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Commentary

The lead editorials in this morning’s New York Times and Los Angeles Times are absolutely correct in their assessments of the insane gun carnage that grips our nation. This is the excellent conclusion of the NYT piece:

“Those who reject sensible gun controls will say anything to avoid implicating the growth in the civilian arsenal. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, for one, responded to the killings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs with a call for better mental health care, and is supporting a new bill that sponsors said would expand services to provide earlier treatment so violent people might theoretically be intercepted. “For those with mental illness, what we ought to be doing is treating the mental illness instead of responding to the crime,” Representative Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican and a chief sponsor of the bill, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on Tuesday.

This is the familiar line trotted out by Republican politicians after every massacre, as if unfettered access to high-powered weaponry — which they and the gun lobby have made possible — is not a factor in this national catastrophe. Congress’s Republican leaders are betting they can brazenly go through another election cycle without enacting gun safety laws.

Congress has allowed the domestic gun industry to use assorted loopholes to sell arsenals that are used against innocent Americans who cannot hide. Without firm action, violent criminals will keep terrorizing communities and the nation, inflicting mass death and damage across the land.”

The LAT puts it this way:

“Enough. This nation’s infatuation with guns — inflamed by the ludicrous stances of the NRA, and abetted by Congress’ fear of that powerful but irresponsible group — is suicidal. There are too many guns, too easily obtained. Often they are in the hands of those who should not have them at all, such as the mentally ill.

It’s absurd that one of the richest, freest, and most advanced societies in world history endures such a scourge with such equanimity. But there is hope. A Gallup poll in October found that 55% of Americans support stronger gun control measures, and other surveys have found that even a majority of NRA members support mandatory background checks — something the NRA itself has assiduously opposed. There is broad political support for stronger laws to address the nation’s gun addiction, but gun control advocates have so far been unable to counter the money and organizational heft of the NRA. It’s obscene that a single interest group is able to endanger an entire nation’s safety….

This crisis in American society must be combated through the ballot box, and through lobbying to loosen the iron grip the NRA holds on Congress and many state legislatures. That is where the pushback against this culture of death needs to occur. And it needs to occur now.”

Amen.

News

Some interesting rulings from courts around the country came down on Monday addressing issues that may well land at the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future.

Gun control:  A federal appeals court in New York largely upheld gun control laws passed in New York and Connecticut after the 2012 Newton shootings, finding that there was a substantial relationship between bans on the possession of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines and the states’ compelling interests in controlling crime.

Writing for the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,  Judge Jose A. Cabranes said:

“When used, these weapons tend to result in more numerous wounds, more serious wounds, and more victims. These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings. They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers.”

Read the full opinion here.

Defunding Planned Parenthood: While lawmakers in Texas cut state Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, a federal district court judge in Louisiana temporarily blocked lawmakers there from doing the same, finding that Planned Parenthood could likely succeed on its claims that the cuts targeted medical services provided to thousands of low-income women and had little to do with the competence of the group’s clinics there.

Calling out the cuts as politically-motivated,  U.S. District Judge John deGravelles wrote:

The uncontradicted evidence in the record at this time is that PPGC does not perform abortions in Louisiana, is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue and none of the conduct in question occurred at the PPGC’s two Louisiana facilities. Based on the record before it, it appears likely that Plaintiff will be able to prove that the attempted termination against it are motived and driven, at least in large part, by reasons unrelated to its competence and unique to it.

Read that decision here, and more on the case from Mother Jones here.

Campaign finance:  The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a decision out of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals requiring the group Montanans for Community Development to disclose its donors and spending while it attempts to have state laws that prevent outside groups from coordinating with candidates overturned.

The SCOTUS order is here.

Commentary

Gun-violenceThis morning’s “Monday numbers” column by Chris Fitzsimon reminds us yet again of how out of control America’s gun madness has spiraled. Not only does the easy availability of killing machines to the mentally ill continue to result in regular mass murders (1,000 just since the Sandy Hook tragedy!), but the mass shootings are coming so fast now that many don’t even make front page news, except perhaps in the communities in which they take place. Add to this the strange form of mental illness that afflicts our nation’s political leadership (clinical name: NRA-phobia) and the situation is rendered even more troubling.

And still sane voices continue to speak out. This weekend, a lead editorial in Greensboro’s News & Record put it this way:

“The United States should do better. This should not be a country that accepts so much death by firearms.

It’s not just mass shootings that should concern us. Shootings are commonplace in every American city, including Greensboro, and in many small towns and rural communities.

We can’t say there aren’t tough gun laws. Crimes committed with firearms are punished, usually with long prison sentences. Many offenders serve hard time for possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon. Continued efforts are needed to keep guns out of the hands of people with histories of committing crimes. Liberals and conservatives should agree on that point.

Where else can common ground be found? On the idea that there are other people, those with mental health issues, who should not be allowed access to guns.”

The editorial concludes with this eminently reasonable take:

“All firearms purchases should require background checks — a position strongly supported by public opinion — but more evaluation is needed. In North Carolina, sheriffs grant pistol permits. This is a good precaution on the theory that a sheriff may have information about domestic abuse, personal feuds or other signs of trouble indicating that a gun should not be added to the equation.

Law-abiding citizens are entitled to keep guns for personal protection, for sport or for collecting. They aren’t the problem, as long as they keep their weapons secure from children and thieves. But so many shooting deaths prove absolutely that something is terribly wrong in our country. Surely, there are effective, acceptable remedies that can save innocent lives without compromising anyone’s legitimate rights. Let’s find them.”

Commentary

GunsIt shows you how far off course North Carolina government has strayed in recent years that so many good people are in a celebratory mood this morning after the Senate’s passage last night of legislation to further loosen state gun regulations. The source of the happiness (or at least, the relief), of course, is the fact that the bill has been transformed from the terrifying monster it was a few weeks ago into a junkyard dog. Provisions that would have scrapped the state’s handgun permitting system and limited doctors’ ability to ask patients about guns in the home, for instance, were removed.

That said, the bill remains dangerous and unnecessary. As the good people at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence explained last night:

“The bill loosens gun restrictions by allowing guns in locked cars at the state fairgrounds during the State Fair. It will also allow someone to take a gun out of a locked car on educational property to defend themselves or others against a threatening situation, a role advocates say is better left to law enforcement. Limiting local jurisdiction, the bill weakens municipalities’ ability to determine when and where guns are allowed. It also downgrades carrying a concealed weapon on private property to an infraction.”

In other words, when Gov. McCrory signs the bill into law — as he presumably will — North Carolina will have more killing machines in more places than before.

Whoopee!

So, congratulations to the advocates who helped beat back the original version of the legislation. It was one of the first successes gun safety advocates have had in North Carolina in a long time and a lot of people deserve great credit for their hard and courageous work and important success. Let’s hope, however, that this is just the first baby step for a growing movement that will not just staunch the state’s bleeding, but ultimate;y help heal the wounds brought on by several years of senseless gun deregulation.

Commentary

(This post has been updated — see below).

There’s good news and bad news from the North Carolina Senate today.

The good news is that this is the last day for Senate committees to meet during the 2015 session. Senators will undoubtedly bend this rule in the days to come, but as a general matter, the official end of committees is a good sign that a) the flood of dreadful new laws should slow down at least a little and b) lawmakers are beginning to kinda sorta think about ending this nightmare of a session.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that senators will almost certainly be ramming a bevy of bills through committee today with scarcely any review or public input.

In this troubling vein, check out the agenda for today’s Judiciary II Committee where members are scheduled to review ten — count ’em ten — bills in one meeting that will convene just two hours before the Senate floor session. And to make matters worse, included in this list are two especially problematic proposals that are all about death:

And, of course, to make matters even more worrisome, the Senate has a penchant for adding everything but the kitchen sink to such bills in last minute “committee substitutes.” Thus, for instance, while the Schaffer’s gun bill was significantly watered down prior to passage in the House, it seems entirely plaussible that senators will pull a new version of the bill out of their hats this morning.

(UPDATE: After an absurdly fast-paced and at times, borderline chaotic meeting in which many members of the public were not admitted due to the tiny committee room that was used, both bills were passed by voice votes and now move to the Senate floor.)