Tag Archives: gun issues

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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Filed under Gun Issues, health, Health Care, Nevada politics, Politics

Nevadans Launch Background Check Initiative

Gadsden Flag Shoot Officers

Checking the Background:  We were horrified when the news reported on December 15, 2012 that a classroom full of elementary school children was slaughtered, surely that incident would be enough to create a demand for action to reduce the chances of any repetition. It wasn’t.  As of May 7, 2013 another 71 children died — 31 as homicides, 40 classified as “accidental.” [MJ]  The incidents were sufficient to allow the passage of SB 221, a background check bill, which got through the State Legislature in spite of solid Republican opposition.  [DB]

Then the NRA launched its flying monkeys, and the calls to the Governor’s office were 3-1 in favor of a veto. [LVRJ] Governor Sandoval caved, and vetoed the measure. [LVSun] His veto message cited “unreasonable burdens on law abiding citizens” as a reason to veto the universal background check bill. [VM June 2013, pdf] [DB]

Also included in the veto message was the tired excuse offered by gun enthusiasts — the bill would do little to prevent the proliferation of firearms among criminals.  As mentioned often before, the opponents of gun safety legislation are wont to argue that if a bill doesn’t (a) present a perfect solution to a complex problem, or (b) if any potential tragedy isn’t specifically addressed, then there’s no reason to try any proposal because it might “erode 2nd Amendment rights.” [more at DB 6/17/13]  Unfortunately, the concept of erosion has been glued to the NRA mantra that any attempt to delineate reasonable limitations on 2nd Amendment rights is anathema. [Discussed previously here]

Progress? Given this recent history of attempts in Nevada to address something as generally popular in the state as universal background checks, it’s nice to see that people are still willing to address the issue, in the face of the opposition — now wrapped in their ‘cop killer flag’ and seething with post Bundy-ian anti-government rage?

An initiative petition (pdf) [RR]  has been filed with the Secretary of State by Nevadans for Background Checks, and supported by the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence. [LVRJ] Supporters have their work cut out for them, collecting at least 101,667 signatures by Nov. 11. Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than the simple collection of signatures: “Statewide petitions filed in 2014 require 101,667 valid signatures from registered Nevada voters including at least 25,417 signatures from each of the four Petition Districts. (NRS 293.127563(2))” [NVSoS]  The Petition Districts are coterminous with the Congressional Districts. [map pdf NVSoS]

One resident of District 2 has already weighed in:

“This is the back door to gun registration – the current preferred avenue to gun confiscation being pushed by the virulent Left. Useless for one thing. There will always be illegal traffic in firearms. Prohibition taught us that making something illegal creates an industry out of thin air. The modern drug industry is also an example. It’s also unconstitutional. But that’s the point. Devalue the Constitution and disarm those willing to defend it.” [EDFP]

Recognize the arguments? (1) The government just wants to confiscate guns, + (2) we can’t do anything about it so it’s best not to even try.  However, the next comment was right in line with the Absolutists:  “ANY infringement on the right to keep and bear arms is unconstitutional. Against the law of the land. Illegal. Get it?” [EDFP]  Evidently, this Absolutists conflates infringement with inconvenience?

The Ralston Report makes a pertinent observation: “Similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval last session.  Wonder which base gets more fired up….”

The answer may well be “both,” or “all of the above?”  Certainly, the Absolutist gun enthusiasts as exemplified by our District Two commenter will be moved to go the polls, but then that person is very likely already so moved.  Years of accumulated belief in the inefficacy of government, the imposition of unreasonable taxation, and the ‘freedom’ arguments revolving around gun safety legislation, are likely to have produced a Government Fearing Anti Tax voter.

A more interesting question might be how many liberals, progressives, moderates, and independent thinking Nevadans might be moved to newly increased levels of interest in the off year elections by the inclusion of a ballot question about which they feel they have an interest?

In some respects this is roughly akin to the conservative wedge issue tactics of elections long gone by — witness the anti-abortion, or anti-gay marriage referenda and initiatives pushed since the 1980s in various states which drove turn out from specific groups.  There’s nothing inherently bothersome about taking a page from the opposition handbook and trying it out in a new setting.

