Left Justified

News and Media

House Passes Strictest Gun Control Legislation in Recent Memory

March 3, 2019 by Gail Nussbaum in Law, News and Media

The House passed a bill which will allow background checks to take place beyond the present three day maximum to as much as 20 days if that much time is needed to complete the process. As the Federal law stands now, if a background check is not completed, for whatever reason, within three days, the gun sale can take place. The new law forces the seller to wait up to 20 days for the background check before the sale can happen.

The vote was 240 in favor and 190 against, the biggest victory for the Democrat-run House since the midterm elections last November. Eight Republicans joined the majority to pass the bill, while two Democrats, Jared Golden of Maine and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans against the bill.

The bill is unlikely to become law since it is strongly opposed by Republicans in the Senate, who have a majority there, and the White House, where the President has said he will veto any gun control legislation that comes to his desk. Yet, despite the seeming futility of the vote, Democrats felt obligated to try and sew up what is called the “Charleston loophole,” which allows people to buy guns before their background checks are finished. This is how White Supremacist Dylann Roof was able to buy a gun in 2015 even though he had a pending drug charge. Dylann took his newly purchased Glock to the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina and proceeded to shoot into a room full of people studying the Bible, killing nine of them, all African-Americans.

“Background checks work,” Rep. Mike Thompson of California, the lead Democratic author on the background checks bill, said from the House floor. “Every day, they stop 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers from getting a gun from a licensed dealer. But, in some states, those same people can go into a gun show or go online and buy a gun without a background check. This bill will help stop them from doing so.

“Some will argue that criminals won’t follow the law,” he said. “If that is the case, then why do we have laws against murder? People still commit murder. Why do we have laws against stealing? People still steal. This is flawed logic. Don’t fall for it.”

“Every day, 47 children and teenagers [are] killed by guns,” said Nancy Pelosi, who noted that “90 percent of the American people want commonsense, universal background checks.”

Rep. Peter King of New York, one of the Republican co-sponsors of the bill, told his fellow Republicans that they must change their position on guns and gun control or else pay for it when elections come in 2020 and farther down the road.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans support it, and we shouldn’t allow a small faction who come out and vote in primaries to scare away the whole party,” King said. “There’s a moral perspective. I think it’s important. From a political perspective, this is a key vote in the suburbs. We did badly in the suburbs last time; we’re going to do worse this time. This is an issue that even strong, solid Republican conservatives can’t understand why we don’t support it.”

Yet, despite these arguments, House Republicans stuck to their position that these laws will do nothing to reduce gun violence.

“There are plenty of Democrats who want to say they did something rather than doing [legislation] that would actually do something to reduce violence,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), one of the most outspoken pro-gun rights lawmakers. “Why not try something that will have an impact?”
Hudson said he and some Democrats are working on other legislation that will widen databases that can be searched instantly as part of the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System.

“This extreme gun- control bill will make criminals out of law-abiding Americans. It will also make it harder for good people to defend themselves and their families,” added Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA, the legislative branch of the anti-gun-control organization. “Criminals, on the other hand, will continue to get their firearms the way they always have — through the black market, theft and straw purchases. Forcing more government paperwork and additional fees on good people trying to exercise a constitutional right will do nothing to make Americans safer.”

SCOTUS to Decide Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

February 22, 2019 by Gail Nussbaum in Law, News and Media
This is a card puncher, an integral part of the tabulation system used by the United States Census Bureau to compile the thousands of facts gathered by the Bureau. Holes are punched in the card according to a prearranged code transferring the facts from the census questionnaire into statistics. [Woman operating the card puncher]

The 12 justices of the US Supreme Court have decided they will review the legality of incorporating a question about citizenship onto the upcoming 2020 census. The judges promise a quick decision, since the census forms need to be printed in time to distribute them before the census must begin.

The results of the US census, which takes place every ten years, play a crucial role in the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives in addition to the distribution of over 900 billion of federal dollars across the country. The knowledge obtained by the census also helps local governments make informed decisions about their citizenry concerning such things as schools, hospitals, transportation infrastructure; police and fire departments.

