Thirteen is the number of the Death card in a tarot deck, and thirteen is the number of gun bills introduced thus far in the 2013 session. It's early yet - perhaps more will hit the hopper soon in the mad rush to curry favor (and campaign donations) from the NRA. Most of these bills will be very costly, both in terms of the litigation required to defend them and the human lives lost as a result of this Wild West approach to gun control.
Here's what we have on offer so far:
The centerpiece is SB 43, AKA the "Firearms Freedom Act", sponsored by Gerald Allen (R-21). It has a little brother now, namely Sanford's (R-7) SB 93, AKA "The Guvvermint Better Stay Outta My Yard Act". Allen is in full combat mode this session - when not taking on the Federal Government, he will be busy repelling the Stealthy Encroachment of Islam via SB44. Passage of his bills will keep trial lawyers statewide employed for the next decade, so in a way it's a job creator. Well done, Senator; the Supreme Court was getting bored.
The Firearms Freedom Act is not an original piece of Alabama legislation. It's a clone from Montana, and they have been fighting the Feds ever since its passage in 2009. Oral arguments will be heard in Oregon next month before a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit in MSSA v. Holder. Alabama would do well to postpone any such legislation until this has been settled.
Next up are a pair of bills in the Senate: SB 24 and SB 129, AKA the "Bring a Gun to WorkActs". Roger Bedford (D-6) and Scott Beason (R-17) are the respective sponsors. These bills limit the ability of employers, businesses, and private property owners in the state to restrict the presence of fireams, especially in cars. Our duly-elected Legislators are men of foresight and vision. They know people are going to get killed if these bills pass, so they are planning ahead:
(e) No business entity, or owner, manager, or legal possessor of real property, or public or private employer shall be held liable in any civil action for damages, injuries, or death resulting from or arising out of another person's actions involving a firearm or ammunition transported or stored in an employee's or invitee's motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, the theft of a firearm from an employee's or invitee's motor vehicle,...SB24
Now I'm not sure why criminals would risk arrest for car burglary in Alabamastan, where homemade machine guns are legal [see SB43], but if they feel a sudden need to drop in at the local Stop & Rob for a little cash, they need only head for the nearest parking lot. I wouldn't work in Human Resources on a bet. Who wants to fire that guy with the loaded gun in his car? Anybody?
The body count will rise even higher if they pass HB 55, AKA the "Shoot a Trooper Act". Sponsored by Todd Greeson (R-24), this bill sees your loaded pistol in the car and raises it by also allowing you to carry it to public demonstrations (hey, what could possibly go wrong?) and pretty much anywhere else you please. Human resources may have sweaty palms, but I can't even imagine how our police are going to feel about making routine traffic stops if it passes.
This bill would authorize a person to carry a pistol in his or her vehicle without a concealed pistol permit. This bill would repeal a prohibition against carrying a concealed pistol on another's property. This bill would also repeal a prohibition against carrying a pistol at any public demonstration. synopsis, HB55
There are two more bills that will directly challenge the Federal Government's right to regulate firearms in Alabama. Shadrack McGill, the Legislature's most useful idiot, wants to arrest ATF Agents!
Much of the 2013 legislation introduced by members of both parties in the Alabama legislature ranges from the silly, to the unnecessary, to the downright delusional. And Republican Mike Jones pulls of a legislative hat trick HB8, as does Senator Gerald Allen with his Firearms Freedom Act (SB43).
Jones started the gun legislation stampede off with a bang when he introduced HB8, an Alabama constitutional amendment to protect the right to "keep and bear arms" (read full text):
Article I, Section 26 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, provides that every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself or herself and the state.
This proposed amendment would provide that every citizen has a fundamental right to bear arms and that any restriction on this right would be subject to strict scrutiny.
This proposed amendment would also provide that a citizen cannot be compelled by international treaty or law from taking actions that prohibit, limit, or otherwise interfere with the fundamental right to bear arms.
It's silly because - contrary to what many GOP elected officials believe - the "right to keep and bear arms" is already in the US Constitution and what's in that august document trumps any silliness added to Alabama's state constitution.
A couple of red flags with this bill:
Strict Scrutiny is a standard of judicial review where the courts weigh a government's ability to "weigh the government's interest against a constitutional right or principle." Some Alabama sheriffs have expressed concern that this section might require them to issue concealed carry permits to virtually anyone who applies. Under current law, sheriffs have more latitude.
So the unnecessary part of the bill is to restrict the discretion local law enforcement. And we thought the GOP was all about local control!
"International treaties." Really, GOP? Is it remotely possible for you guys to introduce any piece of legislation without an delusional dash of anti-UN paranoia? This isn't so much of a red flag as it is just more stupid Republican unicorn hunting.
This bill would exempt from federal regulation under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured and retained within the borders of Alabama.
The important thing to understand about the so-called "Firearms Freedom Act" is that it is not homegrown Alabama legislation: it's a nationwide effort on the part of the "tenther" movement. If that sounds suspiciously close to the "birther" movement, well... its is. Those groups cross-pollinate pretty regularly.
The "tenthers," though, are far more dangerous. Read more about them here, but here's a taste of their worldview:
Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) has been an opponent of the Federal Reserve, Agriculture Department, and Justice Department, and claims the Federal government should only focus on crimes such as counterfeiting, treason, and piracy. Broun wasn’t specific, but he intimated that the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Food and Drug Administration should be eliminated. Broun’s argument is that the main function of the federal government is national defense.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), recently said that Federal child labor laws are unconstitutional and claims that states have the right to regulate commerce and that the Federal government is usurping states’ authority.
Multi-national corporations would just LOVE to be freed from the constraints of child-labor laws, minimum wage regulations, food safety requirements, and anti-pollution laws. In the "tenthers," they've found an eager horde of foot soldiers who seem determined to turn the United States of America into a North American version of Somalia.
Not surprisingly, the Alabama GOP leadership seems to think that's a good thing.
Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning told WHNT News 19 that his office will not enforce new gun control legislation if he feels those laws violate the Second Amendment. Dorning said he has serious doubts about President Obama’s latest proposals, stating that any gun laws which do pass would have to be in line with the U.S. Constitution and Alabama state law in order to be enforceable. [...] “As long as you are a law-abiding citizen, then I don’t see a problem with law-abiding citizens being able to arm themselves however they so choose,” said Dorning, who pledged to ignore any law that would call for the confiscation of assault weapons or any other firearm. “Our people in our communities and homes need not fear that the Sheriff of Madison County or his deputies would come to their homes and make an attempt to disarm them. It will not happen under my watch.”
Holy Marbury vs Madison, Batman! Do not pass Go, do not ask SCOTUS for review, just call up the Madison County, AL Sheriff for Constitutional law advice!
Notice how deftly Dorning tosses in a strawman about "disarming" people at the end of that statement. It plays totally into the paranoid conspiracy theory that the feds - backed by UN black helicopters & copies of the fanciful Agenda 21 - are just waiting for marching orders from the half-Kenyan, half-Muslim, half-Socialist, half-Fascist non-American spawn of Hitler occupying the White House. Don't bother to point out that no person can be "four halves" because these are not people who can be swayed by either logic o.r math
It's really amazing: thesheriff of one of Alabama's most populous counties has the time to do his job, the aptitude to study constitutional law, and the legal expertise to interpret laws. Oh, and he also possesses the total chutzpah to think that he has the authority to choose which laws he'll follow and which laws he won't.
That hasn't worked out so well for us in the past.
Let's visit those not-so-thrilling days of yesteryear, why don't we....
Lynching. Now, murder has always been against the law, but Southern law enforcement officials ignored that fact when it came to lynching. Southern politicians prevented the passage of a federal anti-lynching law and the US Office of Civil Rights (part of the DOJ) obtained its first lynching conviction in 1964 after a lynching in Florida.
Hate Crimes: We have federal hate crimes laws because - once again - local officials have had a tendency to ignore crimes committed against marginalized groups: GLBT, Native Americans, minority religions, etc.
The President cannot get the two major revisions unless Congress signs off, but Sheriff Dorning said even if they do, Washington is not his final authority.
