Category Archives: Nevada legislature

Bits and Pieces: Tesla, Titus, Heller, and Amodei

Jig Saw Puzzle ** It’s a done deal. TESLA’s coming to Nevada, brought to us by $1.2 billion worth of ‘incentives.’ [RGJ]  Meanwhile, watch that multiplier! The state is assuming a 2.5 multiplier for revenue generation, i.e. for every one direct job with TESLA there will be 2.5 ancillary jobs created – that’s a big multiplier. [RGJ] See also [LVRJ]

**  Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) asked the VA to move its regional office from Reno to Las Vegas. [LVRJ]  Much as it might pain a northern Nevadan to say so, but the Las Vegas metropolitan area does have more of the 246,000 Nevada veterans than those living in the north, [VA] and the northern office hasn’t covered itself in glory. [LVRJ]  I’d not want to hang by my hair waiting for a definitive answer from the new VA leadership.

** From the Department of No Surprises:  Senator Dean Heller (R-American Bankers Association) voted against the cloture motion to consider S.J. Res. 19, a bill to propose a Constitutional amendment to allow the Congress to enact meaningful campaign finance reform.  Senator Heller was one of 42 (all Republican) votes to continue to filibuster any attempt to overturn the decision in Citizens United.  [roll call 261]

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of H.R. 3522, a bill which would allow insurance corporations to offer small businesses group  insurance plans which DO NOT meet the standards for comprehensive health insurance coverage for their employees under the terms of the ACA.  [RC 495]  One organization summed up the problem with the bill:

“This legislation would allow health insurers to continue offering coverage outside of the insurance marketplaces established by the health law even if those plans do not comply with its coverage requirements. In addition, the inferior plans that would be allowed to continue under Representative Cassidy’s bill discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, force women to pay more than men for the same coverage and impose annual caps on the amount of care received by enrollees.” [NCPSSM]  (emphasis added)

Those three issues, pre-existing condition discrimination, gender discrimination, and junk policies with capped coverage are some of the main reasons the ACA was necessary in the first place.

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Filed under Amodei, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, nevada taxation, Titus

The Tesla Tango

Tesla Here’s the paragraph from PLAN’s letter to the Nevada state legislature which should capture attention:

If we are to use our state’s threadbare tax coffers to subsidize this multi-billion dollar corporation, we urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to hold Tesla accountable for creating family-wage jobs with Nevadans first in line, and other benefits for our state. Specifically, you should attach job quality standards regarding wages and benefits, indexed to inflation over the 20-year deal, to the Tesla tax breaks. You should also mandate customized training and first-source hiring procedures to maximize hiring opportunities for Nevadans. And to deter outsourcing or the use of temp agencies, all of Tesla’s tax breaks (not just the refundable credits) should require direct employment and be pegged to employment levels (so that property and sales tax exemptions would be scaled back if Tesla does not reach and maintain 6,500 employees). (emphasis added)

If Nevada is to experience the benefits from tax incentives offered to TESLA, then it needs to have the wage levels secured to a level which would allow for increased demand for goods and services.  In a state without an income tax, the state revenues have to filter through the sales and business taxes.  For that to happen there has to be an increased level of consumer spending.

‘Minimum wage jobs, temporary employment, outsourced temp employment will simply shave potential demand from the equation.  The current “half the loaf” proposal is problematic:

“The bill requires half of the construction workers and half of the permanent factory workers be from Nevada. Tesla will be required to keep such things as driver’s licenses and car registrations of its employees on file to prove the quota has been met. However, if Tesla can demonstrate it can’t find enough qualified employees in Nevada, it can ask the economic development director for a waiver.” [RGJ]

Why 50%? Why not 67%.  Or are we to be pleased that we’re getting the 50%?  The type of jobs included is another issue for stakeholders.  TESLA will no doubt import its own upper level management team for its plant, this is standard practice and will bring in incomes which could drive local demand for goods and services.  It’s the intermediate positions about which Nevadans might want to be concerned.   And, there’s this:

“Tesla will get a $12,500 transferable tax credit for up to 6,000 qualified employees, who work at least 30 hours a week and make an average of $22 an hour.”  [RGJ]

30 hours?  The last time we looked, 30 hours is a part time job, and which average are we talking about?  Is that the median wage? (half the paychecks above and half below the $22 mark) Or, is it an arithmetical mean, in which the salaries of the top employees are averaged in with the lowest paid workers?  In other words, if we use the arithmetical mean to get the average between a person paid $10 per hour with the income of the Sultan of Brunei wouldn’t that yield an artificially higher average wage?  Or, are we using the mode, the most common wage paid by the company? If there are more people earning $22 per hour than any other group – except there are profound disparities between the top and bottom – then would this be a clear picture of the salary and wage distribution of the firm?

