Saturday, 20 of December of 2014

Category » Politics

House budget blocks ATF notification of multiple rifle sales in border states

Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) sponsored the budget amendment blocking the ATF request.

The budget bill passed in the Republican-led House of Representatives Saturday includes an amendment that blocks a request from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives [ATF] for emergency powers ATF officials say will help stop the flow of guns to Mexican drug cartels.

The ATF has asked that all firearms dealers in the four border states temporarily be required to report the sale of two or more rifles in less than five days to the same buyer.

“By obtaining information about these multiple sales, ATF increases the likelihood of uncovering and disrupting trafficking schemes before the firearms make their way into Mexico,” acting ATF Director Ken Melson said in a statement.

The Obama administration has yet to accept or reject the ATF request, but The Hill reports the bill would make that decision moot. The House budget bill’s fate will be determined in the Senate.

Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) sponsored the amendment, which passed 277 to 149.  According to The Hill:

Forty-one Democrats voted in favor of the bill, and two Republicans – Reps. Peter King (N.Y.) and Brian Bilbray (Calif.) – opposed it. King, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, has often been at odds with GOP leaders over gun reform.

“The ATF has no legal authority to demand these reports,” Boren said in statement. He said that ATF was trying to circumvent Congressional authority because there are not enough votes in the House to approve this new regulation.

“This new regulation would create a flood of new reports that will further waste already scarce law enforcement resources,” Boren added. The rule change would also, “compromise the privacy of their customers by cataloguing [sic] personal information in a database,” he said.

According to Boren’s website, “The amendment was fully supported by the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), an organization representing the firearms industry, says the rule change would make it more difficult for firearms retailers to identify suspicious buyers and alert the ATF because traffickers will begin to buy their guns at multiple locations.

“Illegal firearms traffickers engaged in acquiring firearms to smuggle into Mexico will simply and rapidly modify their illegal schemes to circumvent the reporting requirement,” the NSSF says.


Feinstein calls for halt on assault rifle imports

A Romanian AK-47 and its accessories, imported by Century International Arms. (Photo by Geoffrey Fairchild, courtesy of Creative Commons)

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) called upon President Barrack Obama in a letter last week to use his executive authority to ban the importation of “military-style assault firearms.” This would help stop “the gun trafficking that is fueling the horrific gun violence in Mexico,” Feinstein wrote.

Previous presidents used a provision of the 1968 Gun Control Act, which only permits the importation of firearms that are “particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes,” to limit shipments of these types of semiautomatic rifles into the United States. This provision is not being aggressively enforced and guns that should ineligible for import are flowing into the United States, Feinstein says.

Among the firearms that have Feinstein concerned are, “cheap AK-type variants from former Eastern bloc countries.” The WASR-10, a Romanian version of the AK-47, is the gun most frequently recovered in Mexico and successfully traced back to the United States.

In her letter, Feinstein also asks Obama to stop the practice many importers employ of reassembling imported rifles with some domestically manufactured components in order to comply with import restrictions. This practice is in violation of the Gun Control Act, Feinstein says.

The National Rifle Association responded to Feinstein’s letter in a statement saying, “the ‘sporting purposes’ limitation imposed by the Gun Control Act of 1968 is constitutionally suspect, to put it mildly.” The “sporting purposes” criteria undermines citizens’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, and “the law is ripe for a remedy,” the NRA statement says.

The NRA says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has repeatedly misinterpreted the “sporting purposes test” for political reasons and faults Feinstein for, “encouraging yet another misinterpretation.”


Gunrunners: Romanian WASR-10 is the cartels’ gun of choice

The Romanian version of the iconic AK-47 is the leading gun recovered at Mexican crime scenes and successfully traced back to the United States, according to a recent report from PBS FRONTLINE in collaboration with the Investigative Reporting Workshop, Insight and the Center for Public Integrity.

WASR-10s found on Alfonso Gutierrez and his associates after a May 10, 2008 shootout with police. (ATF photo)

The WASR-10 is a relatively affordable, semiautomatic version of the AK-47. Century International Arms imports the weapons in compliance with the federal regulation which prohibit the importation of firearms that do not have a “sporting purpose.” The rifles are then reconfigured to include features that would have been illegal prior to importation, such as a detachable magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds.

The rifles retail for as little as $400 but can fetch $2000 – $3000 in the Mexican black market. This profit margin creates high incentive for individuals to smuggle these weapons across the border.

WASR-10s have been recovered at some of the highest-profile crime scenes in Mexico. When cartel gunmen killed 8 police officers in Culiacan, WASR-10s were part of their arsenal; when Mexican Marines raided a Christmas party in an effort to capture cartel boss Arturo Beltran Leyva, his associates were armed with 10 WASR-10s.; when a gun battle erupted Acapulco in which 17 people died, one of the gunmen was armed with a WASR-10; and when police arrested Alfonso Gutierrez Loera, cousin to the infamous cartel boss Joaquin Guzman Loera, six WASR-10s were included in the 12 rifles found on him and his associates.

According to a recent ATF report, the WASR-10 makes up 17 percent of the guns recovered at Mexican crime scenes and successfully traced back to the United States.


Californians likely to bogart legal weed

A disappointed Spicolli.

Despite the serious buzz it has generated, it doesn’t look like California’s voters are going to pass Prop 19, the ballot initiative that would legalize the possession and consumption of up to one ounce of marijuana.

Although the support for the measure represents a new high for the legalization movement, a Los Angeles Times/USC poll shows the measure failing by a vote of 51 percent to 39 percent.

Proponents’ hopes have not burnt out, however. A Survey USA poll shows the vote still within the margin of error, with the measure losing 44 percent to 46 percent.

Some have theorized that poll respondents are likely to keep the lid on their support for the measure because of the stigma associated with marijuana consumption. A haze has hung over the accuracy of live polling because Prop 19 has polled much higher among respondents to automated polling.

The joint efforts of the measure’s supporters have rolled together a diverse group that includes billionaire George Soros — who has made sure the movement doesn’t cash out — and rapper Snoop Dogg — who has released a video in which he says he stands “very high” on Prop 19.

Their campaign has resonated with young voters  — 59 percent of voters between 18 and 34 years old support the proposition — but has gotten a harsh reception among older Californians — 60 percent of voters over 65 oppose it.

If Proposition 19 were to pass, California would become the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana. The law would also permit the cultivation of up to 25 square feet of plants for personal use.

It remains to be seen how implementation of the law will be hashed out considering existing federal law. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the federal government will continue to prosecute growers and distributors of marijuana, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.


Santos shows he’s no Uribe clone

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the Casa de Nariño in Bogotá Thursday. Photo by Felipe Pinzón, courtesy of SIG.

During his first two weeks in office, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has distinguished himself from his popular predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. While Uribe was bellicose in his dealings with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Santos has been conciliatory toward the neighboring left-wing governments; while Uribe rejected any negotiations with the left-wing guerrilla organization known as the FARC, Santos has expressed an openness to dialogue; whereas Uribe focused exclusively on the military struggle against the FARC, Santos wishes to address the social and economic inequality that fuels the conflagrations in the countryside; and while Uribe often seemed willing to overlook human rights abuses by the military, Santos has pledged to make human rights a priority in his government.

In his inaugural address, Santos said, “One of my main goals as President will be to rebuild the foreign relations with Venezuela and Ecuador.”

Santos was true to his word to begin dialogue with Chavez “as soon as possible.” Three days after his inauguration, Santos met with Chavez in the coastal city of Santa Marta.

Chavez officially ended diplomatic relations with Colombia in July after Uribe reiterated the accusation that Chavez was providing aid and shelter to the FARC guerrillas, while relations with Ecuador have been cut off since 2008 when the Colombian military crossed the border to attack the guerrillas without the consent of the Ecuadoran government.

Global Post’s John Otis writes that Uribe’s July  “accusations were widely viewed as a parting diatribe.” The Economist alleges that Uribe’s diatribe against Chavez was intended to, “prevent Mr Santos from implementing a more conciliatory foreign policy.”

Whether or not it was Uribe’s intention to limit Santos’ foreign policy options, Santos, who served as Uribe’s minister of defense, has clearly rejected Uribe’s approach to Colombia’s neighbors and the change in administration has been welcomed by Chavez  who said he hopes to, “rebuild what was broken to pieces,” according to the Miami Herald. Colombia Reports quotes Chavez as saying to Santos, “From now on we welcome you, a good friend. We are different, but within the framework of respect we will do fine things.” Read more »


Anger and bigotry abound at Capitol rally against health care reform

Talmadge Cesco (left) debates the finer points of the health care reform legislation with one of the bill's supporters. Photo by William W. Cummings

Capitol police quickly moved through the crowd to protect the three young women chanting, “Pass the bill!” amid hundreds of protesters opposing passage of the health care reform bill outside the Capitol building Sunday.

Members of the crowd called Georgetown University students Marissa Brogger, 19; Kimmy Ransom, 18; and Erica Savage, 19, “whores,” “uneducated children” and “privileged little bitches.”

“No one is going to hurt them, because they’re Catholics,” one woman told a police officer because Brogger, Ransom, and Savage were holding signs reading, “Catholics for health care reform.”

One man told Brogger he would be happy to buy her a beer but not an abortion, and protester Desiree Bernstein began a chant of “Hitler youth” to drown out the three women.

When asked why she was calling the protesters “Hitler youth,” Bernstein explained that what the Georgetown students were advocating was “probably fascist.”

“Get ready for the ovens,” Bernstein said.

The emotion and hostility leveled against Brogger, Ransom, and Savage was the rule, not the exception, among the protesters on the south lawn of the Capitol Sunday.

The few dozen supporters of the bill who arrived at the rally of several hundred opponents received a range of insults.

Martha Dudley, of Madison, Va., repeatedly called health-care-reform supporter, Kelly Heber, “a self-hating homosexual.”

Dudley explained she made the comments because she found Heber’s sign, which read “Tea-baggers stop being angry and go home,” offensive.

The phrase “tea-bagger” is “considered a vulgar sexual act,” Dudley said.

One protester, concerned with the portrayal of Saturday’s protest in the media after allegations that people had yelled racial and homophobic slurs at congressmen, held a sign encouraging fellow protesters to record any instances of racial slurs.

Read more »


Politico issues a non-retraction, retraction on health care memo

Craig Gordon, writing for Politico Friday, explained why a document purported to be  a Democratic “talking points” memo was published and then quickly taken down when its authenticity could not be verified.

“Sensitive internal documents find their way into reporters’ inboxes all the time,” Gordon wrote. “Sometimes they get published. Sometimes they don’t. The ones that do are the ones that look, sound and feel credible to the reporters covering the story. This one does, with its talk of a full SGR repeal, the JCT estimate and a streamlining of the insurance exchanges.”

“So it got posted,” Gordon says.

After Democratic staffers claimed the memo was a fake, Politico reporters went back to the Republican sources who had passed them the memo and took it down when those sources were unable to verify its authenticity.

Chris Frates, who writes Politico‘s “Live Pulse” breaking news column, initially posted the memo, then replaced it with this statement:

An earlier post in this spot detailed what was purported by Republicans to be an internal Democratic memo regarding the upcoming health reform vote Sunday. Democratic leadership has challenged the authenticity of the memo. Politico has removed the memo and the details about it until we can absolutely verify the document’s origin.

Read more »