Gun Controllers See Ballot Initiatives as Their Savior After Success of Washington’s Initiative 594 on Background Checks for Gun Purchases

Washington state saw victory this week for
Initiative 594
, which impose tougher background check
requirements on gun purchases, of the sort that have gotten nowhere
recently on the national level. 

From the ballot language, the Initiative will:

apply the background check requirements currently used for
firearm sales by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and
transfers where at least one party is in Washington. Background
checks would thus be required not only for sales and transfers of
firearms through firearms dealers, but also at gun shows, online,
and between unlicensed private individuals. Background checks would
be required for any sale or transfer of a firearm, whether for
money or as a gift or loan, with specific exceptions described
below. Background checks would be required whether the firearm
involved is a pistol or another type of firearm. Violations of
these requirements would be crimes.

People who Washington law tries to bar from firearms ownership
include, also from the Initiative language:

Washington law makes it illegal for convicted felons to possess
firearms. It also makes it illegal for certain others to possess
firearms, including people who: (1) have been convicted of certain
misdemeanors; (2) have been issued certain types of restraining
orders; (3) have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of
insanity; (4) have been found mentally incompetent; or (5) have
certain criminal charges pending. It is a felony to deliver any
firearm to any person reasonably believed to be prohibited from
owning or possessing a firearm.

It passed with 60 pecent support. This led sources from

Time
 to
Mother Jones
 to
The Atlantic
to declare that taking it straight to the
voters is the new way for gun control to succeed in an America
allegedly paralyzed by over-powerful pro-gun lobbying to
politicians.

Progressives who get angry at the notion of big money
manipulating the electorate will probably not be alarmed to note
that, with the NRA choosing to toss in only around a half a
million, that Washington’s initiative had pro voices outspending
anti enormously—Ballotpedia
has
pro forces spending over $10 million, and anti only around
$600,000. Enemy
of all freedoms
Michael Bloomberg gave $50 million overall to
one of the groups pushing this initiative, “Everytown for Gun
Safety.” (Big donors for 594 also included Bill and Melinda Gates
to the tune of a million, and Paul Allen to the tune of a half
million.)

They have their eye on doing the same in Nevada in 2016, if they
fail to get the legislature to pass such laws in the meantime.
Colorado and Oregon saw such laws pass by initiative in the early
’00s, but that strategy had gone into abeyance, largely due to lack
of anti-gun funding, which Bloomberg and his operation has helped
correct.

David Frum pointed out some of the historical ironies in the gun
control context of this happening in Washington:

The passage of 594 takes on extra meaning because Washington
state was the place where the gun lobby scored the electoral
victory that supposedly
proved its invincibility
, the defeat of House Speaker Thomas
Foley in his own district in 1994. Foley, a longtime supporter of
gun rights, had helped pass two gun restrictions in 1993 and 1994:
the Brady Bill restricting some handgun sales and the temporary
assault-weapons ban, the latter inspired
by a gun massacre at Spokane’s Air Force base
 that killed
four and wounded 23. Then-NRA President Charlton Heston came to
Foley’s district to campaign against him. Foley’s defeat seemed to
prove forever the invincibility of the pro-gun
cause. 

Initiatives may well prove to be a successful tack for gun
controllers again in the future, more’s the pity.
While money does not equal victory
in these sorts of contests, it behooves civil rights groups
dedicated to the Second Amendment to take these efforts more
seriously in the future.

Such a strategy won’t work everywhere, naturally, as see this
week Alabama voters approving by 70 percent Amendment 3, which, as
the Alabama Media Group’s
Al.com reports
:

The amendment was introduced to the state legislature by Rep.
Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), and it specifies that the right to bear
arms is a fundamental right for citizens of the state of
Alabama. 

It will require ‘strict scrutiny,’ the highest level of judicial
review, for any restriction of that right. 

Background checks may seem mild, but they are the sort of
regulation that can easily end up destroying people’s lives for
doing something inherently innocent but for the law: peacefully
transfering ownership of their lawful property to someone who, in
the overwhelming number of cases, will not use that property to
harm anyone else.

At best, such background checks are a purely ceremonial
way to block the (in almost all cases) innocent from being able to
own vital means of self-defense, and shouldn’t be taken lightly by
supporters or opponents. Things that leave people open to arrest
are very serious, and merely ignoring government paperwork
requirements in sales of property that, again, in the overwhelming
number of cases are never used to harm the innocent, shouldn’t be
the cause of throwing someone in prison or imposing onerous fines
on them. (A first offense under 594 will be a gross
misdemeanor
; each subsequent offense a class C
felony.)

