Thursday, April 30, 2009

State Legislators Are Playing With Fire

            There’s a new and extremely dangerous crop of gun bill springing up around the country.  This bill is specifically designed to go after the federal authority to regulate guns.  The goal is to get the new law into the courts, and ultimately before the Supreme Court, to challenge the federal authority to regulate guns through interstate commerce laws. These legislators, egged on by gun extremists and anti-federal government devotees, are playing with fire. 

            Here’s how it works:  Montana has just passed legislation that says guns manufactured in Montana, and sold to people who intend to keep these guns in Montana, are exempt from federal gun laws and regulations.  This means licensed gun dealers do not need to run background checks on people buying these specially stamped “Made in Montana” guns.  And because Montana has very few state laws pertaining to gun possession, many of those exempt from owning a gun under federal law will be free and clear to own guns under this new state law.  This includes people who have been convicted of domestic violence offenses, those currently subject to a restraining order, and children as young as the age of 14.  And of course, because state borders are open and unguarded there is little to stop people from taking these “Made in Montana” guns to other states.  Wow, talk about creating a system ripe for abuse. 

            But Montana is not the only state looking to make it legal for dangerous people and children to buy guns.  Similar legislation has been introduced in Alaska, Texas, Colorado, and Tennessee.  This week, a Texas House committee held hearings on a bill that would not only exempt Texas-made firearms, gun accessories and ammunition sold within the state from federal gun regulations but would also add the provision that the Texas Attorney General’s office defend any Texans who are prosecuted by the federal government because of this law. 

            Putting aside the fact that exempting guns from federal regulations is an incredibly bad and recklessly dangerous idea, these bills fly in the face of everything this country stands for.   They are meant to undermine our federal system of government.  If states can exempt themselves from federal gun laws what else can they opt out of?  

          Let's hope the courts act quickly and decisively to shut down this clearly unconstitutional law.  Shame on legislators for supporting these bills that are not only dangerous, but blatantly anti-American. 


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Laws and regulations designed to protect the public health and safety work

Laws and regulations designed to protect the public health and safety work.   

A driver’s license teaches road safety, vehicle inspections keep dangerous cars off the roads, speed limits safely control the movement of cars.  Consumer product safety standards work to ensure that our food is free from poisons, cribs are safe for babies, radiation doesn’t leak from our microwave ovens.  Building codes protect the integrity of the homes we live in, the roads we drive on, the elevators we ride in.  

Every day, in ways too numerous to mention, policy makers have worked to protect the safety of our communities through laws and regulations.  But there is one area where the public is left vulnerable, one industry that our legislators fail to regulate:  firearms. 

Holes in our gun laws allow for the private sale of guns with no background checks run and no records kept.  Weaknesses in our regulations allow anyone to obtain military-style assault rifles, guns designed specifically to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time.  Lack of oversight allows for these guns to be equipped with high capacity magazines that hold 20, 30, 50 rounds and more.  Amendments slipped in yearly to appropriations bills keep the ATF under funded, hide crime gun trace information from our police officers, and prohibit the Center for Disease Control from talking about gun control.  

Legislators at both the federal and the state level have been bullied and beaten into submission by a powerful special interest lobby.  It is understandable why the gun lobby acts the way they do.  Their goal, after all, is to sell guns.  What is not understandable is why our policy makers are content to sit back in silence while every year in the United States 30,000 people die from firearms; 70,000 people are shot and injured, leaving physical and emotional scars that last for years; over 300,000 people are victims of armed robbery or aggravated assault with a firearm; and countless others are threatened and intimidated with guns, sometimes by so-called loved ones.  

Our legislators need to be held accountable for their failure to protect the public health and safety.  They have abdicated their responsibility and have helped create a system that allows for easy, unquestioned access to firearms by felons, domestic abusers and others prohibited from owning guns.  

Every time a Dylan Klebold or a Seung-Hui Cho walks into a classroom and kills our innocent children we must hold our legislators to blame for their failure to pass the laws and regulations that would prevent these dangerous individuals from getting guns.  

On this, the tenth anniversary of the killings at Columbine High School and the second anniversary of the massacre at Virginia Tech, let us honor these, and all victims of gun violence by working to enact laws that will prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands and prevent future tragedies.