Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day

Sunday, February 17, 2019

February 17, 2019
    There are two strong, dangerous trends today, climate change and the concentration of wealth.   Let’s look at the latter issue.
    The usual way to limit the accumulation of large fortunes is through taxation.  An automatic reaction from the right is to claim that high taxes will stunt growth.  That complaint is based on the notion that those receiving high income will invest and drive the economy, to everyone’s benefit.  If that trickle-down theory needed further debunking, the recent tax cuts provided it: much of the additional net income went to dividends and stock repurchases, further enriching the wealthy.
    The other standard response on the right is that redistribution is ethically wrong, but redistribution upward somehow isn’t included in the ban.  That attitude is, unfortunately, an American tradition.  Cordell Hull, who advocated income and estate taxes in the early twentieth century, put it this way: "An irrepressible conflict has been waged for thousands of years between the strong and the weak, the former always striving to heap the chief tax burdens upon the latter."
    There is no plausible reason that the wealthy should not pay more: more than they have recently and more proportionately than those less well off.  That is not punitive.  As Hull put it, “I have no disposition to tax wealth unnecessarily or unjustly, but I do believe that the wealth of the country should bear its just share of the burden of taxation and that it should not be permitted to shirk that duty. . . .[T]he chief burdens of government have long been borne by those least able to bear them, while accumulated wealth has enjoyed the protection and other blessings of the Government and thus far escaped most of its accompanying burdens.''[19]  That lesson, from a century ago, has been forgotten.
    Economic inequality is not simply an offense against fairness, it is a negative force.  Democracy is in peril because, among other reasons, wide economic divisions destroy any sense of our being in it together; wildly uneven distribution of wealth creates separate societies and separate political priorities.  Instead of the divisive “nationalism” of MAGA, we need a true national bond. 
    Can anything be done?   Elizabeth Warren has proposed a wealth tax.  In her formulation, it would be a yearly tax of 2% on household net worth above $50 million,  3% on net worth above $1 billion. My first reaction was negative; we should tax income, not property. 
    There are legitimate arguments in favor of a wealth tax.  One is that it would discourage the growth of family dynasties, but that can be addressed by restoring the estate tax to reasonable levels.  A better argument is that inequality in wealth has grown, in part because income and estate taxes have been slashed, and only a wealth tax will address that problem.  That there is huge and growing inequality is undeniable, as is its negative effect.
     However, I think that a wealth tax would be unmanageable.  It would require valuing a myriad of assets — annually — many of which have no realistic market value, such as art works, and it would be easy to avoid by, for example, splitting family assets into units falling below the tax threshold, assigning those units to various family members or other nominees.  There also is some concern that a wealth tax would be unconstitutional.
    A better plan is to overhaul the income and estate tax codes, raising rates and eliminating the lower income tax rate for capital gains, which are a vehicle for the rich to get richer.


19. Hull quotes are at 289852 5803700432EE1?Open Document   (53 Cong. Rec. 10652)  

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

b>February 12, 2019
            Apparently I had been bad, for my resident conscience insisted that we watch the State of the Union address.  Which of my sins could have been so serious as to deserve such punishment?  I must reflect.
            A columnist had suggested recently that the S of the U was obsolete and should be scrapped.  I thought that to be extreme, but after watching about forty minutes of this one, I am tempted to agree.  True, not every President will be as pathetic as Trump, but the standing ovations, not merely ritualistic but signifying support for or at least tolerance of his delusions, indicated that the Congress is a group not to be subjected to stress.  Clearly it is not strong enough to resist assaults on its intelligence, and needs to be protected.
            Thinking about the fallen state of the nation, the metaphor, barbarians at the gates, came to mind, but Trump has seized and misused that image, so let’s just refer to our decline and fall; the former is well under way and, far from making us great again, Caesar Donald is pushing us toward the latter.

