What will it take to get the gun show loophole closed?

How many more tragedies need to happen before elected officials have the guts to close the gun show loophole? The latest high-profile beneficiary of this loophole was the mentally ill attacker in the recent shootings near the Pentagon.

Law enforcement officials say [John Patrick] Bedell, a man with a history of severe psychiatric problems, had been sent a letter by California authorities Jan. 10 telling him he was prohibited from buying a gun because of his mental history.

Nineteen days later, the officials say, Bedell bought the Ruger at a gun show in Las Vegas. Such a sale by a private individual does not require the kind of background check that would have stopped Bedell’s purchase.

Republican politicians fall all over themselves trying to prove how loyal they are to the National Rifle Association. Some are against any kind of background checks for people who want to carry firearms in public. Too many Democrats are afraid to stand up to this NRA-approved extremism. Meanwhile, a Republican pollster’s recent survey of gun owners shows that they understand the need for reasonable limits:

Mr. Luntz queried 832 gun owners, including 401 card-carrying N.R.A. members, in a survey commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the alliance of hundreds of executives seeking stronger gun laws. In flat rebuttal of N.R.A. propaganda, the findings showed that 69 percent of N.R.A. members supported closing the notorious gun-show loophole that invites laissez-faire arms dealing outside registration requirements.

Even more members, 82 percent, favored banning gun purchases to suspects on terrorist watch lists who are now free to arm. And 69 percent disagreed with Congressionally imposed rules against sharing federal gun-trace information with state and local police agencies.

Fortunately, it looks as if a proposal to make it easier for Iowans to carry concealed weapons is unlikely to advance during this year’s legislative session. That bill’s main advocate is Iowa House Republican Clel Baudler. He serves on the NRA’s board and doesn’t even support steps to remove guns from domestic abusers. (Last fall, Baudler suggested that murder victim Tereseann Lynch Moore might not have been killed by her estranged husband if she had been carrying her own gun.) Not that Baudler is an isolated case; a disturbing number of Iowa Republican legislators opposed a recent bill to get guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers and people subject to a restraining order.

CORRECTION: I spoke too soon above. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have idiotically revived the NRA’s pet bill, which “would give Iowa one of the loosest gun-permit laws in the country.” Bad for public safety, bad politics. No one who wants to increase the number of Iowans carrying concealed weapons is going to vote for Democrats.

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Republican "family values" on display in Iowa House

The good news is, an important public safety bill went to Governor Chet Culver’s desk on March 11. Senate File 2357 was one of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s legislative priorities this year. The bill prohibits Iowans from owning guns and ammunition if they have been convicted of a domestic violence crime or are subject to a protective order. Since 1995, 205 Iowans have been killed in domestic violence incidents; that figure represents nearly one-third of all murders recorded in Iowa during that period. Miller has also pointed out that firearms caused 111 of the 205 Iowa deaths in domestic abuse murders since 1995. Moreover, firearms were involved in nearly two-thirds of Iowa’s domestic violence deaths in 2007 and 2008. Records show 46 of the 205 Iowans killed in domestic abuse murders since 1995 have been bystanders. It’s easier to kill a bystander with a gun than with a knife or other weapon.

Federal law already bans those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a protective order from owning a gun. However, the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence has noted,

We need additional state law so that local law enforcement officers have the legal authority help enforce the firearm ban. Without additional state law there are only two ATF agents in the entire state who can act to enforce the federal law […] Without local law enforcement involved abusers will not and are not abiding by the federal firearms ban.  

Various law enforcement entities backed SF 2357, but most Republicans in the Iowa legislature didn’t cooperate with this effort to address a major violent crime problem. While Republicans were unable to defeat the bill, their votes on the Senate and House floor showed more deference to extremist gun advocates than to the potential victims of domestic abusers.

Eleven of the 18 Iowa Senate Republicans voted against SF 2357 when the upper chamber approved it on February 25, and a twelfth Republican joined them when the Senate considered an amended version on March 11. Roll calls can be found in pdf files for the Senate Journal on those dates. Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley and third-district Congressional candidate Brad Zaun were among the Republicans who voted no.

The March 10 Iowa House debate on SF 2357 exposed even more disturbing aspects of Republican “family values.” House Republicans voted unanimously to inject the same-sex marriage debate into this unrelated bill.

Then they voted unanimously to add a provision that might deter victims from seeking a protective order.

Then all but one of them voted to help domestic abusers get their guns back more quickly.

Then they unanimously supported language to give abuse victims access to self-defense courses, as if that’s the real solution to the domestic violence problem.

Then more than half the Republican caucus voted against the final bill.

The gory details can be found here; highlights are after the jump.

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16 public shelters receive I-JOBS funding

I saw on Radio Iowa’s site that 16 shelters serving the homeless and victims of family violence will receive a total of $10 million through the I-JOBS state bonding initiative.

Grants will provide approximately half the funding to build new shelters in Des Moines, Iowa City, and Sioux Center. The other grants will pay for almost all of the renovation costs at 13 shelters in Muscatine, Dubuque, Mason City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Waverly, Boone, Davenport, and Burlington. Click here for more details about the 16 shelter projects.

According to the governor’s office,

Last year, more than 17,000 people sought help at Iowa’s shelters. Nearly 8,000 of these clients were members of families, and close to 40% of them were children.

The need is greater this year, probably because of the recession and growing number of foreclosures. From the Radio Iowa report:  

Tim Wilson, executive director of the shelter in Cedar Rapids, says there is an increased demand for services. “We have been very full from the spring through the summer on the men’s beds and particularly the family units. Lately, we’ve been turning away many more people than we can actually accommodate,” Wilson said.

Iowa Republicans keep bashing the I-JOBS program, but their false advertising and misleading talking points aren’t doing a thing to help the thousands of Iowans who need shelters during these tough times.

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