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While much of this legislative session has been about cutting — unemployment benefits, entitlement to federal Medicaid benefits, access to the polls, women’s health rights — here’s one area where lawmakers are feeling expansive:  guns.

Gun purchases and requests for concealed carry permits are surging across the country, and here in North Carolina, an omnibus gun bill,  H937,  is lying in wait for final approval while tax and budget negotiations continue (unless it magically appears as an amendment elsewhere).  Among other things, the bill eliminates the permit requirement when buying a handgun from  private dealers — at gun shows, for example;  increases the areas in which concealed carry holders can bring a gun to include parks and other recreational venues and allows them to keep the guns locked in their cars on public school property; and makes records of who has guns permits no longer open to the public.

Just in time to remind us that a gun bill is still lurking out there, former congresswoman Gabby Giffords will be in Raleigh with her husband ex-astronaut Mark Kelly on Sunday to promote a common sense approach to gun safety that they and their organization, American for Responsible Solutions, advocate — one that a majority of Americans, including residents here, likewise support. Numbers from Public Policy Polling in mid-June show that 66 percent of state residents oppose a bill that would allow guns on all educational properties and that would eliminate the requirement for permits for handguns.

Details for their appearance, part of their seven-state “Rights and Responsibilities Tour,” have not yet been released.

 

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Two good reads are out today about groups coalescing around and pushing back against issues previously thought to rest securely in the conservative camp.

In “This is How the NRA Ends,” Alec MacGillis discusses how money and some very angry women are now poised to take down the not-so-formidable gun lobby:

At long last and against all expectations, a viable movement for gun regulation is emerging. It is a development that not only bodes ill for the gun lobby and its Republican patrons, but will also complicate matters for elements of the Democratic Party who have been content to accede to the status quo. The narrow defeat of the background-check bill, it turns out, was not the end of hopes for gun reform, but the beginning.

And in “What Democracy Lost in 2012,” Bob Moser argues that voters may be finally fed up with super-PAC spending in places like North Carolina:

Looking for a fresh way to counter the influence of big money, Jonathan Soros and two fellow finance reformers dreamt up their group, Friends of Democracy, as a kind of anti-super PAC super PAC. The idea was to show that money–soaked incumbents who oppose campaign–finance reform can be beaten by challengers who support reform. The conventional wisdom has always been that even if Americans loathe the influence of money on our politics, they won’t vote out their own member of Congress because of it. Hoping to prove that assumption wrong, Friends of Democracy raised $2.7 million to challenge eight House Republican incumbents and support progressives who championed election reform.

The results were stunning. In a year when Republicans fared well in House races, seven of the eight incumbents Friends of Democracy went after were toppled.

In a wretched year for democracy, Friends of Democracy’s success was one hopeful sign that maybe—maybe—Americans were ready to act on their frustrations with big-money politics and partisan electioneering.

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GunsThe most apt descriptors are “painstaking” and “incremental” but Congress appears to be making some progress on the move to enact new background check legislation and some other modest improvements to federal gun laws.

Meanwhile, if you’ve been too frustrated or disgusted to keep up with the details — especially around the background check debate, Igor Volsky at Think Progress has everything you need to know – click here for “Your essential guide to the background check debate.”

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Independent mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg announced a group that he co-chairs will spend $12 million in a gun control ad campaign that will begin next week.   Mayors Against Illegal Guns is targeting vulnerable US Senators in advance of a likely floor vote in April.  The group is focusing on states where it believes it can have the most impact on the upcoming vote.   US Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), is among a group of 15 targeted  by the campaign.

The Mayors group has a three point legislative platform:

  1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America
  2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines
  3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime, with real penalties for “straw purchasers”

In a radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon in February, Senator Hagan said she was “looking at all of the proposals” on gun control.  She was non-committal on  policy options that Fitzsimon asked her about and she stressed the need to protect 2nd Amendment rights and use common sense.  Hagan ended by saying the focus had to be on policy that could “realistically become law.”

The ad campaign will rightfully pressure Senator Hagan to clarify her stated position on her website:

“Obtaining a lifetime hunting license is a Hagan family tradition, and her husband is qualified to teach hunter safety. Not only is responsible gun ownership a part of the fabric of North Carolina, but it is also a fundamental constitutional right. Senator Hagan is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, and will fight to ensure law-abiding citizens are not restricted in their right to bear arms.”

Her constituents deserve to know her position on criminal background checks and assault weapons and magazines, now, not when the vote comes to the US Senate floor.