# Gun Control

Weekend open thread, with highlights from latest Des Moines Register poll

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

The Des Moines Register continues to release bits and pieces from the latest Iowa poll conducted by Selzer & Co. After the jump I’ve posted some of the more important findings, other than the IA-Sen numbers, which I discussed in this post. Like the Iowa .Gif-t Shop blog, I found it bizarre that the Register asked respondents whether they’d be “thrilled,” “mildly happy,” or “don’t really care” about the prospect of certain national retailers opening an Iowa store.

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State of the Union and Rubio response discussion thread

President Barack Obama delivers another State of the Union address tonight, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is set to give the Republican response. I will miss most of the president’s speech but plan to watch the replay later and will update this post with highlights. Meanwhile, feel free to comment on any topics raised during the speeches in this thread.

UPDATE: Highlights from the speeches and reaction from the Iowans in Congress are after the jump.

I find it depressing that when I came home to catch up on the news, the blogosphere and twitterverse were obsessing over Rubio taking a drink of water during his remarks. So sue him, he’s not the most camera-savvy politician in Washington (yet). Who cares?

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Iowa reaction to Obama's gun law proposals

Today President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden revealed a list of proposals designed to reduce gun violence. The full transcript from the press conference is here. It’s embarrassing that we needed a presidential order to allow the Centers for Disease Control to study this issue.

After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from the president’s remarks and a statement from Representative Steve King (R, IA-04). I also included some comments from Iowa legislators about possible state legislation related to guns or gun violence. I will update this post as needed with more comments on these issues. UPDATE: Added Senator Tom Harkin’s comments.

SECOND UPDATE: Added comments from Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02).

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NRA to push aggressive legislative agenda in Iowa

Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled Iowa legislature passed one of the loosest “shall issue” gun permit laws in the country. The bill appeared to have died in the legislature’s “funnel”, but Democratic leaders revived it, and the final version passed both chambers by wide margins. Democrats presumably thought supporting the top legislative priority of the National Rifle Assocation would save many of their vulnerable incumbents. But even though the NRA endorsed Governor Chet Culver and many Democratic lawmakers, Republicans made huge gains in Iowa last month.

Now the NRA plans “a major push for expanded gun rights in Iowa,” Jennifer Jacobs reported in today’s Des Moines Register. The organization’s priorities for the 2011 legislative session are listed after the jump.

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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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Nine Predictions for 2009

(The 2008 Bleeding Heartland election prediction champion gets out the crystal ball for the year to come... - promoted by desmoinesdem)

My apologies for not getting this in closer to the actual new year, but you could say that “a day late and a dollar short” has been the theme of the new year so far for me. Or five days short, as the case may be.

In any case, before we start the new political year for real, I thought it might be fun to share our predictions for the new year. Here are nine predictions of mine for two thousand and nine.

1. The state budget is in far worse shape then we think. Expect the fight over the budget to get ugly, quick.

The Iowa state fiscal year runs from July 1 2008 to June 30 2009–right in the heart of the economic meltdown. Given that the estimates for this period are just starting to come in, it's reasonable to assume that the stories we're currently hearing about the “budget crisis” represent only the tip of a much larger iceberg. Likewise, the 1.5% across-the-board cut currently proposed by Gov. Culver isn't going to be nearly enough to solve the crisis. It's going to get ugly and fast.

2. Unemployment will hit 10% by the end of 2009, and recovery will not come until early 2010.

Call me a pessimist, but I think things are going to get much worse before they get better. When you combine the potential failure of the Big 3 (a still unresolved issue, by the way), plus a global manufacturing slowdown, with the fact that up to 25% of retail stores may declare bankrupcy in the next year–you have the recipie for unmitigated economic disaster.  

To complicate matters, I do not expect President Obama's recovery measures to be passed before May of this year. (There are already signs that a long battle is ahead for this bill.) That means that many of the infrastructure projects given funds through the program will miss out on the summer construction window–meaning they likely won't start until Summer 2010. Many other measures, like tax cuts or social programs won't go into effect until 2010 as well…moving the light at the end of the tunnel further and further away.

3. The Big 3 will not survive in their current form. Get ready for the Big 2.

Regardless of whether the auto bailout was the correct move at the time, by the time the big ball drops in 2010–there will no longer be a Big 3 as we know them now. My best guess is that one of the Big 3 automakers (most likely Chrysler) will implode into disorganized bankrupcy. No buyer will be found, and the brand will simply cease to exist. This will spark a crisis that will either lead to the organized bankrupcy/restructuring of the other companies, or government assistance with severe Bob Corker style conditions. 

The good news is that out of the multitude of laid-off engineers and designers, we could see new  and innovative technologies, designs, and companies form. By 2020 we could all be driving solar hybrids designed and built by ex-Big 3 designers who started their own companies.

6. The Supreme Court will rule in favor of same-sex marriage in the case of Varnum v. Brien.

Beware the ides of March rings true in Iowa in 2009. Expect a ruling on the case of Varnum v. Brien to come down with a rulings for several other cases on March 13, the conclusion of the Court's March session. When that happens expect a whirlwind of craziness to descend on the state: national media, a rush of spring weddings, celebrity attention, half-cocked legal challenges, right-wing rants, Fred Phelps-ian protests, legislative blustering, Steve Deace's head exploding, and who knows what else.

I don't think the moon turning to blood, the dead walking the streets, or any other Pat Robertson-style pronouncements will come true…but expect a wild ride.

5. The Republican candidate for Governor will be a serious contender who already holds a major elected office.

The current fight over the RPI chair has a definite and familiar theme: change. Old hacks are out, new hacks are in. While there is a faction of the GOP that clings to BVP like life preserver, the majority of the party is, I think, waiting for someone new to come along.

That someone is either State Auditor David Vaudt, Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, or 4th District Congressman Tom Latham.

Vaudt looks to emerge as one of the main faces of opposition to Culver on budget issues, a position he could use to slingshot him to the governorship. Northey is the darling of the Republican Party and, with agricultural issues on the back-burner this year and little to do, may find the Governor's race an attractive prospect. Latham, by all measures a low-importance member of the minority party might decide that its now or never for him. And he has nothing to lose: if he wins, he's the Governor; if he loses, he can run again as the elder-statesman in the dogfight that will be the new 3rd district.

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Accused U of I professor took his own life

University of Iowa Arthur Miller’s body was identified on Wednesday, a week after he was reported missing and three days after his corpse was found in an Iowa City Park. Miller was under investigation for allegedly offering female students higher grades in exchange for sexual favors.

Miller placed a phone call to the Cedar Rapids Gazette shortly before he disappeared. In that call,

Miller said he believed the allegations and the investigation were part of a vendetta against him by Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Miller said he and Maxson had a running feud over the closure of an institute Miller founded. The Iowa Social Science Institute closed in 2002 upon recommendation by a committee with UI and external members, UI spokesman Steve Parrott said.

Miller said in the call that after the allegations were made, “not a single university administrator, not even the chairman of my department, came to me and asked me if I were OK,” if he had problems or was sick.

Miller also said that during his meetings with UI officials about the investigation, he thought these were sexual harassment charges that would be handled with an internal hearing or negotiation. He said he was surprised to be arrested.

“It’s been very depressing to me now that this has all gone public,” Miller said, adding that even if the charges are proved unfounded, he felt his reputation was ruined.

I feel very sorry for Miller’s wife and two young children (one four-year-old and one four-month-old). No matter what the outcome of the investigation, those children would have been better off knowing their father as they grew up.

The autopsy determined that Miller died of a self-inflicted wound from a rifle. The Des Moines Register reported that Miller had tried to buy a pistol or revolver in June, but Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek denied the permit application:

When a routine background check yielded a letter from the university informing him of multiple investigations tied to the political science professor, Pulkrabek got involved personally and called the university’s legal counsel.

“He gave me some additional (non-public) information that was enough for me to deny the permit,” Pulkrabek wrote in an e-mail circulated this week to other sheriffs. […]

Iowa law gives sheriffs the authority to decide who receives gun permits and to impose restrictions on those who want to carry concealed weapons.

But at least 35 states – including Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska – now mandate that concealed weapons permits be approved, provided applicants meet a set of criteria laid out in state law.

Groups such as the Iowa State Rifle and Pistol Association and IowaCarry.Org supported legislation last year that would have made Iowa’s permit process more uniform and taken the discretion away from sheriffs. The legislation died under heated opposition from many in law enforcement, including the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association and the Iowa attorney general’s office.

Miller was able to buy a rifle after being denied a handgun permit because his name was not on a federal list that gun dealers are required to check before selling rifles.

As it turned out, Miller was planning to kill himself, but the sheriff had reasonable grounds to worry that he might be a danger to others. I hope legislators will not agree to relax Iowa’s law regarding permits for concealed weapons.

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