EpilogueWell, I attended, and the event was quite civilized in spite of the worry that if some of us "black hats" attended things would get rowdy. Frankly, the most animated comments didn't come from the gun nuts in the audience and while comments were not always accurate reflections of facts, were always within the bounds of civilized discourse. I was a little uneasy when a lady glowered at me and told me that her right to be safe and secure in her home was violated by the fact that some of us own guns. Such all or nothing scenerios don't leave much room for cooperation.
LA Monitor reporter Tris DeRoma ran into me at the end and asked me what I thought. I told him I could have spent fifteen minutes, had I been one of the presenters, trying to separate gross generalizations, inaccuracies, and assumptions from what we know is defensible observation. As it was, I felt rather uncomfortable offering as many comments as I did as it was not my show.
The topic is quite obviously polarized, even in this safe community, where one is far more likely to be hit by a car than be shot. The comment from the lady in paragraph 1 goes to the well-studied phenomena of how people rank real vs. perceived risks. To some degree, nothing was about to change that polarized state. I suggested to Moms that rather than enduring yet another faceplant in the Legislature (which is what happened to HB 50, the Everytown-sponsored background check bill in its original form), folks try to pare down their demands to those which would not only cover the critical issue (see below) but get at least some acceptance from Those Other Guys (who those "other guys" are depends on which side of the fence you are on) rather than what one side or the other demands.
Taryn Nix, who I believe is Stephanie Garcia-Richard's political advisor, was a breath of fresh air trying to keep the discussion centered, reminding the crowd that what is politically reasonable is more relevant than what the various purists desire. That was good to hear; people forget that laws are about political sausage being made. But actually, the New Mexico Constitution (including this interpretation) is even stronger on gun rights than the US Second Amendment and that is probably worth reflecting on as the discussion moves forward.
Looks like Voices will invite New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence to speak in a few months. Stay tuned. For better or worse, I'll probably be back there, next time as a speaker as I am a NMTPGV member as well as an LA-SC member. Which explains some of my bipolar ideas on this topic.
Moms Demand Action, a gun control group supported by New York City billionaire Michael Bloomberg, will be in town this Monday speaking at the Unitarian Church for the group Los Alamos Voices. There is an article about that here by Tris DeRoma in the Monitor. I was quoted in that article.
I'm actually a member of the grassroots group New Mexicans To Prevent Gun Violence, as well as a member of the Los Alamos Sportsman's Club. Note that I don't claim to speak for either organization, only for myself. Lord knows that on most topics even the family dog growls at me in disapproval, say nothing of the opinions of other people. I come down sort of in no-man's land between the classic gun control and gun rights communities. Of course there is a danger in hanging out in no-man's land as you can get both friendly and unfriendly fire from both sides. But rather than expound here on my views of gun laws and gun rights, anyone that curious can peruse this blog for the many posts on that subject. The Blog Archive is on the right or you can do a search on "guns" in that little search box in the upper left hand corner of the blog page.
Although I welcome Moms to town, its not with flowers and open arms but with the hope that dialog between concerned parties can cure many ills. My principle beefs with Moms/Everytown are that they tend to treat gun owners as if we constantly need more "controls" on us, and that they tend to decide what they want to do at fifty thousand feet and as the joke goes, fly in and act like seagull managers. Last year they showed up for the legislative session after writing checks to key legislators (including our own 43rd District rep), pushed an identical background check bill here as well as in Maine and Nevada, and now are back to plan a future strategy. Their bill died in committee here, was defeated in Maine, and barely passed with 50.1 percent of the vote in Nevada, primarily on the basis of votes from urban Clark County (ie. Las Vegas, where the robbers one has to fear are of the one-armed variety in casinos).
I worked on that bill to try to craft something that would focus on the real problem, i.e., selling a gun to an unknown private party who could be anything from a nice guy in search of a deal to a grandmother murderer planning on taking out the local fire department. The bottom line should not be to micromanage all gun owners, few of whom get on the wrong side of the law, but to prevent a transfer to a bad guy like mass shooter William Spengler Jr, who obtained his guns by virtue of a naive neighbor who made straw purchases for him (hence the sometimes over-hyped background check system did not stop him). The takeaway message is that if you cannot vouch for someone from strong personal knowledge, get a background check. That should be the ethical as well as legal bottom line for every gun owner.
I had hoped to see a bill that would get at least some GOP and gun owner support. The bill's wording only changed in the waning hours of the legislature when the Everytown version was about to be taken off of life support, and too late to get something more reasonable out of committee. Actually, the final form of the bill was near identical to a version I emailed Rep. Garcia-Richards although I don't know who actually crafted the version she introduced as the substitute bill during that last week push. The take home message should be to talk to people outside one's own bubble as well as to local sympathetic grassroots groups. Not only talk to, but listen to.
We have gun violence problems in New Mexico but one cannot treat the whole state like a black box. Anyone with a local news subscription or who researches violence knows the violence problems are localized and the guns are among the destructive tools, not the cause, of troubled communities such as found in parts of Albuquerque. It would take a historian to discover the last murder in Los Alamos.
State laws should be tuned to local needs and local solutions, not what a national gun control group wants to push for its own narrow interests. NMTPGV pushed a domestic violence restraining order bill last year that the legislature actually passed but that Gov. Martinez vetoed. That bill had broad support from family violence prevention specialists and prosecutors. I wish Moms would have pushed hard on that bill rather than pissing off gun owners and the GOP with their own poorly aimed efforts. Similarly, a bill that would provid tax credits for gun safes and for increased security at gun shops, along with carefully considered security requirements for safe gun storage, would perhaps be useful in reducing the burglary of guns and their diversion to crime. Not to mention, to help reduce the risks of kids blowing their own or each other's heads off. That said, as we know from Clovis, a gun safe only works if it is kept locked and access is restricted to responsible adults. It doesn't take many unlocked safes, or adults too generous with the combination to cause a Clovis or Spokane, which is why my fellow GVP gun guy Mike Weisser is sour on promoting gun safes.
Bottom line? I welcome Moms to Los Alamos in the hope that some dialog with the local community will make a positive difference and reduce the wrongful use of firearms. The last thing we need is a continued standoff between gun control and gun rights advocates while the shootings go on.And as Jimi Hendrix sings below, this has been going on for a long time.