The United States Census Bureau is part of the US Department of Commerce and a principal agent of the US Federal Statistical System.
The Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold or vote down a lower court ruling which blocked the Trump administration from adding the citizen question to the form. The last time such a question was placed on the census was in 1950. The exact wording of the question is:

“Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

Dozens of states, cities and other groups are fighting the administration over the inclusion of this question. They fear that having such a question on the forms will lower census participation among families or households which include non-US citizens. This could lead to a too-small number for immigrants and other communities of color, creating a picture of a larger community that is not a true reflection of the reality. This could in turn leave these communities under-represented and under-funded.

“Adding a citizenship question to the census would cause incalculable damage to our democracy,” said Dale Ho, one of the lead plaintiffs’ attorneys at the ACLU. “The evidence presented at trial exposed this was the Trump administration’s plan from the get-go.”

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to hear this case defending the government’s legal and reasonable decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 census,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco.

Arguments from the sides will be heard in April, and the justices will hand down their decision by June.

Trump Might Divert Money to Wall from Other Emergency Projects

February 14, 2019 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media, Politics
Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background.
© Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Michael Mulvaney, President Trump’s acting chief of staff, and other top White House officials are devising a plan to garner enough money to build Trump’s wall along the Mexican border. The plan will not need the administration to invoke a declaration of a national emergency.

The plan involves the redirection of surplus federal dollars using an executive order. The funds can be moved from a variety of budgetary accounts without the need for the congress to sign off. Trump will no longer need to persuade Democrats to give him the $5.7 billion he is demanding and will also alleviate the need to declare a state of national emergency.

Budget officials are considering moving funds from two Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control projects in California, plus disaster relief monies earmarked for Puerto Rico and California. Funds might also be diverted from the Department of Defense which was originally intended for, but not yet used for various construction projects like family housing or military base infrastructure.

“There are certain sums of money that are available to the president, to any president,” Mulvaney said on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” “So you comb through the law at the president’s request … And there’s pots of money where presidents, all presidents, have access to without a national emergency.”

The solution is not without its own problems. Re-designating money via executive order may be permitted technically, but it will certainly be challenged in court. Several powerful members of Congress will argue that the president is coming a bit too close to stepping on the toes of the legislature’s constitutional powers to appropriate funds. Some Trump officials think this route to the wall might even be more susceptible to a court challenge than calling a national emergency. The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee stated that siphoning money away from military construction would harm the potential readiness of the armed forces.

“My guess is the president ends up using executive authority to try to reprogram funds,” said one Republican with a strong connection to the administration. He emphasized that no one knows what the president is going to do in the next few days. “Then, in the coming months through some form of military funds, they start building parts of the physical barrier. He can start claiming that, despite Democrats’ intransigence, he has done something on the wall.”

Dems Begin to Find Their Collective Climate Change Voice

February 7, 2019 by Gail Nussbaum in Environment, News and Media

End of the year data is in, and it supports the ever-growing evidence that planet earth is warming in an alarming trend. According analysis conducted by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2018 was the fourth warmest year in recorded history. The past year’s surface temperatures a line well with the data seen over the past five years, which were the hottest ever seen since humans started keeping track in 1880.

The new data gives more fuel to the newly elected Democratic congress which has used global climate change as a unifying issue for the lawmakers. They are pushing for a “Green New Deal” which they hope will get the US economy to quickly shift away from the use of fossil fuels, which contribute to the warming trends, and rely more steadily on renewable energy sources.

“The long-term trends are extremely robust,” said NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director Gavin Schmidt. “Our understanding of why those trends are occurring is also very robust: It’s because of the increases in greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere over the last 100 years.”

There is mounting pressure on the leadership of the Democratic party to do more to avert climate change trends as more activists and climate advocates gain more power in the party. Newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told reporters to expect a resolution describing the “Green New Deal” to be released “in a couple of days.” Ocasio-Cortez has worked to write this manifesto with Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts.

These hearings come after eight years of Republican control of the House in which there was very little done to improve the factors that contribute to climate change or to prepare for the effects of sea-level changes and more severe weather-related disasters. Frustration levels among Democrats are high, especially in light of the fact that, although most people in the country accept that we are facing a serious danger from climate change, the government led by President Trump does not seem concerned. The President did not mention climate change even once in this week’s State of the Union address.