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John Rosenthal has his knickers in quite a twist. He’s the co-founder of Massachusetts-based Stop Handgun Violence and is the man responsible for the iconic 252 foot long anti-gun billboard which used to face the Mass. Pike near Fenway Park. Unfortunately his craving for filthy lucre recently overcame his principles and he sold the parking garage where the sign was mounted. He thought he would be able to keep spreading his message (for free no less) as four media companies had agreed to donate space on 36 billboards to the cause . . .

Unfortunately…well, I’ll let him state his case (unless otherwise noted all quotes are from the SHV press release to which I won’t link):

The gun lobby engaged in ruthless and relentless pressure tactics against Texas-based Clear Channel and its Boston based investor Bain Capital, flooding its corporate headquarters with phone calls and emails and threatening to launch a nationwide boycott on advertising on Clear Channel billboards and radio stations.

Hmm, sort of like Moms Demand Action threatening to boycott Starbucks. And Target. And Kroger. And Staples. Except gunnies were more effective. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; this is the difference between true grassroots activism and Astro-Turf “activism.”

As RF pointed out in one of his pieces:

Attributing gun rights gains to a “gun lobby” marginalizes gun owners seeking to exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms without government infringement. It makes them seem like sheep blindly following men motivated by arrogance, greed and a desire for personal power.

The antis, with their paid flacks, shills and armed bodyguards just can’t seem to wrap their brains around the concept. They also have difficulty with the whole “First Amendment” concept, as Joel demonstrates:

“The special interest gun industry believes the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, but the First Amendment is meaningless,” said John Rosenthal, co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence.

I suppose trying to intimidate corporations into giving up their freedom of association is somehow different. Either way, however, if antis like Joel read the Second Amendment the way they read the First they would be clamoring for mandatory gun-ownership not more restrictions. But getting back to Joel’s plaint: Large numbers of law-abiding citizens expressing their displeasure with corporations deciding to give an anti-gun group free billboard space does not a First Amendment violation make.

“The gun industry is more interested in selling guns and protecting the rights of kids, criminals and mentally ill people to buy guns undetected than the lives of the innocent people who ultimately become their victims. Congress, which has been equally intimidated into submission, stands by while we lose 83 Americans every day to gun violence.”

This is partly true. The gun industry, like the car industry or the insurance industry or the hamburger industry is interested in selling their lawful products to lawful customers. And when you and your brothers at the American Academy of Pediatrics define “kids” as aged 15 – 19 you can’t turn around and whine that the “gun industry” is selling guns to “kids”.

As for “criminals and mentally ill people” buying their guns “undetected”, they were doing that before the ’68 GCA was passed, before the Brady Bill was passed, and will continue to do so even if your “universal background checks” are passed along with the universal registration that would be required to close whatever “loophole” you are going to call it when the government doesn’t track every gun, everywhere, from manufacture to destruction. This is the nature of criminals; they break the law.

And in the case of background checks and registration, remember that since 1968 and Haynes v. United States (390 U.S. 85) criminals can’t be required to register their guns!

Now let’s look at that “we lose 83 Americans every day to gun violence” meme, shall we? That’s 30,295 people per year lost to “gun violence.” I have to assume that, unlike Mayor Mike’s No More Names “gun violence victims” list you aren’t including one of the Boston Marathon bombers, nor are you including criminal suspects shot by police or in lawful self-defense by armed citizens. (The Washington Examiner found that “1 in 12 on Bloomberg’s gun victims list are crime suspects”.)

And since you specify people killed by “gun violence” you must not be including accidental shootings which while they may be acts of negligence are hardly acts of violence. Finally, since numerous studies have shown that suicide rates are independent of method (i.e. restricting access to guns may reduce the rate of firearm suicides but has no effect on overall suicide rates) we can eliminate suicides as well.

Hopping over to the ever popular CDC’s WISQARS website, we find that for the 5 years from 2009 – 2013 (the last year they have numbers for) we have averaged 32,513.8 total deaths from firearms annually, or 89 per day. Removing the suicides, accidents and legal interventions, but leaving in “undetermined intent” however, leaves us with 11,547.6 annually, or 31.6 per day. Too many? Yes, even 1 homicide is too many, but since we have over 5,100 non-firearm related homicides a year over the same time frame I would say that we have a problem with homicides, not with guns.

But wait, that is one of the costs associated with guns, what about the benefits associated with guns? Briefly, DGUs save at least 25,000 lives a year, more than twice as many as are lost to CGUs. For the details behind the numbers you can check out my TTAG piece The Costs and Benefits of the Second Amendment – Without the Benefits.

But those aren’t the only numbers Joel has made up; in his very last paragraph he boasts:

Since 1994 when Stop Handgun Violence began its work and installed the first billboard, the number of gun deaths in Massachusetts has dropped 63%.

Again, you gotta love the CDC, whose numbers show Joel for the unmitigated liar that he is:

This chart shows that, from a peak of 309 in 1994, “gun deaths” fell to 213 in 2013. (Here’s a hint, a 62% drop would mean they went from 309 to 114.)


So what was the actual “percent change”? Here’s another chart which shows the cumulative percentage change each year from 1995 – 2013:


Well Joel, you hit 43% in 2000, but then mostly lost ground after that. As various pols and bigwigs have said over the years, Joel: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Quit trying to make up facts, and quit trying to muzzle your opposition by appealing to the First Amendment.

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  1. I had no idea the First Amendment guaranteed my right to free billboard space to use as I see fit. I’d better put in a call to Clear Channel to get my free sign!

    • Now we just need to twist the blade a little by buying up his old billboards and writing the truth on them.

  2. The wonders of the internet. Without the ability to access this type of information, all we would have is the lies sold as truth by the old media and universities and their message of surrender to their cult of government worship.

    What an insane and hopeless place that would be.

  3. “Quit trying to make up facts, and quit trying to muzzle your opposition by appealing to the First Amendment.”

    How else could he win the argument then? Oh that’s right, he just wants a monologue.

    They also can’t wrap their brains around true grass roots activism because their fragile psyche needs that defense mechanism called denial. Everyone has to be wrong and manipulated because they are always right and superior. Common mindset of totalitarians.

  4. An attempt at clarification:

    “The gun lobby engaged in ruthless and relentless pressure tactics against ….”

    The “gun lobby” is a label used by the left for the legal gun owners of the country.

  5. So the “gun lobby” responded to his agitprop with even more effective agitprop of its own? Gee, ‘ya think? This is yet another example of just how badly the gun-control movement is failing. It’s strident moral indignation is increasingly falling on deaf ears. I’d hate to be the Clear Chanel flack you ok’ed the free use of all those billboards for a narrow focus political message. I’m sure there are billboards in rural Alaska. But, then, perhaps not.

  6. Some interested party might do a search on Guidestar and Charity Navigator for these faux non-profits, and check for current IRS Form 990s, who are on the Board, who donates…something tells me these astroturf groups share same, and a little bit of googling will probably show the same domain names, or type ‘free hosting’.

    You can tell a lot of these are simply shell’s using the same web-design, same “donated” PR-firm advisors, and the same connections with award committees who blow one anothers horn, for marketing hype. Toss in grants and FEDGOV support from OFA subsidiaries and there is likely to be a cozy insider group conflict of interest, amongst the same few names of rich progtards and fellow travelers. There is quite an industry in the “social justice” consulting biz, where non-profits give to one anotger, or out of community development block grants from state r fed, that get laundered, for completely different and questionable political purposes.

    Depending on the type of organization, excessive political activity results in loss of tax free status, and a 5% income tax, for disqualification. Another dirty secret in the charitable world is how many times these “foundations” are simply shells set up to employ family members, with high overhead costs, vs the real benefit claimed for IRS tax free status. An extension of same scam in the “green-washing” of gov grants in enviro world, including money directed to VCs and funders on Solyndra type deals, to pay them out in early rounds, and later how the Fedgov takes the hit on the bk, and vulture caps that come in and by it on pennies on the dollar…lot of the same names behind favorite community organizer pet projects, too…

    Follow the money, discover the networks…

    Might be a story that keeps on giving, for the ambitious investigative reporter…

    • Well, said. And then there’s the sue-and-settle scam where an activist organization colludes with like minded activists within government regulatory agencies. They file a suit and the agency activists quickly settle and change policy to align with the activist organization’s agenda. That was behind the confrontation at the Bundy ranch.

    • PS: that pay to play Junior Propagandist story eventually got picked up by Fox….

      Gaining the writer, blogger, and partners page views and creds…

      A way to uses the Left’s mendaciously dishonest business model, at Media Matters, PuffHo’s, Vox, and Politico against them, ala “Trust Me I’m Lying”…

      If TTAG ain’t getting Bruce and Dean and Nicks outstanding stats based insight access fast enough, may I suggest feeding useful tidbits to those who need news, that has broader reach, as writers for thd biggz, SE Cupp, Dan Loesch, Megyn Kelley…

      The Truth wins, but only if it makes it OUT of the gun blog ecosystem…

      ‘Trade it up the chain, baby…!”

      • An example being F&F….remember how David Codrea at Gun Examiner and Mike Vanderboegh at Sipsey Street broke that, w/ anon whistleblower? It was going no where , except in gunny world, including RF who was in early with his own interesting side story on Los Zetas connexiones….

        The WAPO guys got squat, then Sharyl Atkisson was invited in, as a trusted major media reportr, and the rest was, as the say, historic….

        ‘Can’t stop the signal, Mal….’

        But you can help it get heard, faster…keep up the great work, TTAG!

  7. “we lose 83 Americans every day to gun violence”

    Maybe so, but how many of those 83 are really a true loss to society? In “criminal shoots criminal” violence, there is no loss. We maybe to the general stability of society, in where, any “murdering” contributes to the instability of society. But the value of that particular person? Yeah, no loss.

    If you choose to stick your hand into the mousetrap for free cheese, and you get your neck broken in the process…

  8. The First Amendment has nothing to do with private citizens or corporate bodies attempting to influence whether someone should exercise their speech.
    It is the Government restriction to limit speech that the 1A covers.
    This is the most mis-accused violation of rights. No one can be forced to provide a platform for others speech, but one may convince others not to provide a platform by threat of boycott. All are free to decide by their own interest.
    I am free to tell my customers to F off, but if choose not too, they are not violating my 1A rights because of the consequence of my speech.

  9. Here’s another line to add to the chart at the end: 1998 when Massachusetts passed a plethora of gun-control bills. What happens to the next 10 years? What’s that? homicides when UP?

    Homicides/crime only went down AFTER Massachusetts changed their policing strategies (not more gun-control).
    Note also: Massachusetts (an A grade state by Brady Campaign) has a pretty similar homicide rate as Oregon (a D grade state). And until MA changed their police tactics, had a higher rate than Oregon.

    (Note: TTAG’s when are you going to do an article on Oregons gun-control UBC getting rammed thru the state senate there? 94% of those in support of SB941 got to testify. Only 19% of those opposed to UBCs got to testify. There were about 19 in favor vs ~84 opposed)

    • “Note: TTAG’s when are you going to do an article on Oregons gun-control UBC getting rammed thru the state senate there? 94% of those in support of SB941 got to testify. Only 19% of those opposed to UBCs got to testify. There were about 19 in favor vs ~84 opposed”

      You seem to have an idea of what went on with that.

      Write it up and submit it to TTAG management.

  10. “The gun industry is more interested in selling guns and protecting the rights of kids, criminals and mentally ill people to buy guns undetected…”

    Since kids, criminals and the mentally ill have no right to buy guns at all, undetected or not, the “gun industry” (AKA NRA) cannot be said to be interested in “protecting” these nonexistent “rights.”

  11. Poor baby. Can’t get free advertising? That’s NOT how the “free” market works? Who knew…

  12. “And in the case of background checks and registration, remember that since 1968 and Haynes v. United States (390 U.S. 85) criminals can’t be required to register their guns!”

    While this was a good article, it’s worth noting that that particular claim is no longer true. According to GunCite:

    “For a brief period, the Supreme Court held in 1968 (Haynes v. U.S., 390 U.S. 85) that felons were exempt from federal and state laws regarding registration because it violated their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. In other words, only people who were not criminals could be prosecuted for failing to register a firearm or found to be in possession of an unregistered firearm. However, in 1971, (U.S. v. Freed, 401 U.S. 601) the Court held that due to changes in the National Firearms Act of 1968 the law no longer violated the 5th Amendment rights of felons.” [1]

    We don’t need any anti-gunners trying to catch us in the act of getting something wrong like that. Best to nip it in the bud.


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