Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Now, It Really Hits Home.

For some time now, we've been looking at gun violence and ways to curb the bloodshed we've seen throughout the country. Today, we saw even more of it at a college campus in Houston. Yet today, we also saw this issue hit home. Assembly Member Steven Brooks (D-North Las Vegas) was arrested last weekend for allegedly making a death threat against Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas).

And now, we have some more details on why North Las Vegas police arrested Brooks. Here's Ralston.

----Kirkpatrick contacted police after getting a call from [Senator Kelvin] Atkinson [D-North Las Vegas]. She told officers that Brooks repeatedly had said she ruined his life by becoming speaker. Atkinson had received a call from [Las Vegas City Council Member Rikki] Barlow that Brooks was looking to harm others. Kirkpatrick told police Atkinson was seeking a Temporary Protective Order against Brooks and no one should feel safe. Kirkpatrick also said she had been told by Atkinson that Brooks was at a behavioral treatment center the previous evening.

----Atkinson told police that Brooks told him he was looking to "do in" the speaker and was driving around with a loaded gun in his car. Brooks also contacted law enforcement, saying he was concerned about his own safety.

-----Relatives told police Brooks had a gun and told Barlow he had a loaded gun, that he may harm the speaker and was not afraid to die and willing to have a shootout with police. [...]

----His wife, Ada Brooks, told the police that during the last few months her husband's mental health had been getting worse and she was worried about him. (A distraught speaker Kirkpatrick also told police she fears for his mental health.) Steven Brooks yelled at officers for illegally searching his vehicle. They explained they were doing an inventory of personal property. He yelled he's an assemblyman and they were violating his rights.

----Brooks ultimately directed the cops to a .357 Smith and Wesson with 41 live rounds of ammo, one used, in a shoebox in his trunk. He told police he had the gun because he was at the NRA shooting event that day. (He was not, as the police later discovered.)

Ralston has also been tweeting from the North Las Vegas Police press conference. And so far, police have been confirming all these details and more. And because of Brooks' elected position, this case has been referred to the Nevada Attorney General's office.

If all of this is indeed true, then Carson City truly (and literally) dodged a bullet. Nonetheless, it's still frightening to think of how close we could have been to enduring a homegrown massacre here in Nevada.

Last week, a pair of Virginia legislators demonstrated how people can obtain firearms without submitting to any background checks. Believe it or not, this regularly happens. "Private sales" currently have no requirement for background checks in most states.

We still don't exactly know how Steven Brooks obtained his .357. But if he indeed has endured a mental health breakdown and he indeed was planning to use it to assassinate his fellow legislators, it's frightening to think of how easy it is for virtually anyone to obtain firearms. Is this smart? And is this sustainable?

Earlier this month, Retired General Stanley McChrystal explained why he thinks America must rethink gun safety.

And perhaps Nevada can learn some important lessons on gun safety from this Steven Brooks scandal. Again, this simply is not conducive to our democracy. Our democratic system can not survive if people are too afraid to participate in the marketplace of ideas & public policy. Nevada legislators should keep this in mind this session... Along with Harry Reid and Nevada's other Members of Congress.

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