House Republicans Urge Caution on Gun Legislation
WASHINGTON — House Republicans made it clear Thursday that they will not be moving quickly to bring up new gun control legislation in the wake of Wednesday's shootings in San Bernardino, Calif.
Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday there are still too many unknowns about the San Bernardino shootings, but he said one common theme among many mass shootings is mental illness, an issue he says Congress has already been working on with legislation.
"People with mental illness are getting guns and committing these mass shootings," Ryan said on CBS This Morning. Ryan made the same point earlier this week in reaction to the post-Thanksgiving shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic.
The Wisconsin Republican said part of the discussion surrounding mental health legislation is who should and shouldn't have access to guns, but he signaled that barring gun purchases by people on no-fly terror lists — as President Obama urged Wednesday — is not an option.
Ryan said government officials put people on such lists without any due legal process and so denying those listed the right to bear arms would violate their rights.
"People have due process rights in this country," he said.
He said that if someone is suspected of plotting an attack, law enforcement officials should arrest them.
Ryan suggested there will be multiple issues Congress can address, whether it's finding gaps in enforcement or passing legislation. But he said there shouldn't be a rush to do either at the risk of "infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens."
"We just want to get it right," Ryan said.
Obama said Wednesday that Congress should, at a minimum, take up legislation that would bar anyone on the federal terrorist watch list from buying a gun. He told CBS News "some may be aware of the fact that we have a no-fly list where people can't get on planes but those same people who we don't allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm and there's nothing that we can do to stop them. That's a law that needs to be changed.”
But House Republicans have rejected several Democratic attempts to use a procedural motion to bring that legislation to the House floor this week.
Democratic leaders said they would try Thursday to amend the budget bill to expand background checks on gun buyers, prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns and strengthen mental health services.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would offer an amendment to allow the U.S. attorney general to prevent someone from buying a gun if that person is a known or suspected terrorist. The attorney general also could bar someone from buying a firearm if the attorney general has a "reasonable belief" that the individual would use the firearm in connection with a terrorist act.
"If somebody is too dangerous to board an airplane (because they are on a terrorist watch list), they are too dangerous to buy a gun," Feinstein said at a press conference with seven Democratic senators. "This shouldn't be a partisan issue."
The bill they are trying to amend is a GOP measure intended to repeal portions of Obamacare and bar federal funding for Planned Parenthood - something Obama has said he will veto.The gun control amendments are unlikely to pass in the Republican-led Senate.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats will continue to push the legislation and may try to attach it to an omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the 2016 fiscal year.
"The worst thing we can do is do nothing," Schumer said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said members of Congress have been "complicit through our inaction" on gun violence.
"For far too long we've done nothing, even as gun violence shakes our nation to its core," Reid said. "The American people are desperately looking for help, some help, any help." Speaking on the Senate floor immediately after Reid, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made no mention of gun legislation.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., created a Republican task force on homeland security in the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, and said Thursday the no-fly list gun ban may be an issue that task force "will look at." McCarthy said the task force is intended to consider "any gaps or any vulnerabilities" in U.S. security, though he would not commit to any specific action.
By Donovan Slack, Paul Singer and Erin Kelly, USAtoday.com
White House Plans Executive Action to Expand Background Checks for Gun Sales
White House officials are seeking a way to use executive authority to close the so-called gun show loophole that allows thousands of people to buy guns each year without a background check, but complicated legal issues have slowed the process.
Almost three years ago, President Obama asked Congress to change the law to require background checks for weapons sold at gun shows, but a bill to do so died in the Senate – dashing administration hopes for legislative action to address the loophole.
Efforts to use Obama's executive powers to address the issue took on added urgency in October, when a shooter at a community college in Oregon killed nine people, then shot himself.
Since then, White House officials have been trying to draft an executive order that would effectively reinterpret existing law to require all or most such sales to go through the background check system.
But despite Obama's visible frustration with the lack of action on guns, figuring out a solution has proved complicated. Many had expected the White House to announce plans for an executive order in time for the anniversary on Dec. 14 of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. That now seems less likely.
Requiring background checks for weapons sold at gun shows might not have had any effect on Wednesday's shooting in San Bernardino, in which 14 people were killed. So far, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has determined that two of the weapons used in the assault were legally purchased at a gun shop in Corona.
But White House officials and their allies continue to see expanding the background check system as the most promising avenue to reduce at least some of the deaths caused by guns.
Federal law requires gun stores and other regular sellers to get federal licenses and conduct background checks. But the law offers an exemption to hobbyists, collectors and others who sell guns but are not formally considered to be gun dealers.
Thousands of guns are sold in those private sales every year, a volume that Obama believes helps to fuel what he sees as an epidemic of shootings.
Officials have been scouring through state and local efforts looking for successful programs that have reduced gun violence and searching for multi-layered ways to attack what they see as a scourge.
"That work includes looking at the gun show loophole,” said one White House official involved in the work. “But taking administrative action in this space is enormously complicated, with complex and intertwined policy, legal and operational considerations to take into account."
"That process,” the official said, “is very much underway."
In a somber statement in the Oval Office on Thursday, Obama called once again on lawmakers to make sweeping changes by changing the law.
“We all have a part to play,” Obama said, including “legislators” in the list of those who must work to make it more difficult for violent people to get access to weapons.
"Right now, it's just too easy."
By Christi Parsons, LAtimes.com
DNR to Outline Strategy to Boost Elk Population, Retain HuntingBy Paul Walsh, StarTribune.com
State conservation officials on Thursday will begin detailing their strategy for expanding the range and size of Minnesota’s elk population, estimated to be about 130 in three herds in the northwestern corner of the state.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold the first of three public information meetings Thursday night in New Brighton, where attendees will hear how officials intend to foster a “positive coexistence with private landowners and [provide] increased recreational opportunities to the people of Minnesota,” the agency said in a statement.
Elk are managed to maintain a free-ranging, wild population that can offer opportunities for viewing and — when herds are large enough — hunting.
Hunting of elk in Minnesota occurs under tight restrictions. For 2014, applications were taken for just nine licenses to hunt in two zones. The 2014 seasons were limited to about a week in September and about another week in late September and early October. In 2015, applications were accepted for just seven licenses and hunting limited to a single zone for a little more than a week.
Minnesota’s elk population is up a bit from last year, according to results of the DNR’s annual aerial survey conducted in February.
Spotters counted 79 elk in the Caribou-Vita herd (also known as the Cross Border or International herd), up from 51 counted in 2014. This is Minnesota’s largest herd, which migrates between northern Kittson County and Manitoba. The goal for the Caribou-Vita herd population is 150-200 elk inhabiting both sides of the Canadian border.
Spotters counted 34 elk in the Kittson-Central herd, compared with 37 in 2014. This latest count remains above the goal of 20 to 30.
Grygla’s herd was measured at 18 elk, down from 20 last year and 28 in 2013. The DNR said the decline of this herd is troubling, because it hasn’t been hunted since 2012. The population goal is 30 to 38.
Elk once ranged across most of the state on the prairie and its accompanying brushlands, until the early 1900s, when they were nearly eliminated through extensive hunting and land development. In 1935, a herd of 27 elk were reintroduced in northwestern Minnesota near Grygla.
Two key officials will say more about the management plan during a news conference Thursday afternoon featuring John Williams, the DNR’s northwest region wildlife manager, and Steve Merchant, the agency’s wildlife populations and regulations manager.
The first of the three public meetings will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the New Brighton Community Center, 400 10th St. NW. The others are scheduled in northwestern Minnesota, Dec. 15 in Lancaster and Dec. 16 in Grygla.