The Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling.
With little fanfare, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in 2012 amended its Form 4473 – the transactional record the government requires gun purchasers and sellers to fill out when buying a firearm – to identify buyers as either Hispanic, Latino or not. Then a buyer must check his or her race: Indian, Asian, black, Pacific Islander or white.
The amendment is causing a headache for gun retailers, as each box needs to be checked off or else it’s an ATF violation – severe enough for the government to shut a business down. Many times people skip over the Hispanic/Latino box and only check their race, or vice versa – both of which are federal errors that can be held against the dealer.
Requiring the race and ethnic information of gun buyers is not required by federal law and provides little law enforcement value, legal experts say. And gun industry officials worry about how the information is being used and whether it constitutes an unnecessary intrusion on privacy.
“This issue concerns me deeply because, first, it’s offensive, and, secondly, there’s no need for it,” said Evan Nappen, a private practice firearms lawyer in New Jersey. “If there’s no need for an amendment, then there’s usually a political reason for the change. What this indicates is it was done for political reasons, not law enforcement reasons.”
ATF said the change came about because it needed to update its forms to comply with an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reporting standard put into effect during the Clinton administration. The ATF declined to comment on why race and ethnicity information are needed in the first place or what they are used for. On its prior 4473 forms, the bureau had been collecting race data.
“OMB’s race and ethnicity standards require agencies to ask both race and ethnicity in a specific manner (as done on [Form 4473]), and agencies may not ask for one without asking for the other,” wrote Elizabeth Gosselin, a spokeswoman for the ATF, in an emailed response to The Washington Times. She did not say why the agency suddenly made the change in response to a rule that was more than a decade old.
For ATF to ask for a purchaser’s race and ethnicity is not specifically authorized under federal statute, and since a government-issued photo ID – like a driver’s license – and a background check are already required by law to purchase a gun, the ethnicity/race boxes aren’t there for identification reasons, Mr. Nappen said.
“There is nothing [in ATF or OMB’s website links addressing the change in policy] that supports the requirement that ATF collect race-based information. The OMB guidance merely describes what categories of race should look like if information is collected,” Laura Murphy, the American Civil Liberties Union director for legislative affairs in Washington, said in an emailed statement.
In addition, Mrs. Murphy notes, the OMB guidance was supposed to be implemented by 2003; there’s no information given why ATF decided to make this change almost a decade later, she said.
“If there is a civil rights enforcement reason for the ATF to collect this data, I have not heard that explanation from ATF or any other federal agency,” said Mrs. Murphy.
Both the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza – the nation’s largest national Hispanic civil rights group – declined comment.
Access to the form
The 4473 form is supposed to be kept in a gun retailer’s possession at all times — allowing ATF agents to inspect the form only during the course of a criminal investigation or during a random audit of the dealer. The form is to be kept out of the hands of the government, hence the distinction between “sales/transaction form” and “registration form.” But that isn’t always the case, gun rights advocates say.
“We’ve been contacted by several dealers saying ATF is or has been making wholesale copies of their 4473 forms, and it’s just not legal,” said Erich Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, a gun advocacy group. “If this is what they’re doing somewhat out in the open, what’s going on behind closed doors? Are these names and demographic information getting phoned [in and] punched into a government computer? Do they ever come out?”
During the time ATF revised its 4473 form to include Hispanic or Latino as an ethnicity, the Obama administration was building gun control cases by saying U.S. firearms dealers were supplying Mexican gangs with weapons and that violence related to the sales was seeping across the border.
In March 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Mexico City and gave a speech against American gun stores and owners – blaming them for the drug cartels’ violence. Mrs. Clinton subsequently told CBS News that “90 percent” of the “guns that are used by the drug cartels against the police and military” actually “come from America.”
About a week later, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made the same points at a gun trafficking conference outside of Mexico City. In April, the president himself flew down to Mexico to inform President Felipe Calderon that Mr. Holder was going to review U.S. law enforcement operations, according to a 2011 report by the American Thinker.
This political worldview may have fueled decision-making at ATF, Mr. Nappen suggests. Around the same time that ATF started specifying “Latino/Hispanic” on their U.S. purchasing forms, they also required border firearms dealers in Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico to start reporting multiple rifle sales.
In 2012, when ATF made the Form 4473 modification, they insisted their new reporting requirement for multiple rifle sales in those border states had led to “follow-up investigations involving transactions that might indicate firearms trafficking activities.”
“Was it coincidental [that] about the time the form changed the requirements came in that border states had to report multiple rifle sales, and there was a push in the antigun movement to claim American guns were arming Mexican cartels south of the border?” asked Mr. Nappen.
