Gun Day

The Texas House passed some major legislation yesterday. Among these are the good, the fair, the bad, the horrible and the blatantly unconstitutional and possibly treasonous. Okay, maybe not treasonous, at least not yet, but all the other superfluous adjectives. All of these passed by voice vote, so I am not sure what the crossover was on any of these bills, but let me go down the line on them real quick.

First up, the infamous “Campus Carry,” or as I call it, “Guns on Campus.” It sounds meaner. Anyways, it was among the bills that passed, and you can read what it does here. The only differences from the Committee version was that this bill has incorporated a substantial amendment that essentially adds Hegar’s bill from the Senate as a rider (Guns in Cars), as well as changes private schools from “opt-out” to “opt-in.” The “opt-out” that applies to both Public and Private would have to occur every year. Finally, “bio-harzard” zones would be exempt, so Medical Schools (Craig Eiland [D-Galveston] offered up this amendment with regard to UTMB).

Next, the “School Marshall” program. HB 1009, proposed by Jason Villalba (R-Dallas). The bill would essentially create anonymous, well-trained individuals with handguns whose responsibility it would be to protect some school districts, much like the current Air Marshall Program. Officers would require 80 hours of training (in comparison, the CHL is 8). I really like this bill, as I have no problem with letting trained, competent individuals posses deadly weapons.

Next, HB864, proposed by Donna Campbell (R-Bexar). The bill reduces the training time for a CHL from 8 to 6 hours. The problem with this bill is that it keeps loosening our already ultra-soft laws in regard to gun licensing. The point of these tests is that it keeps the psychos away from the deadly force. If you keep reducing requirements, you make that failsafe less and less likely.

HB 485, by Sarah Davis (R-Harris), my Rep, was also passed. The bill would sharply reduce the fee for a CHL to $25, for honorably discharged members of the armed forces or reserve peace officers. Again, I have no problem with this, because honorable discharges and peace officers are usually the type of levelheaded people who can handle a gun. The only drawback is it would decreased the amount of revenue the State raises.

Then, there is the Toth bill. Steve Toth (R-Montgomery)’s bill passed, which “nullifies” federal gun regulations, and a bill by Brandon Creighton (R-Montgomery) that punishes federal officials who try to enforce federal laws. Here’s the problem, the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected “nullification” multiple times (most recently in 1958, Cooper v. Aaron). And arrested a federal official for enforcing federal law might just be a tad bit illegal. As Gene Wu said, it’s called the Supremacy Clause. For a faction of politicians who claim to be such mighty “constitutionalists,” this seems to run pretty counter to their big message

The Texas Tribune and Houston Chronicle have more.

Big Government, Texas style

The GOP prides itself on two points. First, it is the party of less government, and, second, it is the part of local control. There are myriad exceptions to these points, however, specifically in examples where another platform of the party is threatened by either less government or local control. These usually have to do with social issues.

For example, Mitt Romney and John McCain frequently stated that they wanted “government out of your life,” but what they really meant is that they wanted it out of your checkbook. The GOP, especially in Texas, has no problem with entangling itself between a woman and her doctor, or between two consenting adults in a bedroom. Further, even though the GOP seems to love the mantra of “leave it to the states,” they have no issue with mandating federal regulations/amendments that would prohibit things like gay marriage or the legalization of cannabis, over the objections of states.

We see another good example of this from the Chron about a recent Senate bill. Senator Hegar introduced a bill, SB 987, which would prohibit cities and counties from regulating gun shows. Specifically, the legislation was raised over the idea that Austin and/or Travis County would ban gun shows from public buildings. In a classic example of the State Legislature bullying the Capital city, the Senate voted overwhelmingly (24-6) to prevent Austin, or any other municipality, from issuing meaningful gun reform measures.

What disturbs me the most about this vote (you know, besides my state’s unhealthy little juvenile obsession with instruments of death), is how many Democrats voted for the measure. 5 out of 11 Democrats voted FOR the bill, mainly the Rio Grande Valley ones (Whitmire, Ellis and Garcia voted NO). Interestingly, Wendy Davis voted for the bill. I like Davis, so I am going to excuse this stupid position as bandwagoning to join an otherwise inevitable vote, in light of her difficult re-election bid next year. Good to know, nevertheless, that the Houstonians are from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Also, and I include it down here because I don’t have enough to say for a regular post, but WFAA (DFW’s ABC) is reporting that yesterday the Texas Senate voted unanimously to stop ticketing juveniles for classroom disruptions, instead focusing on counseling. It was proposed by Royce West (D-Dallas), and had bipartisan support because of the money it was projected to save.

Gene Green and the Democratic Party

I’m surrounded by a lot of Republicans in this state, and that includes the Democrats. Gene Green is one of those such Democrats. While Congressman Green (Gene, that is, not Al) has historically been somewhat liberal on most issues, including healthcare and social policy, he is dragging up the rear of society on the issue of gun control. Michael Bloomberg has recently come up in the news for pushing a Super PAC that would seek to “primary,” i.e., defeat in primary election, moderate Democrats who are pro-guns and pro-NRA. If Mr Green does not change his regressive views about gun control, perhaps the “Bloomberg solution” would be best.

Gene Green has an “A” rating with the National Rifle Association, the same rating as Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. Further, he recently stated some pretty disturbing rhetoric in an interview about gun control, stating his unequivocal opposition to the assault weapons ban, saying “Instead of saying we need to outlaw certain types weapons, we need to find better ways to enforce current law, the kneejerk approach of those who want to control firearms may not be the solution.’’ Excuse me?

The Democratic Party has seen their ambitious social and economic policies killed, or severely maimed, because of their own party’s dysfunction. To quote a very wise man from the Texas Democratic Convention last year, we have too many “soft Republicans” who are running around masquerading as Democrats. For example, I support strong bans/regulations on most deadly weapons, gay marriage and the abolition of the death penalty. Are these the radical policies of some socialist? Try Stephen Harper and David Cameron.

Gene Green opposes most gun control measure with any hint of a spine in them. Similarly, he STILL opposes gay marriage, and believes the state has a right to execute someone. Accordingly, I offer Mr Green an ultimatum. Either drag your political beliefs into the 21st century, or answer to the voters.

The 29th District is heavily Democratic. Even in the horrible 2010 election cycle, Green was re-elected with 65% of the vote against Roy Morales, a candidate who had just run for Mayor (had a great name-recognition). A more liberal Democratic nominee would not put the district in jeopardy of a Republican being elected. Additionally, at 66% Hispanic, it is getting a little bit ridiculous that a white guy who isn’t even very liberal is the Congressman. I have no idea who would possibly challenge him next year in the primary, but I would hope that the individual would have the heavy backing of Bloomberg’s SuperPAC.

3/14 tidbits

It’s times like these that I’m happy I didn’t follow my friends to UT. The Texas Tribune is reporting that a myriad of bills that, in one way or another, ease the restrictions put upon carrying a loaded firearm on a college campus. The bills will most likely pass the legislature if Senate Democrats don’t put up some special types of obstruction to kill the legislation. I think everyone knows where I stand on such a stupid idea.

In other news, Naomi Gonzalez, an El Paso State Rep, was arrested on DWI charges. For those of y’all who remember, Rep. Gonzalez was the one who got expelled from a County Party meeting for being cordial to a Republican, in an action that I strongly condemned.

White leads possible challengers against Cornyn

Public Policy Polling, the Democratic-aligned polling firm that has been notoriously accurate recently, has put out a new report on the state of the 2014 Senate election in Texas. Senator John Cornyn leads his four hypothetical opponents: Julian Castro, Wendy Davis, Annise Parker, and Bill White by good margins. The poll showed that Cornyn is not popular nor unpopular, but still relatively unknown, although Texas is still a solidly Republican state. I’m going to break down the results below.

