Florida Gears Up For An Assault Weapons Fight.

              Now that our Florida friends are moving forward to place an initiative on the 2020 ballot that would exempt assault rifles from protection under the state’s Constitution, the local gun nut gang will soon start gearing up to defend their gun ‘rights.’ Article I, § 8 (a) says: “[t]he right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.”

Note the phrase – ‘regulated by law.’ This phrase has been defined by the Florida Supreme Court to mean, “the right to keep and bear arms is not an absolute right, but is one which is subject to the right of the people through their legislature to enact valid police regulations to promote the health, morals, safety and general welfare of the people.”

If regulating a weapon used to kill and injure 34 people at Parkland on February 14, 2018 doesn’t promote the health, morals, safety and general welfare of the people, I don’t know what does. But leave it to my friends in Gun-nut Nation to pretend otherwise, and last Sunday they got some unexpected help from a seasoned news reporter who should have known better than to shoot his mouth off when he didn’t know what he was talking about.

I am referring to a roundtable on WPLG  in South Florida which included a discussion about the afroementioned Constitutional amendment, whose backers are busily gathering signatures throughout the state to put the issue to the voters next year.  Before I get into what was said by Politico’s Marc Caputo, let me just spend one paragraph explaining what the amendment does and, more important, doesn’t do.

Basically, the amendment follows closely the law passed in Connecticut after Sandy Hook, which prohibits assault weapons from coming into the state but grandfathers in guns already in the state as long as the owner registers such weapons with the state Department of Emergency Services and  Public Protection, a.k.a., the police.  Connecticut prohibited new assault rifles by enacting a general law, which in the GOP/NRA-dominated Florida legislature is about as likely to happen as me staying on my diet and losing the 20 pounds I have been trying to lose since I was a bar-mitzvah boy.

So here comes gun-expert Caputo who starts off by saying that the Amendment has no chance of passing even though early polls indicate that it’s a 50-50 split. And then Caputo says: “Basically, this amendment bans basically all types of semi-automatic rifles, except for bolt actions or ones that have a fixed magazine with a capacity of less than 10 rounds,” blah, blah, blah and blah.

Wrong. The amendment prohibits the purchase or ownership of assault rifles not currently owned. And while the registration of any type of weapon is always a bitter pill for Gun-nut Nation to swallow, Florida already requires that purchasing a gun from a dealer requires a 3-day wait so that the state police can do a background check; in other words, the Florida cops already know who owns or may own a gun.

I guarantee you that as soon as Gun-nut Nation realizes that the folks promoting this amendment are serious and have a chance to succeed, Granny Hammer and her minions will launch their usual assault consisting of some riff or another on the idea that ‘they’ are going to take away all ’your’ guns. And the gun nuts will promote this nonsense by playing the video of an experienced, mainstream  journalist telling his audience that this measure ‘bans all types of semi-automatic rifles’ when, in fact, it does not.

The amendment defines assault weapons as, “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine.” Want the names of some semi-auto rifles that do not accept magazines with more than 10 rounds? Try Browning, Remington, Benelli, Savage, Winchester – okay?

It would be a nice change if Marc Caputo would make some effort to align his future reportage on this issue with the facts. In the meantime, I’m going to send the folks in Florida another Franklin to help speed their work. You should do it too.

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In Florida, School Prayer And Stand Your Ground Is The Same Thing.

In 1956 I was a 7th-grade student at Public School 29 in New York City and we began every day with a prayer from the New Testament read by our teacher who happened to be a communicant at the Catholic parish across the street. When I refused to fold my hands and bow my head because my family read the Old Testament at home, the teacher made me stand out in the hallway until the prayer was done.

SYG             It’s now more than 50 years since the Supreme Court ruled that public-school officials could not organize prayer services, but many states and localities get around the religion issue by letting the students lead the prayers. Last week the Florida Senate approved a bill (SB 436) that requires all school districts to allow for ‘voluntary’ expressions of religious belief on school property, which basically protects public prayer in the classroom, but does not contain any protections for students who choose not to participate, such as the way I behaved back in 1956.

The bill got a big play last week because it was passed as part of an agreement to pass another bill, SB 128, which makes it easier for Florida residents to use a ‘stand your ground’ defense if they happen to shoot someone besides themselves. This bill basically puts the burden of proof on the prosecution from the moment a defendant appears in Court, which means that if the State isn’t ready to present all relevant evidence at an initial, pre-trial hearing, the guy who did the shooting walks free.

Every Republican in the Florida State Senate voted for the change in SYG, ditto for what is being called a ‘stand for liberty’ by the sponsor of the religious ‘freedom’ bill. This State Senator, Dennis Baxley, represents the 12th District, which covers Marion, Sumter and Lake Counties and delivered between 60% and 70% of their 2016 Presidential votes to our temporary 45th President, a.k.a. Donald Trump. Baxley’s website says he understands that “family, freedom and faith must all flourish to keep our state and nation strong.”  Is he endorsed by the NRA?  Is New York a city?  I mean, family, faith and freedom – give me a break.

              Regarding Senator Baxley’s commitment to freedom, he says “As the father of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Dennis Baxley believes that our Second Amendment rights are the bedrock of our nation’s freedom. He will fight against the erosion of this fundamental freedom.” In other words, Baxley has jumped on the latest lie being promoted by Gun-nut Nation, namely, the idea that the 2nd Amendment is the most important test in the Constitution, because armed citizens are the last defense against the tyranny of the state. And if you don’t believe this to be true, the proponents of this nonsense will also tell you that the Holocaust might not have resulted in the extermination of 6 million human beings if the Nazis had to go up against armed Jews.
              The moment that public officials like Dennis Baxley start waxing eloquent about their commitments to family, freedom and faith I find myself back in my 7th-grade classroom being marched out into the hall by a religiously-minded teacher who simply couldn’t comprehend my lack of religious belief. And I get the same, slightly sinking feeling whenever someone from Gun-nut Nation starts chanting about their God-given ‘rights’ to self-defense with a gun.
              I’m not sure why a fervent belief in gun violence is so often joined to a fervent belief in God, but they often seem to go hand in hand. And if anyone actually believes that SYG or concealed-carry laws help prevent gun violence, then I suggest you take a page from Senator Baxley’s playbook and join him in his support of the NRA. Because we shouldn’t have to justify or explain our belief in the power of the Almighty or the usefulness of a Glock 19.

Now Docs Have The Information They Need To Talk To Patients About Guns.

Back in 2015, eight national medical organizations and the American Bar Association issued a ‘Call to Action,’ promoting the idea that physicians should take a more active and aggressive role in talking to patients about gun violence.  Nobody argues with the fact that more than 115,000 Americans are annually injured or killed with guns, but leave it to Gun-nut Nation and their various sycophantic noisemakers who claim it isn’t a medical issue.  According to these dummies, it’s the ‘person,’ not the ‘gun’ which causes gun injuries, so why worry about the gun?

md-counsel             It wouldn’t matter if the NRA and its toadies would just say what they have to say and leave it at that.  But in Florida they got a law passed which criminalizes physicians who counsel patients about guns, and there’s even a physician in the U.S. Senate who (briefly) ran for President and chased the NRA vote by telling everyone that he didn’t think that guns were a public health issue at all.

The good news is that the medical community has refused to be cowed by this distemperate demonstration of stupidity and has begun asserting its authority to put the discussion about gun violence exactly where it belongs, namely, in face-to-face meetings between patients and their doctors which happen every day. And the news is that last week the 11th Circuit told the State of Florida to take its pernicious attempt to gag doctors and shove it you know where.

But while most people have no issue with a doctor talking to them about guns (after all, there’s no law that requires a patient to follow a doctor’s advice) many physicians don’t know what to say to their patients in discussions about guns. It’s not part of the medical school curriculum, there’s no medical academy that has yet to publish a treatment protocol on the subject, and many physicians don’t own guns.  So how to proceed?

Now there’s an answer and it has been provided by a collaboration in Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Massachusetts Medical Society which has now posted informational pamphlets on gun safety both for patients and physicians, as well as a Continuing Medical Education (CME) course on counseling patients about guns.  Together, these resources constitute the most comprehensive effort yet developed to help physicians both identify patients who might be at risk for gun violence, as well as specific counseling strategies that might be employed in a clinical setting.

The CME course, available to the public either as a video or viewable slides, includes a section on how to initiate a conversation about gun safety which recognizes the fact that most gun owners are very conscious of the necessity to be careful with their firearms, so reminding them of the need for safety should not be done in a judgmental or accusatory way.  Even more important is the presentation of five clinical scenarios, each describing a different situation involving potential gun violence risk (possible suicide, intimate partner violence, child playing with a real gun, etc.) and recommendations on how to effectively communicate risk-mitigating options to the patient and family members.  Perhaps the most instructive scenario covers how to respond to the patient who is reluctant to talk about the existence of firearms in the home, and the guidance offered for this scenario might also ease the concerns of patients who would rather not discuss the gun issue at all.

This effort marks a significant step forward in the medical response to gun violence because we now have a substantive resource that can be used to make physicians feel more confident in talking to patients about guns and give patients reassurance that their physician is interested in their health and not trying to promote a particular point of view. An effective doctor-patient relationship assumes that any subject which arises during a medical consultation can be treated in a compassionate, honest and medically-proper way. It also assumes that the physician will give the patient evidence-based information about any risk to health. These new resources do both – it’s a big win-win.

