Tag Archives: gun regulation

Las Vegas in the Mourning

Las Vegas, NV has many nicknames, a few pejorative, most more amusing and fun. It’s an entire city for fun. The local economy is mostly based on games, amusements, gaming (we don’t often call it gambling), and recreation.  Las Vegas will sing, dance, spin, deal, and cater to you.  It will stay open all night for you, then offer you a buffet breakfast in the morning.  It will welcome you.  Last night it showed it will spare no effort to keep you safe.

It’s police officers will direct concert goers to safety during a hail of gun fire. It’s officers will locate, and subdue a shooter, within moments. It’s hospitals will provide medical assistance and services second to none.

And, it will graciously accept your prayers and condolences for the heinous attack by a lone wolf (which usually means white) shooter lodged at the Mandalay Bay attacking concert goers across the street.

I’m simply wondering when, if ever, some of those who are offering those kind phrases will pair them with action, as is advised in James 1:23-25: “For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass…”

Are there really any questions how a person amassed a small arsenal in a state with few regulations on gun ownership?  Are there really any questions about how many rounds he fired off in a state that doesn’t limit the purchase of ammunition, or high capacity magazines?  Are there actually any questions concerning the origins of yet another mass casualty incident in a country wherein the Congress is discussing legislation to allow the general purchase of silencers?  Was the disciple merely babbling when he wrote: “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” [James 2:20]

There was fully automatic fire from an elevated position.”   Yes, condolences are in order. They are appropriate for the family members of those slain in this act of violence. They are appropriate for the Las Vegas law enforcement personnel who lost one of their own, an off duty officer out for an evening concert.  They are appropriate for families dealing with an injured loved one.  However, the prayer half of the equation is, as the disciple said, empty without action.

But, we didn’t act after the tragedy at Virginia Tech, nor after the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, not in the wake of the San Ysidro shooting, not after the tragic loss of life at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. [CNN]  What can we conclude other than we are people who look at ourselves in a polished glass, without seeing our natural face?

When will we pair our prayers with our actions?

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Profiles in Cowardice: GOP Soft on Terrorism

Gun Congress I should have known, given that Senator Dean Heller’s last campaign material came from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, that he’d cave to NRA radicals on the following bit of legislation: S.Amdt. 2910 to S.Amdt. 2874 to H.R. 3762

All those links refer eventually to a simple amendment —

“To increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists.” {Sen}

And, how did the junior Senator from Nevada cast his vote?  Here’s the roster from vote # 319 —

Heller Terrorist Vote 319That’s right – all those “Nay” votes were to prevent the Department of Justice from refusing to approve gun sales to those on the Terrorist Watch List.  In other words, spoken so often in the last 48 hours, Senator Heller doesn’t want terrorists flying but he evidently has no problems allowing them to waltz into a gun store and loading up on – say,  “1600 rounds of ammunition, another 4,500 rounds ‘at home,’ two assault rifles and two semi-automatic handguns.” [ABC]   

“Senators will need to decide where they stand. Or do they stand with the NRA?” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday, declaring that the Senate had been “complicit through our inaction” in the 355 mass shootings that have taken place in the United States since the start of the year. “Those who choose to do the NRA’s bidding will be held accountable by our constituents.” [WaPo]

That pretty well sums it up.

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Nevada’s Unfortunate Export

Guns In the last published annual report from the Nevada Department of Corrections FY 2013 (pdf) we discover that 24.87% of the men admitted into the Nevada prison system were being incarcerated for drug related offenses. Property crimes accounted for 24.24% of the admissions, sex crimes for 7.91%, and crimes of violence 36.79%.  DUIs and “other” accounted for approximately 6.2%.  Various trafficking crimes are included in Category A and Category B felony provisions in Nevada. 

A person can get into major trouble under Nevada law, as in Category A felony categorization territory, for trafficking in Schedule I drugs (28 grams or more) or trafficking in Schedule II drugs (400 grams).  Trafficking in persons is covered in Category B felonies, carrying penalties of from 1 to 20 years.  Sex trafficking can yield sentences between 3 to 20 years, with no probation or suspended sentences if the conviction involves a child.  What kind of trafficking won’t get a person into the Nevada prison system?

