Rob Jennings from The New Jersey Herald recently wrote an article on Scott Garrett and his consistent position on gun safety policy. In it Jennings made mention of Garrett’s remarks at the Sussex County Republican Convention on April 12th. Here’s what Garrett had to say:
“Obviously, we’ve had a number of series of tragedies, close by and in neighboring states, and across the country, but I applaud what’s trying to be done, both in this state and other states, in … committees where they actually want to have a thorough vetting and discussion about what is the underlying cause of those tragedies, as opposed to what is normally the case in politics, which is knee-jerk reaction and legislation and policy.
Scott Garrett and other Members of Congress with an “A” rating from the NRA are using a talking point that background checks wouldn’t have prevented Adam Lanza from killing his mother with a weapon from her arsenal and then moving on to murder 20 elementary school students and 6 of their teachers. On this narrow point they are correct. Adam Lanza never went through a background check, his mother did. Lanza didn’t purchase any of the weapons he used on that fateful day; his mother did. However, Mr. Garrett would prefer we simply shrug our shoulders in acknowledgement that nothing can be done at the Federal level and go home get back to our day-to-day lives and leave the job of protecting us from gun violence up to states. After all, Mr. Garrett is a “small government” guy who wants to leave such decisions in the hands of the individual states.
The problem Mr. Garrett either can’t see or ignores is that no matter how strong the guns laws are in New Jersey, it means practically nothing if guns laws in West Virginia are – to be it kindly – lax. Sometimes we’re 50 separate states and sometimes we’re one nation. And the reason I know this is New Jersey doesn’t declare war or sign trade treaties with foreign nations. Fifty States, united as one nation take on the tasks that no one state can properly address. Such is the case with gun safety. If we are only as strong as our weakest link; New Jersey’s strong link is rendered practically meaningless by the weak link that is West Virginia.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, New Jersey ranked 2nd out of 50 – having enacted nearly the strongest gun violence prevention legislation in the nation. Among other things, New Jersey:
- Requires permits for the purchase of any handgun, as well as a separate permit for persons purchasing long guns, both requiring a background check prior to issuance;
- Provides law enforcement discretion when issuing permits to carry concealed weapons;
- Prohibits the purchase or possession of a firearm by persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, and by persons subject to protective orders;
- Requires the licensing of all firearms dealers and their employees;
- Limits the number of handguns that may be purchased to one per month;
- Imposes a 7-day waiting period prior to the physical transfer of a handgun;
- Will require the sale of personalized handguns once such technology is available for retail sale;
- Prohibits the possession and transfer of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines;
- Requires firearm owners to report the loss or theft of their firearms; and
- Requires all firearms dealers and ammunition sellers to maintain records of all acquisitions and dispositions of firearms and ammunition.
If individual states sealed their respective borders from other states we may be safe from gun violence. But we are an open nation with open borders between states and are thus subject to what happens in other nearby states like West Virginia which ranks 37th out of 50 - having some of the weakest gun safety laws in the country. Among other things, West Virginia does not:
- Require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between unlicensed individuals;
- Require firearms dealers to obtain a state license;
- Regulate the transfer or possession of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, or large capacity ammunition magazines;
- Require gun owners to obtain a license, register their firearms, or report lost or stolen firearms;
- Limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time;
- Impose a waiting period before the sale of a firearm;
- Regulate unsafe handguns (“junk guns” or “Saturday night specials”);
- Significantly regulate ammunition;
- Allow local governments to regulate firearms; or
- Give local law enforcement discretion to deny a concealed handgun permit.
In 2009, West Virginia ranked 14th among the states in number of gun deaths per capita. West Virginia is about a four-hour drive from the southern border of New Jersey. West Virginia is an exporter of guns used in violent crimes and New Jersey imports guns to be used in crimes because criminals have a hard time getting them here.
The only way to comprehensively address gun safety laws is at the Federal level.
To Mr. Garrett I would say,”Denying something you cannot perceive ends up becoming an argument for your limitations.”
In his quote, Garrett takes a back-handed shot at how policy is debated on the Federal level. By saying the states are doing it right implies the way things are done in Washington is off track. Magicians use sleight of hand to distract the audience from what is actually taking place. The same can be said of Scott Garrett. When he and his fellow NRA supporters start with a position of “no way” to any suggested strengthening to Federal gun safety laws, they’re demonstrating in clear terms that they have no interest in engaging in meaningful talks about protecting the public from any gun-related death or injury. Mr. Garrett proves my point by the legislation he cosponsors.
