Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Do You Want Done About Gun Violence?

Watch Raising Adam Lanza on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

I am not particularly "well-read" on the issue of guns and gun control laws. I am trying to understand the issues but these issues have resulted in a highly emotional debate in our country today where angry voices are raised by all sides.  I do have opinions and concerns and I do want change because there is way too much gun violence in America and it is unacceptable to me. I can't believe we can't agree on reasonable laws that will curtail the misuse of guns. 

My husband and I watched the PBS program last night on guns in America and on the Newtown murders of the children, teachers, and Nancy Lanza by shooter Adam LanzaThe Hartford Courant and PBS' Frontline have teamed up to investigate what was behind the murdering spree of Adam Lanza. They presented what is known so far about his motivations and frame of mind (and that is not very much, even now, more than two months after the Newtown tragedy).  My husband is a conservative who highly values personal liberties and privacy and I am a liberal who believes that government has an obligation to regulate personal activities that threaten the safety and welfare of citizens.  We both agreed with one of the conclusions from the program that the gun debate presently in our country breaks down to one side that feels that more guns are the answer to gun violence while the other side feels that less guns are the answer.  This is a cavernous divide that will be difficult to overcome even though no one feels that the status quo is OK.   The murders of  5 and 6 year olds while they were in one of the safest places one can imagine -a school - is truly a tipping point in the gun debate.  Many people who are strong supporters of gun ownership, even the majority of NRA rank-and-file members, now believe some restrictions on gun ownership are in order. 

Everyone agrees that there is too much crime and gun violence in our society.  But I think (and my husband agrees) that what kind of legislation gets passed in our cities, states, and national governing bodies will not be one based on compromise between the two sides, but rather will be the result of who has more power in those governing bodies.  So. ladies and gentlemen, it's time to write and call your representatives to influence their vote.

I've been thinking about reasonable and effective changes that we need to reduce gun violence (while still protecting the Second Amendment) and here are some of my ideas of what might be done:

1. Everyone who buys a gun must have a background check with prohibitions on gun ownership for certain persons deemed incompetent or ineligible to own guns (these might include: felons, mentally ill, minors, non-citizens, etc.).

2. A waiting period (sometimes called a "cooling off" period) between a request to buy a gun and the receipt of said gun (certain exceptions might be made like a court order allowing the person immediate receipt).

3.  A requirement of license or certification to own a gun,  requiring completion of an approved training course (by the NRA, local police or National Guard, and the like) done in-person on the safety, handling, storage, and legal and personal consequences of using a gun. 

4. A requirement that all guns must be stored in an inaccessible/locked location so that minors and criminals cannot access the guns.  Trigger locks, gun safes, lockers at a shooting range might be examples of inaccessibility.

5.  A ban by private citizens of large capacity ammunition clips.

6. A ban on private ownership of certain assault-style or military high capacity, semi-automatic/fully automatic guns.  (I know many gun-owners feel that this abridges their right to own a gun as a source of personal and political protection but let us not forget that the 2nd Amendment was drafted when single shot muskets were in use and our Founding Fathers certainly could not have anticipated the gun technology of today that allows for the random violence and destruction caused by these weapons. Such weapons perhaps could be stored at private gun clubs, shooting ranges, and in locked community-run arsenals for the satisfaction of maintaining "a well regulated militia").

7. A requirement that a gun owner have mandatory insurance to cover the negligent or deliberate use of the weapon in crimes or accidental shootings.  If a gun accident/theft/intentional homicide occurs with an uninsured gun, the gun shall be taken by the state for destruction.

8. A tax on the gun that goes to a gun victim's fund to be dispersed to victims of gun violence.

9. Stronger enforcement of existing laws including mandatory imprisonment for using a gun in the commission of a crime (a person convicted of using a gun in the comission of a crime should NOT be allowed probation - I am shocked at how many pending cases of gun crimes involve criminals on probation from previous gun crimes).

10. "Three-strike laws" that mandate life imprisonment after the third conviction of using a gun in the commission of a crime.

11. Allow for "liability" lawsuits against the manufacturers of guns.  Then perhaps the manufacturers will modify their product to include safety features to prevent accidents as have automobile manufacturers resulting in the decrease of fatalities.  It is perfectly conceivable that gun manufacturers can engineer certain locking devices on guns that can only be used by the owner.

12. Change laws to allow for family members and guardians to have more control over the lives of adults who are "mentally-ill" or substance-abusers in order to make them seek treatment. 

13. Provide more mental health facilities for "troubled" adolescents and adults.

14. Provide non-violent conflict resolution training, domestic violence awareness training, and anti-bullying education to schools and communities. Provide community or school based Mediation Centers to resolve conflicts.

15.  Improve school safety prodedures (e.g. automatic locking doors to sections of schools and classrooms,  silent alarm to police or security personnel indicating violent offender present, etc.)

Our national prolem is that there is such an emotionally charged tone to the gun violence debate that few people listen to the opinions and solutions being offered if it comes from "the Other Side". What do you think? I know there are many ideas out there that will reduce gun violence.  Perhaps you have some to suggest? 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter in New Mexico


There is a misperception by many people that New Mexico is warm in the winter.  A lot of people who have never been here think New Mexico is all desert and cactus.  The truth is that most of New Mexico is at a high elevation and quite mountainous, particularly in the central and northern part of the state.  The lowest point in New Mexico is 2842 ft. above sea level (near the southeast border with Texas).  Our highest point is Wheeler Peak (13,161 ft. above sea level) in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Taos, NM. We are an arid state, for sure.  The scarcity of water is, and has historically been, always our biggest threat.  Whole populations have disappeared over the centuries due to drought, leaving their stone-built pueblos  and carved rock dwellings for future generations to wonder what became of their civilizations.

Gran Quivira Pueblo ruins within the Salinas Mission National Monument
Although we have a large river (Rio Grande) flowing from the north from the Rocky Mountains to the southern border of Mexico, this land is dry and getting drier. The water in the Rio Grande is constantly being diverted for farming, ranching, and drinking water so that it looks like a ditch of brown water in much of the state.  Severe drought conditions continue into this century and the prognosis is that it will only get worse. 

We've experienced a mild winter in New Mexico this year.  Only a few inches of snow have fallen here in the East Mountains (the mountain range just to the east of Albuquerque).  The ski resorts need the snow, we all need the water.

We only got 2-3 inches January 30th and the sun melted it within a day or two 

About 6 inches fell January 1, 2013

At least there was enough for sledding for the grandchildren

Sandia Peak Ski Resort has only opened it's beginners slope this winter
Snow in December, 2012 was minimal
But last winter,  December (2011) looked like this at our house

I remember a big snowstorm in March 2006 (this is from my home in Rio Rancho)
and the snow didn't melt for more than a month.
The lack of snow plows kept our streets icy for weeks.

Our flat roofs got leaks from the snow (melting and freezing repeatedly)

When I moved to Tijeras, New Mexico from San Diego, California
 in March 2005, it was warm and sunny. But a week later, a huge snowstorm hit

We had 3 foot drifts and I couldn't get out of my driveway.
As soon as I could, I bought a used Jeep with 4WD.
My driveway of my Tijeras home

I was "snowbound" for three days...

March 30, 2005 I went to Spence Hot Springs in the Jemez Mountains

It was lovely soaking in the hot springs while snow dropped from the trees
We had a ton of snow the winter of 2010-2011.  It got really cold, dropping to minus 12 degrees F. at my house on February 1, 2011 and much of New Mexico had no heat or electricity.  With today's stories from the Northeastern U.S. about Winter Storm Nemo, I could relate.  This winter, though, we aren't getting much snow or rain at all.

In the winter of 2010-2011, the Sandia Mountains were covered all winter in beautiful fluffy snow...

...and the trees were covered in ice.
My daughter, Amanda visited from California over the holidays 2005-2006.  My Tijeras house was at 7,200 ft. elevation.  She helped me shovel the snow, a new experience for a California girl.

A very New Mexico scene in winter -
this is an adobe ruin in La Madera at the northeastern edge of the Sandia Mountains
Then we hiked the Kasha Katuwe or Tent Rocks Monument near the Pueblo of Cochiti

Some of the unique stone formations at Tent Rocks
In January, 2007, Ron and I spent our 1st wedding anniversary in Taos

Snow, pinon smoke and red chile ristras are all part of a New Mexico winter...
....along with luminarias in the snow on Christmas Eve you walk among the neighborhoods in the chill of the night.

This is the street in front of my house in Sandia Park after a good snowfall.

Last winter dumped a lot more snow at our house (we live at 6900 ft. elevation)
This was sunrise this morning at my house. 
The clouds coming in from the northwest bring the promise of a snow storm this weekend.
We can only hope.