VICTOR JOECKS: Controversial gun control measure could pass without a hearing

The Legislature could pass a controversial gun control measure without ever holding a public hearing.

At issue is a red flag law, which allows courts to order the confiscation of weapons from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Narrowly tailored, these laws can be beneficial. For instance, the Parkland, Florida, school shooter had a history of disturbing and dangerous behavior. Police went to his house 39 times in seven years. It could have prevented a mass murder had a court taken away his weapons.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, some prominent conservatives, such as David French with National Review, came out in support of red flag laws. But getting the details wrong can turn a good idea into a bad law. It’s a tough balancing act to design a statute that allows government to seize someone’s weapons while respecting an individual’s right to due process.

Finding that balance requires discussion and compromise. That could have happened. Early in the session, state Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, proposed a very broad red flag bill, Senate Bill 120. For instance, included in the definition of high-risk behavior was the act of acquiring a firearm within six months of displaying a firearm.

A judge who determined someone engaged in those behaviors and posed a risk could order that individual to turn over his or her firearms to law enforcement. The bill also required only “clear and convincing” evidence, a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the proposal, a judge could have ordered an individual’s firearms be confiscated without the subject knowing he’d been accused of threatening behavior.

If the court issued such an order — potentially without the person’s knowledge — the information would have been sent to the Nevada Records of Criminal History. Subjects would thus be prevented from passing a background check if they tried to legally buy a firearm. That makes sense. No point in taking someone’s firearms away if they’re allowed to just buy another one. What doesn’t make sense is that if the information doesn’t get removed automatically from the database if the court removes the protection order. The individual must petition a court to remove it.

This means the government could take your guns without you even knowing you’d been accused. And if you cleared your name, you’d have to return to court to restore your ability to purchase firearms. So much for innocent until proven guilty and due process.

Public and behind-the-scenes input would have improved this bill. But SB120 died in mid-April without a hearing.

That should have been the end of it. But Democrats are now considering amending a red flag law into Assembly Bill 291, which bans bump stocks.

If that happens, there won’t be a public hearing and gun owners may not even find out what’s in the bill until after it has passed.

That would be a mistake. A conversation about a red flag law is worth having, but getting the details right won’t happen if Democrats rush it through.

VICTOR JOECKS: Controversial gun control measure could pass without a hearing

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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Editorial: Give wild horse and burro plan a chance

by Thomas Mitchell

An unprecedented collaboration between various government agencies, animal welfare groups and ranchers has created a plan aimed at finally bringing the wild horse and burro population on the Western range under control.

The disparate groups include the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Farm Bureau, American Mustang Foundation, the Public Lands Council and others.

The plan calls for removing 15,000 to 20,000 wild horses a year from the range in the next three years, drastically increasing the use of temporary and permanent sterilization, moving horses to cheaper cost-effective private grazing land and promoting adoptions. The removal number would drop drastically as fertility control takes effect.

The Path Forward for Management of BLM’s Wild Horses & burros

 

The primary objective of this proposal is to develop an economically and environmentally viable, humane, non-lethal, and feasible long-term management plan for wild horses and burros in the American West. The current program is unsustainable and needs redirection.As of March, the Bureau of Land Management estimated that the population of wild horses and burros on federal lands is more than 81,951 — more than three times 26,690 the agency believes the range can sustain — and that population can grow 18 percent a year, the plan warns. Meanwhile, the BLM maintains 36,906 wild horses and burros in large pasture facilities, and 14,029 horses and burros in corral facilities at a cost of $50 million a year.

The plan calls from increasing the BLM’s total wild horse and burro management budget from the current $80 million a year to $130 million initially, but with cost declining as fertility control cuts population growth and horses and burros are adopted. The goal is to sterilize 90 percent of the animals on the range.

Nancy Perry, ASPCA’s senior vice president, told The Associated Press, “Not every advocate wants to engage with or work with those that they have been in battle with over the years. But BLM’s current polices are ineffective. If they continue on the road they’re on now, it means disaster.”

In fact, the AP reported that the plan has ignited fierce opposition from the American Wild Horse Campaign and Friends of Animals, groups that are already challenging in the courts earlier horse round-ups.

The American Wild Horse Campaign was quoted as saying, “The groups promoting this plan have been co-opted into supporting the livestock industry’s agenda for wild horses by the BLM’s vague promise to utilize undefined ‘population growth suppression’ methods. By mandating the removal of a startling 15,000 to 20,000 wild horses a year, the plan will result in the reduction of America’s wild herds to extinction levels.”

Despite the hysteria from the horse huggers, the plan is at least putting forward a rational effort to control the horse and burro population on the range. The plan estimates it will take 10 years to reach the population that the BLM says is sustainable. Currently the animals in many herd management areas are so overpopulated that they are starving and damaging water resources. Grazing land needed by cattle and other wild animals is depleted.

The plan also addresses the cost of keeping wild horses off the range.

“Every day, the BLM spends $1.82 per horse in long term holding pastures and an average of $4.99 per horse in corral facilities,” the plan notes. “A shortage of pasture facilities has forced the agency to use corral facilities for long term purposes — at more than twice the expense. … The agency estimates that each of those horses costs approximately $46,000 over the course of their lifetime. We propose that the BLM relocate corralled horses and burros, along with any additional removed horses and burros, to more cost-effective private pastures.”

The status quo is not acceptable. Give this plan a chance.

Wild horses being warehoused at Palomino Valley.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

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Editorial: Minimum wage hike will increase prices and crime

by Thomas Mitchell

Despite all the evidence that it will do more harm than good, a bill to raise the minimum wage in Nevada is still wending its way through the halls of the Legislature in Carson City.

