NRA vs Medical Associations: Guess Who Wants You in the Government Database?

A conflict may be emerging between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and several large national medical and mental health associations regarding the expansion of US and state government mental health databases. Medical Daily reported last week that four national medical and mental health associations have sent letters to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing concern about a proposed rule to increase the flow of mental health records into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS database holds a vast amount of information about Americans—including people who have no intention of ever buying firearms—to be checked whenever anyone attempts to purchase a gun from a US licensed firearms dealer.

The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors are, in sending the letter, expressing direct opposition to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) multi-year effort to enhance government restrictions of gun ownership and possession by creating a US government mental health database and encouraging the flow of information into that database.

Recently, the NRA lobbied the Florida legislature to pass and governor to sign legislation that increases the flow of mental health records from Florida to the NICS database. The legislation also expands the prohibition on Floridians purchasing guns or qualifying for concealed carry permits to include not just those involuntarily committed by courts to mental institutions, but also those who at one time voluntarily sought mental treatment after being threatened with involuntary commitment. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed that bill into law on June 28.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Adam Kokesh and the Drugs and Guns Prosecution Trap

Podcast host Adam Kokesh appears to have joined the long list of victims of the US government’s drugs and guns prosecution trap. After a US Park Police raid on his Virginia residence last week, media reported Monday that Kokesh was charged with possession of a Schedule I or II drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act while in possession of a gun. After his arrest, a judge ruled that Kokesh is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm through the end of his prosecution.

In the drugs and guns prosecution trap, when a defendant merely possesses a gun while allegedly in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, the government seeks to impose additional penalties for the gun possession. These penalties may be imposed even if the defendant did not use a gun in any violent activity or even in any activity related to drugs.

The drugs and guns prosecution trap can be used to pressure a defendant to plead guilty in return for a reduced penalty instead of exercising his right to a trial. As explained by Eric Stern, counsel to former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, the top US government prosecutor in Montana used gun possession charges “pervasively” as part of a strategy to intimidate Montanans who possessed marijuana in compliance with state medical marijuana laws into pleading guilty in plea-bargains. Stern elaborates:

And some of the government’s tactics in Montana were simply over the top. Charges were piled on high and thick, basic federal items like “possession with intent to distribute” or “conspiracy to manufacture,” carrying enormous penalties and designed to give the defendant little choice but to say “uncle,” and plea-bargain for a lesser sentence.

And one charge, used pervasively, was almost laughable if you know anything about Montana: “use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime,” by which was meant that a defendant kept a shotgun in his greenhouse, or in his truck that he used to transport seed and fertilizer, or that he carried a sidearm. Montanans commonly keep guns on their person, in their vehicles, at their homes, at their ranches, and at their place of business and especially if they have valuable wares on the premises. They require no permits. But the gun charge gave prosecutors powerful leverage because it carries mandatory prison time under federal rules.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

House Passes Farm Bill With Partial Hemp Legalization

The US House of Representatives passed a new farm bill (H.R.2642) Thursday afternoon that would remove the US government prohibition on colleges and universities growing industrial hemp for research purposes in compliance with state laws. The partial removal of the US government prohibition on growing hemp included in H.R.2642 is the same as in Rep. Jared Polis’s amendment that won a majority floor vote for inclusion in a previous House farm bill (H.R.1947) before that farm bill was voted down on the House floor.

The US Senate passed its own farm bill (S.954) on June 10 without a floor vote on Sen. Ron Wyden’s broader amendment that would entirely terminate the US government’s prohibition on growing hemp in compliance with state law.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

McCain: ‘Vote For Berlin Wall!’

Sen. John McCain is promoting the so-called immigration bill (S.744) in the United States Senate by emphasizing it will create “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Apparently, McCain believes this argument will convince other senators to vote for the legislation. The “border-industrial complex” we have been warned about is out in the open.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Farm Freedom: US House Votes for Pro-Hemp Amendment

The United States House of Representatives voted 225-220 on Thursday to remove the US government prohibition on colleges and universities growing industrial hemp for research purposes in compliance with state laws. The vote was taken on an amendment offered by Rep. Jared Polis and cosponsors Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Thomas Massie during consideration of the farm bill (H.R. 1947). While the farm bill failed to pass in the House, the amendment vote has established majority support in the House for some rollback of US government restrictions on growing hemp.

The majority support for the House amendment is particularly significant given that the US Drug Enforcement Administration was distributing talking points in opposition. While their talking points claimed a DEA permit was the only requirement to grow hemp, they conveniently failed to mention North Dakota farmers Wayne Hauge and David Monson, whose attempts to obtain DEA permits to grow hemp proved futile.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Government’s Gun Law Ruse to Access Mental Health Records

Your appointment with a psychiatrist or admission to a mental health facility may now be included in United States and state government databases. What happened to the protection of medical privacy? The United States government and some state governments adopted legislation directing that mental health issues can bar people from owning guns. But, you protest, you neither own a gun nor intend to buy a gun. It doesn’t matter. The government will still put your information in the database, just in case.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

US Mass Spying Loses Obama’s ‘Shoddy Coat of Legitimacy’

Declan McCullagh at cnet.com reports on Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s revelation that the United States executive branch has admitted in a secret briefing to Members of the US House of Representatives that a US government analyst can listen to phone calls at his own discretion without any warrant or other authorization. McCullagh’s dense article, well worth a close read, proceeds to explain that this means “thousands of low-ranking analysts” probably can unilaterally decide to snoop on the contents of email, text, and instant messages as well. McCullagh also addresses the enormity of the mass spying operation and its capabilities.

Nadler’s revelation directly contradicts President Barack Obama’s emphatic denials earlier this month:

When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls.  That’s not what this program is about.  As was indicated, what the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls.  They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.  But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism.  If these folks — if the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they’ve got to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.So I want to be very clear — some of the hype that we’ve been hearing over the last day or so — nobody is listening to the content of people’s phone calls.  This program, by the way, is fully overseen not just by Congress, but by the FISA Court — a court specially put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch, or government generally, is not abusing them, and that it’s being carried out consistent with the Constitution and rule of law.

And so, not only does that court authorize the initial gathering of data, but — I want to repeat — if anybody in government wanted to go further than just that top-line data and want to, for example, listen to Jackie Calmes’ phone call, they would have to go back to a federal judge and indicate why, in fact, they were doing further probing.

Now, with respect to the Internet and emails — this does not apply to U.S. citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States.  And again, in this instance, not only is Congress fully apprised of it, but what is also true is that the FISA Court has to authorize it.

Obama’s claims that only metadata was collected, that the program was fully overseen by Congress, and that content of phone calls and Internet communications could only be obtained via FISA court authorization was repeated approvingly by ardent defenders of the mass spying program.

Even if Obama’s claims had been true, they provided little assurance that the spying program is not dramatically infringing on our privacy.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.