Thursday, July 7, 2022

Red Flag failure - laws mean nothing if not implemented

The 4th of July mass public shooting of parade goers in Illinois is yet one more tragedy sparking calls for new gun control laws.   As in the Buffalo shopping center mass public shooting, this event occurred in a state with some of the most stringent gun control laws in the country.  Only seven states are ranked A- or better, including Illinois and New York, by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  Both states also have Red Flag Laws in place that if properly resourced, prioritized, and enforced could have prevented both events. 

In a previous blog post, “Mourning with Uvalde – what can we do?” this blog recommended several actions for readers and law makers to make changes that could be realistically achieved and might make a difference.   Another blog post, “A victory for respectful bipartisan collaboration,” described some legislative success at the federal level.  One of the outcomes was to support states in creating and implementing Red Flag laws. 

As I have written before, there are now 19 states with Emergency Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws commonly called Red Flag laws. These laws are essential to successful intervention at the intersection of dangerousness and firearm access.   They typically create a process for the removal of guns from the possession of an individual who demonstrates they are dangerous to themselves or others.  Having a Red Flag law in place is essential as a first step in this effort. 

But I warned in that original blog:  Do not assume that because your state has passed a law that it is being implementing properly! 

Passing a law is not the final answer, only the enabling part. Government representatives always focus on passing new laws so that they can say they “did something.”  Passing a law is just the beginning of a process to create institutions and resources to use the law successfully to its intended purpose.  We are not good at this and failure to enforce existing laws creates resistance to passing new laws.   It is essential that citizens hold their leaders to account on the enforcement of laws.

Unfortunately, it appears the effectiveness of implementing Red Flag laws varies dramatically by state.  One recent report indicated Florida used their Red Flag law “2,355 times to temporarily remove guns last year, nearly half the national total.”  New York, with a comparable population to Florida only used its law 255 times. 

In another report, the Buffalo grocery store mass public shooting was identified as a specific failure of a state to implement existing law.  The murderer made many prior statements and underwent psychiatric examination that should have triggered New York’s Red Flag law when he tried to purchase weapons.  "Buffalo was a textbook case. It was not the failure of the law. It was the failure of the implementation of the law," said John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety.   

In Illinois, there is today an effort to strengthen its Red Flag law with one legislator saying, “There’s alot we can do, and loopholes in the law which we need to fill.”  It may well be that there are loopholes to fix and lessons to better the law.  But Illinois is an abject failure at implementing the existing law.  

Despite several mass public shootings in that state, CBS News reports court records “indicate only 51 emergency orders issued statewide in 2020 and 37 of them in 2021.”  State Rep. Denyse Stoneback said of Illinois’ record, "When the red flag law was first enacted, there was no structure put in place to inform residents or law enforcement about its passage or implementation."

The point here is to tell readers once again, you must hold officials accountable.   Do you have a Red Flag law in your state?  Is it funded properly?  How is the public educated about how to use it?  What specific coordination and procedures have been created in your community between police and schools to detect dangerous persons?  What kind of culture exists in your community to report a suspected dangerous person in your home, school, or community?

Again, we can pass laws all day long, but if we do not implement, resource, and enforce them properly they are useless.  If you think your state is immune, think again.  CBS News reported Massachusetts, another A- rated gun control state, has only dozens of actions using its Red Flag law.   How is it possible that Florida can have nearly 9,000 since its implementation in comparison?  Ask some questions.

Monday, June 27, 2022

A victory for respectful bipartisan collaboration post Uvalde

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed into law on June 25, 2022.   It was a major achievement for the Congress to pull together the Bill in a bipartisan manner and approve legislation that may not make anyone at the extremes of the left and right divide happy.  But for the 60+% in the middle, it showed that people of good will, respecting the opinions of others, can get something done to impact a problem of concern to the public.

The law provides support to improve mental health services for communities and schools; expands background checks for those under 21 to include juvenile records; funds assistance to states to implement Red Flag laws; closes the “boyfriend loophole;” clarifies trafficking to include “straw purchases;” and funds school safety programs. 

Credit for the law goes first to Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) who vowed business as usual would not pass muster after the Uvalde mass murder.  She approached Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R) of Kentucky and asked for negotiating partners on the Republican side.  McConnell identified Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) and Senator Thom Tillis (R) of North Carolina.  The two promptly agreed to meet with Sinema the next day along with Senator Chris Murphy (D) of Connecticut. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Is our partisan political division biological?

Stephen Stills wrote a song in 1966 for the group Buffalo Springfield titled “For What It’s Worth.”  It became an anti-war protest anthem of sorts in the 1960’s. The song seems more broadly applicable today than in 1966.  Parsing the lyrics:   

There's battle lines bein' drawn.  Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.  A thousand people in the street.  Singin' songs and a-carryin' signs.  Mostly sayin' hooray for our side. 

In the responding chorus, Stills gives good counsel singing, “It’s time we stop children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s goin’ down.”

Western countries are increasingly divided in partisan political animosity that is personal and intense - the U.S. most acutely.   Mutually antagonistic political groupings cast their political identity like an umbrella over personal and professional relationships.  Irrational allegiance to political identity and confirmation bias are at play, not opinion. Shared opinions on specific issues and policies flourish across the dividing lines.  Many people hold political identities that are largely inconsistent with many of their expressed opinions and policy preferences.    Much is written about the divide - when it started; how it gets worse with time; that it may cause the breakup of the U.S. or even a civil war

Both sides of the divide seek to impose their values through control of government, particularly national government, and through cultural and economic entities.   On the one side, the goal is to restore a nostalgic, almost mythical past, and stop change that is often essential to the renewal of institutions and culture.  On the other side, the goal is to transform society to an unattainable political and cultural utopia that necessitates the destruction of the social institutions that bind society and undergird civilization.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Mourning with Uvalde – what can we do?

 After the Parkland murders occurred, and again after the Santa Fe murders I asked my readers to take action.   I ask you again to please take individual action within your own sphere of influence. Please, also communicate with school and governmental leaders. Hold them accountable and demand that they implement solutions. Do not assume that your schools are safe.  Demand testing, practice, and exercise protocols be instituted.

Once again America mourns the loss of innocent children.  How horrible for the people of Uvalde to suffer such a loss of innocent life.  That such things can happen seems unimaginable, but we know them all too well.  May each of these families, and the community of Uvalde, find peace and healing after their immense loss.  May their loss and God’s love inspire our nation to gain the understanding and wisdom needed to come together with humility in a cooperative manner to prevent such horror in other communities.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

My House Price is Inflated – Should I Sell?

Average U.S. national house prices have increased to record levels.  Homeowners may view the current market as an excellent opportunity to sell.  While the market is high, there are also indications that a correction may occur within the next few years.  Selling near peak and waiting out a correction to buy at a lower price is a potentially profitable option.  In pursuing such action, it is important to distinguish assumptions from facts in decision-making.

In my last blog post, Real Estate and the First Time Buyer,” I provided an assessment of how the housing market arrived at its present state and explored possible outcomes in the market in the coming two years.  It was written for the benefit of the first-time buyer.   This post builds upon that analysis and explores options for the high equity owner thinking of selling.

There are many reasons to consider selling in the current market.   For example, one’s financial portfolio may be disproportionately allocated to real estate due to the rise in prices.   Or one might be at the limit of the real estate capital gain tax exclusion ($250,000 single or $500,00 couple).   Selling now would restart the two-year exemption timeline on the next house and save significant taxation.  Maybe there were already plans to downsize or retire or move to another job or make a vacation home or rental property into a permanent residence.

There are too many scenarios to assess in this limited space.   The context of people’s lives and regional housing market conditions vary considerably.  So, the remainder of this post will explore a single case study that can provide broad insight in many scenarios. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Real Estate and the First Time Buyer

Home ownership is the key to wealth development in the United States.   Record high home prices are distorting the real estate market such that many first-time buyers are unable to buy a home.  A national average housing price correction of 10-20% may be in the offing, but inflation and rising interest rates will more than offset the benefit of lower prices to make housing more unaffordable.   Potential first time buyers will need to be sophisticated, agile, and disciplined to position themselves for opportunities that may arise in what will likely be a volatile market in the next few years.

Home prices are high by nearly all measures, but there is wide regional variation.  The CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI) posted the highest year-over-year growth in its 44-year history by the end of 2021. CoreLogic last week reported 65 percent of regional U.S. housing markets are overvalued based on earnings to price ratios.   Zillow reported in February, 2022 that 481 cities nationwide have a typical home value of at least $1 million and 49 more may join the list this year.

How Did We Get Here?

Monday, March 21, 2022

Russia's Illegal War Upon Ukraine

 Author Note: I have been on hiatus for several months due to travel and simply being too busy in retirement with other priorities. I still intend to blog but not as frequently.  The war in Ukraine, filled with unspeakable horror and sorrow weighs on many people as they confront video of the suffering of the Ukrainian people.  Some folks have asked for my opinion on the war and its implications. I offer my thoughts here for your consideration.

A settlement of the Russia-Ukraine War will likely be agreed in the coming weeks as Russia’s military objectives move further from reach and Western solidarity and support of Ukraine intensify.  In this fourth week of battle the outcome is coming into focus.   Russian President Vladimir Putin’s original plan to quickly take control of the Ukrainian capital at Kyiv, install a puppet government, and establish a compliant Belarus-type satellite state failed.  It appears Russia is now preparing the groundwork for a best possible negotiated outcome, though Putin will likely continue to take escalatory steps to weaken Ukrainian will and intimidate its Western supporters until a final settlement is reached.