Category Archives: Gun Issues

Armed and Dangerous or Unarmed and Disingenuous?

Guns If only the advocates of gun proliferation were as well armed logically as they are with cop-killer ammunition and magazines with 30 rounds?  Some of the arguments have become tiresome, others tedious, and most specious or spurious.

There are altogether too many categories of gun violence incidents in this country to make any definitive pronouncement about the specific nature or that violence or to state with any assurance that one type of legislation will address the incidents in their totality.  And, the proliferation advocates have used this concept as a platform for renouncing all responsibility for controlling the violence.  “This” would not have prevented “that,” they say, countering that universal background checks would not have prevented Incident X.  Or safe storage laws will not prevent work place gun attacks. Or mental health checks would not have prevented a specific hate crime. And, so it goes.   What is disarming our discussion and make our civic discourse disingenuous is the lack of a larger framework.

Is gun violence a function of (1) social displacement or discomfort; (2) poorly developed social skills, including conflict resolution; and/or (3) a combination thereof?

What is it about the “gun culture” which makes the manufacturer oriented message of the NRA so attractive to some people?  Here’s one explanation:

“The gun rights platform is not just about guns. It’s also about a crisis of confidence in the American dream. And this is one reason gun control efforts ignite such intense backlashes: Restrictions are received as a personal affront to men who find in guns a sense of duty, relevance and even dignity.” [LATimes]

Let’s separate the crisis of confidence from the American dream portion for a moment.  It certainly makes sense that those who feel their economic security slipping away, or who feel a disquieting sense of futility about making their lives better, would feel an attachment to a powerful weapon that makes them feel more masculine, relevant, and empowered. However, this seems a highly personal matter.  For all those in the Rust Belt portions of the country who’ve watched manufacturing jobs disappear, and those who are subsequently trapped in the morass of low paying part time employment, who use the gun as an emotional crutch, there are others who don’t.  In fact, the statistics tell us that in 1977 54% of American households contained a gun, while in 2014 that percentage dropped to 32%. [WaPo] There are more guns being sold, but to those who seem to be stockpiling them. [CNN]

These statistics don’t refute the argument that guns make the insecure feel better, however they might indicate that those who do use the guns as social/emotional support are procuring more of them.

Too Close To Home?

However, gun ownership isn’t necessarily an index of the levels of gun violence.   It does inform studies of fatal incidents of domestic violence.  The Wintemute Study in 2003 found that “females living with a gun in the home were nearly 3 times more likely to victimized at home than in any other place.”  The Grassel Study (2003) also found that “women who were murdered were more likely, not less likely, to have purchased a handgun in the three years prior to their deaths, again invalidating the idea that a handgun has a protective effect against homicide.” [VPC]

That “protective effect” is asserted by handgun purchasers who have bought guns to feel more secure in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities.  But once again we are missing some crucial information?  While our attention is directed at stranger perpetrated violence in movie theaters and other public spaces, most mass shootings are domestic.

“We found that in 57 percent of mass shootings, the shooter targeted either a family member or an intimate partner. According to HuffPost’s analysis, 64 percent of mass shooting victims were women and children. That’s startling, since women typically make up only 15 percent of total gun violence homicide victims, and children only 7 percent.” [HuffPo]

And the statistics go a step further toward explaining why the “protective effect” is illusory in domestic situations: “If a domestic abuser has a gun the victim is 8 times more likely to be killed.” [HuffPo/NCBI]  If a gun purchaser believes that the ownership of a firearm will make his family more secure, as do about 60% of Americans, then that 6 out of 10 hasn’t been paying attention to other numbers.

“For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.” [MJ]

What self-respecting person would want to protect his family by making the members more statistically likely to suffer homicide, suicide, or accidental death?  Total gun ownership doesn’t necessarily mean that the people who are supposed to be protected by the guns actually will be.  It may mean that there are a declining number of households in this country which are now at a statistically greater risk of fatal violence?

There’s good and bad news in terms of workplace violence as well. The good news is that from 2002 to 2009 the rate of nonfatal workplace violence declined by 35%, and that after a 62% decline in the rate from 1993 to 2002. The bad part is that between 2005 and 2009 while firearms were used in only 5% of the nonfatal workplace violence incidents, shootings accounted for 80% of workplace homicides. [BJS pdf] If nothing more, the numbers support the assertion that guns do, in fact, kill people. 

Who’s taking it personally?

Duty, relevance, and dignity may be the rationale for some gun owners, but their cohort may have other ideas?

“A June 2015 study found that “310 million firearms estimated to be in private hands in the United States are disproportionately owned by people who are prone to angry, impulsive behavior and have a potentially dangerous habit of keeping their guns close at hand.” There is a “co-occurrence of impulsive angry behavior and possessing or carrying a gun among adults with and without certain mental disorders and demographic characteristics.”

Almost 9% of people who “self-report patterns of impulsive angry behavior” also have a firearm at home, and 1.5% (or nearly 85 people out of 5,653 surveyed for this study) carry their guns in places other than their home. The authors found that, when studying violence and anger, it is more effective to look at the arrest history of individuals rather than seeing if they have a mental illness. Arrests could show “a history of impulsive or angry behavior (for example, criminal records of misdemeanor violence, DWIs and domestic violence restraining orders),” which “would likely serve as a more feasible and less discriminatory indicator of an individual’s gun violence risk.”  [CSGV]

We might also conclude that some of those who express a wish to be more dutiful in protecting their families – by firearms, more relevant, and more “dignified,” may also be some of the people who are more angry, impulsive, and potentially dangerous?

