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Wednesday
Jan092013

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Proposes 'Toughest Assault Weapon Ban in the Nation'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a plan Wednesday to give his state some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.

In his annual State of the State address, Cuomo promised to "enact the toughest assault weapon ban in the nation, period," following the shooting deaths of 20 students and six adults at an elementary school in nearby Newtown, Conn., last month.

"I know that the issue of gun control is hard," Cuomo said during his address in Albany, N.Y. "I know it's political. I know it's controversial....I say to you: Forget the extremists. It's simple, no one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer and too many innocent people have died already. End the madness, now!"

Cuomo's voice rose as he urged the passing of "safe, reasonable gun control," asking New York to "set an example for the rest of the nation."

He then laid out a seven-point plan, calling it "a gun policy in this state that is reasonable, that is balanced, that is measured."

"Gun violence has been on a rampage," he said. "In one word it is just enough."

He added that he is a gun owner himself, and his proposal "is not taking away people's guns."

In an address that was close to an hour and a half long, Cuomo called for requiring federal background checks of all gun sales, including private ones; the ban of high-capacity magazines; enacting tougher penalties for illegal gun use, guns on school grounds, and gun activity by gangs; keeping guns from people who are mentally ill; banning the direct Internet sale of ammunition; one state check on all firearms purchases; and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods.

Cuomo claimed New York once led the country in gun control when, in 1911, it passed "Sullivan's Law," which required a permit to possess a handgun.

New York has an existing assault weapons ban, but many high-powered rifles that have a capacity greater than 10 rounds don't come under the ban because it exempts magazines manufactured before 1994. If a magazine is not stamped then it can't be banned.

Cuomo's new legislation would ban large-capacity magazines regardless of the date of manufacture.

One of the points of his plan that may get the most attention, especially in the wake of the Newtown and Aurora, Colo., mass shootings, is keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. The Democratic governor's plan would ensure that when a mental health professional determines a gun owner is likely to hurt himself or others, the risk must be reported and the gun removed by law enforcement.

According to the New York Daily News, Democratic New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters in Albany before Cuomo's speech that an agreement on tougher legislation between lawmakers and the governor was close, adding he might keep Assembly members in Albany to complete a deal.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who attended the address, has also been outspoken on the issue of gun control since the Sandy Hook school shooting.

This week, his group, Mayors Against Gun Violence, released a new television commercial to push for action from the federal government. The ad featured Roxanna Green, the mother of Christina Taylor-Green, a 9-year-old killed two years ago this week in Tucson, Ariz., in the shooting that severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

In the ad Roxanna Green asked, "How many more children must die before Washington does something to end our gun violence problem?"

Bloomberg also released a statement after Cuomo's address saying he was "struck by his passionate leadership on gun violence."

"New York State has led the nation with strong, common-sense gun laws, and the governor's new proposals will build on that tradition," Bloomberg said. "They will help law enforcement keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people and save lives. We strongly support his proposals to close loopholes and strengthen existing laws, and we look forward to working with him and the State Legislature to adopt them."

Cuomo's address came on the same day Vice President Biden began two days of meetings at the White House with victims of gun violence, gun safety advocate groups and gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, and gun sellers, including Walmart.

Biden told reporters before the meeting that they were at the White House "to deal with a problem that requires our immediate action, urgent action," adding that he and President Obama "are determined to take action."

"I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion, unless we can do everything, we're going to do nothing," Biden said.

Cuomo wasn't the only governor to speak out about gun control Wednesday. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy also used his State of the State address to stress "more guns are not the answer," and to announce the formation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission made up of experts in mental health, education, law enforcement and first response.

"Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom," Malloy said, referring to the NRA's proposal to have armed guards outside of every school in the country.

"We also know that this conversation must take place nationally," Malloy said. "As long as weapons continue to travel up and down I-95, what is available for sale in Florida or Virginia can have devastating consequences here in Connecticut....Our focus will be first and foremost on protecting Connecticut's families."

Another Northeastern governor, Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey, did not touch the subject of gun control in his address Tuesday. When asked on ABC News' Good Morning America Wednesday why he didn't bring up the topic, he said, "Given what's happened to our state, the majority of the time should be talking about Sandy."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul202012

Former Pa. Gov. Rendell: "Everyone is Scared of the NRA"

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesNEW YORK) -- Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell decried federal lawmakers for failing to pass a permanent ban on assault weapons, such as the one used in Friday’s deadly Colorado movie theater shooting.

Rendell said it was an “act of cowardice by the Congress” not to renew the ban, which expired in 2004, and blamed lawmakers for being too “terrified” of the National Rifle Association, which has lobbied against the ban, to actually do it.

“We’re terrified of the NRA. We Democrats are as bad as the Republicans. Everyone is scared of the NRA,” Rendell said Friday on MSNBC. “There are some things worth losing for in politics, and to be able to prevent carnage like this is worth losing for.”

Rendell said there is “no reason” for people to have assault weapons.

“No hunter needs it, no citizen needs it to protect their home,” he said. "Citizens are allowed to have firearms, shotguns, no assault weapons."

The former governor also called on Congress to ban high-capacity gun clips like the one Jared Loughner used to kill six people and wound Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., last year. Rendell said Friday that a ban on high-capacity magazines, which can hold twice as many bullets as regular gun clips, would have saved people from “serious bodily injury” in the Tucson shooting.

“We need leadership, and we need someone to stand up and say enough is enough,” Rendell said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun142012

Two Women Reps. Banned from Speaking in Michigan House

Michael Snell/Getty Images(LANSING, Mich.) -- Their job may be to give a voice to their constituents, but two Michigan state representatives had to do that job silently Thursday after they were banned from speaking on the House floor.

Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum, both Democrats, were barred from participating in debates Thursday because they were “disrupting decorum” during debate on Wednesday over three bills that would put restrictions on abortions, said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger.

The cause of Brown’s gag order was this statement, which she made during a floor speech opposing a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks: “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

Byrum’s speaking privileges were revoked after the state congresswoman shouted multiple times at the legislature’s chairman that she should be given a chance to speak on her amendment, a chance she was not given during debate Wednesday.

“This is yet another example of this Republican majority’s misogynistic and cowardly tactics,” Brown said in a statement. “Regardless of their reasoning, this is a violation of my First Amendment rights and directly impedes my ability to serve the people who elected me into office.”

Adler said the Republican leadership’s verbal order barring the two representatives from speaking was nothing new in the Michigan state house.

“It was a rather common practice when House Democrats had control and would not recognize any Republicans to speak,” Adler said.

The Democrats were just as up in arms about why they were prohibited from speaking as they were that their speaking privileges were being revoked.

“If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it,” Brown said of her choice to use the word “vagina.”

But Adler insisted Brown was not being reprimanded because of the word, but rather because of the context, which he said was “inappropriate.”

The representatives’ outbursts came during a day of heated debate over a bill that would implement screenings to see if doctors were coercing patients to get abortions, mandate in-person consultations with a physician before women can purchase the morning-after pill,  and increase the licensing and insurance requirements for abortion-performing doctors and clinics.

The bill passed the House on Wednesday and the Senate is expected to begin debating it in the fall.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May312012

House Rejects Ban on Sex-Selection Abortions

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House voted Thursday to reject a measure that would have banned sex-selection abortions in the United States, pitting Republicans and Democrats in a showdown over a woman’s right to choose, which opponents contended was “intended to chip away at woman’s right to obtain safe, legal medical care.”

The measure, known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), was defeated 246-178. Under suspension of the House rules to permit consideration of the bill more quickly, approval of the measure was subject to a two-thirds majority, and with 414 members voting Republicans fell 30 votes short of passage.

The bill was perceived by Democrats as a political maneuver to coax liberal lawmakers into supporting the bill or face the prospect of an onslaught of campaign advertisements this fall highlighting a lawmaker’s vote to support sex-selection abortions.

Still, only 20 Democrats took the bait and broke from their party to vote with the majority of Republicans. Seven GOPers opposed the measure.

The House debated the bill Wednesday, but a vote was postponed until Thursday afternoon.

After the plight of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng captured international headlines this month, Republicans had hoped to capitalize on the momentum of that awareness to ensure that sex-selection abortions are not legal in the United States.

Many nations with staunchly pro-choice/pro-abortion rights laws and protections nevertheless ban sex-selection abortions. Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands all have laws banning sex-selection abortions.

Earlier this week, a pro-life group released an undercover video purportedly showing a Planned Parenthood counselor in Texas assisting a woman seeking a sex-selection abortion. Gendercide, the practice of killing baby girls or terminating pregnancies solely because the fetus is female, is estimated to have produced a “gender imbalance” of more than 100 million girls around the world.

“For most of us, Mr. Speaker, ‘it’s a girl’ is cause for enormous joy, happiness and celebration,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said on the House floor Wednesday. ”But in many countries including our own, it could be a death sentence. Today the three most dangerous words in China and India are, ‘It’s a girl.’ We can’t let that happen here.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May082012

North Carolina Amendment One: Anti-Gay Marriage Measure Passes

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- A proposed amendment to North Carolina’s constitution which would make marriage between a man and woman the only legal union recognized by the state has passed a statewide vote.

The referendum -- North Carolina Amendment One -- goes a step beyond outlawing same-sex marriage, which was already illegal in the state. The law decrees that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State” -- meaning that civil unions and potentially other types of domestic partnerships will no longer be legally recognized.

With a little over 43 percent of precincts reporting, support for the amendment was strong -- with about 61 percent of North Carolina voters casting their ballots in favor of the amendment, and roughly 39 percent voting against it.

There is some uncertainty among legal scholars in the state as to the extent of the law, and what types of partnerships might be affected, as the terminology in the amendment -- domestic legal union -- has not appeared in North Carolina statutes previously.

“The language ‘domestic legal union’ is not used in North Carolina statutes or in North Carolina case law,” said Jean Cary, professor of law at Campbell University in Raleigh, N.C., “so it is totally undefined.”

The North Carolina Democratic Party released a statement saying that Tuesday’s results were a “setback” but that Democrats in the state would continue to fight for “equal rights.”

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council -- a conservative Christian organization -- released a statement applauding the vote.

“We applaud North Carolina voters for joining voters in 31 other states upholding the historic and natural definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” the statement said. “At every opportunity, the American people have demonstrated a deep appreciation for the unique benefits that marriage between a man and a woman brings to families and society. They recognize that marriage is the only kind of union that results in natural procreation and keeps a mother and father together to raise the children produced by their union.”

North Carolina had previously been the only Southern state that did not have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.  Some 29 states already have statutes or constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage. Additionally, in Hawaii, the state legislature has the power to define marriage, though the state does not currently explicitly ban same-sex marriage. North Carolina will now become the 30th state with such a law.  Same-sex marriage is currently legal in six states, plus Washington, D.C.

The passage of Amendment One is not necessarily a harbinger of bad things to come for Obama and the Democrats in the fall. This type of legislation has not always fallen along red and blue state lines. Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage have passed in several blue states including Oregon, Maine and California.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec152010

Earmark Hypocrisy? GOP Leaders Grilled on Spending

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and John Thune, R-S.D., held a press conference Wednesday to rip the Democrats' new 1,924-page, $1.1-trillion omnibus bill for containing $8 billion worth of earmarks.

"The bill is loaded up with pork projects, and it shouldn't get a vote," Thune said.

"I think this is an outrage," railed Cornyn.

But Thune and Cornyn have tens of millions of dollars for their own earmarks in the bill, including Thune's request for $8 million for B-1 bomber fleet maintenance and Cornyn's request for $1.6 million for the Texas Army National Guard Counter-Drug Task Force.

"How do you have any credibility on this?" ABC's Jon Karl asked.

"Because we're going to vote against the bill," said Cornyn. "This is the wrong way to do business."

"Senator, were you wrong when you put these earmarks in before?," Karl asked.

"Karl, this is not just about earmarks," said Cornyn. "Earmarks are a symptom of wasteful Washington spending that the American people have said they want reformed. We agree with them, and that's why we will vote against this bill. But you're missing the story if you think it's just about earmarks. This is about a flawed process of sweetheart deals cut behind closed doors, and a big bill, a spending bill, dropped on the American people and on us on December the 14th, without adequate time to amend it and debate it and to reveal to the American people what is in it so they can cast their judgment."

"So I think -- I think that's to me the context. And we've said very clearly -- we voted for an earmark moratorium. We will abide by that, and we will reject any earmarks requested by us or anyone else, because that's what the American people told us they want."

"Is that an acknowledgement that what you did was wrong, to include the earmarks in the first place?," Karl said.

"I think you've asked the question about five times, and I've tried to answer it to the best of my ability," Cornyn responded.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Nov162010

Senate Republicans Ban Earmarks; Will Democrats Follow?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans Tuesday took their war against government spending to a new level, voting behind closed doors to approve a moratorium on all congressional earmarks for two years.

The resolution, which is non-binding, is identical to the one approved by House Republicans in the current Congress and forbids Republicans from engaging in the practice of funneling federal tax dollars to pet projects in their home states.

House Democrats have restricted earmarks for private contractors but not outlawed them entirely.

Only Senate Democrats have yet to decide on whether they will impose any limits on earmarks, although at least two members -- Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall -- have said they want their caucus to follow suit.

A moratorium on earmarks throughout Congress would be a significant development and departure from what has become a common, if controversial, practice in recent years.

Congress approved 9,499 earmarked projects in fiscal year 2010 that totaled $15.9 billion, according to the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Earmarks account for less than one percent of overall federal spending.

The move by Republicans will also likely add pressure on President Obama, who has said he supports "cracking down on wasteful earmark spending, which we can't afford during these tough economic times."

But he has not called for eliminating the practice outright or threatened to veto bills that include earmarks.

President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform issued a report last week detailing ways to reduce the national debt by $4 trillion in the next 10 years, including an outright ban on all earmarks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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