Obama approval rating–47% (approve) to 51% (disapprove)
Cornyn approval rating–34% (approve) to 30% (disapprove)
Castro approval rating–29% (approve) to 24% (disapprove)
Davis approval rating–15% (approve) to 19% (disapprove)
Parker approval rating–16% (approve) to 17% (disapprove)
White approval rating–34% (approve) to 24% (disapprove)
NRA approval rating–46% (approve) to 40% (disapprove)
Obama impeachment approval–39% (pro-impeach) to 50% (anti-impeach)
Obama or NRA: trust in re guns–43% (Obama) to 47% (NRA)
Banning assault weapons–49% (support) to 41% (oppose)
Police officers in schools–47% (support) to 39% (oppose)
Arming teachers–31% (support) to 56% (oppose)

Cornyn vs. Castro–48% (Cornyn) to 41% (Castro)
Cornyn vs. Davis–48% (Cornyn) to 37% (Davis)
Cornyn vs. Parker–47% (Cornyn) to 36% (Parker)
Cornyn vs. White–45% (Cornyn) to 42% (White)

How it is possible that a majority of Texans support the President’s gun control measures, yet almost 40% support his impeachment (for what?), I will never know. Otherwise, it seems the President’s approval ratings have seen a bounce in Texas for his second inauguration.

I have a few comments about this poll. First, it seems sad that, in all likelihood, none of the Democrats mentioned will run. Second, 2014 is still a LONG ways out, and I seem to recall 2009 polls once upon a time that said Rick Perry was dead in the water. But that’s a whole other story. Third, this poll didn’t seem to measure what I am truly curious about: the GOP primary for the seat (because, in all honesty, that is the only possible way the seat would change hands next year).

Castro has already disavowed any 2014 plans, plain and simple. Davis will be doing something else next year: running for re-election. Parker, as I discussed a million years ago, would most likely not bother with a Statewide, and it is, in my opinion, far more feasible for her to run for Congress. White has been hiding under a cave or something for the last three years, so he is sort of a non-starter in the discussion.

Also, these things are a ways off, and thus, through no fault of the polling house, are unreliable. I recall a 2011 PPP poll which had Cruz trailing, and a June 2010 PPP poll had White & Perry tied. Twenty-two months is an eternity in politics, so a lot will change.

Finally, I was disappointed by how the Republican primary was not discussed. Just as how Cruz came out of nowhere to snatch up a nomination that was, in the eyes of the establishment, Dewhurst’s for the taking, I would not be surprised if a Tea Party like challenged Cornyn in the spring next year. Personally, I’d love to see John Cornyn have to battle someone as reality impaired in a primary as Steve Stockman, but he would make Senator Cruz look sane if he won.

Bottom line, the Democrats need to find a candidate for the Senate. I nominate Tommy Lee Jones. Seriously.

In re Inaugurations

Like just about everyone else in the civilized world, I watched the inauguration of President Obama for his second term, today at noon, and then his subsequent speech. I had planned on attending the festivities in Washington with the Texas delegation, like the DNC, but because of personal conflicts was unable to attend. Still, I have quite a few thoughts on Obama’s speech.

It played out like a State of the Union. Obama laid out his plan for his second term, in excruciating detail. He wants to fix the climate, tackle gun control, reform the tax code, reform immigration, eliminate voter intimidation, and further strengthen the economy. Ambitious is an understatement.

However, I really like this new Obama–the one who sticks to his guns and relies on his principles. It was refreshing to hear the President not capitulate to a faux sense of bipartisanship. Anyways, I will have more when he starts nominating new cabinet officers.

In re guns

From the day job at The Justice. Linked.

I finished my last final exam, and flew home to Houston, on Dec. 14—the date of the Newtown Elementary School massacre. I was in the Logan Airport terminal when news first broke of the horrendous tragedy. The previously palpable Christmas spirit of holiday carols and smiles that seem to fill every airport in America during December was immediately replaced with a loudspeaker of the news and mass despondency.

Now, after countless of these massacres, the conversation finally shifted to gun control. However, the gun control debate is unduly influenced by those who believe that any regulation of firearms is tantamount to a Soviet-style mass confiscation of the people’s rifles, and eliminating the right to carry the types of assault rifles that Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary School is antithetical to the meaning of the Second Amendment.

Regulation is not tantamount to impending tyranny, and the banning of assault rifles are not antithetical to the Second Amendment. In fact, it is what needs to be done. The time is now for comprehensive gun control, including a ban of assault rifles, eliminating the gun show loophole (allowing looser regulations on purchasing firearms at gun shows), requiring stiffer background checks and keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill.

This strange alternate reality, that is, the one where people believe the government is perpetually one step away from taking away the people’s guns, has always been a mystery to me. I decided to engage it this break by attending the Pasadena Gun and Knife Show in Pasadena, Texas, the conservative southern suburb of Houston. Attending incognito (wearing my signature cowboy hat), I explored the world of guns and so-called gun rights. Because of what is called the gun show loophole, individuals may purchase most any type of assault weapons at these shows, free of any background check, waiting period or other restriction. The only thing stopping me, someone who has never held a pistol before, from buying a civilian-style AK47 was that I am not 21 years of age. Had I have been of age, I could have approached the woman in the corner who had brought her used assault rifle to sell, paid her cash and gone home immediately with the same type of weapon used in mass shootings and war.

This, summed up into a few sentences, is the most compelling rationale I can find for more gun control, being that almost anyone is able to purchase these guns so easily. The common cliché is that if guns are outlawed, “only outlaws will have them,” but the guns used in the Luby’s massacre of 1991, Columbine shooting of 1999, Tucson shooting of 2011 and the Aurora shooting of 2012, to name a few, were all purchased legally, as were those used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shooting. Lunatics and psychopaths do not need to smuggle guns, it is already easy enough to acquire these murder machines through legal means.

While the Second Amendment to the Constitution most certainly protects the right for citizens to own firearms, including certain kinds of concealable weapons, there are most certainly limits. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it most eloquently in his recent State of the State address, when he said, “No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer.”

Just as the right to own a tank or a missile or an F-16 is not holy, there is no special protection to the right to own a semi-automatic rifle.

These newly discussed gun control reforms, like banning assault weapons and closing gun show loopholes, would aim to drastically cut the number of gun fatalities. Countries such as Canada, Japan and the members of the European Union have enacted these regulations, and because of said regulations, they boast much lower per capita violent crime rates. For example, The Atlantic magazine reported in 2012 a startling correlation between more gun ownership and gun violence. The Atlantic also reported in 2012 that Japan, a nation which has nearly banned all types of firearms, saw nearly no gun violence (11 deaths compared to 12,000 in the United States).

It is disgusting that our nation has become so prone to violence on such a mass scale.

I hope that the Christmas spirit of the quintessential December airport is not destroyed so violently ever again. Just as we have fought against common enemies before, we must work together, as Americans, to defeat this problem of gun violence.

In re Gun Control

The Houston Chronicle has a cover story today about the President’s urge to move forward with gun control legislation. As always, the cynic in me has a few things to say:

1. The right has already won
It  took a plethora of massacres for anything to even be brought up. Tucson, Virginia Tech, Aurora. Whenever this happened, the liberals and centrists of the country declined to even talk about gun control. It was only after over a dozen kindergarden-aged children were murdered, that anything was even brought up.

2. The NRA is too powerful
The NRA is like Grover Norquist when it comes to the GOP (or, you could say, a Teacher’s Union to the Democrats). In addition to the 45 GOP Senators, it might as well control Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AK), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Max Baucus (D-MT), & Jon Tester (D-MT). So 54 Senators, in all.

3. It is unconstitutional
In 2008, the Supreme Court held that banning handguns was a violation of the second amendment. Additionally, in 2010, it reaffirmed this ruling. The two cases (DC v. Heller; McDonald v. Chicago) may be the most powerful evidence yet that any effort towards gun control is futile.