Gun trafficking.   Nevada does have some statutes pertaining to the transfer and sale of firearms. NRS 202.310 does provide that: “Any person in this state who sells or barters to a child who is under the age of 18 years, with reckless disregard of whether the child is under the age of 18 years, or with knowledge or reason to know that the child is under the age of 18 years, a pistol, revolver or a firearm capable of being concealed upon the person 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.”  We might want to come back to this provision sometime to discuss what constitutes “recklessness” in this instance, but for now it’s enough to know that it is unlawful to sell a gun to someone under the age of 18 without parental supervision.  There are other classifications of persons to whom firearms shall not be sold in this state.

NRS 202.362  Sale or disposal of firearm or ammunition to certain persons prohibited; penalty; exceptions. 1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, a person within this State shall not sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to another person if he or she has actual knowledge that the other person:  (a) Is under indictment for, or has been convicted of, a felony in this 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 other person has received a pardon and the pardon does not restrict his or her right to bear arms;  (b) Is a fugitive from justice;  (c) Has been adjudicated as mentally ill or has been committed to any mental health facility; or (d) Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.  2.  A person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 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 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000. (emphasis added)

The requirement that the seller have “actual knowledge” of a person’s status with regard to a gun sale, obviously the “knowledge” of a seller is diminished by the fact that Nevada doesn’t require universal background checks, but the “actual” knowledge is further restrained by the fact that Nevada applies no penalties to those who lie in order to purchase guns.  Washington, Oregon, and California have criminal penalties for “buying a gun  using false information,” Nevada does not. [TTG] [Wash. 9.41.113] [Oregon 116.470] [AG CA pdf]

Indeed, Nevada has NO statutes which establish criminal penalties for buying a gun on behalf of someone who may not legally purchase one otherwise;  as seen above, the individual who buys the gun may be prosecuted but not the seller.  Nevada has NO statute(s) preventing someone from selling a firearm to some buyer who has a record of serious misdemeanors – only felonies will do.  And, since Nevada has no universal background check law there are no criminal penalties for selling a firearm to someone without having made a proper background check.  The result of all this?

As of 2009, Nevada had the 9th highest rate of “crime gun exports” in the country.  making Nevada a “net exporter” of guns used in serious crimes in other states – 781 such guns were imported into Nevada and 808 were “exported” to other states.  [TTG]  But! 204 crime guns came from California. Yes, and California has a total population of 38,802,500 while Nevada has 2,839,099. [Census] We have 7% of California’s population and we’re doing more than our share of exporting weapons used in crimes.

Making gun trafficking even more likely is the simple fact that Nevada has no restrictions on the sales of multiple guns. [SGL]  We know the exportation of “crime guns” drops when restrictions are placed on multiple sales because it worked in Virginia between 1993 and 2012. During that period Virginia imposed its “one gun per month” rule, and the odds the gun was purchased in that state (as compared to other southeastern states) dropped by 71% of guns recovered in NY, 72% for guns recovered in Massachusetts, and 66% for guns recovered in NY, NJ, CT, RI, and MA combined. [SGL]

Nevada would be a much better neighbor if the next session of the State Legislature would give serious consideration to:

  • Imposing criminal penalties for buying firearms for individuals who are not legally allowed to possess them.
  • Imposing criminal penalties on those who seek to purchase firearms in this state who provide false information to the seller.
  • Requiring universal background checks for the sale of all handguns.
  • Imposing criminal penalties for those who deliberately sell firearms without conducting a background check on the purchaser.
  • Limiting the number of firearms which can be purchased in any single transaction.

Trafficking guns should at least carry some of the same penalties we apply to those entering our prison system convicted of drug and sex trafficking?

References: Department of Corrections, State of Nevada, “Annual Statistical Abstract” (pdf) FY 2013.  Category A felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf), Category B felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf); Category C felonies, NV Legislature (pdf); Category D felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf); Category E felonies, NV Legislature (pdf); Nevada Revised Statutes 202;  Office of the Attorney General, State of California, “California Firearms Laws Summary,” (pdf);  Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Multiple Purchases, Sales of Firearms Policy;”

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Armed and Dangerous or Unarmed and Disingenuous?

Guns If only the advocates of gun proliferation were as well armed logically as they are with cop-killer ammunition and magazines with 30 rounds?  Some of the arguments have become tiresome, others tedious, and most specious or spurious.

There are altogether too many categories of gun violence incidents in this country to make any definitive pronouncement about the specific nature or that violence or to state with any assurance that one type of legislation will address the incidents in their totality.  And, the proliferation advocates have used this concept as a platform for renouncing all responsibility for controlling the violence.  “This” would not have prevented “that,” they say, countering that universal background checks would not have prevented Incident X.  Or safe storage laws will not prevent work place gun attacks. Or mental health checks would not have prevented a specific hate crime. And, so it goes.   What is disarming our discussion and make our civic discourse disingenuous is the lack of a larger framework.

Is gun violence a function of (1) social displacement or discomfort; (2) poorly developed social skills, including conflict resolution; and/or (3) a combination thereof?

What is it about the “gun culture” which makes the manufacturer oriented message of the NRA so attractive to some people?  Here’s one explanation:

“The gun rights platform is not just about guns. It’s also about a crisis of confidence in the American dream. And this is one reason gun control efforts ignite such intense backlashes: Restrictions are received as a personal affront to men who find in guns a sense of duty, relevance and even dignity.” [LATimes]

Let’s separate the crisis of confidence from the American dream portion for a moment.  It certainly makes sense that those who feel their economic security slipping away, or who feel a disquieting sense of futility about making their lives better, would feel an attachment to a powerful weapon that makes them feel more masculine, relevant, and empowered. However, this seems a highly personal matter.  For all those in the Rust Belt portions of the country who’ve watched manufacturing jobs disappear, and those who are subsequently trapped in the morass of low paying part time employment, who use the gun as an emotional crutch, there are others who don’t.  In fact, the statistics tell us that in 1977 54% of American households contained a gun, while in 2014 that percentage dropped to 32%. [WaPo] There are more guns being sold, but to those who seem to be stockpiling them. [CNN]

These statistics don’t refute the argument that guns make the insecure feel better, however they might indicate that those who do use the guns as social/emotional support are procuring more of them.

Too Close To Home?

However, gun ownership isn’t necessarily an index of the levels of gun violence.   It does inform studies of fatal incidents of domestic violence.  The Wintemute Study in 2003 found that “females living with a gun in the home were nearly 3 times more likely to victimized at home than in any other place.”  The Grassel Study (2003) also found that “women who were murdered were more likely, not less likely, to have purchased a handgun in the three years prior to their deaths, again invalidating the idea that a handgun has a protective effect against homicide.” [VPC]

That “protective effect” is asserted by handgun purchasers who have bought guns to feel more secure in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities.  But once again we are missing some crucial information?  While our attention is directed at stranger perpetrated violence in movie theaters and other public spaces, most mass shootings are domestic.

“We found that in 57 percent of mass shootings, the shooter targeted either a family member or an intimate partner. According to HuffPost’s analysis, 64 percent of mass shooting victims were women and children. That’s startling, since women typically make up only 15 percent of total gun violence homicide victims, and children only 7 percent.” [HuffPo]

And the statistics go a step further toward explaining why the “protective effect” is illusory in domestic situations: “If a domestic abuser has a gun the victim is 8 times more likely to be killed.” [HuffPo/NCBI]  If a gun purchaser believes that the ownership of a firearm will make his family more secure, as do about 60% of Americans, then that 6 out of 10 hasn’t been paying attention to other numbers.

“For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.” [MJ]

What self-respecting person would want to protect his family by making the members more statistically likely to suffer homicide, suicide, or accidental death?  Total gun ownership doesn’t necessarily mean that the people who are supposed to be protected by the guns actually will be.  It may mean that there are a declining number of households in this country which are now at a statistically greater risk of fatal violence?

There’s good and bad news in terms of workplace violence as well. The good news is that from 2002 to 2009 the rate of nonfatal workplace violence declined by 35%, and that after a 62% decline in the rate from 1993 to 2002. The bad part is that between 2005 and 2009 while firearms were used in only 5% of the nonfatal workplace violence incidents, shootings accounted for 80% of workplace homicides. [BJS pdf] If nothing more, the numbers support the assertion that guns do, in fact, kill people. 

Who’s taking it personally?

Duty, relevance, and dignity may be the rationale for some gun owners, but their cohort may have other ideas?

“A June 2015 study found that “310 million firearms estimated to be in private hands in the United States are disproportionately owned by people who are prone to angry, impulsive behavior and have a potentially dangerous habit of keeping their guns close at hand.” There is a “co-occurrence of impulsive angry behavior and possessing or carrying a gun among adults with and without certain mental disorders and demographic characteristics.”

Almost 9% of people who “self-report patterns of impulsive angry behavior” also have a firearm at home, and 1.5% (or nearly 85 people out of 5,653 surveyed for this study) carry their guns in places other than their home. The authors found that, when studying violence and anger, it is more effective to look at the arrest history of individuals rather than seeing if they have a mental illness. Arrests could show “a history of impulsive or angry behavior (for example, criminal records of misdemeanor violence, DWIs and domestic violence restraining orders),” which “would likely serve as a more feasible and less discriminatory indicator of an individual’s gun violence risk.”  [CSGV]

We might also conclude that some of those who express a wish to be more dutiful in protecting their families – by firearms, more relevant, and more “dignified,” may also be some of the people who are more angry, impulsive, and potentially dangerous?

And then there’s the racism angle…

This is the uncomfortable topic in modern American life, but it is no less a function of gun sales, gun ownership, and gun culture – we ignore it at our peril:

“Those with racist views are more likely to oppose gun reform. In an October 2013 study, Kerry O’Brien, Walter Forrest, Dermot Lynott and Michael Daly concluded that “Symbolic racism [is] related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in U.S. whites.” The study defined symbolic racism as “racial resentment…an explicit but subtle form and measure of racism.” While the reasons for owning guns and being opposed to gun violence prevention legislation vary and are complex, “it has been suggested that sociocultural factors such as fear of black violence may be associated with gun ownership, and with opposition to gun controls.”

Professors Benforado and Young also supported this statement in their respective works. In his 2010 study, Benforado writes, “Advances in implicit social cognition reveal that most people carry biases against racial minorities beyond their conscious awareness. These biases affect critical behavior, including the actions of individuals performing shooting tasks. In simulations, Americans are faster and more accurate when firing on armed blacks than when firing on armed whites, and faster and more accurate in electing to hold their fire when confronting unarmed whites than when confronting unarmed blacks.”

Similarly, in his 1985 study, Young writes, “The ownership of firearms for protection is influenced by the interaction of racial prejudice and perceptions of crime and crime fighters. Moreover, the impact of prejudice is sufficiently strong that the mere physical proximity of a relatively large black population is enough to increase gun ownership among highly prejudiced men, even in the absence of concerns about crime.”

Discomforting as this may be, the “average” gun owner in America is white, married or divorced, relatively high income, and over 55. [CSGV]  Those armed with sufficient information from scientific studies can conclude that gun regulation efforts will be opposed by mostly white males over 55 years of age who promote a gun culture agenda which actually makes this country (and its women and children) less safe than if guns were not proliferating.

The facts have been out since forever – and facts aren’t going to move the debate in radical segments such as those who believe that any restriction on guns is a violation of their Constitutional rights, that any regulation of gun purchases is an act of Fascism, that any diminution of gun ownership is an indication of a loss of personal freedom.  Combine prejudice, bias, insecurity, and anger and we get the most vocal of the anti-regulation voices.  Unfortunately, these voices are getting equal face time in the media for their essentially minority view of common sense gun regulation in a society that has yet to acknowledge that guns are NOT a device for conflict resolution.

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Awash in NRA Money? What the U.S. House has on its agenda for gun laws in the U.S.

No NRA This country is “awash in guns,” and the current Congress is intent on granting the NRA just about everything on its wish list.  You don’t need to take this from me, here’s a list from a pro-gun site:

On May 15, the US House passed the Defense Authorization Act, the budget bill for the Department of Defense—HR3979. Included in this bill was an amendment by Rep. Mike Rogers to allow qualified applicants to purchase surplus M1911 .45 caliber handguns. Additional amendments included keeping lead ammunition from being regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act. The Senate is working on a companion bill at this time.

.45 caliber handguns? Now where have we heard of this recently?

The FY16 CJS Appropriations bill was marked up in the House Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee.Current language in this bill includes a prohibition on forcing FFLs to report to ATF the sale of multiple long guns to one person, the government banning the importation of shotguns as a non-sporting firearm, and using taxpayer money to implement the UN Arms Treaty.

So, a person could purchase just as many “long guns” (presumably of the modern variety) as that individual desired?  Pardon me, but this sounds like the “Drug Cartel Protection Act.”  And, Heaven forefend we inconvenience gun traffickers by adhering to the Arms Treaty like other civilized nations.

Rep. Perry Scott (R-PA) introduced H.R. 2019, to prevent ATF from reclassifying ammunition as armor piercing.

So, if the ATF can’t call any type of ammunition designed to literally rip the heart out of a law enforcement officer, then it can’t regulate the sale thereof? Okay, if we can’t call the ammunition “armor piercing” how about we just call it “cop killing.”

S. 874 and H.R. 1701, to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia, to remove the authority of the DC Council to enact persecutory gun control, was introduced on Mar.

So, anyone – gang members included – can get easy access to firearms, but they can’t bring those items into the Capitol… because?  I guess the people are supposed to keep those guns on the streets…

S. 670 and H.R. 1316, the Veterans Heritage Firearms Act of 2015, allowing for a 180-day amnesty period for veterans or family members to register National Firearms Act firearms that were acquired before October 31, 1968.

H.R. 1365, the Ammunition and Firearms Protection Act, to prevent ATF from banning rifle bullets.

Here we go again. If it fits in a “rifle” it’s good to go flying off the shelves.

H.R. 1413, Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) on Mar. 17. This bill would “terminate Operation Choke Point and any similar program that attempts to infringe upon the Second Amendment or eradicate the manufacture and sale of firearms and ammunition.”

S. 477, Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Feb. 12. The legislation will entirely defund any activities associated with Operation Choke Point and prevent the Attorney General from reinstituting the program under a different name.

Now, these are beauties, with a very interesting twist.  Operation Choke Point is a DoJ initiative to investigate banks and the transactions they have with payment processors, payday lenders, and other companies who give every appearance of being prone to money laundering.  Aside from the anti-consumer attitude of the House Republicans, why would this appear under proposed legislation for firearms? 

Let’s guess that it is because on November 13, 2014 a Wisconsin firearms dealer’s account was closed by a bank cooperating with Operation Choke Point.  Some other dealers have drawn notice from the DoJ (remember this IS about money laundering) and then even the banks have taken fire, so to speak, from conspiracy theorists.  For example, Sun Trust Bank announced on August 8, 2014 that it had decided to discontinue banking with payday lenders, pawn shops, and dedicated check cashers.  Since pawn shops often sell guns the conspiracy cadre leaped to the conclusion that the Obama Administration was using a back door method to shut down gun dealers.  Witness the hue, cry, and wailing from Glenn Beck, et. al.   The Schweikert and Rubio bills can now be seen for what they are,  a sop to the conspiracy lobby.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015, S. 498, on Feb. 12. This legislation would ensure that states honor permits from other states similarly to drivers’ licenses. On the same day two similar house bills, H.R. 764 and H.R. 923, were also introduced.

The old reciprocity argument – interesting coming from those stalwart adherents of State’s Rights – the intent is obviously to make concealed carry permitting hold to the least restrictive standards. Or, a race to the bottom in terms of public safety.

On Feb. 5 Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, S. 405, with 5 other original co-sponsors.

H.R. 697, to conserve elephants and regulate ivory, was introduced by Rep. Young (R-AK).

S. 263 and H.R. 578, protecting the rights of gunowners on lands managed by US Army Corps of Engineers has been introduced.

These are your basic “shoot anything anywhere” bills.  However, the next one should be a real bonus for those who are making straw purchases of firearms in loose regulation states and selling them in areas with tighter rules.

H.R. 131, introduced by Rep. Morgan Giffin (R-VA) would allow gunowners to legally transport firearms between two interstate locations as long as the firearm was encased and not readily accessible.

So, a trunk load of firearms in  sealed containers, and not readily accessible to the driver of this lovely load would be perfectly fine, dandy, and legal. Frankly, I can’t think of anything a gang of criminals would find more comforting than the knowledge that they could transport all the firearms they want to any location they want – and all they have to have are nice containers.

Little wonder the President is dismayed at the prospects of getting any useful, common sense, gun regulation out of this Congress.  Quite evidently, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

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The Unsportsmanlike Act

Duck StampThe Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) sailed through the first cloture roadblock on an 82-12 vote [roll call 218] and then sank in the mire of Senate obstructionism.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the plug in the face of Republican squabbling over amendments. [The Hill]  What started out as a simple two title bill got entangled in …. Guns.

Title I of the original bill would have allowed hunters to get duck stamps online, and allowed target practice on federal lands, among other improvements for those who truly are into hunting. Title II concerned conservation of various habitats. [S. 2363]  And then things got complicated.

Guns Galore!

Thirty eight amendments were offered to the bill.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wanted to add his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, which would have gutted gun regulations in the District of Columbia, and just about everywhere else for that matter. [CR S4283]  He also proposed allowing firearms in postal facilities. [CR S4283] Nothing like encouraging the customers to, in a phrase from a bygone era, “go postal?”

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) joined Senator Paul in his efforts to add the proposed “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, [CR S4283]  and he, too, wanted to extend firearm privileges in postal facilities. Lee’s three amendments essentially proposed the same extensions of Paul’s expansion of gun ‘rights.’

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX) offered his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the original bill, and Senator Jefferson Beauregard Session (R-Old South) chimed in with his rendition.  Not to be outdone, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) wanted a “Second Amendment Enforcement Act included in the three amendments he filed, as did Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo, Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in three amendments, and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Nevada’s own Senator Dean Heller.

There’s nothing new about this “Second Amendment Enforcement Act,” it was drafted by the National Rifle Association, and was introduced by Senators McCain (R-GreenRoom) and Tester (D-MT) as a response to gun regulations in the District of Columbia. [OV.com] By the lights of the NRA there shouldn’t be any.  It also showed up in the 110th Congress (2008) in the form of H.R. 6691.  It appeared in Representative Mike Ross’s H.R. 645 in 2011 [NRA] where it died in Committee in February 2011. [GovTrack]

If the fish can’t live in the water, why are you fishing there?

Senator Heller also signed on to Senator Barrasso’s amendment which deviated from the chorus of ‘gun rights’ and headed into the Clean Water Act.  SA 3453 took the regulation out of regulations concerning the identification of waters protected by the Clean Water Act:

“SEC. 1__XX. IDENTIFICATION OF WATERS PROTECTED BY THE CLEAN WATER ACT.
(a) In General.–Neither the Secretary of the Army nor the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall– (1) finalize the proposed rule entitled “Definition of `Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act” (79 Fed. Reg. 22188 (April 21, 2014)); or
(2) use the proposed rule described in paragraph (1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).  (b) Rules.–The use of the proposed rule described in subsection (a)(1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) shall be grounds for vacation of the final rule, decision, or enforcement action.”

That’s simple, if the Army and the EPA can’t finalize rules regarding the definition of protected water under the Clean Water Act, there’s no clean water? This unpleasant notion was also put forward by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).

It’s rather difficult to imagine a bill intended to encourage hunting and fishing including a proposal to allow more pollution of hunting and fishing realms. However, several Republican Senators managed to do it.  This “Polluted Waters Act of 2014” didn’t quite mesh with Senator Cardin’s (D-DE) amendment to enact the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.  Nor does it seem particularly appealing to someone like myself who thoroughly enjoys fly fishing — imagine all the fun of standing in a mountain stream watching what gray slime doesn’t attach to the waders float along downstream?

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was disappointed there wasn’t an “amendment process,” [The Hill] but with the “Second Amendment Solutions” attached, and the specter of the Dirty Water Fishing Act of 2014 included, we shouldn’t be too disappointed that this little bill didn’t make it past the Senate Obstruction Machine.

It would have been nice if the hunters could have gotten their duck stamps online…

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A Matter of Motivation?

Sniper RifleWe can guess that the individual described in a Las Vegas Sun article wasn’t motivated by altruism: “The 63-year-old killed Tuesday in a shootout with Henderson Police had an arsenal of more than 150 firearms in his house, but detectives’ search of Edward J. Scheboth’s house yielded no clues for a motive, authorities said.”  [LVSun]

It also doesn’t seem unreasonable to state that I really don’t care how many firearms a person collects — just as I don’t care how many cans of soup a person has in their pantry — BUT when one of those firearms is taken outside the home and used to shoot at a police officer sitting in a patrol car, then I care, and care deeply.

I care when Michael Hill takes an AK-47 and 500 rounds into a Georgia school with the evident intent of replicating the horror in Newtown, Connecticut.  We should care that the incident was defused by an incredibly courageous school employee who “talked him down.” [ChiTrib]

I care when Governor Christie signs a bill into the statutes of the State of New Jersey (in a bit of groveling to the NRA) which allows the private ownership of 50 caliber sniper rifles, capable of projecting palm sized ammo into heavy armor a mile away.  No matter, evidently, that he had called for this legislation last year.  Suddenly, these weapons of war are “necessary” for private recreation.  [Nation] As if flying into the Newark Airport isn’t exciting enough already, we can now wonder if some “collector” might be moved to bring back the good old days during WWII when the .50 BMG was used in the M2 Browning machine gun for anti-aircraft purposes?  Conservative commentators are pleased to note that .50 caliber sniper rifles are “never used in crimes, ” [WashTimes]  Well, now one supposes they could be…  However, gone now from the New Jersey shores are any requirements that gun owners be licensed, or that there be a ban on private gun sale exchanges without a background check.

Perhaps we should care more that gun enthusiasts are fond of citing the levels of mental illness associated with gun violence incidents, while  some of those self-same defenders of freedom join the chorus of “Less Government, Lower Taxes” calling for the reduction in spending, even if that reduction slashes the budgets of state mental health programs.

Nor do we seem to be sufficiently concerned about the horrific fact that as of 8/22/13 the CDC reports 21,982 people in this country have been killed by guns. [Slate]

Presumably, this number does not yet include the victim of a teen thrill killing in Oklahoma, during which three teens sated their boredom by shooting a college student in the back. [WaPo]

At some point the national discussion needs to incorporate several elements we’ve been loath to address.  (1) What is the appropriate level of public spending for mental health care services?  Should we increase federal and state expenditures for mental health care services even if this requires an increase in taxation?  (2) What are appropriate firearms for individual ownership?  We restrict fully automatic weapons, but not weapons which can be easily modified to achieve the same result.  Do we really want “anti-aircraft” weapons in private hands?   (3) Might requiring a quick background check for gun show, Internet, and private sales assist law enforcement in keeping guns out of the hands of those who ought not to possess them? The seriously mentally ill, felons, fugitives, unsupervised (bored?) children…?

Until we are able to have an adult discussion about (4) gun trafficking, straw man purchases, and the transferring of stolen firearms, we’ll continue to see a flow of weapons from regions with few restrictions into areas with tighter controls.  The NYPD recently arrested two individuals who trafficked a combination of 254 stolen and legally purchased guns from the Carolinas. [CNN]  What would be the best solution to this law enforcement problem?

A nation which stolidly absorbs the deaths of 21,982 people, while parroting dueling talking points and focus group slogans about gun restrictions, might have its own motives questioned?

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Open Season: Nevada Legislature Considers Meetings, Taxes, and Guns

Nevada LegislatureThe Nevada Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections will take up AB 118 on Thursday, February 28th. [NELIS]  The bill sponsored by Assemblymen Brower and Hickey, is titled the Legislative Open Meeting Law, and would open any and all committee meetings to the public with two notable exemptions: social events and sessions in which a committee receives advice or guidance from legal counsel regarding litigation on an issue over which the committee has jurisdiction.  [AB 118 pdf] Not to disparage the intent to make all legislative sessions as transparent as possible, but AB 118 makes de jure what is already pretty much de facto.   Committee agendas, and minutes are already available on-line, for anyone with enough time and interest to locate and read them.  A quick click to “Committees” yields enough information to dispense with the tedium of any day. Or, to add to it?

