Some Democratic Candidates Support Guns

Democratic progressives didn’t have any problem with Montana House candidate Rob Quist’s backing of gun rights. Quist lost yesterday’s primary election to Republidan Greg Gianforte.

The Democratic loser in yesterday’s special election to represent Montana’s at-large House district was seen in an ad caressing a gun he lovingly calls “this old rifle.” In another spot, Democratic nominee Rob Quist pulls a shiny bullet from his barn coat pocket, locks and loads, and fires at a TV airing a spot questioning his Second Amendment bona fides, Politico reports. (Quist lost to Republican Greg Gianforte, even though Gianforte was charged with body-slamming a reporter on election eve.)  Quist’s break with the Democratic Party platform didn’t produce a peep from the activist left.

Are progressives knowingly practicing hard-headed electoral pragmatism? Or, as is more likely, are they ducking a divisive and frustrating issue for as long as possible, until another horrific mass shooting produces a fresh wave of outrage? Quist is not an isolated case. Progressives celebrated the spirited run in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District made by Democrat James Thompson, who brandished an assault weapon as he pledged to “fight for our personal freedoms.” They have not been bothered by Jon Ossoff’s avoidance of the gun issue in his bid to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The “big tent” mentality among progressives seems to apply only to guns. Democrats have been squeamish about gun control ever since they felt the backlash to President Bill Clinton’s support of a ban on assault weapons and “Brady Law” background checks, which shouldered some blame for the Democratic loss of Congress in 1994.


NRA Makes Federal Bill on Gun Silencers a Priority

The National Rifle Association calls a proposal to make buying gun silencers easier a public health issue. “The Hearing Protection Act” is one of the group’s two big priorities in Congress.

The National Rifle Association, which typically uses arguments based on the Second Amendment and personal security, is calling legislation that would make it easier to buy gun silencers a public health issue. The group’s campaign includes rebranding silencers as “suppressors” because they don’t completely silence the sound of gunfire. Silencers reduce the average firearm noise from 165 decibels to below the potentially dangerous level of 140 decibels. “The Hearing Protection Act” is the gun lobby’s priority in Congress, along with a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons across state lines if they have permits in their home state, reports the Wall Street Journal. “We can have disagreements about politics, but there should be universal support for hearing protection,” said the NRA’s Chris Cox.

Gun control groups oppose efforts to make suppressors more accessible. They say the noise of gunfire is essential to warn potential victims and help track down criminals. “Hearing is important, of course, but so are people’s lives,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety. “This is about putting profits over public safety when the market is saturated with guns, and now they want to sell accessories.” The push to make it easier to buy silencers comes as gun sales are on the decline. Background checks dropped 11 percent between January and April this year compared with 2016. Demands for silencers also rose during the Obama administration, with registrations reaching 902,805 last February. A Depression-era law requires suppressor buyers to submit fingerprints and photographs, pay a $200 fee and pass a background check that can take a year. Proposed legislation would allow full rebates on the $200 fee and make the red tape the same as what’s required to buy a firearm. The legislation is expected to be well-received by the Republican-led Congress and President Trump.


Punishments Vary Greatly For Kids’ Gun Deaths

Children under 12 die from gun accidents in the U.S. once a week, on average. Is anyone held responsible? Nearly identical accidents can have markedly different outcomes. A shooting that leads to a prison sentence in one state can end with no prosecution in another.

Children under age 12 die from gun accidents in the U.S. once a week, on average. Almost every death begins with the same basic circumstances: an unsecured and loaded gun, a guardian’s lapse in attention. Each ends with the same questions: Who is to blame, and should the person be punished? Those questions are answered haphazardly across the nation, report USA Today and the Associated Press. Nearly identical accidents can have markedly different outcomes. A shooting that leads to a prison sentence in one state can end with no prosecution in another.

In 2015, a North Carolina babysitter was charged with involuntary manslaughter when a 2-year-old she was watching shot herself with a 20-gauge shotgun she found on a table. Two months later, police and prosecutors in Colorado opted not to charge a babysitter after a 9-year-old boy was shot by his brother. The sitter had briefly left the boys unattended, and they found his loaded .38 Special in his pickup. Grandparents in Detroit, both 65, faced manslaughter and weapons charges after their 5-year-old granddaughter found a loaded pistol under their pillow and shot herself in the neck. In Illinois, a grandmother pleaded guilty to a minor gun charge and received probation after a 6-year-old boy found a revolver in a bedroom closet and shot himself. In a nation with almost as many guns as there are people, it’s not unusual to find loaded weapons within children’s reach. A study published in 2008 in the journal Health Education Research found there are firearms in about one-third of homes with children nationwide. Guns in half of those homes were kept unlocked; guns in one-sixth of them were kept loaded.


Gun Background Check System Faces Big Challenges

Many records are missing, the system is understaffed and works much slower than it once did. The system of appeals is two years behind.

Since it launched in 1998, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), has completed almost 262 million checks. The system screens buyers in all gun purchases and transfers at federally licensed stores as well as applicants for concealed-carry permits. In several key ways, it is not doing the job its creators intended, reports The Trace. The system still uses incomplete databases of criminal and mental health records. It is understaffed and works much slower than it once did. People who are wrongly denied a sale may be out of luck, as the appeals system is way behind.

Those are three top challenges facing the system that await the successor to James Comey as FBI director.  FBI examiners must rely on cities, states, and other federal agencies to submit records that disqualify people from gun ownership. Many agencies do not report records to NICS, sometimes with deadly consequences. NICS has employed 230 examiners since at least 2012. That year, examiners processed 16.5 million background checks. The same number of employees completed 27.5 million checks in 2016. As examiners’ workloads increase without relief, the conditions are ripe for errors or incomplete checks. In some cases, individuals are denied a gun purchase when they shouldn’t be. In 2015, NICS denied 106,556 background checks. In 3,625 cases, a denial was overturned on appeal. In October 2015, citing manpower shortages, NICS stopped accepting appeals altogether. The FBI didn’t restore the function until February of this year; examiners are still working on appeals submitted almost two years ago.



Drive to Ease Carrying Concealed Firearms is Gaining

More states are giving residents the right to carry a concealed handgun without permission from authorities, including two this year, bringing the total to 12. Congress is considering legislation to make that right portable across state lines.

A convergence of state and federal legislation could ease restrictions on carrying concealed firearms nationwide, reports the Wall Street Journal. It is a long-sought goal of gun-rights activists; opponents say it would threaten public safety. More states are giving their residents the right to carry a concealed handgun without permission from authorities, including two this year, bringing the total to 12. Congress is considering legislation to make that right portable across state lines. New Hampshire eliminated permits this year, allowing anyone who can legally own a gun to carry it concealed in public. If bills from Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) become law, a New Hampshire resident could bring a concealed handgun to any other state, even those like New York that require their own residents to undergo vetting and obtain approval from law-enforcement officials for the same right.

The federal measure could hasten the spread of permitless-carry laws, which were rejected in at least 15 states in the most recent legislative sessions. States with strict permit regimes likely would face pressure to lower their standards to make carrying guns as easy for their residents as for out-of-state visitors. The National Rifle Association calls the reciprocity bills its highest priority, citing a confusing patchwork of agreements among states that allow concealed-carry permit holders to travel with their guns to some places but not others. Gun-control groups describe the bills as an attempt to drag gun-safety standards down across the country. John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety said, “The NRA’s ‘concealed carry reciprocity’ would only make matters worse—if practically everyone can carry across the country, then it’s anybody’s guess who’s trained, law-abiding, and responsible, and who isn’t.”


Demand for Legal Firearms Continues to Grow in Chicago

While gun sales nationwide appear to have dropped from the levels they reached during the Obama years, changes in Illinois laws and Chicago’s crime wave have unleashed a pent-up demand for legal gun ownership in the area.

The demand for legal firearms in Chicago continues to grow even as the appetite nationally and in Illinois has fallen significantly in recent months, which gun vendors attribute to the election of President Trump, the Chicago Tribune reports. While gun sales nationwide appear to have dropped from the levels they reached during the Obama years, apparently driven in part by lessened concerns under Trump that access will be restricted, changes in state laws and Chicago’s crime wave have unleashed a pent-up demand for legal gun ownership in the area. Gun suppliers called former President Obama their best salesman, because sales were driven by the belief of impending government regulations. Mass shootings in recent years, such as the massacre of children in Connecticut in 2012, prompted calls for greater gun control but also spikes in sales over fears for safety and concern over such restrictions.

As that fear has moderated with Trump’s election, so too have sales, some vendors say. “We’re holding our own, but the whole firearm industry’s taken a little downturn,” said Tom Dorsch of On Target Range & Tactical Training Center in Crystal Lake, Il. “There’s not that imperative to run out and buy guns, because they’ll be there.” Nationally, federal background checks for gun sales grew to record levels during the Obama administration, more than doubling from about 13 million in 2008, to 27 million last year.


Shrill New NRA Campaign: Hunters Must Prepare for War

The gun lobby has rolled out a new campaign to “save hunting” from animal rights activists plotting “the systematic diminishment of humanity itself.”

The National Rifle Association has a new message for its oldest constituency: it’s time to go to war, reports The Trace. The gun group is rolling out a new ad campaign geared toward hunters, a segment of firearm owners whose concerns have been eclipsed as the NRA transformed into a political powerhouse and threw its weight behind fights over self-defense and access to weapons. The NRA is deploying its favorite tactic: It is trying to scare them. “To save hunting, you must understand the terms of the battle,” a landing page for the campaign reads. “Because the animal rights extremists fighting to destroy hunting have an even more destructive goal: the systematic diminishment of humanity itself.”

The ad campaign consists of 10 videos paired with essays, featuring appearances and bylines by notable hunters and outdoorsmen like David Draper, a well-known writer for Field & Stream magazine. Put together, the package paints a picture of a world where hunting is under threat by animal rights activists. These activists want to “suppress your most natural connection to the earth,” the narrator in one video states, and “ignore that death is life’s unwavering partner.” At the end of each video, the voiceover implores listeners to “trust the hunter in your blood.”


Study: Californians Respond to Mass Murder by Buying Guns

A medical journal says gun purchases increased by more than 50 over normal rates in California during the six weeks following the 2012 mass murder at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Handgun purchases in the state rose 41 percent after the 2015 murders of 14 people in San Bernardino.

Mass shootings prompt Californians to binge on buying guns, according to the Los Angeles Times. A study published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine finds that in the six weeks following the 2012 mass murder at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., acquisitions of handguns in California alone ticked 53 percent higher than usual rates. And in the six weeks following the 2015 shootings in San Bernardino, in which 14 were killed and 22 seriously wounded, handgun purchases in the state increased 41 percent over normal sales volumes. The spurt was especially dramatic in San Bernardino, where gun sales rose by 85 percent in the six weeks following the rampage.

The additional 53,000 handguns that found their way into California households following the Newtown and San Bernardino murders represent a tiny fraction of the estimated 30 million firearms privately owned statewide. But the study suggests that mass shootings are prompting the introduction of handguns into households that had never had them before, and spurring gun ownership among people — including women and Latinos — who have rarely bought them in the past.


TSA Advice: When Flying, Leave Your Chainsaw at Home

Passengers at airport security checkpoints in Miami have been found carrying an array of guns–but also a three-foot machete, a can of bear repellent, a decorative grenade, and a rubber gas mask studded with two dozen real bullets. And, yes, a fully fueled gas chainsaw. Save time by minding the rules, says the TSA.

Most people pack clothes, underwear and a toothbrush when flying. Then there are those passengers who do not travel light. The Miami Herald says they have attempted to carry on the following items at Miami International Airport: A three-foot long machete. A can of Frontiersman Bear Repellent. A sword hidden inside a dragon-head cane. A 19-pound pipe wrench. Brass knuckles worn as belt buckles. A decorative grenade. A rubber gas mask studded with two dozen real bullets. Lots of guns–paint guns, a stun gun, and a pink revolver with matching pink “cat’s eyes,” a martial arts weapon effective for stabbing an enemy in the throat.

Screeners have seen everything but a kitchen sink inside luggage. There was a fully fueled gas chainsaw. A car door. And a bleeding alligator head. So the next time you complain about the miserably long lines at the airport, pity the poor Transportation Security Administration officers and blame your clueless fellow passengers. As the busy summer season is heating up, TSA is begging travelers to pay attention to the rules because “preparedness can have a significant impact on the airport screening experience and the amount of time spent waiting at security checkpoints nationwide.”


How Backers Bent Rules on GA Campus-Carry Gun Proposal

Gov. Nathan Deal must decide soon whether to sign the controversial bill that would allow concealed weapons on Georgia college campuses. Backers bent rules to get the bill passed after the latest legislative session had been schedule to expire. The Trace tells the backstory.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a second-term Republican, has until May 9 to decide whether to sign or reject a newly passed bill that would allow concealed weapons on the campuses of state colleges and universities. The Trace unpacks how Republican supporters bent procedural rules to carry the controversial bill across the legislative finish line. As the deadline ticked down on the legislative session on March 30, most of the state’s residents and many of its political leaders were transfixed by an inferno blazing under I-85 in Atlanta. Inside the state house, negotiators from the House and Senate hammered out revisions to the campus carry bill, bringing their report to lawmakers’ desks at 11:45 p.m., with minutes left on the legislative clock.

Journalists scrambled for a copy of the new bill, tweeting out pictures of its final language. As the updated legislation circulated, three Democrats joined Republicans in voting to suspend their own rules, extending the midnight deadline and giving the bill the extra time needed for lawmakers to enter their positions for the record. “Everyone looked at each other and said, ‘Wait, is this happening?’” said one person who was present. It happened. The bill passed the House 96-70 and the Senate 33-21. “There wasn’t really any debate,” said Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat who opposed the legislation. What the guns-on-campus bill did have, she added, was  “people determined to get it through.”