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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Firearms related bills prefiled at the New Mexico Legislature

 Updated, again

 All of the House bills cleared Public Affairs without changes. I sent emails and requests for a legal opinion to the NM-ACLU on the "red flag" bill (83) and to Rep. Garcia and the AG's office on HB40. So far no one has answered the phone, which doesn't surprise me.

I did not see any of these bills scheduled for their next hearings, which will be in the House and Senate Judiciary committees. Those interested should check the committee schedules in case you can get down there. The bill web pages tell you who got the bill next and the committee schedules are linked from here.

The whole list of 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 for anyone else 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. I could support that idea. Its a Federal offense, not to mention a little scary bit of a thought, to inadvertently sell a gun to a prohibited person.

This bill defines sale as  "sale" means the sale, delivery or passing of ownership, possession or control of a firearm for a fee or other consideration, but does not include temporary possession or control of a firearm provided to a customer by the proprietor of a licensed business in the conduct of that business."

So its not clear to me whether a gun club sponsoring a shooting instruction class and letting students use club or range safety officer firearms would be considered a transfer or if a club would be considered a licensed business.

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 tables advertised this way, i.e., "private party sale".

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.

Note added on 2/4. Over the weekend, I got a review of this bill from the NM ACLU, of which I am a member. To make a long story short, here is what Exec. Director Peter Simonson had to say after reviewing the bill with his legal staff:

The upshot is that we have looked at this bill and concluded that it has substantive differences to the ERPO bill that our Rhode Island affiliate opposed and that the due process concerns are alleviated enough that we aren't going to take a position on the bill. Our reading is that the bill has due process protections fairly similar to a person served with a domestic order of protection.

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. The bill is written rather broadly and its not clear to me whether the "negligent storage" provision could be used against a person keeping a loaded firearm in a home for self defense, even if nothing goes wrong.

(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.

SB 224 (Sharer) would waive concealed carry fees for reserve/retired police officers.

 To me, the background check bills are absurdly overbroad and should be opposed or amended. These regulate virtually all transfers of firearms, not just sales. You could not legally "transfer" a firearm to a friend, or even swap rifles with a hunting buddy under some of these provisions. If you were on travel and wanted to store weapons in a buddy's safe to prevent theft, you would have to legally transfer them at an FFL. If you or a family member were upset, potentially self-destructive, and wanted to secure your weapons with a trusted friend until you got over a crisis, you would have to legally transfer them at an FFL. Same deal to get your own guns back. This is absurd.

As far as the ERPO law, we need legal advice from a good gun law/civil liberties law attorney. The Rhode Island ACLU opposed a Rhode Island ERPO aka "red flag" bill on due process grounds and the ACLU is not exactly a gun rights organization. That info is here:

ACLU of Rhode Island Raises Red Flags Over “Red Flag” Gun Legislation


Please go to the bill locations and read for yourself. Call your legislators.  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. Those who read this blog know I am not opposed to all forms of gun laws but I am opposed to laws written badly and our legislature seems at times good at doing that.

More ranting and raving here:

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

 Stay Tuned


Khal Spencer
LA-SC Board Member, speaking for myself here. Even the Mutts and I often disagree.


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:

Monday, October 29, 2018

Do we need a Human Reliability Program for (Certain Kinds of) Gun Ownership?

Barely have we gotten out of the news cycle of the Florida mail-bomber than an extremist, anti-Semite in Pittsburgh shot up a synagogue, killing eleven and injuring four police officers in a firefight before being captured. Robert Bowers apparently left a trail of evidence of his extreme views on social media (and hints of acting out) but unfortunately, the First Amendment protects most of this garbage, as well as social media's right to act as a toxic mind pollutant to the American psyche.

But all this has a price when one also has a stockpile of guns or bombs, as per Bowers and Cesar Sayoc. Perhaps we in the firearms community need to admit, belatedly, that the 2A has two clauses and the first one mandates that the people who universally populate the "well regulated militia" with arms in their hands need to be vetted to make sure they are pointing guns at legitimate adversaries rather than figments of their warped imaginations. How far should we go in the name of preventing these demented clowns from shooting up the nation? That, as usual, is the question.

In accordance with 18 PA C.S. §6109, a sheriff may deny an individual the right to a License to Carry Firearms if there is reason to believe that the character and reputation of the individual are such that they would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety. PA State Police web page.

Bowers apparently left a trail of hate on the Internet. Should we be monitoring the Internet and serving people who sound like they are about to go violently off the rails with Extreme Risk Protective Orders? Should owning certain classes of small arms be contingent on something like a Human Reliability Program? I think its clear that as long as anyone can procure a firearm easily, there is a clear statistical probability that some will go off the rails at other people's expense and the more lethal the firearm, the more the expense. Especially nowdays with politicians, Russian troll farms, and social media activists pouring on political gasoline and handing out matches. What can go wrong?

One could imagine something like a violence triangle as we do a fire triangle. One needs motive, means, and a decision to act, i.e., a defective mental circuit breaker, to go batshit crazy and shoot up a mosque, synagogue, church, school, or whatever your personal choice of imaginary enemy happens to be on a given day. Means plus motive without the mental circuit breaker almost guarantees some "fires" will start. One can remove the means, albeit with some difficulty in a nation with a Second Amendment. One can try to eliminate motive, but in an age of toxic social media, gutter politics, and tribalism, its tough to do that. Mental circuit breakers seem to be in short supply. I was waiting in line for an Rx on Saturday and some other customer simply went off on the poor lady behind the counter, berating her loudly enough for the whole store to notice. Several of us were contemplating the possibility of having to tackle the guy if it got much worse but he stormed off.

So how about this? As Mike Weisser has said, some hunting rifles and shotguns (and probably certain kinds of handguns) are rarely implicated in crimes or mass shootings. How about we go lightly on these lower public risk firearms but examine those guns which seem to beckon for misuse and raise the standards for ownership of some firearms?

To be qualified for the job that I once held for fifteen years in a Federal lab, I had to undergo annual background screening, including a sit down with a company shrink, to ensure that the public and fellow workers could trust that I would not go off the rails at everyone else's expense. Maybe its about time we designed a scaled down version of that sort of process for those who want to own high cap Glocks, ARs, and similar weaponry that can turn a synagogue into a charnel house in a few short minutes. I wouldn't make it prohibitive or expensive, just clear and fair to the gun nuts and the public at large. With fewer mass shootings, such a system should pay for itself, actually, even if Matt DeLisi's numbers are a little hard to believe.

Any takers?

Suggested reading: David Brooks, The New Cold War.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Santa Fe County vs State Constitution Preemption Clause

Stay tuned.
Communications Coordinator Kristine Mihelcic
Santa Fe County, NM

Dear Ms. Mihelcic

Good morning.

Over the weekend I sent the following email to the Sheriff and the County attorney. This morning I spoke to Ms. Gurule in the attorney's office. She said my message had been forwarded to a county attorney but if I wanted a response, I would have to contact the county manager. So I am contacting you.

My question remains. I am concerned that the firearms part of ordinance 2001-1 as posted on the Rail Trail is, in my understanding, in conflict with the state's preemption clause. Is the county enforcing this provision? Has anyone considered this question?

I would appreciate some guidance on this matter.

thank you,

Khal Spencer
Santa Fe

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Santa Fe County Ordinance 2001-1 and the New Mexico State Constitution Preemption clause
Date: 2018-08-12 14:37

Dear Sheriff Garcia or County Attorney's Office (Robin Gurule):

I'm not sure of whom to ask this, but the sign on the trailhead said to call the Sheriff with questions or concerns. So here goes, and I'll copy the county attorney as well.

Today I was riding my bicycle out to the Santa Fe Rail Trail for a ride to Lamy and got to the trailhead south of Rabbit road where the Rail Trail becomes unpaved. I saw a large sign at the trailhead fence that said no firearms allowed. It referenced County Ordinance 2015-6.

On returning home, I looked up 2015-6 which has nothing about firearms but refers back to Ordinance 2001-1, which says in part:

"...It shall be unlawful to carry or discharge into any County park, trail, or open space area firearms or projectile weapons or explosives of any kind..."

But the New Mexico State Constitution says in Article II, Sec 6 "No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms."

I understand that the county can ban the discharge of a weapon due to safety considerations but was surprised about being able to ban mere possession on a trail because that seems to conflict with the state constitution's preemption clause. So the bottom line, I suppose, is to ask you whether that ordinance is being enforced, whether there is a loophole in preemption clause of the state Constitution allowing firearms prohibition in parks or on trails, or if no one has asked the question yet? Since I am not a lawyer, I have no idea of the answers to any of those questions.