If advocates of improved gun safety legislation can’t get everything they might want, background checks, ammunition capacity limits, and assault weapons bans –then there’s nothing wrong with attempting to get at least one slice of the pie.   It isn’t like the Tea Party, NRA, anti-government folks have recently covered themselves in glory.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada politics, Politics

Ding Dong, Bang Bang — Again

Here’s my problem with the proliferation of firearms:

“A man who accidentally banged on the door of a stranger’s house early this morning was shot by the homeowner, (Las Vegas) Metro Police said.

Lt. Ted Glaude said the victim had been at a birthday party at a nearby house in the 9200 block of Wittig Avenue, near Fort Apache and Elkhorn roads. He left briefly, and when he tried returning about 2 a.m., he confused the two houses and knocked on the wrong door, police said.”  [LVSun]

Yes, it’s 2:00 in the morning. Yes, there’s a stranger banging on the door. It’s scary.  However, it’s what we don’t know yet that makes this story disturbing.

Did the homeowner ask the stranger to identify himself? Did the stranger try to identify who he was and what he wanted?  Did the stranger offer any other ‘threat’ than banging on the door? Did the homeowner announce that he was armed and if the battering on the door continued he would use his weapon? Not to put too fine a point to it, but did the homeowner decide to Shoot First and Ask Questions Later?

We’d probably not want to automatically assume the SFAQ scenario, there are too many details required to flesh out the story.  However, it’s the proliferation of firearms which makes that scenario plausible.  It may also be the proliferation of firearms which makes it easier to grab a gun as opposed to calling law enforcement as the first step.  If a person is awake enough to be handling a firearm, then it ought to be assumed that the individual is also sufficiently awake to use a telephone.

From the few details available it appears that the stranger was on the property but not inside the home — hence there is no “home invasion” in progress — unless, of course we assume that the first step on the property constitutes a threat of such significance that the use of deadly force is appropriate.

One of the civilized features of American law is the consideration of intent. What was the intent of the ‘invader?’ In this instance the ‘invader’ was seeking voluntary admission into a house which he mistakenly believed was that of a friend, or at least an acquaintance. What was the intent of the owner?   The potential for instant lethality or serious injury ought to make any of us who own firearms exceedingly cautious about their use.

Amidst the proliferation of guns it’s often difficult to discern precisely how much threat should be met with how much force by what kinds of people?

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“Don’t Want to Know” Bill Passes House

H.R. 4194 — the We Don’t Wanna’ Know Anything, and You Shouldn’t Either Act — passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a ‘voice vote’ yesterday. [Thomas] So, since this was not a roll call vote we’ll not know how Nevada’s Representatives voted on this measure.  It might be time for someone to ask. Expect proponents to assert that the bill would ‘clean up unnecessary reports,’ or ‘cut government spending on reporting requirements,’ or some such gobble and gush.  However, please remember that one of those reports concerned the impact of privatization on the delivery of Veterans’ Administration services!  That’s a subject in which the public should have more than passing interest.  And then there was the report on in-kind royalties for the gas and oil industry.  Don’t we want that information readily available?

The companion bill (S. 2109) sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (R-VA) currently sits in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — and it should stay there.  Here we have one more reason to make sure the Democrats retain control of the Senate after the mid-term elections.  Willful ignorance is not a pillar of a free nation.

As if the news hasn’t been sufficiently depressing, there’s H.R. 1565 Gun Purchase Background Check [NVProg]:

“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).”

The bill is languishing in the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.   It will likely stay there since the subcommittee is chaired by Republican Jim Sensenbrenner and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TeaGovia) While the background check bill is stifled in the Sensenbrenner-Gohmert files, we’re hearing about the latest miserable news from Kennesaw, GA.  Another six victims of senseless gun violence.

Little wonder the polling from ABC reported: “General anti-incumbency results: Just 22 percent of Americans say they’re inclined to re-elect their representative in Congress, unchanged from last month as the fewest in ABC/Post polls dating back 25 years.”

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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?

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

Roundup: Guns and Games Edition

Cattle RoundupAgain, it’s been too long since the last aggregation of interesting articles and excellent posts concerning Nevada and its politics. Let’s begin with some local items.

