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The Details: Devils or Angels?

Uploaded: Jan 31, 2013
Last week, we learned that there is, indeed, now a fundamental right for individuals to keep and bear arms, supplied by the US Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010 (the precedents, not the arms). Beyond the broad outlines of the right, much remains to be defined about its application and any limits. The reasonable minds hereabouts differ on those matters; what we do know are two things: that there is considerable uncertainty lurking in the under-developed jurisprudence of this Amendment, and that anything that gets enacted into law in the current push will be tested against this right, and presumably provide some answers to fill the void.

[As an aside, you may wager that any vacancies that occur on the top bench -- especially any among the five-justice 2d Amendment majority, will touch-off a confirmation battle that'll make Mr. Justice Thomas'
"high-tech lynching" look like recess.

So, what are these new provisions, the products of VP Biden's deliberations and the Prez's concurrence? Here is a listing -- first, of the Executive Orders (things that can be done within the Executive Branch, for which Congressional approval is not required), and then of the legislative proposals coming before Congress. Incidentally, the first list was drawn from the Fox News website, so you know the descriptions are fair and balanced. The NY Times supplied to second (uh-oh).

So, the question before this house is: with which of these specific proposals do you find fault, or disagree?

The Executive Orders (23)

Background Checks

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

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 cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

Gun Safety

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. 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 technologies.

Guns Used in Crimes

10. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

11. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

12. Nominate an ATF director.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.


14. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

15. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

16. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

Gun Violence Causation and Reporting

17. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

18. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

19. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

The Legislative Proposals (require passage by Congress)

1. Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt.

2. Reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004.

3. Limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

4. Banning the possession of armor-piercing bullets by anyone other than members of the military and law enforcement.

5. Increasing criminal penalties for "straw purchasers," people who pass the required background check to buy a gun on behalf of someone else.

6. Acting on a $4 billion Administration proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the street.

7. Confirming President's nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by Senate.

8. Eliminating a restriction that requires the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to allow the importation of weapons that are more than 50 years old.

9. Financing programs to train more police officers, first responders and school officials on how to respond to active armed attacks.

10. Provide additional $20 million to help expand the system that tracks violent deaths across the nation from 18 states to 50 states.

11. Providing $30 million in grants to states to help schools develop emergency response plans.

12. Providing financing to expand mental health programs for young people.

Where there appears to be overlap, that is usually because Congress needs to fund programs (like first responder training) called-for in the Executive Orders.

So that's it. Anyone feel unconstitutionally restrained by, or otherwise opposed to any of these measures? Do you feel the need for an armor-piercing bullet to protect home-and-hearth? Need an assault rifle to harvest that buck? Conversely, is there anything Not on these lists that you believe should be part of the package?

Personally (you knew I'd get here -- it's my blog, after all), this is the kind of situation where the following rule should apply (not sure from which parental unit it came, and they're beyond asking):

"You should never expect to win [the gun violence war completely, but you are sure to lose if you do not try."

Every life that is saved through better enforcement of current laws, or greater difficulty securing more lethal weaponry, or even because a madman has to pause to reload, is precious. Incremental progress that is denominated in real lives is real progress. Put another way, when I balance these mild restrictions on gun partisans against the ongoing, daily carnage produced by our current, unmanaged system, it's a bargain that'?s worth making.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville,
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:41 am

Just to clarify things a bit, Tom, the 23 "actions" that President Obama announced were not, in fact, Executive Orders. Executive Orders carry the force of law and are required to be published in the Federal Register.

Instead, President Obama issued three presidential memoranda, which directed others in the Executive Branch to take certain actions (kind of like Executive Orders, but without the formality of them). The other 20 were more like action items on a "to-do" list -- things that he planned to do or would recommend be done.

As usual, the congressional republicans' outrage was more than a little overblown, aided by their mischaracterizations of the nature of President Obama's actions.

Posted by Angel, a resident of Danville,
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:54 am

As reported last night during the NBC newscast,it is illegal to sell guns in the city of Chicago, but yet last year they had one of the highest increases in murder by guns rate of any city in the last 20 years.(Perhaps Mr.Obama's buddy, Mayor Ron Emanuel, should have spent more time working for the city that elected him Mayor, and less time getting Mr.Obama elected) One poor Chicago mother has lost all four of her children to different episodes of gun violence.

It would seem one way that perhaps liberals and conservatives would agree on to reduce gun violence, would be a surchase on all gun purchases, with those taxes specifically being used to hire more law enforcement agents to actively go out and make unnannounced visits to those on parole to search their residences to confirm there are no guns on the premises(as required by most parole orders)It is well known that most cities lack the resources to have their probation officers actively go out to check on those criminals on parole and confirm there are no guns on their premises, but yet often the same criminals do in fact have guns that are used again and again to commit crimes.

I would also think most liberals and conservatives would agree on implementing legislation that greatly increases crimes involving guns. Add another five years to every sentence that involves a gun in the commission of a crime, and put these repeat offenders behind bars where they belong.

Second Amendment does create a right to arms, but like any Amendment, there has to be some legitimare related rules and regulations.

How about the Federal Department of Education finally doing some thing worthwhile, and requiring that all public schools have a class during physical education concerning gun safety, similar to the hunter safety classes put on by Future Farmers of America, so teens learn to understand the dangers and responsibiliites pertaining to gun ownership.

Just having liberals trying to basically outlaw all guns will not solve the problems involving gun violence, as criminals will ultimately be the only ones with guns.(besides liberal politicians like Diane Feinstein who has her own permit to carry a concealed weapon) I remember Rosie O'Donnel having Tom Selleck(who is a proud member of the NRA) on her show, and she rudely and continuously ripped him, until he pointed out that it was easy for her to oppose gun ownership as she had her own bodyguards who carried weapons, unlike normal, law abiding citizens.

If you think our country is already increasingly being divided and broken, just wait till the liberals keep pushing for abolishing gun ownership. Both sides need to find a common ground, and I think my ideas noted above make a heck of alot of sense.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Feb 1, 2013 at 7:34 am

Thanks Dave -- it takes a village to keep me/this stuff straight.

Angel, thanks for your thoughtful response -- I saw that newscast, too, and canNot imagine the pain of losing all your kids to guns -- humans aren't set-up to endure the loss of any child -- but ALL four of them??!

That situation demonstrates the many facets of gun violence -- the nation is currently focused on massacres, especially of the most-innocent -- but I doubt that mother worries much about ARs or high-capacity magazines. Urban violence is conducted more often by cheap, rudimentary Saturday Night Special handguns. I wonder how many of those could be "retired" with a $1B/year buy-back/scrap program? (e.g., 20 million guns/year @ say $50/weapon).

I'm not sure how many gun buyers want to be surcharged, but I'd go for it, just on the Econ 101 principles. And while Crim Law was never my specialty (Dave?) I think there are enhancements for crimes using guns, at least in some jurisdictions.

The one thing I'd quibble-with is this notion that Leebruls are out to take away everybody's guns. That's not how I see it -- I just think that gun owners have gotten a very free pass on a matter that can-and-does have very lethal consequences for others in our current "gun culture." I would like to see more of the burden placed on those who bring these dangerous instrumentalities into the general American environment -- to ensure against the occurrence/reduce the risk of those consequences.

Finally, does that DiFi thing really hold-up to scrutiny? She shouldn't want to ban assault weapons because she has a permit for a handgun (after watching her colleagues gunned-down at SF City Hall) -- is that it? It's a complete and unhelpful non-sequitur for me.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

Well said, Tom.

The issue is not banning guns entirely (that is simply the straw man argument that that the right wing and the NRA use to deflect attention away from the real issues). The real issue is how to reduce the level of gun violence (especially the rapid rise in recent years of massacres by assault-type and high-capacity weapons designed for the military).

Requiring background checks for sales at gun shows; reducing the number of capacity of bullet clips, and banning assault-type weapons all seem like reasonable measures.

Posted by Angel, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 1, 2013 at 11:23 am

Tom: Diane Feinstein comment is applicable, as politicians(both Republicans and Democrats)do not live in the world that us normal citizens live in. They have their own security(that we pay for)and yet Ms.Feinstein apparently thought enough of handguns that getting her own concealed permit was necessary, in addition to her armed security personnel. Before Ms.Feinstein(or any politician)votes on limiting guns to law abiding citizens, to quote Atticus Finch,"she needs to walk around in our shoes". By the way, I do not blame her for seeking her own concealed gun permit, and if I was in her shoes, after Mr. Milk was gunned down, I would also have obtained that permit.

It reminds me of a Neurosurgeon who I deposed years ago, who told me he was the only person in one year who was approved for a concealed weapon permit in Berkeley, because he was the surgeon who removed a bullet from a brave police officer who was shot in the line of duty, and thus got "special" attention. This Neurosurgeon often had to work late nights at Alta Bates ER, and was concerned about his safety, and felt he needed his hand gun for protection. Once again, I do not blame him for seeking to protect himself.

Tom, what do you think about my idea of requiring schools to teach gun safety classes during physical education classes, similar to the the hunters safety classes that Future Farmers of America have been teaching for years? I think it would educate our youth about the seriousness of guns, and need for safety and precautions, when around them.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Feb 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Hi Angel: I think you and I still part company on the DiFi thing, because her interest is not in banning guns, per se, but military style killing machines that are very good at their intended, limited purpose -- and aren't much good for any other traditional uses to which guns are put. They don't kill mockingbirds, or rabid dogs, very well, and I'm not sure what experiencing someone else's reality adds to that understanding.

I think the basic gun safety training idea is intriguing, and troubling. Doing my Kingsfieldian duties in trying to find an analogy, I keep coming back to sex ed -- of which I'm very much in-favor.

That part of me thinks it might be a good idea, especially if we were confronted with an epidemic of Accidental killings. But because the predominant majority of these killings are quite intentional, the analogy breaks down badly. I'd be more in favor of teaching tactics about how individuals and groups can prepare to avoid/escape/defend themselves from attack.

I guess I just don't think ignorance of gun handling techniques or safety goes to the crux of any of these problems. My two cents. Now, what about my billion for buy-backs?

Posted by Frank, a resident of Alamo,
on Feb 3, 2013 at 10:23 am


Your comments would have more meaning if you took out the "republicans-bad, democrats-good" notes. The issue isn't one of political party, it's one of common sense. If you think it's political party issue, then perhaps you can go back to your party's Great Society programs to find a probably cause to some of this problem.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 4, 2013 at 8:55 am

Angel, California already has laws which add 10 years (or more) to the sentence of anyone who uses a gun during a crime, and repeat offenders get their sentence doubled (at least)under the "2-strikes, 3-strikes" law. The idea that California's criminal sentencing laws aren't strict enough is not reality-based. California law already specifies some of the longest sentences in the country for every crime imaginable. That's why we spent ourselves silly building more and more prisons, with less and less effort to actually rehabilitate the prisoners for when they eventually get out.

Posted by Philip, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Feb 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

My right to protect myself and property is protected by the Constitution. --obama's new toilet paper. Why no column about homeland security buying and stockpiling hollow point bullets by Obama? Is this part of his "civilian security forces" he is cooking up? They've stockpiled enough bullets to shoot each American citizen 4 times. Read---brown shirts- Germany--1930's.

Posted by Jim Mason, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Feb 4, 2013 at 12:14 pm

DHS Purchases 200 Million More Rounds of Ammunition

Additional purchase includes bullets designated for snipers
Paul Joseph Watson
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Following controversy over its purchase of around 1.2 billion bullets in the last six months alone, the Department of Homeland Security has put out a new solicitation for over 200 million more rounds of ammunition, some of which are designated to be used by snipers.
A series of new solicitations posted on the FedBizOpps website show that the DHS is looking to purchase 200 million rounds of .223 rifle ammunition over the next four years, as well as 176,000 rounds of .308 caliber 168 grain hollow point boat tail (HPBT) rounds in addition to 25,000 rounds of blank .308 caliber bullets.
As James Smith over at the Prepper Podcast website highlights, ?It is the type of ammunition and not necessarily the quantity that is troubling.?
Smith points out that the DHS? acquisition of .308 rounds is of concern because they are set to be used by well-trained snipers.

Posted by Sybil, a resident of Alamo,
on Feb 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for the link, Jim. At first read I thought Philip was making up stories. This is scary! I'm going to look into getting a gun and license. I'm from Ukraine. You Americans better wake up.

Posted by Diver Dan, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm

There are so many stories about gun buy backs running out of money and there are so many politicians against guns (and many have very large war chests) the answer seems obvious. These politicians should step up and fund the gun buy backs with there campaign money, if they truly believe in this approach. Just think what funding with 1 or 2 million would do for a gun buyback in Oakland. The streets would be gun free and everyone would be safe. No criminal would have a gun etc. (LOL). Yes they would get a large number of guns off the streets, maybe even some of the ones owned by the 20,000 people that the State of CA knows should not have guns but are to cheap to fund programs to get them.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 4, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Frank -

Well, we can debate about which party will be obstructionist in trying to find some solutions that could reduce gun violence; but, I think you and I know which party that will be.

The other problem that I had with Republicans on this topic was that they were so quick to condemn President Obama's proposals (and to characterize them as "unconstitutional") that they hadn't even bothered to read them or to see that they weren't "executive orders" at all. So, they were being either lazy or mendacious -- neither one of which is an admirable trait. But, like the saying goes, "Play to your strength." And if that's all they've got,.............

Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Jun 11, 2017 at 9:14 am

<The one thing I'd quibble-with is this notion that Leebruls are out to take away everybody's guns. That's not how I see it -- I just think that gun owners have gotten a very free pass on a matter that can-and-does have very lethal consequences for others in our current "gun culture.">

Yes, liberals (leebruls) do want public disarmament - they have nothing but praise for nations like England and Australia that did the same to their own law abiding citizens.The "leebruls" on the Supreme Court were just fine with keeping the Washington DC gun bans (for the law abiding) "as is".

The "very free pass" has been the gun control movement making unsubstantiated claims against law abiding citizens legally owning guns and doing nothing wrong - for supposedly causing violence. It's time to quibble with the "guns are icky and anyone who has one is crazy" message from those who claim to know better on this issue.

Private gun ownership in the United States is nothing new, the "gun culture" that you make fun of is the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution (which is widely supported in the nation), and it has always been against the law to abuse them. In most states you can obtain a permit to carry a gun if you complete a training program/pass a background check. Predictions of "wild west shootout" from gun control supporters never materialized.

So what has changed? Thanks to so called "progressives" we now have to have a debate when someone who is breaking our laws whether it was really his/her fault or that of gun manufacturers, the "gun lobby", your neighbor without a trigger lock, grandpa's gun collection, etc. The fact that you want a "buyback" program for guns illustrates the point that you think criminals are just "victims"/not responsible for their actions. Expect more lawless behavior in our society (not less) with reasoning like this.

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