Assembly Bill 456 would raise the minimum wage 75 cents per hour each year as it climbs from the current $7.25 per hour for those receiving company health insurance and $8.25 for those not insured until it reaches $11 or $12 per hour.

In his State of the State speech, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak called for raising the minimum wage and declared, “It’s impossible for an individual, let alone a family, to live on $7.25 an hour,” ignoring the fact almost no one “lives” on minimum wage. Fewer than 3 percent of workers are paid the minimum wage and most of them are under age 25 and working part-time. Most are supplementing family income rather than being self-supporting.

In fact, raising the minimum wage often results in jobs being cut and/or working hours reduced. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.

Now, a recent study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that raising the minimum wage can harm even those who are not being paid the minimum wage.

Using national crime data from 1998 to 2016, the study found “robust evidence that minimum wage hikes increase property crime arrests among teenagers and young adults ages 16- to-24, a population for whom minimum wages are likely to bind.”

The study projects that raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour nationally would result in approximately 231,000 additional property crimes, costing the nation $1.3 billion. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would generate over 410,000 additional property crimes and $2.4 billion per year in additional crime costs.

“We conclude that increasing the minimum wage will at best be ineffective at deterring crime and at worst will have unintended consequences that increase property crime among young adults,” the study authors concluded. They said that previous studies that projected a decrease in crime due to raising the minimum wage ignored the possibility of hours being cut and jobs being lost.

Don’t ignore the costs imposed on everyone when the minimum wage is hiked. A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

The Congressional Budget Office in 2014 estimated that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour — as proposed by President Obama and others — up to a million workers would lose their jobs.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the minimum wage rose 41 percent between 2007 and 2009, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 10 percentage points, from about 16 percent in 2007 to more than 26 percent in 2009 — even higher for minorities.

Without those entry level jobs younger Americans cannot build the skills needed to earn higher pay for a lifetime.

Still another Heritage study reported that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased.

It’s the immutable law of unintended consequences. Lawmakers should abandon their support for this bill, which would cause more harm than good.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

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Newspaper column: National Popular Vote would make Nevada voters “irrelevant”

by Thomas Mitchell

The Nevada Assembly voted 23-17 this past week to cut the impact of your presidential vote by at least a third.

Assembly Bill 186 would have Nevada join something called the “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.” Instead of awarding Nevada’s six electoral votes — one for each representative and senator in Congress — according to how Nevadans vote, those six electoral votes would be awarded to the president and vice president team that wins the popular vote nationally.

One could say this cuts the value of Nevada’s votes from six to four, since the votes nationwide would be proportional to population. Or one could say it negates our votes entirely since it matters not how we vote.

Not a single Assembly Republican voted for the bill and five Democrats had the good sense to reject this attempt to emasculate the federalist system on which this country was founded.

If only three state Senate Democrats have the temerity to buck their party leadership and reject AB186 it would fail.

An email to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office asking whether he would sign or veto the bill should it pass did not garner a response.

Backers say the compact would become a reality if it is adopted by states possessing a combined 270 electoral votes, or a majority of the 538 electoral votes. A similar bill passed in Colorado earlier this year, giving the proposal 181 electoral votes, just 89 votes short of becoming binding.

A similar measure passed the Nevada Assembly in 2009 on a party-line vote but failed to come up for a vote in the state Senate.

The instigation for the current push is the fact that in 2016 Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227, though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million.

If the National Popular Vote had been in force in 2000 Nevada’s then four electoral votes would have been enough to flip the election to Al Gore, even though George W. Bush won the popular vote in Nevada by 49.5 percent to 46 percent, winning every county except Clark. Bush won the electoral vote 271 to 266, but lost the popular vote by 540,000.

Janine Hansen, state president of the Nevada Families for Freedom, mentioned just such a scenario in testimony opposing AB186.

“There are three dangers I’d like to mention with the National Popular Vote,” Hansen testified. “One is the National Popular Vote will potentially betray the voters of our own state. If our state voted for candidate A and the National Popular Vote winner was candidate B, our votes would be stolen from our desire and given to the National Popular Vote winner, betraying the voters in this state. I think there would be a lot of angry voters if they found out that that’s what happened.”

Hansen also noted there is no national authority for determining the accuracy of the National Popular Vote.

In his testimony, Jim DeGraffenreid, vice chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, pointed out Nevada is currently a battleground state, getting significant attention from national candidates. He said the state’s first-in-the-West caucuses provide opportunities for all Nevadans to participate.

“The Electoral College exists because the Framers of the Constitution believed that each state should matter in selecting the president,” DeGraffenreid testified. “It is designed to protect the smaller states like Nevada. To suggest that a state should disregard its own voters and instead follow the will of voters in some other state is the exact opposite of what the Framers intended.”

He said the bill could make Nevada voters irrelevant.

The Founders created the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate to assure the smaller populated states were not relegated to powerlessness in a one person-one vote system. The states were meant to be sovereign and to hold the powers not specifically delegated to the federal government.

The National Review pointed out in a recent article that using 2016’s turnout stats a candidate could have won 54 percent of the vote in 48 states, losing only California, New York and D.C., but if an opponent won 75 percent of the vote in just those three locales, a 451 to 87 electoral vote landslide would have turned into a popular-vote defeat to 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent — even though the voters in 48 states rejected that candidate.

Should Nevada surrender its presidential votes to California and New York?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

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