Wednesday, February 14, 2007

WA initiative would require married couples to have kids

"OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Proponents of same-sex marriage have introduced an initiative that would put a whole new twist on traditional unions between men and women: It would require heterosexual couples to have kids within three years or else have their marriages annulled."

A pretty funny response to the pro-family rhetoric of the Defense of Marriage Act folks.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Republicans consider the fascist option
Rudy Giuliani - because he'll make the trains run on time

"Gun show loophole" bill in Washington state

Washington state is an interesting state, in that it's generally politically moderate and also not very hostile to gun ownership. Despite this, an organization known as Washington Ceasefire annually tries to run various gun control bills in the stte legislature. While the legislature is currently run by a super-majority of Democrats, a lot of those Democrats are from rural areas and could put their position in the legislature at risk by supporting unpopular gun restrictions. This was demonstrated in 1994 when the legislature passed various gun controls and control of the legislature went to the Republicans.

The one gun control bill that seems to be moving this year is SB 5197 (companiopn bill HB 1026), which purports to close the "gun show loophole". This bill and others have gathered dust in the legislature for years, not moving out of committee. This year, its sponsors are attempting an end run around the Senate Judicial Committee (where several Republicans AND Democrats have kept it bottled up) by instead running it through the Labor, Commerce, and Research & Development Committee, which is composed of about 5 Democrats and 3 Republicans.

There are a number of reasons to oppose this bill. Its definition of a gun show could have the effect of making two people at a rifle match criminals, if one sold a rifle to another. It could shut down the largest gun shows in the state (which already require background checks, the stated purpose of the legislation) by making its leadership criminally responsible for preventing illicit sales, across the entire Puyallup fairgrounds site and probably within walking distance of the site. One board member testified that he would resign if this bill became law. Finally, the "gun show loophole" argument is a disingenuous fabrication for a program whose goal is to ban all priavte sales of firearms that do not pass between dealers for registration.

I attended the bill's hearing last Thursday, Feb. 8 and it was an interesting experience:
1. There were approximately 300 gun rights advocates there to testify or watch the hearing, compared to about 80 gun control advocates, despite the fact that Washington Ceasefire resorted to busing people in this year.

2. Still, the committee chair Jeanne Kohl-Welles chose to provide both sides the chance to have an equal number of people testify, in the interest of "fairness". Kohl-Welles manner was generally rude, interrupting people frequently with an update on their remaining time allotment.

3. The bill's advocates this year did not include any ceasefire members. Gun research advocate Dr. Gary Wintermute was flown up form California. Senator Ginny Burdick was brought up from Oregon to talk about her experiences in sponsoring such a bill. Burdick claimed that gun owners in Oregon supported her bill, which seems unlikely and that a Portland youth gun task for found a "very high percentage" of guns used in crimes were traced to gun shows (the Oregonian claimed about 25%; Clinton era DOJ studies put it at under 1%). She concluded by noting that "all 4 guns frmo Columbine were traced to gun shows", without noting that 3 were purchased in a strawman purchase by an 18 year old with a clean background; the 4th may not have been purchased at a gun show.

4. The bill's opponents included Joe Waldron of WAC and various other organizations, Dr. Mike Brown of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws, Ray Carter (a former Pride event organizer and founder of a local Pink Pistols group) , Dave Workman (former NRA board member and writer) and two former Los Angeles sheriffs who presently serve as law enforcement consultants.

5. Of the Democrats on the committee only two seemed interested in seriously considering the impact of this legislation on state gun owners. These professionals were Rosa Franklin and Karen Keiser. They joined Republicans Janéa Holmquist, Jim Clements and Mike Hewitt taking their responsibilities as representatives of the people seriously.

At this point, the fate of this bill in the Senate is unclear. It may be passed out of committee (though that is not certain) but is not likely to pass in a floor vote.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New blog about general political wonkiness

This blog is being started by a couple co-workers and friends of different political views, who share the view that the political landscape has become a la-la land of goofiness. The mature, thoughtful discussions we should be having are not taking place. Here's to the notion that we need more light and less heat, in the political domain!