Tag Archives: gun control

Dear Congressman, Why Are You

From the Department of Thanks A Bunch But Don’t Do Me Any More Favors

“Nevada’s premiums on the health-care exchange are likely to increase by about $843 next year as a result of Congress’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and a new Trump administration rule on short-term health insurance plans, according to a new report from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

The report, released Friday, found that annual premiums nationwide will increase from an average of about $6,176 to $7,189 for the average 40-year-old, which is about a 16.4 percent increase. In Nevada, average premiums using the same benchmark are projected to rise from about $5,547 to $6,390, or an increase of about 15 percent.” [NVIndy]

All right, I’m not 40 years old and haven’t been for quite some time, but I can empathize with younger people trying to run households, raise kids, pay the bills, and keep it together.  What they don’t need is a 15% increase in their health insurance premiums.  And who does this help?  It doesn’t help promote the best practices of established health insurance corporations.  It doesn’t help those families who are facing rising costs for groceries and transportation.  It doesn’t help young people to sell them junk insurance that won’t actually cover expenses for major medical expenses for illness or injury.  It seems to primarily help the fly by night scam artists who want to sell insurance policies which barely deserve the name.  You can read the full report ?here.

From the Department of Questions to Ask Congress Critters which Don’t Include Why Are You An A–hole?

Dear Congressman ____ why is it impossible for you to vote in favor of a bill to require universal background checks for gun sales and transfers?  (It’s not like this doesn’t have massive support from the American people.  It’s not like this wouldn’t help to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who shouldn’t have them in the first place.   And while we’re about it, what’s so impossible about limiting the size of magazines, or keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers?)

Dear Congressman ____ why, when banks had their most profitable quarter EVER, would you think it important to roll back the consumer protections of the Dodd Frank Act? [MoneyCNN] [Vox] [WaPo]

Dear Congressman ____ in what perverted universe is it considered acceptable to bait bears with donuts and bacon in order to kill them? To kill hibernating bears? To kill wolf pups? [NYMag]

Dear Congressman ____ Just what purpose is served by vilifying a Central American street gang and conflating its members with ALL immigrants to this great nation?  Criticizing a violent gang is laudable, conflating these people with ALL immigrants is inexcusable.  Since I’m not 40 years old and haven’t been for some time, I recall a time when this nation was recovering from a major war against a state which called Jews “vermin,” dehumanized them, and then used the appellation as an excuse to exterminate them.  Perhaps it’s time to have people, especially politicians, read (or re-read) Elie Wiesel’s Night.

Where does this lead?

“Wiesel’s prose is quietly measured and economical, for florid exaggeration would not befit this subject. Yet, at times, his descriptions are so striking as to be breathtaking in their pungent precision. He writes through the eyes of an adolescent plunged into an unprecedented moral hinterland, and his loss of innocence is felt keenly by the reader. His identity was strained under such conditions: “The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames. All that was left was a shape that resembled me. My soul had been invaded – and devoured – by a black flame.” Night.

When bad things are done by bad people, bad things happen to innocent people.

Or maybe it would simply be easier to ask, Dear Congressman ____ why are you an A-hole?

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Filed under ecology, financial regulation, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Immigration, Politics

Hardening Targets Is The Wrong Target: Harden Access to Firearms

I’m going to hear “we have to harden the targets” one more time coming from my TV speakers and my neighbors may be able to hear me yelling in the direction of the set.  Another day in America. Another school shooting. More deaths. And yet another press conference in which I’m told “the guns belonged to the _____” (in this instance, the father).  Here’s an idea: Harden the access.

This latest atrocity was perpetrated by a 17 year old, armed with his father’s firearms, but we also need to remember that in 2017 there were 17 toddler shootings that resulted in a fatality and another 26 which inflicted non-fatal injuries. [WaPo]

So, we’re going to have another spate of “Roundtable Run Arounds?”  May we assume the tables will include representatives of the gun manufacturers’ lobby? During which “all” viewpoints will be allowed access?  There’s nothing quite like a “roundtable discussion” replete with the same old hoary contentions, ideological arguments, and self-serving lobby interests to forestall any meaningful action — unless, of course, it’s the drafting of “reports,” by committees of “interested stakeholders,” edited by those with the most at stake.  Translation: We can stall any action by taking a “thorough” (read – long) look at the problem and drafting a blue ribbon panel report on the subject. (read – the production of dust catchers and door stops).

For starters, let’s assume a world governed by adults who really do want to protect children.  They want to protect them at home, at school, in churches, at concerts, and in clubs.  Do we really have to make it easy for miscreants to get access to firearms?  There’s good news and bad news on the subject:

Eleven states have laws concerning firearm locking devices. Massachusetts is the only state that generally requires that all firearms be stored with a lock in place; California, Connecticut, and New York impose this requirement in certain situations. Other state laws regarding locking devices are similar to the federal law, in that they require locking devices to accompany certain guns manufactured, sold, or transferred. Five of the eleven states also set standards for the design of locking devices or require them to be approved by a state agency for effectiveness. [Giffords] (emphasis in original)

The good news? Eleven states have done something, however there’s a range of effective to almost ineffective statutes within that range.  The bad news is that only eleven states have enacted safe storage legislation, which means that thirty-nine have nothing between the adult, the teen, or the toddler, and the victims.  There are some common sense measures which can, and should, be legislated in all states to harden the access to firearms.  The Giffords organization recommends the following:

  • All firearms are required to be kept disabled with a locking device except when an authorized user is carrying it on his or her person or has the firearm under his or her immediate control (Massachusetts, New York City).
  • Locking devices are required on all firearms manufactured, sold or transferred in the jurisdiction (California).
  • Standards are set for locking devices (California, Connecticut, New York).
  • Locking devices are tested and approved by a certified independent lab before they may be sold in the jurisdiction (California).
  • A roster is maintained of approved locking devices (California, Massachusetts; Maryland maintains a roster of approved locking devices, but only for handguns).

Nevada has child access prevention statutes on the books, but no assault weapons ban, and no safe storage or gun lock requirement. [KFF]  Every gun owner is “responsible” until he or she isn’t.  Until he or she leaves a handgun within reach of anyone unauthorized to use it, anyone too young to understand what can really happen if it is used.  Until he or she leaves a handgun or long gun unsupervised and it gets stolen. Until he or she leaves the gun safe keys or combination in plain sight. Until he or she decides to leave a loaded gun within reach of a child, or keep the guns and the ammunition conveniently located in the same insecure location making access easy for the unauthorized individual or the garden variety burglar.

Before we place our children in lock down, behind steel doors and bullet resistant windows; before we enter the church nave through metal detectors; before we attend country western music festivals in full armor; before we go out for an evening of music and dancing at a club wearing enough protection to make only “doing the Robot” a practical way to move to the music — we should think about hardening access to the firearms which plague our streets and venues.

We should “harden access” by forbidding the sale or transfer of military weapons of war to civilians.  Should a person want to fire a real military weapon we have several perfectly fine armed services always looking for top quality volunteers.  We should “harden access” by requiring safe storage of all firearms.  We should prevent straw purchases.  We should require reporting of stolen guns.  We should preclude those with a history of domestic violence and abuse from accessing firearms — nothing predicts a shooting quite so well as a history of domestic violence.

It isn’t the “target’s” fault if a toddler finds a handgun.  It isn’t the “victim’s” fault if a domestic abuser commits a family annihilation.  It isn’t the “crowd” at fault if  person in a sniper’s nest decides to rain down terror upon the concert goers.  It isn’t the congregation’s fault if a domestic dispute turns deadly.  If an office party becomes fatal. If a college campus becomes a battle zone.  If…   We speak as though it’s the “target’s” fault if fatalities happen.  It isn’t.  We need to speak of hardening access to firearms, of hardening our attitudes toward those deluded souls who believe gun shots are a form of conflict resolution; and, harden access to the siren call of gun manufacturers who sell fear and guns in equal measure.

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We Are Not Being Well Served: A Lethal Pattern of Administration Obstruction

We aren’t well served when the Department of Justice declines to work WITH state officials to implement policy.  When the DoJ dithers about assisting Nevada’s attempt to improve the background check process for firearm purchases — [NV Indy] Gee, it almost seems like someone at the federal level is doing a bureaucratic dance routine to subvert the intent of those who want to expand background checks?  Someone doesn’t want to alienate the powers that be at the NRA?  Meanwhile candidate Adam Laxalt, subservient as ever to the NRA line, must be pleased with Governor Sandoval’s discomfort.

We also aren’t well served by the right wing echo chamber which has now evidently decided that if they can’t find logical arguments to deflect the demands made by the kids in March for Our Lives they will happily start tooting the Swift Boat Parade Brigade horns with personal attacks on the kids themselves.  [TampaBT] [WaPo] [KCStar] However, ad hominem is all too often the preferred argument for many on the right side of the political spectrum.  These people might be dismissed as small people with smaller, narrower, minds except that they have the ear of the current mis-administration, and those ears are receiving messages out of step with American concerns.  Listening to these radical voices obscures national issues we should be focusing upon.

Nor are we well served when the message comes from the podium at the White House briefing room that the Department of Justice will take no role in the investigation of the shooting of Sacramento citizen Stephon Clark.  There’s a pattern here.

The FBI will not facilitate the implementation of Nevada’s Question 1 decision. The Department of Justice will take its sweet time promulgating rules concerning the sale of bump stocks (see Las Vegas concert massacre). The Department of Justice will do an about-face on federal participation in the investigation of law enforcement use of lethal force on members of minority communities.  This pattern may explain why the citizens of Nevada continue to be frustrated by the lack of Question 1 implementation, the citizens of the US continue to see protests related to Black Lives Matter, and young people bemoan (and organize) against the inflexible obstruction to their demands for sensible restrictions on gun ownership and sales.

What the pattern won’t accomplish is the solution to any of the problems addressed by the Black Lives Matter organization or the young people involved in March for Our Lives.  The two issue areas are not unrelated.

Bullets fired from guns kill people.  The bullet may be a .223 round (5.56 mm) coming at a person at 3,330 feet per second (about three times the velocity of a typical Glock pistol.) [BI]  The bullets may also come from a Glock 19 or the Glock 22, or perhaps the Smith & Wesson M or P9, the most popular service handguns for law enforcement personnel. [SRI]  Instances of bullets being fired by one human being at another human being, or beings, should be investigated fully.  We have no problem with this concept when thinking about murder investigations in general.  We do have a problem with the concept when it’s in the context of a mass shooting or in a case of the use of lethal force by a police officer.

In the instances of mass shootings authorities appear to want to investigate everything except the actual cause of death — the AR 15 is often the weapon of choice for mass shooters [BI] who want to use the gun as it was designed — to cause the greatest level of lethality in the briefest possible time.  If we know the level of lethality associated with the use of assault style weapons like the AR 15 why don’t we directly address the issue of whether or not these should be in the hands of civilians?

In the instances of officer involved shootings almost the first thing reported is that the “officers feared for their lives.”

“Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people, according to a Guardian investigation which found 102 of 464 people killed so far this year in incidents with law enforcement officers were not carrying weapons.

An analysis of public records, local news reports and Guardian reporting found that 32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed.” [Guardian 2015]

Question: Why do law enforcement personnel “fear for their lives” more often when confronting a person of color than when facing a white person?  I think we know the answer, it is just that this aspect of the problem isn’t something the present Department of Justice is particularly interested in pursuing.

We aren’t well served by an administration which will not admit the vast scope of the problems presented by mass shooters and highly questionable use of force by some members of law enforcement.  These are national problems which beg for national solutions, whether the current Department of Justice wants to step up to the plate or not.


The kids have broken the 10,000 contract plateau in their Parents Promise To Kids project.  Right now it’s at 10,127.  That’s 10,127 parents, grandparents, and other interested people who have pledged to kids they will make gun reform a major feature in their voting decisions.  Step Up. Thank You.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics

Isabelle Robinson Takes Us To School

Nag Nag Nag.  The kids at Parents Promise To Kids have picked up 9,725 parents and family members for their contract project as of right now.  We can do a bit better. They should break 10K today.  Take a minute to make a difference.

Reading material:

This isn’t recommended reading — it should be required reading.  Isabelle Robinson, a senior at Stoneman Douglas HS speaks to the ill informed suggestion that students are responsible for “making peers feel better,” and thus less likely to commit atrocities.  She’s right.  The “WalkUpNotOut” proposal is a distraction, and for my money a very dangerous distraction.   Let’s agree, if only for the sake of the argument, that discussions about mental health and adolescent issues are a diversion from the very real problem of access to guns.

In the aftermath of the Columbine massacre, (April 20, 1999) in which two very disturbed youngsters hauled firearms, and propane tanks, into their high school with every intention of either shooting or blowing their cohorts to bits, we discussed “bullying” ad nauseam — to the detriment of closing the gun show loophole.  No, the kids at Columbine almost twenty years ago were no more responsible for the actions of the criminals than the young people in Parkland, FL are responsible for the damage done to their lives.  Robinson puts it succinctly:

“This deeply dangerous sentiment, expressed under the #WalkUpNotOut hashtag, implies that acts of school violence can be prevented if students befriend disturbed and potentially dangerous classmates. The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teachers is a slap in the face to all Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors.”

Please don’t misunderstand me, anti-bullying programs and rules are positive and useful.  However, never mistake an exercise in victim-blaming for a substantive suggestion toward solving our gun violence problems. Never mistake assigning “mental illness” as the culprit when it’s access to guns that increases the lethality of the incidents. Surely no one is suggesting that teens acquire the nuanced information in the current literature on the subject of violence and mental illness.

“Taken together with the MacArthur study, these papers have painted a more complex picture about mental illness and violence. They suggest that violence by people with mental illness — like aggression in the general population — stems from multiple overlapping factors interacting in complex ways. These include family history, personal stressors (such as divorce or bereavement), and socioeconomic factors (such as poverty and homelessness). Substance abuse is often tightly woven into this fabric, making it hard to tease apart the influence of other less obvious factors.”  [Harvard Health]

If the experts admit it is difficult to analyze and evaluate the factors — obvious and obscure — involved in mass killings, then certainly it doesn’t do to prescribe such a bromide as ‘if you’d only been nicer to  him…’ in the present instances of gun violence.

Of all the assaults on the Parkland, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles (etc) students who spoke so eloquently on the subject of gun violence during the March for Our Lives rallies, none seems more insidious than to suggest that they could have ‘prevented’ the heinous crimes IF they had been proactive little saints.  They are the victims.

Has anyone suggested that the concert attendees in Las Vegas might have been more involved in the mental illness factors contributing to the slaughter on October 1, 2017?  Were the movie theater goers in any way responsible for the shooting in Aurora in July 2012?  Were the church members responsible in any way for the outrageous shooting in Sunderland Springs, TX November 5, 2017? The answer if obviously a resounding “no.”  However, too many people have expended too much wind re-litigating the diversionary arguments of Columbine.  I’d urge a careful reading of Isabelle Robinson’s essay, it’s definitely an “A” grade example of student writing. And, an “A” grade rebuttal to the distraction tactics of the radical gun lobby.

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Single Issue Voters on the Horizon

I’m old enough to have been around when Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded on September 5, 1980.  (Actually, I’m old enough to have been around for lots of things except The F/lood)  I’m also aware of an historical point which might be of interest to current gun reform advocates.   One of the issues faced by the organization as it sought to reduce the number of vehicular accidents caused by impaired drivers was how to differentiate between (1) legislation to control drinking and driving; and (2) measures to control alcohol consumption. [PSU.edu pdf]  To exactly no one’s surprise, attempts to address the second issue faced opposition from the alcohol and “hospitality” sectors. When MADD sought to promote legislation to reduce the BAC to .08 the industries fought back saying these measures would unfairly punish “social drinkers.”  Fast forward to the gun law reform issues.

Insert “law abiding gun owners” for “social drinkers” and we can see the problems faced by reformers taking on the NRA/gun manufacturers.  In actuality there are multiple facets of the gun issue which present hurdles for reformers. However, there is much room for hope.  For starters, the youngsters participating in Walk Outs, and who will presumably be the leaders in March For Our Lives, have already put a face on the problems.

Statistics are useful, but too often insufficient to move public sentiment — we know that on an average day in the United States of America 96 people will be killed by guns; that about 13,000 people per year will die by firearm; and, sadly each day an average of 7 children and teens will be killed by a gun. [ETres] Broadcasters have contributed by keeping the photographs of the deceased on air after mass shootings, but other victims of gunfire are relegated to the obituary pages, to be forgotten almost before the funeral services are completed.  More silence comes as part of the reaction to the fact that 62% of gun deaths in this country are suicides. [ETres]

Further progress may hinge upon how reformers cope with the “social drinker” analogy.  A social drinker is a social drinker until he gets behind the wheel of a 4,000 pound sedan and hits another human being causing injury or death.  A law abiding gun owner is a person who owns firearms, until he pulls out the gun and shoots another human being — or beings.

For all the possible factors leading to an increase in public awareness of impaired driving, and a reduction of impaired driving from a 1973 rate of 36.1% to a 25.9% rate in 1986, [PSU.edu pdf] it isn’t too difficult to infer a correlation to MADD publicity and awareness campaigns, leading in turn to the enaction of stronger statutes to curb drunk driving in the 1980s.  Similarly, continued publicity of gun violence should lead to consideration and eventual enaction of laws to reduce the lethality of gun incidents.  What is needed is organizational structure to capture and extend the energy demonstrated by young people who are quite evidently fed up with being educated behind “secure” walls and being shot at — either in their schools or on their streets. There are several organizations already in place to accomplish this.  [Everytown, the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action, Giffords.Org, Giffords Law Center, and an umbrella group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.] Unlike the original MADD efforts, the organizational structures are already in place.  This situation should present an advantage for gun law reform advocates.

One of the most impressive portions of the young people’s efforts is their focus on political action, specifically getting young people registered to vote.  For those not yet eligible to vote, students are encouraging other students to write and call their governmental representatives.  This activity is a proven way to get people involved and to keep them activated.  Student action in concert with the existing organizations’ efforts presents a strong start for reform efforts.

The strong start doesn’t mean there aren’t significant obstacles to effective reforms.  The first tactic of the NRA is nearly always a stall game.  While the clichéd line “It’s too early to talk about this…” has been swatted down by the Parkland, FL students, that doesn’t mean there won’t be suggestions to “study the problem via the good offices of a commission.”  Paralysis by analysis is a standard NRA tactic to avoid action.

The second tactic is diversion.  It really isn’t Guns, it’s mental illness, it’s violent video games, it’s some elusive factor which is the “root cause.”  The argument goes that if we don’t address the “root cause” then we will not really “solve the problem.”  The problem is simply that too many people have access to entirely too much firepower, and some of these people kill other people.

The third prominent tactic is the snail paced regulatory and subsequent litigation route. For example, instead of outlawing the sale of bump stocks the White House has opted to advise departmental creation of rules under the rubric current Federal legislation.  The development of rules is time consuming, and is often followed by even more time consuming litigation.  This shirt-tail cousin of paralysis by analysis is an effective way for politicians to posture in support of gun regulation without actually doing anything.

The kids have it right:  The only way to avoid paralysis by analysis, “root cause” distractions, and regulation/litigation is at the ballot box.  Candidates for public offices can ignore, dismiss, or diminish their appeals, but will do so at their electoral peril.

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The Sound of Silence: Heller and Mass Shootings — Sandy Hook to Parkland

October 2, 2017:  A statement from Senator Dean Heller’s office:

“Nevada families are waking up to the shocking news of the tragic events that occurred last night in Las Vegas. Our communities are all in mourning as we try to understand this senseless massacre on the Strip,” said Heller. “I want to thank our first responders for their swift actions and efforts that without a doubt saved numerous lives. I’ve been in contact with the White House and Governor Sandoval, and I will continue to monitor the situation as this horrific event unfolds. Lynne and I are praying for all of the victims and their families who are experiencing immense pain and grave, shocking loss that cannot be measured.”

Let us parse.

“Nevada families are waking up to the shocking news of the tragic events that occurred last night in Las Vegas. Our communities are all in mourning as we try to understand this senseless massacre on the Strip,”

tragic events?”  It was a Shooting.  A man armed with a small arsenal rented a room with a view to kill concert-goers.  He used a bump stock to increase the lethality of his weaponry.  59 dead and 851 injured.  It was an event — singular, and singularly lethal.

as we try to understand…”  What is it we don’t understand?  When the shooting stopped there were 58 dead people, one more if we count the shooter.  Perhaps we don’t know the killer’s motive, but when the body count is 58 there’s not much more we need to comprehend other than the murderous SOB assembled his arsenal, loaded his weapons, and voluntarily fired into a crowd of concert attendees.  Jury duty training tells us there was a crime; the individual in question perpetrated the criminal act; and he did it with good old fashioned malice aforethought.  There doesn’t seem to be much more we need to understand.

praying for the victims and their families…” Yes that’s appropriate.  What we’d like to find out is what our Senator thinks should be done after we finish with the thoughts and prayers portion of the formulaic Republican/NRA response to this horror.

October 5, 2017: Senator Heller answers questions about what might be done to mitigate the lethality of the next mass shooting event, and his response

“Let me be clear, I’m not interested in watering down the Second Amendment,” Mr Heller, Nevada Republican, said on Fox News.  Mr. Heller was asked if he would support a ban on a device called a “bump stock,” which authorities now say the gunman used.  “You show me the law that would stop that, not only will I support it, I will be an advocate for that law,” he said.”

There’s a lack of clarity in this statement, i.e. what is “that?”  Was the Senator saying if we want to stop the sale of bump stocks he will be an advocate? Or, was he saying if a single law could have prevented the mass killing he would support it?  We do know that he’s previously not wanted to “water down” 2nd Amendment absolutism.  We know what he did in April 2013.

“On the weekend after Nevada Sen. Dean Heller joined 15 fellow Republicans to kill a GOP-led filibuster of gun-control legislation, he returned to his hometown of Carson City and ate with his family at an IHOP restaurant—the same one where a gunman went on a rampage in 2011, killing four people and injuring more than a dozen others before killing himself. In the process, the gunman unloaded a 30-round magazine clip and rocked the sense of safety in the small Nevada community.”

Did the Senator join with others to alleviate the carnage in the wake of the Sandy Hook Mssacre?

“But when the Senate began to take up individual pieces of gun-control legislation earlier this week, Heller joined with nearly all Republicans and several Democrats to vote no—no on an amendment to ban assault weapons, no on a measure to limit magazine capacity, and no on the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks for gun sales.” [TDB]

The original Machin-Toomey bill went down to a GOP filibuster 54-46.  If we drill down a little further the form of Senator Heller’s objections — his defense of the absolutism of the 2nd Amendment — become clearer.  The following votes were taken on April 17, 2013.

Vote 97 (113th Congress) Senator Heller votes “nay” on the Manchin Amendment to “protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.”

Vote 98 (113th Congress) Senator Heller votes “yea” on the Grassley Amendment, which purported to improve the background check system and prevent straw purchases and gun trafficking.  However, the poison pill in the Grassley-Cruz amendment was that while it did address trafficking, it also made it easier to purchase and carry guns across state lines. [WaPo]

Vote 99 (113th Congress) Senator Heller also voted “nay” on the Leahy Amendment “To increase public safety by punishing and deterring firearms trafficking.”  Not only did our Senator not seem to want to “water down” the 2nd Amendment, he even voted against an amendment which the NRA supported after the language was changed to allow for easy transfer of guns as gifts and prizes.  [WaPo]

Vote 100 (113th Congress) Senator Heller was among those voting “yea” on the Cornyn Amendment to facilitate reciprocity for concealed carry across state lines.  In other words, to create a situation in which the least restrictive states would inform how all other states regulate concealed carry issues.

Vote 101 (113th Congress) Senator Heller was one of the forty US Senators to vote against the Feinstein Amendment to “regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.”  There wasn’t much hope that the assault weapon  would be passed, but Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had promised Senator Feinstein he would bring the amendment to the floor.

Vote 102 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted “yea” on the Burr Amendment to “protect” the gun rights of veterans and military families.  This is an interesting vote because it contains issues pertinent to today’s debate.  Original language in the proposed legislation said that veterans receiving disability benefits who are deemed unable to manage their own financial affairs would be precluded from owning firearms.  Opponents of this amendment argued that the proposed language would make it easier for mentally ill individuals to obtain firearms.

Vote 103 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted “nay” on the Lautenberg Amendment to regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Vote 104 (113th Congress) Senator Heller voted in favor of the Barrasso Amendment to  withhold 5 percent of Community Oriented Policing Services program Federal funding from States and local governments that release sensitive and confidential information on law-abiding gun owners and victims of domestic violence.  Senator Barrasso was disturbed that a New York newspaper had compiled a list of gun owners from county information sources.

What did the 113th Congress do? It did agree to provide more funding for mental health services.   There was a pattern evident in the 2013 votes in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.  Republicans were focused on ‘gun rights’ without restriction and in favor of passing legislation (without mentioning the word ‘gun’) concerning mental health.  Not to put too fine a point to it but when the shooters are white there is a voluminous amount of palaver concerning mental health; when the shooter is Muslim there is a chorus of indignation about terrorism; and, when the shooter is Black the GOP conversations shifts to “broken homes,” “lifestyles,” and “gangs.” Whether it’s mental health, terrorism, or broken homes — the GOP result is the same and the debate is diverted away from guns and toward some security or societal issue.   This pattern would test the Republicans in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015.

On December 2, 2015 14 people were killed and another 22 seriously injured in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. On June 12, 2016 49 people were killed and another 58 wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  During June 2016 a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a “No Fly, No Buy” bill prohibiting those on the TSA No Fly List for terrorism suspects from purchasing firearms. [NYT]  Subsequent attempts to apply “No Fly No Buy” became entangled in the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies during the 114th Congress.  The following votes are of particular interest:

Vote 103 (114th Congress) Senator Heller votes “nay” on a cloture vote to bring up S Amendment 4751 to address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  This element of the No Fly No Buy fails on a 53-47 vote.

Vote 106 (114th Congress) Senator Heller again votes “nay” on a cloture vote to bring up S Amendment 4720 to authorize the Attorney General to deny requests to transfer a firearm to known or suspected terrorists.

And thus ended the attempt to prevent those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms in the United States of America. It was over on June 20, 2016.

March 3, 2018:  The White House hosted a “listening” session on gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida killing of 17 people at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Senator Heller did not attend.

“The office of Nevada’s senior senator, Republican Dean Heller, would not say why did he did not attend the White House meeting. Heller, who is facing a tough re-election fight, has avoided the spotlight in the subsequent days as well, declining to address specifics about his positions on gun legislation.”

Heller spokeswoman Megan Taylor declined to say whether the senator supported universal background checks, raising the age for gun purchases to 21, or provisions to ban high-capacity magazines and assault rifles, all ideas tossed out by lawmakers or President Trump in recent days.

“He looks forward to continuing discussions with his colleagues as Congress explores ways to enhance compliance with existing law and keep our communities safe,” Taylor said.

Heller has signed on to legislation known as “Fix NICS,” a modest measure supported by the NRA and intended to encourage better participation in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It was one of the few gun bills to find bipartisan support and appeared poised to move ahead, only to be sidelined.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has said little about the gun debate in recent days, said Thursday that no gun-related legislation would be heard in the coming week. [TDB] [RGJ]

No more formulaic GOP press responses from Senator Heller. This massacre warranted  a tweet. “Lynne and I are heartbroken for those impacted by the senseless act of violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We are praying for the victims and their families, the school’s students and faculty, as well the entire Parkland, FL community,” Heller wrote.” [NVIndy]  The only response less informative came from Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2): “The first thing that needs to be done is find out what the story is with this guy…so we have a 360-degree picture and then we’ll go from there,” Amodei said.” [NVIndy]

Perhaps in light of the Academy acknowledgment of an award winning rendition of Winston Churchill last evening, a quote from the Prime Minister is appropriate:

“It’s no use saying, ”We are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Trump’s Next Stupid Idea: Arms Adept Teachers

The flow continues. One idiotic idea after another. Flowing freely from the Oval Office, billowing forth from the West Wing. The next evermore moronic than its predecessor.  And now — armed teachers. Yes, we’re back to the old NRA recipe for carnage:  Expand the number of guns in public spaces.  Churches, concerts, schools, streets…

Bring In The Cavalry?

The occupant of the Oval Office appears to believe that the teaching ranks are filled with military veterans, and further that these veterans want to have guns in their classrooms.  First off, there aren’t that many.  In a 2013 USA Today article we find that Teach for America, which prioritized recruiting teachers from the ranks of military veterans had a “cadre of 100” veterans.  The number may now be approximately 320. [Vox]  Thus far it’s been difficult to find statistics tracking the number of military veterans who are currently teaching in our public and private schools.  The US has about 14,000 school districts. [Census]

Secondly, the argument assumes that veterans advocate having firearms in their classrooms.  This premise is also questionable.  Three veterans spoke to this issue in this Esquire article.  None seemed to see the proposal in a positive light, and their insights into situations, training, and human reactions are enlightening. Veterans interviewed by Buzzfeed described the idea as a tactical disaster.  The “tactical disaster” argument is further buttressed by the combat veteran who spoke with Charlotte 5.   There seems to be a vast gap between the advocates of the armaments escalation and the veterans with actual combat experience.  I’m betting the combat veterans can provide more practical guidance on this issue.

Comic Book Characters

The notion that some Hero-Teacher armed with a Glock will leap from the shadows of a chaotic hall way and mow down an intruder firing an AR-15 is straight out of some comic book/Hollywood rendition of fantasy fiction.  As the veterans cited above remark, there is no way to predict with 100% certainty how anyone will react under fire, and this is with 52 week per year training.  At this point our Comic Book Hero has to embody the Hollywood concept that the hero always hits the target, and the villain always misses.

Even the US military doesn’t require that standard.   We should remember that in Phase One of military weapons training the trainee doesn’t even fire the weapon, it’s all understanding the mechanical and operational characteristics of the gun.  It isn’t until Phase Two that the trainee pulls the trigger.  Qualification is another matter:  “In order to qualify, you must hit at least 23 out of 40 pop-up targets at ranges varying from 5 meters to 300 meters (approximately 80 to 327 yards).”  That calculates to a 57.5% accuracy rate.

Speed and accuracy are not a good mix.  The speed of firing reduces the accuracy.  The classic study done by the RAND Corporation in 2008 for the New York City Police Department should be consulted for additional information and for the conclusions it drew which remain valid.

“The NYPD reports hit-rate statistics both for officers involved in a gunfight and for officers who shoot at subjects who do not return fire. Between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate was 18 percent for gunfights. Between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate in situations in which fire was not returned was 30 percent. 

Accuracy improves at close range, with officers hitting their targets 37 percent of the time at distances of seven yards or less; at longer ranges, hit rates fall off sharply, to 23 percent.  [AJC]

Only by assuming the Comic Book Hero with a Hollywood Level of Fictional Accuracy, can a person argue that arming civilians is a viable option for protecting children.

What Should Be The Last Word

From a combat veteran:

My goal here is to bring the reality of the situation to the forefront. Politicians who are blasé about the complexity and rigorous training required for these types of engagements and who underestimate the physical, physiological and psychological toll a combat environment brings to those involved, should be forced to place themselves in these types of simulations.

Ultimately, I’m saddened by the fact that we’ve reached a point where people in this country want teachers to arm themselves as moonlight deputies. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m confident that arming teachers isn’t the answer—now or ever.

Finis

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Saturday Morning: Nice Try Rick Scott

The FBI has admitted it made a major mistake mishandling a tip regarding the Parkland, FL assassin.  The reaction of Florida governor Rick Scott is to call for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray.  Neither of these elements is helpful.  No, FBI you don’t get to make an apology and walk quietly away.  The Bureau needs to conduct an internal review, and if some heads should roll then make the consequences fit the incompetence.  And no, Governor Scott you don’t get to rail about the FBI as a way to excuse the incompetence of an administration which has an A+ from the National Rifle Association for “more pro-gun” legislation than…whatever. [Time]

It seems no level of government and no agency was ready to deal with an “evil kid.” Local authorities were called to his address for various and sundry forms of abuse, violence, and assaults 39 times in a seven year period.  39 times.  The shooter was detained for mental health treatment at least once.  And still he could walk into a gun store and walk out with an assault style rifle, because “freedom.”

Most kids will tell you it’s easy to get suspended from school, getting expelled takes some real work. [FL statute] This shooter was expelled, but before he was expelled he’d been admonished for his anti-social behavior, and informed that he was not to appear at school with a back pack, the only item he was allowed to carry was a clear plastic bag.  Evidently that was insufficient, he was expelled.  And still he could walk into a gun store and walk out with an assault style rifle, because “freedom.”

Where were the mental health professionals in Florida while this young man was continuing his destructive pattern of anti-social behavior?  Still reeling from state budget cuts to mental health services, and trying to figure out how to make cuts such that no one program took the entire hit? [Orlando Sent]  So, while funding for ‘receiving centers’ where police could assign individuals for evaluation was cut, a young man could walk into a gun store and walk out with an assault style rifle, because “freedom.”

The young man issued racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, anti-Islamic, violent rants on social media.  Did social media platforms flag his demented spiels?  He affiliated with a white supremacist group. (Last month a white supremacist was charged with domestic terrorism, but the public barely heard of it. [Salon])  The Countering Violent Terrorism program is still a part of the federal bureaucracy and White extremists are still listed, but expect budget cuts for grant programs to state and local governments to combat terrorism, and we can expect the administration to fold programs together in the name of greater efficiency. [Snopes]  Someone has to pay for those permanent tax cuts for corporations and the top 1%. So, still a young man could walk into a gun store and walk out with an assault style rifle, because “freedom.”

We’d probably be far better off if we’d tell Congressional representatives to forget giving corporations and billionaires a tax cut and start funding programs that adequately service the mental health needs of our citizens, adequately fund state and local anti-terrorism efforts, and require more information sources feeding into the background check database.  What we don’t need?  More concealed carry reciprocity laws. More lax restrictions on gun magazines. More lax statutes on who can get an assault style rifles.  More lax regulations on gun modifications to emulate automatic fire.  More people arguing that if an 18 year old can serve in the military he should be able to buy an assault style rifle.  How about if we said to an 18 year old — You want to shoot an M-16? Join the US Armed Forces, learn to operate your M-16 under adult supervision within a clear structure of command, learning when, where, and under what circumstances it’s appropriate to use your firearms?

Perhaps we should consider “red flag” laws which allow authorities to remove firearms from those who are a clear and immediate danger to themselves and to others. California, Connecticut, Washington, Oregon, and Indiana allow such actions. [WaPo]

Perhaps we could start listening to the kids.

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While We’re Ducking and Dodging

While we’re ducking, dodging, and otherwise attempting to avoid damage from the GOP, they’re still busy with legislation to make our lives just a bit more difficult.  Cases in point:

The House leadership has delayed, but hasn’t promised to discard, a bill, HR 367, to allow the general sale of silencers — which the proponents tell us will mitigate hearing loss for gun owners.  Pro Tip: A nice pair of headset style ear protectors will set you back about $30.00 (if the foamies will do you can buy’em for about 12 cents each in a bucket of 200) as opposed to spending $1300.00 on a suppressor for your AK/AR-some number or another.

The GOP tax cut legislation, which somehow is being titled “reform,” is a walloping giveaway to the top income earners in the U.S.  Not sure about this? See the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, that tells us those in the bottom 20% will see 1.3% of the tax benefits while the top 1% will enjoy 67.4%. Bringing this closer to home, the top 1% of income earners (which amounts to about 0.4% of our population) will get a 70.7% share of the tax cuts. For all that chatter about the Middle Class, the plan doesn’t really help middle class Nevadans:

“The middle fifth of households in Nevada, people who are literally the state’s “middle-class” would not fare as well. Despite being 20 percent of the population, this group would receive just 4.6 percent of the tax cuts that go to Nevada under the framework. In 2018 this group is projected to earn between $38,900 and $60,600. The framework would cut their taxes by an average of $380, which would increase their income by an average of 0.8 percent.”

Just to put this in context, a family in Nevada’s middle income range would see a tax cut of about $380…meanwhile back at the home mortgage, if that family is in Reno where the average home loan is about $187,000, the monthly payments are about $855 per month.  Congratulations Middle Class Nevadans, you may receive an annual prize of 44% of one month’s mortgage payment.  Color me unimpressed.

The GOP passed its version of the FY 2018 budget on a 219-206 vote.  Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of the bill; Representatives Kihuen, Titus, and Rosen were in Las Vegas attending to their constituents in the wake of the massacre at the music concert.   The AARP was quick to notice that the Republican plan calls for $473 BILLION to be cut from Medicare over the next 10 years.   Expect a cap on the Medicaid program funding; it wouldn’t be too far off to estimate cuts of about $1 TRILLION in that category.   Beware when Republicans speak of “entitlement reform,” that simply means cutting Social Security benefits and Medicare.  When they say “welfare reform,” they often mean cutting Food Stamps, Housing Assistance, and Medicaid.   Representative Amodei might want to explain why he supports cutting Medicare by $473 billion over the next decade?

Those in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District can reach Representative Mark Amodei at 202-225-6155 (Washington DC) 775-686-5760 (Reno), or 775-777-7705 (Elko);  the office addresses are — 332 Cannon Building, Washington, DC 20515; 5310 Kietzke Lane #103, Reno, NV 89511; 905 Railroad Street, Ste 104D, Elko, NV 89801.

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Filed under Amodei, Economy, Federal budget, Health Care, health insurance, housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Nevada, Nevada economy, nevada health, nevada taxation, Politics, Republicans, Taxation

Aw Shucks Amodei’s Amazing Little Interview

Mark Amodei (R) is the Representative for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.  This afternoon he had a little moment in the spotlight during an interview with Velshi and Rhule on MSNBC.  It was one of his better “aw shucks” moments, complete with eye closings and head bobbing, incomplete in terms of any rationality beyond the NRA talking points.  This isn’t surprising given the $43,265 Rep. Amodei has gathered from gun rights organizations (NRA, Safari International) over his career.

His first deflection from the presenters’ inquiries incorporated the Perfect Solution canard, i.e. “If a problem needs to be addressed…” implying that legislation is not capable of solving specific shooting tragedies. If a proposition doesn’t perfectly address the elements of a particular crime, then it is not worthy of consideration. This line is so old it should be eligible for a reverse mortgage.

Deflection number two came as Amodei squirmed away from addressing common sense regulation by adopting the Bank Robbers Protection Argument — the shooter was not one “to be deterred by additional regulation.”  This is simply a veneer over the contention that felons don’t follow the laws therefore laws are useless.  Again, we don’t often adopt this philosophy about criminal behavior,  which we hope to proscribe, as in assault, battery, robbery, arson, and murder.

The third deflection, the interview was almost one continuing deflection, occurred with the predictable “we need more facts.”  Yes, the investigation is underway, and in some areas has barely started.  However,  Amodei “hoped” we’d find out “how many weapons were purchased in what period of time.”  If you are wondering why this is relevant, you aren’t alone.  The salient facts are — a man, using high powered modified guns, killed 59 people and injured over 500 others.  It is perfectly possible to begin discussions prior to the full completion of the police investigation.

It didn’t take Rep. Amodei long to reach deflection four — “it’s too soon” (to be discussing common sense gun regulation) and at this point Rep. Amodei appeared to be making up his own vocabulary saying we need to “de-emotionalize” the issue.  Translation: We (the NRA and I) don’t want to talk about gun controls of any kind and it will always be either too soon or too late to discuss the issues and proposed solutions.

At this point in the interview Rep. Amodei, head bobbing, eye blinking and aw shucks mannerisms in full, returned to his prior motifs — “we need more information,” “felons don’t care…”, and “how would legislation have stopped…”

When pressed about the modification of rifles (video) to automatic operations Rep. Amodei reverted to more aw shucks repetitions, needing to know “how legislation would have stopped (the slaughter).”  The presenters gave up trying to make the Representative explain how allowing the sale of kits to make legal guns illegal made even the most remote amount of sense.  The interview terminated with formulaic thanks, and Rep. Amodei’s obvious relief.

It would be a relief to northern Nevada residents to have a Representative in Congress who understands rifle modification, and who comprehends the parched and desiccated nature of the old NRA arguments against doing anything that might mitigate the next tragedies.

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