The Green Association for Sustainability

Examining, Defining and Promoting a Sustainable World

Passing HR8, HR1112 for Stronger Background Checks

HR8 and HR1112 would require universal background checks and give the FBI Instant Check system more time to respond.  Both bills passed the House in February but are stalled on the Senate Legislative Calendar. Also in February, Trump threatened to veto this same gun legislation.   On September 3, Senate Majority Leader McConnell stated that a vote on these bills would proceed when they have the support of President Trump. 

Vacillating after recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, Trump announced willingness to pass “meaningful background checks”.  On August 9 Trump tweeted:

“Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks.”  

But his vague language offers an ambiguous definition of “meaningful background checks”.  Trump later reverses his statement in a press conference, claiming “[w]e have very, very strong background checks right now.”

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993

To say that our current background checks system is “very, very strong” is debatable if not outright untrue.  The system follows the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993[1]. The Brady Act provided the first effort to implement pre-sale background checks of firearms. It established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Act does not require private sellers to perform a background check prior to private sale or transfer. This is true even if the seller transfers many firearms.  

In most cases, the NICS responds within a few minutes. In about 10% of NICS checks, more time is required. Under the Brady Act, if the NICS does not respond in three days, a “default” sale may continue. 

According to House Judiciary Committee Report 112-16 , default sales are eight times more likely to transfer a firearm to an otherwise prohibited buyer. In 2017 alone, default transfers accounted for 4,864 sales to persons legally prohibited from owning firearms. The FBI cites this loophole as allowing the 2015 Charleston shooter to purchase firearms.

So, how would HR8 an HR1112 strengthen America’s firearm sale background checks? Both bills address weakness in the Brady Act. 

HR8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019

The purpose of HR8 is to require background checks for every gun or firearm sale and transfer. If signed into law, HR8 would “make it illegal for any person not a licensed firearm importer, manufacturer, or dealer to transfer a firearm” to an unlicensed individual without a background check. “Unlicensed individuals” are defined as private parties, or those persons who are not licensed firearm dealers.

Changes would primarily affect gun transfers between private parties.  Such a transfer would be prohibited unless a licensed firearm dealer, manufacturer or importer first took possession of the gun and performed background checks.

Exceptions to HR8 firearm transfer regulations as submitted to the Senate would include:

1) Law enforcement or security personnel, within the scope of employment;

2) A loan or gift between spouses, domestic partners, and specific family;

3) Transfer to an executor or representative of an estate upon death;

4) A temporary transfer necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm;

5) A temporary transfer at a shooting range or for hunting while in the presence of the transferor.

HR8 utilizes the current background checks system under The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.  As such, HR8 without the corresponding passage of HR1112 would provide only partial relief from the Brady Act loopholes.

HR1112 Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019

HR1112 would strengthen background checks that federal firearms licensees and dealers must follow before selling or transferring a firearm. 

Specifically, HR1112 would amend the three-day default sales loophole. Under HR1112, a minimum of 10 days after initiating background checks to the NICS the licensed dealer may petition NICS for completion of sale. In this petition, the dealer must certify that there is “no reason to believe that such other person is prohibited by Federal, State or local law from purchasing or possessing a firearm”.  A default sale may proceed if there is no response from NICS a minimum of 10 days after submission of the certifying petition.

Overwhelming Bipartisan Public Support for Enhanced Background Checks

Although more than 90% of Americans support enhanced background checks, the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) does not. 

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports that the NRA spent about $30,000,000 towards electing Trump and defeating Clinton during the 2016 election. More recently, the NRA has warned Trump that passing such gun legislation would endanger his reelection prospects. 

Trump has repeatedly claimed that mass shootings are a “mental health” issue rather than a gun control issue. Other measures touted by the Administration include Red Flag laws.  Red Flag laws would allow officials to confiscate firearms from people who have been determined by a judge to be an imminent danger to society.  Yet, opponents of Red Flag laws criticize that they violate a citizen’s due process rights. 

In an even more drastic statement, the President suggested that convicted mass murderers receive the death penalty.  Public support for the death penalty has steadily waned through the years.  No federal executions have been performed in 16 years, when three prisoners were executed under President Bush. Imposing the death penalty as a deterrent to mass shootings contradicts Trump’s repeated claim that mass shootings are a “mental health” issue rather than a gun control issue.  Using the logic that mass shooters are “mentally ill”, the legality and ethics of executing such a prisoner is problematic.

A Call For Common Sense Reform

HR8 and HR1112 are commonsense and necessary enhancements to current background checks.  Upon the Senate’s return to session, a vote on these bills should be implemented by the Senate as a first order of business.  Still, both bills face an uphill battle in the Republican controlled Senate. McConnell now places the fate of a Senate Vote squarely on Trump, a president who is uncommitted to “meaningful gun reform” and beholden to the NRA. 

Contact the U.S. Senate at 1-202-224-3121 and tell them you want them to vote on HR8 and HR1112.


[1] Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Pub. L. No. 103-159, 107 Stat. 1536 (1993)

Planned Parenthood Relinquishes Title X Funding Over Trump Administration Rule

Planned Parenthood and other women’s reproductive providers have chosen to exit Title X funding amid the Trump Administration’s untenable rule change.  Per the Final Rule Compliance and Enforcement, Planned Parenthood was required to submit an “Assurance and Action Plan” for compliance on August 19, 2019.

CFR §59.14 (a) would prohibit Title X providers from referring patients for abortion. Established by Richard Nixon in 1970, Title X is designed to assure access to reproductive health services for low income and uninsured patients who may not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

Planned Parenthood and other providers filed a lawsuit against this administrative rule in February.  In July, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a stay, and the rule was allowed to go forward while in litigation.

Specifically, CFR §59.14 (a) states:

Prohibition on referral for abortion. A Title X project may not perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning, nor take any other affirmative action to assist a patient to secure such an abortion.

The backlash of this action and reaction may affect access to reproductive health care for many.  Since his election, Trump has deliberately and systematically assaulted women’s reproductive rights.  In particular, he has taken aim at the Planned Parenthood Organization, who receives about 19% of it’s funding through Title X.

I applaud Planned Parenthood and other providers for standing up to Trump Administration bullying. I support their stance against further erosion of reproductive rights. The Trump Administration’s assault is an outrage on women’s healthcare and reproductive rights.

Predictably, many Conservatives consider this a victory against Planned Parenthood. Yet, any negative fallout, as with other Trump policies on human rights, can be clearly laid at the President’s feet.

Shame on you, Mr. President, for further eroding the health care rights of millions of Americans.

CANNABIS LAWS AND REGULATIONS

A REVIEW OF CANNABIS LAWS AND REGULATIONS

Although Massachusetts was the first state to require a “prescription” for the purchase and possession of cannabis,  California became the first state to “ban” marijuana in 1911.  The California cannabis laws were not related to the plant itself, but rather were a racist bid against Mexican immigrants.  With each election cycle, more states fell into prohibition, and by 1933, twenty-nine states had criminalized cannabis.  In an especially Draconian legislature,  Texas was the first state to classify marihuana as a “narcotic”.

Ironically, in 1996, California also became the first state to defy the Federal chokehold on cannabis laws, by then bound within the “Schedule 1” narcotic fallacy.  After the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed in the 1930’s, Reefer Madness began.  Cannabis was not the motivating factor in creating The Harrison Narcotics Act.  It was a global political strategy to control the movement of heroin.  In order to manipulate the United Nations into a criminalization of narcotics, the US needed laws of it’s own that provided for criminal charges surrounding narcotics.  The Harrison Narcotics act criminalized marijuana in the United States and “reefer madness” began.  By 1937, the Federal legislature passed the “Marijuana Tax Act of 1937”.  As the tax was just $1.00, this complicated legislation was of not a revenue scheme.  This was  but another step closer to complete cannabis prohibition in the Controlled Substances Act of 1972.

Currently, at least 27 US states have created differing cannabis laws and regulations for the recreational and/or medical use of marijuana.  Still, the US Federal Government considers cannabis a dangerous narcotic with no medical use.  Across the world,  industrialized and underdeveloped countries use Draconian practices to inforce illegal cannabis possession.  Even within the United States,  cannabis laws allow punitive death sentences for simple possession (possession without aggravating factors) above certain weights.

MEDICALLY REGULATING CANNABIS

Various states within the US  have implemented medical and recreational regulations for the use of marijuana.  Although years of anecdotal evidence correlates otherwise, the US Federal Government continues to considers cannabis Schedule I narcotic.  The complex regulations that state legislatures create to bypass federal prohibition are tenuous under Federal law. Still, each election cycle brings new regulations, often passed by voters under the sole motivation of personal use.  On the other end of the spectrum, states institute Draconian laws and reactive justice to inforce illegal cannabis possession.  In states that do not regulate cannabis for public or medical use, punishment on conviction can carry life sentences for simple possession.

THREE MISSIONS OF THE GREEN ASSOCIATION FOR SUSTAINABILITY

In addition to examining social sustainability, GrAS scrutinizes cannabis laws within the US and around the world.  Although the global consensus in developed nations has changed dramatically surrounding marihuana, it is still considered a high crime in many countries, including the United States.   The movement at the state level of government has allowed for a wider acceptance, but has not changed the federal, or the global marijuana laws.  Although there was a period of detante during the Obama administration, the War on Marijuana continues in our own backyard, and across the globe.

Three important goals of the Green Association for Sustainability include:

1) EXAMINE CANNABIS REGULATIONS

GrAS examines the failed political policies of the continuing 20th Century Drug War.  Historically, prohibitive cannabis laws have been well scrutinized.  They readily demonstrate the many social justice issues inherent in the judicial processes.  GrAS reviews state regulatory laws and their motivations in the context of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.

2) DEFINE THE TERMS OF THE STATE REGULATIONS

GrAS defines the terms of medical and recreational schemes and legislative regulations.  Usually, the legislative language is vague, creating a regulatory framework.  A bureaucratic agency is created to design the regulatory specifics.  These city, district or county regulations have the most impact on lives, yet are the least well defined or understood.

3) PROMOTE FEDERAL DECRIMINALIZATION

The importance of medical marijuana to the medical community should be our first concern.  The medicalization discourse legitimized marijuana, and opened the conversation.   While prohibitionists may have medical compassion, understanding recreational use eludes them.

Recreational marijuana is popular and a lucrative tax collection paradigm for cash-strapped states.  In addition to the tax revenue, another advantage is the law enforcement and judicial management of possession offenders.  True recreational regulation will require an alignment of federal and state laws.

ARE WE ADDING PUNITIVE LAWS OR CREATING A PROFITABLE MARKET?

In addition to examining the politics surrounding state and federal legalization or medicalization plans.  GrAS seeks to define if such regulations create additional statutory laws by examining policy.  Do recreational legalization regulations add to the Drug War criminal code, rather than provide protection against prosecution?

THE UNCOMPENSATED USAGE OF INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE

Exposure of those schemes that remove the means of cannabis production from the people to the State is of great interest.  Therefore, the motivation of those regulatory plans created for the purpose of controlling the indigenous cannabis culture are examined.  Was the usurpation of the indigenous knowledge of the cannabis culture by state administrators intentional?  What will happen to the creative experimentation and product of that culture’s members?  More importantly, will state bureaucrats use the same care and creativity as an independent indigenous cannabis cultivator?

Although GrAS concerns itself with the current state political strategies of recreational and medical cannabis legalization, we advocate for the protection of all indigenous rights.

 

 

SB 269 and COMPASSIONATE USE

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