Browsing the blog archives for October, 2017.


Trump’s Wrecking Company

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Health Care, Trump Maladministration

For a brief, shiny moment it seemed the Senate would save the cost-sharing subsidies and the ACA. Yesterday  Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray submitted a bill that was supposed to do that, anyway.

Yesterday, Trump appeared to approve of this plan. Today, he does not. He still thinks it’s a “bailout” of the insurance industry. Sarah Kliff explains:

Trump has said he will discontinue the second [cost sharing] subsidy program. But insurance companies are still required by law to provide these subsidies to their low-income enrollees. They cannot jack up the deductibles on someone who earns 200 percent of the poverty line, even though the government has stopped providing the money.

Insurance companies don’t want to lose money. They need a way to offset the sudden loss of billions in government funds. So, they looked for other levers to pull. And many settled on raising premiums as a way to recoup those lost funds.

Paul Waldman wrote today:

President Trump is facing a dilemma: Does he want to destroy the American health-care system or not? At this point, all evidence suggests that he genuinely can’t decide what the answer to that question is. …

… When the Alexander-Murray agreement was announced yesterday, Trump at first seemed supportive. “It is a short-term solution, so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period — including dangerous periods for insurance companies,” he said at a press conference. “For a period of one year, two years, we will have a very good solution.” But then this morning, he tweeted, “I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care.”

What gives? When you try to interpret the president’s shifting positions — and figure out how this is all going to end — there are a few things you have to keep in mind. First, it’s wise to assume that he has no idea how any provision of this agreement or the ACA itself actually works, and that will not change. For instance, he seems to have convinced himself that cost-sharing reductions are like an extra bonus given to insurance companies that they’ll just use to pad their profits. “That money is going to insurance companies to lift up their stock price,” he has said, when in fact the money is basically passed through the insurers to provide lower co-payments and deductibles for people with low incomes. He hasn’t bothered to learn what the law does, and he certainly isn’t going to quickly get up to speed on new proposals to provide technical fixes.

Still, it might be that if he were presented with a bill to sign, he’d sign it. However, Paul Ryan probably has more enthusiasm for cold oatmeal than he has shown for this bill.

“The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare,” a Ryan spokesperson told Axios.

So, not much chance anything is going to happen. Jonathan Swan and David Nather write at Axios that nobody has any idea what Trump actually thinks, “But it’s fair to say that everyone who is remotely conservative inside the administration is pushing not to keep funding the Affordable Care Act’s insurer subsidies without serious concessions.”

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Trump Owns the Health Care Mess

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Trump Maladministration

It’s clear that Trump has no clue how the Affordable Care Act works. But then, few Republicans in Congress do, either, including their alleged policy wonk, Paul Ryan. Trump’s understanding of the health care law probably came from them.

Today Trump explained his reasons for ending the cost-sharing subsidies, a move that will raise everybody’s premiums.

That was a subsidy to the insurance companies and a gift that was what they gave the insurance companies. Take a look at where their stock was when Obamacare was originally approved and what it is today. You will see numbers that if you invested in the stocks, you would be extremely happy. They have given them a total gift. They have given them — you can almost call it a pay off. It’s a disgrace. That money goes to the insurance companies. We want to take care of poof people and people that need help with health care.

I’m never going to get campaign contributions from the insurance companies, but take a look at how much money has been spent by the Democrats and by the health companies on politicians generally, but take a look at the coffers of the Democrats.

The CSR payments have actually brought Republicans and Democrats together. We got calls, emergency calls from the Democrats and I think probably the Republicans were also calling them saying let’s come up with at least a short-term fix of health care in this country. And the gravy train ended the day I knocked the insurance companies’ money. Which was last week. Hundred of millions of dollars handed to the insurance companies for very little reason. Believe me. I want the money to go to the people, to poor people that need it. Not to insurance companies which is where it’s going,  as of last week I ended that.

In other words, Trump seems to think that the payments were some kind of bribe to the insurance industry, not something that paid for an actual benefit.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the insurance industry altogether gives a lot more money to Republicans than to Democrats. The biggest health insurance donor, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, in 2016 gave $450,330 to Republicans and $229,840 to Democrats.  The single biggest recipient of insurance industry money in Congress is Paul Ryan.

Donations from insurance industry, 2016, Center for Responsive Politics

The insurance industry (all types) gave more money to Hillary Clinton than to Donald Trump last year, though, which may be one reason he’s angry at them.

The cost-sharing subsidies that Trump axed are different from the tax credits used to buy subsidized insurance, but losing those subsidies will hit everyone hard, especially poor people.

The cost-sharing subsidies were designed to reduce out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and co-pays for people with incomes from 100 percent to 250 percent of the federal poverty level. About 7 million people are receiving these subsidies in 2017, more than half of the people who buy insurance on the ACA exchanges, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Insurers provide the subsidies to consumers, and the federal government reimburses insurers for the higher costs. Those reimbursements are estimated to total $7 billion this year and as much as $9 billion in 2018. At the same time, cost-sharing payments are expected reduce low-income consumers’ deductibles by as much as $3,354 each and out-of-pocket medical expenses by as much as $5,587, reported KFF.

Cost-sharing subsidies are different from the tax credits that qualified consumers receive to help offset the exchange-based premiums. Without the subsidies, medical expenses will become unaffordable for many low-income families, even if they purchase insurance.

Insurers are saying that as a result of the loss of this subsidy they will hike up everybody’s premiums by 20 percent and probably will push a lot of insurers out of the market altogether. The hike will likely be worse for those who buy insurance through ACA. This just in, from Pennsylvania

Obamacare health insurance premiums in Pennsylvania will jump an average 30.6 percent in 2018, nearly four times the increase that had been anticipated before cost-sharing reductions for the coverage were scrapped last week.

The original projection had been for an average 7.6 percent rate increase for individual health insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act’s government exchange.

See also What Affordable Care Act Rollback Means For The Health Care Insurance Industry at NPR.

Whatever happens to health care premiums now, Republicans will own it. Trump will own it. He doesn’t seem to grasp that; last July he actually said,

“I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll let Obamacare fail,” Trump said at the White House. “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you, the Republicans are not going to own it.”

But that’s not something he gets to decide. Ezra Klein says,

Trump’s decision to choke off the federal payments stabilizing premiums and insurance markets is based on a similar theory — bad policy will lead to political pain, which will give Republicans negotiating leverage …

… The problem with this theory is that Democrats no longer hold the White House, or anything else. Republicans, led by Trump, hold total power. They are the governing party, and they stand to absorb the blame for the state of the country. According to an August poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, by a margin of 60 to 28 percent, Americans now say Republicans are now responsible for the Affordable Care Act.

I agree. People may not understand what Trump did, but they know he did something. And whatever happens to their costs and access to health care from now on, that’s on Trump.

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Keep Discussing

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Trump Maladministration

My grandson is visiting. I will post something tomorrow.

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Trumpcare

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Trump Maladministration

No time to post today, but you must have heard about Trump’s scuttling of Obamacare. Please discuss.

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So Sorry, Puerto Rico

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Trump Maladministration

We don’t actually know how many people have died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria and the deprivation that has followed.

The death toll from the hurricane is now up to 45, according to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. But 90 percent of the 3.4 million American citizens on the island still don’t have power, and 35 percent still don’t have water to drink or bathe in. And given how deadly power outages can be, 45 deaths seems low, according to disaster experts.

At Vox, we decided to compare what the government has been saying with other reports of deaths from the ground. We searched Google News for reports of deaths in English and Spanish media from Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. We found reports of a total of 81 deaths linked directly or indirectly to the hurricane. Of those, 45 were the deaths certified by the government. The remaining 36 deaths were confirmed by local public officials or funeral directors, according to the reports. We also found another 450 reported deaths, most of causes still unknown, and reports of at least 69 people still missing.

The official count seems to be the result of deliberate foot dragging.

At a Sunday news conference, Karixia Ortiz, press officer for the Department of Public Safety, said that “every death must be confirmed by the Institute of Forensic Science, which means either the bodies have to be brought to San Juan to do an autopsy or a medical examiner must be dispatched to the local municipality to verify the death,” according to an audio recording obtained by Huffington Post.

John Mutter, a disaster researcher at Columbia University who studied the death toll in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, says he’s skeptical of this methodology. “This is the way to go about it if you want to come up with smallest number possible,” he said, adding he suspects the death toll in Puerto Rico from Maria should already be in the hundreds based on what’s known about the conditions on the ground.

