Tag Archives: gun regulation

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

The Tapestry of Our Lives

The thunder and lightning have passed, and it’s time to get back to the blog.  Not that the thunder and lightning in the country have abated in any significant way.  Senator Dean Heller seems to have attracted one strike:

The National Rifle Association has endorsed Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller and three other Republican candidates for Congress ahead of the June 12 primary elections.  Heller received an “A” rating from the NRA, which is given to pro-gun candidates who support the organization’s positions on key votes or who have a record of supporting Second Amendment.  The gun-rights group also endorsed Republican Rep. Rep. Mark Amodei who is seeking re-election in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District. [NVIndy/News4]

May 18, 2018 10 people were killed and 13 injured in a mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.  Another month, another mass shooting in a school.  Once more the NRA wants to talk about anything except the guns.  It’s violent video games. It’s mental health. It’s Ritalin. It’s anything anything anything except the easy access to guns.  Sometimes we tend to express regret for the loss of talent as the tally of gun violence victims increases, but we might be missing an important point.  It’s the details that matter.  Perhaps there were or were not individuals who would have gone on to do great and notable things, that’s debatable. However, we do know that there were losses represented by the victim counts.

We may have lost an electrician?  A barber? A receptionist.  Someone who would have gotten up every morning to put in a days work, and come home every evening to be incorporated into the life of their family.

April 22, 2018, 4 people died and 3 others injured in a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee.  We lost a musician, we lost college students, we lost more threads in the fabric of our lives. We found a hero, an unarmed young man who stopped the shooter at great peril to his own life, and then went on to donate donations to his social media account to the families of victims.  We didn’t find a fantasy hero “good guy with a gun,” rather we found a good guy with courage, compassion, and the ultimate in civic responsibility.  We found James Shaw Jr.

April 18, 2018 a mother and her children died in a hail of gun fire from an ex-boyfriend in Asheville, North Carolina. The children loved to run track and to dance. We’ll never know if we lost a future Olympic medalist that day, we do know that we lost a family.  We lost a mother who was so scrupulous about housekeeping friends and family said, “You could eat off her floors.”  A mother who took her children to church every Sunday.  [ATC] We lost a family.

February 14, 2018, we lost 17 lives, with another 17 injured at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They’ve Marched for their Lives. They’ve organized voter registration drives, they’ve appealed to the better angels of our nature.  They’ve warned politicians like Heller and Amodei that NRA endorsements aren’t what they used to be. We’ve lost and shattered too many families.

Every day the death toll mounts from mass and individual shootings, from suicides and accidents, we continue to lose plumbers, secretaries, mechanics, cooks, and soldiers.

February 10, 2018 a family of four was massacred in a murder-suicide in Johnson County, Kentucky. [lex18]  We continue to lose parents and grandparents.

Each time more victims are added to the lists we’ve lost more firefighters, carpenters, solar panel installers, roofers, landscapers, bookkeepers, and bus drivers.

November 5, 2017 27 people died, another 20 were injured in a church in Sunderland Springs, Texas.  Each time we add victims to the list we lose more truck drivers, reporters, day care providers, steelworkers, pilots, housekeepers, and file clerks.

October 1, 2017, a mass killing cost us 58 victims and 441 injured at a music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Each time we add victims to the list we extinguish the lives of more people who matter. We lost a man shielding his wife on their wedding anniversary.  We lost a health care management major, a commercial fisherman, a kindergarten teacher, a police department records technician, a registered nurse, a member of the US Navy, a waitress, a soldier, a teacher, a secretary, a family law attorney, a contractor, an office manager, a financial adviser, a home contractor, a librarian, a make up artist, a corrections officer, … girlfriends, wives, mothers, grandmothers, boyfriends, husbands, fathers, grandfathers…

Our economic fabric is in the details.  We are a composite of the electrician, barber, receptionist, plumbers, secretaries, mechanics, cooks, soldiers, firefighters, carpenters, solar panel installers, roofers, landscapers, bookkeepers, bus drivers,  truck drivers, reporters, day care providers, steelworkers, pilots, housekeepers,  file clerks,  health care management personnel, commercial fisherman,  kindergarten teacher,  police department records technician,  registered nurse,  member of the US Navy,  waitress,  soldier,  teacher,  secretary,  family law attorney,  contractor,  office manager,  financial adviser,  home contractor,  librarian,  make up artist,  corrections officer…

Reduce the numbers of the people who make our economy run, eliminate the waitress at the small diner who brings that first cup of coffee with a smile to start the day, make the auto mechanic who figures out why there’s a persistent problem with the fuel injection system vanish, and we are all reduced as the power in our multiplicity of economic gears is reduced by one.

Our social fabric is in the details, in the relationships between boy friends and girl friends, wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, children, grandparents, grandchildren, neighbors, friends, and co-workers.  Eliminate any of these relationships in our communities, and we are all reduced by the unraveling of all those tiny threads which combined together form the incredibly complex and beautiful tapestry of our social lives in this nation.

No “endorsement,” no pandering for a few votes, is worth the grains of sand in our economic gears as grain by grain we add problems by reducing our numbers.  No “endorsement,” no pandering for a few votes is worth the unraveling of the tapestry of our lives, the loss of each loved one pulling at loose threads until we fray from the edges.

Politicians Heller and Amodei may take pleasure in their A ratings from the NRA, I am only sorry they cannot take as much pleasure in the defense of the lives of our children, our boyfriends and girl friends, our wives and husbands, our parents and grandparents; in the wonderfully interwoven tapestry of American life.

 

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

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

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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Filed under Gun Issues, Politics

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

Enough Again and Again

I’ve heard all the excuses, repeated endlessly, by people doing the bidding of the Merchants of Death.

We can’t have universal background checks because that would be a violation of our liberty.

17 more people are dead in Parkland, Florida because someone used an assault style rifle.

We can’t enact a ban on bump stocks and other modifying elements to make rifles more lethal because we can’t exactly specify what modification meet the technical definitions (written by industry lobbyists and captured agencies.)

17 more people are dead in Parkland, Florida because someone used an assault style rifle.

We can’t prevent individuals on the terrorist watch list from obtaining firearms because the list isn’t perfect and some person might not be able to purchase a gun immediately.

17 more people are dead in Parkland, Florida because someone used an assault style rifle.

We can’t ban assault style rifles because they are a very popular gun, and banning them will only make them more desirable.

17 more people are dead in Parkland, Florida because someone used an assault style rifle.

We can’t enact more stringent laws about preventing those convicted of domestic violence from procuring firearms because that would endanger our liberties.

17 more people are dead in Parkland, Florida because someone used an assault style rifle.

We can’t enact gun regulations to meet the current epidemic of gun violence because no law will prevent all the kinds of violent incidents.

17 more people are dead in Parkland, Florida because someone used an assault style rifle.

We can’t prevent gun violence because the main cause is mental illness, and we should address that issue. (Albeit without funding, without CDC research, and without noticing that other countries have disaffected people with emotional and psychological issues and they don’t have the miserable statistics we do.)

17 more people are dead in Parkland, Florida because someone used an assault style rifle.

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Unspoken: Mass Shootings Fade From Memory

On October 1, 2017 a large crowd gathered at a country-western music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.  At the end of the evening 58 were dead and 851 were injured.  The incident was only 122 days ago.  Since the tragedy has faded from memory, and certainly from the headlines, perhaps it’s time for a reminder of several key factors: (1) the massage casualties were caused by gun fire; (2) the lethality of the weapons used was enhanced by the addition of a bump-stock; and (3) the initial call for the elimination of bump-stock sales has diminished into memory.

Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fl 26) introduced H.R. 3999 to address the bump stock issue on October 10, 2017.  It has not moved since.  Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Senate version (S 1916) on October 4, 2017.  Her bill got a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 6, 2017.   Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto spoke during the first panel during this hearing.  The ATF spokesman participated in the second panel and told the committee his agency issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on December 4, 2017 and invited public comment as to whether bump stocks should be addressed in the agency’s classification system. [pdf]  The ATF rule-making process has ten steps, and there is the potential for delays and diversions prior to adoption.  Nor was this a complete version of the story.

The agency was unsure as of December 5, 2017 if it had the authority under existing statutes to issue a ban on the manufacture and sale of bump stocks. [USAT]  [HuffPo] And, to make matters a bit more complicated, “The ATF has submitted an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Office of Management and Budget. The process, which will require public hearings, generally takes eight months to a year to complete.” [OL 12/26/17]

The Federal Register published the following concerning the bump stock review:

“The Department of Justice anticipates issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would interpret the statutory definition of “machinegun” in the National Firearms Act of 1934 and Gun Control Act of 1968 to clarify whether certain devices, commonly known as “bump fire” stocks, fall within that definition. Before doing so, the Department and ATF need to gather information and comments from the public and industry regarding the nature and scope of the market for these devices.”

The Department set a deadline for written comments:

“Written comments must be postmarked and electronic comments must be submitted on or before January 25, 2018. Commenters should be aware that the electronic Federal Docket Management System will not accept comments after Midnight Eastern Standard Time on the last day of the comment period.”

Thus, all written comments were due last Thursday, 116 days after the slaughter.  As for this year’s state of the union address, one Congressman, Dan Kildee (D-MI) invited a guest who is an activist on behalf of gun victims. [Hill] Meanwhile, there have been 22 mass shootings in the United States during the first month of this year, thankfully none using a bump stock, 158 accidental shootings, and 14 shootings since yesterday. [Trace]

Granting that haste makes waste, it does seem ages ago when the rampage ended at the music festival, another age since the testimony concerning the regulation of bump stocks, and another age since the initiation of rulemaking reviews.    122 days and counting.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Politics

Representative Government?

Not that popular polling is always the best way to govern, but the current capacity of the Republican controlled federal government to ignore public opinion is amazing.  For example, the Republican tax plan has a 26% approval rating [PR] 91% of Democrats, and perhaps more importantly, 61% of independent voters disapprove of the plan.  66% of Republicans approve of the plan, but we have to remember 37% of the American public identifies with the GOP. [HP]

While we’re remembering the horror at the Sandy Hook Elementary School five years ago (and not forgetting the massacre at the Las Vegas music concert) we know that 32% of Republicans, 83% of Democrats, and 62% of independents support stronger guns laws in this country. Overall support for stricter control of firearms stands at 60%. [PR]

The FCC decision to eliminate the net neutrality rules, some of which go back to the less than golden age of dial up, isn’t popular either.  Polling found that 83% of registered voters disliked the idea, 75% of whom were Republican and 89% of Democrats.  86% of registered voters who were independent didn’t like the idea either.   However, the FCC marched on with a 17% approval rating for its new “light touch” policy.

It seems that whenever the President* starts feeling the heat from Congressional, popular, or media sources he retreats to his anti-immigration rhetoric.  The Wall seems either literally or metaphorically important to him, but it isn’t all that much in the eyes of the nation he’s supposed to be leading.  36% of registered voters support The Wall, while 62% oppose it. [PR]   Voters were given three choices about Dreamers, stay and apply for citizenship, stay but not as citizens, or leave the country.  The December Marist poll found 58% supporting the stay/citizenship option, 23% supported stay but not as citizens, and only 15% supported deportation.   As of the week of December 6th the Quinnipiac Poll found 77% supporting the stay/citizenship application option, 7% supported the stay with no citizenship option, and only 12% supporting the deportation option.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen polling about Vladimir Putin, the other half of the Trump-Putin bromance.  There was some polling done last Summer which might be instructive.  Last July only 15% of Americans had a positive feeling about Putin, and as of late June 2017 approximately 50% of Americans felt the President* was too friendly with the Russian leader. [PR]

A person might think that a leader who isn’t stone deaf to public sentiment or stonewalling to protect his self image might want to consider how best to reach toward a broader audience, and to cultivate something more than a 32% approval rating.  Apparently that consideration isn’t getting much traction in the current White House.

Nor does it seem like the first session of the 115th Congress is paying much attention either.  In fact, it looks like the GOP is doing the drafting of the Democratic Platform for 2018 — Net Neutrality, DACA, common sense gun regulation, immigration reform, and real tax reform for working Americans.  The 32% President and his 37% party are perhaps doing the best they can to elevate the Democratic Party in the mid term elections?

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Filed under Gun Issues, Immigration, Net Neutrality, Politics, Taxation

Catching On To Some Obvious Conclusions: Guns and the Silver State

If you’ve not yet read the Reno Gazette Journal op-ed by Cory Farley on common sense and guns … click over now … you can always come back.  Spoiler:

“Increasingly — not fast enough, but increasingly — society doesn’t care what you think, either. If you’re looking at 50-odd bodies and nearly 500 wounded, maimed, permanently changed people who were just out to hear a little music and drink a little beer, and you’re shrugging that off as the price they had to pay for your stop-the-tyrants or protect-your-family fantasies, you are the problem, and the nation is catching on to you.”

Those fantasies are groomed, massaged, and perpetrated by the NRA and the even more outlandish Gun Owners of America.

The NRA source of income? “The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.” [BI]

“Donors include firearm companies like Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA Corporation. Other supporters from the gun industry include Cabela’s, Sturm Rugar & Co, and Smith & Wesson.” [BI]

The political money, of course, comes from other streams.  During the upcoming campaign season notice if that pro-gun rights flyer is coming from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a front group for the NRA.  That’s the primary industry trade association.  However, we won’t see the NSSF, or the CEO of Freedom Group, or the CEO of Beretta, in front of the microphones after another mass shooting, the NRA will take front and center.  The organization acts as a shield (or barrier) between the industry and activists who want more regulation of firearms in this country.

The political money comes from the NRA’s “NRA Political Victory Fund,”  which is where the small ($35.00 arithmetical mean donation) and the not-so-small ($50,000) donors come into the picture.  The lobbying funds come from the “NRA Institute for Legislative Action.” [CNNmoney]  There are two actions they’d like to see on the immediate legislative agenda: the unregulated sale of silencers; and, reciprocity of concealed carry permits across state lines.

There’s nothing like hearing paeans to Liberty, Freedom, and Small Government from the NRA, and then listening to the calls to override state and local restrictions on firearms and accessories.   And, getting an earful of “Freedom” folk who don’t mind the proliferation of weapons as long as they feel their own personal arsenal is secure from government clutches.

One of the less convincing arguments set forth by proliferators states that more regulation won’t solve the last tragedy, and besides most gun deaths are suicides…

The Suicide Trap 

After each mass shooting or other tragic event we get the same rhetoric from the NRA public relations department:  Guns make us safer, and most gun deaths are the result of suicide.  No, and yes.

“The nine states that rank lowest in terms of gun prevalence are the very same nine that rank lowest for suicide rates. Similarly, the three states top-ranked for gun prevalence can be found among the four states ranking highest for suicide rates.” [HarvardMed]

This would make sense, given that there are 44,193 suicides annually, 49.8% of these are firearm related. [AFSPGuidance published in the American Family Physician suggests that treatment for suicidal ideation should include an evaluation of the person’s “plan,” and if the person has access to a firearm.  Poor social support, poor judgment, and access to a gun usually leads to a decision to immediately hospitalize a client.  Sadly, untreated patients with poor social support, poor judgment, and a fun end up in the statistics.  What makes this information relevant for Nevada policy makers is that those with suicidal ideation generally come in three classifications: immediate risk, short term risk, and long term risk.  And, here comes the bad news for those at immediate or short term risk — there is no waiting period in the state of Nevada for the purchase of a firearm.

It is left to the judgment of the gun seller — ranging from a reliable, experienced, and empathetic salesperson to a quick sale artiste in the parking lot at a gun show — to determine if the person making the purchase is looking to make that purchase for all the wrong reasons.  Wrong reasons coupled with the lethality element is a formula for tragedy:

“Firearms suicide accounted for six percent of attempts, and 54 percent of fatalities in one study that examined hospital data from eight states. For comparison, drug or poison overdosing accounted for 71 percent of attempts but only 12 percent of fatalities.” [Trace]

Thus in Nevada we leave it to the gun seller to determine if the person wanting the firearm is someone contemplating suicide, and if the buyer is likely to be one of those 6% of attempts who will be among the 54% of fatalities; a heavy burden since suicide is the 9th (or 10th) most common cause of death in the U.S.

A reasonable waiting period would at the very least absolve the gun dealer from responsibility for those in the immediate risk category and perhaps a few more in the short term risk classification; not to mention preventing the lethal act which never fails to harm families and friends.  Waiting 72 hours for a hand gun shouldn’t be so much of an inconvenience in light of the prospect of preventing an immediate or short term suicide decision.  There is something else we could do as well.

Background Checks

The last public polling done on the subject of universal background checks shows that 94% of all Americans, including 93% of Republicans and 95% of Independents, and 98% of Democrats.   One doesn’t see that kind of agreement in many other topics.  Meanwhile in Nevada:

“Nevada voters in November on a vote of 50.45 percent to 49.55 percent passed a measure requiring federal background checks for sales of guns between private individuals. The new requirement to close what some call the gun-show loophole was in addition to the longstanding requirement for background checks for purchases from licensed gun dealers.”

The ballot measure required both the buyer and seller to appear before a federally licensed firearms dealer to request a background check. The aim was to keep guns from felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill, according to the measure’s backers.” [BNS]

Now add an uncooperative Attorney General:

“Adam Laxalt, the state’s Republican attorney general, concluded in December that the measure was unenforceable, citing the FBI letter. Laxalt had opposed the requirement, and his campaign manager, Robert Uithoven, led NRA Nevadans for Freedom, the political action committee that opposed the measure.”   [BNS]

And while the Attorney General digs his heels into the NRA’s topsoil:

“The FBI has said Nevada is already a full “point of contact” state that uses the federal NICS system and a state central repository that also has mental health records, domestic violence incidents, misdemeanor criminal records, arrest reports and restraining orders.

In his letter, Ferrario writes the issue “can and should be easily resolved” with a dual system that would use the federal NICS system for private sales.

The governor’s spokeswoman said Nevada background checks for retail gun sales are “more comprehensive and thorough” than FBI checks.” [LVRJ]

It doesn’t take much more than this sorry impasse to conclude that Nevada’s leadership is intent on finding ways NOT to enforce the election results — when those results don’t comport with the desires of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the NRA, and the gun manufacturers.

In short, Nevada could reduce the lethality of suicides by firearms, but without a waiting period the odds of a fatal event increase for those disturbed individuals in the immediate and short term classifications.  We probably won’t.

Nevada could do what the voters directed in terms of background checks, but the muddlers will probably cry out that this wouldn’t have prevented the carnage at the Las Vegas music festival, so what’s the use?   So, this procrastination will likely continue.

However, as noted in the op-ed above, what’s different now is that people are, indeed, catching on.  After mentally ill individuals shot up an elementary school and a movie theater, after a maladjusted pair shot up an office Christmas party, after other poorly adjusted misfits shot up two college campuses, after a mentally unfit individual shot up a Planned Parenthood Clinic, after a white supremacist shot up a Bible Study session, after another mentally maladjusted person shot up an IHOP restaurant, and after a gambler with major issues shot up a music concert….  Yes, maybe we’re catching on.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada politics, Politics

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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Filed under Amodei, Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics