discussion in actual reasons other than "because the Founding Fathers said so."

Stop-and-Frisk Doesn't Work

Asking whether stop-and-frisk is effective is a little bit like asking whether or not kicking a door in is an effective way to get into a house. You may get through the door, but you could have just knocked. Similarly, framing the debate as a yes/no question of whether or not "stop-and-frisk is effective" obscures meaningful cost-benefit analysis by overemphasizing any potential benefit, while ignoring guaranteed costs experienced by minorities. Maybe there are ways to get crime down without kicking the doors in -- this is the question we must address.

We should start by clarifying that nobody really knows how effective stop-and-frisk policies are. It is essentially impossible to parse out the specific contributory effect of stop-and-frisk on crime rates, relative to other police procedures going on at the same time such as computational analysis of crime patterns, "hot spot" policing, and community engagement with citizens. On top of that, controlling for the large number of exogenous variables that have contributed to a significant decline in crime in other cities without the use of stop-and-frisk further makes an effective evaluation of stop-and-frisk essentially impossible.

As Jeffrey Fagan, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, stated , "Anyone who says we know [what] is bringing the crime rate down is really making it up." A paper by Hebrew University's David Weisburd and George Mason's Cody Telep and Brian Lawton takes a similar position, "Unfortunately, we can only speculate on issues of police innovation and the crime decline in New York. New York City did not put an emphasis on evaluation of its policing strategies... the 'bad news' is that we will never know whether what happened in New York was a 'policing miracle.'"

Consider that, in the first quarter of 2013, there was a 50 percent drop in the number of stops in New York City, while remarkable declines in violent crime rates (almost 25 percent) were observed compared to the year before. Furthermore, two years prior to the implementation of stop-and-frisk there was already a 10 percent decline in violent crime. Though this doesn't say anything about the causal effect of stop-and-frisk, it does emphasize the reality of how many different variables are at play, and how difficult it is to extricate the effect of any one of these on the crime rates.

That being said, the most sophisticated analysis on NYPD's stop-and-frisk procedures finds that there is "no evidence that misdemeanor arrests reduced levels of homicide, robbery, or aggravated assaults." An unpublished study by Dennis Smith and Robert Purtell, found "statistically significant and negative effects of the lagged stop rates on rates of robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and homicide and no significant effects on rates of assault, rape, or grand larceny." Further research by Professors Richard Rosenfeld and Robert Fornango found that there are "few significant effects of several SQF [stop, question,and frisk] measures on precinct robbery and burglary rates."

A new study investigated the question of what happens after an arrest resulting from stop-and-frisk occurs. There is a tendency to view arrest as the goal,but new research challenges this idea, pointing out that half of arrests from stop-and-frisk do not lead to a conviction. For those that do, very few are related to violent crime or yield prison sentences longer than thirty days. So not only are we potentially harassing innocent bystanders, when we do make an arrest, it turns out that half of them really are innocent, and the other half aren't the main drivers of crime.

So, it should be clear, at best there is a mild to insignificant effect of stop-and-frisk procedures on crime rates, and even this evaluation is dubious given the impossible task of identifying the specific effect of stop-and-frisk beyond other practices and general trends.

The Cost of Stop-And-Frisk

There is, however, considerable cost to stop-and-frisk procedures. A study conducted by researchers at Columbia University evaluating NYPD'S stop-and-frisk program found that, even after controlling for precinct variability and race-specific estimates of crime participation, persons of African and Hispanic descent were stopped many times more frequently than whites. Even though Blacks and Hispanics make up only 26 and 24 percent respectively of the New York City Population, they represent 51 and 33 percent of all stops. Even after controlling for race-specific crime estimates, Blacks were stopped 23 percent and Hispanics 39 percent more than whites.

The study also found evidence that stops of Blacks and Hispanics were less likely to lead to arrests than stops of White individuals, which suggests that the "reasonable suspicion" standard was relaxed when investigating Blacks and Hispanics. Consider that, between 2004 and 2012, in only 1.5 percent of stops in New York City and 1.1 percent of stops in Philadelphia was a weapon actually found following a frisk. Given that the Supreme Court requires that a suspect be "armed and dangerous" prior to a frisk occurring, one wonders why police are wrong almost all the time. It is clear, then, that whatever arbitrary standard is being used by police departments to determine reasonable suspicion is entirely too permissive in that it is not predictive in any way of actual criminal activity. That reasonable suspicion is informed by social cues and stereotyping, rather than actual suspicious activity, should be more than enough to cast doubt on the efficacy of such policies.

Ironically, police defend the low arrest rate of stop-and-frisk as proof of the deterrence value of such policies. Ostensibly, criminals are now weary about carrying contraband and weapons on their persons for fear of being stopped by the police. One wonders, then, how police establish "reasonable suspicion" so often with Blacks and Hispanics who are apparently no longer acting suspiciously.

All of this, of course, matters greatly for utilitarian calculus. The perceived fairness of police procedures matters greatly for any sober cost-benefit analysis of stop-and-frisk policies. Several findings have shown that citizens who believe that police act legitimately are less likely to act disrespectfully, engage in resistance-behaviors, or have a violent reaction to arrest. A recent study found that police practices such as New York's stop-and-frisk policy inadvertently contribute to higher rates of delinquency by decreasing the legitimacy of police in the eyes of those targeted. For racial and ethnic minorities who experience disproportionate police contact, there is greater reported commitment to deviant peers, less anticipated guilt in future crimes, and higher delinquency frequency.

Another study cautions against a myopic focus on the benefits (instead of the costs) of stop-and-frisk policies: "Given the possible negative impacts of SQF policing, both on citizens who live in such areas...we suspect especially in the long run that this approach will lead to unintended negative consequences...any gains from aggressive police efforts in the short term could lead to long-term increases in offending."

Despite this fact, Paul Larkin in a recent Atlantic piece writes that "reasonable suspicion does not require an officer to be right, or even to be more likely right than wrong, so we should not be surprised if the police often err." However, reasonable suspicion does require, I don't know, reasonable suspicion, prior to a stop. The Supreme Court ruled that a description of race and gender alone "will rarely provide reasonable suspicion justifying a police search and seizure." So, under what definition is it "reasonable" to stop someone when doing so almost never leads to a seizure or arrest? Would it be reasonable to stop someone carrying a 7-11 Big Gulp if doing so leads to an arrest one percent of the time? The point is this: Skin color is not a crime, yet if Larkin and other conservatives are to be sanguine about making it one, we should be unreasonably confident that doing so is making everyone safer. There is simply no evidence to suggest this is the case.

The Alternatives to Stop-And-Frisk

Are there ways to get into a house without kicking down the door? As it turns out, yes. We should start with the door knob.

After being accused by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of engaging in numerous false arrests, excessive force, and unreasonable search and seizures, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) agreed to enter into a consent decree that focused on nine major areas of improvement including supervisory measures to promote Civil Rights Integrity. Since the implementation of this system, recorded crime is down in every police division in the city. 83 percent of residents now say that the LAPD is doing a good or excellent job, and the frequency of serious force has fallen each year since 2004. There is also substantial evidence that the quality and quantity of enforcement activity has improved, evidenced in the doubling of pedestrian and motor vehicle stops since 2002, and a rise in arrests occurring over the same period. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of Black and Hispanic residents also report that the LAPD is doing a good or excellent job.

Another popular approach is called "focused deterrence," which is more-or-less the opposite of stop-and-frisk. This approach operates from the standpoint that there is a small proportion of young men responsible for the majority of violent crime, and it seeks to target these individuals for criminal prosecution. This approach was responsible for Boston's decline in its homicide rate in the 1990s, and was successfully adapted to challenge violent crime in High Point, North Carolina. This policy has the added benefit of bolstering community-police relations because it avoids harassing innocent bystanders, and places emphasis on actual criminals.

An advocate of stop-and-frisk, Paul Larkin writes that, "If the stop-question-and-frisk technique is effective, then the surest way to discriminate against African Americans is to abandon the use of that approach in drug-infested black-majority neighborhoods. Why? Because 99-plus percent of the residents of those neighborhoods are not involved in drug trafficking. Denying them the benefit of a worthwhile law-enforcement technique would only worsen their plight."

There could not be a more clear demonstration of Larkin's preoccupation with the benefits of stop-and-frisk, with zero consideration of the cost. We can see from the recent mayoral election and widespread criticism of stop-and-frisk policies that many African Americans believe that these procedures are racist and humiliating. Instead of pretending that humiliation is the cost of security, we owe it to vulnerable populations among high-crime communities to find law enforcement practices that preserve dignity and security. Thankfully, these alternatives exist. There doesn't have to be a trade-off between effectiveness and justice, nor are citizens asking for there to be one. We should have both, and we can have both.

Chris Gentilviso   |   April 10, 2014   10:21 AM ET

A man accidentally shot himself at an NRA event on Tuesday, the (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times reported.

According to the paper, Bethlehem, Pa. police said the injury was non-life threatening, and the man was taken to a local hospital for treatment. His name was not released, police added.

The Express-Times noted that the program was held at the Lower Saucon Township gun range. In addition to being put on by the NRA, the Bethlehem Police Department also helped host the event, according to the paper.

The accident arrives about a month after National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre spoke at CPAC 2014, warning that the only way to fight back against infringements on gun rights was to join or donate to the NRA. He vowed that the organization would "not go quietly into the night" on the issue.

"There is no greater freedom than to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want," he said.