There is a severe food shortage on the island, exacerbated by the fact that most people have no way to cook food that isn’t ready to eat.  There is a shortage of drinking water. I’ve heard rumors of diseases such as cholera.

Meanwhile, the so-called president acts as if he’s been doing Puerto Rico a favor.

Greg Sargent writes,

As The Post puts it, Trump is “effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory,” even though “the vast majority of the island remains without power” and “hospitals are running short on medicine.” So Trump’s threat is obviously very worrisome. Yet the threat is also open-ended and thus is largely meaningless. What is it supposed to accomplish, exactly, except to frighten and enrage people, and to convey some vague sense that Trump is snapping a towel at Puerto Rico’s butt like a sadistic, bullying frat boy?

As I said in an earlier post, Trump appears to be angry with Puerto Rico for making him look bad. However bad the situation is in Puerto Rico, we can count on there being an attempt to cover it up.  See also Coming Undone and  Trump is falling apart, and nobody knows what to do about it.

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Harvey Weinstein Types Pervade the Universe

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Trump Maladministration

This week many fingers have pointed to “Democrats” and “liberals” and “Hollywood” regarding Harvey Weinstein. One particularly objectionable piece was actually titled “The Specifically Jewy Perviness of Harvey Weinstein.” I’m not going to link to it.

Ross Douthat, for example, had great fun hanging both Weinstein and the late Hugh Hefner around the neck of “liberalism,” which in Ross’s mind is a synonym for “libertinism,” while touting the innate moral superiority of conservatives.  As you might imagine, the comments to this column were robustly peppered with the names of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.

Harvey Weinstein has long been on my list, headed by Kim Kardashian, of famous people to which I pay absolutely no attention. And he can stay there. If history is our guide, he’ll join Anthony Weiner, John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer on the liberal persona non grata list. If he’s sued, I wish the plaintiffs best of luck. I’m not going to make excuses for him.

The fact is, though, that Weinstein’s behavior has nothing to do with a political ideology, an ethnic group, or an industry. There are creeps like Weinstein everywhere, across the political spectrum, in every walk of life. The enabling behavior that let’s them get away with their actions is as common as toast. People will wink and nod at, or avert their eyes from, this behavior for years until, suddenly, they don’t. And then it all comes out.

Ross has his own theory about why this happens:

Maybe his overdue exposure shows that the world has changed, and progressive industries are finally feminist enough to put their old goats out to pasture.

But it might just show that a certain kind of powerful liberal creep only gets his comeuppance when he’s weakened or old or in the grave. The awfulness of Ted Kennedy, at Chappaquiddick and after hours in D.C., can be acknowledged only now that he’s no longer a liberal lion in the Senate. The possibility that Bill Clinton might be not just an adulterer but a rapist can be entertained now that he’s no longer protecting abortion from the White House. The sins of Woody Allen … well, I’m sure Hollywood will start ostracizing him any day now.

And, of course, it’s possible that those men were not guilty of all they’ve been accused of, but even so, I’ve not seen that people have been harsher toward Ted Kennedy since his death, or of Bill Clinton since he left the White House.

I think there’s something in our species that causes a kind of collective blindness or even amnesia toward the private bad behavior of people we want to like. The Jerry Sandusky scandal comes to mind. Once Sandusky was publicly outed as a child molester, many people came out of the woodwork to admit yes, they’d seen this or knew that. But for some reason they couldn’t bring themselves to say anything when it happened, or possibly even admit to themselves they’d seen what they saw.

See also this post from 2010, Spitzer’s Law.

Getting back to my point that Harvey Weinstein types pervade the universe, see “How Women Are Harassed out of Science.”

We recently spoke with a group of senior scientists who confirmed the prevalence of sexual harassment. Kim Barrett, the graduate dean at the University of California, San Diego, said she did not know of a single senior woman in gastroenterology, her subfield, who had not been sexually harassed. Margaret Leinen, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, described a conversation she once overheard between one male and five female scientists at a meeting where harassment was being discussed. “I don’t see what the fuss is about,” said the man. “I’ve never met anyone who has been sexually harassed.” The women just looked at each other. “Well, now you’ve met five,” they said.

Earlier this very year we learned that a doctor with USA Gymnastics had been sexually abusing young women athletes for years.  Women entrepreneurs in the tech industry have been speaking out about being sexually harassed by investors. Women lawyers have reported sexual harassment in law firms. Many religious figures have been named in sexual harassment scandals.

