Tag Archives: gun issues

Gunslinging in the Silver State

Guns Here are the rules for firearm possession in Nevada.

“NRS 202.360  Ownership or possession of firearm by certain persons prohibited; penalties.

      1.  A person shall not own or have in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control any firearm if the person:

      (a) Has been convicted in this State or any other state of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33);

      (b) Has been convicted of a felony in this State or any other state, or in any political subdivision thereof, or of a felony in violation of the laws of the United States of America, unless the person has received a pardon and the pardon does not restrict his or her right to bear arms;

      (c) Is a fugitive from justice;

      (d) Is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any controlled substance; or

      (e) Is otherwise prohibited by federal law from having a firearm in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control.

Ê A person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.

      2.  A person shall not own or have in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control any firearm if the person:

      (a) Has been adjudicated as mentally ill or has been committed to any mental health facility by a court of this State, any other state or the United States;

      (b) Has entered a plea of guilty but mentally ill in a court of this State, any other state or the United States;

      (c) Has been found guilty but mentally ill in a court of this State, any other state or the United States;

      (d) Has been acquitted by reason of insanity in a court of this State, any other state or the United States; or

      (e) Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.

Ê A person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

      3.  As used in this section:

      (a) “Controlled substance” has the meaning ascribed to it in 21 U.S.C. § 802(6).

      (b) “Firearm” includes any firearm that is loaded or unloaded and operable or inoperable.”

This seems fairly clear.  A person in Nevada shall not possess firearms if  he or she is  (1) convicted of domestic abuse; (2) is a felon; (3) is a fugitive from justice; (4) is addicted to drugs; (5) is adjudicated mentally ill.

Now, how do we determine if someone falls into one of these proscribed categories?  There are supposed to be background checks for that purpose. One would think that law enforcement officers would be in favor of any measure that would help prevent guns from getting into the hands of domestic abusers, felons, fugitives, addicts, and the dangerously mentally ill. While such a measure wouldn’t prevent all such incidents it would help, and in this matter every bit of assistance would be welcome.  We’d be wrong. Some of the local law enforcement personnel appear to be acting against their own best interests in anti-Question 1 advertising.

Contrary to the gunslingers – Question One doesn’t “criminalize gun ownership.” Gun ownership for domestic abusers, felons, fugitives, addicts, and the adjudicated mentally is ALREADY a criminal offense.  There’s nothing added that would criminalize gun ownership for any other person not falling into one of these categories.

Contrary to the gunslingers – Question One isn’t about “g u n c o n t r o l” (think of a scary voice…) It is about keeping guns out of the hands of people who should never have them in the first place.

Contrary to the gunslingers – the law is unworkable because criminals won’t obey it – for the umpteenth time: That is the definition of a criminal, a person who doesn’t obey the law. Again, do we take the laws against bank robbery off the books because bank robbers don’t respect them?  Of all the pro-gun proliferation arguments this has to be the silliest.

Contrary to the gunslingers – Simply because a single measure won’t prevent all violent crime doesn’t prevent the idea from having merit if it seeks to prevent some violent crime.   The standard set by the NRA/Ammosexuals is artificially high and obviously unachievable – no law will prevent all criminal activity, but that’s no reason not to make an attempt at reduction.

There is a slippery slope here, not as the NRA contends that any regulation of firearms will necessarily devolve into the confiscation of all firearms; but, that we will continue to slide down a slope on which it becomes easier and more convenient for those who should never have lethal weapons in the first instance to create more havoc, more lethal incidents, and more tragic events.

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Police Accountability: No one model and no single system

Crime Scene Tape

There was a meeting in Reno, NV between members of the community, representatives of Black Lives Matter, and law enforcement officers. That’s good. [RGJ]  It’s a start. Or, to put it another way it’s another step on a path forward which has the tortuous feel of a mountain trail with numerous cut backs.  We might be able to more fully address the issues related to policing our communities if we’d take some additional topics into consideration.

One of the most obvious topics is the use of force, in perhaps too many cases deadly force, and how police officers may be held accountable in controversial situations.  The importance of Tennessee v. Garner can’t be overestimated, and further, administrative and legal cases do seem to have an effect on policing policies and practices. [Hudson] However, public perception is also related to faith in the system, and the system is fragmented.

In Nevada, for example, how a citizen can report instances of police misconduct varies with each jurisdiction, and sometimes within a single metropolitan area.  Reporting a favorable comment about policing is very easy in Reno.  There’s a website form for that.  Reporting an instance of possible police misconduct isn’t as simple.  Reno, Washoe County, and Carson City each have their own process and requirements for filing an allegation of misconduct. [ACLU]  There are four ways to file a complaint in Reno, three ways in Washoe County, and only one way (in person) in Carson City.   The report information goes to the Internal Affairs Office in Reno, passes to the Sheriff’s office in Carson City, and through the Sheriff’s office in Washoe County.

The Accountability process is also a matter of local jurisdiction. There is a local Review Board in Las Vegas, which while it does have some investigative powers is confined to making recommendations only.  Even this improvement met with a critique from the Justice Department in a 2012 investigation:

“Metro’s Use of Force Review Board — currently a mix of residents and department personnel — needs revamping because of procedures the COPS Office found “outdated and insufficient.” To remedy the situation, the report recommends Metro create a stand-alone manual for the board, which would outline its purpose, operating procedures and clarify roles of the board’s members.” [LVSun] [DoJ] [DoJ Report pdf]

This wasn’t all the Department of Justice had to say on the matter in October 2012.   The report found that the Coroner’s inquest process related to the review of the use of deadly force was ineffective at the time. The District Attorney’s office needed more training and expertise related to investigating deadly force incidents, and while the Clark County DA had begun to review officer involved lethal shootings, and to issue decision letters, there were no letters for serious, non-fatal use of force incidents. [DoJ Report pdf]  The current accountability public perceptions may rest on how much progress has been made since the 2012 recommendations, and on the application of the review processes in the context of Nevada statutes on police use of force.

The public is beginning to perceive that investigations of police officers are quite different from those a private citizen can expect.  For example, in Las Vegas the officer will receive a 48 hour notice before an interview, and even if that notice requirement is waived it must be approved by the association.  Additionally, the officer will be provided with ALL evidence during an interrogation to facilitate correcting “inconsistencies.”  There are also contractual provisions allowing an officer terminated as a result of an investigation 30 days to appeal and to enter into binding arbitration. Written reprimands will be removed from the officer’s personnel file after 18 months; minor suspensions after 3 years, and major suspensions after 5 years.  There is to be no retention of investigation records in which the officer is exonerated, or the allegations are held to be unfounded, or un-sustained.   The contract in Las Vegas is about “average” in its provisions for police protection, with the major exception that the city is not exclusively liable for civil actions related to the incident.

There are some jurisdictions in which an officer cannot be interrogated for more than 6 hours in a given session, and may not be threatened with vile language or threats of demotion, transfer, or termination of employment. (Fort Worth)  Louisville, KY allows no threats, coercion, or promises made during an interrogation, and St. Petersburg, FL allows only one interrogation session.  [CTP interactive]

“Public Employee and Public Ideology” issues are also entangled in these topics.  There are some conservative voices only too pleased to blame teachers’ unions, for example, for allowing the retention of “bad apples.” However, these voices are strangely silent when the subject of police unions comes to the fore.  It is in no one’s best interest when any public employee is subjected to discriminatory, capricious, or arbitrary treatment regarding his or her demotion, dismissal, or refusal of re-employment.  However, when other public employees are alleged to have been responsible for the death or physical injury of another the notice and the interrogation limitations are not available to them, nor are the requirements that they have access to all the evidence collected prior to the interrogation.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

That there is no single model and no single unifying concepts for police accountability means that each jurisdiction is left to its own devices to cope with community and police relations.  Some, like the Dallas PD, have done a better job than others, such as Baton Rouge and Ferguson, MO.

Perhaps we’d be well served to think outside the dotted lines at some tangential issues which exacerbate the situations in which both law enforcement and community members find themselves.  Let’s start with what is likely to be one of the most obvious.

Racism.  Could we at least recognize that it exists? Could we at least acknowledge that it informs some actions that are not necessarily overt? Remember the African American college student who was arrested in NYC for buying a belt the clerk and officers said he couldn’t possibly afford, and concluded that he’d thereby committed fraud? [HuffPo]  Or, the African American actor who was arrested for buying his mother a $1,350 watch, as a present for her college graduation? [DNAinfo]  These are simply more high profile illustrations of the problem as related by one of the participants in the Reno meeting:

“Don Dike-Anukam said he was glad he attended Sunday’s event and hopes others will consider what life is like when “the shoe is on the other foot.”

“It’s hard to explain to people who never had to literally prepare for a police stop or have been followed in a supermarket when you’ve done nothing wrong or know what it’s like to have that feeling of suspicion and done nothing wrong,” Dike-Anukam said. “It makes you a little angry and annoyed inside and sad at the same time.” [RGJ]

Combining racism and fear is a truly toxic mix. What of the police officer  knowing that he is dealing with a white person in a traffic stop who may be armed, and feels less insecure? Or, more insecure if the person in Black? Is the white citizen more innocent until proven guilty, or the Black citizen guilty until proven innocent?

Police as collection agents. One of the things that precipitated the mess in Ferguson, MO was the use of the police department as a collection agency in an effort to bolster the town budget.  In 2010 the Ferguson police department generated $1.4 million for the county treasury, almost 25% of the city’s $13 million budget. [RS]  To put the issue more bluntly:

“…when budgetary whims replace peacekeeping as the central motivation of law enforcement, who is more likely to write up more tickets, the good cop or the crummy one? When the mission of the entire department shifts from “protect and serve” to “punish and profit,” then just what constitutes good police?” [MJ]

Most of the incidents that initiated the current turmoil began as traffic stops and other very minor items in the grand scheme of things.  We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask how many of these stops were associated with increasing revenues for local governments? With fulfilling quotas of some kind? With “keeping the numbers up?”  None of this having much to do with good police work.

Police Training. Now, if we combine racism and revenue generation, then why are we surprised when minor incidents become major news?  One element which seems to need further discussion is the addition of de-escalation policies and training for police officers.

In March 2016, the Los Angeles Police Commission voted to implement a use of force policy emphasizing de-escalation and the use of minimal force in encounters with the general public. [LAcbs]

“One of the recommendations suggests the LAPD’s use-of-force policy be revised “to emphasize that deadly force shall only be exercised when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or appear impracticable.

The revision in policy will also establish the expectation that officers redeploy to a position of tactical advantage when faced with a threat, whenever such redeployment can be reasonably accomplished in a manner consistent with officer and public safety.” [LAcbs]

Unfortunately, the police union doesn’t seem to be on board:

“Clearly this is not a collaborative process by the Police Commission,” he said. “We are very concerned that the recommendations as written may jeopardize officer and community safety. We’re afraid that this policy does not take into account the split-second, life-and-death decisions police officers must make in the field.”

An internal LAPD report was released earlier this month that found LAPD officers used force nearly 2,000 times last year, including 21 cases in which people were fatally shot. More than one-third of the 38 people who were shot by police were mentally ill. [LAcbs]

However, making those decisions is a function of training and experience, and if the training includes how to de-escalate a volatile situation then both the safety of the officer and the safety of the citizen could be improved.  It hardly seems fair to criticize an officer when the predominance of his or her training is consumed in fire arms training, and then complain when the person shoots first and faces the questions later.

Guns. Eventually it all comes back to guns.   Now, there’s research reported on the subject:

“The results were shocking: line-of-duty homicide rates among police officers were more than three times higher in states with high gun ownership compared with the low gun ownership states. Between 1996 and 2010, in other words, there were 0.31 officer fatalities for every 10,000 employed officers in low gun ownership states. But there were 0.95 fatalities per 10,000 officers in the high gun ownership states.” [WaPo]

Law enforcement officers “working in states with higher levels of gun ownership faced a greater likelihood of being shot and killed on the job compared with their peers in states with lower gun ownership,” the study concludes. The relationship was strong enough that every 10 percent increase in gun ownership correlated with 10 more officer deaths over the study period. [WaPo]

If we’re truly interested in the safety of our law enforcement personnel then we have to address what’s killing them. Guns.

This partial list of “Things To Think About” is a heaping portion of problems on our collective plate.  None of these discussion will be easy, or simple, or without rancor.  However, I don’t think that we can afford to ignore any of the elements.   Those who refuse to consider the possibility that there are problems in our contemporary system will not be convinced there is a necessity to address these topics; those who do should take heart that communities around the country, like Reno, are at least beginning the discussion.

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Filed under civil liberties, Gun Issues, Las Vegas, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics, public safety, violence

Please Stop Making Excuses

Remember back in the day when Granny quoted Benjamin Franklin for the umpteenth time, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else?”   If any positive commentary has come from this miserable week in America it’s that at least no one is trying to excuse the assassination of police officers in Dallas, TX.  But heaven knows there are enough other excuses floating about.

There is no excuse for the perpetuation of a system in which members of minority groups and ethnicities are subjected to lower standards of service and respect.  Let’s look carefully at some of the excuses.

## Consider this commentary from a right wing writer:

“When communists, anarchists and other left-wing rabble-rousers march through the streets of New York City chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops,” and, “When do we want it? Right now,” they aren’t merely attacking that thin blue line that has sworn to defend us; they are, in fact, trying to topple our very form of government.

When they block our streets, disrupt our stores and hurl epithets (and worse) at those who have sworn to protect us, they aren’t merely trying to protest a grand jury decision they didn’t like; no, their real goal is to make clear their utter disdain for the country that grants them the freedom to flout our laws and traditions.”

The essential premise is that the present system, including policing practices, is perfectly acceptable and any attempt to criticize the white controlled power structure must be done in dulcet tones with tea room manners.  Otherwise, it is to be condemned as the object of “communists, anarchists, and other left wing rabble.”  Yes, this is nothing more than an ad hominem attack meant to excuse or temporize the actions of a small minority of law enforcement personnel who should really consider another occupation.   This form of excuse making utterly ignores the reality that no one is calling for “toppling” the government – the purpose is to make the government more responsive to and respectful of the lives of ALL citizens.

## And then there’s the now infamous excuse making by a former New York City mayor:

“When you say ‘black lives matter,’ that’s inherently racist,” the ex-mayor said. “Black lives matter, white lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American and it’s racist.” [NYDN]

Are we supposed to excuse the excesses by blaming the victims?  The former mayor seems to have truncated the expression “Black Lives Matter” and attached to it the prefix “only.”  The people attaching the prefix are those who excuse their opposition to even listening to the protesters (much less acting on their demands) by saying in essence, “I’m white and any attack on MY government or its officials must be racist.”  This argument is best explicated in this essay in response to a sophomoric complaint about an instructor’s t-shirt.   How about if we made the signs less succinct and said, “Black lives matter as much as everyone else’s.”  They don’t matter more than other lives, and they certainly shouldn’t any matter less. Again, there is no excuse for making anyone subject to a standard other than equal before the law.

## Riffing off Black Lives Matter and creating Blue Lives Matter isn’t helpful to either the African American community or the police because it too often seeks to excuse excesses by replacing Black with Blue and subverting the message that all lives should be valued equally.   There is no analogous history of blue lives being under extra scrutiny in their neighborhoods, placed under arrest more often than others, and being perceived as guilty until proven innocent.   However, in the wake of the assassination of two Las Vegas police officers by right wing morons who draped anti-government flags over them there is a need to protect blue lives …. as if they were white, or black, or Hispanic, or Asian… [See also HuffPo]

## A corollary to this comes in the form of the FOP request for a hate crime investigation into the assassination of the Dallas police officers. [NPR] Indeed, an expression, if verified, that the shooter wanted to kill white officers would constitute a motive based in hate.  However, a ‘blue lives matter bill’ is essentially grandstanding.  If the killing is predicated on racial bias then we already have laws on the books for that.  In fact, Nevada is rather specific about aggravating circumstances in seeking the death penalty if:

The murder was committed upon a peace officer or fireman or an employee of the Department of Corrections who does not exercise general control over offenders imprisoned within the institutions and facilities of the Department, but whose normal duties require him to come into contact with those offenders when carrying out duties prescribed by the Director of the Department. And the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was a peace officer or fireman. [DP.org]

In short, there are already statutes granting extra consideration if a first responder is the victim, why adding the category of “hate crime” isn’t superfluous needs to be explained.

## A more subtle form of excusing the perpetrators of excessive force is the media tendency to report on the demerits of the victims.  Cases to the point: (1) Where were the calls to find out how the Charleston, SC church assassin was ‘radicalized?’ Not that we didn’t  have a pretty good idea already – shady and disgusting white supremacist sites – but exactly where did he find those writings which ‘inspired’ his hatred? Who wrote them? What else have they written?  What threat do they pose to the security of our nation?  (2)  Should a person end up dead on a sidewalk after a traffic stop why should I know  they have accumulated a handful of misdemeanor arrests, or owe court administrative fees?  Does this excuse the actions which might be adjudicated as excessive force?

The time has come to put away the excuses, warehouse the rationales, and listen.

“Condemning a culture is not inciting hate. That is very important. Yet black people will continue to die at the hands of cops as long as we deny that whiteness can be more important in explaining those cops’ behavior than anything else.”  [Michael Eric Dyson]

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Filed under civil liberties, conservatism, Gun Issues, Politics, public safety

And then they left town….

Gun violence by state “A House panel on Thursday rejected multiple efforts by Democrats to eliminate a budget amendment that has frozen nearly all government research into gun violence for 17 years.

During a markup of next year’s health spending bill, Republicans blocked two amendments that would have allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study gun-related deaths. Neither had a recorded vote. 

Eliminating the provision has become a priority for Democrats since the June 12 attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people — the nation’s deadliest mass shooting. 

The provision, known as the Dickey Amendment for former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), was first enacted in 1996 after groups including the National Rifle Association (NRA) accused federal agencies of trying to advance gun control.”  [The Hill]

Nevada Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) is a member of the House Appropriations Committee but is not a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, and related agencies.

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Filed under Amodei, Congress, Gun Issues, Nevada politics, Republicans

Guns and Money

Stonewall NRA How Much? Thus far into the 2016 election cycle the National Rifle Association PAC  has donated a total of $398,400 to Federal candidates with $3,500 going to Democrats and $394,900 donated to Republican campaigns.  The Safari Club International PAC has contributed $17,000 to Democratic candidates and $317,500 to Republicans.  The National Shooting Sports Foundation PAC has donated $118,500 with $2,000 to Democratic candidates and $116,500 to Republican candidates.  The National Association for Gun Rights PAC has donated $29,000 to Republican candidates, and nothing to Democratic ones. The Gun Owners of American PAC has donated $9,585 with all contributions given to Republicans. The Ohio Gun Collectors Association PAC has distributed $7,000 all of which has gone to Republican candidates. The Dallas Safari Club PAC has donated all $3,000 of its contributions to Republicans.  [OS.org]

The NRA PAC has donated $75,000 so far to the National Republican Senatorial Committee; $30,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee; $15,000 to the Republican National Committee; $9,950 to the Blue Dog PAC, $5,000 to the Republican Party of Iowa; $5,000 to the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania; $5,000 to the Republican Party of Tennessee; $5,000 to the Republican Party of Kentucky; and, $5,000 to the Republican Party of Idaho.  [OS.org]

We also need to consider the NRA lobbying arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, which runs issue-based campaign ads of its own.  This organization cannot donate directly to candidates but is allowed to receive millions of dollars in donations from corporations.  It is not required to disclose the donors but manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger & Company have announced large donations to the NRA-ILA in the past. [CNN]  It’s public knowledge that during the two year period of the 2014 election cycle the NRA spent almost $36 million on lobbying, campaign contributions, and related political spending. [CNN]

Who Gets? Nevada Congressional candidate Cresent Hardy received $3,000 from the NRA PAC.  Joe Heck, Senate candidate in Nevada received $4,950 from the NRA PAC.

Cresent Hardy received another $2,000 from the Safari Club International PAC.  Senate candidate Joe Heck also received $2,000 from the Safari Club International PAC. Current Nevada Senator Dean Heller also received $2,000 in the 2016 cycle from the Safari Club International PAC.   The recipients are those listed in reports up to May 16, 2016. [OP.org]

The Response

The tragedy in Orlando, Florida, illustrates in a horrible way why simplistic thinking is detrimental to civil discourse in America.  And, the NRA response was perfectly predictable:

“Radical Islamic terrorists are not deterred by gun control laws. The San Bernardino terrorist attack wasn’t stopped by California’s so-called “assault weapons” ban. The gun ban in Brussels didn’t prevent the terrorist attack there. And France’s strict gun control didn’t stop the two attacks in Paris, committed with fully-automatic rifles and grenades.

Repeating the same thing but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Law-abiding gun owners are tired of being blamed for the acts of madmen and terrorists. Semi-automatics are the most popular firearms sold in America for sport-shooting, hunting and self-defense.” [USAToday]

Heck, Hardy, and Heller have accepted NRA donations, and thus we’d have to assume they adhere to the arguments set forth by the NRA – logical flaws and all.

blood drop

The line that criminals (or terrorists) are not deterred by gun control laws is getting a bit stale.  Bank robbers aren’t deterred by laws designed to prevent robberies, but we have them on the books so that those violating the laws will be prosecuted.  Gun safety regulations are just that; laws designed to keep people safer – from successful suicides, assaults with these deadly weapons, and terrorist attacks.

blood drop

There is nothing quite so illogical as setting up an impossible standard and then insisting that all legislation perfectly meet that Impossibility. No law prevents all murders, all robberies, all auto thefts, or even all terrorist attacks, BUT doing nothing isn’t really a viable option.   Again, banning the sale of sliding side cribs for infants will not prevent all infant deaths, but it has prevented some, and for that we should be grateful.  We don’t ban all toys, but we don’t allow the sale of lawn darts which killed a handful of people and injured a few thousand.  The idea isn’t that we will be Perfectly Safe, but that we will be SAFER if military style weapons and high capacity magazines are not available to every single individual in America.

blood drop

Yes, expecting a different result from the same action is silly – however, the point is that we haven’t taken ANY action to curtail the proliferation of military style weaponry in civilian hands.  In fact, we’ve done the reverse.  There are at least 70 instances in which state legislatures have weakened gun safety law since the Sandy Hook massacre. [HuffPo] Congress, as is relatively obvious, hasn’t enacted any measures related to keeping Americans safer – none.

So, let’s turn this argument around.  The NRA pleads that what we have done since Sandy Hook hasn’t made us any safer.  True – we’ve weakened laws on the books, and the Congress has done nothing; therefore, expecting our environments to be safer is “expecting to do the same things and expecting to get another result.”

blood drop

The “poor me” gun owners argument is also getting bromidic.  No one is “blaming” those “responsible gun owners” for attacks in San Bernardino, Orlando, Charlestown, Blacksburg, Fort Hood, and Aurora…

Indeed, these were carried out by the deadly delusional among us. The real question is WHY we continue to countenance the easy sale and distribution of deadly weapons, regardless of the hands unto which they are committed?

blood drop

Semi-automatics are the most popular firearm sold in America,”  is NOT an argument for believing that continuing to do nothing will make us all safer.  Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for Babies was a very popular product in the 19th century, and indeed it would sooth those teething little critters – with the 65 mg of morphine per fluid ounce.  To Mrs. Winslow’s concoction we might add Lloyd Manufacturing’s Cocaine Toothache Drops, Kimball’s White Pine and Tar Cough Syrup, and Laudanum – the latter being exceptionally popular.  Merely because an item is “popular” doesn’t mean it is a wholesome, safe, and generally useful product.

blood drop

Military style weapons are for military and law enforcement use. Period. Yes, a person could “go hunting” with an AR-15, but why? Most hunters use sporting rifles and shotguns so as not to “mess up the meat.”  At the risk of repeating myself – a person might use an AR-15 for hunting especially if the individual is of the type inclined to use a D8 Cat to move a bag of potting soil.  As far as home defense goes – just who do they think is going to show up?    Granted my marksmanship leaves a lot to be desired, but if I haven’t hit the “target” with my first couple of shots what would make me believe that I will do any more damage with the next 30 rounds? Except perhaps to complete the total “air-conditioning” of my living room?  I don’t expect a small army of burglars. I expect that statistics will hold that most burglars operate alone and unarmed.  The odds are against my ever needing a high capacity magazine attached to a highly lethal weapon – so why bother with the purchase?

blood drop

All too often when the smoke clears from a tragic shooting we find that the motives of the shooters were a complex mix of mental illness, delusional thinking, personal issues, political ideologies, and were far more complicated than simply ascribing blame to a singular causal factor.  However much the NRA wants to believe that Orlando was exclusively a terrorist attack, and however much Daesh would like to claim it, the shooter’s ideation remains cloudy – was it homophobic? Was it terroristic? Was it both? What other factors may have been involved? Was it a dramatic version of suicide-by-cop going down in a blaze of glory when his life was falling apart?  We don’t know much at this point and we may not know much more later in the investigations.  What we do know is that it didn’t take all that much effort for him to purchase all the firepower he needed to implement his irrational plan.

Questions

To those Federal candidates and office holders like Hardy, Heck, and Heller:

1. Do you believe that anyone should be allowed to purchase a high capacity magazine for a military style weapon which can be easily modified to function as an automatic weapon?

2. Do you believe that military style weapons should be readily available in the marketplace for civilian use?

3. Do you believe that simply because we can’t prevent every tragic loss of life to suicide, homicide, or assaults that we should do nothing to alleviate the situation?

4. Do you believe that individuals who can’t pass a background check should be able to purchase guns at a gun show?

5. Do you believe  that persons who are adjudicated mentally ill, have a history of spousal abuse, or who are on “no-fly” lists should be allowed to purchase military style weapons and high capacity magazines?

Perhaps instead of taking the NRA’s nihilistic approach – there’s nothing we can do – we ought to be discussing how we can implement a general policy based on the concept that every little bit helps, and that doing Something is  preferable to doing Nothing.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Heck, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Sometimes Numbers Aren’t the Point: Children and Guns

Gun Child

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Research Institute, reports that one in three handguns in the United States is kept loaded and unlocked, and most children know where their parents keep their guns. [CHPRI]  Think about that for a second or two, then add the happy note that only about 1 in 3 households in the United States is “armed.” [NPR] In fact the number of households with a gun has dropped from 47% in 1973 to 31% in 2014. [NORC pdf] So, of the 1/3rd of the households that have guns in the U.S., 1/3rd of the hand guns are likely loaded and unlocked, and most of the youngsters know where those hand guns are located.  That’s a problem.  The first and most obvious problem is that guns kill quickly and efficiently – leading to fatal suicide attempts and homicides among the young.

Gun advocates often point to the fact that suicides are included in gun death reports, and opine that this is to “inflate the figures.”  No inflation is necessary.  Whether another person holds the gun or the victim holds the gun doesn’t alter the fact that the firearm was the proximate cause of death.  If we’re looking for ways to diminish the prospect of youth suicides and homicides then gun safety regulations are a point to consider.  Why?

“Homicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24, and 82% of the homicides are firearm related. As a nation, the United States has a higher firearm mortality rate among children and youth than the next highest 25 industrialized nations of the world combined.” [JHSPH pdf]

[…] one third of all firearms deaths among adolescents are the result of suicide. Between 1994 and 2006, teen suicide rates have dropped from 11.1 per 100,000 to 6.9 per 100,000. Although adolescent females are more likely to attempt suicide than males, males are four times more likely to die from suicide.  As a result, roughly 83% of suicide deaths were males.” [JHSPH pdf]

These figures support the findings of the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital reports

  • “In 2013, 1,670 children (age 0 to 18 years) died by gunshot and an additional 9,718 were injured.
  • Among children, the majority of unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home. Most of these deaths occur when children are playing with a loaded gun in their parent’s absence.
  • 73 percent of children under age 10 know where their parents keep their firearms and 36 percent admitted handling the weapons, contradicting their parents’ reports. 
  • More than 75 percent of guns used by youth in suicide attempts were kept in the home of the victim, a relative, or a friend.”

However, there are times the statistics aren’t enough.  We can calculate the medical expenses of a homicide victim. We can figure out approximately what the average funeral expenses will be for a suicide victim. We can collate statistics on gun ownership, gun access, and gun availability.  What we can’t calculate, collate, or figure out is the incalculable grief brought to any and all families as a result of firearm use and misuse.

What calculation is possible when a two year old child dies as a result of shooting himself with a hand gun he found in his mother’s purse? [Indianapolis April 20, 2016]  When a 26 year old mother dies because a child in the back seat of a car got hold of a gun? [Milwaukee April 27, 2016]  When a five year old girl kills herself with her father’s gun? [LaPlace, LA May 22, 2016]  In one week in April 2016, four toddlers shot and killed themselves. [NYT]

What method categorizes the grief when an 18 year old youngster with learning disabilities commits suicide, and a community has to deal with two youth suicides in the same month? [Livingston MT February 2016]  How does a school deal with an adolescent murder/suicide? [Glendale AZ, February 2016] There are lawsuits, but what are the lasting damages for a young girl bullied so viciously that she, too, commits suicide on December 11, 2014, in Fairfield, Ohio?  Reporters agonize over how to cover teen suicides, such as the one in Maine, July 2004.  Does one “minimize it” in order to avoid copy-cat results among other unstable teens; or, “report it” seeking to highlight the nature of the problems felt by adolescents and encourage more preventative measures?

What we cannot do is to remove the firearms from the discussion.  “Suicides are unstable, and this is a mental health problem?”  Yes, it’s a mental health problem – a mentally unhealthy youngster got a gun.  “It’s an inner city problem.”  Not really.   If by “inner city” the speaker is talking about African Americans, then the general numbers don’t support the isolation of the subject.  The numbers for U.S homicide murder victims by race for 2009 (2013 report) show White victims at 654 and Black victims at 639.  Under 22? White 1,381 and Black 1,813.  In fact, if we look at the numbers for victims under the age of 13, then White victims less than 1 year old – 106; Black victims 72; 1-4 years of age White 159, Black 129. And, 9-12 years old 43 White, 23 Black. It’s only in the 17-24 age range that there’s an observable disparity.  It’s too many young people who have too little judgment having access to too many guns:

“By age group, 69% of gun homicide victims are ages 18 to 40, a proportion that has changed little since 1993. These groups also have the highest homicide rates: In 2010, there were 10.7 gun homicides per 100,000 people ages 18 to 24, compared with 6.7 among those ages 25 to 40, the next highest rate.” [PewRes]

Good news and Bad news.  For good news we can look to numbers indicating a decline in gun ownership by household.  Fewer households with guns probably means fewer tragic family accidents, fewer youngsters with access to guns, and fewer opportunities for a younger person to take his or her own life.  We can also look to the decline in the overall homicide rates. Fewer people are doing fewer truly stupid things with guns.

On the counter side, only 11 states out of 50 have laws concerning firearm locking devices. Massachusetts is the only state that generally requires all firearms be stored with a lock in place. Only 5 states set standards for the design of locking devices.  This seems an unwarranted situation given that we know that about 1/3rd of accidental firearms deaths can be prevented by the use of a child proof lock and a device that indicates if a firearm is loaded. [SGL]

If we are truly concerned about our children and grandchildren, and we know that “73 percent of children under age 10 know where their parents keep their firearms and 36 percent admitted handling the weapons, contradicting their parents’ reports,” then requiring Safe Storage is a rational way to regulate the storage of firearms without impinging on a person’s right to ownership.

If we are truly concerned about our children and grandchildren, and we know that “More than 75 percent of guns used by youth in suicide attempts were kept in the home of the victim, a relative, or a friend,” then Safe Storage laws would be a sane way to restrict access to legally possessed firearms such that fewer young people might decide to take their lives in the wake of burgeoning personal problems.

If we are truly concerned about our children and grandchildren, then we’ll take a more rational perspective on the storage and access to firearms in the United States, so that the numbers will no longer matter all that much and we can concentrate on the quality of life we wish for those children.

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They have nothing: The GOP and Modern American Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under anti-immigration, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, terrorism