Monday, February 4, 2019

February 3, 2019
     Rachel Maddow has pointed out that several of Trump’s allegations about the border — “trafficked women in cars at the southern border, their mouths taped shut . .  Muslim prayer rugs in the southern desert  . . smugglers’ amazing cars” — are scenes from a movie. 
     She’s done a service by pointing out that Our Leader’s build-the-wall obsession is based on fiction, but she was slightly off in this comment: “Now  in any normal  administration it would be insane to suggest . . . even joke about the president of the United States seeing stuff in a movie . . . and maybe thinking it was real — or at least real enough to justify an actual military deployment of thousands of active duty U.S. troops to the border.”  Leaving aside the reference to deployment, that’s not quite so;  This is not the first time that a President has been accused of confusing movies and reality.
     There were two credible reports that President Reagan stated, in discussing the Holocaust and describing concentration camps, that “he had served as a photographer in a U.S. Army unit assigned to film Nazi death camps” or, in the second exchange, that he was "a member of the Signal Corps taking pictures of the camps."  Reagan wasn’t there; his wartime service was in Hollywood making training films. Apparently he confused seeing films to with taking them.[17]
     (Trump isn’t even original in using Make America Great Again as a slogan.  Bill Clinton used the phrase in speeches in 1992 and, in a 2008 ad, said  Hillary “Will Make America Great Again.”  Campaign posters and buttons for Reagan in 1980 read “Let’s Make America Great Again.”) [18]    
     Former Presidents have had  flaws, some serious, but the incumbent stands alone in his combination of insecurity, lack of political experience and low intellect, and in his compensating boasting, bluster, and disdain of expert advice. Does the country have a problem? “I alone can fix it.”  Has someone pointed out his lack of smarts?  “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault."  Do intelligence professionals see the world differently than he does?  They “should go back to school.”
     Speaking of presidential delusions — in this case those of a presidential hopeful — Howard Schultz, unpopular in his home town for selling the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder ), has achieved that status on a national scale by declaring his interest in running for President as an independent.  Assuming that he drew enough votes in a critical state or two, and assuming that he, a nominal Democrat, drew more from the Democratic candidate, he would cause Trump to win again, presumably not his aim.  His delusions are twofold; that he could win, not merely be a spoiler, and that there is a large constituency for his platform of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism.  Maybe he got his ideas from a movie.


17. Article by Lou Cannon, reagan-38/26b480c6-3d54-46d0-b0fe-1c426c139847/?utm_term=.a1dcbcce7b64. 
See also Cannon’s book President Reagan: the Role of a Lifetime, pp. 486-89.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

January 23, 2019 
                     “[I]ntelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.” 
            Santayana, Three Philosophical Poets

     That attribute is notably lacking in contemporary politicians, especially among Republicans.  Seeing things as they are, for example the threat of climate change, the inequity and fiscal foolishness of tax cuts, or the danger that a sea of firearms poses, seems not to occur.  Is it simply lack of gray matter?  “The comprehension of truth calls for higher powers than the defense of error,”[9] so perhaps It is beyond them.  Or, truth may seem too unfamiliar to accept: “Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction. For fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it.”[10]  
     “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts,”[11] so maybe it’s inherent in the game.  On the other hand, it may be a sort of political relativism, one set of facts for our side, another for those people.  If so, the mind closes: “I'll not listen to reason. . . . Reason always means what someone else has got to say.”[12] 
     Republican views are not so much the result of thinking as of the absorption of the party line, which acts as the enemy of reasoning: “Dogma does not mean the absence of thought, but the end of thought.”[13]
     Another possibility is that conservative politicians are influenced by right wing agitators, who preach bias dressed up as nationalism.  Such preachers and their flock are beyond teaching: “[T]he mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.”[14] 
     There is, of course, the possibility that our supposed public servants are not really interested in serving the public interest.  An old and cynical definition of politics certainly could be applied to the machinations of Our Glorious Leader: “A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”[15]
     It could be, and no doubt is in part, that political decisions simply are the echo of political contributions: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can't remember the second."[15]  Reversal of Citizens United would help to combat that disease.  Otherwise, it’s down to a matter of voting the rascals out.


9. Goethe

10. G. K. Chesterton, The Club of Queer Trades

11. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

12. Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford

13. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature

14. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

15. Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

16. Mark Hanna  

Thursday, January 17, 2019

January 17, 2019
    A few days ago, I came across an interesting article from a British newspaper.  The headline, referring to a report by the Pentagon is, in part,  “climate change will destroy us.”  The subhead reads: “The US President has denied the existence of global warming. But a secret report predicts a looming catastrophe . . . .”  The President in question was George W. Bush, the article from February, 2004.[6]  A representative of Greenpeace noted: “You’ve got a President who says global warming is a hoax .”
    Nearly fifteen years have passed and the news is no different.  Here’s a report from November 27, 2018: “President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed a study produced by his own administration, involving 13 federal agencies and more than 300 leading climate scientists, warning of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change. Why, you ask? ‘I don't believe it,’ Trump told reporters.”[7]
    The Donald has a long history of dismissing evidence of dangerous climate change; here he is in 2014, tweeting as usual: “"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."  Given his intellectual limitations and biases, he isn’t likely to change his views, which is frightening.  The report he doesn’t believe includes this:
Climate-related risks will continue to grow without additional action . . . . [Current efforts do not] approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.
That isn’t just an unproven theory, or a natural cycle.
Observations collected around the world provide significant, clear, and compelling evidence that global average temperature is much higher, and is rising more rapidly, than anything modern civilization has experienced, with widespread and growing impacts. The warming trend observed over the past century can only be explained by the effects that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, have had on the climate.”
Here are some results:
High temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing. Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating. Seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, and marine species are moving to new locations toward cooler waters. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing. These and many other changes are clear signs of a warming world.[8]
    The report was released on the day after Thanksgiving, probably to minimize its impact. Compare the 2004 report: a former whistleblower at the EPA charged that “suppression of the report for four months was a further attempt of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.”  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Again: the 2004 article noted the “administration’s close links to high-powered energy and oil companies. . . .”  Trump has nominated a former lobbyist for coal companies to head the EPA.
    All we need to ensure climate disaster is to have another term or two of Republican rule.