Name just about any profession or large organization, actually, and I can just about guarantee you can find articles online about how sexual harassment is going on in it. Here’s a handy list of Republican sex scandals, for example. And notice I’m just now mentioning the pu**ygrabber in chief. See “A Running List Of The Women Who’ve Accused Donald Trump Of Sexual Assault.”

So it’s kind of a joke when someone like Harvey Weinstein is outed, and suddenly people jump to the conclusion that this is about his being a liberal, or a Democrat, or about Hollywood.

No, it’s about his being a man in a patriarchal culture.

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The Dreamers Are Screwed

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Trump Maladministration

New York Times:

Before agreeing to provide legal status for 800,000 young immigrants brought here illegally as children, Mr. Trump will insist on the construction of a wall across the southern border, the hiring of 10,000 immigration agents, tougher laws for those seeking asylum and denial of federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” officials said.

The White House is also demanding the use of the E-Verify program by companies to keep illegal immigrants from getting jobs, an end to people bringing their extended family into the United States, and a hardening of the border against thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America. Such a move would shut down loopholes that encourage parents from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to send their children illegally into the United States, where many of them melt into American communities and become undocumented immigrants.

There’s not going to be a deal.

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Evolutionary Psychology and Extreme Gun Ownership

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Trump Maladministration

Via Josh Marshall, there’s a good article by David Frum on our fruitless gun control debates. Frum points out that the entire debate has been bound by rigid rules that keep us from talking about the central issue, which is that it’s just plain too damn easy to get guns in the U.S.

Americans die from gunfire in proportions unparalleled in the civilized world because Americans own guns in proportions unparalleled in the civilized world. More guns mean more lethal accidents, more suicides, more everyday arguments escalated into murderous fusillades….

… There are subtle, sophisticated, and nuanced approaches to the gun problem that balance the rights of gun owners against the imperatives of gun safety. They may well even make some difference at the margin. But they are unlikely to make any significant difference. Americans debate these approaches not because they are likely to be effective, but because the methods that will work—that have worked in every other advanced society—are here politically taboo.

Was there one legal change that could have thwarted Stephen Paddock? Probably not. But the reason crimes like his are so common here, and so rare in western Europe, is not that we are afflicted with more Stephen Paddocks than they, but because their Stephen Paddocks find it so much more difficult to obtain guns, and especially large quantities of guns.

Another long-time rule is that we’re not allowed to talk about firearms being a problem except in terms of crime. The firearm rights activists always want to turn the conversation around to gang bangers shooting each other in Chicago, or the inner city youth holding up a liquor store to buy drugs. Law-abiding citizens owning guns are not the problem, they say. And the response to that, of course, is that Stephen Paddock was a law-abiding citizen right up to the moment he opened fire.

As Frum points out, we have a lot of different gun problems. The problem of guns used in street crimes and the problem of mass shooters like Stephen Paddock are, in many ways, different problems. The kid who waves a gun to get a clerk to clear out the cash register is not necessarily operating in the same social-psychological space as a guy who hauls an arsenal into a hotel room so that he can kill a lot of strangers from a distance. And we’ve already got a lot of laws to deal with the former problem. It’s the latter problem that is vexing us.

Gun nuttery in general appears to be a culture-bound syndrome in American men, something like the way anorexia nervosa is a culture-bound syndrome in western women. The solution appears to be two-fold — reduce the availability of firearms, and change the culture. Not easy.

I found an article on the evolutionary psychology of mass shootings. Basically, men — younger men, especially — are often driven to displays of violence or risky behavior to “prove” themselves. And guns seems to be a part of that these days.

In 2006 I coauthored a laboratory study on men’s responses to guns in the journal Psychological Science with my colleague Tim Kasser and one of our students. We demonstrated that males who interacted with a handgun showed a greater increase in testosterone levels and more aggressive behavior than males who interacted with the board game Mouse Trap.

In the study, each participant dismantled either a gun or the mousetrap, handled its components and then wrote instructions for how to assemble the objects. Then we gave them the opportunity to put hot sauce into water that was going to be consumed by another person. The participants who handled the gun put in significantly more hot sauce – and were also more likely to express disappointment after learning that no one was going to actually drink the concoction.