And then there’s the racism angle…

This is the uncomfortable topic in modern American life, but it is no less a function of gun sales, gun ownership, and gun culture – we ignore it at our peril:

“Those with racist views are more likely to oppose gun reform. In an October 2013 study, Kerry O’Brien, Walter Forrest, Dermot Lynott and Michael Daly concluded that “Symbolic racism [is] related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in U.S. whites.” The study defined symbolic racism as “racial resentment…an explicit but subtle form and measure of racism.” While the reasons for owning guns and being opposed to gun violence prevention legislation vary and are complex, “it has been suggested that sociocultural factors such as fear of black violence may be associated with gun ownership, and with opposition to gun controls.”

Professors Benforado and Young also supported this statement in their respective works. In his 2010 study, Benforado writes, “Advances in implicit social cognition reveal that most people carry biases against racial minorities beyond their conscious awareness. These biases affect critical behavior, including the actions of individuals performing shooting tasks. In simulations, Americans are faster and more accurate when firing on armed blacks than when firing on armed whites, and faster and more accurate in electing to hold their fire when confronting unarmed whites than when confronting unarmed blacks.”

Similarly, in his 1985 study, Young writes, “The ownership of firearms for protection is influenced by the interaction of racial prejudice and perceptions of crime and crime fighters. Moreover, the impact of prejudice is sufficiently strong that the mere physical proximity of a relatively large black population is enough to increase gun ownership among highly prejudiced men, even in the absence of concerns about crime.”

Discomforting as this may be, the “average” gun owner in America is white, married or divorced, relatively high income, and over 55. [CSGV]  Those armed with sufficient information from scientific studies can conclude that gun regulation efforts will be opposed by mostly white males over 55 years of age who promote a gun culture agenda which actually makes this country (and its women and children) less safe than if guns were not proliferating.

The facts have been out since forever – and facts aren’t going to move the debate in radical segments such as those who believe that any restriction on guns is a violation of their Constitutional rights, that any regulation of gun purchases is an act of Fascism, that any diminution of gun ownership is an indication of a loss of personal freedom.  Combine prejudice, bias, insecurity, and anger and we get the most vocal of the anti-regulation voices.  Unfortunately, these voices are getting equal face time in the media for their essentially minority view of common sense gun regulation in a society that has yet to acknowledge that guns are NOT a device for conflict resolution.

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They have nothing: The GOP and Modern American Life

Black Hole Answer: They have nothing!  Question: What does a political party do when it has failed to research, compile, and publicize a platform of policy proposals addressing American issues?  What’s happened to the Republican Party?  There area clues.

They fall back on old issues, pounding away at uninspired and unoriginal grandstanding rhetoric as if the grandstanding were an alternative in itself.  Witness the latest “vote” to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The only alternative proposal in the hopper is Coupon Care or “Voucher Hospital,” which didn’t withstand scrutiny for the last several rounds.  The Republicans talk as if the extension of family benefits for children up to age 26 can be maintained, or the provisions disallowing elimination of insurance for pre-existing conditions can be continued, without sending the whole system into a downward spiral – unfortunately for the GOP, the system IS working.  However, that didn’t stop one more amendment to:

To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 entirely,” from hitting the floor of the U.S. Senate for another vote.  [rc 253]

You read that correctly – the Senate Republicans wanted to repeal the ACA entirely – repeal the prohibitions on refusing insurance for pre-existing conditions, repeal the insurance for young people who stay on their parents’ policies until 26, repeal  the prohibition of arbitrary rescission of coverage, repeal your guarantee of a right to ask that your insurance plan reconsider a denial of payment.  Repeal prohibition of that bogus insurance that put limits on lifetime coverage; repeal the review of premium increases; repeal the provision that at least 80% of what’s paid in for premiums must be used to pay for medical treatment.  Repeal preventive health care; repeals insurance company barriers to emergency services…. [DHHS]

It’s been five years since the Affordable Care Act and Patients’ Bill of Rights became law.  Meanwhile, the Senate tried once again to repeal the ACA and Patients’ Bill of Rights “entirely.”   Who were the 49 Senators who voted for repeal?

ACA repeal vote senate 2015And, so Senator Heller, exactly what do you propose to replace the measure which has added  16.9 million more Americans to the number of those with health insurance? [Forbes]  Spare us the vague rhetoric about “free market solutions,” or “protecting individual choices,” or “big government intrusion into American lives.”  Those 16.9 million people aren’t rhetorical place-holders, they are real Americans who want real health insurance – so, what’s your plan?  Crickets.

We can expect more rhetoric about abortion! about immigrants! about Tyranny! about anything EXCEPT those issues which should be attracting our attention, and precipitating practical remedies.

They avoid rational responses to current policy issues(1) What do we hear from our Republican representatives and officials about gun violence in America?   Reaction to the Charleston, Chattanooga, and Lafayette shootings have drawn the same old responses we heard after the IHOP shooting in Carson City, NV,  the VA Tech shooting, the Aurora Theater shooting….  The Republican response has been little more than a recitation of NRA talking points which conveniently boil down to we can’t do anything about the proliferation of guns because: 2nd Amendment.

So, they talk about “mental health,”  but between 2009 and 2011 the legislatures of 34 states cut funding for mental health care services by a total of $1.6 billion.  Some House Republicans tried to bring a funding bill to the floor last January, but as with most legislation in the GOP controlled House it got chopped into bits in the hope that some portion of it could survive. [TheHill]

It’s instructive to note that Representative Murphy introduced his bill (HR 3717) in December 2013, and it bounced around committees until a last subcommittee hearing in April 2014. [Cong]  Then came the portion of the program known as Dueling Bills, the GOP version (HR3717) vs. a Democratic party member sponsored HR 4574 – and the fight was on concerning funding for substance abuse treatment, and treatment under Medicaid, and for veterans.  [NAMI pdf]

Less rationally, Republicans tell us that our personal safety is an individual responsibility and we’d all be safer if we went to the restaurant or theater with weapons.   Former Texas governor Rick Perry:

“I will suggest to you that these concepts of gun-free zones are a bad idea,” Perry said. “I think that you allow the citizens of this country, who have appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded, know how to handle and use firearms, to carry them. I believe that, with all my heart, that if you have the citizens who are well trained, and particularly in these places that are considered to be gun-free zones, that we can stop that type of activity, or stop it before there’s as many people that are impacted as what we saw in Lafayette.”[CNN]

And who might these “backgrounded” appropriately trained, knowledgeable, people be?  In a dark theater… and how many of these “backgrounded,” trained, knowledgeable people will it take to create complete chaos? And, more casualties?  Are we willing to create the possibility that our schools, churches, and theaters could become shooting galleries?

(2) What do we hear from the Republicans about terrorism?  Plenty, as long as we’re speaking of ISIS or Muslims.  Not so much if we’re speaking of the home grown variety.   The propaganda wing of the GOP can’t seem to remember any reports of domestic terrorism which can’t be attributed to Muslims.  Interesting, because in September 2011 the FBI released its warning about the Sovereign Citizens and their form of domestic terrorism.  The timing is important because by June 2011 the Department of Homeland Security had eviscerated the analytical unit that produced their report on domestic terrorism including white supremacist and Christian Identity activities. [WaPo]

“Last night, a shooter who held white supremacist and extreme anti-government, anti-feminist views “allegedly killed two people and wounded nine others who were watching the new comedy ‘Trainwreck,’ a film written by and starring the feminist comedian Amy Schumer.”  As the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out in wake of the Lafayette, Louisiana, shooting, “in the last five years, an attack from the radical right was carried out or thwarted on average every 34 days and that the overwhelming majority of those attacks, 74 percent, were carried out by a single person, or a group of no more than two people.” [RRW]

We might add that two individuals associated with right wing extremism assassinated two police officers in Las Vegas in June 2014, and draped the Tea Party flag over one of their bodies. [ABC]  

The Republican formula “Say No Evil” about radicalized anti-abortionists, anti-immigrant, anti-integrationists, may work well in fund raising e-mails about Tyranny In America! or, Big Brother, or whatever the fear du jour may be, but it’s obviously NOT helping track the lone wolves who shoot police officers, or threaten to shoot BLM employees, or shoot patrons in movie theaters.

(3) What happened to that Comprehensive Immigration Bill?  A comprehensive immigration policy reform bill passed the U.S. Senate in June 2013. [NYT]  More specifically that would be 760 days ago, or 108 weeks plus 4 days, and it’s politely referred to as Stalled.  The stall began in December 2013, as the House decided to go “piecemeal.” [MPI] As of February 2014 the Speaker was whining the House couldn’t pass the bill because it didn’t trust the President. [WaPo] However, in April 2014 the Speaker was mocking conservatives for blocking the bill. [WSJ]   By June 2014 Senators were blaming ultra-conservative members of the House for the Great Stall. [9News]  The calendar moved on to January 30, 2015 and the internal struggles of the House Republicans still kept the bill in abeyance. [MPR]

760 days, 108 weeks + 4 days, or 18,240  hours later, there is still no passage of an immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives – whole or piecemeal.

In this morass it may be counted as a minor miracle if Congress can manage to pass a relatively uncontroversial highway funding bill. [TheHill]

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Congress was expected to be filled with Republicans and Democrats who having different perspectives would file differing bills on the same general topics.  Compromises would be worked out among the ladies and gentlemen of the august legislative bodies, and conference committees would work out the differences between measures.  This requires that both sides bring something to the table.  How do we know the GOP isn’t packing anything in its collective briefcase?

When the highway bill comes up they want to “repeal Obamacare” just one more time, or when legislation stalls it is everyone’s fault and no one’s fault that we can’t seem to enact comprehensive immigration policy reform.  How many votes on various and sundry “anti-abortion” proposals has the House taken, instead of taking any votes on whether or not to have universal background checks for gun sales? 

How many hours has the House spent on the Benghazi attack compared to the number of hours it has taken testimony on the condition of our roads, airports, dams, and bridges?  How much time was expended dreaming up a bill to exempt veterans from the ACA and Patient’s Bill of Rights if those individuals already had “government” insurance? (A specious proposal if there ever was one.)

How much more time before the Republicans come to realize that most of the American public – that portion not infatuated with the celebrity bashing all immigrants – would very much like to see something accomplished. 

It’s hard to accomplish anything when what’s being brought to the table is essentially nothing.

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Awash in NRA Money? What the U.S. House has on its agenda for gun laws in the U.S.

No NRA This country is “awash in guns,” and the current Congress is intent on granting the NRA just about everything on its wish list.  You don’t need to take this from me, here’s a list from a pro-gun site:

On May 15, the US House passed the Defense Authorization Act, the budget bill for the Department of Defense—HR3979. Included in this bill was an amendment by Rep. Mike Rogers to allow qualified applicants to purchase surplus M1911 .45 caliber handguns. Additional amendments included keeping lead ammunition from being regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act. The Senate is working on a companion bill at this time.

.45 caliber handguns? Now where have we heard of this recently?

The FY16 CJS Appropriations bill was marked up in the House Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee.Current language in this bill includes a prohibition on forcing FFLs to report to ATF the sale of multiple long guns to one person, the government banning the importation of shotguns as a non-sporting firearm, and using taxpayer money to implement the UN Arms Treaty.

So, a person could purchase just as many “long guns” (presumably of the modern variety) as that individual desired?  Pardon me, but this sounds like the “Drug Cartel Protection Act.”  And, Heaven forefend we inconvenience gun traffickers by adhering to the Arms Treaty like other civilized nations.

Rep. Perry Scott (R-PA) introduced H.R. 2019, to prevent ATF from reclassifying ammunition as armor piercing.

So, if the ATF can’t call any type of ammunition designed to literally rip the heart out of a law enforcement officer, then it can’t regulate the sale thereof? Okay, if we can’t call the ammunition “armor piercing” how about we just call it “cop killing.”

S. 874 and H.R. 1701, to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia, to remove the authority of the DC Council to enact persecutory gun control, was introduced on Mar.

So, anyone – gang members included – can get easy access to firearms, but they can’t bring those items into the Capitol… because?  I guess the people are supposed to keep those guns on the streets…

S. 670 and H.R. 1316, the Veterans Heritage Firearms Act of 2015, allowing for a 180-day amnesty period for veterans or family members to register National Firearms Act firearms that were acquired before October 31, 1968.

H.R. 1365, the Ammunition and Firearms Protection Act, to prevent ATF from banning rifle bullets.

Here we go again. If it fits in a “rifle” it’s good to go flying off the shelves.

H.R. 1413, Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) on Mar. 17. This bill would “terminate Operation Choke Point and any similar program that attempts to infringe upon the Second Amendment or eradicate the manufacture and sale of firearms and ammunition.”

S. 477, Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Feb. 12. The legislation will entirely defund any activities associated with Operation Choke Point and prevent the Attorney General from reinstituting the program under a different name.

Now, these are beauties, with a very interesting twist.  Operation Choke Point is a DoJ initiative to investigate banks and the transactions they have with payment processors, payday lenders, and other companies who give every appearance of being prone to money laundering.  Aside from the anti-consumer attitude of the House Republicans, why would this appear under proposed legislation for firearms? 

Let’s guess that it is because on November 13, 2014 a Wisconsin firearms dealer’s account was closed by a bank cooperating with Operation Choke Point.  Some other dealers have drawn notice from the DoJ (remember this IS about money laundering) and then even the banks have taken fire, so to speak, from conspiracy theorists.  For example, Sun Trust Bank announced on August 8, 2014 that it had decided to discontinue banking with payday lenders, pawn shops, and dedicated check cashers.  Since pawn shops often sell guns the conspiracy cadre leaped to the conclusion that the Obama Administration was using a back door method to shut down gun dealers.  Witness the hue, cry, and wailing from Glenn Beck, et. al.   The Schweikert and Rubio bills can now be seen for what they are,  a sop to the conspiracy lobby.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015, S. 498, on Feb. 12. This legislation would ensure that states honor permits from other states similarly to drivers’ licenses. On the same day two similar house bills, H.R. 764 and H.R. 923, were also introduced.

The old reciprocity argument – interesting coming from those stalwart adherents of State’s Rights – the intent is obviously to make concealed carry permitting hold to the least restrictive standards. Or, a race to the bottom in terms of public safety.

On Feb. 5 Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, S. 405, with 5 other original co-sponsors.

H.R. 697, to conserve elephants and regulate ivory, was introduced by Rep. Young (R-AK).

S. 263 and H.R. 578, protecting the rights of gunowners on lands managed by US Army Corps of Engineers has been introduced.

These are your basic “shoot anything anywhere” bills.  However, the next one should be a real bonus for those who are making straw purchases of firearms in loose regulation states and selling them in areas with tighter rules.

H.R. 131, introduced by Rep. Morgan Giffin (R-VA) would allow gunowners to legally transport firearms between two interstate locations as long as the firearm was encased and not readily accessible.

So, a trunk load of firearms in  sealed containers, and not readily accessible to the driver of this lovely load would be perfectly fine, dandy, and legal. Frankly, I can’t think of anything a gang of criminals would find more comforting than the knowledge that they could transport all the firearms they want to any location they want – and all they have to have are nice containers.

Little wonder the President is dismayed at the prospects of getting any useful, common sense, gun regulation out of this Congress.  Quite evidently, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

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Domestic Violence: When do the excuses stop?

Domestic Violence

This weekend a domestic violence issue in Texas transitioned into an assault on the Dallas Police Department. Early reports give every impression of a man, out of control in every way imaginable, extending his personal sense of outrage to his local law enforcement authorities.  “After the shootout at police headquarters, the suspect called 911 and gave a four- to five-minute rant, accusing of police of being to blame for him losing custody of a child,…” [CNN]

There was an incident in Montana last week that barely attracted much attention at all.  Augustine Bournes killed his wife and three children, June 11, 2015.  The children were all under the age of 6.  He set fire to their home, and then took his own life. [NYDN]   He was “anti-government and unhappy with his life.”  There’s a term for this pathology: Family Annihilators.  Pehaps the most tragic comment about the incident came from a relative: “People tried to tell him he needed to get help,” 35-year-old Starla Shannon said Wednesday. “He said he’d rather go to a vet than a doctor.”

There’s no question the Family Annihilators and the Public Attack Perpetrators are a distinct minority subset of those who commit or are involved in domestic violence.  However, they do set the peg for the extreme end of the spectrum.

The Excuses

Unfortunately for any rational discussion, the peg is inserted in swampy terrain, territory in which men are supposedly victimized by a culture that no longer provides Hollywood staple John Wayne-esque characters as role models (as if that were a model to be emulated), or fears of the expressions of male sexuality (as if ‘a little groping just happens naturally’ down at the garage), or Big Government obscures the origins of the “true source of oppression, (whatever in the world that might mean), or men’s natural expression of free speech is truncated by feminine criticism of those who don’t understand that ‘privilege’ begets a perspective which doesn’t necessarily include the lives of women or minorities.   There are other supposedly “pro male” excuses for male disaffection, such as the “lie” about equal pay; because it is said men work at more dangerous jobs? (Missing the point that the call is for equal pay for equal work, the last portion being conveniently omitted.

And then we get to the domestic arrangements – wherein women falsely accused men of rape, and women get the benefit of the doubt in court in terms of child custody and alimony or child support payments.

The Delusions

“There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present and invoke the security of a comfortable past, which in fact, never existed.” [Robert Kennedy, Chicago, 1963]

Okay, in 763 BC the Romans adopted the Law of Chastisement, allowing husbands to beat their wives, and in the 14th century the Church advised a little spousal abuse for her “spiritual improvement.”  However,  we also know that by 1600 there were shelters for women – they called them convents.  In 1871 both Alabama and Massachusetts declared wife beating a crime. [StM]   Thus, if a wife abuser is seeking a “comfortable past” be advised it hasn’t exists in the last 144 years.

Another useless excuse is that “they – meaning women – do it too!” The misogynists among us are fond of providing statistics which “prove” women are also engaged in spousal and domestic abuse.  The stuffing comes out of this straw man quickly.  No one is saying all spousal abuse is done by men – but a sizable proportion of it certainly is.

A study of the reports of intimate partner violence between 1994 and 2010 found that 4 out of 5 victims were female. [NDVH]  The American Bar Association’s study of domestic violence found that:

(1) “Access to firearms yields a more than five-fold increase in risk of intimate partner homicide when considering other factors of abuse, according to a recent study, suggesting that abusers who possess guns tend to inflict the most severe abuse on their partners.”

(2) “Of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners. The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate partner was more than three times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined in single victim/single offender incidents in 2002.”

Therefore, we should rid ourselves of the delusions that (1) slapping the little lady around is good for them because the Romans did it; (2) it’s just as bad for men; and (3) a gun in the home will make things safer.

Home Not So Sweet Home

Nevada could do a much better job of preventing the instances of domestic and intimate partner violence, and violence against women and families in general. Our current statistics could use some improvement. The Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence reported that for 2014 there were 65,026 contacts; 40,927 were for the first time; 15,534 were repeats; and 8,565 were follow ups. 1,091 adults needed shelter for 22,040 ‘bednights.’ 1,178 children were sheltered for 26,390 bednights. Most of the adults sheltered were between the ages of 30 and 44. Among those sheltered 12,096 were Caucasian, 3,396 were African American, and 7,725 were Hispanic.  Those numbers provide some context for the trauma.  Other numbers illustrate the strain on the system

Law enforcement was contacted 12,999 times, arrests were made 6,830 times. In 5,589 incidents arrests were not made. Police reports were made 481 times, temporary orders of protection were issued 11,354 times.  There were 4,520 court appointments, and 18,540 individual counseling sessions.

Looking for Solutions

First, and foremost, let’s make an attempt to alleviate the problem of escalating domestic violence by enacting common sense gun laws.

Local law enforcement authorities should have the power to immediately remove firearms from any home in which they have been called to deal with an incident of domestic violence – for their own safety if nothing else. [TCJ] [KMGH]  And, for the safety of the spouses and children the firearms should be locked up in police custody during the period covered by an order of protection.

Background checks should be expanded to private and gun show sales, and should include any records of domestic violence, stalking, or harassment.  No firearms should be sold to any person who is currently under a restraining order – temporary or extended.

Funds should be appropriated to adequately staff those agencies which keep records of criminal behavior, including incidents of domestic violence, the adjudication of mental health status, and the approval of temporary and extended orders of protection.

The state should require that all firearms in a home be kept locked when not in the immediate process of being maintained.

If we can take some small steps to create a safer environment for women and children, then we can better consider how to develop strategies for improving our society.  It would be helpful if we’d think beyond the extreme forms of firearm violence (Columbine, Va Tech, etc. or Montana and Dallas) and improve the way we deliver the message about violence and its results in general terms.  For example, behaviors like bullying are unacceptable, whether it’s bullying members of minority groups, women, or children.  Period.  Every school, public and private alike, should be required to update and upgrade their anti-bullying policies.

Getting a better grip on history wouldn’t be a bad idea either.  Yes, 14th century Europeans were encouraged to “beat the women” but those aren’t the best role models.  Edward I of England was a fearsome warrior with a sound reputation on the battlefield, and a person known for being troublesome if not downright petulant.  However, when it came to his domestic life things were quite different.  His marriage in 1254 to Eleanor of Castile was by all accounts a genuine life-long romance. Her death at Harby in November 1290 left him devastated.  Some of the visible reminders of his love and loss can still be seen in that country – as in Charing Cross (Chere Reine, or Beloved Queen).  There are far better role models available throughout history, even European medieval,  than the thuggish peasant “improving his wife.”

At the extreme, the Montana family annihilator would rather have gone to a veterinarian than a psychiatrist – and that’s a sad tale in itself.  We’ve done a relatively poor job of diminishing the stigma attached to mental illnesses in this country. We could and should do better.  No one would sit around contemplating whether to get treatment for a broken arm – why would or should anyone not seek treatment for a broken mind?  We’d not let a person with a dangerously high fever stay away from a hospital – so why do we not have services immediately available for family members who are coping with a person who is experiencing mental instability?  And, those services should be provided in a setting which isn’t the county jail!

Stop letting the perfect become the enemy of the possible or even the pragmatic.  Opponents of common sense gun regulation, those who don’t wish to make the investment in mental health care services, and even those who have mistakenly analogized boorishness for masculinity, repeat the mantra that “it (whatever solution is proposed) won’t prevent tragedies from happening.  True. However, that doesn’t negate the improvements which could be made if we’d try.  Laws against bank robbery don’t prevent the criminals among us from trying, but they do provide for a place to put them when they are caught.  Increasing the number of mental health care facilities and programs will not provide 100% security – but it would be better than what we have at the moment. And, providing anti-bullying and anger management programs and projects at an early age won’t mean that some erratic person won’t engage in violent behavior – but the incidents prevented before they ever happen will reduce the strain on our educational, police, and health care services.

A productive perspective will do more to accomplish the reduction in domestic violence and related homicides than sitting stone silent wrapped in the fear a solution might not produce 100% success.  Franklin Roosevelt had two sentences for that:

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

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Gun Violence Awareness

Gun Violence Day 1

No, I’m not coming for your gun. I could not care less how you spend your disposable income, and if guns and ammo are your “thing” so be it.  However, I am tired of the civic conversation about firearm safety being driven by the arch-fanatics whose attachment to their weaponry verges on the pathological.

Responsible Sales

I am also tiring very quickly of those who argue that we need to “crack down on crime,” and then reverse course and proclaim that it is too great a burden to require gun sellers to prevent “straw man” purchases of firearms – wherein the real beneficiaries are the very criminals we’re supposed to “crack down” upon. [SGL.org]   Read your copy of the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd amendment one more time – it says we may “keep and bear arms”. It doesn’t say we can purchase as many as we want at one time.  There are common sense limits we can place on the quantity of such purchases; and, it’s agreed that “straw man” purchases can be regulated.  Even our conservative Supreme Court agrees on this point. [WSJ]

The ATF and the National Shooting Sports Foundation have coordinated the “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” program which seeks to get the message out that “… buying a gun for someone who is prohibited is a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.”  In Nevada that would be those who are fugitives, felons, adjudged mental ill, undocumented persons, unsupervised juveniles, and those under court order not to possess firearms because of incidents of domestic violence, who are prohibited from procuring firearms.

Background Checks

And, how do we know if a person falls into one of the prohibited categories? We require background checks.  In a better world we would require background checks for gun dealers no matter the setting, and this would include private and gun show sales.  I am not receptive to arguments that requiring a background check for all sellers is an infringement – on anything.  A truly responsible person would take every opportunity to insure that he or she is not involved in trafficking a gun to any person on the proscribed list.

Safe Storage

We’ve not done a particularly good job of collecting figures on unintentional firearm deaths among children.  We do know that in 2009 we lost 114 youngsters under the age of 20 in firearm related fatalities.  And, we know that 66 of those deaths were in the 15-19 age range. [AAP]  There’s also the matter of teen suicide:

“In 2009, suicide was the third leading cause of death for American youth 15 to 19 years of age. Firearms remained the most common method used for suicide in this age group, accounting for 736 deaths (3.4 per 100 000). Of all common methods used for attempting suicide, firearms are the most lethal, with approximately a 90% mortality rate.” [AAP]

If we can’t completely prevent these instances of homicide and suicide then we can at least make access to firearms by children more difficult.  Consider the implications of the following numbers:

21.7% of American gun owners with children at home under the age of 18 stored a loaded gun. 31.5% stored a gun unlocked, and 8.3% had at least one gun unlocked and loaded. Among those with children at home between the ages of 13-17 some 41.7% kept a gun unlocked, compared to those with children under 12, who kept a gun unlocked at a rate of 28.8%. [AAP]

It’s startling to think that almost 30% of youngsters under the age of 12 who live in a home with a gun could have access to that unlocked unsecured weapon.  That’s the origin of those incredibly sad headlines.  It’s also disturbing to note that the older the children the less likely the parents are to lock up the guns – even though suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents, and that those disturbed kids who use a firearm are “successful” 90% of the time.

Moving the Conversation

Responsible sales, reasonable background checks, and safe storage are not impossible goals, and there are ways to promote a more responsible society.

(1) Tell the hysterics to put a sock in it.  No one is coming after your gun. There is no “slippery slope” from gun show background checks to “confiscation.”  That the state may require safe storage of firearms doesn’t mean The Black Helicopters are going to swoop down and grab your Ruger.  Further, that the state doesn’t want someone selling guns to those adjudged seriously mentally ill who may be a danger to themselves (most often) and others upon occasion, doesn’t mean the End of the World As We Know It.  These hysterics get the press coverage because they are deemed “news-worthy,” i.e. they are dramatic, virulent, and very loud.  They’re not very rational, responsible, or right.

(2) Tell elected representatives that if they are wedded to money from the hysterics for their campaign coffers they aren’t your kind of candidate.  When senatorial candidate Sludgepump proudly announces his endorsement from one of the hysteric organizations, do let him know he’s lost the vote he was trying to get with the advertising money he’s collected.  When legislative candidate Loonybird says she’s 100% pro-gun, do tell her she’s 100% off your list of favorable candidates.   A quick telephone call, e-mail, or note will do nicely.

(3) Tell those organizations which seek to promote responsible gun ownership and use that you support them.  Better still, send them what reasonable donation you can afford to help them get their information and messages publicized.

(4) Stand up for yourself, and your children.   If the neighbor happens to be an ammosexual with unlocked firearms on the premises then he’ll be annoyed you asked if there are unsecured guns, but your child will be safer – and that’s one of the hardest parts of parenting.  If the neighbor is a responsible gun owner, one who doesn’t keep loaded and unsecured weapons about, then you should both be proud of your responsible parenting.

It’s good to have a Gun Violence Awareness Day … but then among responsible civic minded people every day should be one in which we remember that our safety and the safety of our children is a matter which should be based on sound information (not hysterical ranting) and civil discourse (not irrational fantasies).

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GOP Far Away Land: Solutions in Search of Problems

Alien Planet guns

It’s like they live on another planet.  Republican legislators in Carson City appear to be marching to the same off beat drum kit as their Washington, D.C. counterparts.  Have problems with infrastructure? Education? Revenue? Income inequality? Unemployment? The solution is (staccato drum roll) Pass more laws on abortion! Allow more guns everywhere!

The Single Song Sallies of the Nevada GOP are absorbed by these two.  Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R-NV backwater) proposes the following:

“AN ACT relating to abortions; revising provisions regulating an abortion performed on a pregnant woman who is a minor or a ward; requiring notification of a parent or guardian under certain circumstances before a physician performs such an abortion; providing expedited procedures for petitioning a court for judicial authorization to proceed without such notification; providing civil liabilities and criminal penalties; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

How this bit of anti-choice legislation addresses employment, economic diversification, educational funding, transportation, infrastructure, local government resources, provisions for mental health services, or any other major issue facing the state is pure conjecture.  The nationwide abortion rate among those under 15 years of age is negligible for the period 1990 to 2007, and abortions for those aged 15 to 18 years has declined from 21,800 in 1990 to 16,200 as of 2007. [CensusCDC]  This decline mirrors the overall decline in teen pregnancies, which in turn is linked to economic considerations, more contraceptives, and more information (read: sex education). [Pew] However, Big Daddy Government Types exemplified by Assemblyman Hansen, won’t be satisfied until every woman has to carry every man’s fetus to term.  And for this, time is being taken from taxation and budget consideration in the Assembled Wisdom.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Michele “Take Baking Soda for your Cancer” Fiore (R-NRA) would be happy to attach her Guns Galore amendment to any bit of legislation she can find. [LVRJ]  She lost the vote, 24-18 in the Assembly, but she’ll be back before the end of the session on June 1. [LTN]

What makes coping with single issue ideologues like Hansen and Fiore so frustrating is that Nevada does have some serious issues which need to be addressed.  Education, which was supposed to be the central feature of this legislative session, has some problems. For instance, Nevada schools ranked 50th in “overall state grades,” and 36th in K-12 achievement, 45th in standards and assessments, and 46th in school finance. [leg.state.nv]  The American Society of Civil Engineering grades Nevada a C- in infrastructure.  We “earned” a D+ in dams, and we have 36 bridges which are deemed “structurally deficient.”  The Mental Health Association reports the following in regard to Nevada’s mental health services: “The five states with the highest prevalence of mental illness and the lowest rates of access to care were Louisiana (47), Washington (48), Nevada (49), Mississippi (50) and Arizona (51).”

Speaking to the income inequality issue, Nevada’s not in a very good position in that regard either:  “The states in which all income growth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent include Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Nevada.”

Now, can we please talk about something other than government so small it can fit inside every vagina, and guns galore?

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Zombie Guns Blazing in NV Legislature

zombie guns 2

This is the kind of news Nevada can do without:

“A “campus carry” bill believed to be dead in the Senate will be amended into another Second Amendment measure on Friday, Assembly Judiciary Chairman Ira Hansen said Wednesday.

Hansen said that because the Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hear Assembly Bill 148 that would allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their weapons on college campuses, it will be amended into a Senate bill on the deadline day for committee action on most bills.” [LVRJ]

The bills in question is SB 175 and SB 240.  The Guns Galore crowd, championed by Michele Fiore (R-NRA) and Ira Hansen (R-Ammostan), wants those with concealed carry permits to be able to pack “heat” on college campuses.  Little matter that others may find this uncomfortable or downright dangerous.  Happily, there are some restrictions in place on concealed carry permitting in this state – not that the Ammosexuals wouldn’t like to eliminate those eventually.

The Current Requirements

In Clark County those wanting a permit must the a Nevada resident of Clark County, or an out of state resident who has received firearms training in Clark County; 21 years of age, not prohibited from firearms ownership by state or federal law; and must successfully complete an approved firearms course in Clark County.  [LVMPD]

The requirements in Washoe County are essentially the same. A person must be at least 21, provide documentation of competence with a firearm, meet the standards set forth in NRS 202, have no DUIs in the preceding five years or record of “substance abuse.”  [Washoe pdf]

Campus Numbers

The University of Nevada campus in Reno as of the Fall of 2013 had 15,694 undergraduates, of whom 47%, or 7,454 were male, 8,240 were female.  The average age of a UNR undergraduate was — 21 years of age. [CP]  There were 23,090 undergraduates enrolled in UNLV, 12,824 female, 10,275 male.  The average undergraduate age at UNLV was reported as 18 years. 23% were aged 25 or older. [CP]

One obvious feature of these figures is that there are a significant number of young males on both major college campuses in this state.  We do know from the CDC* and other sources  that firearms and young men aren’t a particularly good mixture.  Pew Social Trends reported:

“Men (and boys) make up the vast majority (84% in 2010) of gun homicide victims. The gun homicide rates for both genders have declined by similar amounts since the mid-1990s, though the male rate is much higher—6.2 gun homicides per 100,000 people in 2010, compared with 1.1 for females.”

… and …

“Males are the vast majority of gun suicides (87% in 2010), and the suicide rate for males (11.2 deaths per 100,000 people) is more than seven times the female rate (1.5 deaths). The highest firearm suicide rate by age is among those ages 65 and older (10.6 per 100,000 people).”

Thus, what the ammosexual alliance is proposing is to place more firearms in a setting in which there are significant numbers of already vulnerable individuals in the setting.

Individual Tragedy and Economic Costs

Aside from the human tragedy there are economic factors to consider before advocating any further proliferation of firearms and the situations in which those guns can be allowed.

In December 2012, Bloomberg Business news reported that gun violence was costing the American economy some $174 billion.  Forbes magazine reported in 2013 that gun violence was costing each American about $564.

And, then there is the “market” argument, which the Minneapolis Post analyzed as follows:

“Treating gun violence as an externality assumes that weapons markets are legitimate and that we must live with the consequences.  However, certain aspects of this market may not be legitimate. Markets do not exist in a vacuum.  They are created and designed by people, and societies can decide to modify or restrict markets depending on its values and goals.

Debra Satz, a professor of philosophy at Stanford University, addresses this in her book “Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Limits of Markets.” At the heart of her analysis is the concept of noxious markets, i.e. “markets that people find especially objectionable” and which should be curtailed or eliminated.

One important reason why societies deem some markets as noxious is that trade in these goods causes extreme harm to individuals and/or society.  Markets in assault rifles, large-capacity ammunition magazines and related items could be thought of this way. The damage caused by guns used to commit crimes is so great that we must regulate them and, in some cases, eliminate them.”

We know, for example that alcohol and tobacco products are often classified as “noxious markets.”  There are spill-over effects in society, in terms of public health costs, and other related expenses or losses.  Therefore, we regulate and use tax policy to curb the consumption and use of these items.  State legislatures are quick to add “sin taxes” to diminish the ‘noxious’ markets for some products, especially in the tobacco categories. However, they’re remarkably slow to consider taxing/regulating the use of guns and ammunition.  An amended SB 175 merely serves to advance a ‘noxious’ market, rather than curbing firearms proliferation which endangers young people – especially young men.

U.S. News and World Report was more blunt on this subject, when speaking of the economic costs of firearms and school security in America:

“However, the firearms industry has managed to avoid picking up the tab for its externalities. A recent proposal by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association shows the size of the problem. After the Sandy Hook school shooting, the NRA proposed that the best solution to gun violence in school is to have more guns in school. They argued that every school should post an armed guard (or several) to stop would-be shooters. Let’s set aside the constitutional and practical considerations and just consider the economics of this for a moment: It would cost nearly $5 billion per year to put a trained, equipped, armed guard in each of America’s 132,000 K-12 schools. That calls for a fee—let’s call it the “Schools Security Fee”—of $500 to $750 for every new and used handgun purchased in the United States. The fee is roughly the cost of a typical good-quality new pistol! If imposed, it would double the price of handguns and cripple the firearm industry. Yet it’s ironic that many of the folks who claim to hate taxes and government see no problem in proposing a $5 billion expansion in government, which necessitates taxes to pay for it.”

Whether viewed in macro-terms such as in the classification of firearms as a ‘noxious’ market, or in micro-terms as in a discussion of school safety officers, the message is essentially similar.  The manufacturers of firearms and their Ammosexual Allies are arguing that lethal weapons do not constitute a ‘noxious’ market and therefore should not be taxed or regulated even if the economic costs run into the $174 billion range.

Hostage Taking

While we can have socially oriented or economically based arguments over firearms regulations it must be admitted that there is an emotional factor to consider.  The positions taken by the Nevada Firearms Coalition which calls for legislation to “enhance personal liberty,” perceives proliferation as a ‘beneficial’ market, and a positive social good.**  “Armed” with this emotional attachment to firearms and their retail sales, the Guns Anywhere advocates are perfectly willing to hold other, and better, legislation hostage in order to advance their cause. Witness:

“As I reported earlier this week, Assembly Members Michele Fiore (R-Las Vegas) & Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) are retaliating against Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) & Senate Judiciary Chair Greg Brower (R-Reno) for shelving their “Guns Everywhere” bill (AB 148) in Senate Judiciary. So they just amended SB 240, Roberson’s mental health & “voluntary background checks” bill, to include elimination of Clark County’s “Blue Card” handgun registry…”  [LTN]

Winston Churchill was right: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

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* Warning: Depending, of course, on your download speed this file can be very slow loading. (94.3 mb .zip format)

** See also: The 50 Caliber Institute.

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Filed under Economy, Gun Issues, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public safety