Oops!Docs Can Talk To Patients About Guns But Patients Can Keep Their Guns.

Six years ago the State of Florida decided that doctors could not talk to their patients about guns. The state of Florida has become the legislative sandbox for every attempt by Gun-nut Nation to rid the country of any and all protections against the violence caused by guns. Stand Your Ground, Concealed Carry – both of these harebrained schemes came out of the Gunshine State. But the law known as FOPA (Firearm Owners Protection Act) was the craziest of them all.

doc-glocks             What made the law so crazy wasn’t the fact that it criminalized doctors who talked to their patients about guns; it was that in a state of 18 million people, the law was based on six unsubstantiated anecdotes which, as the 11th Circuit Court noted, didn’t even address the same concerns.  Which was one, but not the only reason why the 11th Circuit Court ruled 10 – 1 that the law was unconstitutional and couldn’t stand.

Throwing doctors out of the discussion about gun violence has been a major and ongoing NRA project since the medical profession first started warning about the risks of guns. Which is exactly how the Hippocratic Oath defines the role of physicians, namely, to reduce risk.  But I can’t blame the gun industry and its noisemakers like the NRA from taking an anti-doctor stand; after all, if you manufactured a consumer product which was considered by physicians to be too risky to own, you’d be up in arms (no pun intended) against those physicians too.

But what the Court said in this regard effectively stood the NRA’s argument on its head, because 10 out of 11 justices found that “there was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights.”   And this is what the argument is all about, namely, whether any attempt to regulate gun violence or even talk about gun violence is somehow always construed as an ‘attack’ on 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’

Right now a bill is being debated in the State of Washington Legislature which would make a failure to secure guns in the home a reckless endangerment felony if an individual who, under law, cannot have possession of a firearm gets his hands on the gun and discharges it or uses it in a criminal or threatening way.  The NRA is opposed to this bill, calling it “an intrusive government legislation [which] invades people’s homes and forces them to render their firearms useless in a self-defense situation by locking them up.”

The bill does no such thing. Nor does a doctor talking to a patient about guns threaten the patient’s ownership of that gun. But if we now have a President who stands up in front of the entire nation and after he’s corrected about the size of his electoral victory repeats the same falsehood again, should we be surprised when the representatives of Gun-nut Nation continue to promote their own false claims again and again?

No doubt that when the dust settles and the smoke clears, Gun-nut Nation will come up with their own, self-fulfilling narrative about the ‘Docs versus Glocks’ case.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if the first thing they say is that the 11th Circuit is tainted because 9 of the 10 judges who supported the majority decision were appointed by gun-grabber numero uno, Barack Hussein.  But that’s nothing more than another riff on Trump-o’s attack on the ‘politicized’ judiciary, which seems to be the latest in a dwindling list of options available to the Chief Executive before he’s forced to resign.

The decision by the 11th Circuit not only puts an end to a six-year battle that erupted when the FOPA law was first announced.  It also puts a big dent in the thirty-year campaign waged by the NRA and others to keep evidence-based information about gun risk and gun violence on the margins of the public domain. This just isn’t a victory for doctors and patients, it’s a victory for the value of reasoned, public debate.

 

 

 

When The NRA Takes On The League Of Women Voters They’ll Lose.

When I was a kid, my mother and several of her friends got together and formed a chapter of the League of Women Voters.  Basically they sat around in each other’s kitchens and drank coffee, gossiped about various friends and I suppose every once in a while took part in some kind of educational or political event. Come to think about it, my mother’s participation in the League was very funny, because we lived in Washington, D.C., this was the 1950’s, and neither my mother nor any of her friends could vote.  But they could drink coffee, that’s for sure.

lwv           I was reminded of this childhood memory when I received the weekly email from the NRA-ILA linking to the latest stories on their political blog, and the headline was a rant from Granny Marion Hammer, former NRA President and now NRA lobbyist in Florida, whose claims to fame among other things is one of the earliest Stand Your Ground laws, as well as spearheading the growth of concealed-carry laws in Florida and throughout the United States.

It seems that Granny Hammer has discovered that the Florida League of Women Voters (LWV) has become the state’s “newest gun ban organization.” And worse yet, one of the LWV officers, Patti Brigham, has been “lobbying’ legislators for more gun control, even though she isn’t officially registered as a lobbyist.”

Now Granny Hammer knows something about being a lobbyist.  She’s not only paid nearly $200,000 a year by the NRA for her lobbying efforts; she also picks up another hundred grand to lobby for a statewide sportsmen’s organization. Granny is so effective that in 2005 she was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, and this honor wasn’t because she won the annual tamale-eating contest in Boca Raton, okay?

