Entries in Laws (2)


The Changing Gun Control Laws in America

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is the second deadliest shooting in American history, but whether this mass tragedy will yield any legislative action on gun control laws remains to be seen.

In his statement Friday, President Obama called for "meaningful action," but he did not specify a call for stricter gun control.

"We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics," Obama said, choking up during his statement.

From 1994 to 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban prohibited the possession and further manufacturing of semiautomatic assault weapons that were capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Various types of pistols, shotguns and rifles fell into this ban, which did not restrict semiautomatic assault weapons that had been legally obtained before the ban went into effect. But the law stipulated that the ban would be in effect for only 10 years, and although proposals were put forth to extend it, the bills died in Congress.

With the assault weapons ban expired, there were two major federal statutes that regulated the sale and possession of guns: the National Firearms Act, which was passed in 1934, and the Gun Control Act of 1968.

The National Firearms Act taxes the manufacturing and sale of guns, and it requires that gun distributors register all guns with the attorney general, and relay sales information. The Gun Control Act of 1968 builds on that law, requiring that gun manufacturers and salespeople be federally licensed. The act also prohibits the interstate sale of guns. In 1993, the Brady Handgun Prevention Act was passed. Named after White House press secretary James Brady who was injured in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, amended the Gun Control Act of 1968 to require background checks for those purchasing firearms

In 1993, the Brady Handgun Prevention Act was passed. Named after White House press secretary James Brady, who was injured in the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, it required background checks for those purchasing firearms who were not already licensed to carry them (those who were already licensed include police officers and other law enforcement agents).

The law did specify nine groups of people who were not allowed to legally purchase firearms, including convicted criminals who have received a prison sentence of more than one year, individuals who have been committed to mental institutions or have been flagged as being "mentally defective," unauthorized immigrants, individuals who have been convicted on charges of domestic violence, and those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

The law also puts an age restriction on purchasing guns as well: 18 to buy firearms classified as "long guns" (rifles), and 21 to buy firearms classified as "short guns" (handguns).

But proponents of stronger gun control argue that these laws don't go far enough, that it's too easy for people to obtain deadly firearms such as assault weapons.

In 2012, the country has witnessed multiple mass shootings -- at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and, earlier this week, at a mall in Oregon. But Congress has been slow to act on gun control.

A study on gun control legislation was presented to Congress in November 2012. Written by a specialist in domestic security and crime policy, it said that since March 2011,"much of the gun control debate in the 112th Congress has swirled around allegations that the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives mishandled a Phoenix, Ariz.-based gun-trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious."

In the coming days, as the country learns more about Adam Lanza, the suspected shooter who carried out Friday's deadly attack and how he obtained the weapons, renewed calls for stricter gun control laws may begin to get heard.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Facebook App Lets Voters ‘Cosponsor’ Bills in Congress

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has launched a new app on Facebook called Citizen CoSponsor, designed to connect voters with bills making their way through Capitol Hill.

The new platform allows users to “cosponsor” a bill -- essentially the equivalent of “liking” in Facebook lingo -- and receive updates on its status throughout the legislative process, from committee hearings to votes. There is also a “keep me informed” option, which allows citizens to follow the bill rather than support it.

“We are dedicated to modernizing the way Congress connects with the American people,” Cantor said in a statement. “With the simple click of a button, Citizen CoSponsors will become a part of the deliberative process, using the same social networks they already rely on in their everyday lives.”

Citizen CoSponsor is built on Facebook’s Open Graph, which allows third-party developers to create apps that “deeply integrate into the core Facebook experience.”

Matt Lira, director of digital media for Rep. Cantor, says the genesis of the idea came as a challenge to re-think the way Congress can better communicate with the public in this social media-driven age.

“We’re still in beta,” Lira said. “This hasn’t been done inside of government or Congress [yet], and we envision in the future providing opportunities for more user engagement.”

Lira also cited Rep. Darrell Issa’s, R-Calif., Project Madison, an interactive blogging platform that allows citizens to comment on individual passages of legislation, as an example of the inspiration behind Citizien CoSponsor.

Cantor’s office hopes that the platform will encourage more engagement between American voters and Congress, as well as create a transparent and open legislative process.

At launch, the platform has six bills and only one of those is sponsored by a Democrat, sparking critics to charge that the app is partisan. Shortly after Rep. Cantor’s office tweeted about the app’s unveiling on Tuesday, the press office of House Minority Whip Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., tweeted back: “We like the idea of Citizen CoSponsor, but why did you re-write the bill titles and descriptions in an entirely partisan way?”

But Lira said he “would dispute that characterization.” He added that Cantor’s office is “looking for ways to involve all people in the program,” which means Democrats, Republicans and independent voters alike.

As of March 22, the bill with the most Facebook sponsorships is the Republicans’ 20-percent tax cut proposal for businesses with fewer than 500 employees. The bill is sponsored by Cantor and currently has 935 sponsors.

Other bills included on the platform are the DATA (Digital Accounting and Transparency) Act, the Permanent Hyde Rule (no taxpayer funding for abortion) and Repeal IPAB (the health law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board). The one Democrat-sponsored bill is Rep. Al Green’s, D-Texas, Homes for Heroes Act, which has 269 Facebook sponsors, the lowest number of all the bills.

“On the scale of partisanship, I don’t know if this comes on the heavy end,” Lira said, adding that the app includes Democratic and bipartisan legislation. “But that’s the typical back and forth of Hill politics. One side does something, the other side throws up a volley, but I’m hopeful we’ll overcome it and succeed.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio