Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Art of Connoisseurship, or How The Art Institute of Chicago’s Titian Painting was Discovered to be a Work by an “Imitator.”

By John P. Walsh

“Allegory of Venus and Cupid,” c. 1600, Imitator of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, Italian, c. 1485/90-1576), oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 61 1/8 in. (129.9 x 155.3 cm).
Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, 1943.90.

This pleasant if heavily-restored late 16th century allegorical painting in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago is now called “Allegory of Venus and Cupid” and dated to around 1600. Attributed to an “imitator” of Titian it remains today in museum storage (“Not on Display”). When this same painting was “rediscovered” around 1930 it was hailed as a Titian masterpiece and over the next 15 years was talked of that way in the general press and in some quarters of the art press. It delighted crowds who came to see it hang on the walls of The Art Institute of Chicago and The Cleveland Museum of Art. Called then “The Education of Cupid” and dated to the 1550s, it was compared favorably with Titian’s famous allegorical subject paintings in Paris’s Louvre and in Rome’s Galleria Borghese. The painting, through the Great Depression and World War II, was labeled “Titian,” but among expert connoisseurs there existed a longstanding dismissal of that high attribution ever since its first known “resurfacing” in the mid1830s in Scotland at Gosford House.

In Italian his name is Tiziano Vecellio, but he is famously known in English as Titian (1485-1576). He was part of a family of artists who, previously in the 13th and 14th centuries in Italy, had been civic leaders such as mayors, magistrates, and notaries. Offspring of two Vecellio brothers in the 15th century became artists. One of those brothers was ambassador to Venice and his grandsons became Venetian-trained painters (the family had a timber trade there). The younger grandson was the great Titian. Titian became the leading painter in Venice and an influential artist throughout 16th century Italy. His cousin Cesare Vecellio trained in Titian’s workshop and in spite of the fact that other Vecellio cousins and their sons became artists and were allowed to use the appellation “di Tiziano” which turned some heads – they, along with later followers of Titian, are now considered artistic mediocrities.

Titian: Self portrait, c. 1550, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Titian: Self portrait, c. 1550, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Today the painter of the Art Institute of Chicago’s allegory entitled “Allegory of Venus and Cupid” is only identified as an “imitator” of Titian. Its allegorical motifs share similarities with Titian’s and this is perhaps partly why this Old Master by an unknown follower of Titian was mistaken for the master himself when it resurfaced on the art market in 1927. Called then “The Education of Cupid” and dated to the 1550s, it traded back and forth to the dealer for almost a decade until it was bought in 1936 by a well-connected Chicago couple who collected 16th century Venetian paintings. The “Wemyss ‘Allegory’” (named for its former British owner, Lord Wemyss) came to Chicago out of what amounted to be a Scottish attic. It gained ready acclaim as a rediscovered Titian and since its subject was reminiscent of Titian’s “Allegory of Marriage” (1533) in the Louvre and a Titian subject allegory in the Galleria Borghese, the Wemyss “Allegory” in Chicago was hailed as completing a triumvirate of Titian’s greatest allegorical compositions. The problem was that the Chicago Titian was not a Titian at all – although it took about 10 years for that fact to gain modern acceptance. After the purchase, the new owners immediately lent their Titian to The Art Institute to mount on its gallery walls next to the collector couple’s Tintoretto, Veronese, and G.-B. Moroni. The museum eventually acquired the Wemyss “Allegory” in 1943, but not before it toured The Cleveland Museum of Art during their “Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition” in 1936 and was viewed with enthusiasm as a Titian.  The collector purchase and subsequent loan to the Art Institute was front page news in Chicago. The director of the museum at the time, Robert Harshe, compared the work in importance to only two others in the Art Institute at that time – El Greco’s “Assumption of the Virgin” (1577-79) and Rembrandt’s “Girl at the Open Half Door” (1645).

Soon after its acquisition by The Art Institute the Titian attribution was loudly critiqued in print and eventually dropped. The subject of the painting is of a girl who appears before Venus to be initiated into the mysteries of Love. At the girl’s right are Venus and the boy Cupid with an arrow. In the background one satyr raises a basket with two doves and another satyr raises a bundle of fruit. Allegories were popular in Italian Renaissance art to convey various social, political, economic and religious messages using historical and mythological figures. However, this painting’s figures appear to be derivative of specific Titian works. Further, it possesses little of the technical brilliance or psychological revelations found in Titian’s work such as in “Triple Mask or Allegory of Prudence” (c. 1570, London, National Gallery).  For instance, Titian’s imitator gives the figure of the girl the same dramatic hand gesture found in Titian’s “Venus with a Mirror” (c. 1555, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. ) or, even earlier, “The Penitent Magdalene” (1531-33, Florence, Palazzo Pitti) insofar as the girl’s skyward gaze and flowing hair. What most connoisseurs recognized by 1945 – in addition to the painting’s derivative character of well-known Titian works – was what they called its “very modern” execution – precisely, its sharp color contrasts and figurative forms that only developed after Titian’s time. Connoisseurs further noted that Titian always differentiated sharply between hair and ornament and that his female figures’ hair is neatly braided – whereas in the Wemyss “Allegory” the hair is “in a mass.”  Characteristics such as these pointed to the picture being less related to authentic Titians in Paris and Rome and more to ones attributed dubiously, even spuriously, to Titian in Munich and at the Durazzo Palace in Genoa. Yet this inauthenticity of Chicago’s Wemyss “Allegory” could have been questioned right at the start of its Chicago appearance in 1936 if the museum adhered more closely to the historical connoisseurship.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe by Louis Kolitz (German, 1845-1914), London, National Portrait Gallery.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe by Louis Kolitz (German, 1845-1914), London, National Portrait Gallery.

Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th century.

Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th century.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe (British, 1825-1896) and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle (Italian, 1819-1897) had seen all three of the spuriously attributed Titians in Munich, Genoa, and, at the time, Gosford House which was now in Chicago. It was well known the pair excluded all three from their Titian catalog except to note that they were imitations which had been notably damaged and restored. Chicago museum research in the late 1930s was also aware of Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s attributive work for they cited them in official publications on the Wemyss “Allegory,” but they overlooked their conclusions. With the museum’s acquisition of the Wemyss “Allegory” in 1943 Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s negative attribution for it was no longer ignored or denied.  About its reworking in England one tempting and likely wishful speculation was that the Wemyss “Allegory” was restored by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) but that claim is unsubstantiated. Further facts contextualized in the deft historical hands of modern connoisseurship left the Wemyss “Allegory” out in the Titianesque cold as an imitator. In the case of the Chicago painting it was by historical comparison with compositional arrangements in known Titians that the compositional arrangements in the Munich and Chicago paintings were deemed by Crowe and Cavalcaselle to be done by imitators. Historically for Titian it would be nonsensical or “unique” for Titian to have manipulated the figures in that way at that time. By the mid1940s the Chicago painting was searching for a new name attribution, although Crowe and Cavalcaselle did not give it one. The notion that it was done by Damiano Mazza, an obscure 16th century artist and student of Titian, was proposed but later dismissed.

Chatsworth, Duke of Devonshire: Van Dyck, Sketchbook.

Chatsworth, Duke of Devonshire: Van Dyck, Sketchbook.

Rome, Galleria Borghese: Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit,” attributed to Paolo Veronese.

Rome, Galleria Borghese: Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit, attributed to Paolo Veronese.

Some of the confusion over the attribution to Titian of the Wemyss “Allegory” is based on erring connections made using erring extant evidence. For example, the conjecture of Vienna School-trained art historian of Venetian art Hans Tietze (Czech, 1880-1954) that a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) which Tietze wrongly believed was made at Chatsworth House of a painting once attributed to Titian was a sketch that shared similar motifs with the Wemyss “Allegory” is his thin thread for possible attribution to Titian. It can be argued that the Wemyss “Allegory” shares very little with the Van Dyck sketch except for the satyr lifting a basket and, further, the painting in question which Van Dyck sketched is no longer attributed to Titian and remains in the Galleria Borghese as a minor “Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit” attributed to Paolo Veronese. It is in Rome where Van Dyck must have made his sketch, not England, and it was there he mislabeled it as Titian – and this misleading evidence became the key to prompt a connoisseur’s train of thought.

Paris, Louvre: “Allegory of Marriage”, Titian, 1533. It has found repetition for centuries.

Paris, Louvre: “Allegory of Marriage”, Titian, 1533.
It has found repetition for centuries.

One persuasive conclusion on attribution today for the Wemyss “Allegory” was offered by Hans Tietze’s wife, the historian of renaissance and baroque art, Erika Tietze-Conrat (1883-1958). She believed that the Art Institute painting resides in a pool of works done by assistants and imitators who combined varied elements of Titian’s allegories as found in the Louvre’s “Allegory of d’Avalos” (the aforementioned “Allegory of Marriage”) and the Borghese’s “Education of Cupid.” Those known Titians were purported by Erwin Panofsky (German, 1892-1968) to be nuptial paintings – and Tietze-Conrat postulates that numerous reproductions were made by these followers so to create nuptial paintings for their patrons to suit their needs. The derivative works shared the intimacy of a private format with a recognizable cast of 16th century depictions of mythological actors and the evocation of a Titianesque mood. Today the Art Institute of Chicago has renamed their Wemyss “Allegory” as “Allegory of Venus and Cupid,” dated it to “around 1600,” and removed Titian and every other named attribution. Attribution has been returned to the term that connoisseurs Crowe and Cavalcaselle gave the painting in 1881 – that is, “imitator.” “The execution here is very modern,” the pair wrote in their Life and Times of Titian that year, “It is greatly injured, but was apparently executed by some imitator of Titian.”

NOTES –

“first known “resurfacing” in the mid1830s in Scotland at Gosford House” – http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/46314?search_no=6&index=4 ,retrieved Dec 29, 2014.

On Titian and Vecellio family – Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance & Mannerist Art, Volume II, edited by Jane Turner, Macmillan Reference Limited, 2000, p. 1695.

For provenance since 1835 – see http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/46314?search_no=6&index=4 ,retrieved Dec 29, 2014.

“ready acclaim as a rediscovered Titian…”; “lent their Titian to The Art Institute to mount……”; “Cleveland… ‘Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition’ in 1936…” –A Great Titian,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago (1907-1951) Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jan., 1937), p. 8; “Famed Titian Work Acquired by Chicagoans,” Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 28; “The Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester Gift,” Daniel Catton Rich, Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Mar., 1930), pp. 29-31 and 40.  The Chicago collectors were Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester, a museum Vice-President and lumber and paper manufacturer.

“…director of the museum… compared the work in importance to El Greco’s ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ and Rembrandt’s ‘Girl at the Open Half Door’” – “Famed Titian Work Acquired by Chicagoans,” Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 28.

“….Allegories were popular in Italian Renaissance art…”-  http://www.iub.edu/~iuam/online_modules/iowc/b_003.html,retrieved December 29, 2014.

little of the technical brilliance or psychological revelations found in…Triple Mask…”H. E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian: Complete Edition, vol. 2, The Portraits, Phaidon, New York, p. 50.

“its ‘very modern’ execution”; “in a mass” – The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

“It was widely known the pair excluded all three from their Titian catalog…” – “A Great Titian Goes to Chicago,” Art News 35, 5 (1936), p.15 (ill.).

“Chicago museum research in the late 1930s was aware of Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s attributive work… overlooked their conclusions…” – Footnote #4, The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

“…restored by Sir Joshua Reynolds…” – The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

 “done by Damiano Mazza…” Ibid., p. 270.

Conjecture of Hans Tietze; Erika Tietze-Conrat’s postulation –  Ibid., p. 271.

“the execution here is very modern… It is greatly injured, but was apparently executed by some imitator of Titian.” – Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Life and Times of Titian, London, 1881,
II, p. 468.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Nation Divided: Violent Crime and the New “Renaissance of Gun Ownership” in the USA.

26LETTERS-popup

By John P. Walsh
updated February 14, 2018;
updated October 2, 2015. 

Feb. 14, 2018 – Parkland high school shooting: At least 17 killed, suspect in custody, Florida sheriff says.

On a typical day in the United States, not all firearms (a.k.a. guns) are used for “hunting,” “sport” or to “protect one’s family” as stated by President Obama in his press conference on October 1, 2015 at the White House in the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua College in Roseburg, Oregon. At last report, 10 people were killed (including the gunman) and 7 others critically wounded in this  school shooting, the 44th mass killing incident in the USA just in 2015 so far. Since the tragic and disturbing Columbine massacre in 1999 (13 killed; 21 wounded) there have cropped up in intervals of about one per week mass shootings in the USA, not all of them school shootings, that have gained intense media attention: the Fort Hood shooting (November 5, 2009), the Gabby Giffords shooting (January 8, 2011), the Aurora movie theater shooting (July 20, 2012), the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting (Aug. 6, 2012), the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting (Dec. 14, 2012), the Navy Yard shooting (Sept. 16, 2013), the Kansas Jewish Community Center shooting (April 14, 2014), the Charleston Church shooting (June 18, 2015), the Chattanooga recruiting center shooting (July 16, 2015) and now the Roseburg community college shooting. In the wake of this carnage, the mainstream media coverage felt a bit different this time – almost as if this kind of thing could have been happening for the first time – or that they were somehow having to start over in their approach. Reporters seemed to embody a deeper scrutiny of, or despair at, this latest school massacre only four weeks since the murder by gunfire of TV reporter 24-year-old Alison Parker and TV cameraman 27-year-old Adam Ward In Virginia.

A shot from the shooting of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

A shot from the shooting of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on August 26, 2015.

There will be gun control in this nation – either by default or design. A Pew Research Center study released on August 13, 2015, shows a large majority of Americans in support of several specific gun policy proposals including 79% who favor laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns; 70% who support the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales; 57% who support a ban on assault-style weapons and 85% of Americans – including large majorities of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (79%) – who favor expanded background checks. President Obama hinted in his press conference at another finding in the August Pew Research study when he said,  “I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.” His comment was a not-too-subtle reference to the NRA (The National Rifle Association) which the Pew Study finds the public has some changing opinions about.

FIXED GUNS

While mass shooting crimes are, statistically, a snippet of America’s real field of action for gun violence, they are an especially destructive form in itself and its repercussions for the wider community. In addition to a national discussion about the mind or “profile” of a mass murderer (usually devolving into mental health concerns and/or ignorance about a reliable profile), the impact on the local or national community is less explored. While President Obama predicted a routine counter-punch to his gun control comments, it came swiftly, reported by media outlets such as WGN Chicago as a top story featuring gun-rights advocate Mike Huckabee who stated the president was wrong for trying to “exploit” the Oregon shooting and that another mass killing should have no serious effect on the public debate about gun ownership in the USA. Yet the impacts of any mass shooting is never as simple as anybody’s politics. Deleterious effects from the gun violence understandably extend to the victims and their families, but also beyond them. Based on the level of shock associated with these shootings, the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are not only a consequence for more numerous victims and their families but the psychological consequences of directly experiencing or witnessing any part of a mass shooting, especially for children, is often serious and long-lasting. Even extremely realistic school-shooting simulations known as “active-shooter” drills staged by local law enforcement agencies using school grounds and staff and students as actors and thought to be the best way to help first responders prepare for gun-related violence on campus are censured as largely counterproductive by psychologists and other security specialists because the mere simulation of gun violence causes psychological distress among students and their families and may actually make death tolls worse. 

A student actor participating the extremely realistic

A student actor participating in the extremely realistic “active shooter drills” staged by law enforcement on campus grounds around the nation. Advocates say it helps first responders better prepare; Opponents say that it may actually make death tolls worse.

A 2013 report cited 547 innocent lives were taken between 1983 and 2012 in 78 public mass shootings. From 2013 into 2015 there were in schools an additional 142 mass shootings and 25 of them suicides or attempted suicides. Everyday in America guns are used to kill about 80 people and wound 300 more – that’s about 560 murders by guns from one Sunday Night Football game to the next week (over 2,000 more are wounded by guns each week). For accidental gun shootings,  3 people die and another 30 are wounded everyday in America.Callagy-Law-Trauma-Center

GunShow

In 2011, 68% of homicides in the USA were gun crimes, even though these and all other crimes have dropped by almost 40% since 1993. Americans, however, continue to view gun crime as a pervasive and even worsening problem. In 2011, 11,068 people died in gun homicides in the USA – but that number reflects a steep decline in gun homicides since the 1980’s and 1990’s. Despite the welcome decline the perceived relationship of guns and murder endures. Statistics support a conclusion that where there are more guns and access to them there is more gun violence, including murder. After covering mass shootings, media turns to cover gun homicides for the local newscast which logically are found in more densely-populated urban areas where there is a likely concentration of guns. Mass shootings frequently occur in rural or suburban settings outside this logical gun-murder mode.

Yet each year most gun deaths in the USA are not mass shootings or homicides but suicides. In 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19,990 people died by suicide with a firearm. It has been that way at least since the 1990’s. Does more access to more guns lead to more suicides? That gun suicides are less common in states where criminal and mental illness background checks are mandated points to, if not a direct link, then an approach that works like one. Guns kill in three ways: homicide, suicide, or by accident. It is obvious that by having a gun the risk of having an accident increases – but what of homicide and suicide? Suicide attempts by guns are almost always fatal while attempts by other methods cause death only about 6% of the time. This data confirms the firearm’s mortal effectiveness and as the nihilist of second thoughts.

The Suicide by Édouard Manet, c. 1880, Foundation E.G. Bührle, Zurich, Switzerland.

The Suicide by Édouard Manet, c. 1880, Foundation E.G. Bührle, Zurich, Switzerland.

To plumb arrest statistics it is clear that it is not as much a criminal’s race, age, or creed that a citizen may fear – but his gender. Males are arrested for 75% of all crimes. They appear to be adept in all categories: from violent crime to property crime to every manner of assault. Access to a gun aids his criminal facility. For example, in a survey of battered women nearly 72% reported that guns had been used against them and to threaten to kill them. For women who are abused (and not killed) 16% live in homes with a gun. Abused women that were killed, about half lived in a home with a gun. One might ask, perhaps facetiously, why gun control does not simply extend to the USA’s male population? Stats that suggest access to a gun is a risk factor for homicide in abusive relationships is beginning to be taken up by law enforcement in police interviews with battered women.

abuse

We know mass shootings are a small percentage of the gun homicide problem but it may be surprising that their frequency and impact have changed little in the last 35 years. To focus public safety on the mentally ill in reaction to these horrific gun crimes is likely to produce small effect on their recurrence. Several studies have shown that while the mentally ill require good health care (and locating funding is a struggle) they are responsible for only about 5% of crimes and not ones normally involving guns. One positive outcome to gun violence – if only based on a misconception – is to provide better health care for the mentally ill. During the Great Recession of 2008 budget cuts for mental health amounted to almost $2 billion. Drug and alcohol abusers engage in violent acts seven times more than the mentally ill and funded substance abuse programs should be important to gun safety advocates. A sad statistic is that the link between gun violence and domestic batterers is far greater than to those with mental illness. Another sad statistic is that of those 80 people killed by guns each week in the USA, 24 of them are children and that gun shootings, after accidents, are the leading cause of death of children in the USA.

In 2009 there existed an estimated 310 million civilian guns (handguns, rifles, shotguns) in the USA with 2012 sales adding $6 billion more. Buying fever has hiked up privately-owned firearms by about 40% since 1994 when there were 192 million guns. Actual concentrations of firearms in the USA is not known – about half of Americans report at least one gun in their home – but the prodigious amount of guns results in a one-to-one gun ownership rate for every citizen in the country. However gun ownership in the USA is heavily concentrated among older white men. Depending on which side of the gun debate one is on, 310 million guns is more than a sufficient stockpile or may not yet be enough. The fact is that the USA has more guns per capita than any land mass in the world. While some poor countries (in Central America, for example) have higher gun homicide rates than the USA, among “developed” nations no other country has more guns per person in private hands nor a higher gun homicide rate than in the United States. The gun industry is prospering and, to paraphrase Charles Erwin Wilson (Defense Secretary under Dwight Eisenhower): “What is good for Sturm, Ruger & Co. is good for the nation.” There is some truth to it. In 2012, the gun industry added $31.6 billion to the U.S. economy due to job creation and new sales taxes. The gun industry also employs about 98,750 workers and another 111,000 workers as suppliers and retailers including mega gun seller Walmart. While recreational use seems to be driving record sales, there is a darker side to one gun advocate’s recent proclamation that “the (gun) industry has entered a golden era, a renaissance of gun ownership that transcends a dedicated segment of Americans who consider firearms a natural part of their lives.”

Attendees at an NRA meeting.

Attendees at an NRA meeting.

Barring an unimaginable catastrophic gun crime event (or a series of them), the prospects for further gun control in the USA remain bleak. Fewer than half of Americans think that gun laws should be stricter, although another half believes they are too strict already or just right. In a culture where money increasingly defines free speech and second amendment rights are permitted liberal construction, an incredibly prosperous gun industry as well as at least half the population of the United States will not be laying down its arms any time soon. Gun safety measures may have a more receptive audience than attempts at gun control, including background checks but there is also a “mindset” associated with some elements of gun-rights advocates that may divide the gun owners’ attitudes about certain potential gun control measures. This is part of what President Obama was getting at when he asked law-abiding gun owners to reflect on “the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.” An extreme and controversial example of this mindset is the so-called NRA embrace of “insurrectionist ideology” that asserts that the intent of the second amendment is to permit American citizens to shoot and kill federal agents and law enforcement officers in the event that they believe those agents are attempting to facilitate or impose some form of government tyranny. On the NRA specifically, the American people remain divided: 40% say the NRA is too influential over gun laws while 52% say it has too little or the right amount of influence. While positions on the NRA grow entrenched and polarized, there is slight but significant movement on another issue pertaining to guns. In 2015 Americans did an about face on the question as to whether it was more important to control gun ownership (50%) or protect the right of Americans to own guns (47%). Once more as 57% of whites favor gun rights over gun control, 75% of blacks and 72% of Hispanics favor gun control.  Changing demographics as well as marginally shifting overall American opinion on gun control may be the sliver of hope President Obama perceived when he said in his October 1 news conference: “It will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision. If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”

President Barack Obama speaks at his press conference, Oct. 1, 2015.

President Barack Obama speaks at his press conference, Oct. 1, 2015.

While several polls found that over 60% of the public thinks background checks are a good idea, neither the gun industry nor many gun owners want that extra burden. In an almost $32 billion a year industry ($6 billion in sales) background checks would be a major government intrusion. As long as the number of gun fatalities is status quo– that is, on par with the number of traffic fatalities – there likely will be no greater impetus for gun control than there is for automobile control. In some states – Arizona, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nevada and Oregon – the rate of gun deaths has exceeded traffic fatalities (they are equal in Ohio and Pennsylvania) but such comparisons fail to enlighten or be relevant to either problem. It is and will continue to be a subjective decision by individuals and the general populace – half of which are gun owners and 95% of which own cars –as to whether 30,000 fatalities in each category of these combustibles is an acceptable and fair price to pay in society for their continued unabridged access and use. Even if, as Russ Thurman writes, “Gun ownership has gone mainstream…It’s the fun factor of firearms that has been restored to the culture,” this cannot be a responsible gun owner’s first or only matter of importance. The tragedy of gun violence is that like other forms of violence it only requires some resistance to exist – but it is nearly always lethal.

Footnotes:

44th such incident in 2015 – everytown.org/article/schoolshootingsretrieved Oct 2, 2015. 

Pew Research Center study  – http://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/continued-bipartisan-support-for-expanded-background-checks-on-gun-sales/ – retrieved October 2, 2015.

Ask America’s gun owners…to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you- http://time.com/4058961/oregon-shooting-president-obama-transcript-speech/?xid=tcoshare -retrieved October 2, 2015.

Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-  see http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/newsletters/research-quarterly/V18N3.pdf;

especially on children – comments by Dr. Alan Lipman director of the Center for the Study of Violence and professor at the George Washington University Medical Center – https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2012-12-17/mass-shootings-and-their-effect-american-psyche- retrieved October 2, 2015.

“active-shooter” drills – http://americanfreepress.net/bloody-school-shooting-drills-in-vogue/ – retrieved October 2, 2015.

78 public mass shootingshttp://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MassShootings_CongResServ.pdf- retrieved October 2, 2015. 

142 mass shootings in schools; 25 suicides or attempted – http://everytown.org/article/schoolshootings-/- retrieved October 2, 2015.

are used to kill about 80 people and to wound 300 more – https://www.press.umich.edu/158723/private_guns_public_health#sthash.fmNmMTxZ.dpuf\- retrieved October 2, 2015.

accidental firearms shooting – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-helmke/private-guns-public-healt_b_38208.html

Gun crimes drop 40% – http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?iid=4616&ty=pbdetail;

Americans don’t sense decline in gun violence- http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/07/gun-homicide-rate-down-49-since-1993-peak-public-unaware/

19,990 died by suicide by firearm -http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr63/nvsr63_03.pdf;

Suicide by firearm less common in states with background checks – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743512003295;

Males 75% of crime – https://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0325.pdf; 72% battered women report guns used against them – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448464/; 16% live in homes…yet 50% of abused women… – David Hemenway, “Private Guns, Public Health,” University of Michigan Press, 2006 p 123; Beginning to be taken up by law enforcement in police interviews – http://www.dangerassessment.org/DA.aspx and http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/magazine/102779/domestic-violence-vawa-maryland-abuse-women.

310 million civilian guns (2009) & 192 million firearms (1994) –http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/citation/quotes/6676;

gun ownership in the USA is heavily concentrated among older white men – http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/18/11-essential-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/

Mass shootings tiny percentage of homicide – https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/images/analysis-of-recent-mass-shootings.pdf; frequency and impact have changed little in the last 35 years- http://www.boston.com/community/blogs/crime_punishment/2012/08/no_increase_in_mass_shootings.html;

Mentally ill responsible for 5% of crime – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20591996; mental health budget cuts – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/17/seven-facts-about-americas-mental-health-care-system; drug and alcohol abusers engage in violent acts seven times more – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/health/a-misguided-focus-on-mental-illness-in-gun-control-debate.html; link gun violence and domestic batterers – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/26/opinion/gun-laws-and-the-mentally-ill.html;

Good for the gun industry good for the nation – http://www.nationalreview.com/article/352429/whats-good-america-robert-w-patterson;

At least one gun in home – http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2012/1217/US-gun-industry-is-thriving.-Seven-key-figures/47-percent;

$6 billion sales (2012) – http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2012/1217/US-gun-industry-is-thriving.-Seven-key-figures/6-billion;

USA more guns per capita for all & highest per capita rate for “developed” nations – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/15/what-makes-americas-gun-culture-totally-unique-in-the-world-as-demonstrated-in-four-charts/;

No higher gun homicide rate than USA – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/14/chart-the-u-s-has-far-more-gun-related-killings-than-any-other-developed-country;

Add $31.6 billion to economy & employment numbers – http://www.thegunmag.com/firearms-industry-bright-spot-in-struggling-world-economy/;

“A renaissance of gun ownership” – http://www.shootingindustry.com/u-s-firearms-industry-today-2012/

Fewer than half of Americans think gun laws should be stricter – http://www.gallup.com/poll/162083/americans-wanted-gun-background-checks-pass-senate.aspxMoney defines free speech – see 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission; 60% think background checks good idea http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm; http://www.gallup.com/poll/162083/americans-wanted-gun-background-checks-pass-senate.aspx;

Insurrectionist ideology – http://www.examiner.com/article/flirting-with-treason-the-insurrectionist-ideology-of-the-nra-leadership

PEW research study results on NRA and question of gun rights versus gun control – http://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/continued-bipartisan-support-for-expanded-background-checks-on-gun-sales/ – retrieved October 2, 2015.

Gun death rate exceeds traffic fatalities – http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/09/guns-traffic-deaths-rates/1784595/; 95% car owners – http://photos.state.gov/libraries/cambodia/30486/Publications/everyone_in_america_own_a_car.pdf

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