Friday, April 19, 2019

Adam Winkler's Lecture on the History of Gun Laws and the Impact of the Heller Decision

As Arte Johnson would say, "veerry interesting". That is, if you follow this stuff.



Monday, April 15, 2019

In the War of Words Between New Mexico's 2A Sanctuary Counties and the Attorney-General, No One Wins

As sent to the Albuquerque Journal.


Laws work best when we believe in their fairness. It is advisable to build consensus when crafting legislation. In the case of New Mexico's new universal background check (UBC) law, the opposite of consensus building occurred.  In an act that has been repeated elsewhere in the U.S., urban and rural constituencies have rejected each other's thinking with polarizing results.

This latest round of discord has been covered in the media, to wit, the Governor’s and Attorney General's admonishment to Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties to enforce the law. But I doubt more political posturing will bring people together. What, may I ask, could have? Here are several suggestions our legislators ignored.

Not all guns or gun transactions represent a credible threat. A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows most guns recovered from criminals are handguns.  But the new law treats the exchange of a 22 rimfire rifle between concealed carry permit holders with the same gravity as selling a concealable Glock pistol to a perfect stranger in Albuquerque's "War Zone". What legislators could have done was exempt concealed carry holders or more broadly, created Firearms Owners ID Cards to simplify background checks for both arms and ammunition.

Its not clear that we even know how prohibited persons in New Mexico get their guns. National and state studies give us hints. In that same BJS report, and similar studies carried out by Prof. Phillip Cook and colleagues in Illinois, we see that the lion's share of criminals obtain their guns from a combination of acquaintances, the underground market, or less likely, theft. The BJS report breaks it down into about a quarter from family or friends and almost half from the underground criminal market. Less than 1% get them from "gun shows" and a few from dealers.  The new law would work on that part of the market where law abiding citizens are exchanging guns only if we obtain buy in from the gun owning public. Instead, our legislative gun control advocates treated gun owners with disdain.

The bill was oversold.  Gun deaths often rise and fall independently of gun laws, most dramatically shown with century-long data in New York City, or when comparing recent trends in gun violence in New York City and Chicago, where enforcement and social networking differences far more than laws contribute to different trends in violence rates. Gun violence student Dr. Michael Weisser says that in Colorado, gun homicides rose after its 2013 UBC law went into effect. Judicial and sociological issues strongly influence violence rates. A little more honesty on the effects of this bill could have led to an informed discussion and perhaps a more comprehensive, science-based solution.

Finally, one would hope your legislators care about your opinion. In 2017, I worked closely with my representative, Stephanie Garcia-Richards, trying to craft a background check bill with gun owner buy-in. I offered to do the same with my Santa Fe representatives this time and was met with studied silence or for the most part, cursory replies. I heard from a leader of the NM Shooting Sports Assn. that other gun owners met studied silence. Its not hard to figure out why. Although the NRA is the left's boogeyman, Everytown for Gun Safety lavished almost $400,000 in campaign cash on our Legislature, dwarfing the NRA’s efforts, to ensure their voice drowned out everyone else's.

A carefully written background check bill that hits the target of our violence problems while obtaining maximum buy-in from New Mexico's gun owning public would be a great idea and could only help, but not help as much as crafting comprehensive violence reduction solutions (including some gun control laws) with broad based buy-in. What the bill's supporters did instead was broaden the abyss between gun rights and gun control. The present political standoff was predictable and perhaps preventable.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday






I

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn

Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?


Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power

Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again


Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place

I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice



And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain

Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again

May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air

The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


II

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull.
And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live?
And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness
, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,

We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.

It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject.
The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.

There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose
. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen.
And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying


Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful

The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.


Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day
, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert.
This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot
. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.


III

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister

Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitful face of hope and of despair.


At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.


At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene

The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute
.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;

Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.


Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.


IV

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green

Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and in knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand

In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.

The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme
. Redeem
The time.
Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless
, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down

Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken


Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

V

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;

And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice


Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose


O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert

Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

VI

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn


Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things

From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings


And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover

And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates

And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.


Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will

And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,

Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Second Amendment Sanctuaries?

Second Amendment sanctuaries have been compared to immigration law sanctuaries, but these are not really comparible except for their political overtones. These movements reflect cultural reactions and searingly different political points of view to law and a resulting reluctance to enforce laws with which constituencies disagree. From there, the two "sanctuary movements" diverge on legal grounds.

A sheriff, like any law enforcement officer, has a certain amount of latitude in how to enforce law but the bottom line is, constitutionally justified law must be enforced. None of the bills being pushed by the legislature have been found unconstitutional in any judicial venue. Badly written, maybe. Constitutionally defective, not.

There is latitude in how law is enforced. One of my buddies from college days, Officer Fred Woodard of the Rochester Police Dept., set up his radar trap for 12 mph over the limit. He enforced the speed laws, but gave people a lot of latitude. As "Woody", a WW II veteran of the 101st Airborne Div who fought at Bastogne told me, "If I get 'em for 12 over, they don't have an excuse". I watched Woody write 'em up for more than 12 over. Likewise, sheriffs can decide how to enforce the law and how tightly to read it.

If a judge hands a sheriff a domestic violence restraining order that requires someone turn in the arsenal and if that order is not served, there may be severe consequences. If a family is lined up and shot by a disgruntled family member, the sheriff has some serious answers to give and he and his constituents might be facing massive fines, not to mention the sheriff facing legal sanction on his own. If on the other hand, two law abiding ranchers exchange a squirrel gun on the sly, it might be overlooked.

Finally, as a constitutional issue, 2A sanctuaries cannot be compared to states or counties declaring sanctuary status from Federal immigration law. There is US Supreme Court precedent in the form of Printz vs. United States that affirms local and state law enforcement cannot be coerced into, or required to expend resources, enforcing Federal law. Look it up. There is no analogous ruling I know of saying sheriffs can ignore state law. So these are apples v oranges comparisons on constitutional law, but good comparisons on resentful politics.

No one likes to have law rammed down their throat and in this legislative session, the contrast in urban vs rural cultures and politics could not be more polarized. A lot of good could have been done, but we seem to have missed the point in the effort to win and beat the other guy.


Friday, February 8, 2019

Mending Wall

Robert Frost, "Mending Wall"


Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Sunday, January 27, 2019

NRA Take on NM Gun Bills



Here is the latest from the NRA-ILA as forwarded to me by an NRA member. Please consider contacting your representatives.

Note that I often disagree with the NRA but some of the criticisms of these bills mirror my own, i.e., too broad and the inconvenience on gun owners is not balanced by quantitative results based on funded research.

===================================================================

House Bill 8: "Universal" Background Checks - Sponsored by Representative Debra Sarinana, would ban all private firearms sales between law-abiding individuals. Gun owners would be forced to pay undetermined fees and obtain government approval before selling firearms to family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers, or fellow hunters, competitive shooters and gun club members. This proposal will have no impact on crime and is unenforceable without gun registration.
House Bill 40: Background Checks at Gun Shows: Sponsored by Representative Miguel Garcia, would require criminal records checks on private firearms sales at gun shows - a perennial target of the gun control crowd, even though studies show that these events are not a source of crime guns.
House Bill 83: Extreme risk protection order or "red flag" legislation sponsored by Representative Daymon Ely, would authorize the seizure of firearms and ammunition from individuals without due process. Unchallenged statements made by a petitioner before a judge, alleging that someone is a danger to themselves or others in an ex parte proceeding -- prior to any formal court hearing at which the respondent can be represented by counsel and present counter evidence -- would be sufficient for law enforcement to enter that person's home and confiscate their private property.
House Bill 87: Domestic Violence & Firearm - by Representative Deborah Armstrong expands the state's "prohibited person" firearm law by purportedly incorporating federal firearm disqualifications. The bill would prohibit individuals convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanor crimes or who are subject to a domestic violence protective order from purchasing or possessing a firearm, with violations being a criminal offense. However, the bill goes far beyond the categories currently included in federal law, in addition to requiring firearm seizure.  
We would like to thank Representative Gregg Schmedes (R-Tijeras) and Representative Candy Ezzell (R-Roswell) for voting against these bills.
Additionally, The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 8, so called "universal" background checks Sponsored by Senator Richard Martinez (D) and Peter Wirth (D) on a vote of 4-3. Senators Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D), Liz Stefanics (D), Antoinette Lopez (D), and Jeff Steinborn (D) all voted for the bill.
We want to thank Senators Candace Gould (R), Craig Brandt (R), and Stuart Ingle (R) for voting against this bill.
NEXT STEPS: The next stop for the House bills that passed is the House Judiciary Committee. The next stop for Senate Bill 8 is the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Please contact House and Senate Judiciary Committee Members and ask them to oppose these bills.
House Judiciary Members: Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque), Daymon Ely (D-Corrales), Eliseo Alcon (D-Milan), Deborah Armstrong (D-Albuquerque), Micaela Lara Cadena (D-Mesilla), Christine Chandler (D-Loas Alamos), Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque), Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Matthew McQueen (D-Gallisteo), Zachary Cook (R-Ruidoso), Greg Nibert (R-Roswell), Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque) and James Townsend (R-Artesia).
Senate Judiciary Members: Richard Martinez (D), Daniel Ivey-Soto (D), Linda Lopez (D), Mark Moores (R), William Payne (R), Bill O'Neill (D), Gregory Baca (R), Mimi Stewart (D), Joseph Cervantes (D), Ron Griggs (R), Peter Wirth (D).



Sunday, December 30, 2018

Pay Your Tax, Son, and Go and Sin No More...

(if this is not perfect King's English, its because I was reminded to get off my ass and walk the dog. edits will come later. also note I am speaking for myself)

Ammo at The Outdoorsman of Santa Fe
Santa Fe New Mexican photo, Luis Sanchez Saturno credit
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” From “The Crack-Up,” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Sin taxes, and an ammo tax proposal as reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican sounds like such a beast, are attempts to transfer to the user of a harmful product the costs to society of self-destructive behavior. In a perfect world, we use the collected funds for public health purposes, i.e., an alcohol or cigarette tax should go into prevention and disease control so society doesn't shoulder the whole burden when the smoker/drinker gets lung cancer or cirrhosis of the liver.

In the case of an ammo tax, the principal users of bullets are folks who spend days at the range, not days shooting up the neighborhood or putting a gun in their mouth. Trap, skeet, or IDPA shooters go through a boatload of ammo but do not impose the gun violence public health risk on New Mexico. The elephant in the room is that the risk to the public of gun violence is imposed by local hotheads having little or nothing to do with a traditional, legal gun culture or the various shooting sports. A sin tax directed at ammo users is penalizing the innocent for the sins of the guilty.

 As we know from sociology professor Andrew Papachristos' work, all gun owners don't have similar risk factors of "cirrhosis of the bullet"; the disease, so to speak, is concentrated in cohorts of people who hang out with people who shoot each other or who resort to violence as their main problem solving tool. I don't think there is any credible study linking heavy ammo users to "gun violence diseases" or for that matter, suicide. Sure, states with a high population of gun owners have higher gun suicide rates because the chances of using a gun to check out is higher if more homes have guns. Its not that simple of course. Alaska, which has a very high suicide rate and very high gun ownership, is also dark half the year and people are isolated. Besides, paying a tax on That Last 45 Round will not stop a suicide. More cooperation on projects such as the Gun Shop Project do help but I wonder if the mayors really want to go there with an ammo tax.

This is yet another tax on the innocent to punish us for being on the wrong side of the culture wars, not to mention punishing the innocent in order to "do anything" about the guilty. To quote David Ropeik in the NY Times (link two lines above and I suggest reading that whole series of 2013-2014 essays in that Times piece):

"...This fight isn’t about guns as weapons, nor about public safety. It is about guns as symbols, of a much more profound and ancient conflict over how society should work, and who decides. It’s just one more surface manifestation of deeper trends that have divided America into warring camps, each group retreating to the protection of its own circled wagons, looking down the sights of the tribal guns at those outside the circle. Other ideologies are the enemy, a threat. Until that deeper conflict softens, little is likely to change about gun control."