Um... yes it is.
George Wallace. Schoolhouse Door. Enough Said.
The amazing thing here is that it's Sheriff Dorning who thinks President Obama is out of line and overstepping his authority.
Please Sheriff, remove the log in your own eye before worrying about the speck in anyone else's.
With the saturation media coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings, there hasn't been anything new that we could add here at LIA. However, I have run across a few very interesting articles from various perspectives that are worth sharing. I also have a slight rant about said media coverage....
Dear CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CBS, local affiliates, etc:
Would you please stop jumping to conclusions, scrambling to be the first to report bad information, and reporting rumor as fact during a crisis? And for heaven's sake, if you're going to presume to know the name of the shooter and disseminate that information - along with a link to his Facebook page - how about making sure you have the right person? Really, we're all grown-ups here and understand that in the middle of a crisis situation, the first responders have more important things to do than talk to your roving reporters. The survivors don't need to be harassed, interviewed, or videoed while in such a vulnerable state. Have some respect for the people grieving for their friends, co-workers, and the children.
"How do you feel?" you guys ask them. How the heck do you think the feel? Of all the dumbass questions, that one takes the cake.
Now.... on to some interesting perspectives on what comes next.
Jeffery Goldberg at The Atlantic makes the case for more people carrying guns in public. Note that this article is in the current issue and so was written well before this recent tragedy.
America’s level of gun ownership means that even if the Supreme Court—which ruled in 2008 that the Second Amendment gives citizens the individual right to own firearms, as gun advocates have long insisted—suddenly reversed itself and ruled that the individual ownership of handguns was illegal, there would be no practical way for a democratic country to locate and seize those guns. [...] Anti-gun activists believe the expansion of concealed-carry permits represents a serious threat to public order. But what if, in fact, the reverse is true? Mightn’t allowing more law-abiding private citizens to carry concealed weapons—when combined with other forms of stringent gun regulation—actually reduce gun violence?
Atlantic Cities discusses The Geography of Gun Violence and there's a distressing big blue blob in the middle of Alabama. And it sends a chill through this parent who's moving her only child to Birmingham in a few weeks to attend UAB:
The rates vary substantially from a high of 32.8 in New Orleans to a low of 3.6 in Boston. Birmingham has the second highest rate with 20.5, followed by Memphis with 19.8. Las Vegas (17.6) and Jacksonville (17.5) round out the top five metro rates.
There are more maps & statistics, with this interesting finding:
While one would think gun violence would be higher in states with higher levels of economic anxiety related to unemployment or inequality, we found no association to either at the state level. My colleagues and I did, however, find gun deaths to be higher in states with higher levels of poverty and lower incomes, as well as in red states and those with more blue-collar working class economies. Conversely, we found gun deaths to be less likely in states with more college graduates and stronger knowledge-based economies.
Reid Wilson, editor in chief of the National Journal, says that if there are to be any changes in gun laws or attitudes, President Obama must take the lead in the conversation and the debate - something that he was reluctant to do during his first term:
Gun sales have spiked during Obama's first four years in office, prompted by fears that the president will take steps to restrict future purchases or, in the minds of conspiracy theorists, orchestrate some plot to rob Americans who still cling to their guns and religion. The ironic truth is that the administration hasn't done anything to justify those fears.
And the first limit ought to be a ban on automatic and semi-automatic rifles, and the components that allow weapons to be “upgraded” to such capabilities. This is not about hunting – anyone hunting quail with a Glock should probably stop calling it a sport. It is about what can no longer lawfully constitute a “personal” or “recreational” firearm in the interest of public safety.
What - if anything - do y'all think should happen? Changes in the laws? Better mental health care? More or fewer concealed carry permits?
Yesterday, a man walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and fired "many, many shots." He killed 10 people and injured 59.
How many more times do we have to see this happen before we can at least start talking about regulating who can legally buy the wherewithal to fire 'many, many shots' in a very short period of time?
