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January 14, 2013 09:06 PM UTC

Can We Talk About Gun Violence?

  • 14 Comments
  • by: Phoenix Rising

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tomorrow – Tuesday – the President’s gun violence task force led by VP Biden is scheduled to unveil the results and recommendations of its work. At this point, no-one really knows what might be in the proposal, but we have a few vague clues.

In advance of the announcement though, we might have a glimpse of some of the possibilities. The Center For American Progress today released its own report on gun violence prevention (PDF) with a list of 16 recommendations – a mix of things that require the attention of Congress, plus a few things that the President might be able to do via Executive Order.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add to the mix? What could we take from this report to use in Colorado without waiting for the Federal government to act?

The report groups recommended actions into three categories, and then further divides each category into Congressional action and Executive action. I’ve purposely made these points brief and will leave discussion to the comments.

Category 1: Improve Background Checks

  • Universal background checks (Congress)
  • Improve background check data (Congress)
  • Broaden the cefinition of “Stalker” (Congress)
  • Restrict firearms purchase by those on the Terrorist Watch List (Congress)
  • Restrict DOJ grants to states that do not contribute data to the NICS system (Executive)
  • Ensure Federal agencies are contributing all appropriate data to NICS (Executive)
  • Order the ATF to perform background checks of gun store employees when performing audits (Executive)

Category 2: Weapon Restrictions

  • Reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban, or some modern variant thereof (Congress)
  • Ban high-capacity magazines (Congress)
  • Broaden reporting of multiple-gun sales to include assault style weapons (Executive)

Category 3: Use The Data

  • Eliminate various riders restricting use of gun data from future appropriations bills (Congress)
  • Increase penalties for gun trafficking and background check violations (Congress)
  • Absorb ATF duties into the FBI (Executive)

Which ideas sound good to you?

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Comments

14 thoughts on “Can We Talk About Gun Violence?

  1. Here’s a summary of just the Executive level actions. There’s been a lot of hyperbole about the President taking away guns by Executive Order (and a lot of lies about how many EOs this President has made to back up the hype…).

    Executive actions (not requiring an act of Congress):

    • Restrict DOJ grants to states that do not contribute data to the NICS system
    • Ensure Federal agencies are contributing all appropriate data to NICS
    • Order the ATF to perform background checks of gun store employees when performing audits.
    • Broaden reporting of multiple-gun sales to include assault style weapons
    • Absorb ATF duties into the FBI

    I see nothing controversial here on the whole. The CFAP notes that the Tucson shooter had been denied entry into the military for drug abuse, and cites that as an example for entry into NICS. If drug abuse is currently entered into NICS, then IMHO it’s another (bipartisan) reason we need to shift drug abuse from a crime to a treatment scenario.

  2. … and in doing your own digging from there, including the report’s references.

    For example, the report notes that “stalker” in Federal terms is limited to intimate parties (i.e. spouses, parents, or guardians who are living with the offender) when talking about gun purchase background checks, and that eight states provided for broader definitions – cohabiting partner, dating partner, or non-resident family members . However, the report that was linked to for that citation included a boatload of information beyond that. Each of the following points has been enacted in one or more states:

    • Colorado includes (at the discretion of the DA) domestic violence defendants who have been charged with a crime but not yet convicted.
    • It’s unclear from my reading if the gun ban extends beyond Federal definitions – convicted or otherwise.
    • Ammunition isn’t included.
    • Colorado doesn’t authorize law enforcement to impound the weapons of stalkers, either convicted or under restraining order. (The ATF is authorized to do so, but does not have the personnel.)
    • Colorado does not authorize law enforcement to impound weapons when called to a domestic violence incident.
    • Colorado requires that the defendant be notified prior to restriction of his/her gun rights (no ex parte orders).

    These items above are all things we might consider here in Colorado. They do not address the mass killings that prompted this round of gun violence review, but they’re interesting ideas nonetheless.

  3. One item on this list is extremely broad in its ramifications, but it’s not clear from the text… Our annual appropriations bills contain a number of riders prohibiting the government from doing a number of things when it comes to gun violence prevention. We can’t:

    • Check gun trace data in any number of ways, including use by state and local authorities attempting to revoke the state/local license of a gun dealer who breaks the law.
    • Require gun dealers to perform regular inventories and report missing guns. Dealers are required to report missing guns, but not if they don’t notice…
    • Watch for straw purchasers over a period of more than a single day – records of purchases must be destroyed within 24 hours.
    • Put existing name-based data into a database – it must remain on paper only. ATF can still search the paper database, at great personnel expense…
    • Conduct Federally funded gun related health studies (including simple compilation of available statistics).

    Of these, only the name-based database makes any kind of sense to me. (Okay – the health study one makes sense too, if I were a gundamentalist or gun manufacturer…)

    1. Restricting name based searches only makes sense if you’re in the camp that the government is coming for your guns – if not now, then some day.

      But as I understand it, the data is pretty limited in scope – the actual fact that you purchased a gun isn’t available to the ATF. (I believe the dealer who sells the gun is required to keep a record of the purchase, but that record is not available to the government…)

      So I’m not sure just why the ATF can’t set up that database. Perhaps someone can enlighten me or refresh my memory. (I’m sure I heard the details back when Rep. Tiahrt originally proposed the amendment.)

  4. Beyond the report’s conclusions, I think there are a couple of things we could do here in Colorado.

    First – Require licensing for all gun ownership. To become licensed you must pass tests on gun handling, safety, and storage – and an initial background check. Licenses may not be denied if the tests are passed, nor should they be hard to acquire – i.e. no “tests given to the first 50 people to show up on the top of Crestone Needle at 2am on the second blue moon of the year” limitations; testing facilities should be accessible and plentiful enough to meet demand, with a phase-in period. Licenses apply to all guns – there are too many stories of people chasing their wives around the yard with a shotgun or hunting rifle… License fees may be charged to cover the cost of license administration; fees may be waived for those who can prove hardship. During a purchase background check, the CBI will first validate the purchaser against the license database before doing any further checks; this could save some time. Background check information updates (e.g. new convictions) will be attached to the license as they become available, saving more time.

    Second – Improve the mental health system in the state. The governor recognizes at least some of the shortcomings of the system; this should be an easy sell – even Wayne LaPierre supports better mental health awareness.

    Third – follow the examples of other states who recognize that not all “domestic violence” is caused by spouses, parents, and guardians, and that stronger actions to prevent a fatal resolution to domestic violence are possible (e.g. impounding weapons…).

  5. Agree with your suggestions and agree that we are overdue for action on gun control, gun violence and gun worship in this country.

    My personal belief is, gunamentalists (wonderful word by the way) will. To allow the dialogue to  occur. Media outlets will cater to the hue and cry of removing guns from our society and policy will be lost in the noise. I also heard a Pew study saying Americans are 50/50 on gun control, much closer than in years past (Clinton years to be exact) when the watered down assault rifle ban passed.

    The ideas listed are measured and make sense. I’m glad th President will act through executive order without relying on Congress for action on some policy issues. I have no faith that Congress will be able to accomplish anything of substance.

    Colorado will pass some good measures and there will be increased funding for mental health this year in the budget. We still have so, so far to go until we achieve any sense of parity on that front.  The conversation begins again and the awareness is rising, thankfully.

    Thanks for a good diary.  

    1. to the University of Colorado Health Science Center….where Holmes was a student and then a patient of a  psychiatrist who was afraid and had the legal authority to place him on a 72 hour hold and choose not to do so.

      No doubt that psychiatrist will be the beneficiary of increased state funding for mental health.

      Of course, already, the taxpayers are funding the legal fees of the UCHSC to protect all their records and personnel.

      1. Ideally it would also got towards establishing mental health courts along the lines of drug courts some judicial districts have now. Also, creating a law enforcement database for first responders that shows if offenders were incarcerated before with mental health issues.

        We could also fund crisis intervention staging areas, a triage center, that assesses, medicated, and refers clients to services for mentally ill folks prior to them entering jails.

        What we have now isn’t a broken system, professionals throughout Colorado know what to do. It isn’t one thing, it’s many things, many programs that have lost funding over the last ten to fifteen years.

        Establishing IT networks that law enforcement, state departments, and providers could use to ID mentally ill frequent fliers would be very helpful. This would free existing resources to be used for other services, such as wraparound services that include housing, medications, case workers and employment support. These wraparound programs are the most expensive and labor intensive, but the data shows they work.

        What we lose in the gun debate is a holistic approach towards solving a problem. We lose it with the gun fanatics screaming and we lose it with neighbors screaming about halfway homes or group homes in their neighborhood.

        We lose because our leaders are unable to raise funding necessary to address the issues. Whether the Republicans are in the majority or minority, there will be little governance until TABOR and Gallagher are amended/overturned.  

        1. But what you are talking about, as I read it, is how to treat the criminally insane. What the issue is right now is how to prevent the tiny percentage of the insane who have criminal tendencies from acting on them.

          To be mentally distributed is NOT a crime. Preventive detention is unconstitutionally; except in the case where a person has been judged to be a threat to himself or others. It is the latter case where the CU doctor had the legal authority to act and did not.

          My point described below is that mental health professionals do not have all the answers. I described four different categories of criminal activities involving guns in my diary “Gun control is not necessarily the answer”

          Massacre in public places by a shooter who gives every indication of being insane and whose victims are not personally known to the shooter

          The problem here is identifying insanity before the violence occurs.  The dilemma is that confidentiality is a critical component of any treatment and mental health professionals are reluctant to “out” a patient unless there is a clear indication of danger to himself or others, according to strict legal definition.  

          People with mental health problems may not seek help because of the fear of public disclosure with its implication for employment, etc. There are constitutional issues around the right to privacy and due process.

          There is a subcategory of concern and that is the use of psychotropic drugs, that may have the opposite effect. The Colorado shooters – John Hickley, Eric Harris, the man who killed students at a Mission school in Arvada and then went to Colorado Spring church and killed two more, and Holmes – all were involved with the mental health system. I think that all may have been on medication.

          The facial expressions on the pix of the Arizona shooter, the Aurora Theater shooter and the Newtown killer are all frighteningly similar. That needs to be investigated.

          It is not clear how any of existing or proposed gun laws would have prevented these crimes. Nor is it clear that expanding mental health funding would have helped prevent any of these crimes or future crimes. The dilemma is that these are the crimes that is being used to justify more gun laws and more mental health.

  6. I’d re-edit or remove those poll percentages.  Apparently on this platform the polling percentages are a representation of the total votes cast in all categories.

    One can’t look at those numbers and tell if 100% of the voters favored, for example, universal checks — or whether only 10% of voters favor such . . .  

  7. The bill would allow employees to kill anyone when the employee “reasonably believes that the other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant of the dwelling or place of business.”

    Basically, it’ll allow bouncers to shoot and kill a rowdy drunk.

    What a ridiculous concept. But there you go…

    1. It will all be better with more guns.

      And we’re almost to the point where it will be completely safe. It is estimated that there are more than 300,000,000 guns owned by private citizens in this country, and almost 3,000,000 background checks were performed this year. There are about 311,000,000 people in the country, so there should be a gun for every person before Obama leaves office.

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