Category Archives: Gun Issues

The Price Tag Plus $32: The economic cost of guns in America

Guns $32.00 – according to the author of a NIJ study on gun fire casualties that’s the direct societal cost per gun in the United States.   When the costs for drunk driving and gun related injuries were compared in 1994 the drunk driving costs were characterized as substantially higher.  Now that has reversed.  In 1992 medical care for a fatal shooting averaged $14,500. By 2010 the number was $28,700. [USAT]  More recent figures put the annual cost to American society at $214 billion, or $693 per person. [LeadersEdge] Where does this number come from?

“…societal cost figure includes medical costs incurred from firearms violence and the lost earnings of the victims—either the survivors of a firearms injury or costs to loved ones left behind in case of a fatal shooting. And it includes an estimated $11.9 billion in costs to government for such things as Medicare and Medicaid payments to victims. It also includes $1.5 billion in medical and mental health treatment, public services, adjudication, sanctioning and productivity losses for the perpetrator.”  [LEdge]

On the other side of the ledger, the firearms industry supports about 120,310 jobs in “supplier and ancillary industries,” and the manufacture and sale of firearms generates $33.3 billion to the economy.  This would include $10.4 billion in wages, $4.6 billion in federal and state business taxes, $460 million in excise taxes, and about $2.1 billion in federal and state taxes paid by the firearms industry and its employees.  [LE NSSF]  In short, we’re losing about $180.7 billion on this deal?

Other elements not under discussion are the secondary effects of gun violence, such as the loss of real estate value in neighborhoods which experience high levels of gun fatalities and injuries.  Nor are we taking into economic consideration the unwillingness of commercial and manufacturing firms to expand or site operations in neighborhoods which have high gun violence numbers.

Every instance of a gun related accident or homicide adds to the economic costs of relatively unregulated firearms in American society.  The logic is fairly simple:

“We have supported research for more than 20 years to better understand the problems of gun violence, the risk factors of gun violence and the policies that can prevent it,” says Nina Vinik, the gun violence prevention program director for the Joyce Foundation in Chicago. “One thing consistent in the research over the decades is the finding that where guns are more available, more readily accessible, there is a corresponding increase in levels of gun violence and injuries, in homicides, in suicides and in accidents.” [LEdge]

Arguments about the United States being a “violent society” stray from the essential point – it’s not that we’re necessarily more criminally inclined, but that the easy availability of firearms tends to make our adventures with guns more lethal – and more expensive. [HarvardMag]

Another point, about which we probably ought to be having more conversation is that the proliferation of firearms in this country is costing us more than their economic value in the total economy.  Capitalism works – but only if the market decisions made are rational.

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Filed under Economy, Gun Issues

Justified, Necessary, or Both?

The police action in Sparks, NV might be controversial, but the Washoe County District Attorney has ruled the officers were justified in shooting, and killing, an armed 45 year old woman with a blood alcohol level of 0.127 in October, 2013. [RGJ]  The wounding of the woman’s daughter may generate more controversy, but the incident illustrates some of the major issues surrounding the use of lethal force by police officers.

The woman in question was threatening suicide.  There may be no more frightening situation for law enforcement personnel than facing someone who feels there is nothing left to lose. Individuals have been reported as deliberately assaulting officers while unarmed or while brandishing a variety of lethal and non lethal weapons. Some, perhaps up to 100 per year are intent upon having the police officer assist a suicide. [PSMag] Whatever the woman’s intent, let’s avoid using the catch-phrase “suicide by cop,” because it’s an undefined, unclear, categorization into which altogether too many incidents can be inserted which may or may not resemble one another in detail. [Slate]

What is reasonably clear from the report is that the woman was pointing her gun at her own head at one point in the confrontation, and threatening to end her life.  Suicidal ideation is one symptom of mental illness, and in entirely too many cases we are asking the police to serve as mental health professionals, a task for which they aren’t trained.

The fatal shooting of a homeless, mentally ill, man by the Albuquerque, NM police generated criticism of the officers’ use of lethal force last March, but it also highlighted the growing number of instances in which mentally ill individuals – lacking adequate local mental health services – are coming into contact with police agencies. [NYT]

There are training programs available for police officers, such as the NAMI Crisis Intervention Team model.    The Las Vegas Metro PD is working with NAMI-Southern Nevada to develop a collaborative pre-arrest diversion program based on the CIT model. [NAMI-SN] The Reno Police Department also has such a program. [UMemphis]  Smaller, more rural, Nevada counties may or may not have a CIT program in place. [UMemMap]

There is research indicating that the training works.  CIT trained responders were more likely to be engaged in “referral or transport” than in an arrest, and only 12% of the encounters in the study escalated to the level of physical force, and CIT trained personnel “were significantly more likely to report verbal engagement or negotiation as the highest level of force used.” [AJP pdf]

However, it would be remiss not to ask: How much effort is being put into alleviating the necessity of having expansive CIT programs? How many resources does the community provide for the mentally ill?

We also know the unfortunate woman had a blood alcohol concentration level well above Nevada’s general 0.08% limit.  We don’t know whether in this specific case alcohol was a constant or a periodic problem, and it really doesn’t matter individually, but collectively speaking it does raise the question of how well resourced and available alcohol treatment programs  are in the area?  Are they plentiful and affordable? Are they convenient in terms of access or are there long waiting lists and limited treatment facilities?

This case in Sparks, NV also requires some reflection on several other issues. For example, is the “suicide by cop” categorization appropriate, or not?  Are we adopting and implementing consistent training programs throughout Nevada cities and counties which might reduce the escalation of incidents into lethal territory?  Are we asking police departments and law enforcement agencies to assume too much of the burden of initial interaction with mentally ill or suicidal individuals?

As with all such tragic incidents, we’re always left with more questions than answers.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Health Care, Mental Health, Nevada politics

We can’t solve what we can’t see: How a lack of national police reporting obscures local problems

BlindfoldOn November 28, 2011 the Las Vegas Review Journal published an article in which it was reported:

“The nation’s leading law enforcement agency (FBI) collects vast amounts of information on crime nationwide, but missing from this clearinghouse are statistics on where, how often, and under what circumstances police use deadly force. In fact, no one anywhere comprehensively tracks the most significant act police can do in the line of duty: take a life.

“We don’t have a mandate to do that,” said William Carr, an FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C. “It would take a request from Congress for us to collect that data.”

Local law enforcement agencies have guidelines and internal review processes in one form or another, but what they don’t have are compilations of statistics which would facilitate analysis of trends, and problems.

As of July 31, 2012 Mother Jones magazine cited the Review Journal study of shootings in Las Vegas, Nevada, but was still lamenting the lack of national statistics and analysis.   Six days ago, August 14, 2014, USA Today reported the results of an FBI study which concluded, flawed though it may be, the FBI database is the best thing we have, and it’s informing us that officers have been involved in approximately 400 lethal events.   Again, the problem of statistical gaps raised comment:

“University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, who has long studied police use of deadly force, said the FBI’s limited database underscores a gaping hole in the nation’s understanding of how often local police take a life on America’s streets — and under what circumstances.

”There is no national database for this type of information, and that is so crazy,” said Alpert. “We’ve been trying for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their image and liability. They don’t want to bother with it.” [USAT]

This goes some distance toward explaining why we’ve not been able to address the issues of officer involved lethal events with any precision.  Police departments are reluctant to report incidents with any specificity and quantity, Congress won’t ask the FBI to compile the information, and the blind lead the blind into interminable debates about IF there is a problem, and what the nature of the problem might be.

There are 17,000 law enforcement jurisdictions in the United States, but only 750 contribute such statistics to the national database. [USAT]  Here’s why this is a problem:

# Failure to quantify a problem, or to attempt a quantification using a mix of statistical and anecdotal evidence colors any scientific analysis of projections, correlations, and trends.  We cannot rationally analyze and evaluate that which we cannot statistically describe.