Thus, cues tied to threats often won’t result in aggressive responses unless testosterone is involved. Elliot Rodger, the disturbed college student whose violent 2014 rampage through Santa Barbara, California, was foretold in a chilling YouTube video, clearly experienced a testosterone surge upon purchasing his first handgun.

“After I picked up the handgun,” he explained, “I brought it back to my room and felt a new sense of power. Who’s the alpha male now, bitches?”

So, yeah, as we all have pretty much figured out by now, the guy who strolls the aisles of Home Depot with an SIG SG 550 strapped on probably has masculinity issues. But the mass shooter has other problems.

British clinical psychologist Paul Gilbert has developed something he calls the Social Attention Holding Theory. According to Gilbert, we compete with each other to have other people pay attention to us; when other people take notice, we build status. The increased status that comes from having others attend to us leads to all kinds of positive emotions. But persistently being ignored by others produces much darker emotions – especially envy and anger.

It’s no mystery why the media will often describe mass shooters and terrorists as misfits or loners. In many cases, they are. …

… Apparently, a lack of attention from others results in a lack of status, resulting in a lack of access to women. Combined with a young man’s testosterone, it creates a toxic, combustible mix.

There may not be much we can do to change the structure of the young male mind that evolved over the course of millions of years. However, ignoring or denying its existence doesn’t do us any favors.

Stephen Paddock was not young, but by all accounts he was very much a loner, pathologically so.

The author also discusses men who join terrorist organizations:

Nicolas Henin was a Frenchman who was held hostage by ISIS for ten months. Here’s how he described his young, murderous, Jihadi captors:

They present themselves to the public as superheroes, but away from the camera are a bit pathetic in many ways: street kids drunk on ideology and power. In France we have a saying – stupid and evil. I found them more stupid than evil. That is not to understate the murderous potential of stupidity.

Is there any motivational difference between why one youth joins ISIS and another joins an inner-city gang? Possibly not. It’s probably the same damn syndrome expressing itself in culturally different ways.

So what are we gonna do?

The good news is that the rate of Americans who own guns has actually been going down over the past several years. In 1994, 53 percent of American households had at least one firearm. In 2016, it was 36 percent. So we aren’t all guns nuts on this bus.

Put another way — 78 percent of Americans own no guns. However, just 3 percent of Americans own 50 percent of the guns in the U.S. And there probably are more guns in circulation in the U.S. than there are people.

Further, — the U.S. has 4.4 percent of the world’s population but contains nearly half of the world’s privately owned firearms.

Just try to get a gun nut to address those numbers. Can’t be done. It’s not the gun, it’s the person, they’ll tell you. But it’s the person who can easily get guns that perpetrate mass shootings. As David Frum said,

Was there one legal change that could have thwarted Stephen Paddock? Probably not. But the reason crimes like his are so common here, and so rare in western Europe, is not that we are afflicted with more Stephen Paddocks than they, but because their Stephen Paddocks find it so much more difficult to obtain guns, and especially large quantities of guns.

As I’ve written before, owning six or more firearms is an indicator a person is likely to be violent.

Josh Marshall:

Guns have been embedded in American culture, particularly though not exclusively rural culture, for centuries. But what we might call extreme gun ownership – individuals owning large numbers of often quasi-military firearms – is quite new. The mass casualty shooting is no longer a random freak out by a troubled person: it’s an established American idiom of violence, a way certain people choose to make a statement to the society at large.

We absolutely must address the issue of extreme gun ownership. We can make a distinction between the extreme gun owner and the antique firearm collector, but otherwise we must have limits on how many firearms a person can legally own at one time. And that’s going to require registrations and a database to keep track of such things, and the firearm activists will hate it. And I’m sure a lot of them will become criminals to keep their arsenals. But it’s got to be done to even begin to get a handle on the mass shooting problem.

Another point made by Josh Marshall last week is that we need to “de-normalize” firearms and the open carrying of firearms. We should not accept or just get used to the sight of civilians strolling around with firearms.

It may be the case that the specific open carry ‘activist’ probably isn’t going to aim his AR-15 at the restaurant crowd and start shooting. But guns are inherently dangerous and especially so in civilian spaces. Normalizing them in this way is dangerous and part of the problem. This cultural component is as critical as the legal restrictions. But we are not collectively powerless in the face of culture. We know this from the evolution of perceptions of drunk driving, smoking, domestic violence and numerous other de-valorized activities. We reify cultural norms in laws and laws, along with the behaviors they shape in turn, changes culture.

If we could get across the perception that a firearm does not make you the “alpha male” and instead is a badge of weakness, we might get somewhere. I’m not sure how that will be accomplished, though.

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Know Your Gunz

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Trump Maladministration

I want to gripe about “I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise” in WaPo.

researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.

Let’s review — annual firearm death rates per 100,000 population:

  • Australia: 1
  • Britain: 0.2
  • United States: 10.2

See also Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts.

If the author is arguing that the change in laws in Australia and Britain didn’t make much difference because gun death rates were already low, um, lots of other people say otherwise. This says that in Australia, gun-related homicides and suicides dropped by 59 and 60 percent respectively after they tightened the gun laws in 1996. This does not seem all that ambiguous.

When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.

The latter point is one I made in a post last year, Why an Assault Weapons Ban Is Not Going to Help. We aren’t getting anywhere complaining about “assault weapons,” because it’s a meaningless term. I wrote:

The federal assault weapons ban in effect from 1994 to 2004 had a negligible effect on gun violence overall; perpetrators simply switched to other kinds of semi-automatic weapons not considered “assault weapons.” The assault weapons ban was a cosmetic law that made people feel good about having done something about gun violence when in fact they hadn’t done much of anything. Let’s not go down that road again.

So forget “assault weapons.” I want us to start talking about a ban on all semiautomatic firearms (full auto firearms are already tightly restricted). That would actually mean something.

The Australian government “banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms, adopted new licensing requirements, established a national firearms registry, and instituted a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases. It also bought and destroyed more than 600,000 civilian-owned firearms, in a scheme that cost half a billion dollars and was funded by raising taxes.” (source) This entire overhaul was done in six months.

Would the same restrictions work as well in the U.S.? Probably not, because of our gun-nut culture, but it would work some.

Or, if restricting all semi-auto firearms is too much of a lift, consider allowing only those with fixed, low capacity magazines. The detachable magazines make it too easy for a shooter to keep shooting without a pause.

Federal law that went into effect in 1986 makes it illegal for a private civilian to own any fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986.  And you cannot buy legal replacement parts for full-auto weapons manufactured before 1986.  All fully auto weapons are registered with the federal government. People who still own a “grandfather” full auto weapon cannot legally sell them to someone who doesn’t have a federal firearm license, and you have to do some major hoop-jumping to get those.  The process takes about a year, and if you don’t have a damn good reason to own a full-auto weapon, you won’t be licensed.

This ban on full auto firearms actually has had the effect of making full auto firearms scarce. No, it has not eliminated them entirely. But the ones still out there are almost never used in crimes in the U.S. The 1986 law did not violate the 2nd Amendment and appears to have been very effective in restricting access to fully automatic weapons.

Now, let’s do the same thing with semi-automatic weapons, including semi-automatic handguns. That would still leave a wide variety of weapons for those who want to hunt or protect their homes or hold up liquor stores or shoot their own heads off or whatever else they want to do with them, but it would cut down on the mass-shooter carnage considerably.

James Eagan Holmes, the Aurora movie theater shooter, had two weapons, a pump-action shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle. He fired six rounds from the shotgun, then went on to fire 65 rounds from the semi-auto rifle, a Smith & Wesson M&P15. That’s the difference.

I would also put strict limits on the number of firearms of any type that an individual may own. As I wrote yesterday, owning six or more weapons seems to be a predictor that an individual may become violent. So limit the number to five. At least the gun nuts keeping an arsenal will be forced to stop calling themselves “law abiding citizens.”

I don’t think it’s just the availability of guns that makes the U.S. so dangerous. There’s something in our culture that’s seriously out of whack. But I don’t know how to fix that.

Painting by Charles Marion Russell

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Yeah, He’s a Moron

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Trump Maladministration

From what I’ve seen Trump has managed to not make a complete ass of himself in Las Vegas today, which is a triumph compared to yesterday in Puerto Rico, where he did make a complete ass of himself.  See Charles Pierce, “Trump’s Puerto Rican Air Ball.

This morning NBC News reported that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron” at some meeting with other administration officials, so Tillerson had to present himself to the public and recite a statement about the glory that is Trump today. I actually felt sorry for him. The guy used to be a titan of industry, and now he’s just a common court eunuch.

But he never said he didn’t call Trump a moron.

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