Category Archives: Gun Issues

It Could Happen Here, but it would be more difficult?

A person in Nevada could float a “Stand Your Ground” defense in our courts, but it would be more difficult than the Florida statute allows.   This doesn’t prevent the map from looking like Nevada is one of those places in which your child could be shot if armed only with Skittles and Iced Tea, or because he confronted a person who was verbally abusive about the car stereo; or your husband could be shot dead for launching a theater carton of pop-corn.

Stand Your Ground MapIt isn’t comfortable being the same color as Florida.  However, there are three elements required in Nevada: (1) The individual claiming the defense may not be the original aggressor; (2) The individual claiming the defense must have a legal right to be present where the lethal force was used; and (3) The individual claiming the defense must not be in the act of committing a crime.  [NRS 200.120]  These have been elements since time out of mind, but there was an amendment in the 2011 legislative session:

“Under existing case law, there is no duty to retreat before using deadly force if the person using deadly force is not the original aggressor and reasonably believes that he or she is about to be killed or seriously injured. (Culverson v. State, 106 Nev. 484 (1990)) This bill provides that under the defense of justifiable homicide there is no duty to retreat if the person using deadly force: (1) is not the original aggressor; (2) has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and (3) is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used.”  [NVLeg] (emphasis added)

There is a feature of the Florida statute which creates the kind of confusion that in turn makes their Stand Your Ground law problematic.  In Nevada if there are no witnesses (left) to determine if the killing was justified then that question is left to a jury.  Under the Florida statute once the person says the magic words “I Was Terrified For My Life,” there is no prosecution allowed, the individual is supposedly immune. [LVSun]  Little wonder Florida has had such high profile problems.

The Bare Fear Problem

“NRS 200.130 Bare fear insufficient to justify killing; reasonable fear required.  A bare fear of any of the offenses mentioned in NRS 200.120, to prevent which the homicide is alleged to have been committed, shall not be sufficient to justify the killing. It must appear that the circumstances were sufficient to excite the fears of a reasonable person and that the party killing really acted under the influence of those fears and not in a spirit of revenge.”

In short, Nevada requires more than the recitation of the Florida “I Was Terrified” mantra. Not that some haven’t tried to water down the Nevada statutes.  There have been some proposals to amend NRS 200.130, such as AB 288 in the 2009 session, and AB398 offered in 2007 which would have replicated the Florida issues by allowing a “bare fear” defense.  AB 70 introduced in the 2013 legislative session would have expanded the law to address assaults on drivers, and changed the “shall not be” standard to “is not.”  None of these bills emerged from committee.  However, the fact that these dilutions and emendations haven’t been enacted doesn’t necessarily mean that we are free of the kinds of issues associated with all such Stand Your Ground laws.

Who’s being reasonable?  The use of lethal force doesn’t apply only in cases in which a homeowner thinks an armed burglar is approaching — it also applies in cases of domestic violence and when the shooting is done by a member of law enforcement.  The concept of “reasonable fear” also occurs in questions of involuntary civil commitment processes, and also in immigration cases in which a person is seeking asylum.   How do we define fear, and apply that definition to a case in which lethal force is used?

“Typically courts have distinguished between standards of reasonableness by characterizing them as either objective or subjective. An objective standard of reasonableness requires the fact finder to view the circumstances surrounding the accused at the time they used force from the standpoint of a hypothetically reasonable and prudent person. Under the subjective standard, the issue is not whether the circumstances surrounding the accused use of force would be sufficient to create in the mind of a reasonable and prudent person the belief that the use of force is necessary, but rather whether the circumstances are sufficient to induce in the mind of the accused a reasonable belief that he must use force to defend himself.” [ABSFW]

It’s nuanced, but the difference is crucial.  There is a difference between being in a situation in which an ordinary reasonable person would be afraid, and making a judgment as to whether the situation is sufficient in itself to cause fear in an ordinary reasonable person.   The objective version places the emphasis on the immediate situation, the subjective version places the emphasis on the person who might be induced to believe the situation is dangerous.

What we can hope is that the objective standard is applied in cases arising under NRS 200.120/200.130.  The subjective standard could all too easily be used to excuse blasting one’s way through a dark alley.

What we can hope is that the law isn’t used to excuse the behavior of a person acting on “prejudice and predisposition” rather than a reasonable fear in a reasonable person.

Both of these hopes can be better realized if the “bare fear” proposals continue to meet an appropriately fate in legislative committee file drawers.  This would not completely remove all the ingredients necessary for a truly horrific case in Nevada courts, but it would make such cases more difficult for the ‘predisposed’ and the ‘prejudiced.’

*References and recommended reading:  Nevada Bar, “Elements of a Self Defense Claim in Nevada Courts,” Michael Giles, February 12, 2014.  (Can be downloaded as PDF file) “Not Standing on Solid Ground,” Nevada Progressive, April 2, 2012.  “Nevada Kill At Will?,” Desert Beacon, July 21, 2013.   Runion v. State, No. 32441, December, 2000 Caselaw. Culverson v. State, 1979, Justia. “Trayvon Martin case has some looking at Nevada’s new self-defense law,” Las Vegas Sun, April 1, 2012.  “Nevada’s ‘stand your ground’ law goes back 140 years.” LVRJ, April 4, 2012. “The 24 States That Have Sweeping Self-Defense Laws Just Like Florida’s,” ProPublica, March 22, 2012. Las Vegas Tribune, Deadly Force Policing in Nevada, September 11, 2013. Alex A. Kamman, Credible vs. Reasonable Fear, November 4, 2013. ABSWF, “Measuring Reasonable Fear,” September 2009. OP/ED Las Vegas Sun, “Stand Your Ground law is not a license for vigilantism,” March 29, 2012.

Comments Off

Filed under Gun Issues, Politics

When Will It Be Enough?

The Washington Post printed this chart of gun deaths in developed nations in December 2012:

Gun Death Chart by countryUSA Today has an interactive chart for those wishing to review the violence we’ve perpetrated on one another in 2013.  Suffice it to say there are entirely too many entries in this database.

When will the numbers be too staggering?  The incidents too horrific?  The arguments of the rabid radicals too specious?

It’s taken 30+ years for the National Rifle Association to convince the public that the Second Amendment is to be interpreted by their lights only.   The neo-Confederates, and related “militia” members are even willing to carry the NRA argument to its obvious extension — any person should be able to acquire any weapon necessary to take on the Evil Government — missile launchers anyone?

It’s taken 30+ years for the NRA and associated gun manufacturers to disseminate their message that the only answer to gun violence is more people armed with more guns willing to do more violence.

It’s taken 30+ years for people to think of school security not in terms of open and easy exits in case of fire, but in terms of sealed exits and magnetometers to prevent gun violence in our schools.

A cowardly Congress had the opportunity to take the least restrictive measures imaginable in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting.  They passed.  Republicans in the Senate filibustered the bill, the House of Representatives didn’t even address the issue.

A Washington, D.C. punditry — the Beltway Babblers — pontificated that the President must have failed because the opposition Party in the Cocktail Party Circuit Court of Opinion refused to cooperate.  He should have “cooperated more?”  The Senate bill which died as a result of the filibuster didn’t even contain the assault weapons ban, didn’t have a limit on ammunition capacity, didn’t prevent straw purchases, didn’t require comprehensive background checks… How much more were the Democrats supposed to compromise?  Perhaps, “compromise” means giving the Republicans everything they want?

However, it’s easy to imagine that had the President not offered even the soft provisions of the Manchin Amendment, the Beltway Babblers would have noted the President had “caved” to pressure.  Nowhere in the prolixity did anyone consider that it is a strange standard indeed to hold a President responsible for the behavior of the opposition party.

We don’t need a proliferation of guns.  We have enough.  We have a situation in which fewer people are buying more weapons.  And, we have more than enough instances of babysitters leaving weapons unattended with tragic consequences, children playing with firearms with deadly effect, toddlers setting off firearms accidentally.

There are NO rights which do not come with responsibilities.  A responsible gun owner locks and stores guns properly.  A responsible gun owner doesn’t encourage gun violence.   A responsible gun owner supports closing the gun show loophole, and shutting down the straw purchases of guns which all too often fall conveniently into the hands of gangs and criminals.

I am frankly very tired of the antiquated arguments of gun enthusiasts.  I am even more exhausted by their circumlocution and specious contentions.  However, one has to admire their focus.  They are single issue voters of the first water.  Their enthusiasm is boundless.  And…they are rapidly turning me into a single issue voter as well, just on the other side of their issue.

I am not willing to accept a vision of America as a violent nation, a country willing to sacrifice its children on the altar of Gun Rights.   One youngster in a Denver hospital, in a coma, is one too many.

Enough is Enough.

Comments Off

Filed under Gun Issues

Mountains and Mole Hills

Mountain MolehillOne of the more unpleasant aspects of today’s media offerings is the tendency to confuse mountains and molehills.  No disrespect to all those diligent moles out there assiduously plying their turf disrupting trade, but when Everything Is A Crisis! perspective is the first casualty.

Mountain:  We have an immigration policy in place which doesn’t work for us.  There are two bills addressing this issue, S. 744 which passed the Senate and H.R. 15 which languishes in the House while the TeaParty/GOP leadership decides which they’d prefer to tick off — their corporate backers or the xenophobic right wing.    Representative Amodei (R-NV2) thinks he could support Rep. Eric Cantor’s “Kids Act” and he provides a summary of the issue on his webpage, but his statements on comprehensive immigration policy reform remain fuzzy.  Where Representative Heck (R-NV3)  stands is a bit more clear, given his statement on October 25th:

“I have spent countless hours meeting with community members and addressing town hall meetings on the topic of immigration reform. There is no doubt in my mind that reforming our immigration system is right and necessary and I remain committed to enacting real solutions that will fix our current broken system. I will continue to urge the House leadership to move forward on immigration reform with all possible haste.”

While he’s “urging leadership to move forward,” the question remains — toward what?  A piecemeal enactment of immigration policies which serve only to protract the issues, and may never arrive at a complete picture — or — legislation like S. 744 or H.R. 15?

Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV1) drilled down to one of the major issues in the piecemeal approach to immigration policy reform:  What of women who work in the service sector?

“Comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the fact that many immigrant women work at home or in the informal economy.  If, for example, eligibility for the path to citizenship requires proof of employment, providing paystubs cannot be the only acceptable proof or we risk leaving millions of women behind.  Approximately 74 percent of undocumented domestic workers do not receive documentation of their pay from an employer.  Thankfully, H.R. 15, the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill recently introduced in the House, addresses this issue by allowing flexible forms of proof of employment. It is critical that we incorporate this thoughtful approach into any immigration reform bill considered by the House.”

Meanwhile, the mountain remains, impervious to rational debate and reasonable action.

Mole Hill:   Those who have purchased individual health insurance plans constitute about 5% of the population. [UI]  This translates to a maximum of 16,500,000 individuals out of a total 330,000,000; if we count every single person large or small, young or old.  The actual percentage is probably closer to 14.3 million individuals. [UI pdf]  Some of these people bought JUNK.  In a search for low premiums they purchased policies that didn’t cover much, if anything, or bought policies the coverage terms of which were so confusing that the insurance corporation was able to deny compensation for even basic treatment options.   The infamous Barrette Case is a classic example of a JUNK policy.   Forbes magazine estimates that about  4 million Americans were sold some 1,200 of these junk policies.

Thus, it should be fairly easy for the press to find some individual examples for popular consumption of these Outraged Individuals who want to keep the cheap junk they purchased, out of a category of 4 million.   Therefore, the media cry “there are millions of Americans affected by this ‘mistake’” is technically accurate but ultimately misleading.   Some broadcasters have jumped on the “Crisis” bandwagon, only to have their stellar examples debunked within hours.  You can tell when the mole hill is being magnified into a mountain IF (1) the report doesn’t compare the junk policy to the coverage available in the health insurance exchanges, (2) if the report doesn’t take into consideration the subsidies available to assist the policy holder pay for the premiums, and (3) if the report relies on individual examples to generate conclusions for which there is no other substantiation.

Mountain:  Speaking of health issues — 32,163 Americans died as a result of gun fire in 2011.  6,220 died as a result of a homicide. 19,766 individuals used a gun to commit suicide.  [GP]  73,883 Americans were injured by gun fire.  432 Americans died in gun related accidents. [GP]  By contrast, in 2011 there were 9,878 fatal automobile accidents in which there was a driver with a BAC level above 0.08 or even higher.  [NRD pdf]  We are coming perilously close to the point at which the number of gun deaths equals or surpasses the number of automobile deaths.  According to figures released by the CDC 33,687 Americans died in auto accidents, 31,672 died as a result of gun violence.  We do something about drunk drivers.  We restrict the licenses of some drivers. We have yet to address the issues related to the easy access to firearms in this country.

When Gallup polled Americans about controlling gun sales in the U.S. during the week of October 3-6, 2013 some 49% favored more stringent controls, 13% thought restrictions should be eased, and 37% called for controls to be kept the same.  A September poll by Quinnipiac University found 89% of Americans supportive of legislation to require universal background checks.  These numbers aside, on September 17th Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced he didn’t have enough support to reintroduce the background check bill in the Senate. [TheHill]

Mole Hill: I’m really pleased that there are at least seven retailers who will give their employees a break for celebrating Thanksgiving with their families.  [TP]   That said — when wages for American workers have stagnated for the past decade [EPI], when there are about 10% of our young veterans  still looking for work while the programs to help them are shrinking [CNN], and when the unemployment rate for Whites 6.3% while the unemployment rate for Blacks stands at 13.1% we have a problem far larger than whether or not people go home for Thanksgiving.

Mountain:  Did anyone read the IPCC climate report?   Did anyone delve into Chapter 12, wherein the commission discussed climate change implications for pattern scaling, temperatures and energy budgets, atmospheric circulation, the water cycle, the cryosphere, our oceans, and carbon cycle feedback?  [IPCC pdf] One newspaper noted that the report made the climate change deniers overheat.  Too many media outlets were engaged in sowing seeds of doubt about the report’s content and all but ignoring the conclusions and commentary contained therein.

Mole Hill:  There were 48 bills in the 113th Congress related to the abortion issue. [GovTrack]  There’s Sen. Rand Paul’s S.583 Personhood Bill, H.R. 2300 from Rep. Tom Price to “empower patients” (not), Rep. Trent Frank’s H.R. 1797 “pain” bill, and his H.R. 447 PRENDA, Rep. Jim Jordan introduced H.R. 1091, life begins at conception act, and the list goes on.

Meanwhile back in the world of reality — the rate of abortions per 1,000 women of child bearing age has declined from a high of 29.3 in 1981 to 19.6 in 2008. [Guttmacher]

A Suggestion

Could we start talking about the mountains, and minimize our time spent in elaborate and protracted debates about mole hills?

1 Comment

Filed under abortion, Amodei, anti-immigration, ecology, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Heck, media

Locked and Unloaded: Part Two – Drilling Down To Details

Nevada LegislatureWhen last we left this topic, the Nevada gun access statute was included with samples of gun storage laws from Massachusetts and California.

Let’s take a closer look at the Nevada statutes and examine some of the weaker points.

 NRS41.472 Imposition of liability for minor’s negligence or willful misconduct regarding firearm.
1. If a parent, guardian or other person legally responsible for a minor under the age of 18 years:
(a) Knows that the minor has previously been adjudicated delinquent or has been convicted of a criminal offense;
(b) Knows that the minor has a propensity to commit violent acts; or
(c) Knows or has reason to know that the minor intends to use the firearm for unlawful purposes,

and permits the minor to use or possess a firearm, any negligence or willful misconduct of the minor in connection with such use or possession is imputed to the person who permits such use or possession for all purposes of civil damages, and, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection 2 of NRS 41.470, that person is jointly and severally liable with the minor for any and all damages caused by such negligence or willful misconduct.

Notice in this statute there are  elements which must be established BEFORE a parent or guardian can be liable for any and all damage caused by a child who gets access to a firearm from the house.  The parent or guardian must know that the child has been held as delinquent by a court or has been convicted of a criminal offense AND knows that the youngster has a propensity for violence AND has prior knowledge that the youngster intends unlawful harm.

In summary — it’s all just a tragic accident for which the victims have no recourse in  court unless the parents of a juvenile delinquent, who are fully aware the scion has a propensity for violence, knows in advance that said offspring had grabbed the family firearm for the purpose of committing an unlawful act — assault, battery, homicide… If this sounds irrationally narrow, it’s because it is.

The first problem with this narrow statute is that it appears to absolve the parents of a youngster under the age of seven from all liability, since Nevada defines an “infant” as a person less than seven and therefore has no criminal liability for anything.   Thus, if a child under the age of seven is playing with a neighbor’s child and the “infant” gets hold of a gun and shoots the playmate — the parents or guardians of the “infant shooter” are not liable for the damage because the child cannot be a delinquent (being too young) and therefore cannot have been convicted of any criminal offense.

For a  child between the ages of 7 and 14 there is a “rebuttable presumption of no criminal intent.”  In other words, the burden is on the prosecution.

There is more comfort to the grieving in NRS 202.300 which specifically addresses children and guns, the first segment of which says:

“Except as otherwise provided in this section, a child under the age of 18 years shall not handle or have in his or her possession or under his or her control, except while accompanied by or under the immediate charge of his or her parent or guardian or an adult person authorized by his or her parent or guardian to have control or custody of the child, any firearm of any kind for hunting or target practice or for other purposes. A child who violates this subsection commits a delinquent act and the court may order the detention of the child in the same manner as if the child had committed an act that would have been a felony if committed by an adult.”

The liability now attaches to the child.  What of the parents? The statute continues:

“3. A person does not aid or knowingly permit a child to violate subsection 1 if:
(a)The firearm was stored in a securely locked container or at a location which a reasonable person would have believed to be secure;
(b) The child obtained the firearm as a result of an unlawful entry by any person in or upon the premises where the firearm was stored;
(c) The injury or death resulted from an accident which was incident to target shooting, sport shooting or hunting; or
(d) The child gained possession of the firearm from a member of the military or a law enforcement officer, while the member or officer was performing his or her official duties.
4. The provisions of subsection 1 do not apply to a child who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States.
5. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 8, a child who is 14 years of age or older, who has in his or her possession a valid license to hunt, may handle or have in his or her possession or under his or her control, without being accompanied by his or her parent or guardian or an adult person authorized by his or her parent or guardian to have control or custody of the child:…”

Take a second look at this part: “The firearm was stored in a securely locked container or at a location which a reasonable person would have believed to be secure…” What would a “reasonable person” think was secure?  In the back of a dark closet? In a cabinet above the refrigerator? Where?  The last time the Nevada Legislature took a look at this problem came with the introduction of AB 192 on February 10, 1999.

AB 192 (1999) proposed the following change: “(3a)The firearm was stored in a securely locked container or at a location which the person believed or had reason to believe was secure;…”   There’s a nuanced difference between “securely locked container or at a location which a reasonable person would have believed to be secure,” and requiring a rational belief that the storage was indeed secure.  At any rate the change was too much for the 1999 Legislature and AB 192 went to the Committee on the Judiciary and was seen no more.  Subsequent sessions of the Nevada Legislature haven’t seen the introduction of any bill to modify NRS 202.300.

Another alternative to the blanket “infancy defense for parents” comes in the form of the willful and wanton disregard of the safety 0f others” statute.

NRS 202.595 Performance of act or neglect of duty in willful or wanton disregard of safety of persons or property; penalty. Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by statute and except under the circumstances described in NRS 484B.653, a person who performs any act or neglects any duty imposed by law in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property shall be punished:  1. If the act or neglect does not result in the substantial bodily harm or death of a person, for a gross misdemeanor.   2. If the act or neglect results in the substantial bodily harm or death of a person, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

However, there isn’t much help here for victims of gun violence committed by children.  The neglect of duty must be “willful or wanton.”

And here we come to the second problem:  In order for the parents to be liable for the endangerment of others it must be demonstrated that their neglect must be beyond accidental. “It must be knowing and intentionally committed, or committed under circumstances evincing reckless disregard of the safety of the injured persons.” {Blacks Dict}

What does  reckless mean? Usually it means a person consciously disregards “a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the actor’s conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law abiding person would observe…”  {Blacks Dict}

Now we have to ponder: What happens when our little playmates, both less than seven years of age, find a firearm in the house — “hidden” in the back of a closet –  if the neighbor’s child is injured (or Heaven forefend, killed) in the act of “playing with the gun,” is it “willful, wanton, and reckless” for the parents to have assumed the firearm was safely secured?

There’s plenty of time between now and the opening of the 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature to consider some of the following questions:

#1.  Is it fair to the victims of gun violence perpetrated by minors that practically no liability attaches to their parents or legal guardians for the actions of their children?

#2. If the answer to the first question is “no,” then what are the appropriate modifications to NRS 41.472 to remediate that? What modifications should be made to NRS 200.300.

#3. Would we be less likely to read or watch reports of accidental shootings of children, or shootings by children if NRS 200.300 were amended to require parents or guardians to store firearms in locked containers, with ammunition kept in a separate location? Even if such a requirement did not immediately lead to fewer tragedies, would the modification of NRS 200.300 offer the victims better recourse to the law in the instance of a shooting tragedy?

Such modifications will surely be met with the usual intransigence of the NRA and its allies, however, this is really not a 2nd Amendment issue.  No one would be prohibited from gun ownership by adopting any modifications or improvements on our current “access and storage” statutes — gun owners would simply be required to store weaponry more safely and securely.

Another common complaint from gun enthusiasts is that these laws are unenforceable.  That would depend upon the perception of enforcement — if in the wake of a tragedy such as took place recently at Sparks Middle School, and in 2006 at Pine Middle School, parents were held liable for the actions of their children might not more parents and guardians be inclined to more securely store firearms to avoid enhanced liability?

Those who purport to advocate on behalf of the victims of crime, and especially those victimized by gun violence, should be moved to consider how we might offer those victims more legal options for holding accountable those who make firearms all too accessible to youngsters who have not the maturity and judgment necessary to comprehend the nature of their actions.

Indeed, if we are going to attach the words “accountability” and “responsibility” to various and sundry issues associated with individual behavior, then it behooves us to start holding those individuals who allow juveniles access to firearms responsible and accountable.

Comments Off

Filed under Gun Issues

Locked and Unloaded: Nevada Could Do Better

Child gun deathsWe still don’t know why a 12 year old boy shot a teacher and classmates at Sparks (NV) Middle School.  [RGJ] It’s natural to look for a “motive,” some resolution, or explanation, for the inexplicable.  Given what we do know about the brain, we might never know.  We know, for example, that there is a second period of development in the pre-frontal cortex during  pre-puberty, [PBS] but while we know volumes about the structure of the brain we’re not so informed about the operations of the mind.   What was in the boy’s mind may be unknown; what was in his hand is obvious — a Ruger 9 mm semi-automatic.

Each time these tragedies hit the headlines there is the all too predictable response from gun enthusiasts — We can’t enhance regulations because… Freedom…Liberty…2nd Amendment …Patriotism. What of the “responsible gun owners?”  Perhaps, we could consider a change of perspective.

According to the gun enthusiasts NO impediment is tolerable which might even remotely constrict their “rights” to arm themselves to the eaves — if we accept this then why not consider the possibility that while a person may own all manner of firearms we might give some thought to how those are stored.  The firearm used in Sparks came from home, and there is another home in this country which may have contributed to the stock of stolen weapons that all too often show up in crime statistics.

“Rep. Renee Ellmers’ (R-NC) husband reported an AR-15 rifle stolen from the family’s home in Dunn last week, according to a police report.

The weapon had been left leaning against a gun locker in an unlocked garage on Kingsway Drive, the report said.

The rifle, a gun case and a GPS, with a cumulative value of $1,100, were reported stolen, according to Chief J.D. Pope.  Police think the theft happened on the night of Oct. 15.

“According to the report, they had been out target shooting and brought the gun back and leaned it against the gun safe,” Pope said. “ … The garage door was left unsecured, according to the report.” [Charlotte Observer]

An open garage door, an AR-15… what could possibly go wrong?

One very common bit of advice on gun storage is provided by the state of California:

“Store your gun safely and securely to prevent unauthorized use. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately. When the gun is not in your hands, you must still think of safety. Use a California-approved firearms safety device on the gun, such as a trigger lock or cable lock, so it cannot be fired. Store it unloaded in a locked container, such as a California-approved lock box or a gun safe. Store your gun in a different location than the ammunition. For maximum safety you should use both a locking device and a storage container.”

Following this advice might also reduce the number of successful suicides by children  in this country.

“In the first nationally representative study to examine the relationship between survey measures of household firearm ownership and state level rates of suicide in the U.S., researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that suicide rates among children, women and men of all ages are higher in states where more households have guns.  [...] The researchers found that states with higher rates of household firearm ownership had significantly higher rates of suicide by children, women and men. In the 15 states with the highest levels of household gun ownership, twice as many people committed suicide compared with the six states with the lowest levels, even though the population in both groups was about the same. [...]
“Removing firearms may be especially effective in reducing the risk of suicide among adolescents and other potentially impulsive members of their home. Short of removing all firearms, the next best thing is to make sure that all guns in homes are very securely locked up and stored separately from secured ammunition. In a nation where more than half of all suicides are gun suicides and where more than one in three homes have firearms, one cannot talk about suicide without talking about guns,” he adds.” [Harvard 2007]

Lock’em up unloaded might also alleviate other tragic numbers. Discussing the number of children who are killed or seriously injured by firearms is made more difficult because decisions made at the local level about causation leading to serious under-counting.

“A New York Times review of hundreds of child firearm deaths found that accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the records indicate, because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by the authorities. The killings of Lucas, Cassie and Alex, for instance, were not recorded as accidents. Nor were more than half of the 259 accidental firearm deaths of children under age 15 identified by The Times in eight states where records were available.”

Predictably, the NRA pounced on the results, saying more children were killed in falls, accidental poisonings, and because of environmental issues.  The argument is extraneous.  First, merely because more children might be killed by other means doesn’t address the argument that fewer children would be killed if guns weren’t accessible.  Second, if we are seriously under-counting the firearm deaths, then the argument is evidentially  false.  Third, there’s demonstrable obfuscation:

“The rifle association’s lobbying arm recently posted on its Web site a claim that adult criminals who mishandle firearms — as opposed to law-abiding gun owners — are responsible for most fatal accidents involving children. But The Times’s review found that a vast majority of cases revolved around children’s access to firearms, with the shooting either self-inflicted or done by another child.” [NYT 9/13]

Recent headlines offer support for the Time’s conclusion: “Father faces charges in Fayetteville toddler’s death,” [WRAL] when he left a .22 semi-automatic under the family’s couch.   “Michigan toddler finds loaded gun in closet, dies from bullet to the face” [NYDN] “Toddler shot to death in Yellowstone was killed by father’s pistol,” [ChicagoTrib] “Three Year Old Killed … with gun from grandmother’s backpack,” [Yuma Sun] “Kentucky Shooting: Boy, 5, Shoots And Kills 2-Year-Old Sister, Police Say,” [AP] and “Kansas boy, 7, shoots self in head during family gun outing,” [NYDN]

Indeed, there are children killed by being mauled by animals, by being dropped or assaulted, or by being poisoned by household chemicals.  However, the instances of other causes of death doesn’t offer any substantiation to the contention that we ought not consider legislation on gun storage, trigger locks, and smart gun technology.

The state of Nevada doesn’t directly address the safe storage of firearms, and the possible consequences of guns + children.

Nevada’s gun “storage” law is particularly unhelpful:

 “NRS41.472  Imposition of liability for minor’s negligence or willful misconduct regarding firearm. 1. If a parent, guardian or other person legally responsible for a minor under the age of 18 years:  (a)Knows that the minor has previously been adjudicated delinquent or has been convicted of a criminal offense; (b) Knows that the minor has a propensity to commit violent acts; or (c) Knows or has reason to know that the minor intends to use the firearm for unlawful purposes, and permits the minor to use or possess a firearm, any negligence or willful misconduct of the minor in connection with such use or possession is imputed to the person who permits such use or possession for all purposes of civil damages, and, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection 2 of NRS 41.470, that person is jointly and severally liable with the minor for any and all damages caused by such negligence or willful misconduct.  2. As used in this section, “firearm” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 202.253.  (Added to NRS by 1995, 1149)”

In short, a parent would have to “know” that the child intended to unlawfully use a firearm before any liability attaches.  How do we “know” if a 12 year old has a “propensity to commit violent acts?”  A three year old?

Massachusetts law takes the storage issue head on:

Section 131L. (a) It shall be unlawful to store or keep any firearm, rifle or shotgun including, but not limited to, large capacity weapons, or machine gun in any place unless such weapon is secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device, properly engaged so as to render such weapon inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user. For purposes of this section, such weapon shall not be deemed stored or kept if carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user.

California takes on the issue of children’s access to firearms:

“AB 231 establishes the Firearm Safe and Responsible Access Act, creating a third degree misdemeanor if a person negligently stores or leaves a loaded firearm in a location where they know, or reasonably should know, that a child can access the firearm without permission and the person fails to take proper safety measures.  A third degree misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.  The bill also requires licensed gun dealers to post this warning in their place of business with other already required postings of child safe storage laws.” [ASMDC]

The California Penal Code specifies storage requirements in homes with children present:

(b)(1)Except as provided in subdivision (c), a person commits the crime of “criminal storage of a firearm of the first degree” if he or she keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that are under his or her custody or control and he or she knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian and the child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes death or great bodily injury to himself, herself, or any other person.

(2)Except as provided in subdivision (c), a person commits the crime of “criminal storage of a firearm of the second degree” if he or she keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that are under his or her custody or control and he or she knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian and the child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes injury, other than great bodily injury, to himself, herself, or any other person, or carries the firearm either to a public place or in violation of Section 417. [more]

There are no silver bullets in firearm related death issues.   No single piece of legislation can “solve” problems associated with children’s access to guns, or prevent every school or home tragedy created when children get access to firearms.  However, if this state is truly interested in protecting children there are steps we can take which could ameliorate the situation, or at the very least offer more legal recourse to the victims.

The next session of the Nevada legislature should give some serious consideration to amending our statutes in regard to children’s access to firearms, and to the appropriate storage of firearms in Nevada homes.

1 Comment

Filed under Gun Issues, Politics

Four Steps to a Safer Society

Assault RifleDon’t talk to me about “mass shootings are just rare manifestations of mental illness,” unless you intend to offer suggestions concerning how we cope with those suffering from mental illness, emotional problems, or behavioral issues.   I have in mind some notions which seem like sound judgment,  not necessarily founded in any specialized knowledge of the subject.

#1. Adequately fund mental health care services at the state and national level.

Nevada, currently being sued by San Francisco for its dubious practice of “transporting” mentally ill individuals beyond its jurisdiction, [NBC]  has been warned — this from a mental health professional back in April 2013:

“Dr. Dale Carrison, the chief of staff and head of emergency medicine at University Medical Center, is more blunt.  “The mental health system has been broken since I got to Las Vegas 22 years ago,” Carrison said. “There aren’t a lot of options for people. Every time they cut the budget they cut the mental health budget first. We do a very poor job of evaluating them and treating them. At some point, you’ve got to say the state just doesn’t care.” [LVRJ]

Nevada wasn’t (isn’t) alone in its refusal to enact budgets which competently address the problems associated with mental illness and substance abuse.  NAMI issued its 2011 Report (pdf)  citing cuts in California’s mental health services totaled $587.4 million, New York cut its budget by $132 million, Illinois cut $113.7 million, and Arizona cut its mental health care budget by $108.4 million.  Nevada made the list of the largest cuts as a percentage of its total mental health care budget:  (1) Alaska by 35%, (2) South Carolina by 23%, (3) Arizona 23%, (4) Washington, D.C. 19%, (5) Nevada 17%, (6) Kansas 16%, (7) California 16%, (8) Illinois 15%, (9) Mississippi 15%, (10) Hawaii 12.1%.   We ought not take pride in being on this “Top Ten List.”

The situation at the national level isn’t much better.  Already at a parsimonious level, the sequestration of federal funds for non-defense discretionary categories further stretches already strained mental health research and service budgets.  Mental Health America, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association, issued this warning about further cuts to mental health care funding:

“These cuts will be disastrous to communities and individuals living with mental health and substance use conditions. States have already cut mental health budgets by a combined $4 billion over the past three years-the largest single combined reduction to mental health spending since de-institutionalization in the 1970s. Cuts enacted by sequestration are estimated to reduce non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding anywhere from 7.5 to 12 percent across-the-board. Given one in every four Americans lives with a mental health or substance use condition, and more than 67 percent of adults and 80 percent of children who need services do not receive treatment, maintaining discretionary federal funding for mental health and substance abuse services is pivotal to ensure citizens have access to behavioral health care.”  (emphasis added)

What efficacy do we expect from a system in which we have reduced the allocation of resources by the largest amount in the past 3 decades?  There are about 316,000,000 Americans, and if approximately 25% need mental health care or substance abuse assistance then that’s nearly 79 million people in need of help and care.  If at present 67% of adults and 80% of children who need help aren’t getting it now, what makes us think that sequestering funds for services and further limiting the funds available for mental, behavioral, and substance abuse assistance will make the situation any better?

