Tag Archives: Nevada legislature

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

Nevada Primary Election Results Link Here

Ballot BoxWant all the election results from the 2014 Primary?  The Secretary of State’s Office has them all right here.   Dig away to your heart’s content!

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The Great Food Fight of 2009

Food trayA prison is a building in which people are legally confined as punishment for a crime. A Penitentiary is a place for socially sanctified punishment, reformation, and discipline.  There’s just enough difference between the two definitions to create some controversial space.

If the function is purely disciplinary then the absence of educational, mental health, and reformatory services isn’t all that important.  However, this perspective ignores an obvious reality:  Most of the individuals incarcerated by the State of Nevada are going to eventually be released.

Of the 13,110 inmates reported as of November 28, 2013:  0.63% have an “active death sentence.” 21.42% are serving an “indeterminate,” or life sentence.  [DOC pdf]  Therefore, 77.95% of those currently residing in Nevada’s prisons are going to return to general society.  We know they were car thieves, or drug sellers, or spousal batterers, or whatever sort of felon when they were sentenced.  The question which needs to be asked after sentencing is — What are they going to be when they get out?

The Exemplary 2009 Food Fight

In October 2013 Corrections Director Greg Cox,” noted that per inmate costs are $19,907 a year, which he said was “on the low side.” California inmates costs are $24,000 per inmate, he added. Nevada inmates are allotted just $2.54 per day for food, with the same menu used at all prisons.” [LVRJ]

For those of the “prison perspective the $2.54 is too much.  In 2008 Republican legislator James Settelmeyer took his cue from Arizona, proposing further food service cuts:

“Settelmeyer, like many fans of harsher prison settings, points to the work of Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who likes to brag he feeds inmates for 30 cents a day, even though the truth is something more like $2 and some change. Arpaio has managed to cut back food costs, Settelmeyer said, and “make prison just a little bit less enjoyable.” [LVSun]

Thus Assembly Bill 228 was introduced in the 2009 session of the Nevada Legislature.  The confluence of diet and punishment emerged in the committee hearings.  [NevLeg pdf]  Assemblyman Horne asked about the differentiation between high risk inmates (who spend about 23 hours locked in) and those in lower risk categorizations (who are allowed more time out of their cells.)  Indeed, prison would be a ‘less enjoyable’ experience for those who could assemble with others for meals, as opposed to being in their cells for a distribution of a cold breakfast.  Horne noted that ‘privileges’ such as being allowed yard and meal time was a tool used by prison management to promote cooperation, and that the removal of such ‘tools’ would create both morale and management problems.

Secondly, Horne ask about the procurement process, observing that local businesses were the ones supplying the breakfast items, and suggested that the loss of these contracts would result in a decline in the revenues for local businesses.  Nevada, unlike some neighboring states, purchases food products locally.

A third major cautionary segment concerning the Arpiao Promoters came to the fore when those who were actually involved in prison food service spoke of food handling and transportation issues, and nutritional issues such as finding a protein substitute for eggs — at possibly greater expense.  The hearing closed after Assemblyman Settelmeyer agreed to receive several friendly amendments and others offered to secure more information.  The bill died in committee.

If nothing else, the 2009 Food Fight illustrated the difference between the theoretical and ideological arguments of the Tough Guy approach — punishment first — elements, and the perspectives of those who actually have to deliver food services to the prison population.  First, Settelmeyer and his supporters were careful to couch their proposal in “cost savings” language.  Food, Settelmeyer observed, should not be used as a form of punishment.  However, the actual cost savings became less clear as the practical details involved in the actual delivery of food to such institutions as the High Desert prison were explained.  Nor was the cost savings any more apparent when food service professionals tried to explain the nutritional basics for any institutional meal plan.  The question was not revived in the 2013 session.

The low tier-high tier differentiation between prisoners in a single institution as described in the Food Fight of 2009  may also mirror the larger systemic situation.  The last audit report published for 2010-2011 (pdf) indicates that 17.32% of Nevada’s prisoners were “minimum security,” and another 61.62% were “medium security” inmates.  17.85% of inmates were categorized as “close security,” and only 3.22% were said to require “maximum security.”  Thus, some 78.94% of Nevada inmates required less than close or maximum security — the form of imprisonment most often imagined by proponents of the Tough School.

Alternatives

Taking a step further — there are alternatives under which the state of Nevada would have even fewer inmates to house and to feed.  For example, the maintenance of Mental Health Courts could be utilized to screen those whose psychological/psychiatric issues are better addressed by hospitalization or out-patient treatment than in a prison context.  Likewise the expansion of Veterans Treatment Courts could better serve former members of the armed forces who are suffering from service related trauma, substance abuse issues, and other mental illness concerns.

Speaking of Specialty Courts, “Nevada has 46 Specialty Court programs: 29 urban and 17 rural programs. These 46 programs include 17 adult drug courts including, diversion and child support, 3 family drug courts, 3 mental health courts, 6 juvenile drug courts, 2 prison re-entry courts, 6 DUI courts, 5 hybrid DUI/drug courts, 1 prostitution prevention court, 1 veterans treatment court, and 2 habitual offender courts.” [NVJS] What might we achieve if we allocated more resources to these Specialty Courts?

We might also take a look at the way we prosecute individuals in Category B felonies, for which there is a one year minimum to twenty year maximum sentence in Nevada.  One element is that a person has been convicted of “multiple felony convictions.”  Granted that gang recruitment is nothing we want to encourage, but a person could be incarcerated under Category B for a combination of gang recruitment by an adult plus setting fires to some unoccupied structures or landscaping (third degree arson).  Under the expansive definition of Category B’s “multiple” concept a string of drug possession convictions could result in “multiple felony convictions.”  If we’d step back from the Throw the Book at them mentality, and seek alternatives such as Drug Courts, and more emphasis on rehabilitation services, there might be fewer Category B felons in need of housing by the state of Nevada.

In short, Nevada’s prison population trends are generally downward, thereby keeping the budget pressures from building as they did in 2010.  Some thought expended on how to resolve issues leading to criminal behavior AND reducing the costs of incarceration would be a good exercise in the 2015 legislative season.

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Because we don’t count it doesn’t mean it doesn’t count

Question MarksWe know that as of November 28, 2013 there were 13,110 individuals incarcerated by the Nevada Department of Corrections.  We know that the average age at intake (median) is 32 for men and 33 for women.   We know that 12,856 are categorized as “in house” population.  [NVDC pdf] Further, we know that 91.63% of our prison population is male, 8.37% female; and, 45.56% of the population is white, 27.85% are African American, 21.69% are Hispanic, with 1.76% Native American.

What we don’t know may be more revealing.  How many of these inmates suffer from mental illnesses?  How many of them have physical disabilities?  From the 2011 Annual Audit (pdf) of the Nevada Department of Corrections we can learn that there are two institutions designated “Medical Centers” for the NVDC,  and one designated Mental Health Center.  There are three Substance Abuse Treatment centers, and one designated Geriatric Unit.

The Nevada Department of Corrections describes its medical services as follows:

“Each major institution has a medical and dental clinic and some infirmary capacity.  There are two institutions with on-site acute care infirmaries with approximately 91 infirmary beds.  The medical staff engages in over 600 patient care contacts each day statewide.  The Medical Division provides primary care at each institution and on-site clinics are held periodically with outside specialists such as cardiologists, surgeons, and gastroenterologists.  The Medical Division also provides hospitalization in community hospitals when necessary.”

