Tag Archives: gun safety legislation

Heller Makes The List: Probably Not The List He Wants

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has drawn the attention of Giffords.Org, a gun safety advocacy group headed by former Representative Gabby Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence.  Her group has this to say about Nevada’s GOP senator:

Even after the Las Vegas massacre last October, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, Dean Heller offered condolences, but no solutions, to the families of gun violence victims. This comes as no surprise, given the fact that he received campaign contributions and an A from the NRA. In 2013, Heller also thwarted a bipartisan gun safety bill by voting against an assault weapons ban, a limit on magazine capacity, and an amendment to expand background checks for gun sales. Fortunately, Senator Heller’s silence on these issues betrays his extreme precariousness in this year’s midterm election—he is widely touted as the Senate’s most vulnerable Republican.

The Senator has often demonstrated his capacity to offer Thoughts and Prayers, while accepting donations from the NRA, the  Shooting Sports Foundation, and the canned hunt crowd — Safari International.

Nevada has a better option this November — Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Nevadans headed to the polls in the upcoming mid-term election have a chance to elect a Senator who will advocate for common sense gun legislation, (along with the preservation of Social Security and Medicare, protection of insurance access for those with pre-existing medical conditions, and support for DACA recipients.)

Remember in November.

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

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

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

Let us parse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Law Abiding Citizens and Their Lethality

I’m getting weary of the Republican refrain that the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens must be protected — presumably to own lethal weapons of war like the AR 15 and MCX.

We need to remember after each mass shooting that the “gun owner” was, as the almost cliched statement goes, “a law abiding citizen” until he wasn’t.  What the AR 15 and MCX rifles do is increase the lethality of mass shootings.   Not sure about this? Here’s a report from a hospital radiologist:

“In a typical handgun injury, which I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ such as the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, gray bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?” [Atlantic]

The Atlantic article is difficult to read, and the examples cited by the author on the effects of high velocity bullets going through the bodies of adults and teenagers are disturbing.  Imagine for a moment the effect on those 6  year old children at Sandy Hook?  Exit wounds the “size of an orange.”  Children unidentifiable except for their clothing?  What I have yet to hear from the “Gun Club” is why civilians should possess weapons capable of such lethality.  And, we’ve known what kind of damage these guns do since 1977.

“Wounds inflicted by high velocity, center-fire rifles firing hunting ammunition are radically different from wounds caused by handguns or .22 rim-fire rifles. Injuries from pistol or .22 rim-fire bullets are confined to tissue and organs directly in the wound track. In contrast, high velocity rifle bullets can injure structures without actually contacting them. This is due to the temporary cavity produced by such missiles with the resultant shock waves having pressures of up to 200 atmospheres (20 MPa). Organs struck by such high velocity rifle bullets may undergo partial or complete disintegration.”  [NCBI January 1977]

41 years after the NCBI report a radiologist in Florida must remind us what these weapons do to human bodies.  However, the “Gun Club” will not admit that weapons like the AR 15 and MCX are more that mere “hunting rifles.”   It’s obvious a center fired high velocity firearm with a high capacity magazine is far more lethal than a criminal shooting a 9mm semi-automatic hand gun such as in the Fort Lauderdale example.

Not to make too fine a point to it, but what the NRA is saying to the American public is “law abiding citizens” should have the “right” to possess and use weapons which are designed for military use and which are capable of creating mass LETHAL casualties when used in public spaces. 

The Las Vegas shooter was a “law abiding” citizen until October 1, 2017 when he killed 59 people and injured 527 others.  He started shooting at 10:05 and ended the barrage at 10:15 PDT.  Again, 59 killed, 527 injured in 10 minutes.

The shooter at the the Sunderland, Texas, First Baptist Church killed 26 people and injuring 20 more on November 5, 2017.  He should never have had any firearm in the first place, his history as a domestic abuser was a matter of record.  However, records aside — what he purchased and used was a Ruger AR 556.

The shooter in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, used a SIG Sauer MCX and a Glock 17 9mm handgun on June 11, 2016 to kill 50 people, 38 of whom died at the scene.  Police reports indicated he had fired at least 110 rounds.

Variations on an Old Theme

Most of the “Gun Club” apologists are simply playing variations on the same old tune: “We can’t do anything about this.”  (Read: We don’t want to do anything about this because the military style rifles are popular)

Variation OneWhat we need to do is get these guns out of the hands of disturbed people.   And, so what do you propose?  Are these voices advocating mental health evaluations for every buyer of a center fire high velocity firearm with large magazine capacities?  This variation includes it’s very own instant objection.  No one would advocate the invasion of personal privacy required to perform these mental evaluations on every applicant for these weapons; ergo — we can’t do anything about this.

Variation Two: We can’t punish law abiding citizens for the sins of the few who misuse these weapons of war.   Punish?  I am not being “punished” because I cannot purchase an RPG 7 (rocket propelled grenade launcher.) Nor am I being “punished” because owning a Russian-Jordanian RPG 32 anti-tank grenade launcher is forbidden to me. I am being protected from those who would do me and fellow citizens harm if they use these things.

Variation ThreeWe must protect the 2nd Amendment.  Yes, why not.  However, as I’ve said time and again, no right is absolute.  At the risk of redundancy, I can’t “yell fire in a crowded theater,” there are limits to my freedom of speech; nor can I create a mob and call it “freedom” of assembly,” nor can I speak slander and print libel and call it protected by the 1st Amendment.

Until the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists come to the humane conclusion that weapons of war have no place in civilian society, we will continue to have very lethal “law abiding” people among us.

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The Price Tag Plus $32: The economic cost of guns in America

Guns $32.00 – according to the author of a NIJ study on gun fire casualties that’s the direct societal cost per gun in the United States.   When the costs for drunk driving and gun related injuries were compared in 1994 the drunk driving costs were characterized as substantially higher.  Now that has reversed.  In 1992 medical care for a fatal shooting averaged $14,500. By 2010 the number was $28,700. [USAT]  More recent figures put the annual cost to American society at $214 billion, or $693 per person. [LeadersEdge] Where does this number come from?

“…societal cost figure includes medical costs incurred from firearms violence and the lost earnings of the victims—either the survivors of a firearms injury or costs to loved ones left behind in case of a fatal shooting. And it includes an estimated $11.9 billion in costs to government for such things as Medicare and Medicaid payments to victims. It also includes $1.5 billion in medical and mental health treatment, public services, adjudication, sanctioning and productivity losses for the perpetrator.”  [LEdge]

On the other side of the ledger, the firearms industry supports about 120,310 jobs in “supplier and ancillary industries,” and the manufacture and sale of firearms generates $33.3 billion to the economy.  This would include $10.4 billion in wages, $4.6 billion in federal and state business taxes, $460 million in excise taxes, and about $2.1 billion in federal and state taxes paid by the firearms industry and its employees.  [LE NSSF]  In short, we’re losing about $180.7 billion on this deal?

Other elements not under discussion are the secondary effects of gun violence, such as the loss of real estate value in neighborhoods which experience high levels of gun fatalities and injuries.  Nor are we taking into economic consideration the unwillingness of commercial and manufacturing firms to expand or site operations in neighborhoods which have high gun violence numbers.

Every instance of a gun related accident or homicide adds to the economic costs of relatively unregulated firearms in American society.  The logic is fairly simple:

“We have supported research for more than 20 years to better understand the problems of gun violence, the risk factors of gun violence and the policies that can prevent it,” says Nina Vinik, the gun violence prevention program director for the Joyce Foundation in Chicago. “One thing consistent in the research over the decades is the finding that where guns are more available, more readily accessible, there is a corresponding increase in levels of gun violence and injuries, in homicides, in suicides and in accidents.” [LEdge]

Arguments about the United States being a “violent society” stray from the essential point – it’s not that we’re necessarily more criminally inclined, but that the easy availability of firearms tends to make our adventures with guns more lethal – and more expensive. [HarvardMag]

Another point, about which we probably ought to be having more conversation is that the proliferation of firearms in this country is costing us more than their economic value in the total economy.  Capitalism works – but only if the market decisions made are rational.

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Why do you clutch your gun?

What are you afraid of?  You, who must be appeased because you are an embattled man, powerless to control the world spiraling around you, what do you fear?

Are you so fearful that you cannot countenance controlling lethal weapons, or  making it more difficult for those who are seriously mentally ill to procure them? You are the author of your own terror.  When everyone has a firearm, everyone will have a firearm — even those you fear the most — and then your fears will be justified?

Or, has your gun become a substitute for something else? Are you afraid of being unable to provide for you family?  Are your job skills dated? Your education truncated? Your time spent in job hunting extended?  Why do you clutch your gun? It’s not going to get you an education, more training, or more interviews.

Do you fear the loss of your “masculinity?”  What does that mean? Does it mean you can’t slap the bookkeeper Mary Ann on the fanny down at the garage?   Does it mean that you can’t brag about making babies if you don’t make child support payments?  Does it mean that people have stopped listening to you when you grouse about The Old Lady not having dinner ready for you when she gets off her second shift?  Why do you clutch your gun? It’s not going to make your relationships at work any easier. Or provide you with a sense of the responsibility associated with parenting. Or even add any economic security to your two income household.

Do you fear the diminishment of your sense of self worth?  Can we ask how you calculate that value?  Is how much you are worth a function of the size of your paycheck, or it is based on the joy you take from your workmanship, craftsmanship, or competency you bring to your employment?   Is how much you are worth a function of some  sense of entitlement because you are The Man?  Why do you clutch your gun? Would you caress it less often if you understood that self worth is elevated when you can share the rewards of your efforts at being a good worker, a good parent, a good friend, and good partner with someone you’ve helped to become a better worker, a better parent, a better friend, and a more loving partner?

Are you afraid of The Other?  Are ‘they’ going to invade your home? Would you be less afraid if you read the crime statistics in your area? If you remembered that only 1% of the murders in Nevada happened in the course of a burglary? [DB]  If you recalled that there is a ‘geography’ of criminal behavior  in which most criminals indulge in criminal behavior close to their own neighborhoods and generally don’t move into areas in which they aren’t familiar with the terrain, would that make you less anxious?

Would you be less insecure if you recalled that the most prevalent crime in Nevada is good old fashioned larceny?  As of 2012 there were 45,237 of those — compared to a grand total of 5,954 murders (118), rapes (923), and robberies (4,913) combined? [NVACR pdf]

Why do you clutch your gun if only in the most perfect set of circumstances it would offer you and yours protection?  IF you were perfectly awake, and the firearm was loaded and at the ready, and IF the burglar(s) followed your directions to the letter, and IF you were absolutely certain the projectile would strike its target without careening off into the unknown, and IF everything would work to your benefit as easily as scoring points in a video game…

Why do you clutch your gun as if it were the only option available to you?  You are less likely to be robbed while walking a dog — get a dog! Don’t have a dog? — borrow the neighbor’s mutt — the neighbors will appreciate it, and the dog will love it. You are less likely to be assaulted when walking with someone else — walk with a partner. You are less likely to be the victim of a crime if you are in a well lighted area — make sure the public works department knows when your street lights are out.  You are less likely to be a victim of a burglary if you have a security system — there are a plethora of options on the market.  Can’t afford the system — just plant a sign.  Don’t want the sign? Plant some cactus under your windows — they don’t take much water and who wants to climb over a cactus on the way to a TV set?  There are carload lots of other options, none of which are as dangerous in the home as that firearm.

Why do you clutch your gun, when there are so many other dangers to you and your family which your gun will not remotely solve?  For example, about 25% of school children report they’ve been bullied at school  [SchBStat] That’s far higher than the probability that your child will be attacked by a home invader!  The gun in the drawer by the bed won’t solve that problem, but a quiet chat with your middle schooler about how he or she is feeling at school will yield the information you’ll need to keep the scion safer on the playground.

While you’re fantasizing about protecting the family from imaginary invaders — have you considered that your child is at greater health risk from obesity?  Enough fast food and poor eating habits and the probability of your child having life threatening problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis increases proportionately. [CDC]  Unless your child will only address a vegetable at gun point, the firearm isn’t really useful.  However, if you want to keep your child alive and healthy in the long run, “Eat Your Vegetables” will go much further than “grab your gun.”

Want to protect your wife? Approximately 54% of the respondents in a study of workplace safety reported some form of harassment, and 79% of those victims were women. [Aware]  Would you feel more secure if you knew that your spouse was knowledgeable about the policies at the workplace or about whom to contact? Only about a third in the survey knew about the company policies, and only about half knew whom to contact.  Have you asked your wife if she’s aware of the policies and the procedures?   Would you support her if she filed a report?  That doesn’t require a firearm — just a supportive spouse.

If you aren’t afraid, and you just enjoy shooting rounds at the firing range, and you take care of your firearms — keeping them operative, clean, and safely stored — then by all means have them, care for them, and enjoy your hobby!  But please don’t delude yourself that they will make you any more of a worthy person than you are. People who measure themselves by their possessions — are simply possessed.

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Locked and Unloaded: Nevada Could Do Better

Child gun deathsWe still don’t know why a 12 year old boy shot a teacher and classmates at Sparks (NV) Middle School.  [RGJ] It’s natural to look for a “motive,” some resolution, or explanation, for the inexplicable.  Given what we do know about the brain, we might never know.  We know, for example, that there is a second period of development in the pre-frontal cortex during  pre-puberty, [PBS] but while we know volumes about the structure of the brain we’re not so informed about the operations of the mind.   What was in the boy’s mind may be unknown; what was in his hand is obvious — a Ruger 9 mm semi-automatic.

Each time these tragedies hit the headlines there is the all too predictable response from gun enthusiasts — We can’t enhance regulations because… Freedom…Liberty…2nd Amendment …Patriotism. What of the “responsible gun owners?”  Perhaps, we could consider a change of perspective.

According to the gun enthusiasts NO impediment is tolerable which might even remotely constrict their “rights” to arm themselves to the eaves — if we accept this then why not consider the possibility that while a person may own all manner of firearms we might give some thought to how those are stored.  The firearm used in Sparks came from home, and there is another home in this country which may have contributed to the stock of stolen weapons that all too often show up in crime statistics.

“Rep. Renee Ellmers’ (R-NC) husband reported an AR-15 rifle stolen from the family’s home in Dunn last week, according to a police report.

The weapon had been left leaning against a gun locker in an unlocked garage on Kingsway Drive, the report said.

The rifle, a gun case and a GPS, with a cumulative value of $1,100, were reported stolen, according to Chief J.D. Pope.  Police think the theft happened on the night of Oct. 15.

“According to the report, they had been out target shooting and brought the gun back and leaned it against the gun safe,” Pope said. “ … The garage door was left unsecured, according to the report.” [Charlotte Observer]

An open garage door, an AR-15… what could possibly go wrong?

One very common bit of advice on gun storage is provided by the state of California:

“Store your gun safely and securely to prevent unauthorized use. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately. When the gun is not in your hands, you must still think of safety. Use a California-approved firearms safety device on the gun, such as a trigger lock or cable lock, so it cannot be fired. Store it unloaded in a locked container, such as a California-approved lock box or a gun safe. Store your gun in a different location than the ammunition. For maximum safety you should use both a locking device and a storage container.”

Following this advice might also reduce the number of successful suicides by children  in this country.

“In the first nationally representative study to examine the relationship between survey measures of household firearm ownership and state level rates of suicide in the U.S., researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that suicide rates among children, women and men of all ages are higher in states where more households have guns.  […] The researchers found that states with higher rates of household firearm ownership had significantly higher rates of suicide by children, women and men. In the 15 states with the highest levels of household gun ownership, twice as many people committed suicide compared with the six states with the lowest levels, even though the population in both groups was about the same. […]
“Removing firearms may be especially effective in reducing the risk of suicide among adolescents and other potentially impulsive members of their home. Short of removing all firearms, the next best thing is to make sure that all guns in homes are very securely locked up and stored separately from secured ammunition. In a nation where more than half of all suicides are gun suicides and where more than one in three homes have firearms, one cannot talk about suicide without talking about guns,” he adds.” [Harvard 2007]

Lock’em up unloaded might also alleviate other tragic numbers. Discussing the number of children who are killed or seriously injured by firearms is made more difficult because decisions made at the local level about causation leading to serious under-counting.

“A New York Times review of hundreds of child firearm deaths found that accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the records indicate, because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by the authorities. The killings of Lucas, Cassie and Alex, for instance, were not recorded as accidents. Nor were more than half of the 259 accidental firearm deaths of children under age 15 identified by The Times in eight states where records were available.”

Predictably, the NRA pounced on the results, saying more children were killed in falls, accidental poisonings, and because of environmental issues.  The argument is extraneous.  First, merely because more children might be killed by other means doesn’t address the argument that fewer children would be killed if guns weren’t accessible.  Second, if we are seriously under-counting the firearm deaths, then the argument is evidentially  false.  Third, there’s demonstrable obfuscation:

“The rifle association’s lobbying arm recently posted on its Web site a claim that adult criminals who mishandle firearms — as opposed to law-abiding gun owners — are responsible for most fatal accidents involving children. But The Times’s review found that a vast majority of cases revolved around children’s access to firearms, with the shooting either self-inflicted or done by another child.” [NYT 9/13]

Recent headlines offer support for the Time’s conclusion: “Father faces charges in Fayetteville toddler’s death,” [WRAL] when he left a .22 semi-automatic under the family’s couch.   “Michigan toddler finds loaded gun in closet, dies from bullet to the face” [NYDN] “Toddler shot to death in Yellowstone was killed by father’s pistol,” [ChicagoTrib] “Three Year Old Killed … with gun from grandmother’s backpack,” [Yuma Sun] “Kentucky Shooting: Boy, 5, Shoots And Kills 2-Year-Old Sister, Police Say,” [AP] and “Kansas boy, 7, shoots self in head during family gun outing,” [NYDN]

Indeed, there are children killed by being mauled by animals, by being dropped or assaulted, or by being poisoned by household chemicals.  However, the instances of other causes of death doesn’t offer any substantiation to the contention that we ought not consider legislation on gun storage, trigger locks, and smart gun technology.

The state of Nevada doesn’t directly address the safe storage of firearms, and the possible consequences of guns + children.

Nevada’s gun “storage” law is particularly unhelpful:

 “NRS41.472  Imposition of liability for minor’s negligence or willful misconduct regarding firearm. 1. If a parent, guardian or other person legally responsible for a minor under the age of 18 years:  (a)Knows that the minor has previously been adjudicated delinquent or has been convicted of a criminal offense; (b) Knows that the minor has a propensity to commit violent acts; or (c) Knows or has reason to know that the minor intends to use the firearm for unlawful purposes, and permits the minor to use or possess a firearm, any negligence or willful misconduct of the minor in connection with such use or possession is imputed to the person who permits such use or possession for all purposes of civil damages, and, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection 2 of NRS 41.470, that person is jointly and severally liable with the minor for any and all damages caused by such negligence or willful misconduct.  2. As used in this section, “firearm” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 202.253.  (Added to NRS by 1995, 1149)”

In short, a parent would have to “know” that the child intended to unlawfully use a firearm before any liability attaches.  How do we “know” if a 12 year old has a “propensity to commit violent acts?”  A three year old?

Massachusetts law takes the storage issue head on:

Section 131L. (a) It shall be unlawful to store or keep any firearm, rifle or shotgun including, but not limited to, large capacity weapons, or machine gun in any place unless such weapon is secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device, properly engaged so as to render such weapon inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user. For purposes of this section, such weapon shall not be deemed stored or kept if carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user.

California takes on the issue of children’s access to firearms:

“AB 231 establishes the Firearm Safe and Responsible Access Act, creating a third degree misdemeanor if a person negligently stores or leaves a loaded firearm in a location where they know, or reasonably should know, that a child can access the firearm without permission and the person fails to take proper safety measures.  A third degree misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.  The bill also requires licensed gun dealers to post this warning in their place of business with other already required postings of child safe storage laws.” [ASMDC]

The California Penal Code specifies storage requirements in homes with children present:

(b)(1)Except as provided in subdivision (c), a person commits the crime of “criminal storage of a firearm of the first degree” if he or she keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that are under his or her custody or control and he or she knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian and the child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes death or great bodily injury to himself, herself, or any other person.

(2)Except as provided in subdivision (c), a person commits the crime of “criminal storage of a firearm of the second degree” if he or she keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that are under his or her custody or control and he or she knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian and the child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes injury, other than great bodily injury, to himself, herself, or any other person, or carries the firearm either to a public place or in violation of Section 417. [more]

There are no silver bullets in firearm related death issues.   No single piece of legislation can “solve” problems associated with children’s access to guns, or prevent every school or home tragedy created when children get access to firearms.  However, if this state is truly interested in protecting children there are steps we can take which could ameliorate the situation, or at the very least offer more legal recourse to the victims.

The next session of the Nevada legislature should give some serious consideration to amending our statutes in regard to children’s access to firearms, and to the appropriate storage of firearms in Nevada homes.

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