Scott Garrett chooses to cosponsor legislation which makes it easier for someone with a concealed weapon permit in one state to have that permit extend to another state even if that other state doesn’t allow people to carry concealed weapons. Federally, Mr. Garrett is all for imposing weaker gun safety laws on the states, but if someone starts talking about strengthening Federal gun laws he immediately falls back on “states rights, states rights.”
The Federal government needs to listen to the experts who possess actual crime statistics and know where criminals are getting guns and how they’re using them. Members of Congress need to remember that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not absolute. Part of the amendment calls for “a well-regulated militia.” Start doing the job you were hired to do, Mr. Garrett.
Mr. Garrett, you are the Congressman from the 5th District of New Jersey, not the 5th District of “No.”
On April 5, 2012, I wrote the following about something Scott Garrett was doing as the Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets:
A second piece of legislation passed Garrett’s committee – with Garrett as a primary cosponsor would prevent the CFTC and the SEC from regulating derivative trades by overseas subsidiaries of American companies. In other words, the same bad actors who helped cause the worst economic recession since the Great Depression could simply conduct their derivative trading through overseas subsidiaries and go back to doing business as usual as they did before Dodd-Frank.
At the end of March 2013, Scott Garrett reintroduced the same legislation – HR 1256 for the new session of Congress. Senator Carl Levin commented on what Garrett and his colleagues were trying to do far better than I could ever hope to do:
“Last year, some members of Congress supported watering down Dodd-Frank derivative safeguards, but abandoned those efforts after the world learned that JPMorgan Chase had lost billions of dollars on derivative trades. It is incredible that less than a week after new JPMorgan Whale hearings detailed how the bank’s London office piled up risk, hid losses, and dodged regulatory oversight, that some House members are again supporting the weakening of derivative safeguards.”
Silla Brush of Bloomberg looked at H.R. 1256. Brush quotes Americans for Financial Reform’s Marcus Stanley’s description of the bill as “an attempt to derail the [CFTC’s cross-border] guidance and tie down the ability of the CFTC to do anything.” Stanley also made the point that “the major Wall Street banks have literally thousands of subsidiaries in dozens of countries, so proper inter-affiliate regulation is crucial… If cross-border derivatives rules are weakened, you will have regulatory races to the bottom. If both these bills [Stanley is referencing a similar bill put forward in the House Agriculture Committee] pass, it’s worse than the individual parts, as financial firms are expert at moving money and will use both to effectively evade regulations.”
This is disgraceful. Scott Garrett is not protecting the interests of Main Street. In fact, Scott Garrett is putting our financial interests in peril to the benefit of his Wall Street masters. If you think I’m being hyperbolic consider that in the last election cycle, Scott Garrett received the following contributions from the financial services sectors…
Securities & Investments $532,020 (4th most among House Members)
Commercial Banks $136,049 (10th most among House Members)
Credit Unions $23,000 (8th most among House Members)
Hedge Funds $95,300 (2nd most among House Members)
Mortgage Bankers & Brokers $27,472 (5th most among House Members)
For those of you wishing to check your math, all these contributions to Scott Garrett add up to $813,841.
Ask yourself what motivates Scott Garrett to do what he does and then consider what it will take for you to do something definitive to help defeat him in 2014.
Scott Garrett has an “A” rating on the National Rifle Association’s annual scorecard for Members of Congress. Being held in such high regard by the NRA is not something new to Mr. Garrett. In fact, he’s received their highest grade every year since he arrived in Congress over a decade ago.
Traditionally having such a strong endorsement from the NRA was always been viewed as a positive by those who follow politics. Over the years, the NRA has been successful in keeping Congressman and Senators in line with the threat of the full weight – money and local members of the NRA landing upon any wayward elected official. This NRA meme has extended to politicos and members of the media as well; Crossing the NRA comes at a heavy price.
But how Americans perceive the issues surrounding gun safety in general and the NRA in specific may be changing. Most people will point to the horrific events in Newtown Connecticut as the catalyst for this change. However, I would argue it was the NRA’s response to Newtown that will change the perception of the NRA in the minds of media and elected officials alike. NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre’s response to Newtown was to advocate for arming school administrators and teachers and putting an armed police officer in every school in this country.
It’s this response that has moved the NRA to the fringe of elected politics. Polling suggests that a mandatory background check for every person seeking to purchase a weapon enjoys support from 91 to 92 percent of all Americans. Even among NRA members, 74 percent support background checks. 87 percent of all gun owners (NRA members and otherwise) support such a measure.
Scott Garrett has proven time and again that his priorities are not necessarily in sync with those of his constituents. He initially stood against us when in came to emergency aid money to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; he was the lone Member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation to vote against emergency health benefits for the rescue workers at Ground Zero; he was the lone Member of the delegation to support drilling off our coastline. The list goes on and on.
I can respect someone who stands up to others because he or she refuses to yield on a matter of principle. However, when it comes to Mr. Garrett I have to wonder what principles he might hold which take priority over the health and safety of us all.
Once again Republicans in the House face a real risk of being on the wrong side of history. On most matters, the Senate Minority can filibuster legislation and Republicans in the House can simply refuse to consider an issue. However, this is not one of those instances. The President has made it clear that he’s going to pursue gun safety measures by using all the resources at his disposal. Republicans will feel the heat. They’re going to have to go on record and they’re going to have to cast votes in committee and on the House Floor. This issue will not get buried and Scott Garrett’s constituents will know where he stands on background checks and other gun safety issues in time for the 2014 election.
Making matters more difficult for Mr. Garrett is the fact that the NRA is greatly weakened and I see no prospect of them recovering in time for 2014. Mr. Garrett and other Members holding similar positions on guns are on their own.
Will Mr. Garrett stand with Wayne LaPierre or will he stand up for his constituents? If the past is any sort of indicator, the NRA can count on Mr. Garrett to do their bidding. The questions for we his constituents is whether we’ll remember how he votes and what he does with respect to gun safety and whether we’ll do anything about it.
I’ve been silent since the election. Not because I’m so upset that Scott Garrett won re-election but rather because I’ve been engaged in analyzing election results from throughout the district so as to determine the best way to move forward. I’ve completed that work and I’ll be sharing my findings with relevant parties in the weeks and months to come.
I started several posts over the last couple of weeks – Garrett’s opposition to Hurricane Sandy emergency relief funds for his own constituents; Republicans in the House killing the re-authorization of The Violence Against Women Act; the potential further downgrading of our credit rating because House Republicans refuse to extend the debt limit – something they have done without conditions 22 times under Republican Presidents – but I always got sidetracked.
The shortcomings (and I’m being kind) of Congressman Scott Garrett are recognized by anyone paying attention. So I’ve let things slide because I believe it’s more important to defeat him than to complain about him. However, I can no longer remain silent. Last week Congressman Garrett issued a statement of support for the “No Budget, No Pay” provision included in the five month extension of the debt ceiling. In simple terms, if the Senate fails to produce a budget, Senators do not get paid. Sounds reasonable on its face. The Senate is required to pass a budget and has not done so in several years. However, one need only ask the question as to why a budget hasn’t been produced and the answer comes back and hits Republicans right between the eyes.
Every time Congressional Republicans take our finances hostage via the debt ceiling and threaten the credit of the United States, they force Democrats to negotiate on spending cuts or they threaten to allow us to default on our obligations. We can argue about the benefits of these cuts, but like them or not – and I believe it’s a mistake to make drastic cuts while we’re trying to claw our way out of a recession, they are in fact setting our budget for a ten-year window. Now Scott Garrett and his Republican colleagues insist the Senate issue a budget and threaten them with “No Budget, No Pay” despite the fact that the Republicans participated in and agreed to a budget every time they put our credit rating in peril.
However, to me the more ironic part of this proposal is that Scott Garrett is talking out of both sides of his mouth. The following comes directly from the Congressman’s website:
A lifelong admirer and student of our country’s founding document, Congressman Garrett is committed to preserving and protecting the Constitution of the United States of America. As Founder and Chairman of the Congressional Constitution Caucus, Congressman Garrett is highly respected among his peers as an authority on constitutional issues. Founded in 2005, the Constitution Caucus provides and effective forum for education on constitutional principles and discussion on the appropriate limitations of congressional action.
Believing it’s time for Congress to return to its roots, return to a renewed focus on the vision our founding fathers had for the United States of America, Congressman Garrett has long championed a House rule resolution that would require all legislation to appropriately cite an enumerated power in the U.S. Constitution.
Dubbed the “Garrett rule” by the Washington Times, Congressman Garrett’s House rule would require all bills and amendments to contain a statement appropriately citing an enumerated power granted to Congress in the U.S. Constitution as a basis for enacting the law.
