gun safety

  • September 30, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Earlier this year, a little more than a month after mass shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, President Obama discussed the challenges of trying to implement gun safety measures and announced more than 20 executive orders, including an order for the Centers for Disease Control to study ways to reduce gun violence. The president’s call for Congress to take action and approve modest new measures flopped … in the Senate. And even if senators had approved new measures promoting gun safety it is hard to believe they would have been considered in the House of Representatives, where Republicans are bent on protecting the financial industry and defunding of the Affordable Care Act.  

    But executive orders alone are hardly going to reframe the debate let alone significantly curtail gun violence. Yet another study shows how obstinate refusal to even basic reforms of gun regulation is needlessly taking innocent lives yearly.

    In an extensive piece forThe New York Times, Michael Luo and Mike McIntire reveal that accidental deaths of children because of guns are far higher than government statistics show, primarily because of the success of the gun lobby in defeating all kinds of efforts, including research to promote gun safety. The Times reported that a “review of hundreds of child firearm deaths found that accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the records indicate, because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by authorities. As a result, scores of accidental killings are not reflected in official statistics that have framed the debate over how to protect children from guns.”

    That debate has largely been controlled by gun enthusiasts and their lobbyists, who frequently blast any regulation as an encroachment on Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. For, example, The Times noted that the National Rifle Association cited the inaccurate numbers of accidental child firearm deaths in its campaign to scuttle laws requiring the safe storage of guns. State lawmakers ape the NRA’s talking points, often arguing that safe-storage laws would undermine adults’ efforts to protect themselves from intruders.

    Moreover the newspaper noted that the gun lobby has remained successful at making sure firearms remain exempt from “regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.” As one expert lamented, “We know in the world of injury controls that designing safer products is often the most efficient way to reduce tragedies. Why, if we have childproof aspirin bottles, don’t we have childproof guns?”

    The U.S. Supreme Court, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled in 2008 in D.C. v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. That ruling greatly enhanced the gun lobby’s cudgel against any consideration of new gun safety measures, such as ones intended to encourage parents to keep firearms stored safely.

  • February 4, 2013

    The NRA is fighting for a law in Florida that would bar doctors from asking children whether there are guns in their homes. If doctors “unnecessarily [harass] a patient about firearm ownership during an examination,” they face a fine of up to $10,000 and risk losing their license to practice medicine.

    posted by ESA

  • January 22, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Peter M. Shane, the Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Chair in Law, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University. This post first appeared on Shane Reactions.

    Not being a psychiatrist, I don’t really understand why the President’s fairly modest efforts at gun policy reform seem to have utterly deranged some of his political opponents.  But talk of impeachment in connection with his gun-related “executive orders” is, to put it mildly, ridiculous.

    To put matters in context, it helps to understand “executive orders.” These are presidential directives – sometimes formally called “executive orders,” sometimes not – that are issued to help manage the federal government. There is no authoritative definition of “executive orders” that distinguishes them from “presidential memorandums,” “presidential proclamations,” or – as in the case of the George W. Bush first directive on military commissions – just “orders.” The Federal Register Act lumps them together with “presidential proclamations” as documents that, with some exceptions, must be made public.

    Although some news outlets reported that President Obama signed 23 executive orders relating to gun violence in America, he actually signed only three. Although they were called, “Presidential Memorandums,” two, at least, were indistinguishable from run-of-the-mill executive orders in that they applied to the heads of all executive departments and agencies. The other, addressed to a single agency, takes a form that would typically be called a “memorandum.”

    Executive orders, like any other form of presidential initiative, must be rooted in some form of legal authority. Some are issued in the President’s constitutional chief executive capacity, and set forth managerial requirements for specified federal operations. Some are issued pursuant to explicit authority delegated to the President by statute, or are issued as a way of complying with obligations Congress has imposed on the President or the executive branch more generally.

  • January 16, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Under increasingly outrageous attacks from the National Rifle Association, President Obama announced what The Huffington Post describes as “the most sweeping effort at gun control policy reform in a generation.”

    The president called for expanded background checks to include those obtaining guns from private sellers and gun shows, a ban on military-style assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets and a limit on high-capacity ammunition magazines. He also vowed to use executive orders to help stem gun violence.

    “In the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,” Obama said. “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.” (The White House’s website includes more information about the proposals; click on picture for video of president’s remarks.)

    The administration’s proposals follow New York’s enactment of some of the nation’s toughest measures to curb gun violence. Among other actions, the NY SAFE Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, bans assault weapons and magazines that can hold more than seven rounds and requires instant background checks on all ammunition purchases.

    As noted here, and by The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, it is not only the NRA that is ratcheting up its attacks on efforts to curb gun violence. Extremists have jumped into the fray threatening violence over efforts to enact new gun control laws. As Blow wrote, they are employing incendiary language to stir up fear that the government is on the verge of trashing the Second Amendment and confiscating guns. He cites several examples, such as Fox News analyst Andrew P. Napolitano, who claimed that the Second Amendment was created to “protect your right to shoot tyrants if they take over the government.”

    Regardless of what extremists think of the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court has recognized an indiviudal right to own guns, but not it is not an unlimited right. Constitutional law expert Geoffrey Stone pointed out recently in a piece for The Huffington Post, that the Supreme Court majority in D.C. v. Heller, stated “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” and went on to note a string of common sense gun regulations that does not run afoul of the Second Amendment.

  • January 14, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Despite the reality that President Obama took no action during his first term to advance gun safety or sensible gun control measures, gun enthusiasts convinced themselves, with the help of right-wing pundits, that the president is not only a socialist but a budding tyrant preparing to confiscate gun owners’ arsenals from coast to coast. And this caricature has been a boon for gun manufacturers and sellers.   

    Over the weekend, The New York Times reported sales of guns, “which began climbing significantly after President Obama’s re-election,” have “soared” since the mass-shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the high-profile discussion of enacting gun safety regulations. An Iowa “independent gun dealer” told the newspaper, “If I had 1,000 AR-15s I could sell them in a week.”

    And now that the president and other lawmakers, such as N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo, Md. Governor Martin O’Malley and Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper, are taking steps to enact gun control measures, gun enthusiasts are becoming louder, some hysterical and others going ballistic.

    The National Rifle Association has been predictable and lame. The group blamed the arts, such as movies, for spurring gun violence and argued that more guns are the solution. In late December, the group’s Vice President Wayne LaPierre, said armed guards should be placed in the nation’s schools. James Yeager of a Tennessee company that apparently trains people to use weapons said in a YouTube video that if the president issued an executive order promoting gun safety that he would “start killing people.” Other chuckleheads have taken to the airwaves to threaten violence if the government were to take any action to curb gun violence.

    What this period of discussion about the nation’s obsession with guns and how to take some measured steps to curb gun violence has exposed, in part, is that the gun lobby is growing tired and extremists are jumping into the fray. Many of these gun lovers believe that the Second Amendment is absolute. First, very few things in life are absolute and certainly there are very few if any rights provided by the Constitution that are absolute. For instance, the First Amendment does not protect all speech and expression. Political speech is provided more protection than commercial speech, speech advocating illegal conduct is not wholly protected under the First Amendment. What about the Fourth Amendment. We know that not all government searches are illegal. Indeed the Fourth Amendment has a lot of exceptions for police officers, acting in good faith and under certain circumstances, to conduct searches and seize property that many would argue are unconstitutional.

    I could go on, but the point is that the Second Amendment does not forbid the regulation of guns. It is likely too much to ask of many of the rabid gun enthusiasts to read D.C. v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that held an individual does have the right to “keep and bear arms.”