Tag Archives: universal background checks

Laxalt Then And Now

February 15, 2018 Adam Paul Laxalt blames Michael Bloomberg (a convenient target) for his reluctance to enforce Q1 (gun sale background checks) and tells us “Asked if he would support banning bump stocks, Laxalt said he joined a bipartisan group of attorney generals in asking the federal government to review how it regulates them. “My guess is you will see these things regulated at the federal level,” he said.” [LVRJ] No mud (blood) on me.  Another way to read this is to infer Laxalt will do nothing on bump stocks, but will wait to see if the Trump/NRA administration will allow some form of regulation at the Federal level.

February 21, 2018 (17 children and adults are now dead in Parkland, Florida) Adam Paul Laxalt, formerly a scheduled speaker at the NRA Annual Leadership Forum, is “erased” from the program.

“Laxalt, also a Republican candidate for governor, appeared on the event’s website this week as a scheduled speaker for the May 4 NRA Annual Leadership Forum — which touts itself as a “must-stop for candidates seeking the highest levels of elected office” — along with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, political commentator Tomi Lahren and Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist.”  By Wednesday, Laxlat’s name and photo were no longer on the event’s site. Scott’s name and photo are also gone.” [LVRJ] (emphasis in original)

February 22, 2018, but but but wait wait wait…a Laxalt aide says the gubernatorial candidate never “committed” to the NRA Forum. “Laxalt campaign spokesman Andy Matthews said Thursday that Laxalt hadn’t responded to confirm an invitation to the NRA Annual Leadership Forum in Dallas before his name was removed from a headliners’ list.” [RGJ]    But he didn’t have any problems with his name on the conference schedule previously?

February 23, 2018, protesters gathered in Las Vegas, ahead of a court hearing on Question 1.  Governor Sandoval says Nevada voters made their wishes clear — they want Universal Background Checks.  It wasn’t quite so clear to him in 2013 when he vetoed a bill to that effect.

Stay tuned as Adam Paul Laxalt twists and turns trying to remain a viable candidate opposing a popular concept — Universal Background Checks — while perhaps hoping the “issue” will subside as has happened after other gunfire atrocities?  Is he hoping to jump on board with the Trumpian idiocy calling for arming teachers? Is he hoping the Congress will do some tiny thing sufficient for him to espouse a minute bit of progress? It’s only February, and Laxalt doesn’t know what his schedule will be in May, by then he may have embarrassed himself out of the race?

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The Story Almost Lost in Las Vegas

If you haven’t bookmarked the Nevada Independent, please do so.  There’s a reward for you. Stories that almost get lost in the maelstrom of corporate media find a home therein.  Like this one:

“In a letter dated Sept. 25, attorney Mark Ferrario — representing Nevadans for Background Checks, the group that backed the ballot question — gave Sandoval and state officials a deadline of Oct. 9 to begin implementing the ballot measure before they turn to the court system to settle the matter.”

Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Governor Sandoval haven’t covered themselves in glory on gun issues in the Silver State. Did you catch the date? September 25, 2017. In a matter of days the Issue No One Wants To Talk About Now Except For People Who Are Tired Of Not Talking About It raised up in an horrific way.  Lives lost, lives interrupted and disrupted by injuries, lives transformed by heinous nightmares, lives shattered by loss.

One of the saddest elements of this story is that, no, more thorough background checking may not have prevented this act of evil.  But, the GOP test is irrational.  If any legislation must prevent the last carnage then there’s never a way to make any progress.

What would have prevented the shooter at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando being a disaffected disconnected loser with personal and domestic issues, from packaging his issues into a flurry of violence?  Certainly, some mental health therapy might have been useful, but there is more than one element to a crime.  He acted out his anger and disturbance with an AR-15.

The shooter at Virginia Tech in 2007 was a student with a history of mental health issues. Again, those issues contributed to his act, but the act could not have been accomplished without being able to secure a Walther P22 and a  9-mm Glock semi-automatic pistol.

Another misfit with serious social and emotional problems used a Savage Mark II to murder his mother before taking four other guns to the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  He used a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle to complete his massacre of teachers and little children.

No gun regulation bill is going to solve the psychological, emotional, and social problems of individuals who use guns to act out their various motives and grievances.  However, while the study of motives is informative and interesting it doesn’t address what made the atrocities so deadly.  It doesn’t take rocket science to see that in the three examples given above the acts were increasingly deadly because of the nature of the weaponry involved.

Members of the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC would have benefited had there not been a loophole in the background check laws, exploited by Dylan Roof. [NYT]  More thorough background reviews might have mitigated the shooting at Virginia Tech.  The point is that these examples call for greater care in the process of background checks, and NOT for dismissing the utility of background checks because of some perceived failure to stop a specific atrocity.

Perhaps it’s time for Governor Sandoval and AG Laxalt to move back from their slippery slope arguments against the common sense application of restraints on gun ownership and use, and note that church members, students, theater goers, night club revelers, and concert attendees have the right to be safe from the predations of the devils who invade their public spaces with ever more deadly weapons.

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Nevada Ballot Questions 2016: Number 1 Common Sense Gun Safety

Question One on the November 2016 ballot shouldn’t be there… that is, the issue should have been taken care of by the State Legislature.  It wasn’t, so here we are doing it the hard way. The initiative provides:

“The measure, upon voter approval, would require that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check. A licensed dealer may charge a “reasonable fee” for his or her service. If the measure is approved, those found to be in violation of the law would be charged with a “gross misdemeanor,” which could result in a $2,000 fine, up to one year in prison, or both, depending on the results of a trial by jury.

The measure exempts certain transfers of firearms from background checks, including transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers while hunting or for immediate self-defense.

Supporters refer to the measure as The Background Check Initiative.As of 2014, firearms could be sold by individuals via advertisements and at gun shows without requiring purchasers to undergo background checks.” [Ballotpedia]

Ammosexual It didn’t take long for the NRA hysterics to go ballistic.  Look for the Code Words:

“This November, Nevadans will have the opportunity to vote down this unnecessary and unenforceable proposal which Governor Sandoval already vetoed in 2013.  Bloomberg’s NYC propaganda may say this is a gun safety measure, but we all know that this measure has nothing to do with safety or addressing crime and would only impact law-abiding Nevadans.  It’s important that Nevadans stand up for their rights and not let New York City money influence the future of Nevada!”

There they go again.  “Unnecessary and unenforceable,” is an interesting bit of sloganeering, which doesn’t come close to the rational .  We have laws on the books to criminalize robberies – but robberies still take place.  That doesn’t mean that our statutes on robbery are unnecessary because they are “unenforceable.”  And then there’s this:

“The exceptions are incredibly narrow and could turn an otherwise law-abiding person into a criminal, unknowingly.  For example, a firearm can be borrowed to shoot at an established shooting range; however, that same activity away from an established range such as BLM land is not authorized and would constitute an illegal transfer.” [NRA]

Reading comprehension is tricky but the opponents obviously didn’t get the part about “temporary transfers,” so if we’re out hunting and I hand you my gun, this doesn’t constitute a transfer in the legal sense of the initiative.  All this folderol is followed by the usual Faint of Heart Lament “the criminals will ignore it so we can’t do anything.”  Once more,  extrapolating this to its obvious conclusion would pretty much eliminate section 205 of the Nevada Revised Statutes – the ones defining criminal behavior.  We enact statutes like those attempting to curtail credit card fraud, identity theft, and burglary. Thus, we can enact a statute to curtail the unlawful transfers of dangerous firearms.

Straw Man The Straw Man Cometh.  The NRA and ammosexuals argue that the law would be unenforceable without registration, and registration is unconstitutional, un-American, un-holy or whatever.   So, they contend that this is a stalking horse for “gun registration” which leads to “gun confiscation” which leads to the “new world order,” and “tyranny.”

Excuse me while I take a breath.  There is no way to argue an irrational person into rationality.

The Anti-Urbanity Contingent arrives.   It is a “Bloomberg” idea, it comes from New York City. It’s evil?  It’s “New York Values?”  There’s a long and unhealthy anti-urban sentiment that goes back to the popular fiction of the 19th century.  This bit of pure propaganda would have us categorize other New York City inventions as indicative of New York Values, and the Evil City – for example: The Teddy Bear, Mr. Potato Head, Waldorf Salad, and Pizza?  [nyc]  Oh dear, those Teddy Bears might remind children of the story about President Theodore Roosevelt once refusing to shoot a bear because it was tied to a tree. [TRAssoc]

The origin of an idea is immaterial, and relevant only so far as it suggests (but doesn’t prove) some nefarious connections to the irrational fear of something or another.  Nevada statutes are clear about those the state doesn’t want to possess firearms:

Felons. Yes, there are some hysterics who do argue for the “right” of a felon to possess firearms. However, this fringe is fighting against a tide that’s been washing ashore since the 1920s.

Drug Addicts.  I am interested to hear from anyone who believes that a drug addict should be able to upgrade his capacity to steal to support his habit by moving up from burglary to armed robbery.

Fugitives. Again, does the NRA advocate that fugitives, especially those who have graduated to having their pictures up on police bulletin boards and post office displays, have a “right” to possess a firearm?

Adjudicated Mentally Ill.  It seems to me that the cry from the ammosexuals has been that most mass shootings in this country are accomplished by those few who are seriously mentally ill, and constitute a danger to themselves and to the public at large.  

Persons who are unlawfully or illegally in the United States.  I have met a couple of people whose pro-gun enthusiasm is exceeded only by their anti-immigration views.  I wonder if they want “aliens” with guns?

Now, here’s the question: How can we prevent the felons, the fugitives, the drug addicts, the adjudicated mentally ill, and the undocumented from obtaining firearms — IF we don’t adopt a universal system of background checks?  The anti-Question One crowd renders unenforceable the very statutes we rely upon to prevent the dangerous from obtaining the lethal.

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Nevadans Launch Background Check Initiative

Gadsden Flag Shoot Officers

Checking the Background:  We were horrified when the news reported on December 15, 2012 that a classroom full of elementary school children was slaughtered, surely that incident would be enough to create a demand for action to reduce the chances of any repetition. It wasn’t.  As of May 7, 2013 another 71 children died — 31 as homicides, 40 classified as “accidental.” [MJ]  The incidents were sufficient to allow the passage of SB 221, a background check bill, which got through the State Legislature in spite of solid Republican opposition.  [DB]

Then the NRA launched its flying monkeys, and the calls to the Governor’s office were 3-1 in favor of a veto. [LVRJ] Governor Sandoval caved, and vetoed the measure. [LVSun] His veto message cited “unreasonable burdens on law abiding citizens” as a reason to veto the universal background check bill. [VM June 2013, pdf] [DB]

Also included in the veto message was the tired excuse offered by gun enthusiasts — the bill would do little to prevent the proliferation of firearms among criminals.  As mentioned often before, the opponents of gun safety legislation are wont to argue that if a bill doesn’t (a) present a perfect solution to a complex problem, or (b) if any potential tragedy isn’t specifically addressed, then there’s no reason to try any proposal because it might “erode 2nd Amendment rights.” [more at DB 6/17/13]  Unfortunately, the concept of erosion has been glued to the NRA mantra that any attempt to delineate reasonable limitations on 2nd Amendment rights is anathema. [Discussed previously here]

Progress? Given this recent history of attempts in Nevada to address something as generally popular in the state as universal background checks, it’s nice to see that people are still willing to address the issue, in the face of the opposition — now wrapped in their ‘cop killer flag’ and seething with post Bundy-ian anti-government rage?

An initiative petition (pdf) [RR]  has been filed with the Secretary of State by Nevadans for Background Checks, and supported by the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence. [LVRJ] Supporters have their work cut out for them, collecting at least 101,667 signatures by Nov. 11. Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than the simple collection of signatures: “Statewide petitions filed in 2014 require 101,667 valid signatures from registered Nevada voters including at least 25,417 signatures from each of the four Petition Districts. (NRS 293.127563(2))” [NVSoS]  The Petition Districts are coterminous with the Congressional Districts. [map pdf NVSoS]

One resident of District 2 has already weighed in:

“This is the back door to gun registration – the current preferred avenue to gun confiscation being pushed by the virulent Left. Useless for one thing. There will always be illegal traffic in firearms. Prohibition taught us that making something illegal creates an industry out of thin air. The modern drug industry is also an example. It’s also unconstitutional. But that’s the point. Devalue the Constitution and disarm those willing to defend it.” [EDFP]

Recognize the arguments? (1) The government just wants to confiscate guns, + (2) we can’t do anything about it so it’s best not to even try.  However, the next comment was right in line with the Absolutists:  “ANY infringement on the right to keep and bear arms is unconstitutional. Against the law of the land. Illegal. Get it?” [EDFP]  Evidently, this Absolutists conflates infringement with inconvenience?

The Ralston Report makes a pertinent observation: “Similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval last session.  Wonder which base gets more fired up….”

The answer may well be “both,” or “all of the above?”  Certainly, the Absolutist gun enthusiasts as exemplified by our District Two commenter will be moved to go the polls, but then that person is very likely already so moved.  Years of accumulated belief in the inefficacy of government, the imposition of unreasonable taxation, and the ‘freedom’ arguments revolving around gun safety legislation, are likely to have produced a Government Fearing Anti Tax voter.

A more interesting question might be how many liberals, progressives, moderates, and independent thinking Nevadans might be moved to newly increased levels of interest in the off year elections by the inclusion of a ballot question about which they feel they have an interest?

In some respects this is roughly akin to the conservative wedge issue tactics of elections long gone by — witness the anti-abortion, or anti-gay marriage referenda and initiatives pushed since the 1980s in various states which drove turn out from specific groups.  There’s nothing inherently bothersome about taking a page from the opposition handbook and trying it out in a new setting.

If advocates of improved gun safety legislation can’t get everything they might want, background checks, ammunition capacity limits, and assault weapons bans –then there’s nothing wrong with attempting to get at least one slice of the pie.   It isn’t like the Tea Party, NRA, anti-government folks have recently covered themselves in glory.

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The Session From Nowhere

Capitol DomeThe members of the 113th Congress have almost managed the impossible — to beat the Do-Nothing Congress of 1947-48, the one excoriated for enacting only 395 bits of legislation. [USAT]

Bills Enacted by session of Congress*the 113th Congress is still in session.

Not only is the last column in the graphic painfully small, but it becomes even more pathetic when we look at a graphic illustration of the number of bill which even made it to an up or down vote:

Bills up or down by Session 1973-2013Not only has the 113th Congress not enacted any legislation, it hasn’t even brought many bills to the floor for a vote.

It is one thing to crow about protecting the huddled masses from iniquitous laws, and quite another to simply obstruct the entire process by not even considering them.  From a technical perspective the Republican controlled 113th’s obstruction is a function of the misuse of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate and the absurd application of the ephemeral “Hastert Rule” in the House which asserts that legislation which doesn’t have the support of the majority party’s caucus will never reach the floor.  There is also the matter of legislation passing the House which has absolutely no chance in the Senate, and was never intended to have any life in that body, bills simply passed to pad the records or to make a display.  Witness the number of attempts to rescind Roe v. Wade.  The technical obstructionism of the Tea Party Republicans requires some heavy lifting in the justification department.

The previous “low” for Congressional enactment was the 112th Congress’s record of 284 bills to be sent to the White House, thus far by GovTrack’s count the 113th has managed only 56.   As the Nevada Progressive calls it, Less isn’t More.   What’s left on the table?

The Farm Bill – both houses have passed their own versions, and in the lovely but over-simplified “I’m Just A Bill On Capitol Hill” this should lead to a conference to hammer out a compromise bill which can be passed in both wings of the building.  The conference is in progress [WaPo] but there’s little progress to report.  “Competing House and Senate proposals remain tens of billions of dollars apart — the Senate proposes slashing about $4 billion in SNAP funding over the next decade, while the House would cut nearly $40 billion,” [WaPo] and the chasm remains.   For those who are unrepentant clock watchers, the House and Senate are facing a January 1 deadline.

ENDA – (Employee Non-Discrimination Act)  The Senate passed this bill, S. 815, on November 7, 2013 on a 64-32 vote. [rc 232] Even conservative Republican Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) assisted with passage in the Senate, however the bill may die in the House:

“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel said in an emailed statement. Other House Republicans have been outspoken against the bill, arguing that it imposes on the religious liberties of business owners and managers. Although, there is a religious exemption under the law that protects churches and other religious institutions from being penalized under ENDA.” [USNWR]

The “increase in frivolous litigation” argument is boilerplate language applied by the GOP to any and all legislation pertaining to human or civil rights.  The House version, H.R. 1755, with 200 co-sponsors, has made it as far as the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice [Thomas] to which it was assigned on June 14, 2013 — and no further.  Sub-Committee membership includes Chairman  Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ),  Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and the memorable logician Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Neverland), among the eight Republicans facing five Democrats. [USHSCCJ]  Hope that H.R. 1755 will emerge from this conglomeration of Tea Party favorites must be slim indeed.

Comprehensive Immigration Policy Reform – The Senate’s version, S. 744, passed the Senate on June 27, 2013 on a 68-32 vote. [Thomas] It, too, has entered the House of No Return.  There are 11 pieces of the measure, or bills related to the measure, in various stages of decay in the House.  [Thomas]

 Common Sense Gun Regulations –  Polling conducted by Pew Research in May 2013 showed 81% of Americans in favor of universal background checks for gun purchases.  Including 81% support among Republicans and 83% support from Democrats. [Pew]  Massive support notwithstanding – the bill was filibustered in the Senate.  [WaPo]   Senator Heller voted to support the GOP filibuster on April 17, 2013 [rc 97], one of the 46 members of that body who voted to kill the bill.

JOBS –  Let’s look at our infrastructure needs by drilling down to one bill as an example. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced the SAFE Bridges Act of 2013 (H.R. 2428) on June 19, 2013.  “Directs the Secretary of Transportation (DOT) to establish a program to assist states to rehabilitate or replace bridges found to be structurally deficient, functionally obsolete, or fracture critical. Requires states to use apportioned program funds for projects to rehabilitate and replace such bridges. Sets the federal share of project costs at 100%.”   Rehabilitating or replacing insubstantial or dysfunctional bridges would be a blessing for the stumbling construction sector.  It would also, indeed, make us safer.

One in nine of American bridges are rates structurally deficient by the ASCE. [Report Card pdf] And, some 200 million trips are taken every day in this country over deficient bridges in 102 American metropolitan regions.   At least we made it over the river (and through the woods) to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving… now we have to do it again for Christmas?  The ASCE is clear that just because we’ve not worried about our infrastructure doesn’t mean we shouldn’t:

“Most of America’s infrastructure was built after WWII.  These investments of the 20th century spurred our nation’s economic boom and made us a global power. Today, quite simply, that tab is coming due. Australia currently spends 2.4% of GDP on capital investment, compared to 0.60% by the U.S.  Canada’s federal government investment in infrastructure is approximately 2.9% of GDP. And though our percentages of GDP spent on infrastructure are indeed comparable to Germany, in 2011, Germany adopted a five-year, $52 billion federal Framework Investment Plan for infrastructure. The question facing our country is are we going to maintain our 20th century foundation while making new investments for a prosperous 21st century. This is a unique challenge. America’s economy must lead the world, and as such, the foundation of that economy—our infrastructure—should lead the way. ” [ASCE]

The sputtering of conservative think tanks about the efficacy of public-private partnerships is singularly insufficient to address the massive infrastructure and transportation needs faced by this nation.   Meanwhile, Rep. Rahall’s bill sits in the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit — and has done so since the day after it was introduced. [Thomas]

A more comprehensive bill, the American Jobs Act, was re-introduced by Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) in the 113th Congress [HuffPo]

“According to independent analysts including Moody’s Economy, the American Jobs Act would mean up to 1.9 million new jobs.  The bill would provide tax cuts to tens of millions of low- to moderate-income Americans and stop layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and other public workers.  To ensure that the bill does not add to the federal budget deficit, it includes a series of cost-saving changes to the taxation of hedge fund investment income as well as cuts to corporate subsidies.  In addition to the provisions from President Obama’s original bill, the new 2013 American Jobs Act includes a simple provision to cancel the reckless, across-the-board budget cuts known as Sequestration for the coming fiscal years.”  [Wilson]

H.R. 2821 was assigned to the appropriate House committees on July 24, 2013, and then went to the land of No Return.

It’s not like we don’t have enough to do … it’s just that there is a Congress, especially the House of Representatives, which has demonstrated its incapacity to address the issues which need to be discussed and faced rationally, and to work for the American people.  The House Calendar (pdf) for the 113th first session Congress is “pretty blank,” and the second session is even further reduced.  The problem of un-productivity is exacerbated by the lack of  work time allotted to actually Doing anything.

President Harry Truman thought he had a problem with the 80th Congress when he spoke at a campaign stop in Elizabeth, New Jersey on October 7, 1948:

“Some people say I ought not to talk so much about the Republican 80th “do-nothing” Congress in this campaign.  I will tell you why I will talk about it.  If two-thirds of the people stay at home again on election day as they did in 1946, and if we get another Republican Congress like the 80th Congress, it will be controlled by the same men who controlled that 80th Congress–the Tabers and the Tafts, the Martins and the Hallecks–would be the bosses.  The same men would be the bosses, the same as those who passed the Taft-Hartley Act, and passed the rich man’s tax bill, and took Social Security away from a million workers.”  [SpeechesUSA]

Heaven bless him, he never had to work with the 113th lead by Representatives Boehner, Cantor, and the likes of Louie  Gohmert.

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