Again, this information tells us the outline of services available for treating inmates in Nevada prisons, but it doesn’t give us the numbers of individuals treated.   What we don’t know renders the related issues cloudy.  For example, there’s the uncomfortable estimate floating around that of 2010 there were 9.8 seriously mentally ill persons incarcerated for every one who was being treated in a mental health facility.  [NPW]  If this is accurate then it does tend to encourage the conclusion that we are more likely to lock up our mentally ill than to hospitalize them.

The Department of Corrections reports that there is a $9.29 average cost for medical services provided per inmate.  [NVDC pdf]  Administration costs $4.77 per inmate, and “programs” cost $1.46.

The NIMH reports, now somewhat dated, offer a dismal glance at that happens to — or for — mentally ill inmates:

“The Department of Justice’s Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (2004) and Survey of Inmates in Local Jails (2002) also indicate that fewer than half of inmates who have a mental health problem have ever received treatment for their problem. A third or fewer received mental health treatment after admission. These rates differ depending upon the type of correctional facility.”

If we are having some difficulty interpreting the numbers associated with the treatment of mentally ill prisoners in the Nevada system, the screen goes blank when seeking information about the physically handicapped, the visually impaired or blind, and the deaf.

Some of the inmates who fall into these categories may qualify for Nevada’s initiative to deal with an aging prison population.  [CGAct] Again, what we don’t know is how many, and under what circumstances, those less than 50 or 60 years of age fare with services for disabled individuals in Nevada prisons.

Given the highly generalized,  outdated, or incomplete information publicly available it may be timely to call for some more specific, recent, and complete information about Nevada’s incarcerated population before the next session of the Legislature.

  • How many individuals housed in Nevada prison facilities are mentally ill?  How many of these are severe cases? Moderate cases?  Mild? Are there transitional programs in place for those returning to public life? Are these adequately staffed and funded?
  • How many non-elderly inmates are physically disabled?  Do Nevada prisons conform to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act in this regard?
  • How many non-elderly inmates are visually impaired or blind? Are the Braille programs in southern Nevada be replicated in the northern facilities?  Are these services adequate to maintain or enhance prisoner safety?
  • How many inmates are hearing impaired? Deaf? How many are prelingually deaf?  Are adequate measures and facilities in place to insure their safety and lines of communication?

Again, merely because there are some items we don’t count doesn’t mean the issues don’t exist, or that they don’t matter.

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Locked and Unloaded: Part Two – Drilling Down To Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Locked and Unloaded: Nevada Could Do Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Massachusetts law takes the storage issue head on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Backtracking From Pat Hickey: NV GOP leaders march away

Pat HickeyWell, that didn’t take long.  The Reno Gazette Journal headline reads: “Sandoval, Heller distance selves from Reno Assemblyman Hickey.”

“Top Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from Nevada’s Assembly minority leader over comments he made on a conservative radio talk show that Democrats say show the GOP wants to suppress the minority vote.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, touched off a political firestorm when he said the 2014 election could be a boon for Republicans because many minorities and younger people won’t vote.

“It’s a great year for Republicans,” he told Dan Mason on KOH-AM radio in Reno, noting “a lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in a nonpresidential year.” [RGJ]

After creating a lovely firestorm of national notoriety, Assemblyman Hickey apologized, and said it was never his intention to be insensitive, etc.   The apology would be ever so much more effective had not Assemblyman Hickey (R-Reno25) been closely associated with the ALEC inspired agenda in recent sessions of the Nevada Legislature.    It might also have been more effective had not Assemblyman Hickey been one of the sponsors of a voting ID bill (AB 310) in the 2011 session of the Legislature.  And, it might have sounded less  hollow had Assemblyman Hickey not been a co-sponsor of AB 319 in the 2013 session which required photo identification for voting — a surefire vote suppression technique.

Meanwhile the GOP “rebranding” efforts, and “outreach” activities aimed at minority ethnic groups, women, and young people is quite likely “Dead on Arrival,” [TP 8/16/13] Salon has declared it “Officially Dead.”   Assemblyman Hickey may have helped pound another nail into the coffin.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting