CeaseFirePA Disappointed US House Passes Dangerous Veterans Bill

Veterans32Last night the US House Republicans checked off another item on the National Rifle Association (NRA)’s legislative to-do list. By a vote of 240-175 Republicans passed HR 1181, a bill that reverses a process used for almost 20 years to keep guns away from certain Veterans identified by Veterans Administration and that could ultimately result in the automatic restoration of firearms to tens of thousands of veterans who may pose a danger to themselves or others.

 

According to the VA, there are over 170,000 prohibiting records for these beneficiaries already in the background check system and under this legislation, those records would be removed entirely and no longer lead to a failed background check.

 

As the country experiences a veteran suicide rate that is more than 20 percent higher than civilian Americans, H.R. 1181 would effectively repeal the law that blocks Veterans Affairs beneficiaries from possessing or purchasing firearms if, after they have received due process and a formal hearing, they have been found mentally incompetent.

 

CeaseFirePA is concerned that HR 1181 would retroactively remove individuals from the National Instant Background Checks System (NICS). Given the high rate of suicide among veterans, retroactively removing individuals from NICS could put veterans in danger. Additionally, in its present form, HR 1181 does not outline a process to determine whether retroactively removed individuals are, in fact, at risk of harming themselves or others.

 

During the debate on the bill yesterday, the bill’s sponsor Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) was not able to adequately clarify whether the policy would be retroactive. Despite this confusion, the bill was hastily pushed through the House, appeasing the NRA.

 

Captain Mark Kelly, Navy combat veteran, retired NASA astronaut and the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions gave the following response to the bill’s passage in the house, “At a time when roughly 7,000 veterans are committing suicide every year, the House of Representatives passed a dangerous new bill that would make it easier for veterans in crisis to access firearms. Instead of passing legislation that would give our veterans who are facing a mental health crisis the world-class resources they need and deserve, our lawmakers passed a bill that would put veterans at risk. I hope the U.S. Senate listens to our nation’s veteran leaders and rejects this irresponsible bill.”

 

The following PA representatives voted to support the bill:

 

  • PA 4 Rep. Scott Perry [R]
  • PA 5 Rep. Glenn Thompson [R]
  • PA 6 Rep. Ryan Costello [R]
  • PA 7 Rep. Patrick Meehan [R]
  • PA 8 Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick [R]
  • PA 9 Rep. Bill Shuster [R]
  • PA 11 Rep. Lou Barletta [R]
  • PA 12 Rep. Keith Rothfus [R]
  • PA 15 Rep. Charles Dent [R]
  • PA 16 Rep. Lloyd Smucker [R]
  • PA 18 Rep. Tim Murphy [R]

 

We will continue to fight this dangerous bill and will be in contact with Senator Pat Toomey’s (R) and Senator Bob Casey’s (D) offices.

Posted in General Interest, Legislation | Tagged |

Every Day, 22 US Veterans Commit Suicide

Every day, 22 U.S. Veterans commit suicide; this rate is double that of the US civilian population. And the majority of those suicides are committed with firearms. In an effort to keep our veterans safe, for almost twenty years, the VA has submitted records of those vets it deems mentally incompetent to the National Background Check System (NICS). This system includes due process and opportunities both before and after the determination and record submission is made for the veteran to challenge the determination.

Now, Republicans in Congress are trying to reverse this system. HR 1181 would undo the VA process that leads to some veterans being put on the prohibited purchaser list.  There would be no replacement system or process.  And, it would also remove more than 170,000 records from the background check system.

Our veterans are deserving of good medical care, for physical, mental and emotional trauma suffered as a result of their service. We must protect them as they have protected us.  Undoing a system that recognizes veterans’ rights while also working to ensure they stay safe just doesn’t make sense. Tell your Representative to vote No on HR 1181.

Posted in General Interest, Legislation | Tagged , , , |

Judicial Update

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in courtAs of this week two major gun violence cases were decided.  The judiciary plays an important role within the gun violence prevention movement.

 

  1.  In Wollschlaeger, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit had upheld the Florida law that (among other things) prohibited doctors from asking their patients about guns.  The law had been challenged by doctors and others as a violation of their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.  After two successive petitions for en banc review (i.e., review by all of the judges comprising the Eleventh Circuit), the panel revised its opinion to continue to uphold the law, but on different grounds.  Finally, the full court heard argument a year ago, and last week issued its 10-1 decision striking down the law.

 

  1.  In Kolbe, gun owners challenged a Maryland law, enacted after Newtown, that banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines (ones that could hold more than 10 bullets).  The district court upheld the law.  A panel of the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed, holding that the trial court had been too deferential, in subjecting the law to a level of review called “intermediate scrutiny.”  

 

The Court of Appeals said the district court should have applied “strict scrutiny” to a law that infringed on constitutional (i.e., Second Amendment) rights. This decision also departed from rulings of every other federal appellate court on this point.  The U.S. Supreme Court had declined to review any of those decisions; but the 4th Circuit decision created a conflict in the rulings of different circuits, making it more likely that the Supreme Court would intervene to make the law consistent across the whole country.

Fortunately, the 4th Circuit granted en banc review, and in its decision, treated assault weapons and large-capacity magazines as “weapons of war” not entitled to any Second Amendment protection under Heller.  In the alternative, the court held that even if those weapons are entitled to some constitutional protection, the MD law banning them is constitutional under an intermediate standard of scrutiny.  

There were dissenting and concurring opinions, but since the majority opinion is consistent with those of other courts of appeals, it’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will grant review.

http://www.ceasefirepa.org/wollschlaeger-v-fla/

http://www.ceasefirepa.org/kolbe-v-tardy-godwin/

Posted in Court Cases, General Interest | Tagged , , , , , , |

Inky highlights legal battles surrounding guns

Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Editorial Board highlighted recent US Cour of Appeals cases which in part determined that “Weapons of war” are not protected under the second amendment.

Aside from upholding state’s laws that prohibit possession of these weapons it also, sets important legal precedence.  The Inky also called on the states to pass better gun laws. You can read the editorial here.

 

Posted in General Interest |

Senator Toomey, Say No

Congress is now hard at work trying to please the gun lobby. In the process, they will make all of us less safe.

We’re talking about mandatory concealed carry reciprocity — which would require that every state recognize the concealed carry permit or license from every other state. The problem is some states have much higher standards and procedures for issuing such licenses than others do. In fact, some states don’t require licenses or permits at all. In PA, you must apply to your local sheriff (or in Philadelphia, the police commissioner) for a license, and a more detailed background check is performed. Some other states require a minimum number of hours of safety and proficiency training.

But under this proposed law, someone who couldn’t get a concealed carry license here in PA could find a way to carry a loaded, concealed firearm here.  This undermines local law enforcement and takes away the power of our officers to determine what’s best for public safety.

Make no mistake — this law is not about setting a national standard. It’s about eliminating standards and moving further down the road of guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Tell Senator Toomey to oppose this dangerous legislation.

Posted in General Interest, Legislation | Tagged , , |

Philly Inquirer: “Guns, poverty equal violence”

Gun-city-540x360The Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board recently posted an editorial on Philadelphia’s gun violence issue citing the December report by the Public Health Department that showed Philadelphia’s high murder rate.

“Regardless of where the city ranks on any given list, it’s clear that gun violence remains a major public health problem in the city – even though overall crime is down.”

The article goes on to point out two large contributing factors of gun violence in the city: poverty and easy access to guns.

“Philadelphia is the poorest big city in America. The city’s poverty rate is 26 percent. More than 400,000 Philadelphians live below the federal poverty line, including 37 percent of children and 43 percent of Latinos, according to a report last year by the Pew Charitable Trust.”

“Crime experts also point to the thousands of guns readily available in the city and across the state, including scores of illegal guns. A 2014 report from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said 8,929 illegal guns were recovered in Pennsylvania. One third of those – 3,187 – were found in Philadelphia.”“Efforts to pass commonsense gun laws have run into fierce opposition in the Republican-controlled legislature. As a result, Pennsylvania received a “C” for the strength of its gun laws from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.”

“Efforts to pass commonsense gun laws have run into fierce opposition in the Republican-controlled legislature. As a result, Pennsylvania received a “C” for the strength of its gun laws from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.”

Read the full story here

Posted in General Interest, Guns In the News | Tagged , |
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