Catching On To Some Obvious Conclusions: Guns and the Silver State

If you’ve not yet read the Reno Gazette Journal op-ed by Cory Farley on common sense and guns … click over now … you can always come back.  Spoiler:

“Increasingly — not fast enough, but increasingly — society doesn’t care what you think, either. If you’re looking at 50-odd bodies and nearly 500 wounded, maimed, permanently changed people who were just out to hear a little music and drink a little beer, and you’re shrugging that off as the price they had to pay for your stop-the-tyrants or protect-your-family fantasies, you are the problem, and the nation is catching on to you.”

Those fantasies are groomed, massaged, and perpetrated by the NRA and the even more outlandish Gun Owners of America.

The NRA source of income? “The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.” [BI]

“Donors include firearm companies like Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA Corporation. Other supporters from the gun industry include Cabela’s, Sturm Rugar & Co, and Smith & Wesson.” [BI]

The political money, of course, comes from other streams.  During the upcoming campaign season notice if that pro-gun rights flyer is coming from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a front group for the NRA.  That’s the primary industry trade association.  However, we won’t see the NSSF, or the CEO of Freedom Group, or the CEO of Beretta, in front of the microphones after another mass shooting, the NRA will take front and center.  The organization acts as a shield (or barrier) between the industry and activists who want more regulation of firearms in this country.

The political money comes from the NRA’s “NRA Political Victory Fund,”  which is where the small ($35.00 arithmetical mean donation) and the not-so-small ($50,000) donors come into the picture.  The lobbying funds come from the “NRA Institute for Legislative Action.” [CNNmoney]  There are two actions they’d like to see on the immediate legislative agenda: the unregulated sale of silencers; and, reciprocity of concealed carry permits across state lines.

There’s nothing like hearing paeans to Liberty, Freedom, and Small Government from the NRA, and then listening to the calls to override state and local restrictions on firearms and accessories.   And, getting an earful of “Freedom” folk who don’t mind the proliferation of weapons as long as they feel their own personal arsenal is secure from government clutches.

One of the less convincing arguments set forth by proliferators states that more regulation won’t solve the last tragedy, and besides most gun deaths are suicides…

The Suicide Trap 

After each mass shooting or other tragic event we get the same rhetoric from the NRA public relations department:  Guns make us safer, and most gun deaths are the result of suicide.  No, and yes.

“The nine states that rank lowest in terms of gun prevalence are the very same nine that rank lowest for suicide rates. Similarly, the three states top-ranked for gun prevalence can be found among the four states ranking highest for suicide rates.” [HarvardMed]

This would make sense, given that there are 44,193 suicides annually, 49.8% of these are firearm related. [AFSPGuidance published in the American Family Physician suggests that treatment for suicidal ideation should include an evaluation of the person’s “plan,” and if the person has access to a firearm.  Poor social support, poor judgment, and access to a gun usually leads to a decision to immediately hospitalize a client.  Sadly, untreated patients with poor social support, poor judgment, and a fun end up in the statistics.  What makes this information relevant for Nevada policy makers is that those with suicidal ideation generally come in three classifications: immediate risk, short term risk, and long term risk.  And, here comes the bad news for those at immediate or short term risk — there is no waiting period in the state of Nevada for the purchase of a firearm.

It is left to the judgment of the gun seller — ranging from a reliable, experienced, and empathetic salesperson to a quick sale artiste in the parking lot at a gun show — to determine if the person making the purchase is looking to make that purchase for all the wrong reasons.  Wrong reasons coupled with the lethality element is a formula for tragedy:

“Firearms suicide accounted for six percent of attempts, and 54 percent of fatalities in one study that examined hospital data from eight states. For comparison, drug or poison overdosing accounted for 71 percent of attempts but only 12 percent of fatalities.” [Trace]

Thus in Nevada we leave it to the gun seller to determine if the person wanting the firearm is someone contemplating suicide, and if the buyer is likely to be one of those 6% of attempts who will be among the 54% of fatalities; a heavy burden since suicide is the 9th (or 10th) most common cause of death in the U.S.

A reasonable waiting period would at the very least absolve the gun dealer from responsibility for those in the immediate risk category and perhaps a few more in the short term risk classification; not to mention preventing the lethal act which never fails to harm families and friends.  Waiting 72 hours for a hand gun shouldn’t be so much of an inconvenience in light of the prospect of preventing an immediate or short term suicide decision.  There is something else we could do as well.

Background Checks

The last public polling done on the subject of universal background checks shows that 94% of all Americans, including 93% of Republicans and 95% of Independents, and 98% of Democrats.   One doesn’t see that kind of agreement in many other topics.  Meanwhile in Nevada:

“Nevada voters in November on a vote of 50.45 percent to 49.55 percent passed a measure requiring federal background checks for sales of guns between private individuals. The new requirement to close what some call the gun-show loophole was in addition to the longstanding requirement for background checks for purchases from licensed gun dealers.”

The ballot measure required both the buyer and seller to appear before a federally licensed firearms dealer to request a background check. The aim was to keep guns from felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill, according to the measure’s backers.” [BNS]

Now add an uncooperative Attorney General:

“Adam Laxalt, the state’s Republican attorney general, concluded in December that the measure was unenforceable, citing the FBI letter. Laxalt had opposed the requirement, and his campaign manager, Robert Uithoven, led NRA Nevadans for Freedom, the political action committee that opposed the measure.”   [BNS]

And while the Attorney General digs his heels into the NRA’s topsoil:

“The FBI has said Nevada is already a full “point of contact” state that uses the federal NICS system and a state central repository that also has mental health records, domestic violence incidents, misdemeanor criminal records, arrest reports and restraining orders.

In his letter, Ferrario writes the issue “can and should be easily resolved” with a dual system that would use the federal NICS system for private sales.

The governor’s spokeswoman said Nevada background checks for retail gun sales are “more comprehensive and thorough” than FBI checks.” [LVRJ]

It doesn’t take much more than this sorry impasse to conclude that Nevada’s leadership is intent on finding ways NOT to enforce the election results — when those results don’t comport with the desires of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the NRA, and the gun manufacturers.

In short, Nevada could reduce the lethality of suicides by firearms, but without a waiting period the odds of a fatal event increase for those disturbed individuals in the immediate and short term classifications.  We probably won’t.

Nevada could do what the voters directed in terms of background checks, but the muddlers will probably cry out that this wouldn’t have prevented the carnage at the Las Vegas music festival, so what’s the use?   So, this procrastination will likely continue.

However, as noted in the op-ed above, what’s different now is that people are, indeed, catching on.  After mentally ill individuals shot up an elementary school and a movie theater, after a maladjusted pair shot up an office Christmas party, after other poorly adjusted misfits shot up two college campuses, after a mentally unfit individual shot up a Planned Parenthood Clinic, after a white supremacist shot up a Bible Study session, after another mentally maladjusted person shot up an IHOP restaurant, and after a gambler with major issues shot up a music concert….  Yes, maybe we’re catching on.

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