#2.  Improve the record keeping and coordination between mental health entities and law enforcement services.   SB 221 enacted by the Nevada state legislature would have helped, but the NRA beholden Governor vetoed it.   It’s going to take personnel to get this done.  People are going to have to be hired to do data entry, to coordinate information sharing, and to maintain the integrity of the records.  Again, if we’re serious about resolving the problems associated with mentally ill persons securing deadly weapons then this is an expenditure which makes sense.

#3. Implement the provisions of the Affordable Care Act which deal with health insurance coverage of mental health care services.    If we are serious about providing adequate mental health care services to individuals who might hurt themselves or others, then it’s fulsomely obvious that 41 votes to repeal, delay, or defund the provisions of the Affordable Care are patently silly.

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance corporations to issue policies which cover depression screening for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no extra cost.  Further, coverage for mental health and substance abuse is expanded and given the federal parity protections.  Going a step further, an insurance corporation may not decline coverage for pre-existing conditions, including mental illness.

#4. Enact common sense restrictions on the possession of firearms.   (a) Require background checks for all gun sales.  Legitimate, honest gun dealers already do this. The illegitimate, and dishonest ones need to be put out of business.  There is nothing “onerous” about a background check — it takes a matter of minutes, and if our record keeping systems are functional, then some people who should not possess firearms can be weeded out before they cause injury to themselves or others.  (b) Enact limits on the ammunition capacity.   If I haven’t shot “the burglar” after 15 rounds, the chances are I’m not going to.  The only thing I’m going to accomplish is to do more damage to my property than the erstwhile hypothetical burglar ever dreamed of doing.  (c) Crack down on gun trafficking.  There’s an unhealthy level of profit for people who traffic in stolen guns, and who transport guns both stolen and purchased in states with lax gun sale requirements.  New York City police recently arrested two gun smugglers from North and South Carolina who tried to offload 254 guns into the NYC market. [CNN] (d) Ban the sale of “assault weapons.”  Yes, a person can be killed by a bullet from a single shot .22 caliber gun; BUT weapons which are designed to, or can be easily modified for, rapid fire merely serve to increase the carnage.

A few common sense steps might reverse the trends in this chart from GunPolicy.Org.

Gun Death Chart 2*Alpers, Philip and Marcus Wilson. 2013. Guns in the United States: Facts, Figures and Firearm Law. Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney. GunPolicy.org, 27 August. Accessed 18 September 2013.

Comments Off

Filed under Gun Issues

Two Women who are worth more than 40 Senators

GunsApril 16, 2007:  A young man diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder went on a rampage at Virginia Tech University, killing 32 people and wounding 17 more.

July 20, 2012:  A mentally ill young man entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado armed for combat — with innocent movie-goers.  He left 12 individuals dead, and 70 others wounded.

December 14, 2012: A young man with a personal history of emotional problems entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and 6 staff members.

In each of these three deadly incidents the person initiating the horror had a history of mental problems.  NRS 202.360 seems to be clear about those who have serious psychiatric problems being among those classified as prohibited from the ownership of firearms, as in someone who “Has been adjudicated as mentally ill or has been committed to any mental health facility.” But wait? What is adjudication?

Adjudication is: “The giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree in a cause; also the judgment given.”  Who pronouns a judgment or decree? — a judge.  The commitment, we can assume, might be either voluntary or involuntary, and if involuntary comes with a requirement for the respect of individual civil rights. [NRS 433.471-472]  In short, the loophole in Nevada law is that a seriously ill individual may retain his or her “right” to the possession of a firearm unless there is a court order on record.

This is tricky territory.  Nearly all mentally ill individuals are NOT violent.  However, we probably need to thank Jill Schaller of Reno, Nevada for preventing a tragedy when she found out her son, who had once been committed for mental health treatment, purchased a gun from a Reno police officer.  Remember this part of the story?

“The young man told his parents about the gun purchase while on a vacation in Southern California last week. He promised to give the gun to his parents when they returned to Reno on Sunday night.But on the flight home, he texted Conklin, saying his mother was upset. Driving home, Schaller said, Conklin called and said she was sorry and that she was “not aware that you did not want a gun in your house.” Conklin offered to buy it back, but when they arrived home, Schaller said her son grabbed the gun and ran out the back door, so she called 911.” [RGJ]

The sale was “private” therefore under Nevada statutes no background check was required.  However, the sale was still impermissible under the provisions of the Nevada Revised Statutes — the young man had been committed for mental health treatment.  The terror Mrs. Schaller experienced when making that 911 call  might have been prevented if Governor Sandoval had not vetoed SB 221 on June 13, 2013. (pdf)  A background check could have discovered, should have discovered, that the young man in question was not one who should be in possession of a firearm.

Governor Sandoval, citing 2nd Amendment protections, and “undue burdens” on gun sellers, sided with the National Rifle Association and put his veto stamp on SB 221 which would have made a background check mandatory.  Jill Schaller prevented a tragedy, nothing Governor Sandoval did served to prevent any negative outcome.

August 20, 2013: The unspeakable almost happened in Atlanta, Georgia. There but for the calm courage of Antoinette Tuff, the McNair Discovery Learning Academy could have ranked with Sandy Hook Elementary in the sad litany of school shootings.  Instead, a mentally ill young man was calmed and mollified by a quick thinking, compassionate school employee.

September 16, 2013: Washington, D.C.

“A gunman killed a dozen people as the workday began at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, creating an improbable moment of horror at a military facility with armed guards at every gate and leaving investigators seeking clues about what spurred the attack.

The FBI identified the shooter as Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, who in 2011 received a general discharge from the Navy Reserve, a designation that usually signals a problem in his record. Alexis was arrested but not charged in a gun incident in Seattle in 2004 but still had a security clearance with a military contractor that allowed him access to the Navy Yard, officials said.”  [WaPo]

We don’t know why Mr. Alexis went on this latest workplace rampage.  What we can say is that a disturbed individual brought firearms into a workplace, and used them, on 12 innocent people to deadly effect.

And, now we’ll hear it all again.

The old bromide: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Yes, and armed people do kill other people.  In fact, guns have killed 8,236 people have died by gunshot since the Sandy Hook tragedy. [Slate]

The old excuses: “It’s violent video games.”  Interesting, but young people in Japan, the United Kingdom, Sweden, etc. play video games, but we’re the one country with the singularly highest death by gun fire on this planet.

The older excuses: “It’s mentally ill people!” No, actually it’s not most mentally ill individuals.  Most mentally ill people aren’t violent — either to themselves or to others.  But what happens when mentally ill people have easy access to firearms — and don’t have a concerned parent in the immediate vicinity to prevent the acquisition of a gun?

The latest excuse:  “The Constitution preserves everyone’s right to bear arms.”   Extrapolated to the extreme, and some folks are perfectly willing to take it there, “we” have a right to the armaments of war.  Do we wait until there is a mass market for shoulder fired missile launchers before we draw the line?  At what point does good old fashioned common sense limits on the acquisition and possession of firearms kick in?

The old distraction dodge: “But, but look…there are more murders in Chicago…”  Yes, and we could be helping to prevent those, too, by enacting gun trafficking laws helping the cities like Chicago and New York rein in the importation of stolen and purchased guns from states with few if any common sense regulations.

There are answers for these excuses.

The American Public Health Association published a peer reviewed study with some not-surprising results:

“Gun ownership was a significant predictor of firearm homicide rates (incidence rate ratio = 1.009; 95% confidence interval = 1.004, 1.014). This model indicated that for each percentage point increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%.

We observed a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher firearm homicide rates. Although we could not determine causation, we found that states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.”

When a scientific piece of research says things like “robust correlation” we should be taking the findings seriously.  Seriously enough, that we ought to be taking the antics of the radical  gun-enthusiast crowd who’d like to recall State Senator Justin Jones [NYT] because of his efforts in SB 221.

Nevada doesn’t need any replication of Virginia Tech, nor is a repeat performance of the Aurora movie theater disaster desirable,  no one wants to see another Sandy Hook Slaughter.  We can’t depend on the compassion and eloquence of a school clerk, or upon the determination of a concerned mother for the safety of her son and her community, to resolve our problem.  Especially in light of the fact that we might have taken action to make their lives much easier, less frightening, by enacting common sense limits on the acquisition and possession of firearms.

We certainly don’t need our own version of the horrendous workplace shooting in the Naval Yard.   We could have seen SB 221 enacted.  But Governor Sandoval was more concerned with his rating from the NRA than with the safety of all Nevadans?  We might have seen universal background checks enacted at the federal level, but then Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and his GOP cohorts successfully blocked the bill.  [HuffPo]

We might have applied some common sense to the issue of gun and weapon purchases — universal background checks, limits on ammunition capacity, limits on the types of rapid fire guns for sale to the general public,  putting the skids to the gun traffickers — but so far we haven’t.   And, we may not until we can summon up the quiet courage of the Atlanta school clerk who discouraged violence armed only with heartfelt empathy, and the unconditional love of a mother who didn’t want her son to hurt himself or anyone else.

We’ll be a better nation when we learn to emulate Antoinette Tuff and Jill Schaller, rather than glorifying the verbal excesses of Wayne LaPierre or the blustering proponents of the Yosemite Sam School of Inter-Personal Relations.

Now have we Had Enough?

Comments Off

Filed under Gun Issues

Roundup

Cattle RoundupNevada’s mental health care “system” which seems to garner more really bad press than actually provide services to alleviate suffering, has now earned us a law suit from San Francisco for “patient dumping.” Nevada Progressive has a summary piece that updates the issue, and reviews the background.

Remember when Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) was all a-flutter about Democratic members of Congress using franking privileges to send mail to their constituents?  (2010) Who has spent the most sending mail? Now we discover, in the Nevada Viewwho is the King of Mail? Surprise, surprise… it’s Representative Joe Heck! Who’da thunk it.

Well, here’s a victory for the NRA — Blind and want to carry a firearm in public in Iowa — there’s a permit for that. “I’m not an expert in vision,” Delaware Sheriff John LeClere said. “At what point do vision problems have a detrimental effect to fire a firearm? If you see nothing but a blurry mass in front of you, then I would say you probably shouldn’t be shooting something.” at Crooks and Liars.  What could possibly go wrong?   Interesting posts and pieces on the Colorado recall elections at the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post.   Perhaps a lesson to be drawn is: Numbers are nice, but passionate ‘numbers’ are better in off year elections.   Before drawing conclusions, please take a look at “What the Colorado Recall Doesn’t Prove,” MMFA.

The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus notes that there is now less than 40 days  left in this pathetic Congressional session.  Guess what isn’t on the agenda?  Hint: Immigration policy reform.

Speaking of things not directly addressed, The Gavel reports a poll with the following results:

81 percent of men and 93 percent of women said public policy should address workplace challenges such as equal pay, paid sick leave, and paid maternity leave; 87 percent of women and 80 percent of men – including 83 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats – believe paid maternity leave should be required; 31 percent of women think they would be paid more if they were female;  and 20 percent of men agree they would be paid less if they were female.

However, we all know that the real business of the 113th Congress is obstructing the Affordable Care Act.  Now the GOP obstruction is taking the form of “If we can’t defund it…let’s delay it.” Talking Points Memo.   Right! … because the American people might just want things like coverage for mental health care services (see above), coverage for children under their parents’ plans, insurance coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, insurance coverage for women’s health issues, insurance coverage for elderly people for preventative screenings, and the happy notion that at least 80% of insurance premiums collected from policy holders  should be spent on … wait for it… covered medical services.  Oh, and then there’s the marketplace things wherein people who don’t have insurance can select from a variety of private company plans on offer…

And, oops … it turns out that more companies are planning to hire more full time employees as Obamacare rolls out. Think Progress

There is some good news for families on the economic front — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is showing how a little external pressure can spur banks toward more self regulation.   More at the Demos Blog.

Comments Off

Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada politics, Women's Issues

A Matter of Motivation?

Sniper RifleWe can guess that the individual described in a Las Vegas Sun article wasn’t motivated by altruism: “The 63-year-old killed Tuesday in a shootout with Henderson Police had an arsenal of more than 150 firearms in his house, but detectives’ search of Edward J. Scheboth’s house yielded no clues for a motive, authorities said.”  [LVSun]

It also doesn’t seem unreasonable to state that I really don’t care how many firearms a person collects — just as I don’t care how many cans of soup a person has in their pantry — BUT when one of those firearms is taken outside the home and used to shoot at a police officer sitting in a patrol car, then I care, and care deeply.

I care when Michael Hill takes an AK-47 and 500 rounds into a Georgia school with the evident intent of replicating the horror in Newtown, Connecticut.  We should care that the incident was defused by an incredibly courageous school employee who “talked him down.” [ChiTrib]

I care when Governor Christie signs a bill into the statutes of the State of New Jersey (in a bit of groveling to the NRA) which allows the private ownership of 50 caliber sniper rifles, capable of projecting palm sized ammo into heavy armor a mile away.  No matter, evidently, that he had called for this legislation last year.  Suddenly, these weapons of war are “necessary” for private recreation.  [Nation] As if flying into the Newark Airport isn’t exciting enough already, we can now wonder if some “collector” might be moved to bring back the good old days during WWII when the .50 BMG was used in the M2 Browning machine gun for anti-aircraft purposes?  Conservative commentators are pleased to note that .50 caliber sniper rifles are “never used in crimes, ” [WashTimes]  Well, now one supposes they could be…  However, gone now from the New Jersey shores are any requirements that gun owners be licensed, or that there be a ban on private gun sale exchanges without a background check.

Perhaps we should care more that gun enthusiasts are fond of citing the levels of mental illness associated with gun violence incidents, while  some of those self-same defenders of freedom join the chorus of “Less Government, Lower Taxes” calling for the reduction in spending, even if that reduction slashes the budgets of state mental health programs.

Nor do we seem to be sufficiently concerned about the horrific fact that as of 8/22/13 the CDC reports 21,982 people in this country have been killed by guns. [Slate]

Presumably, this number does not yet include the victim of a teen thrill killing in Oklahoma, during which three teens sated their boredom by shooting a college student in the back. [WaPo]

At some point the national discussion needs to incorporate several elements we’ve been loath to address.  (1) What is the appropriate level of public spending for mental health care services?  Should we increase federal and state expenditures for mental health care services even if this requires an increase in taxation?  (2) What are appropriate firearms for individual ownership?  We restrict fully automatic weapons, but not weapons which can be easily modified to achieve the same result.  Do we really want “anti-aircraft” weapons in private hands?   (3) Might requiring a quick background check for gun show, Internet, and private sales assist law enforcement in keeping guns out of the hands of those who ought not to possess them? The seriously mentally ill, felons, fugitives, unsupervised (bored?) children…?

Until we are able to have an adult discussion about (4) gun trafficking, straw man purchases, and the transferring of stolen firearms, we’ll continue to see a flow of weapons from regions with few restrictions into areas with tighter controls.  The NYPD recently arrested two individuals who trafficked a combination of 254 stolen and legally purchased guns from the Carolinas. [CNN]  What would be the best solution to this law enforcement problem?

A nation which stolidly absorbs the deaths of 21,982 people, while parroting dueling talking points and focus group slogans about gun restrictions, might have its own motives questioned?

Comments Off

Filed under Gun Issues

Fire Away: H.R. 1565

TitusNevada Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) has co-sponsored a bill introduced by Representative Peter King (R-NY) which ought to get a hearing in the 113th Congress, but given the subject matter,  and the disarray in House leadership, may not.  H.R. 1565 offers a compromise solution to the firearms gun show/internet sale loophole.

The Congressional Research Service summary notes the purpose of the measure: “Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013 – Amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to reauthorize for FY2014-FY2017 the grant program for improvements to the criminal history record system.”  For those wishing for the return of the assault weapons ban — it’s not here.  Nor will we find any references to limiting the ammunition capacity of semi-automatic firearms.  However, the bill does address the laxity with which we are allowing the sale of firearms to dubious buyers.

Here’s what the bill does:

“Amends the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 to: (1) establish a four-year implementation plan to ensure maximum coordination and automation of reporting of records or making records available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; (2) direct the Attorney General to make grants to states, Indian tribal governments, and state court systems to improve the automation and transmittal of mental health records and criminal history dispositions; (3) provide for reductions in grant funding to states that have not implemented a relief from disabilities program; (4) make federal court information available for inclusion in the System; and (5) allow the submission to the System of mental health records that would otherwise be protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).” [CRS]

The bill is NOT about creating a national gun registry — it’s about improving the record keeping concerning individuals who under the provisions of most state laws (including Nevada’s) cannot legally possess firearms.

Repeat! This is NOT about creating a gun registry, in fact the bill expressly prohibits it.

“Provides that nothing in this Act shall be construed to: (1) expand the enforcement authority or jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); (2) allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry; or (3) extend background check requirements to transfers of firearms other than those made at gun shows or over the Internet, or to temporary transfers for purposes including lawful hunting or sporting, or to temporary possession of a firearm for purposes of examination or evaluation by a prospective transferee.”  [CRS] (emphasis added)

The bill, introduced last April 30th, would not have saved the Reno Police Department the embarrassment of the L’Affaire Conklin.  However, it would have made funding available for the improvement of Nevada’s background check system.

Finally, the bill proposes some information gathering:

“Establishes the National Commission on Mass Violence to study the availability and nature of firearms, including the means of acquiring firearms, issues relating to mental health, and the impacts of the availability and nature of firearms on incidents of mass violence or in preventing mass violence. Requires the Commission to conduct a comprehensive factual study of incidents of mass violence, including incidents not involving firearms, to determine the root causes of such mass violence.” [CRS]

In terms of the “root causes” of mass violence, if the Commission completes its study, we’d find out what may already be reasonably obvious:  There are some mentally disturbed individuals who should not possess firearms, especially semi-automatic weapons with high capacity clips, etc.  It may also be reasonable to conclude that the findings might incorporate the problems associated with our mental health care delivery system, not the least of which is that support systems and monitoring available while a young person is enrolled in school are not as available for those who are on their own.

As well intentioned as this bill may be, it doesn’t address cumulative effects of gun violence.   We know that in 2010 there were 16,259 homicides in the U.S. of which 11,078 were by firearms, that’s a hefty 68%.  [CDC] If we add in all firearm deaths the numbers are even more depressing.   Counting all firearms deaths, but excluding those caused by “legal intervention,” there were a total of 31,328 in 2010.  [CDC pdf]  Since 1999 there have been 360,558 individuals killed by firearms.

Gun death chart

Nor does the bill address issues related to gun trafficking.  Information from Virginia tells us that most of the guns used in criminal activities come from a minority of licensed gun dealers:

“There have been thousands of firearms dealers licensed in the state since 1998, but 60 percent of the 6,800 guns sold in Virginia in that time and later seized by police can be traced to just 40 dealers. The merchants include mom-and-pop gun shops, inner-city pawn dealers and suburban sporting-goods outlets.” [WaPo]

And, Virginia exports its problems, to New York for example:

“In 2011, the leading sources for firearms recovered and traced in New York City were Virginia (322), North Carolina (255) and South Carolina (251).

The latest data shows that 2,186 of 2,433 traceable guns used in crimes in the five boroughs in 2011 were brought in from out-of-state.” [StatenIsland]

Those two major issues notwithstanding, H.R. 1565 is a step in the correct direction.

The dementia of extremist gun enthusiasts, and their leaders and cohorts in the gun manufacturing business, should not obscure the very real problems associated with gun violence in this state and in this country.   We accept reasonable limits on all other provisions of the Bill of Rights, yet the extremists among us decry any limits on gun possession.  There is nothing unreasonable about efforts to diminish the possibility that guns will end up in the hands of career criminals, fugitives from justice, unsupervised children, and those who are afflicted with severe mental illnesses that render them likely to harm themselves and others.

1 Comment

Filed under Gun Issues, Titus