In the New Mexican article, Ms. Viscoli of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence suggests amending the state constitution to remove the state constitution's gun law preemption clause so that cities like Santa Fe could ban assault rifles. I've read of conservatives in New Mexico who wanted to ban late term abortions from places like Albuquerque. I am not fond of anyone trying to carve out political fiefdoms of the left or right to proscribe what should be considered universal rights.  Either  some guns (and some abortions) are legal or they are not. I'd like the US Supreme Court to decide these AR issues on a national scale, since the current patchwork of who can own what doesn't really make sense since motorists can quite easily cross state (or city) lines. After all, what's to keep someone who really wants an AR or a case of untaxed ammo from buying it in Carlsbad (or fill in the blank)) and stashing it at home? Universal police searches?
 
Finally, on a related topic, the current version of the background check bill prefiled at the legislature (see my previous post) is pretty close to universal and would impose FFL fees on what are currently private transactions. I worked a fair amount with Stephanie Garcia-Richard in 2016 on HB 50 to narrow the bill to instances where people are selling guns to strangers rather than to their brother in law or best friend of forty years, especially if two best friends live miles from an FFL in a rural part of the state and pose a negligible risk to anyone. I would still support that final, narrow 2016 bill language but have bad heartburn over this one. A universal background check is a lot like universal BAC interlocks in cars and while potentially marginally useful, both penalize innocent and guilty alike with the costs of compliance, whether it be with widgets or calls to the NICS system. Besides, universal BAC monitors in cars have always been a political third rail.

Universal drunk driver interlocks, Universal Background Checks and ammo taxes are shouldered by all of us whether or not we ever "sin". I guess that is my gripe. Maybe this idea is a good start of a discussion but as I tweeted the Mayor last night, those discussions seem always to be held behind closed doors between gun control people rather than between all interested parties. Some of this year's Legislature's bills are potentially good ideas, such as background checks, if they are restricted to sales between people who cannot vouch for each other, ERPO laws aimed at dangerous individuals, and safe storage incentives. These could be useful, especially if some carrots are added to the sticks. After all, "if it saves one life", background checks or storage requirements save society millions of dollars, i.e., the estimated social costs of homicides. So these requirements should be free (UBC's) or subsidized (gun safes, etc) and easy to obtain, not a Progressive club held over our heads. These should pay for themselves, especially if done cleverly. As Weer'd Beard said in a response to one of my posts, by issuing a state Firearms Owners ID card that would be required to purchase guns and ammo, we could issue it once and cross check it periodically for prohibited conduct. We could easily get around onerous and expensive individual background and ammo checks at point of purchase and flag those who should not be trusted with guns or bullets. So why are we not talking about these?

"...The Supreme Court’s recent decisions protecting the right of people to have guns may in time have a salutary effect on the gun debate. The court held that while people have a right to own guns – and thus government can never disarm the civilian population – there is also plenty of room for gun control under the Second Amendment. In the long run, these decisions may convince gun control advocates to give up their “first-step” ideology and gun rights advocates to realize that their rights are safe. Only then will we have a more nuanced, less emotional debate over what gun laws would make us safe – both from guns and from the criminals who use them to deprive people of their lives and liberty."  Adam Winkler, in Emotions About Guns Can Be Ratcheted Down

Note added in passing.

 The Saturday Albuquerque Journal ran an editorial by its editorial board asking why an Albuquerque judge sent home a man who had emptied an AR at Albuquerque's Finest when the judge could have, if he had wished, held the gunman without bond. I wonder if His Honor could have at least sent the gunman to a hospital for involuntary evaluation. As long as New Mexico judges are taking egregious behavior so lightly, I wonder if anything the Legislature or mayors do will accomplish much of anything. This guy wasn't just accused of shooting at cops. He had to be shot by cops to stop the threat. There ain't much doubt as to what happened. Sure, there might be mitigating circumstances. Figure that out after making sure the community is safe. I suppose this could be a case of improper i-dotting and t-crossing, but as long as our justice system is dropping the ball, laws have limited effects. Law and Order was a TV series. In real life, these fubars have real consequences.