Tag Archives: background checks

Power To The People: Unless The People Don’t Toe the NRA Line

I do so love the Tea Party Darlings, like Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who spout platitudes like “popular will,” and “freedom” until it actually comes around to people expressing a “will” and exercising their “freedom” in ways the National Rifle Association doesn’t approve.

Nevada voters approved Question One (pdf)  in the 2016 election.  The initiative requires background checks for gun sales in the state.  558,631 Nevada citizens voted in favor of the question; 548,732 did not. The Question passed.   Now, the “will of the people” isn’t quite enough for the State Attorney General to follow  along.  No sooner did the initiative pass than the AG was releasing an opinion that it could not be enforced [RGJ] in spite of the fact that there are other states with similar laws which have found ways to work with the FBI to keep their streets and communities safer.

And, the story continues in a January missive to the AG:

“We are gravely concerned that Mr. Laxalt misused and misinterpreted the power and duties of the Office of Attorney General,” Wynn and Jones wrote in the letter to the governor. “For these reasons, we write to request that you uphold the enforcement of this law irrespective of your opinion of this law.”

In their missive to Laxalt, the campaign leaders wrote: “Nevadans elected you Attorney General because they trusted you to fulfill the sacred duty of all our elected representatives to implement and enforce our state’s laws. It is well-known that you actively – and visibly – opposed this new law. However, the election is over and now it is your responsibility to implement a policy supported by a majority of your constituents because they know it will make our state safer.”

As I suspected, this is far from over — politically and legally. [Ralston]

There’s a kernel of truth herein:  No election is ever final IF the National Rifle Association and its hand-maiden (in the Margaret Atwood sense of the term) Republican Party, aren’t satisfied with the results.

Mr. Laxalt took the oath prescribed by the state of Nevada in 2015:

  I, ……………………., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States, and the Constitution and government of the State of Nevada, against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, and that I will bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution or law of any state notwithstanding, and that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties of the office of ……………., on which I am about to enter; (if an oath) so help me God; (if an affirmation) under the pains and penalties of perjury.

Well and truly performing the duties of the office of Attorney General means implementing and enforcing the laws of the state… even if he doesn’t necessarily like them.  It’s a dangerous precedent to set when an elected official decides which laws are practical and which are not.  Note: The AG isn’t saying Question One is unconstitutional. He’s saying he can’t enforce it.  And he can’t enforce it because he’s not actively cooperating with federal agencies to do so.

And, yes, it may well take litigation to force the Attorney General of the state of Nevada to do his job if that means bucking the NRA and its Tea Party allies.   Thus much for Popular Will and Freedom from Corporate Interests.

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#Enough #Enough #Enough

Gun Congress

I am truly tired of writing about gun safety issues.  I am even more tired of the National Rifle Association’s band of manufacturers and back yard bunker people determining the shape, scope, and depth of the discourse on gun safety in Washington, D.C.

The Democratic filibuster yesterday did achieve one thing:

“The Senate will vote on at least three gun control-related measures in the wake of the terrorist attack in Orlando, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.  The Nevada Democrat said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave him assurances overnight that Democrats would get votes on two amendments they are asking for — one that would enhance background checks on gun purchases and one that would “close the terror loophole, preventing terrorists from walking into a gun stores and buying all the firearms.” [MorningConsult]

But there has to be a hitch somewhere? Right? Indeed, the GOP is ready with the NRA approved Cornyn Amendment – but let’s digress a moment.  The Feinstein amendment is pretty clear.

The “loophole legislation,” offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) would ban gun sales from a suspected terrorist or someone who has been suspected of terrorism in the past 5 years. It would also provide an avenue for appeal if someone were erroneously denied a gun purchase.” [MorningConsult]

Now, back to the essence of the Cornyn Amendment — “The NRA-approved Cornyn amendment allows for just a 72-hour delay for investigation, and then the gun sale can go through even if the investigation isn’t done.” [DK] (emphasis added)

There’s a reason for underlining that segment of the Cornyn Amendment – Dylann Roof – the young White Supremacist who massacred church members in Charlestown, South Carolina.  Here’s a reminder from the New York Times about the loophole Roof exploited to obtain the weapon he wanted for his assault:

“Mr. Roof first tried to buy the gun on April 11 from a dealer in West Columbia, S.C. The F.B.I., which operates theNational Instant Criminal Background Check System, received a call from the dealer, seeking approval to sell Mr. Roof the weapon. The F.B.I. did not give the dealer the authority to proceed with the purchase because the bureau said it needed to do more investigating of Mr. Roof’s criminal history, which showed he had recently been arrested.

Under federal law, the F.B.I. has three business days to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to deny a purchase. If the bureau cannot come up with an answer, the purchaser can return to the dealer on the fourth day and buy the gun.”

The investigation was delayed by questions regarding whether the young assassin had been convicted of a felony, and during that delay the clock ran out on the 3 day investigation timer.  He got the gun and the rest is unfortunate, tragic, and sorrowful history.

NOW, Senator Cornyn would like to place the same 72 hour limit on a background check for a real or potential terrorist.   In short, sayeth Senator Cornyn and the NRA – if a person can muddle through a three day ‘waiting period’ he or she can legally purchase a high powered firearm with a high capacity magazine – and if the result is an unfortunate, tragic and sorrowful event – well, according to Senator Charles Grassley, we can’t let a bureaucratic  mistake be the reason we pass tougher gun safety laws. [NYT]   And, note, in the Cornyn Amendment there’s that same 72 hour limit after which the gun purchase must be allowed.

Even if the investigation into the person’s background isn’t complete.

#Enough already. #Enough delaying, #Enough loopholes, #Enough pseudo-solutions.  When will we achieve the “Right Number” necessary to ban military weapons from civilian hands, to ban high capacity magazines, to require universal background checks?

12 people in Aurora, Colorado in 2012 weren’t #enough? 13 in Fort Hood, Texas, and Binghamton, New York in 2009 weren’t #enough? 14 in San Bernardino, California weren’t #enough? 27 in Newtown, Connecticut weren’t enough? 32 in Blacksburg, Virginia weren’t enough? and now 49 in Orlando, Florida weren’t #enough?

#Enough Is #Enough

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Nevada Ballot Questions 2016: Number 1 Common Sense Gun Safety

Question One on the November 2016 ballot shouldn’t be there… that is, the issue should have been taken care of by the State Legislature.  It wasn’t, so here we are doing it the hard way. The initiative provides:

“The measure, upon voter approval, would require that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check. A licensed dealer may charge a “reasonable fee” for his or her service. If the measure is approved, those found to be in violation of the law would be charged with a “gross misdemeanor,” which could result in a $2,000 fine, up to one year in prison, or both, depending on the results of a trial by jury.

The measure exempts certain transfers of firearms from background checks, including transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers while hunting or for immediate self-defense.

Supporters refer to the measure as The Background Check Initiative.As of 2014, firearms could be sold by individuals via advertisements and at gun shows without requiring purchasers to undergo background checks.” [Ballotpedia]

Ammosexual It didn’t take long for the NRA hysterics to go ballistic.  Look for the Code Words:

“This November, Nevadans will have the opportunity to vote down this unnecessary and unenforceable proposal which Governor Sandoval already vetoed in 2013.  Bloomberg’s NYC propaganda may say this is a gun safety measure, but we all know that this measure has nothing to do with safety or addressing crime and would only impact law-abiding Nevadans.  It’s important that Nevadans stand up for their rights and not let New York City money influence the future of Nevada!”

There they go again.  “Unnecessary and unenforceable,” is an interesting bit of sloganeering, which doesn’t come close to the rational .  We have laws on the books to criminalize robberies – but robberies still take place.  That doesn’t mean that our statutes on robbery are unnecessary because they are “unenforceable.”  And then there’s this:

“The exceptions are incredibly narrow and could turn an otherwise law-abiding person into a criminal, unknowingly.  For example, a firearm can be borrowed to shoot at an established shooting range; however, that same activity away from an established range such as BLM land is not authorized and would constitute an illegal transfer.” [NRA]

Reading comprehension is tricky but the opponents obviously didn’t get the part about “temporary transfers,” so if we’re out hunting and I hand you my gun, this doesn’t constitute a transfer in the legal sense of the initiative.  All this folderol is followed by the usual Faint of Heart Lament “the criminals will ignore it so we can’t do anything.”  Once more,  extrapolating this to its obvious conclusion would pretty much eliminate section 205 of the Nevada Revised Statutes – the ones defining criminal behavior.  We enact statutes like those attempting to curtail credit card fraud, identity theft, and burglary. Thus, we can enact a statute to curtail the unlawful transfers of dangerous firearms.

Straw Man The Straw Man Cometh.  The NRA and ammosexuals argue that the law would be unenforceable without registration, and registration is unconstitutional, un-American, un-holy or whatever.   So, they contend that this is a stalking horse for “gun registration” which leads to “gun confiscation” which leads to the “new world order,” and “tyranny.”

Excuse me while I take a breath.  There is no way to argue an irrational person into rationality.

The Anti-Urbanity Contingent arrives.   It is a “Bloomberg” idea, it comes from New York City. It’s evil?  It’s “New York Values?”  There’s a long and unhealthy anti-urban sentiment that goes back to the popular fiction of the 19th century.  This bit of pure propaganda would have us categorize other New York City inventions as indicative of New York Values, and the Evil City – for example: The Teddy Bear, Mr. Potato Head, Waldorf Salad, and Pizza?  [nyc]  Oh dear, those Teddy Bears might remind children of the story about President Theodore Roosevelt once refusing to shoot a bear because it was tied to a tree. [TRAssoc]

The origin of an idea is immaterial, and relevant only so far as it suggests (but doesn’t prove) some nefarious connections to the irrational fear of something or another.  Nevada statutes are clear about those the state doesn’t want to possess firearms:

Felons. Yes, there are some hysterics who do argue for the “right” of a felon to possess firearms. However, this fringe is fighting against a tide that’s been washing ashore since the 1920s.

Drug Addicts.  I am interested to hear from anyone who believes that a drug addict should be able to upgrade his capacity to steal to support his habit by moving up from burglary to armed robbery.

Fugitives. Again, does the NRA advocate that fugitives, especially those who have graduated to having their pictures up on police bulletin boards and post office displays, have a “right” to possess a firearm?

Adjudicated Mentally Ill.  It seems to me that the cry from the ammosexuals has been that most mass shootings in this country are accomplished by those few who are seriously mentally ill, and constitute a danger to themselves and to the public at large.  

Persons who are unlawfully or illegally in the United States.  I have met a couple of people whose pro-gun enthusiasm is exceeded only by their anti-immigration views.  I wonder if they want “aliens” with guns?

Now, here’s the question: How can we prevent the felons, the fugitives, the drug addicts, the adjudicated mentally ill, and the undocumented from obtaining firearms — IF we don’t adopt a universal system of background checks?  The anti-Question One crowd renders unenforceable the very statutes we rely upon to prevent the dangerous from obtaining the lethal.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public health

Buck the NRA? Nevada’s Going To Try It

Everytown86% of Nevada residents want every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check.  [CPA pdf] So, a person might have thought that legislation in the last session of the Assembled Wisdom would have been enacted — and it was, only to be vetoed by a Governor who felt it would be too “burdensome” and a “violation” of someone’s 2nd Amendment rights.  Undaunted, and unmoved by the pretzel-twisted illogical prolix of NRA dependent politicians, Nevada for Background Checks launched an initiative.

The group has until November 11th to collect 101,677 signatures, or to put it in more legalese, 25,416 qualified signatures in each of Nevada’s four Congressional Districts, in order to get this measure on the 2016 general election ballot.

We already know the statistics on guns in this part of the country. We are the 9th deadliest state in terms of gun violence; we have 15.9 gun deaths per 100,000 people which is the 5th highest rate in the nation.  In 2010 we had the 4th worst homicide rate for women, most of whom were killed by firearms. And, there’s another statistic of which we can’t be all that proud: We’re the 9th highest exporter (trafficker) of guns the it country.  None of this will stop the opposition from the National Right to Shoot’em Up Association.

The right wing’s ready for this one, but the arguments being pressed contain their own seeds of self destruction.  Nothing quite like wearing reflective sun glasses at the poker table to give away one’s hand?  First, there’s guilt by association — the Nevada effort is supported in part by Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors MAIG action fund.  Gasp. Yes, and the opposition to the measure is coming from the National Rifle Association and its affiliates, so the point is exactly what?  That major national organizations are on opposing sides of the issue? I sincerely hope no one is surprised by this development.  What might be more surprising is the transformation of the opponents dog whistles into bull horns.

The aforementioned opposition piece is delighted to tell the audience there must be something secretive, something associated with those infamous outside agitators, because — addresses for Everytown are connected to New York City.  Bloomberg + New York = ?  Here’s the part where we have to decide if this sounds a bit too audible to be a dog whistle.  Is the question: NRA = Good Big National Group, Everytown = Bad Big National Group?

The second line Nevadans can expect from opponents is the old reliable ‘This won’t solve the problem’ canard.  If the initiative won’t prevent Bubba from blasting Bertha because the mayo went south in the refrigerator, then It Won’t Work assemblage of the south bound products of north bound bulls is getting old.   The response to this one is simplicity itself. Do you want to support a law which will make it harder for felons, fugitives, undocumented people, the severely mentally ill, and unsupervised juveniles to get guns?  That’s it. Yes? No?

The third main line of contention from the opponents is that it will inconvenience some gun buyers.  Yes, and being dead is very inconvenient as well.  It’s also inconvenient and unpleasant to find out we’re in the Top Ten Gun Exporters in the Country category too.  Once more, proponents can counter this object by repeating the question to the second argument.  Do you support a law which makes it harder for felons, fugitives, undocumented people, the severely mentally ill, and unsupervised juveniles to get guns? Yes? No?

Will some people be inconvenienced by having to wait for a purchase to be complete? Probably. Does that impinge on the ultimate ownership of a firearm by a person who can easily clear a criminal background check? Probably not.

A more difficult rejoinder to the right wing objections might be created by their quibbling over the word “transfer,” as in “Gee whiz, I’d be all for this but but but the word transfer isn’t clear.”  In fact, yes it is, if Black’s Law Dictionary is to be believed.  First, “transfer” is the “all encompassing term use by the Uniform Commercial Code to describe the act which passes an interest in an instrument to another.  Or, we can make this even more simple: “A transfer (n): An Act of the parties, or of the law, by which the title to property is conveyed from one person to another.”   However, this probably won’t stop the opponents of gun sale reform legislation from litigating hypothetical situations out of whole cloth and perfervid imaginations.

In the mean time, organizers and supporters have a limited amount of time to do the maximum amount of work to get this initiative on the 2016 ballot.  Here’s wishing them some very good luck.

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Nevadans Launch Background Check Initiative

Gadsden Flag Shoot Officers

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

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

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

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

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

One resident of District 2 has already weighed in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Don’t Want to Know” Bill Passes House

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

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

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

“Amends the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 to: (1) establish a four-year implementation plan to ensure maximum coordination and automation of reporting of records or making records available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; (2) direct the Attorney General to make grants to states, Indian tribal governments, and state court systems to improve the automation and transmittal of mental health records and criminal history dispositions; (3) provide for reductions in grant funding to states that have not implemented a relief from disabilities program; (4) make federal court information available for inclusion in the System; and (5) allow the submission to the System of mental health records that would otherwise be protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).”

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

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

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Roundup: Guns and Games Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** You can’t make this stuff up.

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

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

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Filed under education, Filibusters, Gun Issues, Nevada politics

Quick Hits

hammer** Good news and Bad news: Nevada’s Governor is good at finding money for state programs — on the other hand the money is flowing in because our economy is lagging. [LVSun]  Unfortunately, this comes with an ideological framework, which a person could suppose is meant to sound moderate: “We cannot cut our way out, we cannot tax our way out, we can only grow our way out.”   The phrasing sets up a false choice in which “C” is the sole useful option.  It’s commendable that the Governor acknowledges growth based solutions as the proper course for economic development; it’s not so commendable to see that increasing taxation on economic elements in Nevada who have not been paying their way isn’t part of the total package.

** The Nevada Legislature is looking at the issues related to severe mental illness and gun possession in two bills.  SB 221, which cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Committee with a Do Pass as Amended recommendation, upgrades the background checks required by Nevada law to include private sales, and specifically prohibits a person who, in the estimation of a psychiatrist or a licensed psychologist is likely to be a danger to self or others from “possession, custody, or control” of a firearm.  Once more with urgency:  The only people who would be “inconvenienced” by background checks under Nevada law are (1) felons (2) fugitives (3) minor children (4) domestic abusers, and (5) undocumented aliens.  Surely, it’s not too much to ask that those seeking to transfer “possession, custody, or control” of a firearm would want the recipient to pass a quick background check before selling a weapon to anyone in those categories?

** Those who managed to find a bit of time to keep up with economic news during the Week from Hell, have benefited from “Pete Peterson’s Fingerprints…” at Crooks and Liars.   The Austerians are, indeed, losing the narrative in the national economic debate, and this short article explains who is still promoting  illogical austerity pontification which passes for economic theorizing in Dante’s Fourth Circle of Hell.   For those inclined to get into the mathematical weeds of the R&R mess, Angry Bear has a handy post.  A more general critique is available from the EPI.   As for the prospective denizens of the Fourth Circle, see Naked Capitalism’s post in which Robert Johnson opines of the oligarchs, “they are all standing on the deck of the Titanic looking in each other’s eyes.”

** Republicans behaving badly: Second Amendment Solutions?  One GOP lawmaker in Arkansas would like to activate them in terms of the expansion of Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. [Think Progress] Ohio legislators would like to prohibit instruction in health education classes about “gateway sexual activity.” [TP]  As if the kids haven’t  just about figured out the “gateways” already?  Texas state legislators dislike the meddling old EPA — and they have a blasted out neighborhood in West, Texas to prove it. [Politicususa] In the mean time, would someone explain to me how any Planning and Zoning Commission could possibly approve plans to build residential developments next to a fertilizer plant — or a fertilizer plant near a residential neighborhood? Much less in proximity to a junior high, a high school, and a nursing home?!

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Filed under Economy, Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Uncategorized

Voices in their heads, money in their pockets?

Assault RifleI come at this not as an elected official but as a parent,” he said. “My view is that we need to move from a culture of violence to a culture of safety.”  [Stephen Horsford, Representative Elect, (D-NV4) LVSun] Mr. Horsford supports an assault weapons ban.  Good for him.

Some other Nevada Representatives appear to be on “radio silence.”  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2), he of the “NV2 Channel on You Tube” has posted nothing on the subject of banning assault rifles.  Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) has nothing new on his copious video collection either.   Republican Representatives seem to be more comfortable with those Telephone Town Halls, wherein the questioners are faceless friends who ask questions to which the recipient may drone on at length for the  session.  This guarantees the constituents will (1) probably not get a question answered during the session but will received a written response later, and (2) never have to face up to organized criticism of their policy positions.

We do have Representative  Amodei’s acceptance statement when the NRA endorsed him:

“Mark Amodei is a steadfast supporter of freedom. He earned the NRA-PVF endorsement because of his demonstrated support for our rights, including improvements to Nevada’s right-to-carry law; preventing gun confiscations during states of emergency; and protecting firearm manufacturers and dealers from bogus lawsuits,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA-PVF. “His proven commitment to our Second Amendment rights and hunting heritage make Amodei the best choice for Nevada gun owners in this special election in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district.”

So we can be reasonably assured that Representative Amodei will not be voting to repeal the shield law for gun manufacturers which was enacted in October 2005, “aimed at ending a spate of lawsuits by individuals and municipalities, including New York City, seeking to hold gun manufacturers and dealers liable for negligence when their weapons are used in crimes.” [NYT]

Among the 283 members of Congress voting in favor of S. 397, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, were Representative James Gibbons (R-NV2), and Representative Jon Porter (R-NV3).   The law they voted for contained an exception, but one with an interesting twist.

While it bars such suits, the measure contains an exception allowing certain cases involving defective weapons or criminal behavior by a gun maker or dealer, such as knowingly selling a weapon to someone who has failed a criminal background check.” [NYT]  “Knowingly” is a high legal standard.  Further, there’s a Catch 22 involved.  If we have a significant Gun Show loophole, and about 40% of all gun sales are conducted without a background check, then no gun manufacturer can be held liable for any use of a firearm resulting in death or injury where no background check was conducted.

The NRA contributed $4,000 to Representative Amodei’s campaign in 2012.

Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV3) touts his 92% rating from the National Rifle Association, and his 83% rating from the Gun Owners of America.  It’s difficult to imagine his support for an expansion of gun registration, a ban on assault rifles, and comprehensive background checks for prospective gun buyers.

Heck’s rating from the Gun Owners of America indicates an appreciation for the GOA’s position:

“Larry Pratt. According to Pratt, the best way to protect people from mass shootings is to make sure more guns are allowed in more places. “Gun-free zones are like magnets for the monsters in our society,” Pratt told Mike Huckabee during a radio interview Monday. More guns, he argued, equal more safety.”  [HuffPo]

And then there was this response from the GOA  to the Newtown tragedy, issued on December 19, 2012:

“While the nation witnessed a real tragedy last week, the media continues to ignore the far greater number of kids who die by other means—like in cars or pools. Sadly, I know about this personally, as one of my children drowned a few years ago.

But just as I’m not going on a nation-wide campaign to ban access to pools, neither should Congress deny access to the very instruments that help good people stop violent thugs from killing children.”

In other words, the answer to gun violence is to put more guns on the streets, in the malls, on the highways, on the airplanes?  This, from an organization which posted this conspiracy theory on its website:

“A top communist defector is warning of an unprecedented “alliance” between the Democratic Party and the Communist Party, reflected in the CPUSA’s endorsement of Barack Obama for president in 2008 and the party’s continued support for Democratic Party policies. But is this warning going to be too hot to handle for the media? And the Republicans?

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking official ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc, says in an article for PJMedia that any doubt that the Democratic and the Communist parties had secretly joined forces was erased in 2009, “when Van Jones, part of a left fringe of declared communists, became the White House’s green jobs czar.”

Obama aide Valerie Jarrett had disclosed at a left-wing bloggers convention that “we,” apparently referring to herself and President Obama, had hired Jones for the job. However, Jones was fired when an outcry developed over his communist background, and the media quickly dropped any probes into Jones’ White House contacts.”

OK, it doesn’t get much Looney Tunes wackier than this, but this organization did give Representative Heck an 83% rating.   Rep. Heck also accepted $2,500 from the National Rifle Association.

The grand prize winner for NRA contributions in Nevada is Senator Dean Heller, who accepted $6,950 from the organization, making him the 10th highest recipient of the NRA’s largess.  He also accepted $2,500 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and $7,000 from the “canned hunt” crowd at the Safari Club.  Senator Heller thus accepted a total of $16,450 from gun related organizations.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation website is still playing possum on the issues related to the massacre at Newtown, on behalf of the Firearms Industry Trade Association:

“We listened with careful attention to President Obama’s statement from the White House today. Being one of the “stakeholders” he discussed, we would welcome the opportunity at the appropriate time to become part of a full national conversation with all policy makers that has as its goal the improved protection of our children and our communities from future violence.”

In other words, “we listened,” now “we’re going to be very quiet until the waves of grief subside, and then we’ll lobby with a vengeance to make sure no meaningful legislation is enacted which might curtail any of our sales?”

Safety First?

Yes, I’d like to discuss ultra-violent video games — but those games are available on every continent.  Why is it our children must be protected from violent video games but not from individuals who purchase assault rifles without undergoing a thorough background check?

Yes, I do believe the broadcast media all too often glamorizes violence. However, these broadcasts are also nothing new on this planet, or exclusive to our society.  Why is it that only our children seem to be at risk?

Yes, I do think we definitely need to take better care of our citizens who suffer from mental illnesses.  Lord knows we need to apply more resources to research, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health problems.  However, this isn’t exclusive to this country either.   So what makes our schools such as Columbine, Platt County High School, Virginia Tech University, and Sandy Hook the object of attack?  And, no, it’s not the “magnetization of gun free zone.”

It is simply the easy access to guns which are too powerful to be used by anyone other than military personnel or law enforcement officers.  We have 5% of the world’s population and 50% of the world’s guns. That’s a recipe for more, not less, disasters.

A reasonable approach would be to ban assault weapons, require comprehensive background checks for all gun sales, and encourage more scientific research on the subject of gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control.  In short, I am a gun owner BUT the NRA doesn’t speak for me. Nor do Representatives Heck, Amodei, and Senator Heller on this subject.

Legislation to Save Lives

When might it be an appropriate time to discuss these proposals rationally?  When the financial sector collapsed in an avalanche of mismanagement we didn’t worry about “politicizing” the issues. We enacted new laws to protect our money.  Might we not take equal action to protect our children?

In the wake of 9/11 we didn’t “politicize” the issues; we enacted a Terrorist Watch List.  We reorganized the government to create the Department of Homeland Security.  We instituted increased security at airports. Why can’t we reorganize our government priorities to protect kids?

After the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis  we beefed up our  bridge safety protocols demanding better inspection, evaluation, and maintenance of gusset plates on truss bridges.  Why should we take substantive action which our kids aren’t traveling over bridges…but sitting in their classrooms?

NOW is the time to discuss school safety, but we’ll have a much more productive conversation if the voices we hear aren’t the voices in the heads of delusional radicals who have decided that in the event of some fictitious government takeover they are going to reenact the fantasies of their favorite cartoon action figures.

If our politicians are listening to these voices — we have an even larger problems.

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NOW can we talk about guns? Please!

December 14, 2012: Hug your kids.  Daily.  Hug them more often than parents in any other country on this planet.  “Multiple people, including children, have been killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.” [Hartford Courant] But, we can’t talk about reasonable gun control, because the “emotions are too raw,” the “timing would lead to biased decision,” we should wait until “the crisis has passed.”  How long will it take to get past the  a total of 26 reported casualties? (NBC)

What excuses can we manufacture to justify our lack of attention to issues surrounding responsible gun ownership?   What reflexive thinking will be required to shift the responsibility from the shooter to the victims?  Should we arm the kindergarteners?  Should we arm the teachers?  Thus adding to the rounds flying through the offices, classrooms, and cafeterias? This isn’t the first school shooting.  It probably won’t be the last.

What “well regulated militia” entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School?

September 29, 2012 — workers at the Accent Signage System in Minneapolis went to work, not knowing that the co-worker who had been descending into emotional instability was about to be fired.  Five people were killed, including a UPS driver who happened to be on site.  [StarTrib]

How was the “security of a free state” enhanced by this tragic instance of workplace violence?

August 5, 2012 — a deluded shooter killed seven people in a Sikh Temple. The neo-Nazi confused Sikh’s with Moslems, and confused humanity with his insanity.  The shooter had an “administrative” discharge from military service — that should have been a clue, but Wisconsin law allows open carry anytime, and concealed carry with a permit.

How are the rights of people — to exercise their freedom of religion — improved by this horrific tragedy?

July 20, 2012 — 12 people died because they went to a movie in Aurora, Colorado.  The shooter was a psychologically disturbed, heavily armed, young man. [HuffPo]  How is it that a demonstrably disturbed individual can amass the kind of armament necessary to perpetrate this horrific event?

Mass Shooter Weapons(For a more full discussion of mass shootings see Mother Jones, on the subject.)

We have all the information we need.  We understand this situation is not isolated. We understand that the location of mass killings spread across the country:

Mass shootings map

How many more empty seats will there be at Sikh celebrations of the birth of Guru Gobind?  How many more empty chairs around holiday dinners will there be after the next Theater Shooting, the next flash of Workplace Violence.  The next School Shooting?

We won’t have any answers until we grapple with some essential, if not existential, questions.

What are we protecting? People or Guns?

If we are protecting people, in the interest of forming a More Perfect Union, then we can either secure all of our public facilities (perhaps to such an extent that our theaters, workplaces, schools, parks, and stores are fortified and secured to an extent that airports look like institutional sieves); or, we can decide that the “right” to gun ownership — like other rights — demands a modicum of responsibility.

We recognize “freedom of speech,” however we do not allow individuals to indulge in slander. We do not, in the classic example, allow people to yell “Fire” in crowded theaters.  However, let someone advocate full background checks for fire arm purchases and the Heavens roil with demands that the “rights” of gun owners are sanctified.

We recognize “freedom of the press,” but we do not countenance the printing of libel. We do not allow unauthorized graffiti.   We recognize “freedom of religion,” but we do not allow polygamy, nor would we consider the practice of human sacrifice an “exercise of religion.”  We allow people to “peaceably assemble,” but we don’t tolerate mobs.  We promote the freedom to petition the government, but we don’t acknowledge petitions with one signature.  In simple terms, there are reasonable limits on the rights we enjoy predicated on the responsibilities we assume.

Could we agree that the “right” to own guns is subject to the same scrutiny we apply to all the other rights specified in our Constitution?

What’s reasonable?

Refer to the chart from Mother Jones magazine above.  The weapons of choice for most mass shooters are semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons.   I can’t think of anything I would hunt with semi-automatic handgun.  Unless, of course it’s for the hunting of other human beings. I can’t think of what venison might look like after the use of an assault weapon.   It’s hard enough to pick all the bird shot out of a quail.  Does everyone have the “right” to own every type of weapon?

Do we have to nit-pick in our discussions of reasonable regulation by parsing whether or not my 14 shot Remington .22 rifle qualifies as an “automatic weapon,” or can we agree that weapons designed to rapidly fire multiple rounds of deadly ammunition should not be in some hands?

Whose hands? 

We do have a system of background checks for gun ownership, unfortunately the system has some deadly loopholes.   “The Brady Act applies only to sales by FFLs.*  Accordingly, persons who purchase firearms from private sellers – estimated to be 40 percent of all gun purchasers – are not required to undergo background checks.” [SGL] (federally licensed firearm dealers)  Incidents like Tucson, like the Sikh Temple, like Columbine, like Newton, are often the consequence of individuals who have serious emotional or psychological issues — often evidence of the Lone Idiot of right wing rationalization. The real question is not whether the shooters at Tucson, Columbine, Aurora or the most recent incident were single deranged individuals — the real question is how did so many single deranged individuals get access to deadly weapons?

“Although federal law prohibits the purchase of a firearm by any person who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution, many states do not collect information about persons who fit these criteria or provide law enforcement access to this information. There are many Americans who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions and are barred by federal law from possessing firearms, but, as of November 30, 1999, the FBI had received from all states a total of only 41 records of mentally ill persons.”

[…] As a result of the FBI’s lack of information about mentally ill persons, a FBI background check is unlikely to find that a person is ineligible to possess a firearm due to mental illness. Because of these reporting deficiencies, mentally ill persons in this country are easily able to buy guns in violation of federal law.” [SGL]

The topic of mentally stressed and ill veterans even threatened to derail funding for the U.S. military in December, 2012:

“Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sought to amend the bill to stop the Veterans Affairs Department from putting the names of veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their finances into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which prohibits them from buying or owning firearms.” [ArmyTimes]

Why resist measures which might reduce the number of so-called ‘military suicides?’  “Suicides in the military rose sharply from 2005 to 2009, reaching 285 active-duty service members and 24 reservists in 2009. As the services expanded suicide prevention programs, the numbers leveled off somewhat in 2010 and 2011.”  [NYT]  Counseling helps, but the new system was attacked by the NRA:

“The 2011 measure, which was part of the Defense Authorization Act and passed at the urging of the National Rifle Association, was viewed by many military officials as preventing commanders and counselors from discussing gun safety with potentially suicidal troops. But the N.R.A. said that the provision was a response to efforts by Army commanders to maintain records of all the firearms owned by their soldiers.” [NYT]

Is it reasonable to restrict the retention of gun ownership records, and reasonable to share this information with authorities if the life of a disturbed veteran is at stake?  What level of paranoia is required in order to believe that the retention and sharing of records by military, state, local, and federal officials is part of a Grand Design of Nefarious Intent — to eventually disarm a “freedom loving” people?

How much of our own freedom are we prepared to lose?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I could walk through the airport with my shoes on.  Comfortably.  I did not have to wait in line to get through “security.”  I gave up some privacy  in order to cooperate for my own safety and the safety of others.   Now, must we transform our schools into Secure Zones, and at no small expense to taxpayers and citizens? Must business owners fortify their facilities in the interest of “safety?”  Must their customers ultimately bear the expense?

Would it be too much to ask, in the interest of making our country secure, that in order to purchase handguns a person must submit to a comprehensive background check?  Too much to ask that the records associated with mental illness, with or without involuntary institutionalization, be retained as financial records are for at least seven years?  Would it be too much to ask, that in the interest of saving the lives of our veterans, that the military be allowed to retain records and to share them with officials who share the urgency of reducing the number of military suicides?

When do we start putting the rights of people — their Right To Life — ahead of the rights of gun manufacturers and dealers to sell their products?

Do we do this before yet more Christmas gifts remain unopened under trees which have now lost their holiday cheer?  Do we do this before any more new wagons and bicycles are transformed from items of potential glee into items of unendurable sadness and remembrance?

Do we do this before any more police departments have to inform the four children of an officer who was serving court papers that their mother won’t be there for Christmas?

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