One of the reasons she’s so good is because what she says sounds very persuasive, even if it doesn’t quite align with the truth.  In her comment about the LWV’s efforts to “ban the gun rights of Florida’s law-abiding gun owners,” she states that Patti Brigham isn’t a registered lobbyist but “she shows up in committee to support gun control and oppose Second Amendment rights over and over again.”

You don’t have to be a registered or unregistered lobbyist to appear at a public hearing and make a statement or walk into a legislator’s office and speaks to the legislator one-on-one.  If you have an interest in a particular piece of legislation, under our current system of government which I think is still a democracy, this interest can be expressed by showing up and saying whatever you choose to say.

Patti Brigham’s efforts to promote sensible gun restrictions in Florida is, in fact, directly connected to her work for the LWV, because following the Pulse massacre, the LWV decided to form a coalition to prevent gun violence, and they make absolutely no secret about the fact that this coalition is sponsored by the LWV.  Marion Hammer’s rant, of course, is an attempt to create the impression that this effort, like all efforts to reduce gun violence, is some kind of secret, half-hidden plot to advance the gun-control agenda which only a diligent protector of 2nd-Amendment rights like Hammer is able to detect and thwart.

But in addition to patting herself on the back for nothing, Hammer and the NRA are trying to promote their own agenda as well, an agenda which consists of preventing what the Florida LWV chapter is doing from spreading to other states. Because the LWV isn’t a bunch of ladies who just sit around drinking coffee like my mother and her friends did in the good old days. It’s a national organization that has been in existence for nearly a century, it certainly has more credibility than Granny Hammer or any other toady of the NRA, and when its members appear in public forums, the public listens to what they have to say.

The Florida Campus-Carry Bill Gets Support From A Willing Source.

They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows, but that’s something of an understatement when it comes to the politics of gun violence.  I’m referring to a letter written by Niger Innis, National Spokesman of CORE, supporting a bill that would authorize concealed-carry on Florida college campuses.  The law was stalled in the Florida legislature earlier this year, but appears primed to go forward again. Tallahassee has been called the NRA’s laboratory for developing legislation making it easier for people to own and carry guns, and if the NRA succeeds in pushing through the law allowing guns on college campuses in Florida, no doubt college-CCW statutes will spread to other states as well.

If you honestly believe that the effort to legalize guns on campus is anything more than a cynical attempt by the NRA and its sycophantic noise-makers to promote gun sales among the up-and-coming generation, you should be laying brick.  Either the gun industry figures out how to generate more product enthusiasm among members of the millennial generation, or they’re going to be in for some rough times when all those older, white male gun owners (like me) fade away.

campus                Ditto when it comes to minorities who also show a marked disinclination to get involved with guns.  Hence the letter from Niger Innis, whose father, Roy Innis, is still the National Chairman of CORE and also happens to be a member of the NRA Board.  Roy also chairs something called the NRA Urban Affairs Committee, although I can’t recall any statement ever issued by this committee about urban affairs or anything else.

When Innis became active in CORE, the organization was one of the major civil rights groups, along with NAACP and SCLC, that championed civil rights campaigns in the North and the South.  Initially hewing to the liberal, pro-integration stance of the civil rights movement in general, CORE began to veer rightward after 1968, and under Innis’ control, adopted a mixture of nationalist economic and social positions, along with increasingly embracing conservative political ideas.  The organization today seems largely to be a vehicle for employing Roy and Innis Niger, who spend most of their time appearing before various legislative and political confabs where either law or custom require representation from all sides.

I can’t think of a single other, public individual besides Roy Innis who has lost family members to gun violence and yet promotes the ownership and use of guns.  In fact, two of Innis’ sons were shot to death, the first in 1968 and the second in 1982. Neither crime was ever solved, but the experience evidently transformed Innis into a staunch supporter of guns rights and an advocate of arming the African-American community as a response to crime.

If Innis father and son want to posture as supporters of gun rights, the least they could do is support their arguments with statements that align with facts. Niger’s letter argues that guns on campus would be particularly important as a means for women to defend themselves against sexual assaults, a crime which Innis claims has increased by 50% on college campuses over the last decade.  Actually, what has increased is the reportage of assaults as colleges have struggled to bring this issue into the open.  But then Innis goes on to make the following statement: “Federal studies indicate that where potential rape victims use weapons to resist the rape attempt, the rape is rarely if ever completed.”

The only Federal ‘study’ that I know which deals with how women protect themselves from sexual assaults and crimes in general is the annual report published by the National Crime Victimization Survey. Hemenway and Solnick studied the NCVS data covering 2007-2011 and found that, “there were no reported cases of self-defense gun use in the more than 300 cases of sexual assault.” Way to go, Niger.  There’s nothing like voicing an opinion at total variance with the facts. But who cares about facts when you have a Constitutional right to defend yourself with a gun?