After gun-control legislation failed loudly in the wake of the Newtown shooting, the Obama administration set to work, preempting Congressional gridlock with executive actions on dozens of gun-control initiatives. Today we can add two more to the list.
The Justice Department is out with an initiative to clarify who’s prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law for mental-health-related reasons. Specifically, anyone involuntarily committed to a mental institution, either inpatient or outpatient, should be designated as such, a proposal meant to help states determine who should be barred from having guns.
The other, proposed by the Health and Human Services Department, would allow states to submit “the limited information necessary to help keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands” to the federal background-check system, circumventing exisiting privacy provisions under a law known as HIPPA.
“Too many Americans have been severely injured or lost their lives as a result of gun violence,” the White House said in a statement. “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.”
Other initiatives introduced by the administration in the last year include rules to better prepare local law enforcement and schools, respond to shootings, and keep guns out of the hands of felons.
The White House has noted that executive actions alone can’t take the place of comprehensive legislation, but given the failure of the expanded-background-check bill in April and the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act this winter, executive action seems like the best path forward for now.
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The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."
The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.
"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.