Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Compounding Tragedies

Nearly three days have passed since the verdict was issued in the George Zimmerman trial. Yet even now, protests in honor of the late Trayvon Martin continue nationwide.

After legendary soul singer Lester Chambers dedicated a song to Trayvon Martin, someone jumped onto the stage and attacked him. Stevie Wonder has already vowed to stop performing in Florida and other "Stand Your Ground" states. And major rallies continue across the nation.

Since Saturday night, we've been forced to pay attention to the intersection of racism and radically flawed gun policies. ALEC, the NRA, and the rest of "Tea Party, Inc." pushed hard for "Stand Your Ground" in Florida and in other states. And as a result, George Zimmerman is a free man again despite admitting he shot Trayvon Martin dead.

This is the brutal reality of our broken gun policies. This is what happens when we allow the likes of the NRA and ALEC to eviscerate even the most basic of gun safety laws. This is what we've come to.

And it's not as if we're immune to this here in Nevada. In fact, we know all too well here in Nevada what happens when "Tea Party, Inc." and the gun lobby get their way. Tragedy occurs. Case in point: the latest scandal to hit the Reno Police Department.

The mentally ill 19-year-old who bought a gun from an on-duty Reno police sergeant was found by a judge last year to have a mental disability, which makes him prohibited from possessing a firearm under state and federal law, a Reno Gazette-Journal investigation found. [...]

Sgt. Laura Conklin did not ask for a background check when she sold the young man the firearm on July 2. Those checks are not required for private party sales under state or federal law.

The case has re-ignited the debate about background checks for private gun sales. The Nevada Legislature argued during the 2013 session about the need for background checks for all sales and passed a measure requiring them, but Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed the bill, saying it would “erode Nevadans’ Second Amendment rights.”

Adding to the controversy, Washoe District Court clerk Joey Orduna Hasting said late Monday that they made a mistake in their coding system and the man’s case was not sent to the Nevada Department of Public Safety to be included the background check system. That means his name has been missing from the list for more than a year.

Oh, yes. That's right. A Reno police officer actually sold a weapon to someone who wasn't supposed to own it! Apparently, this is the kind of "freedom" that Governor Brian Sandoval (R-NRA) wanted to protect when he vetoed SB 221 last month. And apparently, this is the kind of "freedom" that Senator Dean Heller (R-NRA) felt compelled to protect when he joined the G-O-TEA veto of an even more modest federal background checks bill in April.

These are the consequences we face for inaction on gun safety reform. A police officer can sell a firearm to someone who had already been found unsuitable for firearms ownership. A man can "legally" shoot to death another young man because "he looked suspicious" (read: black). A man can open fire in an elementary school and gun down twenty children & six adults to death. And throughout this state and across this country, many more people can meet their untimely demise. And we can thank the NRA, ALEC, and the rest of "Tea Party, Inc." for these compounding tragedies.

Do we really want more?

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