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Gallup Finds Most Americans Still Want to Legalize Pot

According to a Gallup
poll
 conducted last month, most Americans still support
marijuana legalization, although the number is down from last year:
51 percent in favor now, compared to 58 percent in 2013. The new
number is close to what other recent surveys
have found.

Gallup speculates about possible reasons for the drop in support
between 2013 and 2014:

Last year’s finding of 58% in favor was recorded as Colorado was
preparing to become the first state to implement a law
decriminalizing the use of small amounts of marijuana for
recreational use. Although the law passed in November 2012, it did
not go into effect until January 2014. Americans may have warmed
some to proponents’ arguments in 2013 in the ongoing discussion
around the Colorado law. More recently, Colorado has been in the
news over the sale of marijuana-infused edibles—everything from
brownies to gummy bears—and the risk they pose to children,
possibly sparking public concern. Also, a year ago, proponents in
California were poised to launch a ballot initiative for 2014 to
legalize marijuana in the Golden State, adding to the sense of
momentum for legalization, but later decided to wait until 2016 for
fear of losing at the polls, as they did in 2010. The relative lack
of attention to new legalization initiatives throughout 2014 may
have caused public support to subside.

Gallup adds that “as long as support hovers around the 50%
mark, it will be difficult for proponents to promote legalization
beyond the more Democratic and liberal-oriented states.” I’m not
sure about that, since 55 percent of Colorado voters approved
legalization in 2012, when Gallup put national support at 50
percent, and 52 percent of Alaskans went for legalization on
Tuesday. Colorado and Alaska are
purple and red
, respectively, so I don’t think they qualify as
“the more Democratic and liberal-oriented states,” although both
have libertarian streaks.

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Oh the Irony! Big Money Anti-Citizens United SuperPAC Demonstrates Frequent Impotence of Big Money in Politics

Perfectly lovely irony
reported in Politico today
:

Mayday PAC burst onto the political scene in the spring of 2014
with grandiose designs to elect a pro-campaign finance reform
majority to the U.S. Congress by 2016. The 2014 cycle was a test
run of sorts — with the group spending more than $10 million on a
slate of candidates ostensibly united only in their belief in
curbing the influence of big donors, lobbyists and money in the
political system.

It was money down the drain.

Senate hopefuls Rick Weiland and Greg Orman and House candidates
Paul Clements, Staci Appel and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter — all lost,
despite Mayday’s much-touted, high-profile investments in those
races. The setbacks across the country on Tuesday follow on the
heels of a loss in the New Hampshire primary, when Mayday PAC
backed a losing GOP challenger to Scott Brown. In the only race
where Mayday PAC backed a winner — supporting Republican Rep.
Walter Jones’ in North Carolina — it was hard-pressed to claim
credit, since Jones’ reelection to a safe GOP seat was all-but
assured without outside help….

[Harvard Professor Larry] Lessig [figurehead of the PAC] did not
respond to multiple phone calls from POLITICO in the aftermath of
Tuesday’s election. That’s a marked change from earlier, when he
and his allies assiduously courted media coverage – to great
effect.

A PR firm representing Lessig declined requests to make him
available and sent this statement from him: “It was a tough night
across the board for supporters of reform, but we’re glad we
engaged in this fight. We feel confident that we made progress and
we’re collecting and examining data over the next couple of days
that can illustrate the impact that Mayday achieved in our races.
The fight to root out corruption in our politics is one of the most
important in our time and we will continue to pursue it with fierce
urgency.”

Free political expression defenders, you can never
rest—Lessig and his ilk will always be out there ready to beat
you. 

Reason on Citizens
United
and money in politics
.

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Chart: Why Felon Disenfranchisement Matters

Via Demos’ Sean
McElwee
, here’s an interesting look at the extent to which
disenfranchisement of those with felony convictions may influence
election outcomes. In several high-profile and highly-contested
Senate races this election, the margin of victory was much smaller
than the number of felons ineligible to vote:  

Is this to say all those felons would have voted if they were
allowed, or would have voted in a way that changed these races’
outcomes? Of course not. But it does support the idea that
restoring felons’ voting rights could have a
political impact. 

Dara Lind recently took at
look at state differences in disenfranchisement policies.
With
the exception of Maine and Vermont, all states prohibit those
currently incarcerated for a felony from voting. The majority
(including Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina) prohibit those on
parole or probation for a felony crime from voting. And in 12
states (including Florida), those with felony convictions are
stripped of voting rights even after they’ve completed their
sentence, in some cases forever. “As a result, according to the
Sentencing Project, 5.8 million American citizens have lost their
voting rights through the criminal-justice system,” writes Lind.
“And one in every thirteen African-American citizens has lost his
or her right to vote this way.” 

According to the latest
Reason-Rupe poll
, nearly three-quarters of Americans favor
restoring voting rights to at least some felons: those convicted of
non-violent drug offences. In June, Sen. Rand Paul introduced
legislation
to restore voting rights to all non-violent
felony
 offenders. 

It’s a start, at least. I agree
with my colleague Jacob Sullum
(and the ACLU) that anyone who
has served their time for the crime they committed should have
their voting rights restored upon release. “It has never made sense
to me,” writes Sullum, ‘that committing a felony should forever
turn someone into a second-class citizen, which contradicts the
goal of reintegrating people into society after they’ve completed
their sentences.” 

More state-by-state info on
felon voting rights here

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Gay Marriage Recognition Bans Upheld in Four States. Are We SCOTUS-Bound Now?

And the wedding march cuts off with that awful needle scratch sound.As some court watchers
(including
our own Damon Root
) predicted, the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the 6th Circuit has put the brakes on the mass march of same-sex
couples to their local city clerk’s office to pick up marriage
licenses. By a ruling of 2-1, the court has reversed lower court
rulings and
upheld gay marriage recognition bans
in Michigan, Ohio,
Kentucky, and Tennessee.

The majority conclusion isn’t so much about the validity of bans
of gay marriage as about who controls the process by which they are
or are not recognized. As Root previously suggested, it is a
deferential decision. From the ruling
(pdf):

This case ultimately presents two ways to think about change.
One is whether the Supreme Court will constitutionalize a new
definition of marriage to meet new policy views about the issue.
The other is whether the Court will begin to undertake a different
form of change—change in the way we as a country optimize the
handling of efforts to address requests for new civil
liberties.

If the Court takes the first approach, it may resolve the issue
for good and give the plaintiffs and many others relief. But we
will never know what might have been. If the Court takes the second
approach, is it not possible that the traditional arbiters of
change—the people— will meet today’s challenge admirably and settle
the issue in a productive way? In just eleven years, nineteen
States and a conspicuous District, accounting for nearly forty-five
percent of the population, have exercised their sovereign powers to
expand a definition of marriage that until recently was universally
followed going back to the earliest days of human history. That is
a difficult timeline to criticize as unworthy of further debate and
voting. When the courts do not let the people resolve new social
issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in
these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this
instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political
processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the
heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as
adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to
resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.

That reference to the “heroes being judges and lawyers” sounds
like a not-so-subtle shot at guys like Ted Olson and David
Boies
, who have certainly pursued lots of
positive press
for their role in fighting Proposition 8 in
California, as well as judges who have made sure to have some nice
quotable lines in their rulings striking down marriage recognition
bans.

We now have split decisions, with the 6th Circuit decision
running counter to several other circuit decisions. This will
increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will take up the
issue. They had previously declined, but previously all the appeals
courts were in agreement.

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Defense Department Plans Bust the Budget and Risk Forced Cuts, Cautions CBO

Defense Department spending plans for the next
few years blow through the roof off budget limits imposed by law,
warns the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Specifically,
proposals in the five-year Future Years Defense Program (FYDP)
provided by Defense officials in April of this year violate
spending limitations imposed on the federal government by the
Budget Control
Act
(BCA) forcing (theoretically, since we’re talking about
government) unplanned cuts at a later date.

In fact, Defense plans are too spendy not just according to CBO
estimates of costs based on actual historical experience (“CBO
Projection” in the chart below), but also according to the Defense
Department’s own estimates (“Extension of FYDP”) of what stuff
costs.

Defense spending

According to the
CBO
:

The amount requested for the base budget in 2015 would comply
with the limits on budget authority established by the Budget
Control Act of 2011 as subsequently modified, hereafter referred to
simply as the Budget Control Act (BCA). After 2015, however, the
costs of DoD’s plans under both projections would significantly
exceed CBO’s estimate of the funding the department would receive
under the BCA, which limits appropriations for national defense
through 2021. To remain in compliance with the BCA after 2015, DoD
would have to make sharp additional cuts to the size of its forces,
curtail the development and purchase of weapons, reduce the extent
of its operations and training, or implement some combination of
those three actions.

Excessive costs, the CBO estimates, would be about $47 billion a
year more than the BCA allows. Even under Defense Department cost
estimates, that works out to roughly $31 billion a year more than
the law permits. The BCA would then require the sequestration of
those excess expenditures, forcing cuts.

Well, that’s what the law says. Whether Congress and the
president are collectively up to the task of holding the military
within budgetary limits is another matter entirely. Which may be
exactly why the Department of Defense seems to be making its plans
without any thoughts to legal limits on spending.

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The Dallas Ebola Outbreak Is About to Be Officially Over

Assuming there are no terrible surprises in the next 24 hours,
the Dallas Ebola outbreak is officially coming to an end, according
to the Texas
Department of State Health Services
:

the eBolo tieThe last person being monitored in connection
with the state’s three diagnosed Ebola patients will be cleared
from twice-daily monitoring by the end of the day Friday after
reaching the 21-day mark, the longest incubation period for the
disease.

No additional cases of the disease have been diagnosed in
Texas.

A total of 177 people—a mix of health care workers, household
contacts and community members—have been monitored over time
because they had contact with at least one of the three Texas Ebola
patients, specimens or medical waste. The last person being
monitored Friday is a hospital worker who handled medical waste
Oct. 17….

Texas also recently cleared the people who were being monitored in
Texas because they were passengers on one of the Dallas-Cleveland
flights that carried a Dallas health care worker before she was
diagnosed with Ebola.

In less happy news, there is a
new outbreak
in a part of Sierra Leone where doctors thought
the disease had been contained.

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Where Major Gubernatorial Candidates Couldn’t Convince Voters, Libertarians Covered the Spread

Tuesday night saw control of the Senate move to the Republicans
after a string of victories for seats presently held by Democrats
but around the country—in thirty six states—the governor’s office
was up for election too. About a fifth of those races saw the party
in power lose control, including in “deep blue” states like
Maryland and Massachusetts where Republicans will replace departing
Democrats, and Illinois, where incumbent Pat Quinn lost to
Republican Bruce Rauner. In Vermont, meanwhile, Democrat Pete
Shumlin failed to secure 50 percent of the vote, meaning the state
legislature will choose the next governor. Some Republicans

blame
Dan Feliciano, the Libertarian candidate, who received
about 4.4 percent of the vote, for their candidate not reaching 50
percent.

Check out the graphic below:

Gubernatorial Election Map

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Bruce Majors on Spoilers and Weaponized Libertarians

Robert SarvisAt his post
election press conference the day after their electoral sweep,
President Obama announced that “Republicans had a good night.” On
FOX’s The Five, token Democrat Bob Beckel admitted
“We got our asses kicked.”

And yet, with all that success, Republicans spent a good part of
November 5th complaining about Libertarian spoilers. Of course,
Republicans make their own problems when they court libertarians
and then promptly let them down, creating the environment in which
“spoilers” will run against them. In fact, writes Bruce Majors, the
major parties are now “weaponizing” Libertarian candidates for use
against each other.

View this article.

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Obama Sent Secret Letter to Iran on ISIS, GOP Wants Keystone Pipeline, Star Wars VII Gets a Name: P.M. Links

  • President Barack Obama sent a
    secret letter
    to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
    to discuss their mutual interesting in wiping out ISIS.
  • House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
    says
    that the Republican-controlled Congress is going to push
    for the Keystone XL Pipeline and the repeal of medical device taxes
    implemented by Obamacare, and they’re going to resist unilateral
    immigration decisions if Obama tries to use executive orders.

  • This ex-Navy SEAL
    says he killed Osama bin Laden.
    This Marine
    just got charged for a fraud scheme involving the
    president’s helicopter fleet. And, the U.S. Army today
    quietly ended
    a policy that permitted black servicemen to be
    referred to as “negroes.”
  • Russia is sending
    ballistic missiles-equipped
    units to Ukraine’s border. Every
    day since the revolution turned bloody in February, I’ve thought,
    “It can’t get any worse than this,” and every day it does.
  • The Archdiocese of Chicago released
    15,000 pages on 350 incidents
    of child abuse within the
    Catholic Church.
  • The next Star Wars movie just got a title: “The
    Force Awakens
    .” …You’re kidding, right? That’s not just a porno
    parody? 

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