In fact, the “Garrett rule” was adopted and House legislation must cite the Constitutional power Congress has as a basis for considering legislation. “The No Budget, No Pay” amendment is unconstitutional. The Twenty Seventh Amendment to the Constitution explicitly states: No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened. This provision prevents legislators giving themselves raises and immediately benefiting from their own action. Instead, any pay raise enacted will not take effect until the following Congressional Session. Conversely, Congress cannot vote to stop Members of Congress from being paid for the same reason: It’s unconstitutional.
Now either Mr. Garrett is knowingly pushing something he knows is unconstitutional in a naked attempt to score political points or he has no idea what’s contained in the document he supposedly holds so dear.
President Obama’s campaign has set up a Facebook application to let you know where to vote. This applies to those still seeking to vote early and to those voting on Tuesday as well. As far as I can tell, the information is up to date. Due to Hurricane Sandy my polling location has changed and the application correctly identified the temporary polling place that has been established to service voters whose normal polling location cannot accommodate them this time around.
If you have any question as to where you need to go to vote either today or tomorrow, have a look here. You might also want to simply confirm you location as a precaution.
Finally, if you have some free time in the next two days, you may want to volunteer. Here are the links to the four Democratic Committees in the District:
Remember, today and tomorrow is not just about voting for Federal offices (President, Senate and House of Representatives). We have strong Freeholder candidates running in all four counties that comprise the 5th District. Make sure you make your voice heard all the way down the ballot. What happens on the local level is critical to not only our economic recovery, but also our way of life.
Finally, here’s a link to The New Jersey Democratic State Committee.
The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy may make voting on Tuesday more difficult. For example, due to continuing power outages in Bergen County, many polling places have been moved. YOU MAY NOT BE VOTING WHERE YOU USUALLY VOTE.
Politickernj has posted the changes in polling places in Bergen County for Tuesday. If you live in Bergen County and plan on voting on Tuesday, check it out here. Please allow for extra time to cast your ballot this year. I anticipate longer lines than usual so be prepared. If you’ve got the time, you may wish to vote early at the office of the County Clerk. The information for Bergen and Passaic Counties is as follows:
The elections counter at the Office of the Bergen County Clerk has extended its hours to accommodate early Walk-In Voters for Bergen County as follows:
Sunday November 4th – 9:00am to 3:00pm
Monday November 5th – 9:00am to 3:00pm
They are located on the first floor at One Bergen Plaza in Hackensack, NJ.
If you have any questions, please call them at 201-336-7020.
The Passaic County Clerk and Board of Elections, located at 401 Grand St., Paterson, will hold the following extended hours during which voters may vote early in person, or pick up Messenger Ballots for other voters, with the proper application completed:
Saturday, Nov. 3 – 9am – 3pm
Sunday, Nov. 4 – 9am – 3pm
Todd Akin’s position on abortion (separating “legitimate” and “forcible” rape from your run-of -the-mill rape) will probably cost Republicans a seat in the Senate that they otherwise would have won. Indiana Republican Senate nominee, Richard Mourdock’s statement that a rape pregnancy “is something that God intended to happen” is jeopardizing a seat that Republicans have easily held since 1977.
During the Vice Presidential Debate, Paul Ryan’s position on abortion was cited as the biggest reason undecided voters thought Joe Biden won the debate. Ryan has co-sponsored 38 anti-choice pieces of legislation including the now infamous H.R. 3 which originally contained language about “forcible” rape. Further, as a Member of the Ways and Means Committee, Ryan actually proposed an amendment that included the term “forcible rape.”
When polled on the issue of abortion, American citizens strongly support exemptions for rape, life and health of the mother. Candidates staking out these far from mainstream positions have found themselves rejected by their constituents once the media shines a spotlight on the position of these candidates when it comes to their extreme stances.
Scott Garrett has practically an identical voting record as Todd Akin. His voting record is even closer to that of Paul Ryan’s. Scott Garrett votes the same way as Michelle Bachmann 93% of the time. Steve King (R-IA) who has compared immigrants to dogs has voted the same way as Scott Garrett 92% of the time. My point here is that these far-right Members of Congress pay a political price when people start paying attention to what they say and how they vote. Successfully calling out these Representatives has caused some serious back-peddling. Have a look at Paul Ryan’s attempt to distance himself on his own statements on “forcible” rape.
Scott Garrett is right out there on the fringe with these other elected Republicans. He hasn’t had to defend his extremist positions or heaven for bid disavow any of them because the media and his constituents haven’t made a strong enough issue out of how far out of step Scott Garrett is with the people who live here in the 5th.