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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Firearms related bills prefiled at the New Mexico Legislature

The prefiling race is on and as of today, there are 268 bills prefiled on both the House and Senate side. (note added on 12/27, now up to 288 bills but no additional gun bills unless I missed them). Several of these directly or indirectly impact firearms owners (HBs 99,105,83,87,40,35, 8, 130, SB 8).

The whole list of prefiled bills is here. I'll list the gun bills I have found and provide direct links and brief snippets. Please go to the Legislature site for details. I don't want to make endorsements or critiques here unless the full LA-SC board concurs. These are my thoughts and do not reflect either a board or club position. This is for information purposes only to the club and others.

SB8/HB 8, background checks. (Wirth, Martinez on Senate side, Sarinana on House side) This bill would mandate Federal background checks for virtually all firearms transfers except a few temporary ones. It is far broader than the final HB 50 introduced in 2016 by Stephanie Garcia-Richards. There are currently no exceptions for close friends or family members. The final HB 50 was narrow and only covered transfers over the internet, want ads, or other exchanges between people who didn't know each other.

HB 35 (Garcia) would require a 24 hour reporting by FFL's if a gun is stolen and requires an FFL to pay an annual fee to cover administrative costs of this bill.

HB 40 (Garcia) would require a Federal background check for all guns sold at a gun show, i.e., no private party sales. This would impact gun shows but I don't know how many private sales go on statewide. I have seen a few advertised this way.

HB 83 (Ely) would create Extreme Risk Protective Orders, i.e., a person deemed a risk to one's self or others by a family member or law enforcement could, after a quick hearing, be required to surrender all firearms to law enforcement. These can be contested by the gun owner.  I think a review of this language by a lawyer is better than me guessing.

HB 87 (Armstrong) significantly expands the list of domestic violence offenses that can result in a mandatory surrender of firearms. Again, I'll punt this to a lawyer.

 HB 101 (Rehm) would put into law that a Concealed Carry renewal would not require new fingeprints. Sorry for the wrong bill number yesterday.

HB 105 (Rehm) provides for enhanced penalties for using a firearm in the commission of a crime.

HB 130 (Trujillo) is basically a safe storage law and provides penalties if firearms are accessible to minors without parental permission or oversight. The violations become a felony if negligent storage results in death or injury. Civil penalties are also called out.

(HB 129) (Trujillo) School Security Personnel and Deadly Weapons would define who could carry at schools as a security resource and the training requirements. Not a bill that affects most gun owners.

SB 201 (Padilla) is yet another universal background check bill that also elucidates reporting to the NICS system and defines how someone can get off of the NICS prohibited list. Ridiculously, it defines a transfer so universally ("C. "transfer" means the sale, lease, delivery or other passing of possession or control of a firearm.") that if I let someone shoot my rifle at the range, I have to get a background check to do it.

Please go to the bill locations and read for yourself. I'll add stuff but want mainly to call these out so readers can contact their legislators with input. I'll add more bills if and when they appear.

Khal Spencer
LA-SC Board Member


Thursday, December 6, 2018

1946 NRA Gun Safety Video

As David Yamane says in his Tweet, "...How much better is this than the culture war fighting NRATV?...". Indeed, a few more of these videos, updated, would do more to promote NRA credibility than taking a match to the NY Times or a sledge to a TV set. So courtesy of the NRA, albeit the 1946 NRA, here is a genuinely useful and non-partisan video: