Friday, January 18, 2013

Obama's High-Capacity Gun Violence Magazine

President Obama has announced his plan to curb gun violence. With 9 bullet points for Congressional action and 23 executive actions, that's a lot of ammunition.

When you consider that the legislative proposals could have been introduced and the executive actions taken four years ago, the 26 deaths last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School must weigh heavily on the administration's conscience.

Let's look at whether the President's plan is firing bullets or blanks.

Legislative ProposalsComments
1.Eliminating loopholes and requiring background checks for all gun salesGood.
2.Reinstating the prohibition on high-capacity magazinesObama's proposed limit is 10 rounds. I'd set the national limit at 15 or 20 rounds and let states set lower limits if they want. The new 7 round limit in New York is silly, but I don't live in that state.
3.Renewing and strengthening the ban on assault weaponsWhat makes .223 semi-automatic rifles a weapon of mass murder is the high-capacity magazines, so I'd collect the high-capacity magazines and let the gun owners keep their rifles.
4.Creating serious penalties for gun traffickersI'd legislate one set of harsh penalties for trafficking to criminals and another set of not overly harsh fines for technical violations in sales between otherwise law-abiding citizens.
5.Getting armor-piercing bullets off the streets by prohibiting the possession and transfer of this dangerous ammunitionOK. That's largely to protect police, bank guards, and security officers, but the devil is in the details as to what would be banned and whether criminals can get the banned ammunition anyway.
6.Keep 15,000 cops on the streetWhere and how will these cops be deployed?
7.Further research on gun violenceCan't hurt, but we know the problems are mental illness and deinstitutionalization, poverty and broken families, and drugs and criminality.
8.Help schools develop and implement comprehensive emergency management plansGood. This was one of the NRA proposals.
9.Removing restrictions that require ATF to authorize importation of dangerous weapons simply because of their ageI wasn't aware we had a crime problem with imported antique firearms.
Executive ActionsComments
1.Require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check systemLet me guess, were federal agencies were sending in too much irrelevant data or failing to send in relevant data. You just can't assume law enforcement competence.
2.Address unnecessary legal barriers that may prevent states from making information available to the background check systemGood. Unless the barrier is the Constitution, which some gun control fanatics regard as unnecessary.
3.Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check systemGood. If it's a mandate on the states, how about paying for it?
4.Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracksInsert snide Fast and Furious remark here.
5.Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gunGood.
6.Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellersIf I were selling firearms privately, I'd want to do this even if it were on a voluntarily basis. You inadvertently sell a gun to a drug dealer and pretty soon he's ratting you out as his "accomplice" in return for a reduced sentence. Plus you are guaranteed an unwanted visit from the police.
7.Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaignAnother NRA proposal. Will they run my Shoot Yourself First PSA?
8.Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission)Let's remember that unnecessary "safety" regulations that drive up the costs of these products would self-defeating.
9.Require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigationsGood.
10.Release a DOJ (Department of Justice) report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcementGood. Are these the long-awaited Fast and Furious documents?
11.Nominate an ATF directorWould it help to depoliticize this agency to have it run by a career law enforcement person rather than a political appointee?
12.Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situationsYet another NRA proposal.
13.Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crimeGood.
14.Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violenceMental illness is a disease, criminality is a choice. Where do I collect my research grant money?
15.Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologiesUltimately, outside of a suicide, no one wants to get shot by their own gun.
16.Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homesI'm not sure that a doctor asking a well person if they have a gun in their home does much to advance the cause. The standard of care in treating a mentally disturbed person should be to ask about guns as well as others things the person might use to harm themselves or others and, if the person is a minor, talk to the parents.
17.Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authoritiesIt's funny how laws designed to protect patient privacy can be turned into shields to protect health care providers from responsibility and criticism.
18.Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officersIf "resource officer" means armed guard that's what the NRA asked for. If "resource officer" means mental health social worker, that may be good too.
19.Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher educationPadding the plan with a repeat of an NRA proposal. See legislative proposal 8 above.
20.Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must coverGetting a little off topic here.
21.Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchangesAgain.
22.Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulationsAnd again.
23.Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental healthNational dialogues are generally a call to inaction, so it's a bit disappointing for the President's plan to end on this note.

All in all, it's not a bad plan. I can support it in general if not in all particulars. It would be nice to see a price tag. I want $X billion to fight gun violence has a clarity that 32 bullet points don't. And that helps lead the discussion to whether we are getting $X billion worth of added protection for our money.

I'm afraid I have an image of a lots of people showing up with grants proposals for the various surveys, studies, and planning dissipating the main effort, which I would say is beefing up the background check system.

Also, I think the President has largely missed a central problem of getting severely disturbed individuals onto a no buy list earlier in their mental illness. A great many of these mass shooters have or should have been been kicked out of schools, universities, the military, and other government run institutions for their bizarre and dangerous behavior.

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