Beyond the county: Clinton’s new gun control policy, Brown signs right to die bill
Clinton pitches new gun controls following Oregon shooting
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Hillary Rodham Clinton offered an emotional plea for tougher gun control laws on Monday, vowing after last week’s deadly Oregon school shooting to tighten regulations on firearms buyers and sellers with a combination of congressional and executive action.
Joined by the mother of a 6-year-old victim of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the Democratic presidential candidate said there was little “new” and “nothing unique” about her plans — aside from her determination to take action.
During a campaign appearance at a town hall, Clinton decried the “extremism” that she said has come to characterize the debate over the nation’s gun laws. She veered between sadness and anger, accusing her Republican opponents of “surrender” to a difficult political problem.
“This epidemic of gun violence knows no boundaries, knows no limits of any kind,” she told the crowd of several hundred. “How many people have to die before we actually act, before we come together as a nation? It’s time for us to say we’re better than this.”
Clinton has made strengthening the nation’s gun laws a centerpiece of her presidential campaign following a series of mass shootings in the past few months.
Her campaign rolled out a robust set of proposals Monday, including using executive action as president to expand background check requirements. Under current federal law, such checks are not required for sales made at gun shows or over the Internet.
Clinton pledged to require anyone “attempting to sell a significant number of guns” to be considered a firearms dealer, and therefore need a federal license. She did not say how many gun sales would constitute a “significant” number.
Efforts to require such comprehensive background checks have failed several times in recent years in Congress, where Republican leaders have shown no willingness to even hold votes on efforts to curb access to guns.
Clinton’s attempt to circumvent staunch opposition would likely spark legal challenges from gun advocates, as well as from Republicans sure to question whether a president has the authority to act directly.
Clinton also said she would support a law to expand the definition of domestic abusers barred from buying guns. She also wants to prohibit retailers from selling guns to people with incomplete background checks, as happened in the June case of a man accused of killing nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Clinton proposed repealing legislation that shields gun manufacturers, distributors and dealers of firearms from most liability suits, including in cases of mass shootings.
While Clinton’s Republican rivals have condemned the Oregon attack, most were also quick to declare their opposition to stricter gun laws to address mass shootings.
Her plan strikes a contrast with her closest primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. While Sanders has wooed the Democratic base with his liberal positions on issues of income inequality and college debt, he’s struggled to defend a more mixed record on gun legislation that reflects his rural, gun-friendly home state.
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, Sanders backed all the Democratic gun bills brought up in Congress. But in 1993, he voted against the landmark Brady handgun bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period for gun purchasers, and he backed legislation in 2005 granting legal immunity to many in the gun industry.
Sanders now says he supports banning assault weapons and closing the so-called gun show loophole that exempts private, unlicensed gun sales from background check requirements.
Clinton declined to address Sanders’ positions on guns directly during a Monday morning event hosted by NBC’s “Today” show, saying she’d let “Sen. Sanders talk about himself.”
But she said she wasn’t surprised by his recent rise in New Hampshire polls, mentioning his long tenure representing a neighboring state.
“I really believe this is great for the Democrats and this election,” she said of the competitive contest. “We really want to turn out as many people as possible.”
— Associated Press
California governor signs hard-won right-to-die legislation
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will become the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs after Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday he signed one of the most emotionally charged bills of the year.
Brown, a lifelong Catholic and former Jesuit seminarian, announced he signed the legislation after thoroughly considering all opinions and discussing the issue with many people, including a Catholic bishop and two of Brown’s doctors.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” the governor wrote in a signing statement that accompanied his signature on the legislation. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill.
He added he wouldn’t deny that right to others.
Until now, Brown had declined to comment on the issue.
State lawmakers approved the bill Sept. 11. A previous version failed this year despite the highly publicized case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to end her life.
Opponents said the bill legalizes premature suicide, but supporters called that comparison inappropriate because it applies to mentally sound, terminally ill people and not those who are depressed or impaired.
Religious groups and advocates for people with disabilities opposed the bill and nearly identical legislation that had stalled in the Legislature weeks earlier, saying it goes against the will of God and put terminally ill patients at risk for coerced death.
The measure was brought back as part of a special session intended to address funding shortfalls for Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. The governor had criticized the move to bypass the usual process.
The bill he received includes requirements that patients be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, that two doctors approve it, that the patients submit several written requests, and that there be two witnesses, one of whom is not a family member.
California’s measure came after at least two dozen states introduced aid-in-dying legislation this year, though the measures stalled elsewhere. Doctors in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana already can prescribe life-ending drugs.
Maynard’s family attended the legislative debate in California throughout the year. Maynard’s mother, Debbie Ziegler, testified in committee hearings and carried a large picture of her daughter as she listened to lawmakers’ debate.
In a video recorded days before Maynard took life-ending drugs, she told California lawmakers that no one should have to leave home to legally kill themselves under the care of a doctor.
“No one should have to leave their home and community for peace of mind, to escape suffering, and to plan for a gentle death,” Maynard said in the video released by right-to-die advocates after her death.
The Catholic Church targeted Catholic lawmakers before the bill’s passage and urged the governor to veto it.
“Pope Francis invites all of us to create our good society by seeing through the eyes of those who are on the margins, those in need economically, physically, psychologically and socially,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement after its passage. “We ask the governor to veto this bill.”
— Associated Press
Regulators propose rules to prevent illegal coordination
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s political watchdog agency on Monday proposed tougher rules to prevent illegal coordination between political campaigns and outside groups that can collect unlimited amounts of money.
The Fair Political Practices Commission introduced proposed rules as it says independent expenditures have grown eight times higher than in 2002, to more than $80 million in California’s 2014 election cycle.
“This makes our already tough regulations ever stronger so all candidates will be playing by the same rules and that some campaigns aren’t able to gain unfair advantage by coordinating their efforts illegally,” the commissions’ chief enforcement officer, Galena West, said in a statement.
The proposal bans an independent committee from using the same political consultant as a candidate’s campaign. It also bars the groups from being run by a former staffer for the candidate or being funded by a candidate’s family member. And it prevents a candidate from showing up at a fundraiser for the outside group.
Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said the state’s proposal might simply push more of the fundraising to candidates and parties.
“California is trying to come out in front of this issue and, frankly, severely restrict the number of IEs that will be considered independent,” Levinson said. “Increasingly it’s a question of how and where do you want the money to flow, not whether it’s going to flow.”
Spending by outside groups has soared in recent years, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the government can’t restrict independent spending on elections. In response, California has boosted reporting requirements for outside groups.
Commission Chairwoman Jodi Remke said the new regulations seek to ensure separation between outside spending groups and candidates.
Not only will the changes prevent illegal coordination, “it also provides meaning to contribution limits,” Remke said.
The five-member commission will vote on the changes at its Oct. 15 meeting.
— Associated Press
Oregon shooter rants in writings about having no girlfriend
ROSEBURG, Ore. — The gunman who executed nine people at an Oregon community college before killing himself ranted in writings he left behind about not having a girlfriend and thinking everyone else was crazy, a law enforcement official said Monday.
The official also said the mother of 26-year-old gunman Christopher Harper-Mercer has told investigators he was struggling with some mental health issues. The official is familiar with the investigation but wasn’t authorized to speak publically because it is ongoing.
Harper-Mercer complained in the writings about not having a girlfriend, and he seemed to feel like he was very rational while others around him were not, the official said.
He wrote something to the effect of: “Other people think I’m crazy, but I’m not. I’m the sane one,” the official said. The writings recovered at the shooting scene were a couple of pages long.
Local pastor Randy Scroggins has said his 18-year-old daughter, who survived the shooting, told him the gunman gave an envelope to another student and instructed him to give it to police. The envelope contained a flash drive, Scroggins said.
Also Monday, some faculty, staff and students returned to the campus for the first time since the shooting, while President Barack Obama announced he will travel to Oregon this week to visit privately with victims’ families.
Classes do not resume at Umpqua Community College until next week, but some students came to the campus to pick up belongings they left behind Thursday when they fled. Others met with professional groups to discuss their trauma and grief.
A memorial was growing on the driveway leading to Snyder Hall, where Harper-Mercer opened fire. Besides those who died, nine people were wounded. Harper-Mercer killed himself after a shootout with police.
“It was hard not to focus on Snyder Hall,” student Joel Mitchell said. “When we got back, I think a lot of people were probably … looking at it, checking it out, seeing what it looked like.”
A group of eight held hands and bowed their heads in prayer in front of the building. Elsewhere, clusters of people chatted at picnic tables or near buildings.
In a courtyard near the center of campus, a therapy dog sat on a blanket with its handler. A woman, crouched down, wiped away a tear.
At least one student injured in the shooting was among those who returned Monday, college President Rita Cavin said. She did not identify the student.
Reporters were barred from campus but taken on a brief tour. School officials designated an outdoor amphitheater as a makeshift memorial, open only to staff and students for now. Flowers and balloons were positioned on tables, and markers were available for people to write messages on a banner that says, “UCC Strong.”
“I needed to be here,” student Madysen Sanchez said. “I needed to come and see my friends, make sure they’re OK.”
Chaplains who had been on campus said they were both helping with and participating in the healing process.
“I’m going through the grieving process myself because this has touched everyone in the community,” chaplain Russell Wilson said. “If you don’t know someone that goes here, you know someone that knows someone.”
Meanwhile, Obama said he will visit Roseburg on Friday as he opens a four-day trip to the West Coast. No additional details about his visit were immediately available.
Obama has renewed his call for stricter gun laws following the shooting and has expressed exasperation at the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.
— Associated Press
Woman found dead in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco police say a young woman who suffered blunt force trauma to the head was found dead in the city’s Golden Gate Park this weekend.
Authorities said Monday the victim’s identity has not been determined.
San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza tells KTVU-TV (http://bit.ly/1WJpmyH) a passerby reported the woman’s death Saturday morning, before thousands of visitors arrived in the park for a music festival.
The woman suffered blunt force trauma to her head and was pronounced dead by officers in Golden Gate Park.
Esparza says the victim was in her mid 20s to mid 30s and does not appear to have been a transient.
The homicide remains under investigation and no suspects have been arrested.
— Associated Press
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