6. The Observer, 2/22/04


8. Quotes from Fourth National Climate Assessment, “Introduction,”

Monday, January 14, 2019

January 14, 2019
     Some time back, I mused about the decline of our country.  Though a dismal thought, it isn’t mine alone.  I have referred to our ugly culture.  Another term would be decadent, borrowing from Jacques Barzun’s book,  From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life.  Barzun began with a definition of decadence which was intended to be descriptive rather than pejorative: "All that is meant by Decadence is ‘falling off.’ It . . . is a very active time, full of deep concerns, but peculiarly restless, for it sees no clear lines of advance.  The loss it faces is that of Possibility.”[1]   He offered illustrations of “the difference between the 16C and the 20th, between the dawn of a new culture and its close in disenchantment.”[2]  His five hundred year span was from A.D. 1500 to 2000, when his book was published.  The beginning date may seem arbitrary, serving his five-hundred year theme.  He notes that it is the commonly accepted date for the beginning of the modern era, but specifically points to 1517, when Luther posted his 95 theses, commencing the Reformation, as a turning point.  Barzun points out that the spread of Luther’s message was made possible by the printing press, developed around 1450 and in common use by 1500.  Another critical date is 1492, when Columbus sailed, changing the world forever.
     A.D. 1500 is as good a date as any to signify the transition from the medieval to the modern age, for the most part a step forward, certainly a step toward a more vigorous, open, free society.  Will and Ariel Durant, in introducing their volume The Age of Reason Begins, and referring to it and two volumes to follow, state that the “unifying theme of all three volumes will be the growth of reason.”[3]  That hardly describes the present time.  The era which began at the opening of the sixteenth century did not end in 2000; we are not in a new and vigorous time, but still are declining. 
     In the latter part of From Dawn to Decadence, in his analysis of modernism, Barzun’s use of "decadence" began to take on the more usual negative connotation, but even the original definition describes a dark scene: "The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully."[4]  He quotes Andy Warhol: "Art is what you can get away with." (A glance at the arts section of The New York Times would demonstrate that an “artist” can get away with anything).  We could add, quoting Richard Rorty, “Truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying,” which could serve as a motto for Mr. Trump. 
     Everything today seems to be Post-something else; no future is in sight.  The greatest risk, climate change, is met not with reasoned response but with denial, in effect ensuring that there will be no future.
     As to the painful functioning of institutions, consider the current shutdown or virtually any aspect of government in recent years.  As to the culture more generally, consider the state of political discourse, of language generally, of ideas, manners, morals and music; consider films and video games which provide vicarious violence, or the threats of violence by “patriot” groups, or actual violence abetted by the flood of unregulated guns. 
     Consider the support by avowed Christians for an immoral egotist.  Medieval Catholicism was challenged as corrupt by Luther; Protestant “Evangelical” Christianity, as practiced in this country, may be approaching a similar precipice due to its own corruption. 
      Is the problem, at least as to government, a failure of democracy?   Merriam-Webster defines democracy as follows: “government by the people especially, rule of the majority . . . .”  President Abraham Lincoln referred to “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  The irony of democracy is that government of the people works only if they are properly led.  That may take some of the bloom from government “by the people,” but it is inescapable.  The right sort of leaders — honest, informed, committed to the national welfare, not beholden to interests — are critical.  The wrong sort bring disaster; if that were not clear before, the advent of Donald Trump makes it so. “In a modern democracy it is possible to fool most of the people most of the time: but at a price.” [5]  Whether the people of the United States have declined in virtue and political judgment is a fair subject for debate; the decline of their leaders is clear. 
     Whatever the exact mix may be between bad citizens and bad leaders, the country is in a dire condition.  The present combination of an ignorant, foolish, resentful authoritarian as President, a docile Senate and a bigoted base is extremely, uniquely dangerous, but it did not arise from nothing. Some components of the present situation are structural, such as the undemocratic electoral college and the equally undemocratic Senate.  Some are the result of political manipulation, such as the gerrymandering of House districts.  Economic inequality exists in part because of the failure or indifference of government, and is made worse by tax cuts and attacks on social programs.  Much of government has been captured by moneyed interests, abetted by the absurd notion, imposed on us by the Supreme Court, that money is speech.
     There are danger signs in basic measures of national health.  Life expectancy has fallen; infant mortality, women’s death in childbirth and death rates among children all show either increases or poor results compared to other advanced countries, or both.  Homelessness persists in prosperous cities.
     Perhaps the recent election provides some slight hope of change, in the form of a check on the administration’s worst impulses and investigation into its misconduct.  Trump acts like a man who sees the walls closing in.  For once, let us hope that he is right.  Being rid of Trump wouldn’t usher in a new age, but it would remove one impediment to positive change.


From Dawn to Decadence, p. xvi

Id. at p. 132

3. The Age of Reason Begins, p. vii, Volume VII in The Story of Civilization

4. From Dawn to Decadence, p. xvi

5. Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land, p. 173

Monday, December 31, 2018

December 30, 2018
     The Supreme Court’s decision in Heller v. District of Columbia did much to encourage pro-gun forces, less by its holding than by its loose language concerning gun rights and its rewriting of the Second Amendment to explain away the reference to militias.  Sometimes lost in general discussion of the case on both sides of the issue are qualifications and limitations in the opinion which may have left some doors ajar.  Gun-control forces should push those doors open.  In that spirit, last month Washington voters approved — 59.35% voting in favor — Initiative 1639, entitled The Public Safety and Semiautomatic Assault Rifle Act.[63]1   It amends the existing law on firearms, RCW 9.41.[64]2  How do the initiative’s provisions fare when compared to the language in Heller?  In addition, does existing law raise questions? [65]3

     The Supreme Court’s opinion stated that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on . . . laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” Existing law, as modified by I-1639, imposes such limits, described below.
     Initially, it complies with Heller’s reference to commercial sale of arms by limiting its restrictions on sale to “dealers.”  That term is defined in existing law as follows: “ ‘Dealer’ means a person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail who has, or is required to have, a federal firearms license under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 923(a).”  One who is not required to be so licensed is not a dealer “if that person makes only occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or sells all or part of his or her personal collection of firearms.”  Dealers are subject to rules which include background checks; more on that later.
     There should be no Heller problem in imposing limitations on sales by dealers, but existing RCW 9.41.113 extends the requirement of background checks to all “firearm sales or transfers, in whole or part in this state including without limitation a sale or transfer where either the purchaser or seller or transferee or transferor is in Washington . . . unless specifically exempted by state or federal law.”  This includes “sales and transfers through a licensed dealer, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons.”  If neither party is a licensed dealer, “the parties to the transaction shall complete the sale or transfer through a licensed dealer as follows:
(a) The seller or transferor shall deliver the firearm to a licensed dealer to process the sale or transfer as if it is selling or transferring the firearm from its inventory to the purchaser . . .”
(b) . . .the licensed dealer shall comply with all requirements of federal and state law that would apply if the licensed dealer were selling or transferring the firearm from its inventory to the purchaser or transferee, including but not limited to conducting a background check on the prospective purchaser or transferee . .  . and complying with the specific requirements and restrictions on semiautomatic assault rifles in this act. 
The last phrase is added by I-1639. 
     In effect, a private transaction is converted into a commercial one by involving a dealer. There is a long list of exceptions; even so, this extension to private transfers presses the limits of Heller’s concessions.

Background checks; waiting periods.
     RCW 9.41.092, as modified by I-1639, provides:
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter and except for semiautomatic assault rifles under subsection (2) of this section, a licensed dealer may not deliver any firearm to a purchaser or transferee until the earlier of:
(a) The results of all required background checks are known and the purchaser or transferee (I) is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal or state law and (ii) does not have a voluntary waiver of firearm rights currently in effect; or
(b) Ten business days have elapsed from the date the licensed dealer requested the background check. However, for sales and transfers of pistols if the purchaser or transferee does not have a valid permanent Washington driver's license or state identification card or has not been a resident of the state for the previous consecutive ninety days, then the time period in this subsection shall be extended from ten business days to sixty days.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a licensed dealer may not deliver a semiautomatic assault rifle to a purchaser or transferee until ten business days have elapsed from the date of the purchase application or, in the case of a transfer, ten business days have elapsed from the date a background check is initiated.
The additions by I-1639 are underlined.  It isn’t obvious why, in the case of purchase, the SAR may be delivered ten days after the purchase application, but in the case of a transfer — and for other firearms —  time runs from the background check application.

Semiautomatic assault rifles.
     All references to SARs below were added by the Initiative.  It defines such a weapon as follows: " ‘Semiautomatic assault rifle’ means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
     Parsing Heller on this category of weapons is difficult, because the majority opinion is internally inconsistent on whether the Second Amendment covers only weapons in existence in the Seventeenth Century.  I-1639 depends for its survival on the more restrictive interpretation, which is the one the opinion seemed to settle on: “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. [United States v.] Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time’.  We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ "  Assault rifles clearly were not in use then and are dangerous, if not, unfortunately, uncommon. 
     That a modern militia would use modern weapons does not change the interpretation: “It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like – may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause [the reference to militias]. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment's ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty.” 
     It could be argued that the Court’s comment is limited to the M-16, and that an SAR is a less  dangerous weapon. That would seem to be a strained interpretation, but, as with much of Heller, who knows what that passage means or may mean in the future?        Several decisions since McDonald have upheld bans on assault rifles.  In Friedman v. Highland Park, 784 F.3d 406 (2015), the plaintiff challenged a city ordinance in Illinois which banned manufacturing, selling or possessing semiautomatic firearms.  The lower courts upheld the ordinance and the Supreme Court declined review.  New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n, Inc. v. Cuomo, 804 F.3d 242 (2015), upheld New York and Connecticut laws prohibiting possession of semiautomatic assault weapons.  In Kolbe v. Hogan, 849 F. 3d 114 (2017), the court held that a Maryland ban on assault long guns, i.e., most semi-automatic rifles, is valid, as they are like M-16s.  The Supreme Court declined review.  In a second round of Heller v. District of Columbia , the Court of Appeals upheld a District law banning semi-automatic rifles.  (Judge, now Justice, Kavanaugh dissented in part because those guns differ from M-16s.  He also emphasized their widespread use).
     If SARs may be banned, surely they may be regulated; the Initiative does so.  I-1639 modifies a provision applicable to pistols; the existing text, RCW 9.41.090, is as follows:
In addition to the other requirements of this chapter [RCW 9.41], no dealer may deliver a pistol to the purchaser thereof until:
(a) The purchaser produces a valid concealed pistol license and the dealer has recorded the purchaser's name, license number, and issuing agency . . . .
(b) The dealer is notified in writing by . . . the chief of police or the sheriff of the jurisdiction in which the purchaser resides that the purchaser is eligible to possess a pistol . . . . or
(c) The requirements or time periods in RCW 9.41.092 have been satisfied.
As noted above, RCW 9.41.092 sets the waiting period at ten days in most cases.  That may interfere with the background-check mechanism.  However, there seems to be concern that any waiting period may offend Heller’s version of the Second Amendment.
     The Initiative adds this:  
In addition to the other requirements of this chapter, no dealer may deliver a semiautomatic assault rifle to the purchaser thereof until:
(a) The purchaser provides proof that he or she has completed a recognized firearm safety training program within the last five years that, at a minimum, includes instruction on: (i) Basic firearms safety rules; (ii) Firearms and children, including secure gun storage and talking to children about gun safety; (iii) Firearms and suicide prevention; (iv) Secure gun storage to prevent unauthorized access and use; (v) Safe handling of firearms; and (vi) State and federal firearms laws, including prohibited firearms transfers.
As with pistols, there is a requirement of a background check and a time limit, corresponding to subsections (b) and (c) above, including the reference to RCW 9.41.092. 

Safe storage.
     This is the trickiest issue.     Safe storage of guns in the home often is suggested as way of preventing gun deaths.  Accordingly, I-1639 requires that an application to purchase a firearm contain this clause:
CAUTION: The presence of a firearm in the home has been associated with an increased risk of death to self and others, including an increased risk of suicide, death during domestic violence incidents, and unintentional deaths to children and others.
 That advice is useful but, of course, it may be ignored.  Something to encourage compliance is needed, but disabling a gun from immediate use is the one type of gun-control law specifically addressed by Heller.  It held that “the District's . . . prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense” violates the Second Amendment.   That would preclude safe-storage laws which require gun owners to lock up their guns or provide trigger locks as impediments to immediate use.  However, the drafters of the initiative may have found a way around the problem. 
     They got off to a bad start in the preamble by seeming to mandate safe storage.  The Initiative is described as “AN ACT Relating to increasing public safety by implementing firearm safety measures, including requiring . . . secure gun storage for all firearms. . . .”  Later, it states: “Secure gun storage requirements for all firearms will increase public safety by helping ensure that children and other prohibited persons do not inappropriately gain access to firearms . . .” 
     However, in the operative sections, it takes a different, prudent approach.  Instead of requiring safe storage, the new law creates penalties for allowing a gun to be used in a way that harms another:  “Nothing in this section mandates how or where a firearm must be stored.” However: “A person who stores or leaves a firearm in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a prohibited person may gain access to the firearm . . .[i]s guilty of community endangerment due to unsafe storage of a firearm. . . .”  The degree of the offense depends on the use of the gun; one is guilty in the first degree if the “prohibited person” uses the firearm to cause personal injury or death. 
     There is no offense if: “ The firearm was in secure gun storage, or secured with a trigger lock or similar device that is designed to prevent the unauthorized use or discharge of the firearm . . .”   This strongly encourages safe storage — by penalizing its absence if harm results —  without mandating it.  Further, there is no liability, even if the gun was not safely stored, if  the prohibited person “obtains, or obtains and discharges, the firearm in a lawful act of self-defense . . . .”  Together, those exceptions satisfy Heller.  Actually, the second exception is broader than the Heller rule, which referred to self defense “in the home.”  
     Another provision further limits the reach of the law.  The “prohibited person” whose access to the gun may create liability is defined as “a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law.”  It isn’t clear, to me at least, why liability, subject to the stated exceptions, doesn’t extend to any and all who appropriate the original possessor’s firearm.  Perhaps the argument is that a non-prohibited person could have obtained a gun lawfully elsewhere.
    In order to further encourage safe storage, the Initiative provides: “When selling or transferring any firearm, every dealer shall offer to sell or give the purchaser or transferee a secure gun storage device, or a trigger lock or similar device that is designed to prevent the unauthorized use or discharge of the firearm.”  In addition, “Every store, shop, or sales outlet where firearms are sold, that is registered as a dealer in firearms with the department of licensing, shall conspicuously post, in a prominent location” a sign stating  (in large type)         Warning: you may face criminal prosecution if you store or leave an unsecured firearm where a person who is prohibited from possessing firearms can and does obtain possession.”  In addition, upon the sale or transfer of a firearm, the dealer shall deliver a copy of that warning.
     Apart from the limited definition of “prohibited person” this seems to be as close as a jurisdiction can come to requiring safe storage without running afoul of the Court’s peculiar views on the Second Amendment. 

Age limits.
     Purchase of pistols and SARs and possession thereof, with exceptions and no little confusion, is limited to those who are at least twenty-one.  As to purchase, the Initiative provides: “A person under twenty-one years of age may not purchase a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle, and except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no person may sell or transfer a semiautomatic assault rifle to a person under twenty-one years of age.”(emphasis added)  Why may a pistol be transferred to a young person who may not purchase it?
     The rules regarding possession, are, to say the least, complex with again, a distinction between weapons. 
[A] person at least eighteen years of age, but less than twenty-one years of age, may possess a pistol only: (a) In the person's place of abode; (b) At the person's fixed place of business; or (c) On real property under his or her control. 
That is existing law; the Initiative applies those permissions to SARs and, as to them, adds:
(d) For the specific purpose of (i) moving to a new place of abode; (ii) traveling between the person's place of abode and real property under his or her control; or (iii) selling or transferring the firearm in accordance with the requirements of this chapter; provided that in all of these situations the semiautomatic assault rifle is unloaded and either in secure gun storage or secured with a trigger lock or similar device that is designed to prevent the unauthorized use or discharge of the firearm.
The rationale for different rules for pistols and SARs isn’t obvious.
     I-1639 clearly is a step in the right direction, and seems to have finessed Heller on safe storage.  There should be more such efforts. 
     Lawmaking by initiative becomes necessary in the absence of action by the State Legislature, but 1639 illustrates the problem inherent in the initiative process.  It is long, complicated, containing more provisions than I have discussed, and is written in formal legislative style — confusing enough even to those used to it — with many subsections and references to existing law.  The likelihood that anyone who voted for or against fully understood it is minimal.


63. For simplicity, I have referred to semiautomatic assault rifles as SARs.

The new law takes effect on July 1, 2019, except for the age limitations, which become effective January 1.

65. Heller was extended to the states in McDonald v. Chicago.