After failing to strengthen background checks on gun buyers through Congress, the Obama administration on Friday announced pending executive action on the matter focused mainly on mental health issues that would allow the government to get around certain privacy laws on the books in order to obtain more information.
The new restrictions would take the form of regulations from the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the regulations would seek to gain information previously withheld because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, which protects medical privacy.
“Too many Americans have been severely injured or lost their lives as a result of gun violence,” a White House release said Friday. “While the vast majority of Americans who experience a mental illness are not violent, in some cases when persons with a mental illness do not receive the treatment they need, the result can be tragedies such as homicide or suicide.”
The administration’s Friday post-holiday announcement came while President Barack Obama was still on vacation in Hawaii, in stark contrast to Obama’s first executive actions on guns, which were announced in a White House ceremony. “Friday news dump” announcements have also traditionally been used to try to avoid media scrutiny.
Read more here.
Surveillance drones have a new mission. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) they will be used for “public safety”. Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the DHS, told a House Committee meeting on Homeland Security that the more than 30,000 drones that will be deployed into American skies are just arbitrarily watching out for US citizens.
Napolitano stated : “With respect to Science and Technology, that directorate, we do have a funded project, I think it’s in California, looking at drones that could be utilized to give us situational awareness in a large public safety [matter] or disaster, such as a forest fire, and how they could give us better information.”
Secretly, DHS have been taking bid for contractors who can install “aerial remote sensing” which uses light detection and ranging (LIDAR) that would be part of the unmanned drone missions within domestic US territory.
“DHS believes these airborne images are essential for homeland defense missions, such as planning for National Special Security Events (Super Bowls or a national political conventions come to mind); enhancing border, port and airport security; as well as performing critical infrastructure inventories and assessments” and has spent over $50 million to employ contractors, as well as processors for images and dissemination throughout the DHS.
Coincidentally, the Federal Protective Service (FPS) has been given the responsibility to protecting federally owned property while preparing for civilian led riots expected in the near future.
Part of the preparatory measures was an order of 150 sets of riot gear that was requested to be filled exponentially – within 15 days.
The items requested were:
– 147 “Upper Body and Shoulder Protection” which are brand name or equal to “Centurion Soft Shell Riot Control System (CPX2500)”
– 152 “Thigh-Groin Protector” brand name or equivalent to “Centurion TPX200”
– 156 “Forearm Protectors” brand name or equivalent to “Centurion (FP100)”
– 147 units of “Hard Shell Shin Guards” brand name or equivalent to “Centurion (TS70)”
– 147 carry bags brand name or equivalent to Exotech (E4), 147 tactical gloves brand name or equivalent to “Damascus (DMZ333)”
– 147 riot helmets brand name or equivalent to “MaxPro (TR1000)”
The FPS is anticipating that police or military wearing the gear would encounter “blunt force trauma” to the upper torso, as well as potential beatings with “blunt objects”. To compliment these outfits, are required riot helmets with “tactical face shield” equipped with “liquid seals”.
In addition, the US military are ready to assist with local law enforcement “if called upon”.
Five hundred military police and dogs will be allocated on civilian matters, as reported by mainstream media (MSM) have included the reallocation of hundreds of military police officers being trained to “assist local authorities” in investigation, crime scene and case building. These same soliders were just stationed in combat areas like Afghantistan.
Meanwhile, the TSA have been patrolling trains stations and bus terminals in California.
Read more here.
There is today in our country a growing threat to our legal system, to the rights of all of us, to the quality of life of children, and to common sense. This threat has been fanned by prosecutors, nurtured by the media, and ignored by those who usually speak out against such dangers.
In its most narrow sense this threat can be defined as the particular approach to sexual deviance embodied in ever-more-draconian laws against all behaviors labeled “sex offenses” — including those committed by minors — and in the sex offender registries of every state and the Federal government.1 In this approach to sex offenses, slander, hysteria and demonization often replace reason, solid research and proportionality.
But more broadly, the danger consists of an all-out assault on fairness, on the reputations of some of our most caring people, on necessary social relationships and on our critical ability to confront the deepening social paranoia of 21st century America.
In 1999, a group of us in Boston — prominent political activists, civil libertarians, and workers in the mental health and legal systems, as well as teachers and others who work with children — tried to draw public attention to this threat with a “Call to Safeguard our Children and Our Liberties.” Eight years have passed and the crisis we addressed then has gotten far worse. The demonization of those accused of illegal sexual activity — both the innocent and the guilty — and the criminalization or stigmatization of more and more forms of sexual expression has reached new heights. All sense of fairness and due process are often tossed to the winds. The worst thing a person has ever done in their lives becomes the only thing they have ever done. Many who always despised “pedophiles” have been swept up by the hysteria and are stunned to suddenly find themselves or their children labeled sex offenders. The lives of many thousands of people have been unfairly ruined. And we have created a despised under-class labeled “sex offenders”. All of these developments are justified under the high-sounding rhetoric of “protecting our children from sexual predators” despite the fact that a great many registered sex offenders have never committed sexual offenses against minors.
In the process, the American legal system has moved from identifying specific crimes which cause real harm toward naming whole classes of “bad persons” to shame and isolate them for life. A similar change in the American legal approach has taken place since 9/11, with regard to those accused of “terrorism.” In these cases, many rights of the accused have vanished. Fortunately, though, there has been public criticism about the suspension of due-process, habeas corpus and other rights for accused “terrorists”.
But there has been no public outcry by those claiming concern for human rights when rights are suspended for accused sex offenders, especially those accused of any offense against a minor. Indeed, even the definition of “who is a child” is being radically changed. Though ages vary from state to state — between 14 and 18 — federal law now replaces these in many cases, creating a national age of 18, below which a person is deemed a “child” with regard to sex.
Certainly many caring people are providing important support to children who have been sexually violated and want to protect other children from such harm. But is the welfare of children really the driving dynamic behind current public perceptions and policies? And how are these policies actually impacting the lives of young people? What if the overwhelming focus on dangers posed by some sex offenders diverts our attention from other prevalent dangers to children, some of which would be simple to alleviate (e.g., crushing, humiliating poverty) and others much more complex (e.g., family violence). At the same time, many youngsters are now prosecuted and/or subjected to public shaming for behaviors that young people (including most of today’s adults when they were young) have engaged in for millennia without public stigma.
The “clergy abuse scandal” and the almost daily sensationalist coverage of allegations of sex abuse in the media, has led to due-process simply vanishing where sex is alleged. Instead of leading to a deeper understanding of sexuality and sexual violation, the framing of the priests’ crisis has dramatically increased ignorance and demonization, lumping together the innocent and the guilty, those guilty of minor infractions with those who caused serious harm, and those accused of one violation in an entire career of supporting young people with those who caused harm on a regular basis.
Meanwhile children across the land learn that adults who like them are suspect. And more and more men who pose no danger at all to kids stay away from them, refuse them rides and shun innocent interactions that involve physical contact to avoid any possible misinterpretation of genuine affection or concern. Children, men and our society are the losers.
As soon as someone is accused of sexual behavior with a minor, their name is splashed all over TV and the newspapers, destroying their careers and good name, and their accuser is publicly labeled a victim. All of this happens whether the accusation is true or not. And the destroyed lives of the falsely accused pile up by the day. Statutes of limitations have been virtually abolished for these cases. DA’s, judges and juries indict or convict on the mere allegation of sexual violation without any consideration that supporting evidence is lacking. “Repressed memories”, unsupported or even contradicted by physical evidence, sometimes become the basis for conviction.
Many convicted of sex offenses receive very long sentences in the first place — often unrelated to the seriousness of their crime and sometimes even longer than those guilty of manslaughter.Until overruled by the Supreme Court, six states had attempted to institute the death penalty for sex offenses involving children when murder or even physical violence was not alleged.
If they do get out of prison, once they have completed their sentence, those designated “sex offenders” are mandated by federal law to register with the police. This requirement covers those accused of even the slightest sexual impropriety with a person under 18 for which they may have been given a suspended sentence. They must provide their names, addresses and other personal information which is then made public on the internet and in other ways. It is common that they are hounded, driven out of their jobs and homes and humiliated for decades. They are almost without the protection of Constitutional rights. They have no way to re-integrate into society. Their families and friends are almost as “shamed” and ostracized as they are. Such public humiliation and isolation has led to suicides. Several registered persons have been murdered by those who found their addresses, in two cases randomly.
Sex offenders are often very limited regarding travel and where they can live and they are often prohibited from being in many public spaces. A new wave of local legislation is sweeping over the land making it illegal for registered persons who have served their sentences to live virtually anywhere at all. In Miami, they can only live under a bridge.
The numbers required to register grow exponentially — including juveniles and many whose offenses were committed decades ago when they were considered rather minor transgressions. Together with their spouses, children and parents, registered sex offenders constitute a population larger than most large U.S. cities. There are over 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States,several hundred thousand being sought for registration, several hundred thousand in prison, plus family members of sex offenders numbering about 2,000,000.
And the insanity spreads, instituting a new war on children and on young people and their sexuality. The public registries in the US include children as young as eleven years old, a four-year-old has been charged with sexual harassment, and first graders have been prosecuted for sodomy as a result of innocent, mutual play with peers. Juveniles whose feelings or actions are considered deviant have been subjected to the same aversive therapies once used to “cure” gay men, as well as public humiliation – their names, addresses and photos provided the public on the internet and in other media. Though in other areas, the privacy of juveniles is considered paramount, in the case of “sex offenders” it is completely abandoned.
In twenty states, life-time civil commitment is now mandated for some categories of sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences.Though this status is supposed to be reserved only for truly violent predators, existing law now defines any offense against a minor, including those without any violence, as a violent act. By 2006, nearly 3,000 sex offenders were held under such statutes, and the number has undoubtedly increased. Though such persons are supposed to be in treatment for verifiable mental illnesses, and may be released to supervised parole, very few have ever been released, and many go virtually untreated.
Some of us who signed the original “Call to Protect our Children and Our Liberties” feel we must try again to stimulate a more objective discussion of the issues. We hope to get others to join us – especially people who work with children and who support justice and common sense. We want to get more people to raise the cry against this ravaging of the social fabric by a destructive and wrong-headed crusade.
We affirm the need to protect children — and all people of all ages — from sexual harm and the terror of violent rape and to deal seriously with those acts which cause such harm. We will emphasize the civil and human costs of current policies which deprive people of their rights and humiliate them and which undermine supportive relationships between adults and young people.
The present crusade is spreading fear and loathing across our society. Our society does not need more fear and loathing. It needs trust and dignity and redemption. At present there is no telling how far this self-destructive approach to social problems related to sexuality can go — unless people capable of courage, compassion and common sense stand up to stop it and turn our country’s attention to real solutions to our problems.
(CBS/AP) A Supreme Court ruling finding that Americans have the right to bear arms anywhere they live almost certainly means the end of Chicago’s decades-old handgun ban, but it may not make handgun ownership there much easier if the city’s powerful mayor has his way.
Shortly after the high court voted 5-4 Monday along ideological lines – with five conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and four liberals opposed – Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said officials were already at work rewriting the city ordinance to adhere to the court ruling while protecting Chicago residents from gun violence.
“We will never give in to those who use guns to harm others,” Daley said in comments aimed at his constituents. “Your fight is my fight and we’re in this together.”
And in other cities and states, officials said they were confident their gun control laws would withstand legal challenges.
“We do think it’ll probably give us some bigger legal bills, but I suspect that we will be able to continue to do exactly what we’ve been doing – have reasonable regulations as to who can buy and where you can carry,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ardent gun control advocate, said of Monday’s ruling.
The decision didn’t explicitly strike down nearly 30-year-old handgun bans in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park. Instead, it ordered a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling. But it left little doubt that the statutes eventually would fall.
In the majority decision, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the Second Amendment right “applies equally to the federal government and the states.”
But the decision also signaled that some limitations on the Constitution’s “right to keep and bear arms” could survive legal challenges. Alito noted that while fully binding on states and cities, the Second Amendment “limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values.”
Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, each wrote a dissent. Stevens said that unlike a ruling two years ago overturning a Washington, D.C., handgun ban, Monday’s decision “could prove far more destructive – quite literally – to our nation’s communities and to our constitutional structure.”
Gun rights supporters had challenged the Chicago and Oak Park laws – the last two remaining outright bans in the country, according to The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence – almost immediately after the high court struck down a ban on handguns and a trigger lock requirement for other guns in Washington, a federal city with a unique legal standing. That ruling applied only to federal laws.
Lower federal courts upheld the Illinois cities’ bans, noting that judges on those benches were bound by Supreme Court precedent and that it would be up to the high court justices to ultimately rule on the true reach of the Second Amendment.
Monday’s ruling was a victory for gun rights supporters, but they also said they expected state and local governments to draft laws to impede gun ownership.
Attorney David Sigale, who represented one of the plaintiffs associated with Monday’s decision, said he has been advising prospective handgun owners to hold off buying them.
“In light of Mayor Daley’s threat … that there could be a whole new mess of regulations on the books, which I’m sure will only go to further hinder and burden the Constitutional rights given today, I think it would be prudent to wait and see what those developments are before everyone rushes out and avails themselves of this new right,” Sigale said.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said he expects the same from other municipalities as well, saying the NRA “will continue to work at every level to insure that defiant city councils and cynical politicians do not transform this constitutional victory into a practical defeat through Byzantine regulations and restrictions.”
In Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley said the ruling would not pose a problem because the state controls, but doesn’t ban, guns. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is pushing a bill that would make it illegal to buy more than one gun per month.
“The provision in the governor’s bill relative to a one-gun-a-month limit is not analogous since it does not ban the ownership of firearms, but just regulates the amount,” said Patrick’s spokesman, Kyle Sullivan.
Daley didn’t specify what measures he intends to push, but he said he planned to move quickly to get them in front of the City Council, saying that it is possible a special session will be called to address the issue.
He said he’s considering creating a registry of the names and addresses of everyone in the city who legally owns a handgun, which would be made available to police officers, firefighters and other “first responders” before they arrive at the scene of emergencies.
The mayor also said Chicago might follow the District of Columbia’s lead in requiring prospective gun owners to take training courses that include several hours of classroom learning about gun safety and passing a 20-question test.
Daley has suggested that owners may be required to buy insurance for those guns.