Historic City News is proud that our readers count on us to provide news content and information primarily originating from St. Augustine and St. Johns County, Florida; however, our reporters also follow the local impact of government actions that are making news, nationwide.
The first decade of the new millennium may very well be recorded as the beginning of the next American Revolution; an issue-driven, consumer focused, uprising of attention on how well those individuals that we have elected are truly representing the people.
Locally, Tea Party organizations in the area have energized grassroots participation by advocating for a return to our Constitutional framework and calling attention to what they see as the disparity between the vision of the founding fathers and the ever-growing and non-responsive government machine of today.
Often controversial, although credited as one of the best at activating grassroots responses to issue-specific government initiatives, is the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Actions; who initiated alerts in some of the following top stories during 2010.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt ruled that NRA has a right under federal law to intervene in a lawsuit filed, in the plaintiff’s own words, as part of a campaign “to ban the use of lead bullets.” This allowed the NRA to defend hunters’ rights against the claims of extremist environmental groups that filed the lawsuit.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled favorably in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, removing unconstitutional restrictions on the NRA’s ability to speak freely at election time. The case originally centered on the FEC’s denial of Citizens United’s attempt to broadcast a film about Hillary Clinton through on-demand cable services in January 2008, but was broadened to include the First Amendment rights of organizations like the NRA.
Scott Brown (R) was elected to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts to fill the seat of deceased Senator Ted Kennedy. Brown’s victory was a stunning defeat for gun control extremists, including the Massachusetts-based “Stop Handgun Violence,” which spent significant manpower in an unsuccessful attempt to try and turn out anti-gun voters for Brown’s opponent, Martha Coakley (D). Their crass attempts to misrepresent Brown’s record — a record that, in stark contrast to Coakley’s, was tough on criminals and supportive of the rights of law-abiding Massachusetts gun owners — clearly failed.
In a case receiving national attention, the Glenn County, Calif., Board of Education overturned the expulsion of 17-year-old duck hunter Gary Tudesko, who was expelled from his central California high school after police dogs sniffed out unloaded shotguns in his truck parked off-campus. The California Legal Action Project (a joint effort by NRA-ILA and the California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation) provided legal assistance.
Delaware gun owners and Second Amendment advocates earned a victory when the Newark Housing Authority withdrew a gun ban prohibiting its residents from legally possessing firearms in their homes. Thousands of Delaware’s most vulnerable residents live in some of the state’s most dangerous neighborhoods and had been prohibited from possessing firearms to defend themselves from the drug dealers and thugs who infest their communities. The NHA was the first to withdraw its ban, rather than face litigation from the NRA.
The Brady Campaign released its 2010 “grades.” Among the “highlights”: Brady gave only two states “passing” scores for having some of the gun laws it wants — California with a C+ and New Jersey with a C. There were no “D’s.” The other 48 states received “F’s”, including Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Hawaii and Illinois. Brady gave California its best grade for having the most restrictive laws, even though California’s murder and total violent crime rates are 10 percent and 13 percent higher, respectively, than the rates for the rest of the country.
A new law took effect that applies state firearm laws to national parks and wildlife refuges across America. The implementation of this new law has seen no major problems.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago. Representing the NRA at oral argument was former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who made a strong and effective case in favor of incorporating the Second Amendment.
Governor Charlie Crist signed SB-1158, the Trust Fund Protection bill sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean and Rep. David Rivera, to protect the Concealed Weapons Licensing Trust Fund Bill from future raids by the legislature.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed NRA-backed legislation allowing employees to store legally owned firearms in locked, private motor vehicles while parked in employer parking lots. Indiana has more than 250,000 Right-to-Carry permit holders, many of whom carry firearms during their commutes to and from work. This law also prevents state or local government authorities from confiscating lawfully owned firearms during declared states of emergency, such as occurred in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Montana’s U.S. Senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, announced that ATK — the defense conglomerate that operates the Army’s Lake City ammunition plant and that owns the Federal ammunition, RCBS reloading equipment, and Alliant smokeless gunpowder companies — is voluntarily withdrawing from contracts it made with military bases to collect and scrap once-fired small arms cartridge cases. The scrapping of the cases became an issue when it was determined to be partially responsible for reducing the quantity of intact cartridge cases sold to companies that produce reloaded ammunition for sale to private individuals.
Governor Charlie Crist signed House Bill 315, by Representative Mike Horner and Senator Thad Altman, to stop adoption agencies from asking about firearms ownership by prospective adoptive parents.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, began running television ads urging Congress to “close the gun show loophole.” MAIG’s ads claimed “The Columbine school massacre … killers got their guns because of a gap in the law, called the ‘gun show loophole.'” And in a related press release, MAIG claimed “All four guns used in the Columbine shootings were bought from private sellers at gun shows.” Of course, these claims are all false. For starters, one of the Columbine criminals’ four firearms was not acquired at a gun show. The other three firearms, while bought at a gun show, were bought for the criminals by a straw purchaser — a woman who was not prohibited from possessing or acquiring firearms and who therefore would have passed a NICS check, if she had bought the firearms from a licensed dealer.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal animal cruelty law so broadly written that it would have criminalized the distribution of hunting videos and magazines under many circumstances. The 8-1 ruling in U.S. v. Stevens was a big win for the NRA and hunters across America. A brief submitted by the NRA was cited in the majority’s opinion. “The NRA condemns animal cruelty. However, hunting and depictions of hunting are not animal cruelty. This excessive law would have imposed felony penalties for creating, possessing or selling mainstream hunting images. Therefore, we are pleased that the Supreme Court ruled against this overbroad law,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox. “Indeed, NRA publications like American Hunter, the largest-circulation all-hunting magazine in the world, could have been in jeopardy if this law was upheld.” Anti-hunting extremist organizations like the Humane Society of the United States were the primary advocates for the deliberately overreaching language in Congress and its main defenders in Court.
Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), along with Reps. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.), introduced the “Second Amendment Enforcement Act.” The Senate and House bills (S. 3265, and H.R. 5162) would eliminate several of the District’s most restrictive gun control laws passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver (D) signed Senate File 2379 into law, affirming law-abiding Iowans’ right to carry without being subject to the subjective discretion of individual sheriffs, by changing Iowa from a “may-issue” state to a “shall-issue” state.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon called on Congress to reinstate the federal “assault weapon” ban. With a warning seemingly designed to appeal to those who believe that speaking out against the Obama Administration’s policies are one step short of sedition or worse, Calderon said, “[I]f you do not regulate the sale of these weapons in the right way, nothing guarantees that criminals here in the United States with access to the same power of weapons will not decide to challenge American authorities and civilians.” Calderon also misinformed Congress, claiming that violence in Mexico rose significantly after the U.S. ban expired in 2004. However, he did not explain why violent crime has declined significantly in the U.S. since the ban expired, or how a ban on flash suppressors or bayonet mounts relates to drug cartels in Mexico or anywhere else.
The FBI released crime statistics showing that between 2008 and 2009, as gun sales soared, the number of murders decreased 7.2 percent. That amounts to about an 8.2 percent decrease in the per capita murder rate, after the increase in our nation’s population is taken into account. It translates into about a 10.5 percent decrease in the murder rate between 2004, when the ban expired, and the end of 2009. And finally, it means that in 2009 our nation’s murder rate fell to a 45-year low.
Another landmark Supreme Court victory was achieved, as the nation’s highest court ruled in McDonald v. City of Chicago that the individual Second Amendment right is fundamental and applies to all law-abiding Americans. In the words of the majority opinion, “We have previously held that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights apply with full force to both the Federal Government and the States. Applying the standard that is well established in our case law, we hold that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States.” The majority opinion adopted the reasoning presented by Paul Clement on behalf of the NRA at oral argument.
BATFE issued a ruling that a temporary shipment of a firearm by a federal firearms licensee to a non-employee for business reasons (such as a manufacturer’s shipment to a gun writer or engineering consultant for a technical evaluation), will now be considered a “transfer” and require completion of a Form 4473 and background check. This reversed a ruling issued in 1969, right after the passage of the Gun Control Act, although BATFE provided no explanation of the need for the change. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, BATFE hasn’t been able to name a single case in which a gun temporarily shipped under the old rule has been used in crime.
In West Virginia, then-Governor Joe Manchin (D) signed NRA-supported Senate Bill 1005, making it a crime to knowingly solicit illegal gun sales and to conduct illegal sting operations like those conducted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
NRA declared its opposition to Elena Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and ILA Executive Director Chris Cox noted that “We have carefully examined the career, written documents and public statements of nominee Elena Kagan and have found nothing to indicate any support for the Second Amendment. On the contrary, the facts reveal a nominee who opposes Second Amendment rights and is clearly out of step with mainstream Americans. Therefore, the NRA is strongly opposed to Kagan’s confirmation to the Court.”
On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago, NRA filed a new lawsuit — Benson v. City of Chicago — to enforce the court’s decision. This was the first suit challenging the city’s new gun control ordinance passed on July 2. The city’s so-called “Responsible Gun Ownership Ordinance” provisions include: a ban on all gun sales in the city; a ban on possession of firearms for self-defense outside the “home” — even on a patio or in an attached garage; a ban on having more than one assembled and operable firearm in the home; a provision that allows the Chicago police to arbitrarily ban “unsafe” handguns based on unlimited criteria; and a training requirement to obtain a Chicago Firearm Permit. (However, range training would be impossible since it will now be unlawful to operate a shooting range within city limits.)
NRA-ILA wrapped up its lobbying efforts at the first session of the UN committee drafting an “arms trade treaty.” The “Preparatory Committee for the UN Arms Trade Treaty Conference” (called the “Prep Com”) had been meeting in New York from July 12-23. The meeting was one in a series to prepare for a major conference to finalize an arms trade treaty in 2012. The Chairman of the meeting, Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritan, released a 14-point outline of a possible arms trade treaty. Several other supporting position papers were also published. The inclusion of civilian firearms remains one of the controversial aspects of the proposed treaty. Countries such as Mexico and the Netherlands want civilian firearms included in the treaty. Other countries, such as New Zealand, want those types of arms excluded from the treaty. In a move that disappointed anti-gun groups, Moritan’s treaty outline included a category for “Exclusions,” and the supporting position paper listed an exclusion covering civilian firearms. The Prep Com will meet again in New York the week of February 28, 2011. It will meet a second time in July 2011. There are also an extensive series of workshops scheduled for 2011 to “support” the Arms Trade Treaty.
By unanimous consent, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 5552 — the Firearms Excise Tax Improvement Act — sponsored by Congressmen Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). S. 632, its Senate companion, was sponsored by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). The legislation addresses the fact that firearm and ammunition manufacturers were unfairly mandated to pay their excise taxes biweekly while all other manufacturers paid their taxes quarterly. The change to a quarterly excise tax payment schedule will also allow manufacturers to reinvest funds into researching and developing new products, purchasing new manufacturing machinery and creating jobs without establishing a new tax, adding to the burgeoning federal deficit, or using any bailout money.
Responding to a grassroots outcry from gun owners, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it denied a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and other radical groups seeking to ban the use of lead ammunition. Agreeing with the position of the NRA and the firearms industry, the agency explained in a news release that it “does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under the Toxic Substances Control Act.” Further crushing the hopes of anti-gun and anti-hunting activists, the release added: “nor is the agency seeking such authority.”
With New York City’s and the nation’s murder rates lower than any time since the 1960s, Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounded the alarm, saying “Illegal guns and their accompanying violence devastate communities across our country”, and revisited his perennial cause célèbre — gun control. Bloomberg’s anti-gun group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, released an Issue Brief urging Congress to “close the gun show loophole” — gun control supporters’ Orwellian “doublespeak” for “prohibiting private sales of firearms at gun shows and everywhere else.”
The NRA challenged federal laws that prohibit law-abiding Americans 18-20 years of age from legally purchasing a handgun through a federally licensed firearm dealer. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division. James D’Cruz of Lubbock, Texas is the plaintiff in this case. The case is D’Cruz v. BATFE.
The U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee passed an amendment by Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.) to provide individuals receiving veterans’ benefits with added protection against loss of the right to possess firearms due to mental health decisions. Rep. Boozman’s amendment to a larger veterans’ benefits bill was based on a bill (H.R. 2547) sponsored by Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). The NRA-backed amendment (also supported by major veterans’ groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars) would provide that for purposes of the firearm prohibition, a person subject to a mental health decision by the VA would not be considered “adjudicated as a mental defective” without a court finding that the person is dangerous. (Not surprisingly, the Brady Campaign opposed these changes.)
S. 1132 — the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements Act — was signed into law. This important legislation addresses problems that have occurred in the implementation of the original Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004, making it easier for retired law enforcement officers to carry a firearm.
A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging the State Department to revisit its March 2010 decision disallowing the importation of M1 rifles and M1 carbines from South Korea. The letter stated that the policy “amounts to no more than a backdoor gun ban that lacks any basis or justification under current Federal law and policy” and “violates law-abiding citizens’ constitutional right, protected under the Second Amendment, to purchase these firearms for legitimate purposes such as target shooting, hunting, collecting, and self-protection.”
The NRA Political Victory Fund celebrated a very successful election cycle. 225 of 262 NRA-PVF-endorsed U.S. House candidates won their elections (86 percent), as did 19 of 25 endorsed Senate candidates (76 percent) and 71 percent of endorsed gubernatorial candidates. Of note was the fact that in races for the U.S. House in which the NRA-PVF made an endorsement, only one pro-gun congressman was replaced by an anti-gun candidate.
NRA announced its strong opposition to Andrew Traver, President Obama’s selection to head the BATFE. Traver served as an advisor to the International Association for Chiefs of Police’s “Gun Violence Reduction Project,” a partnership with the Joyce Foundation. Both IACP and the Joyce Foundation are names synonymous with promoting a variety of gun control schemes at the federal and state levels. Most of the individuals involved in this project were prominent gun control activists and lobbyists.
Amtrak implemented a policy to allow personally-owned firearms to be stored in checked luggage.
During an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Supreme Court Justice and Clinton nominee Stephen Breyer — who dissented from the Supreme Court’s decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) — claimed that the role of the court is to interpret the Constitution flexibly, in light of ever-changing circumstances. Breyer argued that the Court should give consideration not to the Constitution’s “words,” but to the “values” that the Framers had in mind. The Framers’ “values,” Breyer suggested, would allow a total ban on handguns in Washington, D.C. “It’s not a matter of policy, it’s a matter of what those Framers [of the Bill of Rights] intended,” he said.