Tag Archives: background checks

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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