The day after the Tuscaloosa shooting spree, a woman I know was lamenting that this would probably once again get people talking about how guns kill people. She deplored what happened in Tuscaloosa -- as I'm sure she deplores what happened in Aurora -- but her husband and sons and father all own semi-automatic weapons and they love to go out in the woods and shoot things and it's a wonderful bonding experience for them. That, apparently, makes semi-automatic weapons sacrosanct.
There may be families all across America who can only bond through the use of semi-automatic weapons, but it has been amply demonstrated that these weapons are also -- legally -- getting into the hands of people who cannot be trusted to use them only for harmless recreation. Can't we at least have a conversation about what kind of regulation might keep them out of the hands of mentally unstable folks who don't stop at blowing away saplings out in the woods.
Seriously, in this country cancer patients can't possess marijuana because it might be harmful to society. Teenagers can't buy beer and cigarettes because those substances are deemed harmful. All of us have to sign at the pharmacy counter for the good decongestant stuff because a few people make meth with it. We can't carry nail scissors on airplanes anymore. Although voter impersonation is more rare than being killed by lightning, we're requiring every voter to get a special ID to prevent it, just in case. But mentally disturbed people can legally purchase weapons designed to kill lots of people very quickly???
New York (FNS)-In an effort to help dispel concerns of racism, Terri Stocke, President of the Second Amendment March, agreed to coordinate with members of the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network and the Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/Push Coalition in an effort to encourage more members of the Black community to bear arms and to carry them publicly.
In return, members of the Black community have agreed to flood the 2nd Amendment March, scheduled for April 19, 2010, in Washington, DC, with hundreds of thousands of heavily armed residents of Chicago's South Side and New York City's Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods.
"We hope that the Black community understands that 2nd Amendment rights apply to all Americans" Ms. Stocke told the crowd outside Mr. Sharpton's offices.
Yesterday the Supreme Court struck down a Washington D.C. law that strictly regulated gun ownership. Montgomery Mayor and AL-02 Congressional candidate Bobby Bright approves:
"The Second Amendment guarantees our right to bear arms and today, in a decision that was crucially important to the people of Alabama and all Americans, the Supreme Court affirmed that right," Bright said in a press release. "I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and in Congress I will make sure the rights of gun owners everywhere are protected."
Sometimes in life (and in law), there are things that we might desire from a policy standpoint -- like certain forms of gun control, or restrictions on some election-related speech -- which are nevertheless forbidden by the Constitution. And as liberals -- unlike the other guys -- we ought not try to pretend that the Constitution doesn't exist when it gets in the way of our policy preferences.
There's simply no evidence that keeping guns out of the hands of those currently eligible to own them under Federal law (adults with no felony convictions, no domestic-violence misdemeanors or restraining orders, and no history of involuntary commitment for mental illness) reduces the level of criminal violence. Nor is there evidence that allowing anyone who can pass a background check and a gun-safety course to carry a concealed weapon increases the level of criminal violence. All that matters is keeping guns away from people who demonstrably shouldn't have them. Present law does that, but the gun lobby has done many things to make that law impossible to enforce.
With any luck, taking the "gun confiscation" card out of the political pack might actually reduce the fervor of the opposition the NRA can whip up to sensible measures such as requiring background checks for gun sales by private individuals (the current rule that requires them only for purchases from gun dealers), computerizing data on which dealers are selling the guns that get used in crimes, and developing and deploying technology that would allow police to identify, from a bullet or a shell casing found at a crime scene, when, to whom, and by whom the gun that produced that metal was lawfully transferred.
That won't satisfy the people who think that guns are icky and who want to inconvenience gun owners as much as possible. But that was never a legitimate object of public policy.
Emphasis is mine. Sort of a "let's go back to square one and think about what the ultimate goal was supposed to be." We need to do that now and then, lest we lose sight of what we really set out to do.
I have to say that I find it hard to believe overturning D.C.'s gun law won't result in more deaths in that city and appreciate Dahlia Lithwick's post on the reaction to this ruling as contrasted with the recent one regarding rights of people held at Guantanamo:
I must first pass along this rather brilliant observation from professor Stephen Wermiel from American University, who wonders why none of the dissenters cautioned the majority that today's decision "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed." (Boumediene, Scalia, J. dissenting.)