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Prayers and Condolences Are Not Enough: Stop The Gun Madness in This Country


October 3, 2017
Bill Berkowitz / The Smirking Chimp & Carolyn Lochhead / The San Francisco Chronicle

No state permit is required to purchase a rifle, shotgun or handgun in Nevada. Is it really too early to contemplate legislation that might prevent more massacres such as this one, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history? At the same time, Congress could pass legislation as early as this week that would roll back decades-old restrictions on gun silencers, opening up the market for a device that critics say would make it difficult in a mass shooting to detect where gunfire is coming from.

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/print/75464/

Post Las Vegas Massacre, Prayers and Condolences
Are Not Enough: Stop The Gun Madness in This Country

Bill Berkowitz / The Smirking Chimp

(October 2, 2017) -- One of the most often-repeated shibboleths from such organizations as the National Rifle Association, is that "the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

There is no way in hell that any so-called good guy with a gun could have stopped Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old white man from Mesquite, Nevada, from opening fire from his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, and killing at least 50 people and injuring hundreds at a country music festival. Early reporting has noted that Paddock may have had at least ten guns in his hotel room.

You can bet that some of the first things you will hear this morning from pro-gun fundamentalists, in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, is that liberals are trying to politicize this tragedy. That this is the time to offer prayers and condolences to the families of the victims. That it is too early to talk about common sense gun control legislation.

Is it really too early to contemplate legislation that might prevent more massacres such as this one, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history?

President Trump has already tweeted his condolences to the families of the victims. "You have a true friend and champion in the White House," he told the National Rifle Association during an April speech. "No longer will federal agencies be coming after law-abiding gun owners. No longer will the government be trying to undermine your rights and your freedoms as Americans. Instead, we will work with you, by your side."

According to the International Business Times' Juliana Rose Pignataro, "No state permit is required to purchase a rifle, shotgun or handgun in Nevada, nor is a permit required to possess any of the above firearms, according to the National Rifle Association. While it is against the law to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, Nevada allows for the open carrying of a firearm without a permit."

Here are a few items that pro-gun fundamentalists -- chomping at the bit to get something done in an all-Republican controlled Congress and with Donald Trump as president -- have in store for the public.

On Sunday, October 1, the San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lockhead reported on two pieces of pro-gun legislation that is making its way through the House.

One piece, which could be moving on as early as this week, "would roll back decades-old restrictions on gun silencers, opening up the market for a device that critics say would make it difficult in a mass shooting to detect where gunfire is coming from," Lockhead reported. This silencer provision is part of a larger bill the "Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act," or SHARE Act. [See story below. -- EAW.]

The second piece of legislation -- which could come later this fall -- "would allow people to carry their legally concealed weapons across state lines into jurisdictions, such as California, that tightly restrict weapons concealment," Lockhead pointed out.

These bills have been branded as top priority for the National Rifle Association. The organization sees the silencer bill as one of "the most ambitious and consequential yet." And they appear to have Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, on their side.

Lockhead reported that Trump Jr. "appeared in a video touting their use to increase hearing safety and also get 'little kids into the game' because the devices reduce a gun's recoil.

"NRA leadership and their friends in Congress have gone behind closed doors to try to prop up lagging gun sales by making it easy for anyone to buy a silencer without a background check," said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. "This sham bill is a giveaway to the gun lobby, which cannot be allowed to use Congress to put profits ahead of public safety."

As the Chronicle's Lockhead pointed out, "The silencer measure is part of the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, a broad-ranging gun bill delayed in June after House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and two Capitol Hill police officers were wounded by a gunman who opened fire on a congressional baseball practice session."

"On a broad basis," Lockhead noted, "the 144-page bill seeks to loosen restrictions on hunting and shooting on public lands. It would, for example,
reverse an Obama administration ban on lead tackle and ammunition from most federal lands;
amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow shooting of birds over unharvested cropland;
ease fishing restrictions in marine sanctuaries;
remove Endangered Species Act protections for Great Lakes gray wolves; and
ban the purchase of new wetland and bird habitat.

It would also legalize the sale of armor-piercing bullets so long as the manufacturer claims the ammunition is made for 'sporting purposes.'"

Both the proposed measures appeared in part to be aimed at propping up gun sales, which have "slumped since Trump's election, leading gunmakers to look for a new source of revenue, and they have found one in silencers," Lockhead reported.

Think Progress pointed out that "In June, the party scheduled a hearing on the legislation for the same morning that a gunman opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice, injuring Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). The hearing was rescheduled."

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, it is quite possible that any vote on the legislation might be tabled.

"A lot of this legislation is stuff written by lawmakers beholden to the gun lobby and they've just been waiting for a Republican president to sign it," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, told Think Progress earlier this year. "If loose gun laws and more guns made us safer, we'd be the safest country in the world. Instead, we have the highest rate of gun violence of any developed nation."

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His Conservative Watch columns document the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.



Pair of Pro-gun Bills on Move in House
Carolyn Lochhead / The San Francisco Chronicle

WASHINGTON (October 1, 2017) -- The House could pass legislation as early as this week that would roll back decades-old restrictions on gun silencers, opening up the market for a device that critics say would make it difficult in a mass shooting to detect where gunfire is coming from.

The House is also expected to move this fall on separate legislation that would allow people to carry their legally concealed weapons across state lines into jurisdictions, such as California, that tightly restrict weapons concealment.

The silencer measure is part of the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, a broad-ranging gun bill delayed in June after House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and two Capitol Hill police officers were wounded by a gunman who opened fire on a congressional baseball practice session.

Critics say silencers -- called noise suppressors by supporters and heavily regulated by the federal government for more than eight decades -- would make it harder for police officers to locate a shooter in an attack.

"What it does is it disperses the sound, so you can't identify where the sound is coming from," said Rep. Mike Thompson, a St. Helena Democrat and avid hunter who opposes the bill. "It puts both law enforcement and the public at risk."

But Republicans say the provision, called the Hearing Protection Act, doesn't really silence the sound of gunfire, only diminishes it enough to shield hunters and recreational shooters from hearing damage.

"It isn't a silencer because it still makes sound, but what it does is cuts the percentage of the noise down to make shooting sports a little nicer for people's hearing," said Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale (Butte County).

"There's a lot of false narrative being driven by this," he said. "Anything to do with making guns more available or more convenient for people is going to find opposition by the left."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Republicans have the votes to pass both bills. Democrats can probably block them in the Senate with a filibuster, but the legislation shows the GOP in full pursuit of a pro-gun agenda despite a rise in mass shooting incidents, including one that struck their own.

On a broad basis, the 144-page bill seeks to loosen restrictions on hunting and shooting on public lands. It would, for example,
reverse an Obama administration ban on lead tackle and ammunition from most federal lands;
amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow shooting of birds over unharvested cropland;
ease fishing restrictions in marine sanctuaries; r
emove Endangered Species Act protections for Great Lakes gray wolves; and
ban the purchase of new wetland and bird habitat.

It would also legalize the sale of armor-piercing bullets so long as the manufacturer claims the ammunition is made for "sporting purposes."

The legislation is a top priority for the National Rifle Association, while environmental groups and those pushing greater gun regulation are strongly opposed. A number of city police chiefs have signed a letter of opposition.

In their letter, the police chiefs said the main market for silencers now is "military tactical teams who use silencers to confuse the sound of gunfire and confound an enemy's response to surprise attack."

"The widespread and uncontrolled distribution of silencers to an unwary civilian population, combined with the sheer number of firearms freely available in America," the letter said, "is a step in the wrong direction and will result in tragedy, including violence directed at police officers that will be difficult or impossible to investigate effectively."

The second major weapons legislation the House is planning to consider separately this fall would allow people to carry concealed weapons in any state if it is allowed in the state where they live.

The bill would undermine regulations in states such as California and New York that require applicants for such a permit to demonstrate a need and submit to background checks. A dozen states have no permit requirement for carrying a concealed weapon.

Thompson, who has led a Democratic task force to reduce gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, said the bill "would allow people to carry their guns wherever they wanted to carry them."

Republicans are advertising the bills "under a facade of, 'It's for hunters,'" Pelosi said. "Hunters need armor-piercing bullets? They need silencers? They need to conceal and carry to hunt?"

The House Natural Resources Committee approved the Sportsman Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, known as the Share Act, last month on a party-line vote, with four California Republicans -- LaMalfa, Tom McClintock of Elk Grove (Sacramento County), Paul Cook of Yucca Valley (San Bernardino County) and Jeff Denham of Turlock (Stanislaus County) -- joining the majority.

The National Rifle Association said versions of the bill have passed the House before, but that this one is "the most ambitious and consequential yet," in part because of the silencer provision. A key backer is Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, who appeared in a video touting their use to increase hearing safety and also get "little kids into the game" because the devices reduce a gun's recoil.

Critics argue that gun sales have slumped since Trump's election, leading gunmakers to look for a new source of revenue, and they have found one in silencers.

"If you buy one, you've got to buy a gun to put it on, because the barrel's got to be threaded," Thompson said.

Silencers, like machine guns, have been strictly regulated since 1934 under the National Firearms Act, in response to mob killings. Current law requires buyers to submit fingerprints and a photograph, pay a special tax, submit to a background check and notify local law enforcement.

"No one who is willing to go through the process has a problem obtaining one," said Peter Ambler, executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun violence prevention organization founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely wounded in a gun attack in 2011.

But because of the regulation, Ambler said, "you see remarkably few crimes committed with silencers or machine guns, compared to guns writ large, where our current laws are inadequate to deal with crimes being committed by them."

Ambler's group is putting pressure on seven California House Republicans representing districts that Hillary Clinton won last November, releasing polls showing that both bills are unpopular in their districts.

With concealed-carry reciprocity, "you'd have a situation where somebody could come from Arizona, where there is no permit required at all to carry a gun," Ambler said, "and that person's Arizona residency would override California law and allow anybody with an Arizona driver's license or resident card to carry a loaded gun in the state."

The bill's author, Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., has argued that gun owners would still have to obey the laws of the states they are visiting, even if those states have to recognize their right to carry guns.

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, would not say when either bill would come to the floor, but lobbyists on both sides said the Share Act vote is imminent. With committee passage, a House vote could come at any time.

Carolyn Lochhead is The San Francisco Chronicle's Washington correspondent. Email: clochhead@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @carolynlochhead

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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