**  Remember when Governor Sandoval vetoed SB 221, the bill which would have expanded background checks to private gun sales to insure that individuals who were felons, fugitives, undocumented aliens, juveniles without parental supervision, those restrained by a court from possessing firearms because of spousal abuse and domestic violence, and seriously mentally ill individuals could not obtain guns?  The Governor claimed the bill was “too broad,” but now we have a very specific example of precisely the kind of activity the proposed law was designed to prevent — a seriously mentally ill individual purchased a gun from a Reno police officer, and Nevada Progressive has a good summation of the situation.

For background information see:  “RGJ Exclusive: Mentally ill man who bought gun from Reno cop was prohibited from having a gunReno Gazette Journal, July 16, 2013.  “Gun issue smolders in Nevada political landscape,” Ray Hagar, Reno Gazette Journal, July 17, 2013.

** The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus would like to remind Senator Dean Heller (R-Big and Bigger Banks) that it is often a good thing to read laws one is complaining about, and to refresh one’s memory about how the Congress of the United States of America functions prior to launching aggrieved letters to the Executive Branch.   See: “Heller Has No Clue How Congress Works and He Apparently Can’t Read Either,” at the NRDC site.   Senator Heller’s latest nod to the Tea Party in regard to the Affordable Care Act substantiates the NRDC’s headline.

** Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) got tired of the GOP obstructionism in the Senate and played the anti-filibuster card.  Why?  As Sebelius explains:

“Not a single cabinet secretary nominee was filibustered in President [Jimmy] Carter’s administration. Not a single cabinet secretary nominee was filibustered in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Only one cabinet secretary was filibustered in President [Ronald] Reagan’s administration. And only one cabinet secretary was filibustered in President George W. Bush‘s administration. But already in President Obama’s administration, 4 cabinet secretaries have been filibustered, and more filibusters are likely. Yet the Republican Leader says there is no problem here. The status quo is fine.”

And then came The Deal, as explained by the Washington Post:

“The clear winner from the ugly debate was the president, who will have a full slate of his nominees confirmed and will settle the messy staffing issue at the CFPB and the NLRB. Those agencies are the subject of a legal battle that will reach the Supreme Court over Obama’s method of making an end run around Senate confirmation to install interim appointees, threatening to undermine more than 1,000 rulings issued by the labor board in the past 18 months.”

In this instance it appears as though Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t quite as “necessary” as he thought he might have been?   E.J. Dionne, Jr. offers more analysis in his column.   And, Bingo!, we have Thomas Perez confirmed as the new Secretary of Labor.

** Speaking of undermining the system.   The Republican controlled House of Representatives, which just can’t seem to help itself from repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has voted to delay the individual mandate section of the law — an action which will die in the Senate, and would meet a veto from the White House — The latest exercise in futility passed 264 to 121, with Nevada Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei (R-NV2) voting in favor of the bill; Representative Titus (D-NV1) voted no.

Perhaps those voting in the affirmative, such as Reps. Heck and Amodei, didn’t take the time to read the latest reports concerning the implementation of the ACA and Patients Bill of Rights — especially the one which reports that health care insurance premiums are projected to drop by 50% in New York, or the release this morning from HHS:

“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is set to release a report on Thursday morning that analyzes the 2014 premiums in the Obamacare insurance marketplaces in 11 different states, including Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, and Oregon. Officials said that the data will show that the weighted average of the least expensive mid-level health plans in those states’ marketplaces are 18 percent lower than what the CBO thought they would be when the law first passed.”  [TP] (emphasis added)

In essence, since insurance companies are factoring in the increased demand for their products under the individual mandate — what Representatives Heck and Amodei just voted to do is Increase the Cost of Health Insurance Premiums?

** You can’t make this stuff up.

ALEC’s Back — this time with bills crafted for state consumption which would privatize the nation’s educational systems, state by state.  There are 139 bills awaiting passage in 43 states and D.C., but before we jump on the ALEC “reform” bandwagon, it’s advisable to read “Cashing In On Kids.”  There were three bills in the last session of the Nevada legislature related to the ALEC campaign to cash in on kids:  AB 254 was the ALEC sponsored “Parent Trigger Bill,” and SB 314, the ALEC supported “Parental Rights Amendment.”  SB 407 was the “Great Teachers and Leaders Act.”   AB 254 was sponsored by: Hansen, Hickey, Hambrick, Fiore, Hardy, Kirner, Livermore, Wheeler, Gustavson — no surprises there?

Beautiful Downtown Deer Trail, CO is pondering whether to offer a bounty to those who shoot down drones.   For $25 dollars, the ordinance proposes, you can get a hunting license for a drone, and take target practice on your very own Spy Ship.  This is interesting because Congress has directed the FAA to make airspace more readily available for surveillance drones, and most serious legislation on the subject calls for a probable cause warrant before police utilize a drone.  [ACLU] So, if the Colorado State Patrol gets a probable cause warrant to send a drone over a suspected meth lab or marijuana farm — the residents of Deer Trail could shoot it down?  And, please tell me the people advocating the Drone Shoot aren’t some of the same individuals who are all for using drones to spot undocumented workers trying to cross the deserts?

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Filed under education, Filibusters, Gun Issues, Nevada politics

Gun Sights on the Nevada Legislature: AB 196

GunsThe Nevada Assembly Government Affairs Committee will be considering AB 196 on Friday, March 15th.  The bill is sponsored by: Wheeler, Ellison, Paul Anderson, Fiore, Oscarson, Duncan, Grady, Hansen, Hardy, Hickey, Kirner, Livermore, Stewart, Woodbury, Gustavson, Cegavske, Settelmeyer, and it states:

“Chapter 228 of NRS is hereby amended by adding thereto a new section to read as follows: If directed by the Governor or if, in the opinion of the Attorney General, the rights of residents of this State under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution have been infringed by an executive order issued by the President of the United States and it is necessary that a suit be commenced in any federal or state court to protect and secure such rights, the Attorney General shall commence the action. Sec. 2. This act becomes effective upon passage and approval. ” [AB 196 pdf]

Now what might have the gun-nut knickers in a twist in the Nevada Legislature?  The bill proposes to have the State of Nevada challenge any Executive Order the President has or may issue deemed to “infringe” on the 2nd Amendment.   Now which of the Presidential actions taken since January 26th might the conspiracy theory driven anti-government adherents of the NRA caliginous vision of America could be “an infringment?”  Let’s look at the list. (pdf)

#1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.  Unless one is convinced that NO background checks are necessary, and any background investigation is a threat to the right protected in the 2nd Amendment, then there seems little for the gun manufacturing advocates to find objectionable.

#2.  Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.  Again, this is about federal agencies facilitating the background check system already in place, and hence it’s hard to see why the Nevada Attorney General should go charging into court.

#3.  Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.  Once more, we’re talking about a background information investigation system already in place, the President is simply offering federal assistance to states to improve the efficacy of the system.

#4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.    The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 provided the following categories of persons who are not to purchase firearms in this country: (a) a minor; (b) a person who has been convicted of, or is under indictment for, a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year; (felony) (c) a person who is a fugitive from justice; (d) is an unlawful user or is addicted to contraband drugs; (e) is an undocumented alien; (f) a person who has renounced his or her citizenship (g) is a person  subject to a court order restraining him or her from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner, his or her child or a child of a partner or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; (h) or, is a person who has been convicted of violating a domestic violence statute.

Now, should the U.S. Attorney General decide that the categories listed above do not take in consideration the possible sale of firearms to individuals who have been recently and involuntarily hospitalized for a mental illness which causes his or her physician, and perhaps even family members, to have very rational concerns that the firearm could be used to commit a suicide, or even a homicide, — would the Nevada State Attorney General be required to launch a suit seeking to block this executive order directing a review?

#5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.   Give a moment’s thought to the gun seized from an individual convicted of stalking and domestic violence.  When should the gun be returned?  Under what circumstances?  Notice that the Executive Order doesn’t prohibit the gun from being returned, but it does give local law enforcement permission to run a full background check before the gun is restored to its owner.  There could be questions raised legitimately — Has the individual violated any restraining orders?  Has the person committed the same egregious behavior with persons other than the original victim?  Has the person been convicted of a felony during the period his or her firearm was retained by authorities?  Surely, we’d not want to ignore the best efforts  our local law enforcement personnel to prevent a violent offender from perpetrating further violence?

#6.  Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks  for private sellers.  A letter from the ATF giving guidance to gun dealers, most of whom are honest brokers, is possible grounds for an expensive state law suit?

#7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.   Is the Nevada Attorney General to file suit against a public education effort to promote gun safety and responsible ownership?  In what possible environment do we infer that calls for safety and responsibility are a threat?

#8.  Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).   As in the case of a public education campaign, a person would have to be well off the rails before thinking that having the CPSC review its safety standards for locks and safes.   A suit from the State of Nevada on this point would surely fit the definition of Frivolous.

#9.  Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.  Once more, we’re not speaking of any NEW imposition of restrictions on the right to bear arms.  This order directs Federal law enforcement to trace guns already recovered in criminal investigations.

#10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.   This isn’t much of anything new either.  Information on lost and stolen firearms should be shared with local law enforcement.  A better question might be why haven’t we been sharing this kind of analysis with local law enforcement before this point?

Now we’re are into some territory into which the NRA has intruded to object to gun inventory regulations. Thanks to the NRA sponsored Tiahrt Amendment:

“The ATF can’t require gun dealers to conduct an inventory to account for lost or stolen guns; records of customer background checks must be destroyed within 24 hours if they are clean enough to allow the sale; and trace data can’t be used in state civil lawsuits or in an effort to suspend or revoke a gun dealer’s license.”  [ProPublica]

Now, we have to be careful about precisely whom we are protecting.  Under the terms of the Tiahrt Amendment the gun database is not public, and it’s voluntary.  Those legitimate retail gun dealers are certainly going to keep track of their inventory — any retailer who doesn’t is begging for bankruptcy.  Thus, if the regulation of inventories isn’t going to have an impact on the business practices of legitimate and responsible retailers, then who might be annoyed?  Perhaps it would be the irresponsible ones?  The ones who created the following problem:

“A 2008 analysis by the Brady Campaign found that in the previous 12 months, about 30,000 guns had gone missing from federally licensed firearm dealers. Gun control advocates say the ATF could issue regulations calling for gun dealers to better secure their inventory without having to pass brand new laws.”

Again, would the sponsors of AB 196 demand that the Attorney General of the State of Nevada file suit because gun dealers who can’t, or won’t, track their own inventories want “freedom” to lose firearms, and have those guns end up in all the wrong hands?

#11. Nominate an ATF director.  Considering the lack of Senatorial cooperation with this simple item it’s hard to see how this could be fodder for a state to litigate.  On December 23, 2010 the Senate “returned” the nomination of Andrew Traver to head the ATF.  [MainJustice] The NRA objected to the agency veteran’s nomination, which didn’t make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The President nominated Todd Jones, who has been serving as the interim director since 2011, in 2013.   Is there hope this nominee might make it past Republican filibusters?

“The largest obstacle to Jones’s confirmation, however, has nothing to do with his biography; he has, after all, proven that he can lead the bureau. Rather, it’s the manner in which A.T.F. directors are confirmed: since 2006, the position of A.T.F. has required Senate approval, but given the perpetual political strife inherent to A.T.F.’s domain — gun violence in particular — not a single nominee has been confirmed in almost seven years.”  [NatlJournal 1/2013]

Want to hog tie an agency?  Require its leadership to endure Senatorial advice and consent, and then filibuster every nominee to hold the position for nearly seven years.

#12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.   Do the sponsors of AB 196 find this sharing of information and expertise an objectionable activity, and a threat to 2nd Amendment provisions?

#13.  Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.  Somewhere I recall hearing gun enthusiasts proclaiming that Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People — and if this is true then its corollary “enforce the laws already on the books…” must also be acceptable.  Exactly what the President proposes to encourage the law enforcement agencies under his direction to do.

#14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.  Now we’re back into tricky territory again, and the attempts by the NRA to prevent research like the Kellermann Study.   Here’s some background on this subject:

In 1996, some members of Congress tried to completely defund the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which was doing gun research, Live Science explains. Instead, lawmakers stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget — the exact amount it had spent on gun injury research the year before. Congress forbade research that might “advocate or promote gun control.” In 2003, Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt forbid the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from giving researchers data about guns used in crime. Last year, the National Institutes of Health was blocked from funding gun research. The efforts have had impressive results. According to a letter to Biden signed by 100 researchers, the NIH has funded just three studies on gun injuries in the last 40 years. Hey, that’s three whole studies, right? Hardly censorship! Well, the researchers point out that guns have injured 4 million people since 1973, while four infectious diseases have affected just 2,000 — and the NIH has funded almost 500 studies on them. The letter protests that “legislative language has the effect of discouraging the funding of well-crafted scientific studies.”  [Atlantic]

And what did we learn from the Kellermann Study?

“Former Emory University researcher Art Kellermann told NPR that while at Emory, he found that a gun kept at home was 43 times more likely to be used in the death of a member of the household than it was to be used to defend the household from a bad guy. The National Rifle Association pressured Emory to stop Kellermann’s research, but it didn’t. Kellermann told NPR, “[T]hey turned to a softer target, which was the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the organization that was funding much of this work. And although gun injury prevention research was never more than a tiny percentage of the CDC’s research budget, it was enough to bring them under the fire of the NRA.” [Atlantic] (emphasis added)

The NRA, whose goal it is to convince us that we NEED firearms to protect our property, our loved ones and ourselves, from the Apocalyptic Chaos of Modern American Society, doesn’t want us to find out that we’re 43 times more likely to face a family tragedy than to face down The Intruders.

Are the sponsors of AB 196 taking the Anti-Science Stance, a troglyditic position demanding that any research on any subject the results of which might be uncomfortable or inconvenient for gun manufacturers be immediately and thoroughly eradicated?  Would government sponsored research on public health issues (like the number of people killed or injured by gun violence, and the economic costs thereof) be enough to initiate a law suit from the Nevada Attorney General’s office?

#15.  Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.  It might seem obvious why the NRA would oppose this report, but equally obvious why some technology development companies might see this as a way to improve their profitability.  The spectacle of a Nevada AG suing to restrain a company from developing a new gun safety technology is a capitalist’s worst nightmare.

#16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.  Given the results of the Kellermann Study, it would stand to reason that the family doctor might want to ask if firearms were located in the home.   We also understand that the NRA doesn’t want us to know about the 43:1 odds against us.   However, there are other reasons the physician might want to ask about gun and their storage in the home, a 2005 study reported:

“Rates of unintentional firearm death were found to be 4% higher in states where an additional 1% of gun owning households kept a gun that was loaded. This death rate rose to 6% higher in states where an additional 1% of people kept a gun both loaded and unlocked in their home.

The study notes that its findings support the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association’s recommendations that guns should be stored unloaded and locked in order to reduce the chance of injury or death. The study concludes that: “promoting safer storage practices could save many lives.”

Are the advocates of AB 196 contending that a family physician has no legitimate interest in figures which demonstrate that having a gun in the house, especially if it is kept loaded and unlocked, present a health hazard?  The NRA certainly has an interest in keeping us from finding out that the gun in the bedstand doesn’t really make us safer.  Is the Nevada Attorney General supposed to ask a court to prevent the family doctor from imparting some familial advice?

#17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.  How on God’s Little Blue Planet is THIS an affront to 2nd Amendment rights?

#18.  Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.  This is essentially aligned with the NRA’s demand for more armed officers in schools, it’s difficult to image why the sponsors of AB 196 would object, much less require the Attorney General’s office to stop the wheels.

#19.  Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?  Again, this seems to be a common sense response to the uncommonly devastating problem of school shootings.

What’s the Problem?

The sponsors of AB 196 appear to be marching to the NRA tune.  It is not in the interest of gun manufacturers to (1) have people find out just how dangerous a firearm in the home can be, especially if it is in untrained or irresponsible hands; (2) have sales restricted in any way — including sales that are “off record” and “off the radar” of local law enforcement officers.   While the firearms industry has every right to make a profit, it does not have the license to squash any and all efforts to promote gun safety, gun sales restrictions to individuals who have no business owning much less bearing a firearm, or to impinge on the ability of technology based firms from promoting their gun safety products.

In short, the sponsors of AB 196 give every appearance of adopting the anti-government, almost hysterical, and thoroughly irresponsible position of the bitter-enders in the gun enthusiastic community.  Nevada is bigger and better than that.

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Open Season: Nevada Legislature Considers Meetings, Taxes, and Guns

Nevada LegislatureThe Nevada Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections will take up AB 118 on Thursday, February 28th. [NELIS]  The bill sponsored by Assemblymen Brower and Hickey, is titled the Legislative Open Meeting Law, and would open any and all committee meetings to the public with two notable exemptions: social events and sessions in which a committee receives advice or guidance from legal counsel regarding litigation on an issue over which the committee has jurisdiction.  [AB 118 pdf] Not to disparage the intent to make all legislative sessions as transparent as possible, but AB 118 makes de jure what is already pretty much de facto.   Committee agendas, and minutes are already available on-line, for anyone with enough time and interest to locate and read them.  A quick click to “Committees” yields enough information to dispense with the tedium of any day. Or, to add to it?

On the Senate side, the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections will take up SJR 5 and SJR 7.  SJR 5, sponsored by Senator Joyce Woodhouse, “Urges Congress to reintroduce and pass the Marketplace Fairness Act.

“The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers (“remote sellers”), no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction – exactly like local retailers are already required to do. However, there is a caveat: States are only granted this authority after they have simplified their sales tax laws.” [MFA]

Twenty four states have already enacted legislation to collect sales taxes from remote sellers.   Opposition to the federal bill (sponsored by Senators Durbin & Enzi and Womack (R-AZ) H.R. 684)  is based on two notions.  First, that the law would expand state taxing powers, and secondly that the enactment would require businesses to be out-of-state tax collectors.  This is augmented by the perennial complaint that consumers will be the ultimate “victims.”  [Heartland]

Proponents of the measure, such as one Illinois Chamber of Commerce feel differently:

“As business leaders in our community we cannot continue to support an environment where legally required taxes are collected, tracked and remitted by some, while other businesses get a pass. Retailers fight for market share everyday, but they shouldn’t be forced to compete on the collection of sales tax.”  [ChicagoTrib]

The legislation has been sloshing around the halls of Congress for years, and for years states have been losing money:

“The legislation has been pushed in Congress for more than a decade and has been a priority for national groups representing state governors and lawmakers in Washington. The proposal follows a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision which allows states to collect sales tax from residents who purchase online or catalog merchandise, if the residents provide the information to state tax collectors. State officials have long said residents don’t provide the information and taxes, costing states an estimated $23.3 billion in 2012 sales tax revenue alone.”  [HuffPo]

For all intents and purposes, the bill would require major online retailers like Amazon to collect and remit sales taxes which are collected by local brick/mortar retailers within states.   Way back when Amazon was a bookseller some bifurcation might have been allowable, but as the major online sellers moved into electronics, household appliances, and other retail goods the delineation lacks justification.

The modernity of SJR 5 contrasts sharply with the anachronistic qualities of SJR 7 (pdf),  a bill which:

“…proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to preserve the right to hunt, fish and trap for the residents of this State. The proposed amendment provides that hunting, fishing and trapping by members of the public are the preferred means of managing wildlife in this State.”

Really? First of all, the measure sounds remarkably like a similar provision in the Idaho legislature.  The ballot question in the Gem State was not without controversy:

Ned Horner, from Coeur d’Alene, is a retired Idaho Department of Fish and Game fisheries manager for northern Idaho. He worries the amendment’s language elevates harvest above habitat protection for fish and wildlife management. If the cover and food that sustains game and fish aren’t there, the right means little.  [IdahoStatesman]

It should come as no surprise to anyone that these bills come directly from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the second most powerful gun lobby in the United States. [HuffPo]  That said, the following information should also not raise too many eyebrows:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has kept a lower profile over the years, but is likely the second-most-powerful force for firearms use in the country.

“While the gun lobby in general has spent less in 2012 than it has in recent years, the NSSF’s spending has exploded, spiking from about $100,000 in 2008 to $500,000 so far this year (in comparison to the NRA’s $2.2 million). The lion’s share of that went to Patrick Rothwell, the group’s director of government relations, who served for three years as chief of staff to the House Republican Policy Committee. He spent a lot of time this year working on legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating chemicals in gun ammunition and fishing equipment, and the organization has backed a slew of concealed-carry bills.”  [New Republic]

Mr. Horner’s comment is well taken; and the emphasis shifting from habitat to harvest should not go unnoticed by the Nevada Legislature.  Nor should the NSSF’s emphasis on opposing environmental regulations and gun violence measures be lost in the high flying rhetoric of “rights,” and “heritage,” and whatever other vague buzz words abound in this debate.   The irony of it all is that the headquarters of the NSSF, Inc. are in Newtown, CT.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, nevada taxation