On the Senate side, the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections will take up SJR 5 and SJR 7.  SJR 5, sponsored by Senator Joyce Woodhouse, “Urges Congress to reintroduce and pass the Marketplace Fairness Act.

“The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers (“remote sellers”), no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction – exactly like local retailers are already required to do. However, there is a caveat: States are only granted this authority after they have simplified their sales tax laws.” [MFA]

Twenty four states have already enacted legislation to collect sales taxes from remote sellers.   Opposition to the federal bill (sponsored by Senators Durbin & Enzi and Womack (R-AZ) H.R. 684)  is based on two notions.  First, that the law would expand state taxing powers, and secondly that the enactment would require businesses to be out-of-state tax collectors.  This is augmented by the perennial complaint that consumers will be the ultimate “victims.”  [Heartland]

Proponents of the measure, such as one Illinois Chamber of Commerce feel differently:

“As business leaders in our community we cannot continue to support an environment where legally required taxes are collected, tracked and remitted by some, while other businesses get a pass. Retailers fight for market share everyday, but they shouldn’t be forced to compete on the collection of sales tax.”  [ChicagoTrib]

The legislation has been sloshing around the halls of Congress for years, and for years states have been losing money:

“The legislation has been pushed in Congress for more than a decade and has been a priority for national groups representing state governors and lawmakers in Washington. The proposal follows a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision which allows states to collect sales tax from residents who purchase online or catalog merchandise, if the residents provide the information to state tax collectors. State officials have long said residents don’t provide the information and taxes, costing states an estimated $23.3 billion in 2012 sales tax revenue alone.”  [HuffPo]

For all intents and purposes, the bill would require major online retailers like Amazon to collect and remit sales taxes which are collected by local brick/mortar retailers within states.   Way back when Amazon was a bookseller some bifurcation might have been allowable, but as the major online sellers moved into electronics, household appliances, and other retail goods the delineation lacks justification.

The modernity of SJR 5 contrasts sharply with the anachronistic qualities of SJR 7 (pdf),  a bill which:

“…proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to preserve the right to hunt, fish and trap for the residents of this State. The proposed amendment provides that hunting, fishing and trapping by members of the public are the preferred means of managing wildlife in this State.”

Really? First of all, the measure sounds remarkably like a similar provision in the Idaho legislature.  The ballot question in the Gem State was not without controversy:

Ned Horner, from Coeur d’Alene, is a retired Idaho Department of Fish and Game fisheries manager for northern Idaho. He worries the amendment’s language elevates harvest above habitat protection for fish and wildlife management. If the cover and food that sustains game and fish aren’t there, the right means little.  [IdahoStatesman]

It should come as no surprise to anyone that these bills come directly from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the second most powerful gun lobby in the United States. [HuffPo]  That said, the following information should also not raise too many eyebrows:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has kept a lower profile over the years, but is likely the second-most-powerful force for firearms use in the country.

“While the gun lobby in general has spent less in 2012 than it has in recent years, the NSSF’s spending has exploded, spiking from about $100,000 in 2008 to $500,000 so far this year (in comparison to the NRA’s $2.2 million). The lion’s share of that went to Patrick Rothwell, the group’s director of government relations, who served for three years as chief of staff to the House Republican Policy Committee. He spent a lot of time this year working on legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating chemicals in gun ammunition and fishing equipment, and the organization has backed a slew of concealed-carry bills.”  [New Republic]

Mr. Horner’s comment is well taken; and the emphasis shifting from habitat to harvest should not go unnoticed by the Nevada Legislature.  Nor should the NSSF’s emphasis on opposing environmental regulations and gun violence measures be lost in the high flying rhetoric of “rights,” and “heritage,” and whatever other vague buzz words abound in this debate.   The irony of it all is that the headquarters of the NSSF, Inc. are in Newtown, CT.

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