Freed up by the Supreme Court’s ongoing reluctance to engage in depth with the Second Amendment, the Fourth Circuit has taken it upon itself to rewrite Heller en banc. In a 10–4 decision, issued yesterday afternoon, the court upheld Maryland’s ban on both “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines.” By so doing, it deprived the people of Maryland, the Carolinas, and the Virginias of the core protections to which the Constitution entitles them.
- Category Archives Legal
Congressional aides suspected of criminally misusing their access to House computer systems owed $100,000 to an Iraqi politician who is wanted by U.S. authorities and has been linked to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Middle Eastern terrorist outfit.
Imran Awan and four of his relatives were employed as information technology (IT) aides by dozens of House Democrats, including members of the intelligence, foreign affairs and homeland security committees. The aides’ administrator-level IT access was terminated earlier this month amid a criminal probe by U.S. Capitol Police of a suspected security breach, including an off-site server housing congressional data.
After years of tangential accusations, which never amounted to anything concrete, George Soros’ alleged meddling in European politics has finally caught the attention of Congress.
As we first observed in early January, concerns about Soros’ involvement were most recently raised by the Hungarian prime minister, who last week once again lashed out at the Soros “empire” and accused it of deploying “tons of money and international heavy artillery.” But what was not reported, is that just days earlier, Republican lawmakers in Washington had started asking questions about whether U.S. tax dollars also were being used to fund Soros projects in the small, conservative-led country of Macedonia.
Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., led a group of House lawmakers in writing to Ambassador Jess Baily, an Obama appointee, demanding answers. Smith voiced concerns that tax dollars are supporting Soros’ activities in trying to have a socialist government replace the current conservative government in the small nation.
On Sunday a #NeverTrump website called the Reagan Battalion released shocking audio of Milo Yiannopolous allegedly promoting sex with 13 year-olds. The audio was a clip from a 3 hour long podcast interview Milo had in early 2016.
Obviously, the Reagan Battalion was out to get Milo.
And they did.
Justice Department officials plan to issue new guidance on protections for transgender students that will effectively reverse Obama-era recommendations and ensure those issues are decided at the state level going forward.
“That’s an issue that the Department of Justice the Department of Education are addressing, and I think there will be further guidance coming from [Justice Department] in particular, with respect to not just the executive order but the case that’s in front of the Supreme Court,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange recently discussed the topic of “fake news” and how WikiLeaks’ pure data-driven approach has prevented them from becoming “weaponized text.”
CNET reports that Assange appeared via video-link in a discussion with Australian comedian Chas Licciardello in Sydney, Australia this week. During the interview, Assange discussed the idea of “fake news” and how WikiLeaks’ refusal to editorialize their content and rather provide pure data to the public has allowed them to publish facts without bias.
“What is special about WikiLeaks is that it’s not just another damn story,” said Assange, “it’s not just another damn journalist putting their damn byline, advertising themselves and their position on another damn story.”
No surprises here in the Trump administration’s outline of its plan to crackdown on undocumented illegal immigrants. “The Department of Homeland Security [today officially] laid out the Trump administration’s plans for aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, including a potentially massive expansion of the number of people detained and deported.” As I say, there are no surprises here. This is exactly what Trump said he was gonna do during the campaign. There’s gonna be panic galore, but it’s nothing that Trump did not telegraph.
He said he was gonna do it. And, by the way, this has been in the works for a while. But this fills the bill of one of the things that I think is good for him to do, and that is focus on this domestic agenda and get some action on it. Get it moving. He’s gonna have to get the Republicans on Capitol Hill moving on tax reform, on all this immigration stuff. (sigh) And it’s not a surprise to me that they’re not crazy about it. Remember, everybody thought they were gonna lose! Everybody thought Hillary was gonna win.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John F. Kelly authorized the hiring of an additional 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and enforcement officers. The move by DHS delivers on a promise made by President Donald Trump to increase enforcement–particularly in removing criminal aliens inside the borders of the U.S.
Senate Votes to Block Obama Social Security Administration Gun Ban; Legislation Heads to President Trump
On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate voted 57-43 in favor of H.J.Res.40, which would block the implementation of an Obama-era rule under which the Social Security Administration (SSA) would report the names of tens of thousands of beneficiaries annually to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in order to prohibit them from purchasing firearms. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress is permitted to overrule a federal regulation, within a 60 day window, using an expedited legislative procedure that is not subject to the Senate’s filibuster rule. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed this measure by a vote of 235-180. This important legislation now heads to President Donald Trump.
At issue is a December 19, 2016 SSA rule, set to be implemented by December 19, 2017, that broadly prohibits many with what SSA considers to be a mental disorder from purchasing firearms. Under the rule, those with a mental health impairment, who meet SSA’s criteria to receive benefits and also have a representative payee designated to receive these benefits, would be reported to the NICS database as “adjudicated as a mental defective,” and thus prohibited from possessing firearms.
Mental health professionals recognize that there is no connection between mental illness and dangerousness, and that those who suffer from mental health disorders are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violent crime. The SSA rule does not require that an individual’s underlying mental health records indicate dangerousness. In fact, an individual who is receiving benefits via a representative payee could be swept into NICS for mental conditions that span the gamut of diagnoses; including intellectual disabilities and eating disorders. The Obama administration estimated that this rule could strip the rights of 75,000 individuals per year.
The fact that this rule has no basis in evidence, would serve to further stigmatize an already vulnerable group, and has inadequate due process protections, has led a wide-ranging coalition of organizations to support its cancelation. In addition to the NRA, the legislation to block the SSA rule is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and many others.
In order for the federal government to strip an individual of a constitutionally protected right, the procedure for removing that right must comport with due process of law. Further, the burden of justifying the removal of a right rests on the government. Here, the designation of a representative payee does not involve adequate process for the removal of a person’s Second Amendment rights.
Proponents of the SSA rule have all but acknowledged this fact, often pointing to the procedure under which an individual can appeal their firearms prohibition once it has been imposed. During floor debate, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) contended that those affected by this rule, “have due process to contest the determination,” and that there is the “full ability for the individual or for the family to contest this limitation, which makes it completely constitutional.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) took to the Senate floor to register a similar contention.
Senators Murphy and Wyden could use a civics lesson. The SSA rule would impermissibly shift government’s burden of proving an individual should not be allowed to exercise their Second Amendment right, to the individual, requiring that they prove that they are capable of safely exercising their constitutional right. Moreover, aside from the fact that this perverts our constitutional structure, one might rightly question how legitimately SSA would administer any appeal of a prior agency determination regarding a representative payee designation, or a relief from disability petition. As a matter of policy, one might also question whether a typical Social Security beneficiary has access to the resources necessary to launch and navigate such an appeal process, particularly if appeals to SSA are unfruitful and a judicial remedy is required.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who introduced a Senate version of H.J.Res.40, challenged proponents of the SSA rule on this point just prior to the vote. During debate, Grassley stated, “If the supporters of this regulation want to take away people’s gun rights then they need to acknowledge the government must carry the burden to actually prove a person is dangerously mentally ill and the government must provide due process in that process.”
Akin to a bully choosing their victim, gun control supporters have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not above attacking the constitutional rights of the most vulnerable among us if it serves their over-arching anti-gun agenda. In fact, at this point it is safe to say that targeting the rights of those who are subject to unwarranted prejudice is part of the anti-gun movement’s comprehensive strategy.
It is important for gun owners to understand that efforts to curtail the due process rights of some in relation to the Second Amendment right, have grave implications for all gun owners. While much of the gun control movement’s recent energy has been used to target groups that portions of the public have shown little sympathy towards, gun owners can be assured that, if successful, gun control advocates will seek to similarly diminish the due process rights of ever wider segments of the population.
H.J.Res.40 protects the due process and Second Amendment rights of Social Security beneficiaries. However, given the amount of misinformation that anti-gun politicians, gun control organizations, and the media have peddled about H.J.Res.40 and the SSA rule, it is also important to understand what this legislation and rule would not do.
H.J.Res.40 Does Not Weaken the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
In materials on his website, Murphy has repeatedly contended that H.J.Res.40 will “weaken” the background check system. This is not true. H.J.Res.40 does not remove the names of any individuals from the NICS database. The notice of the SSA rule in the Federal Register makes clear that “compliance is not required until December 19, 2017.” H.J.Res.40 merely prevents SSA from using an incorrect interpretation of the law to place new individuals into the NICS database going forward.
Further, some media outlets have run misleading headlines that give the impression that Congress has voted to broadly curtail background checks. An Associated Press item carried the headline, “House votes to roll back Obama rule on background checks for gun ownership.” The BBC ran an article that claimed, “The US House of Representatives has voted to scrap regulations that require background checks for gun buyers with mental health issues.”
H.J.Res.40 does not alter the circumstances under which a background check must be conducted pursuant to a firearms transfer. Just as now, a background check would still be required for firearm transfers between federally licensed gun dealers and non-licensees.
The SSA Rule is Not Required to Comply with the NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Contrary to media reports and the contention of the Obama administration, the SSA rule is not required in order for the SSA to properly comply with the NICS Improvement Amendments Act (NIAA). The NIAA requires federal agencies to submit prohibiting records for inclusion in the NICS. The NIAA did not change the underlying categories of persons prohibited from possessing firearms, outlined 18 U.S.C. §922(g).
Under the guise of facilitating compliance with NIAA, the SSA rule is an expansion of a prohibited persons category, those “adjudicated as a mental defective,” to encompass individuals never covered by federal statute. The NIAA requires federal agencies to report relevant records to the NICS, not to invent new categories of relevant records in order to prohibit new segments of the population.
Further, if at any point since the advent of the NICS in 1998 SSA had believed it was in possession of relevant prohibiting information on an individual, it was authorized to forward such information to the FBI for inclusion in the NICS. Up until the Obama administration made the political decision to pervert existing federal law to further scrutinize gun owners, SSA had correctly determined that the records covered by the new rule were not prohibiting.
The SSA Rule Would Not Have Prevented the Tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
Some media outlets have reported that the SSA rule was “inspired” by the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn. The language these outlets use gives the impression that this rule could have helped to prevent that tragedy.
The perpetrator of that attack did suffer from mental illness, however, background checks were irrelevant to the crime. The shooter did not go through a background check to procure the rifle used in the attack, he stole the firearm from his mother after he murdered her.
The Obama administration’s SSA rule is a callous attempt to restrict Second Amendment rights by targeting a vulnerable and misunderstood population, and we look forward to President Trump signing H.J.Res.40.
On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.J. Res. 69, a measure that would use the Congressional Review Act to repeal an Obama-era rule passed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to preempt Alaskan management of wildlife on National Wildlife Refuges within the state.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows Congress a limited window to disapprove an agency rule by passing a joint resolution of disapproval. In particular, it acts as a safeguard against overreaching rules passed in the waning days of an outgoing administration (a tactic heavily employed by the Obama administration). Resolutions under the CRA are not subject to filibuster, meaning only a simple majority in each house of Congress is necessary for the resolution to pass. The CRA also prevents passage of a substantially similar rule without an intervening act of Congress.
The FWS rule underlying H.J. Res. 69 was finalized on August 5, 2016. It argued that Alaska’s wildlife management practices had begun to deviate from federal policies and therefore would be preempted in various respects.
Highlighting the political nature of the rule, however, was the involvement of the anti-hunting Humane Society of the United States, which ran typically hyperbolic television ads falsely claiming that its repeal would allow for inhumane forms of taking bears and wolves.
The basic point of contention, however, was whether local Alaskan wildlife management authorities or the federal government should ultimately be responsible for setting policy on fish and wildlife management on National Wildlife Refuges within Alaska’s borders.
The NRA and other sportsmen’s groups opposed the rule as a marked deviation from the traditional deference given to state fish and wildlife management by federal authorities. They also pointed to conflicts with the Alaska Statehood Compact, as well as a 1980 statute, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which recognizes state authority to manage fish and wildlife resources on state, private and federal lands throughout Alaska. Simply put, the rule threatened to fundamentally alter the federal-state relationship over fish and wildlife management and set dangerous precedent for other states.
“Preserving the right of Alaska to manage its wildlife is a victory for outdoorsmen in all 50 states,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox. “On behalf of the NRA and our 5 million members, I would like to thank Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) for their hard work on this issue and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) for their leadership,” concluded Cox.
H.J. Res. 69 now heads to the Senate.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and urge them to vote YES on H.J. Res. 69 and to swiftly send this measure to President Trump for his signature. You can call your Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or you can send an email by using our Take Action tool.
Last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch issued an editorial titled, “Time to license guns – for journalists,” which cited an embarrassing string of journalistic blunders to illustrate the media’s dearth of firearms knowledge. The piece concluded, “The ignorance is embarrassing, but it does make the media’s support for gun control a tad more explicable: People fear what they don’t understand.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch is right to point out that ignorance plays a role in the media’s biased coverage of firearms issues. However, given the legacy media’s loathsome reporting of recent legislative efforts to block an 11th-hour Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) gun ban, it is difficult to consider the media’s inaccurate firearms coverage as anything but willful.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed H.J.Res.40, which would block an Obama-era rule that would ban certain Social Security beneficiaries from purchasing firearms. Specifically, the SSA rule would send the names of those who receive benefits for a mental health disability, and have had a representative payee designated to receive such benefits, to the FBI for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The rule strips the Second Amendment rights of this class of individual without adequate due process and inaccurately stigmatizes those with a mental health disorder as violent. The measure to block this rule would not remove any names from the NICS, but would simply prevent SSA from adding these beneficiaries’ names to the database going forward; the legislation maintains the status quo. The U.S. House of Representatives passed this legislation on February 2, and the measure now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.
During this legislative effort, many in the media have mischaracterized this legislation and fueled fear and misunderstanding about those with a mental health disorder. And chief among the anti-gun propagandists masquerading as a legitimate news source is the New York Times.
Last September, the Times editorial board lavished praise on their presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, for her plan to address mental illness. In touting Clinton’s program, the Times noted, “Central to Mrs. Clinton’s plan is… reducing the stigma attached to mental health treatment.”
Yet, less than six months later, the Times editorial board is doing its very best to stoke baseless prejudice and perpetuate the stigma that those with mental health disorders are violent.
In a February 16 editorial, the board ignorantly wrote of those with mental health disorders, “Allowing them to buy guns poses an inordinate and needless risk to public safety.” This is simply false. Citing actual research on the topic, Duke University Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Jeffrey Swanson recently pointed out that “people with mental illnesses are no more dangerous to others when they have equal access to guns.” Indulging their prejudice against those with mental health disorders is nothing new for the Times editorial board, who have relied heavily on anti-gun research that stigmatizes suicide victims as “killers.”
The Times goes on to lament,
An existing law bars gun purchases to people “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily committed to a mental institution. But enforcement of that law has been spotty, because medical records often aren’t added to the federal databases — thus prompting the Obama administration to create the Social Security rule.
The Times manages to cite the correct law, but appears ignorant of what it requires. An adjudication connotes a formal decision-making process before a judge, or a similar body, that includes an opportunity to present a defense or be heard. In other words, a procedure that provides due process. It does not include the mere opinion of a doctor, a diagnosis, or conjecture based on the contents of a medical record, or the hasty guesswork of a government bureaucrat.
In a strident perversion of the English language, the Times called the legislation to cancel the SSA rule “regressive.” This label should come as a surprise to the progressive American Civil Liberties Union, who supports cancellation of the rule. It is also likely to puzzle the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and other disability advocates, who support H.J.Res.40 and are dedicated to progressing the rights of the disabled. In reality, it is the Times’s efforts to foster undue fear of those with mental health disorders that is decidedly regressive.
Unsurprisingly, the crosstown tabloid managed to match the Times’s prejudice, with the New York Daily Newsrunning an editorial on the topic with the headline “Gun crazy.”
Though perhaps its foremost purveyors, the New York media does not have a monopoly on bias, and similarly deceptive reporting on H.J.Res.40 could be found in a wide array of publications.
Following the actions of the House and Senate, the reporting of many outlets gave the impression that Congress had passed legislation that broadly reduced background check requirements or weakened the NICS database. A BBC piece implied that the legislation would entirely exempt those with a mental health diagnosis from NICS checks, stating, “The US House of Representatives has voted to scrap regulations that require background checks for gun buyers with mental health issues.” A deceptive Associated Press headline read, “House votes to roll back Obama rule on background checks for gun ownership.”
A Bloomberg editorial contended that in passing H.J.Res.40, the House had voted to “weaken” background checks. MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow took to Twitter to mischaracterize H.J.Res.40, telling her followers, “Senate due to vote today to make it easier for seriously mentally ill people to get guns (I swear I’m not kidding). Already passed House,” and, “It’s not legislation that has, like, a loophole for the mentally ill. It’s a rule **specifically for** mentally ill people to get guns.” In truth, H.J.Res.40 merely prevents SSA from improperly adding names to the NICS database; it does not remove information from the system.
In a curious piece of misinformation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board argued that the new SSA rule didn’t implicate the rights of Social Security beneficiaries. The paper claimed the SSA rule “would not have denied guns to mentally ill citizens” and was simply an additional screening procedure.
This episode has further exposed the incredible depths of the mainstream media’s bias against gun rights and gun owners. In recent weeks, some in the media have urged others to abandon the term “fake news,” noting that it has been co-opted and used to point out media bias. Rather than police the language, were the legacy media to dedicate itself to focusing more on the news and less on the fake, this problem would solve itself.
Times are tough in the Constitution State, where Democrat governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, despite governing the fifth wealthiest state in the nation, where 25% of households earn more than $100,000 and 10% earn more than $200,000 a year, the state is facing a two-year, $3.6 billion deficit. The budget crunch is no surprise, given that his economic and tax policies have caused General Electric to relocate its headquarters to Boston, with Aetna and Duracell contemplating similar moves.
Businesses have also left in response to anti-gun policies pushed by Malloy and his fellow Democrats. America’s largest shotgun manufacturer, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. decided to expand its operations in Texas instead of Connecticut, while PTR Industries moved to gun-friendly South Carolina after its entire product line was declared illegal in the state.
Faced with the difficult decision of where to recover lost revenue, it’s no surprise that Governor Malloy, whose campaign received $1.7 million from Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC, is targeting gun owners by increasing the cost of their firearms permits.
Malloy’s proposed budget would increase the state portion of the pistol permit fee from $70 to $300 and the initial 5-year pistol permit fee from $140 to $370, bringing in an additional $9 million annually. Background check fees would also increase from $50 to $75, raising another $2.6 million each year. At a legislative hearing, Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, stated the increase was consistent with “a neighboring jurisdiction” – New York City, which charges $350 for a three-year permit. He further claimed this was “a reasonable amount, given the other costs of gun ownership” that “more fairly reflects the costs of general enforcement of our gun laws.”
In reality, a 2013 report from the Connecticut Office of Legislative Management analyzing handgun permit fees nationally determine that “Connecticut’s gun permit fees appear to be higher than most other states.” In the surrounding states, there are fees of $100 every six years in Massachusetts, $40 every four years in Rhode Island, and only $10 in many areas of New York State outside New York City. The three northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, which have permitless carry, charge no fees to allow residents to exercise their Second Amendment Rights.
At the hearing, State Rep. Doug Dubitsky (R-Chaplin) noted the burden the fee increase would impose on low-income gun owners. “This fee is onerous and it will have no purpose but to prevent poor people from exercising their constitutional rights,” Dubitsky said. “Rich people can afford an extra $300. This is designed to differentiate between rich people and poor and prevent poor people from exercising their constitutional rights.”
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said that after paying for an NRA training course and fingerprint fees, some gun owners “will not be able to afford to renew their permits,” and that the fee hike would backfire because fewer citizens would renew their permits.
Joan M. Liska, a senior citizen from Middletown, echoed this sentiment, stating that a fee increase would be difficult people like her who live on a limited income. She carries for self-defense because she’s “not as physically capable of defending myself as I was when I was younger” and fears that “if I give up my permit, that leaves me defenseless.”
Governor Malloy’s proposal reminds us that licensing is when the government takes away your right to do something and then sells it back to you. A right specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights in the present case. The scheme is also not dissimilar to poll taxes, where citizens had to pay a fee before they could exercise their right to vote. Those taxes were prohibited by passage of the 24th Amendment in 1964 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1966 decision in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections.
As the Connecticut Legislature considers Governor Malloy’s budget proposal, the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and Connecticut Citizens Defense League are working together to oppose his plan. Connecticut residents are urged to contact their state representatives to defend their rights and oppose the proposed license fee increase.
WINNING: Lawmakers, After Meeting With ICE, Say All Illegals Now at Risk of Deportation (Arrest Them All!)
Members of Congress expressed alarm that all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are at risk of deportation. They said this was made clear to them in a meeting Thursday with a top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official.
There are approximately 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said that she and other lawmakers left a meeting with ICE Acting Director Tom Homan with a sense that with changes ordered by President Donald Trump through his executive orders, “all immigrant communities are at risk.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., said in a statement that, “in effect, every undocumented person in America is now vulnerable to arrest and removal as a result of the president’s orders.”
Jennifer Elzea, an ICE spokeswoman, said in a statement that Homan emphasized in the meeting that ICE “does not conduct arrests indiscriminately” or use checkpoints. Instead, officers target preidentified individuals for arrest at specific locations based on law enforcement leads.”
But he also said that when officers encounter individuals in the U.S. in violation of federal immigration laws, they make arrests. “Every arrest is made on a case by case basis,” Elzea said….