No doubt there will be more questions as the Nevada legislature continues to debate the bill to offer TESLA tax incentives to locate its plant in the state. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Nevada, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

Nevada Legislature Needs to Talk About Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Ribbon Sadly, sometimes it takes a dramatic event to capture attention indicating a serious problem – the Ray Rice Case is a notable example.  In the immortal words of the late great Joan Rivers, “Can We Talk?”

Instead of taking action when alarms sound, Nevada’s been hitting the Snooze Alarm on domestic violence. 

Alarm:  On February 7, 2012 the Las Vegas Sun reported findings that nearly half of all women surveyed by the CDC living in Nevada reported having experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes.  Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto established a domestic violence fatality review board to review the issue and look at a  “sample of cases to determine where the chain of assistance and services could be strengthened to prevent future domestic violence homicides.”

Alarm:  April 24, 2013 The report from the domestic violence fatality review was published. [pdf]  Recommendations included suggestions for improving the collection and analysis of data – not surprising because the review board found local governments should (but not necessarily do) have processes in place to gather accurate and complete information for state wide analysis.

Another recommendation centered on the creation and implementation of a process by which there could be an immediate temporary restraining order at the time of an arrest, amending NRS 33.017.

The fifth recommendation suggested that local judges and attorneys discontinue the practice of pleading down domestic violence cases.  Pleading down a case such that the perpetrator is assigned to “impulse control classes” too often means that the second offense is treated as a “first offense,” and the cumulative process of domestic violence sentencing in ineffective.  We’ll come back to this recommendation in a moment.

Alarm:  January 26, 2014 the Las Vegas Review Journal reports that domestic violence cases are on the rise in Clark County. In 2012 the police responded to some 60,000 reports of domestic violence, and in 22,000 of those there was some form of criminal behavior.   While Nevada was no longer Number One in domestic violence statistics, having dropped to Number 16 in the nation, there are still entirely too many cases.

The Legal Environment

These alarms are going off in an environment in which domestic violence may not be considered a felony unless there is a weapon involved or the victim is permanently injured.  [LVGov]  Further,  section 228 of the Nevada statutes dealing with domestic violence is mostly concerned with the certification and administration of treatment programs.  This is not to say that Nevada laws are necessarily weak in term of domestic abuse, but they do have elements which could be improved.  One such area concerns “battery.”

While Las Vegas advises victims that there must be permanent injury or the use of a potentially lethal weapon for the perpetrator to face a felony charge, the statute on battery is not necessarily as lenient.  NRS 200.400 defines a battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”

If the person intended to commit “mayhem” (permanent bodily injury) or robbery or grand larceny, then this would be considered a category B felony punishable by a state prison term of not less than 2 years nor more than 10, and a fine of not more than $10,000.  Battery with intent to kill will also be considered a category B felony with a term of at least 2 years incarceration and not more than 20.  If there is substantial bodily harm and the victim is over the age of 16, then the offense is a category A felony, with a minimum sentence of 2 years and a maximum of life. 

Again, the “substantial bodily harm” is defined as “Bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ; or Prolonged physical pain.”  In short, while the general definition of a battery seems like the obvious charge in a domestic violence situation, the definitions of “mayhem,” and “substantial bodily harm” raise the standard such that the advisory from Las Vegas is essentially correct.

The Personal Environment

Unfortunately not all forms of domestic abuse/violence take the obvious form of a battery, nor of an assault in a traditional legal sense.  Pushing, kicking, slapping, punching, strangulation, biting, throwing objects at or near the victim, subjecting the person to reckless driving, using household objects as weapons, threatening the partner with weapons of various sorts, are all common forms of domestic violence that don’t achieve the levels of abuse in the form of lacerations, fractures, internal injuries; or of abuse that leads to disabilities or death. [DWVA.org]  The academic definition of domestic abuse (intimidation, humiliation, physical injury) [AAETS] meets the legal definitions only when the abuse becomes readily apparent, and intense enough to meet the standards for mayhem or substantial bodily harm.

Modern society places a premium on being in control, and there is a temptation when discussing the behaviors listed above to describe them as being “out of control,” or the result of immediate anger or frustration.  In fact, the domestic abuser is all about control, “Domestic abuse is not a result of losing control; domestic abuse is intentionally trying to control another person. The abuser is purposefully using verbal, nonverbal, or physical means to gain control over the other person.”  [AAETS]

We punish those who go beyond the bounds of acceptable human behavior if they do things which cause substantial bodily harm or result in mayhem. However, we’re not as efficient in creating a legal environment in which it’s recognized that there are abusive individuals, who are not out of control, and whose actions cause severe emotional damage and psychological harm, which may or may not result in permanent injury.

It’s time now to reconsider the recommendation from the state review panel on sentencing guidelines, with a special focus on their commentary:

“When these cases are pleaded down to lower level offenses, sentencing is ineffective or even dangerous. For example, impulse control classes are not effective in domestic violence cases. In addition, this creates a system where future domestic violence incidents are treated as a first offense, and therefore the cumulative nature of domestic violence sentencing is ineffective.”  (emphasis added)

Admitting the Almost Obvious

Publicly stating that impulse control classes aren’t the answer should have raised some controversy when the Attorney General’s panel first issued the report on domestic violence cases in Nevada.  However, the conclusion is substantiated by other, and earlier, research.  In a 2002 meta-study of treatment programs (Babcock, Green, Robie) found: “Overall, effects due to treatment were in the small range, meaning that the current interventions have a minimal impact on reducing recidivism beyond the effect of being arrested.”

A study of offenders in Broward County, Florida in 2004 was no more heartening:  “The results presented here show no clear and demonstrable effects of counseling on offenders’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Analysis of  self-reported and victim-reported psychological and physical abuse using the revised Conflict Tactics Scales suggests that the behavior of batterers in  the treatment programs did not change over time.” (pdf) 

A 2008 publication of meta-analysis concerning studies of batterer treatment programs also confirms the Nevada panel’s conclusion. “The Preponderance of evidence now accumulated in the field calls into question the efficacy of “batterer” programs based on the most prevalent national models. Indeed, the main findings from our randomized trial are consistent with other recent trials, of which none found that mandating offenders to a batterer program for groups of men produced lower rates of re-abuse.” (pdf)

Not to paint a very pretty face on the matter, but Nevada has an entire section of code (NRS 228) given to certifying treatment programs for domestic abusers, one segment concerning how certification may be withdrawn, and a sentence requiring the program to measure the success of the individual’s progress – but doesn’t seem to have a complete grip on what to do when treatment doesn’t work.

The Legislative Environment

It would seem obvious that one of the tasks to which the next session of the State Legislature should set for itself is the oversight of sentencing and adjudication of domestic violence crimes.  There are some pertinent questions which ought to be raised:

#1.  What is the “success rate,” if any, of the mandatory treatment programs for domestic abusers in Nevada?  What is an “acceptable” recidivism rate?  How is recidivism measured? Re-arrest rates?  Self reporting? After treatment interviews and investigations?

#2. If, as suggested by the research, the fear of arrest is more conducive to a reduction in domestic violence among its perpetrators than court mandated treatment programs, then are community standards for police training, and judicial education commensurate with the need to effect more efficacious interaction between the batterers and the courts?  *This is a polite way to say, “Do we junk the bulk of NRS 228 and improve the way the legal code addresses that domestic battering which doesn’t meet the standards required for mayhem and substantial bodily injury?”

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Filed under domestic abuse, Nevada legislature, Nevada 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

Nevada: Vote Like Your Right To Vote Depends On It

Ballot BoxThere’s one Nevada political race which hasn’t attracted as much limelight as might be justified.  That would be the race for Secretary of State.  The Secretary of State’s office has authority over elections and voting, and the implementation of Nevada election laws and regulations.  The Nevada Republican Party has already put citizens on notice that it intends to flog the Election Integrity Mule all the way to the polls.

Here’s their 2014 election platform statement:

“We advocate proof of U.S. citizenship and residency at the time of voter registration and requiring government issued photo ID at the time of voting.  We oppose same day voter registration to preserve election integrity.  We strongly support all electronic voting systems having a voter verified paper audit trail, used in the event of a recount.”

Look closely at the first sentence.  Yes, everyone supports the idea that a person is a U.S. citizen, and is a resident for the purposes of voting.  And, yes if a person does the registration paperwork to vote in Nevada a government issued ID or driver’s license is required. [NVSoS] If a person doesn’t have a government issued ID or driver’s license then the individual must register in person at the county election office, clerk or registrar. [NVSoS]

Once the paperwork is filed and the voter is included among those eligible to vote in Nevada, when a person goes to the polls the burden of proof to refuse that individual a ballot is on the government — not the individual.  It is up to the government to demonstrate you are not eligible to vote — it is not up to you to prove that you are.

So, here the second part of that sentence comes into play.  Under the Nevada Republican scheme of things, not only does a person have to prove citizenship and residency during the registration process, BUT the person must also prove he or she is eligible to vote at the polling place.  In other, unminced words, the burden of proof is now shifted from “you are eligible to vote unless the government can prove you aren’t” to “you are not eligible to vote until you prove you are.”

Since voting irregularities are illegal, what the Nevada Republican Party is advocating is a system in which you are NOT presumed  innocent until you are proven guilty, you are presumed guilty until you can prove you aren’t.  [Extended discussion here]

The second sentence doesn’t make much sense. If you have proof of citizenship and residency a few days before an election, wouldn’t you have it on election day?  Should there be issues regarding either element there’s always recourse to the provisional ballot.  The only thing that same day registration actually does is make voting easier and more convenient.

And all this in the interest of providing ‘election integrity.’  Nor is this a recent idea.  ALEC and its allies have been shoving the concept of increased corporate influence and decreased citizen participation for some time — and they do have Nevada allies. [DB]

There was an effort during the 2011 legislative season to enact a voter photo ID law. [DB] Legislators Roberson, Hardy, Hansen, Woodbury, Stewart, and Hambrick were the Suppression Six.  Among the bills they sponsored or supported were AB 327, AB 341, AB 425, AB 434, and SB 374.

State Senator Barbara Cegavske added her own bill to the mix, AB 311 jointly sponsored by Hardy, Sherwood, Hansen, Munford, Gustavson, and Halseth.  The bill would have eliminated all early voting in Nevada elections.

Another bit of red, white, and blue fearmongering was addressed in 2011 by SB 178, sponsored by Gustavson, Hardy, McGinness, Roberson, Settelmeyer, Hansen, Ellison, Goedhart, Goicoechea, Hambrick, Kirner, and McArthur.  The bill was a rather blatant bit of immigrant bashing, with whispers of “illegals” voting in the toxic mixture.

During the 2013 session of the state legislature there were another spate of bills regarding photo ID statutes and other means of making voting less convenient and more restrictive.  There was SB 63 (photo ID), SB 367 (repetition of immigrant bashing  SB 178/2011) , AB 216 (Photo ID) sponsored by Sen. Gustavson, Hansen, Wheeler, Ellison, Hambrick, Fiore, P. Anderson, Grady, Livermore, and Stewart.  AB 319 (Photo ID) sponsored by Stewart, Hambrick, Hansen, Duncan, Grady, Hardy, Hickey, Kirner, and Livermore.

And what of making voting more convenient?  During the 2013 legislative session, AB 440 was passed which would have extended the period for voter registration. The bill passed the Assembly on a 25-16 vote. [NVLeg] It passed the Nevada Senate on a 11-10 vote.  The Nay votes came from Brower, Cegavske, Pete Goicoechea, Gustavson, Hammond, Hardy, Hutchison, Ben Kieckhefer, Roberson, and Settelmeyer. [NVLeg]  The bill was vetoed by Governor Sandoval.

There appear to be two outcomes the Nevada Republican Party would very much like to see in the upcoming 2014 elections.  The first would be to control the State Senate, and the second might very well be to elect State Senator Barbara Cegavske as the new Secretary of State.

Democrats in Nevada would be well advised to vote in 2014 as if their right to vote depended on it — given the platform, the previous legislative efforts, and the voting records of Nevada Republicans in the Legislature, Senator Barbara Cegavske in particular — it might.

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

We’re the worst? Nevada is the Least Safe State

We could be doing a little better than this:

“Among the things that led to Nevada’s dismal overall status were a 47th ranking for “murder and non-negligent manslaughter per capita,” 47th for “public hospital rankings,” 43rd for “percentage of population without health insurance coverage,” 31st for “employer health insurance coverage rates” and 47th for “assault per capita.”

Piled on these were poor financial rankings for Nevada: 49th for “annual consumer savings account averages” and 50th for “percentage of people who spend more than they make.”  [Full story RGJ]

So, in terms of overall financial safety, Nevada ranks 50th — only Mississippi ranks lower; and in the home and community safety column we’re ranked 49th, with only Tennessee ranked below us.  [WalletHub]

We didn’t make the infamous top ten rankings in “aggregate state rankings in gun violence outcomes,” but we are sitting at number 12. [CAP pdf] We were 9th in national rankings of firearm deaths (2010), and if we extend the time period to 2001-2010 Nevada climbs into 5th place. [CAP pdf]

In short, having relatively lax gun safety statutes and regulations, and being in proximity to other states with lax statutes and regulations isn’t going to produce happy outcomes in regard to overall firearm deaths by accident, suicide, negligence, or homicide.

Our recent example of gun violence in Las Vegas should be perceived as yet another reminder that radicalized gun enthusiasts with access to copious amounts of firearms and ammunition isn’t a recipe for reducing our crime rate and raising the level of public safety.

If we would reduce the level of gun violence, there are some things that work.  No, they aren’t going to stop ALL or each instance of it, but they do help bring down the unfortunate statistics.

#1. Enact universal background checks for all gun sales.  At the risk of redundancy, Nevada proscribes arms sales to felons, fugitives, juveniles without adult supervision, undocumented aliens, and the seriously mentally ill. Arms may also be proscribed for those who have been involved in domestic violence incidents.  It would help our law enforcement officials if we were more careful to insure that people in these classifications do not acquire their own arsenals.

#2. Limit the ammunition capacity.  Seriously, if a person hasn’t shot the home intruder with ten rounds, what makes anyone think the next 20 would do more than merely shoot up the house? In at least two highly publicized instances the shooter has been apprehended while trying to reload.

There’s another element which deserves some consideration — Nevada ranks in the upper half of national suicide statistics, with a 20.3 rate. And, we know that of the four categorized methods, firearms are used most often (50.5%). [AFSP] [CDC] To see firearms as strictly related to “crime” statistics is to miss a significant portion of the public health and safety issues associated with the profusion of firearms.

The risk factors for suicides are well documented: family history, child abuse, previous attempts, personal history of mental disorders or clinical depression, history of alcohol or substance abuse.. [CDC] However, while we’ve put a great deal of effort into studying suicide, rather less has been done to research protective measures. This is not to say we don’t have a grasp of what works to prevent suicides. Easy access to clinical care for physical, mental, and substance abuse disorders mitigates the problem, as does having a variety of clinical interventions and the provision of support for those seeking help.

Individuals with family/community support, access to medical care relationships, and those who have been provided with assistance or training in problem solving, conflict resolution, and non-violent means of dealing with disputes, also are less likely to commit suicide.

If we’re serious about reducing this element of insecurity in Nevada there are measures we could take ‘for starters’.

#1. Enhance and improve the capacity of Nevada’s Drug Courts.  We currently have 17 adult drug courts in the state [NVJud] among the specialty courts available.  Each and every specialty court should be able to function secure in the knowledge that the rehabilitation services it mandates are readily available for those those come through the system.

#2. Improve the level of staffing and support services in our mental health system.  Unfortunately, information regarding current levels of support and regional availability of services is difficult to access because the State Division of Public and Behavioral Health is still trying to get its website up and running — a project which it estimates will take three to six months. (The old links aren’t working today.)

Adopting any, or as could be hoped, of all four suggestions will take some political leadership, and a bit of readjustment in how we perceive and deal with our fellow citizens.

First, it would be helpful if we could expand the discussion of firearm safety beyond the tortured logic of “freedom” or other generic complaints about governance and see the proliferation of firearms as a public health issue. Secondly, once we can visualize aspects of firearm safety as an element of public health then we can begin to address subordinate issues such as keeping firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves and others, and of restraining the amount of damage a troubled person might be able to do.

Further, if we can reform and improve our delivery of social and mental health services we might see the reduction in the kinds of behaviors which augment our unfortunate statistics.  Social and mental health services are labor intensive, and there are no convenient technological answers to issues involving human beings and their behavior.  Money doesn’t solve mental health problems, but it does build and staff those facilities which can alleviate the suffering which accompanies disorders and substance abuse problems.

In short, we will get what we are willing to pay for.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics

Tales of Two Gun Carriers

** We had to know, sooner or later, someone was going to test the Stand Your Ground law in Nevada. Unfortunately, it’s sooner. [Nevada Progressive] 73 year old Wayne Burgarello shot and killed two people who were in his vacant Sparks duplex.  Now Burgarello’s hearing has been delayed until June 12th in a Sparks JP Court. [RGJ]  Were the victims trespassing? It seems very likely.  Did Burgarello have other options than shooting the trespassers?  NRS 207.200 specifies what happens in the case the owner of the property gives an oral or written demand that the trespasser leave — the law kicks in — and further notes that the trespass is a misdemeanor.  Did Burgarello have options other than the use of deadly force?  We will hear his version of the story, however if Stand Your Ground equates to Silence the Witnesses then we won’t hear the voices of the two shooting victims.  Burgarello would have been totally within his rights to (a) issue a trespassing warning, and then (b) seek the assistance of the authorities to remove the trespassers.

Without knowing much more than that a neighbor told Burgarello that the victims were squatting in the vacant property, and that Burgarello showed up with three weapons, the impression is left that we may have yet another Angry Old Man shooting — a la Curtis Reeves.   Just as getting popcorn tossed at you in a movie theater doesn’t seem an appropriate time for lethal force, shooting a drug addled squatter when other remedies were at hand doesn’t quite square with ‘defense of property’ either.

** Now that General Eric Shinseki has been tossed to the media wolves for his inability to get the VA to clear up the wait-time morass, it’s high time to clean up the mess — for real — and that the Reno, NV VA facility has the 10th longest wait time isn’t good news. [RGJ]  Little wonder there’s been a waiting list:

“The 18,000 veterans who enrolled between October and March added to the 38,000 to 40,000 veterans the hospital already served, Farr said. The VA hospital in Reno serves Northern Nevada and as far south as Tonopah, Nev., plus nine California counties that border the Silver State.”  [RGJ

A person might have thought that the Congress would do something to alleviate the numbers problem — for example, authorizing the establishment of 27 new VA facilities — but after initial optimism last February the Senate Republicans threw up enough road blocks to stop the legislation from advancing.  Republicans wanted to attach a provision to enhance sanctions on Iran, and worried about “budget” considerations. [Reuters]  The result was that the filibuster continued on S. 1982 on a 56-41 vote. [Roll call 46]

Members of the Senate who voted to sustain the filibuster of S. 1982 were:

Alexander (R-TN) Ayotte (R-NH) Barrasso (R-WY) Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR) Burr (R-NC) Chambliss (R-GA) Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK) Cochran (R-MS) Collins (R-ME) Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX) Crapo (R-ID) Cruz (R-TX) Enzi (R-WY) Fischer (R-NE) Flake (R-AZ) Graham (R-SC) Grassley (R-IA) Hatch (R-UT)
Hoeven (R-ND) Inhofe (R-OK) Isakson (R-GA) Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI) Kirk (R-IL) Lee (R-UT) McCain (R-AZ) McConnell (R-KY) Paul (R-KY) Portman (R-OH) Risch (R-ID) Roberts (R-KS) Rubio (R-FL) Scott (R-SC) Sessions (R-AL) Shelby (R-AL) Thune (R-SD) Toomey (R-PA) Vitter (R-LA)

See any D’s after those names?  Other than for the inclination of the broadcast media to interview All The Usual Suspects about their “reactions” to the VA debacle, this should be a list of people who have absolutely NO room to talk about the VA services or lack thereof.

Some people have no problem offering succor to those who take the law into their own hands and play Terminator, while dismissing the needs of veterans as “too expensive” when those legitimate gun carriers are asking for assistance; medical, educational, and in terms of employment.  It’s a strange world indeed.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics