Examining, Defining and Promoting a Sustainable World

Tag: politics

Passing HR8, HR1112 for Stronger Background Checks

HR8 and HR1112 would require universal background checks and give the FBI Instant Check system more time to respond.  Both bills passed the House in February but are stalled on the Senate Legislative Calendar. Also in February, Trump threatened to veto this same gun legislation.   On September 3, Senate Majority Leader McConnell stated that a vote on these bills would proceed when they have the support of President Trump. 

Vacillating after recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, Trump announced willingness to pass “meaningful background checks”.  On August 9 Trump tweeted:

“Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks.”  

But his vague language offers an ambiguous definition of “meaningful background checks”.  Trump later reverses his statement in a press conference, claiming “[w]e have very, very strong background checks right now.”

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993

To say that our current background checks system is “very, very strong” is debatable if not outright untrue.  The system follows the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993[1]. The Brady Act provided the first effort to implement pre-sale background checks of firearms. It established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Act does not require private sellers to perform a background check prior to private sale or transfer. This is true even if the seller transfers many firearms.  

In most cases, the NICS responds within a few minutes. In about 10% of NICS checks, more time is required. Under the Brady Act, if the NICS does not respond in three days, a “default” sale may continue. 

According to House Judiciary Committee Report 112-16 , default sales are eight times more likely to transfer a firearm to an otherwise prohibited buyer. In 2017 alone, default transfers accounted for 4,864 sales to persons legally prohibited from owning firearms. The FBI cites this loophole as allowing the 2015 Charleston shooter to purchase firearms.

So, how would HR8 an HR1112 strengthen America’s firearm sale background checks? Both bills address weakness in the Brady Act. 

HR8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019

The purpose of HR8 is to require background checks for every gun or firearm sale and transfer. If signed into law, HR8 would “make it illegal for any person not a licensed firearm importer, manufacturer, or dealer to transfer a firearm” to an unlicensed individual without a background check. “Unlicensed individuals” are defined as private parties, or those persons who are not licensed firearm dealers.

Changes would primarily affect gun transfers between private parties.  Such a transfer would be prohibited unless a licensed firearm dealer, manufacturer or importer first took possession of the gun and performed background checks.

Exceptions to HR8 firearm transfer regulations as submitted to the Senate would include:

1) Law enforcement or security personnel, within the scope of employment;

2) A loan or gift between spouses, domestic partners, and specific family;

3) Transfer to an executor or representative of an estate upon death;

4) A temporary transfer necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm;

5) A temporary transfer at a shooting range or for hunting while in the presence of the transferor.

HR8 utilizes the current background checks system under The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.  As such, HR8 without the corresponding passage of HR1112 would provide only partial relief from the Brady Act loopholes.

HR1112 Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019

HR1112 would strengthen background checks that federal firearms licensees and dealers must follow before selling or transferring a firearm. 

Specifically, HR1112 would amend the three-day default sales loophole. Under HR1112, a minimum of 10 days after initiating background checks to the NICS the licensed dealer may petition NICS for completion of sale. In this petition, the dealer must certify that there is “no reason to believe that such other person is prohibited by Federal, State or local law from purchasing or possessing a firearm”.  A default sale may proceed if there is no response from NICS a minimum of 10 days after submission of the certifying petition.

Overwhelming Bipartisan Public Support for Enhanced Background Checks

Although more than 90% of Americans support enhanced background checks, the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) does not. 

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports that the NRA spent about $30,000,000 towards electing Trump and defeating Clinton during the 2016 election. More recently, the NRA has warned Trump that passing such gun legislation would endanger his reelection prospects. 

Trump has repeatedly claimed that mass shootings are a “mental health” issue rather than a gun control issue. Other measures touted by the Administration include Red Flag laws.  Red Flag laws would allow officials to confiscate firearms from people who have been determined by a judge to be an imminent danger to society.  Yet, opponents of Red Flag laws criticize that they violate a citizen’s due process rights. 

In an even more drastic statement, the President suggested that convicted mass murderers receive the death penalty.  Public support for the death penalty has steadily waned through the years.  No federal executions have been performed in 16 years, when three prisoners were executed under President Bush. Imposing the death penalty as a deterrent to mass shootings contradicts Trump’s repeated claim that mass shootings are a “mental health” issue rather than a gun control issue.  Using the logic that mass shooters are “mentally ill”, the legality and ethics of executing such a prisoner is problematic.

A Call For Common Sense Reform

HR8 and HR1112 are commonsense and necessary enhancements to current background checks.  Upon the Senate’s return to session, a vote on these bills should be implemented by the Senate as a first order of business.  Still, both bills face an uphill battle in the Republican controlled Senate. McConnell now places the fate of a Senate Vote squarely on Trump, a president who is uncommitted to “meaningful gun reform” and beholden to the NRA. 

Contact the U.S. Senate at 1-202-224-3121 and tell them you want them to vote on HR8 and HR1112.

[1] Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Pub. L. No. 103-159, 107 Stat. 1536 (1993)

PA HIGH BANS CLASSIC LIT HUCKLEBERRY FINN: “It made students uncomfortable”


The LA Times recently reported that a Pennsylvania High School will remove The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the eleventh grade curriculum and school library.  Commenting, the school claims that the book “offends” the students.   This action supports white supremicist historical revisionists’ efforts to deny the existance of slavery in America.  Interestingly, such action is certainly in line with the Trump Administration’s bigoted stance, and his supporters are wasting no time in following the reality-show producer’s lead in the free expression of hatred, bigotry and lies.

Mark Twain was a white man who promoted freedom and abhorred enslavement. His story exposes of the insufferable behavior of a white male dominated South angered by the loss of the civil war.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn plainly tells how white male anger manifests into violence, poverty and segregation.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a rich commentary against slavery and  bigotry.   The important lessons of this book are never to be forgotten.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn examines the segregated culture that emerged after the civil war.  Here, Mark Twain defines the reconstruction era in real time and examines the resistance to the end of slavery.   The story of a friendship between a white boy and a Freed Slave tells a truth that “historical revisionists” and “white supremists” do not want to admit.  In the post-slavery era of exclusion and segregation, even the idea of such a relationship was unthinkable, dangerously influencing young readers.  It was not long after, that prohibitionists utilized a similar “gateway” theory against beer and wine.

Bigotry is still rampant, throughout the country.  No longer confined to the Southern States, white supremacists are convinced that they are superior.  Therefore, any human rights abuses are at the fault of those at the receiving end of their spite.  Clearly, they are not to be blamed, and any evidence of such must be erased from  historical records and fading memories.

“I do not believe we are censoring” said the Friends Central School principal, according the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-pennsylvania-school-strikes-huckleberry-finn-from-11th-grade-curriculum-20151214-story.html). Instead, the school lays the decision to ban the book squarely on the students, claiming that the book “made them uncomfortable”.

huckleberrry finn


Importantly, Twain’s masterpiece sequel is a lesson in American history, literature and culture.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most targeted books for censorship.  First banned almost immediately after its publication in 1885, the literary assault continues.  The use of the “n-word” is the most contentious element.  Today, it is considered an obscenity.  Even in the context of the times, it was a term of great racial disparity, and continued in common use well into the late 20th century.  The term had much less of the social and political power it garners today in an of age racial awareness and social media.   By not explaining this historical fact to the students, the school has committed an error in curriculum, not book choice.  Addressing the context and historical importance of Huckleberry Finn may ease students understanding of the issues addressed.

In conclusion, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn tells a truth that “historical revisionists” and “white supremacy” do not want to admit. Therefore, it is to the governments’ and white male advantage if posterity does not understand the importance of this book.  Possibly, any perceived offensiveness from 19th century verbiage is due to the lack of instruction in the assignment.  However, it is not surprising that a Trump America would prefer that the millennial generation never learn America’s true history.  Specifically,  they deny the suffering under brutish white male domination.  After all, these 17 year olds, exposed to the true evil of bigoted white men, will be eligible to vote in 2020.

(c) 2016 Kimmarie Rojas.

2016 Election Plan B — Is there a Morning-After Pill for this?


Early ballot counts inadvertently predicted the 2016 Presidential election outcome. In a nervous and surreal suspension of time, Hillary Clinton held three electors against Donald Trump’s 19 votes, flipping collective liberal stomachs.  Watching Trump’s unexpectedly potent challenge of liberal expectations became more than a bad date.  The blue condom literally broke, with no Election Plan B to prevent conception.

Rather than spending a sleepless night in conjecture, I joined the many who quit watching during the few minutes Clinton held a marginal lead. After months of foreplay, we (the previously mentioned collective of now exhausted liberals) purposefully skipped the media’s rhetorical attempts at explaining the flawed pundit predictions and Pew polls with Polly-Ana platitudes.  I awoke the next day to news of the Trump electoral win, took a Xanax, then went back to bed to ponder a 2016 election Plan B.  No morning after pill for this election night screw.  Canada, perhaps?

Metaphorically sticking my head in the sand seemed the best advice to avoid anxious apocalyptic scenarios.  Scenarios, such as a yellow fluff of hair and a screwed-up face, screaming bigoted vengefulness with a finger on the BIG button.


Ironically, the day after the election was so dreary; even the Houston sky was sad.  Checking for signs of a nuclear winter, not a single ray of sun penetrated the overcast sky.  No apocalypse, just a grey sky in an eerie show of sympathy to Harris County’s blue feminist and minority constituency.

By late afternoon, I bravely crawled out of my sheet-tent and took the walk of shame to my computer.   Megamedia speculations analyzing the largely unexpected Trump win dominated my home page.  I searched the headlines for an implementable election morning plan B–some intelligent assessment of sheer stupidity. Radio host and author Garrison Keillor caught my attention with his Washington Post opinion. In “Trump voters will not like what happens next”, Keillor analyzes the outcome and advises brooding liberals.


Keillor premises that The Donald’s largely uneducated white male supporters joined the Trump movement for the party, small “p”.  Caught up in the suddenly socially acceptable raucousness, they joined and enjoyed the madness. Let me even further surmise and clarify with a more accurate statement:  They were in it TO party.  Trump supporters were rolling on the actual festivities.  The beer, the hollering, the groping.  No one ever expected him to WIN the damn thing (2016).

Prior to the election, The New York Times reported a possible path to victory for Trump through the largest bloc of registered voters: uneducated white males. Their caveat to this hypothesis was that half of this demographic failed to intercourse with a ballot in the previous election, leaving 29 million sleeping votes. (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/07/us/how-trump-can-win.html).  Assured of Clinton’s win, the opposing party brushed aside any such threat, without the protection of an election plan B.   After the Election Day results, The New York Times reiterated their claim, and excused their caveat: The pre-election polls were simply unable to anticipate the large turnout of rural, white, working-class voters in key states (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/upshot/why-trump-won-working-class-whites.html), which begs the question, was it cognitive inability or technical inability? I boldly claim the former, positing that critical thinking processes were dismissed in favor of computer poll processing.


Now that he has won the Presidential election, let the Republicans deal with him, writes Keillor flippantly. Still, his benign words only temporarily comfort dejected liberals searching for an election Plan B to prevent implantation.

“I’ll accept the election results,” Trump finally acquiesces in a pre-election stump speech, his followers clapping at the ghost of a change in his contentious “we’ll see” stance. Then, after a long pause, Trump caveats his statement with celebrity theatrics: “if I win!” The crowd roars as he rants of a “rigged” election process, possibly the only truthful slip of the tongue during his campaign.   That he and Putin share a bed is obvious; the depth of their affair is unthinkably unexpected.

By the first Monday after the second Wednesday in the month of December, the time for an election Plan B passed, and an intense campaign to court faithless electorates failed (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/opinion/why-i-will-not-cast-my-electoral-vote-for-donald-trump.html?_r=0). Awaiting inauguration, Trump seems unconcerned that more than one-half of the country want’s him aborted as he fills a nepotistic and conflicted cabinet with assorted billionaires.


Although we cannot change America’s 2016 choice without changing our country’s founding premise of free elections, we can ignore the 2016 electoral choice…at least for the moment.  Then, Americans must examine the decline in intelligence and the rise in fear of our populace; or more concisely, how Americans went stupid with fear.  This socio-political phenomenon, first defined by Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century, explains how a frightened and neglected citizenry will choose a despotic leader rather than enter into a “state of nature” (1651) [i].

This is not news, yet the news missed it.  Liberal politicians and the educated electorate missed it, too. Statistical demographics of this election largely support the hypothesis that illiteracy, ignorance and fear rule too many American lives.  By capitalizing on the seething anger of under-educated eligible voters who suffered most in the 2008 recession, Trump re-enfranchised this previously quiet demographic with loud propaganda and undefined promises to “Make America Great (Again)”.


“I am now going to pay more attention to teachers,” Keillor writes in his concluding sentence, positing that Trump won the presidency through the unexpected turnout of uneducated white voters. Keillor’s conclusion supports inductive reasoning of educational failure and fearful ignorance. Presently, there is plenty of support for this implicit claim.

Our educational system is broken, has failed us, and we know it.  American students rank 23rd in math and 31st in science compared to other industrial countries.  Greater than one out of every four adults read below a fifth-grade level (http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/09/opinion/bennett-stem-education/index.html). In September 2016, the Pew Fact Tank reported that uneducated white males preferred Trump over Clinton by 14 points. The same study found that educated white males favored Clinton by a 25-point margin. If the spread holds, researchers then prophesized, the 2016 election “…will be the widest educational divide in any election in the last several decades” (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/15/educational-divide-in-vote-preferences-on-track-to-be-wider-than-in-recent-elections/)

But for now, let the Republicans in power worry about Trump; roll out your yoga mats, grow some heirloom tomatoes, and read Jane Austen one more time, Keillor advises. Not necessarily the election Plan B that many would prefer, and so I caveat that advice with this thought: another election cycle is in four years. Liberals, start now to secure impenetrable protection, and have a Trump Re-Election Plan B ready.


[i] Thomas Hobbes’ (1588-1679) socio-political theory defines the “state of nature” as “the war of all against all“.  Only a strong, undivided political system could provide the social structure to prevent a “state of nature”, claims Hobbes. Hobbes explains this behavior by concluding that man’s greatest fear is a violent death at the hands of another [human being] (1651, Leviathan). [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellum_omnium_contra_omnes]


*Title inspired by @MxTr3y social media comment.


GARRISON KEILLOR: Trump voters will not like what happens next