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Thread: Democrats Stall on Gun-Records Bill

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    Regular Member Kelly J's Avatar
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    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119033829426334720.html?mod=googlenews_wsj


    Democrats Stall on Gun-Records Bill








    By DAVID ROGERS
    September 21, 2007










    After 32 people were shot to death at Virginia Tech in April, the new Democratic House moved quickly to close an administrative gap that allowed the killer to buy two guns despite a history of mental troubles.

    It was a rare political alliance between the National Rifle Association and its foes on the left, who together seized the moment to try to make federal background checks on gun purchasers more effective. But with students back on campus the Democratic-controlled Senate has yet to act, and the bill is in jeopardy.

    "I'm getting anxious," says Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. "I get concerned that the longer we are away from Virginia Tech, folks are going to ignore the problem."

    For Democrats in Congress, this has been a frustrating year, with numerous presidential veto threats and Republican delaying tactics in a closely divided Senate. A minimum-wage increase took five months to enact; with a new fiscal year starting Oct. 1, spending bills are incomplete and a stalemate continues over policy in Iraq.

    But the saga of the gun-records bill is something different: a self-inflicted wound for the new majority.

    After the House bill passed in June, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) personally appealed to Democratic senators to pass it without amendments. "I wanted it to be taken up right away," she said. "If it's clean, it's over."

    But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a turf-conscious Vermonter, insisted that the bill go through his panel and in the process reignited an old fight with his Democratic colleague, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

    For House Democrats, the delays were all the more frustrating because the bill's basic framework was already familiar from past Congresses: a mix of carrots and sticks to encourage states to share their mental-health and felony records with federal authorities.

    In the Virginia Tech case, the shooter was able to buy firearms in part because relevant court records weren't forwarded to the National Instant Criminal Background System, the data center that helps conduct background checks.

    The NRA lent its support to the bill, and to protect its flank against rivals on the right, it also won new language that for the first time allows someone banned from possessing a gun to appeal at the state level to have those rights restored. Some gun-safety advocates criticized this concession, but the bigger problem turned out to be infighting among Democratic senators.

    Mr. Leahy, who dislikes federal mandates, complained that his small state would be hard-pressed to meet the House deadlines for sharing information, and therefore risked being penalized.

    But it wasn't until August that he advanced his package, which ran almost 50 pages more than the House bill and added provisions that split the law-enforcement community.

    Both measures promise new federal money to update records while states face future aid cuts if they don't comply. Mr. Leahy's version has a richer "carrot" and gentler "stick," narrowing the records that must be shared and giving states twice as long before mandatory penalties can be imposed.

    But the chairman then also reopened a fight with Mr. Kennedy by including amendments to an existing law that allows retired law-enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

    Enacted in 2004, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act continues to meet resistance from states and cities, such as New York, as an intrusion on local control.

    Mr. Leahy's proposed changes would make it easier for retired officers to get around these obstacles and also lower the years of service needed to qualify to carry concealed weapons from 15 to 10.

    Pressing for the changes is the 325,000-member Fraternal Order of Police, a politically influential group that claims close ties to Mr. Leahy and his top staff. The FOP says it is only asking for "tweaks" to the current law. Mr. Leahy's office argues that as a former prosecutor he has a natural alliance with the police organization and has long been active on law-enforcement legislation.

    Critics of the safety Act in the law-enforcement community point to the fact that Mr. Leahy's involvement in the issue grew after a brouhaha with the New York Post over whether the Democrat was obstructing the awarding of medals of valor to police and firemen killed on Sept. 11. Sen. Leahy angrily denied the charges, and after the FOP came to his aid, he took a higher profile role in support of the bill.

    Today, sheriff and police-chief lobbies oppose reopening the issue. "We warned the senators that it was something we had a lot of heartburn with," says Gene Voegtlin, legislative counsel for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

    In crowded cities, the prospect of out-of-state retired officers, unknown to the local force and not subject to the same training, is a worry. New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is a critic, for example, and Mr. Kennedy vowed a fight on the Senate floor. "It's outrageous. This makes no sense," Mr. Kennedy said in an interview.

    Mr. Leahy's relations with Mr. Kennedy, a former Judiciary chairman, have long been strained. Friction has risen in recent years because of the Massachusetts liberal's lead role on immigration legislation, a topic within the judiciary committee's purview. Mr. Leahy's office says it is "baseless" to suggest he was retaliating by adding safety-act provisions to the gun bill.

    Party leaders are dismayed, and a top Democrat predicts: "That bill is going nowhere."

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) will be reluctant to devote floor time to a messy fight.

    Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), an early proponent of the House bill, has begun planning for a back-up strategy: If Sen. Leahy's package stalls, Mr. Schumer said -- and the chairman's office agrees -- that the chairman has promised the gun records bill will move as a standalone piece of legislation.

    Mr. Leahy says he is the wronged party. If House Democrats had consulted with him more in advance, "the bill could be on the president's desk right now," Mr. Leahy says.

    "I think we have made the bill much better and provided far more reasons for the states to comply," he says. "I don't see how we have it delayed it at all. We're ready to go."

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    Thank you for passing that on Mr. J.

    Although I don't find it a bad piece of legislation I kinda wonder who decides or what criteria you must fit in order to be considered mentally unstable. Who decides the verdict of your mental capacity? Maybe you can share some light on your thoughts on this bill?

    Secondly never was a fan of NY but,
    In crowded cities, the prospect of out-of-state retired officers, unknown to the local force and not subject to the same training, is a worry.

    That is one of the most pretentious things I have ever heard. I don't find it that hard to believe that NY'ers are that uncooth but come on. I'm sorry if I am letting that little sentence run this off topic but I take offense on behalf of law enforcment everywhere for that.



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    WhiteFeather wrote:
    Although I don't find it a bad piece of legislation I kinda wonder who decides or what criteria you must fit in order to be considered mentally unstable. Who decides the verdict of your mental capacity? Maybe you can share some light on your thoughts on this bill?
    Whatever the state decides. Remember that case in Pennsylvania where, IIRC, the prosecuter was getting off to the idea that his actions made sure a man who mentioned that he has guns would never be able to legally possess one ever again?

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    Regular Member Kelly J's Avatar
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    As I understand the process of law, to be ruled as a Mental Defective, and be Adjudicated by the Courts, is a Process on being remanded to a Mental institution for observation, and then the mental institution would make its findings available to the court, and then, and only then, can the Court make the determination that the person is Adjudicated as a mental Defective, and placed in the custody of the Institution until they are cured or confined for life.

    As to the statement about a retired officer being allowed to carry in any State, I personally would have no problem with it, it would not make a whit of difference where that officer got his trainning, he would not be asking for a job on the Police Force, and if he saw a crime in progress, he would know how to deal with it, after all a crime is a crime, no matter the location, New York, Georga, Kansas, Utah, or Calif., a crime in progress is the same.

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    WhiteFeather wrote:
    Although I don't find it a bad piece of legislation I kinda wonder who decides or what criteria you must fit in order to be considered mentally unstable.
    You just answered WHY you should find it a bad piece of legislation. This is how the other side works. Give it a name that sounds good and then expand it to include as many people as you can since an outright gun ban is impossible. de facto gun ban. Last I heard, they're trying to include people who were once diagnosed with ADHD.

    To suggest that shall not be infringed can be infringed is elitist. If a person is mentally unfit for life as a free man, commit him. Otherwise, he faces the same threat of attack and tyranny as the rest of us.

    Besides, anybody claiming VTech as their motivation and saying ANYTHING besides the law-abiding being armed is opportunistically trying to fix a problem by doing anything but addressing it.

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    Regular Member Kelly J's Avatar
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    WhiteFeather wrote:
    Thank you for passing that on Mr. J.

    Although I don't find it a bad piece of legislation I kinda wonder who decides or what criteria you must fit in order to be considered mentally unstable. Who decides the verdict of your mental capacity? Maybe you can share some light on your thoughts on this bill?

    Secondly never was a fan of NY but,
    In crowded cities, the prospect of out-of-state retired officers, unknown to the local force and not subject to the same training, is a worry.

    That is one of the most pretentious things I have ever heard. I don't find it that hard to believe that NY'ers are that uncooth but come on. I'm sorry if I am letting that little sentence run this off topic but I take offense on behalf of law enforcment everywhere for that.

    I'm not a legal mind, but according to my understanding, if, lets say you are brought before the court for a criminal offence, and the Lawyer claims that your defence is due to a mental disorder real or imagined, the Court would order you to be evaluated by its appointed institution, that deals with this sort of thing, after the evaluation, you are lets say found to be one of the personalities that are not able to function in a normal society, and you do not play well with others, and in the opinion of the institution, you should be under a mental doctors care and instutionalized, then the court would make a determination based on these findings, and could have you Adjudicated, to a mental instution for a period of time, that it would take for you to be cured or made a permanent resident.

    But the key wordsare Adjudicated by a Court of Law, and declared to be mentally incompetent, to function in society, as a normal person would.

    AS I said, I'm not a Legal Mind, but that is the jist, of what I understand.

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