The New York Times has a pretty straightforward editorial today that points out the motives of state legislatures passing laws to block Federal law concerning firearms.
State lawmakers in Wyoming didn’t need to hear President Obama’s gun-control proposals on Wednesday in order to attack them. A week ago, before the White House had even decided what actions to take, Republicans introduced a bill in the Wyoming Legislature to block any federal limitation on firearms, such as an assault weapons ban. A federal agent seeking to enforce such a ban would be guilty of a felony and face five years in prison.
This ludicrous bill would be laughable if the idea weren’t spreading. A similar bill filed in Tennessee would also make federal gun enforcement a state crime, though it’s more “moderate” than Wyoming’s: federal agents doing their jobs would be charged only with Class A misdemeanors. Inevitably, a bill like Wyoming’s has been filed in Texas. And, in Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant announced that the state would block federal gun measures. A proposed law in the state would claim that Washington has no jurisdiction over weapons made in Mississippi.
There’s no point in telling these fanatics that federal gun restrictions are completely constitutional, even under the Supreme Court’s latest interpretation of the Second Amendment, or that federal law pre-empts state law. They already know these bills will be unenforceable. They are merely legislative fist-shaking, letting pro-gun voters know that lawmakers share their antipathy to the Obama administration, and signaling to the National Rifle Association and other gun-manufacturing lobbies that they are worthy recipients of rich political contributions.
Already, states like these have done enormous damage to public safety by acceding to the N.R.A.’s demands for laws that are anything but symbolic. The gun lobby hasn’t been content with the ability of Americans to lawfully possess hundreds of millions of handguns and assault rifles. It wants gun owners to be able to carry these weapons anywhere they want, even among children, concealed or displayed, and preferably without the annoyance of permits, background checks, or safety precautions.
After the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, the N.R.A. defied logic and pushed a bill to allow guns on college campuses. Thanks to help from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative organization of state lawmakers to which the N.R.A. contributes heavily, five states now allow campus guns. Only nine states prohibit guns at sporting events, and just 26 prohibit them where alcohol is served.
Wisconsin actually allows guns in the public gallery that looks down on the state assembly, and the N.R.A. pressured lawmakers last week to keep it that way. The N.R.A. and the American Legislative Exchange Council were behind the “stand your ground” laws that allow people to shoot others if they believe they are in danger, which has led to hundreds of deaths while allowing killers to walk free.
State gun laws matter. Of the 10 states with the most restrictive laws, seven also have the lowest gun death rates, according to a study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Similarly, lax gun laws correlate to a high level of gun deaths.
That’s why it’s good to see several states step up to their responsibilities to prevent violence instead of following the southern and western states that appear to be encouraging it. New York was out front this week in passing a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, among other measures. A similar ban is moving ahead in Illinois. New Jersey and Connecticut are moving more slowly, appointing task forces to make recommendations, but are at least heading in the right direction.
California is considering legislation that would limit sales of ammunition, requiring background checks and permits for bullet buyers. Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the site of so much carnage, has reversed his opposition to new restrictions, proposing universal background checks as well as an overhaul of the state mental health system to identify those who should be kept away from weapons.
Still, too many states continue to put their citizens at risk as they pledge ever-greater fealty to the gun manufacturers. It’s time the states became laboratories for safety rather than violence.
Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman explains how the Idaho Legislature plans to deal with the “Panic” caused by the fear that Obama will come for our guns!
In one of the most Second Amendment-friendly legislatures in America, the pressure to respond to the Connecticut school massacre and President Barack Obama’s gun control ideas has prompted a flurry of behind-the-scenes action.
Compounding the interest is the largest freshman class in Idaho history — a group eager to address constituent concerns.
To manage the flow of legislation, House Speaker Scott Bedke has informally assigned a point person, Republican Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, a former volunteer lobbyist for the NRA who helped pass Idaho’s conceal-carry law in 1990.
“I don’t want a bunch of redundant bills,” Bedke said Thursday. “I want the common themes consolidated into individual bills. Put the ideas in the arena, let’s do the research and let’s have the debate.”
Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who authored a failed 2011 bill to allow guns on college campuses, is leading a similar effort in the Senate and working with Gov. Butch Otter’s chief of staff, David Hensley.
Hagedorn said he’s exploring two legislative avenues: school safety and protection of gun rights. “Do we have holes we need to fix, along with what we’re doing for the schools?” he said.
Boyle said she’s received about 150 emails and uncounted phone calls and text messages urging her to act immediately. Meanwhile, she said, talk radio is ablaze with callers saying, “What’s the Legislature doing? They’re doing nothing!”
“I think we’re all getting the same kind of emails of panic,” Boyle said Thursday. “They’re scared, really scared, about losing their guns, or their right to purchase a gun or ammunition, or any component to make their ammunition.”
Boyle said she hopes to gather the proposals into several bills in about two weeks, and urges both lawmakers and constituents to be patient.
“Mostly it’s the freshmen, worried because their constituents are and they don’t know what to say to them and they want to react quick,” Boyle said. “The people who are worried are students of history — they have seen what Hitler did, what has happened in countries that disarm people.”
But Boyle called for a “measured approach” that will pass court tests and “truly protect not just children but all citizens from crazy people.”
Bedke and Hagedorn said they prefer the word “concerned” rather than “panic” to describe public sentiment.
“But if you look around enough, I’m sure you can find panic,” said Bedke, R-Oakley. “I’m certainly concerned.”
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, didn’t designate Hagedorn as a Senate gatekeeper but said he’s pleased Hagedorn is leading on the issue. “There are very few people I’d feel more comfortable with,” he said.
Hagedorn said he won’t revive his guns-on-campus bill because it was strongly opposed by university presidents and would be a distraction.
But Hagedorn said it’s time to revisit the state’s ban on guns in schools and courthouses. “One of the things we need to consider is if a person today has a right to protect themselves and carry a gun, when they go into a gun-free zone is there a liability on the state to then take over that protection?”
Boyle said she’s consulting police officials and has determined that arming school employees and providing advanced training for violent emergencies is a top priority.
“It’s one thing to carry a gun and it’s another when you have some crazy person coming at you. Police are trained on that, so that’s why they’ve been helping us,” she said.
Idaho’s 115 school districts would be able to decide whether to arm employees, but the legal incentive to do so would be high, Boyle said.
“They’re going to have to take responsibility. If they’re not going to accept protection for those students, they’re going to have to accept the liability that they haven’t done that,” she said.