For example, if we have two highly publicized cases of lethal events, does this mean we have a problem?  Is the problem ethnic? Cultural? Is it even a problem?  Lacking valid and reliable statistical context none of these questions can be adequately addressed.

# Without a statistical context the anecdotal and the immediate obscure the predictive and the analytical. The argument becomes one of perception, and perception uninformed by any clarification or larger context.  When the argument spills into the street the view becomes even more opaque.  While the existing statistics do support the assertion that interactions between white officers and black suspects are more likely to be negative, the limited depth of the statistics precludes giving the numbers any range.  We have a general sense of negativity, from a limited number of jurisdictions, which leads to more problems.

# Since not all law enforcement agencies are compelled to supply statistics on this subject, there is little predictive value from the numbers we do have.  We can study the trends in large agencies, such as Las Vegas Metro, Los Angeles, or New York City, but little can be reliably said of agencies which do not report.  Unfortunately, this situation means that smaller, or less responsive, police departments can’t adequately address problems — real or potential — in their environs and jurisdictions.

For example:  Let’s create a hypothetical in which there is a major metropolitan police department which does track and report its officer involved lethal event figures.  If this is a well administered, community responsive, department then we can reasonably conclude that Megatropolis area has good police/community relations.  Further, if a few suburban departments collect and report their statistics, and those, too, are positive, then most community leaders might conclude relations in the overall region are generally good, and in no need of assessment or change.

But, let’s toss a fly in our hypothetical ointment — What if there is a cluster of small jurisdictions in the metropolitan area which do not report, and do not have a demonstrable record of positive interactions with their community members?   In this instance, the partial analysis  of statistics from a limited sample obfuscates problems which will eventually flare into anecdotal evidence.  Or, to put it more simply — into people in the streets and headlines in the newspapers.

It didn’t have to be this way.  The International Association of Chiefs of Police began collecting data on officer involved incidents in 1995, and reported in 2001 that there were 3.6 records of use of force for every 10,000 calls for service.  [IACP]  For the first two years the project was supported by a joint grant from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute of Justice, and from 1998 to 2001 the database was funded by the IACP. [IACP pdf]  The IACP developed proto-type software for reporting and worked to secure state and local cooperation, but in 2001 the funding dried up and the project halted. [USAT]

Therefore, for the last 13 years we’ve been effectively operating with vision obscured by the lack of hard data.  Some law enforcement agencies may have made great strides in terms of community relations — but we’d not see that reflected in national statistics because we don’t have the numbers. There may be some police departments which have trajectory trends in police officer incidents that are essentially negative — but we don’t know this because we don’t have the numbers. There may be some regional problems indicating negative trends in community relations, but we don’t know this because we don’t have the numbers.

There are also reasons for police departments to support the collection of more, and better, data.  First, it’s really difficult to fix problems which aren’t acknowledged, and when anecdotal evidence — from either side — is all that’s available it is all too easy to miss trends. Secondly, if Department A is tracking its use of lethal force, while in the next door ZIP code Department B is functioning blithely unaware that it has a growing problem, then it’s reasonable for Department A to be aware of neighboring problems which threaten to land on its own doorstep. And, third, it is all but impossible to objectively evaluate the seriousness of issues such as the use of lethal force, and the efforts made to correct injustices,  without a solid, reliable, national database.

It’s high time for Congress to require that the Bureau of Justice Statistics compile and report statistics on officer involved use of force incidents, and to resurrect the IACP project with adequate funding.  Otherwise, we’ll continue to blunder in the dark, living witness to the truth of the old adage: There are none so blind as those who will not see.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Politics

Buck the NRA? Nevada’s Going To Try It

Everytown86% of Nevada residents want every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check.  [CPA pdf] So, a person might have thought that legislation in the last session of the Assembled Wisdom would have been enacted — and it was, only to be vetoed by a Governor who felt it would be too “burdensome” and a “violation” of someone’s 2nd Amendment rights.  Undaunted, and unmoved by the pretzel-twisted illogical prolix of NRA dependent politicians, Nevada for Background Checks launched an initiative.

The group has until November 11th to collect 101,677 signatures, or to put it in more legalese, 25,416 qualified signatures in each of Nevada’s four Congressional Districts, in order to get this measure on the 2016 general election ballot.

We already know the statistics on guns in this part of the country. We are the 9th deadliest state in terms of gun violence; we have 15.9 gun deaths per 100,000 people which is the 5th highest rate in the nation.  In 2010 we had the 4th worst homicide rate for women, most of whom were killed by firearms. And, there’s another statistic of which we can’t be all that proud: We’re the 9th highest exporter (trafficker) of guns the it country.  None of this will stop the opposition from the National Right to Shoot’em Up Association.

The right wing’s ready for this one, but the arguments being pressed contain their own seeds of self destruction.  Nothing quite like wearing reflective sun glasses at the poker table to give away one’s hand?  First, there’s guilt by association — the Nevada effort is supported in part by Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors MAIG action fund.  Gasp. Yes, and the opposition to the measure is coming from the National Rifle Association and its affiliates, so the point is exactly what?  That major national organizations are on opposing sides of the issue? I sincerely hope no one is surprised by this development.  What might be more surprising is the transformation of the opponents dog whistles into bull horns.

The aforementioned opposition piece is delighted to tell the audience there must be something secretive, something associated with those infamous outside agitators, because — addresses for Everytown are connected to New York City.  Bloomberg + New York = ?  Here’s the part where we have to decide if this sounds a bit too audible to be a dog whistle.  Is the question: NRA = Good Big National Group, Everytown = Bad Big National Group?

The second line Nevadans can expect from opponents is the old reliable ‘This won’t solve the problem’ canard.  If the initiative won’t prevent Bubba from blasting Bertha because the mayo went south in the refrigerator, then It Won’t Work assemblage of the south bound products of north bound bulls is getting old.   The response to this one is simplicity itself. Do you want to support a law which will make it harder for felons, fugitives, undocumented people, the severely mentally ill, and unsupervised juveniles to get guns?  That’s it. Yes? No?

The third main line of contention from the opponents is that it will inconvenience some gun buyers.  Yes, and being dead is very inconvenient as well.  It’s also inconvenient and unpleasant to find out we’re in the Top Ten Gun Exporters in the Country category too.  Once more, proponents can counter this object by repeating the question to the second argument.  Do you support a law which makes it harder for felons, fugitives, undocumented people, the severely mentally ill, and unsupervised juveniles to get guns? Yes? No?

Will some people be inconvenienced by having to wait for a purchase to be complete? Probably. Does that impinge on the ultimate ownership of a firearm by a person who can easily clear a criminal background check? Probably not.

A more difficult rejoinder to the right wing objections might be created by their quibbling over the word “transfer,” as in “Gee whiz, I’d be all for this but but but the word transfer isn’t clear.”  In fact, yes it is, if Black’s Law Dictionary is to be believed.  First, “transfer” is the “all encompassing term use by the Uniform Commercial Code to describe the act which passes an interest in an instrument to another.  Or, we can make this even more simple: “A transfer (n): An Act of the parties, or of the law, by which the title to property is conveyed from one person to another.”   However, this probably won’t stop the opponents of gun sale reform legislation from litigating hypothetical situations out of whole cloth and perfervid imaginations.

In the mean time, organizers and supporters have a limited amount of time to do the maximum amount of work to get this initiative on the 2016 ballot.  Here’s wishing them some very good luck.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Politics

Protecting Nevada Victims of Domestic Violence and Stalking: We Could Be Doing A Better Job

By almost any common sense standard Ronald E. Haskell should not have had a firearm. By almost any ethical standard he should not have had access to a firearm considering his past behavior towards his ex-wife, and by any moral standard he should not have taken his gun and assassinated six people in Spring, TX, and attempted to murder a seventh. There are three pieces of legislation in Congress which might have prevented this tragedy — and all three are opposed by the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers who support it.  [MJ]

It doesn’t do to sit out here in the Nevada sage brush and lament the problems far away in Texas without considering our own situation in regard to domestic violence and gun ownership.

In 2011, 35% of female homicide victims were killed during a domestic violence incident, and firearms accounted for the deaths of 214 women between 2001 and 2010. [CAP pdf] Let’s approach this rationally.

First, do we have a problem with domestic violence in the State?  Figures from the Nevada Department of Public Safety may indicate that we do. The latest general report available online (pdf) shows the number of domestic violence incidents — of all types — increasing during the period from 2000 to 2005.  There were 20,653 DVIs in 2000, followed by 26,417 in 2001. There were 26,691 in 2002 and another 27,915 in 2003.  2004 totals were 29,233 and in 2005 there were 31,247.  Evidently, things didn’t get much better by 2009.

When the Violence Policy Center rated states according to females murdered by males in single victim homicides by rate, Nevada came up #1, with a 2.70, beating out Alabama with a 2.64 rate and Louisiana with a rate of 1.99. [VPC pdf]  The Nevada Legislature took some serious steps to correct the dismal statistics in the early 2000’s in 2007, [DB] and we have seen some improvement.

Happily, by 2011 the Nevada ranking had dropped to 16th with a rating of 1.48. [VPC pdf] The bad news is that this ranking is still in the “Top 20″ nationally. We obviously have room for improvement to reach Illinois at 0.27, Massachusetts at 0.53, and Vermont at 0.36. [VPC pdf]  We do know that during the period 2003 and 2012 there were 221 domestic violence homicides in Nevada and 52.9% of the fatalities were caused by guns. [CAP pdf]  There are some steps we could take to improve our numbers.

What can be done to improve the situation?  As noted many times in this venue, Nevada should have universal background checks to determine if any of the categories of persons who are proscribed from firearm ownership are attempting to purchase weaponry.   The sorry history of S. 221 was most recently discussed here in an article about the Background Check Initiative.  In short, without at least a cursory background check there is little way to determine if the buyer is subject to the restrictions on firearm possession set forth in NRS 33.031 and NRS 33.033.

The permissive language in NRS 33.031 is also a potential loophole through which a miscreant could retain or acquire firearms.  The statute says, “a court MAY include” within an NRS 33.030 extended restraining order the provision that the “adverse party” will surrender firearms, and cannot possess them while the order is in effect.  In order to attach this proviso, the court must decide that the “adverse party” has a (1) documented history of domestic violence, (2) Has used or threatened to use a firearm to injure or harass the applicant, a minor child or any other person, or (3) Has used a firearm in the commission or attempted commission of any crime.  First, it doesn’t appear that this provision can be applied during a temporary restraining order — the first one issued after the violent incident.  Secondly, the firearm surrender requirement is spoken of only in terms of the extended order of protection.  Granted this gives the “adverse party” some representational rights, since the temporary order might not include the presence of our “adverse party,” in court.  However, it also presents some practical issues.

A Nevada Court has one “judicial” day to consider a temporary restraining order of protection, but it has 45 days in the instance of an application for an extended order. [NRS 33.020]  Thus we have a potential circumstance in which a person with a documented history of domestic violence, one who has used or threatened to shoot the applicant, the children, or others, or has already used a firearm in the commission of a crime — has more than a month of “free” firearm possession in this State. That’s certainly sufficient time for the “adverse party” to locate and endanger the remainder of the family.

One possible solution to the problem might be to eliminate the permissive “may”  from the provisions regarding an extended order of protection and simply say that if the “adverse party” meets the three criteria then law enforcement “will” take custody of the individual’s firearms.  Additionally, if the court finds that there is ample evidence of previous incidents of domestic violence, or clear and present danger from immediate threats, then it “may” remove the firearms during the period covered by the temporary restraining order.

There is no intent in this suggestion to permanently deprive any individual of his 2nd Amendment entertainment devices, merely to secure them while a domestic situation remains volatile.  Nor is this a “blank check” for government to “take guns away” without Constitutional protections — the permissive language (may) pertaining to the temporary restraining order gives the court some latitude to determine the extent of the volatility, and to protect the victim, and, to no small extent, protect our “adverse party” from doing something in the heat of the moment he might regret for the rest of his life.

There is also some elasticity in Nevada laws which place some women and children at risk.  NRS 200.575 discusses stalking, which is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and a gross misdemeanor for the second.  Nevada adds a category of “aggravated stalking:”

“A person who commits the crime of stalking and in conjunction therewith threatens the person with the intent to cause the person to be placed in reasonable fear of death or substantial bodily harm commits the crime of aggravated stalking. A person who commits the crime of aggravated stalking shall be punished for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.”

It is only when the stalker adds threats of death and substantial bodily harm that he would be committing a felony, and thus ineligible to possess firearms under Nevada law.  This sounds reasonable until we run into the problematic nature of stalker mentalities.  After a conviction for a first and second offense the individual may still acquire firearms, if the victim can’t prove a fear of “death or substantial bodily harm,” beyond a reasonable doubt.  The background check would not exclude the individual unless he’s already convicted of felonious, or “aggravated” stalking since stalking convictions are misdemeanors for the first two offenses.

Another suggestion:  Make the imposition of an order of protection mandatory in all cases of stalking. In the instance of a first conviction the court “may” include the surrender of firearms in the order, and “shall” include it in the case of a second conviction; especially if the stalking is done to the same victim as in the first case.   Current law (NRS 200.591) permits a court to issue a temporary or extended order of protection but doesn’t require it.  Might women and families be safer if the temporary order were applied for the first offense, with the provision that the court “may” include the surrender of deadly weapons?  They would certainly seem to be safer if an extended order was immediately applied after the second conviction, and proscribed the possession of firearms for the duration of the order.

The slippage in the system comes, of course, when there is no background check required for all gun sales, such that after the misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions the stalker can simply purchase a firearm at a gun show and move on to the felony he may have been contemplating.

Spare me the “law abiding citizens” argument from the 2nd Amendment extremists.  A person who commits domestic violence has broken the law. A person who stalks another person in the state of Nevada has broken the law.  This is not law-abiding behavior.  When a person’s behavior is classified as a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a class B felony — it is not law-abiding. Period.

Spare me the “Big Plot To Take Guns” argument. No one is speaking of temporary or extended orders of protection which deprive the non-law-abiding of their 2nd Amendment playthings in perpetuity. When the stalker hits the B Felony grade he’s done it to himself; if he’s still in the misdemeanor range the surrender of firearms lasts only as long as the orders of protection.

And, finally, spare us the misery of a rendition of the Spring, TX massacre in the Silver State.

 

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

The Unsportsmanlike Act

Duck StampThe Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) sailed through the first cloture roadblock on an 82-12 vote [roll call 218] and then sank in the mire of Senate obstructionism.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the plug in the face of Republican squabbling over amendments. [The Hill]  What started out as a simple two title bill got entangled in …. Guns.

Title I of the original bill would have allowed hunters to get duck stamps online, and allowed target practice on federal lands, among other improvements for those who truly are into hunting. Title II concerned conservation of various habitats. [S. 2363]  And then things got complicated.

Guns Galore!

Thirty eight amendments were offered to the bill.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wanted to add his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, which would have gutted gun regulations in the District of Columbia, and just about everywhere else for that matter. [CR S4283]  He also proposed allowing firearms in postal facilities. [CR S4283] Nothing like encouraging the customers to, in a phrase from a bygone era, “go postal?”

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) joined Senator Paul in his efforts to add the proposed “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, [CR S4283]  and he, too, wanted to extend firearm privileges in postal facilities. Lee’s three amendments essentially proposed the same extensions of Paul’s expansion of gun ‘rights.’

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX) offered his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the original bill, and Senator Jefferson Beauregard Session (R-Old South) chimed in with his rendition.  Not to be outdone, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) wanted a “Second Amendment Enforcement Act included in the three amendments he filed, as did Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo, Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in three amendments, and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Nevada’s own Senator Dean Heller.

There’s nothing new about this “Second Amendment Enforcement Act,” it was drafted by the National Rifle Association, and was introduced by Senators McCain (R-GreenRoom) and Tester (D-MT) as a response to gun regulations in the District of Columbia. [OV.com] By the lights of the NRA there shouldn’t be any.  It also showed up in the 110th Congress (2008) in the form of H.R. 6691.  It appeared in Representative Mike Ross’s H.R. 645 in 2011 [NRA] where it died in Committee in February 2011. [GovTrack]

If the fish can’t live in the water, why are you fishing there?

Senator Heller also signed on to Senator Barrasso’s amendment which deviated from the chorus of ‘gun rights’ and headed into the Clean Water Act.  SA 3453 took the regulation out of regulations concerning the identification of waters protected by the Clean Water Act:

“SEC. 1__XX. IDENTIFICATION OF WATERS PROTECTED BY THE CLEAN WATER ACT.
(a) In General.–Neither the Secretary of the Army nor the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall– (1) finalize the proposed rule entitled “Definition of `Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act” (79 Fed. Reg. 22188 (April 21, 2014)); or
(2) use the proposed rule described in paragraph (1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).  (b) Rules.–The use of the proposed rule described in subsection (a)(1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) shall be grounds for vacation of the final rule, decision, or enforcement action.”

That’s simple, if the Army and the EPA can’t finalize rules regarding the definition of protected water under the Clean Water Act, there’s no clean water? This unpleasant notion was also put forward by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).

It’s rather difficult to imagine a bill intended to encourage hunting and fishing including a proposal to allow more pollution of hunting and fishing realms. However, several Republican Senators managed to do it.  This “Polluted Waters Act of 2014″ didn’t quite mesh with Senator Cardin’s (D-DE) amendment to enact the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.  Nor does it seem particularly appealing to someone like myself who thoroughly enjoys fly fishing — imagine all the fun of standing in a mountain stream watching what gray slime doesn’t attach to the waders float along downstream?

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was disappointed there wasn’t an “amendment process,” [The Hill] but with the “Second Amendment Solutions” attached, and the specter of the Dirty Water Fishing Act of 2014 included, we shouldn’t be too disappointed that this little bill didn’t make it past the Senate Obstruction Machine.

It would have been nice if the hunters could have gotten their duck stamps online…

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Filed under Congress, ecology, Gun Issues, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

NRA: Protect Your Local Stalker

NRA Stalker

The National Rifle Association seems set upon a course to convince most sentient creatures that is has completely lost the plot.  Its Flying Monkey Brigade is out to kill a bill that would prevent those convicted of stalking from purchasing firearms. [RS] The Association issued a letter opposing the bill proposed by former prosecutor Amy Klobuchar (D-MN):

“In the letter, the NRA argued that the legislation “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for firearm prohibitions.” [RS]

Translation: Members of Congress should not enact any legislation about which people have some passionate views, especially when those views concern the personal safety of themselves and their loved ones?  Or, are we too read this as, members of Congress should not enact bills which restrict the access of gun ownership to anyone, no matter how inappropriate or unsafe the circumstances?

The letter went further:

“The NRA is also concerned that the definition of “stalking” is too broad to warrant any abridging of the Second Amendment. “‘Stalking’ offenses do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior,” the letter read.

“Under federal law, for example, stalking includes ‘a course of conduct’ that never involves any personal contact whatsoever, occurs wholly through the mail, online media, or telephone service, is undertaken with the intent to ‘harass’ and would be reasonably expected to cause (even if it doesn’t succeed in causing) ‘substantial emotional distress’ to another person.” [RS]

So, Gee — if there wasn’t any physical contact — this isn’t really really threatening behavior? This doesn’t cause any ‘real’ fear, any ‘real’ concern for personal or family safety?  There’s nothing to say that the behavior might escalate?

The Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a report in 2009 (pdf) which offers another view of the issue.  The report found that stalkers also engaged in property damage, illegal entry and burglary, battery, rape, sexual assault, attacks on family members, on children, and on family pets. Most stalking victims reported threats of physical harm, threats to kill, threats to harm another family member or to harm a pet. There were threats of suicide, harming co-workers, and the use of weapons.   All of this does not sound like a “course of conduct” which would be mitigated by the addition of firearms.

How do we deal with the NRA charge that ‘stalking’ is too vague a term, and just another excuse to take guns away?  Nevada’s statutes offer a fair example of how stalking is defined:

“A person who, without lawful authority, willfully or maliciously engages in a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, commits the crime of stalking.”

Where the NRA simply omits the list of things that stalkers do to terrify their prey — and dismisses it as something that might not even be scary — the state of Nevada explains that if the stalker causes an otherwise reasonable person to feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed, or fearful for immediate safety,” this constitutes stalking.  In short, the NRA displays a thorough disregard for the victims of stalking , and focuses solely on the ‘poor’ stalker — who might not have done any physical harm (yet) — being unable to hop down to the gun shop and procure whatever weapon desired.  This state of affairs is unlikely to alleviate the situation of the victim.

46% of the victims of the stalkers report fearing “what would happen next,” exactly the frame of mind the stalker sought to induce. 29% feared the stalking would never stop. One in eight stalking victims lost time at work, and one in seven found it necessary to move because of a stalker. [VOC] And then there’s the health end of the problem:

“The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed. [Eric Blauuw et al. "The Toll of Stalking," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 17, no. 1(2002):50-63.]

There’s also that “emotionally compelling” issue of domestic violence, which the NRA intimates ought not to deprive a batterer of “his rights.”  Nevada has addressed this issue head on.

Nevada takes domestic violence seriously.  There’s nothing vague about the provisions of NRS 33.018. Domestic violence is domestic violence, and there are penalties for it. Neither is there anything incomprehensible about NRS 200.485 which delineates the elements of a domestic violence battery. If a person uses “willful and unlawful force or violence upon the person of another,” that’s a battery. [NVLeg] And, if a person commits an act of domestic violence, the state of Nevada provides for injunctions to protect the victim, including two sections in the statutes addressing firearms. [NRS 33.031 & NRS 33.033]

The 2007 Nevada Legislature passed AB 194, signed by the Governor on June 7, 2007, and from that time forward a court may issue an extended order of protection which requires that an ‘adverse’ party give up their firearms.  The votes in the Legislature weren’t even close — the Assembly vote was 41-0, and the Senate vote was 20-1.   There was a reason for that — some appalling numbers which put Nevada at the top of some lists which weren’t all that positive.

During testimony on AB 194 (pdf) the Assembly Judiciary Committee heard testimony stating:

“Since 1999, Nevada has consistently rated among the top five states for domestic violence homicides of women. In 2004, Nevada had 2.21 female homicides per 100,000 women, and the national average is 1.37. Statistics show that 55 to 67 percent of domestic violence homicides are committed with the use of firearms. Out of the 25 homicides in Nevada in 2004, 15 were killed with firearms, six were beaten to death, and four were killed with knives. That shows about 60 percent being killed with firearms. When firearms are used in domestic violence assaults, it is 12 times more likely to result in death than assaults without firearms involved. It is clear that firearms and domestic violence are a deadly combination.” (page 25)

Until the NRA ceases to lobby for the sales of firearms to stalkers and domestic abusers, there’s no reason to take them seriously.

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