Although gun advocates speculate on the reasoning behind changing the form, on one thing they are clear: Requiring ethnicity and race to purchase a gun is a clear government overstep, violating Second Amendment rights.
“It’s an overreach, not authorized by Congress, taken upon [by ATF] unilaterally,” said Mr. Pratt. “The president has said his biggest frustration has been not getting gun control enacted – but we can see he’s been very active with his phone and his pen. And this certainly – either intentionally or unintentionally – feeds that notion.”
Vague language within Obamacare will result in nearly 2 million Americans being unable to afford health insurance, according to a new report by the American Action Forum (AAF).
The so-called “family glitch” occurs when an individual is offered health insurance through their employer but the plan is not extended to the rest of their family. Due to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) interpretation of the law, other immediate family members are not eligible to receive subsidies for insurance, even if their income is below the federal poverty level.
The AAF has estimated that 1.93 million Americans will be affected by the glitch, making it “practically impossible” for them to obtain affordable health care coverage.
“The ‘Family Glitch,’ as it has become known, is an odd and particularly problematic side-effect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” the report said. “Since several provisions of the law are rather ambiguous, they unfortunately combine to create a perfect storm where obtaining affordable health insurance is practically impossible.”
Under Obamacare, Americans below 138 percent of the poverty line are eligible for Medicaid coverage, and anyone up to 400 percent of the poverty level can also receive subsidies to help pay for insurance purchased through the health exchange.
However, this provision does not apply to families who have been offered employer-sponsored insurance (ESI), even if it is only offered to the individual employee.
“This provision of the law lacks clarity on the point of whether or not the coverage offered must be family coverage, or whether individual coverage is sufficient,” the AAF said. “The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), through rule making, has interpreted the statute as only requiring an employer to offer individual coverage, and pegged affordability at 9.5 percent of the employee’s household income. The glitch occurs when one (or both) spouses are offered affordable individual ESI under the IRS definition, but family coverage is either not offered or is unaffordable.”
“Spouses and children of an employee offered ESI could be unable to afford the employer plan, but because it is offered to one family member, the rest are made ineligible for subsidies in the Exchanges,” the report added.
Using census data from April 2013, AAF estimated 947,000 spouses and 984,000 children could fall into this category, and left uninsured. The glitch will affect up to 428,000 women and 519,000 adult men.
If Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding expires, 2.28 million children would also be affected, according to AAF.
The provision could have unintended consequences for employees in the middle class, forcing them to not accept higher paying jobs out of fear of losing subsidy eligibility to pay for their family’s health insurance.
The AAF also said the glitch could result in families choosing to separate or divorce, in order to keep subsidies.
“The family glitch is just one of many problems that will inevitably arise from the ACA’s complete restructuring of the health care system,” the report concluded. “It is an unintended consequence that creates hardship and perverse incentives for American families struggling to obtain affordable health insurance. This year alone 1.93 million Americans will be impacted by this glitch and that number will likely increase as the employer mandate goes into effect.”
The insurance company that grabbed the most customers on Minnesota’s health care exchange by offering the lowest rates told state officials Tuesday that it’s pulling out of MNsure, a major blow to the exchange as the next open enrollment period approaches.
The decision by Golden Valley-based PreferredOne may mean higher rates and again puts the troubled exchange front-and-center in Minnesota’s governor and House elections.
MNsure officials said the company’s exit won’t affect health coverage through the state-run exchange. The state will send out notices early next month to the nearly 30,000 people who enrolled in PreferredOne through MNsure to outline the next steps – customers can transition to another MNsure health plan or renew with PreferredOne, in which case they’ll no longer be eligible for government subsidies.
PreferredOne had a cumulative total of 59 percent of the private-plan market for MNsure enrollees through early August. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota had 23 percent, HealthPartners 12, Medica 5 percent and UCare 1.
MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said he’s had no word any of the four remaining companies are mulling an exit. Open enrollment begins Nov. 15.
Despite a launch last year marred by technical problems and long call center waits, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration has called MNsure a success because it helped reduce the ranks of uninsured Minnesotans by nearly 41 percent to a record low while offering some of the lowest premium rates in the country. More than 327,000 Minnesotans have enrolled through MNsure since it went live Oct. 1, including nearly 55,000 in private plans. Most enrollees are in the publicly run Medicaid and MinnesotaCare programs for lower-income people.
In a statement, Dayton cast the company’s exit as a result of its own low rates.
PreferredOne didn’t return calls from The Associated Press.
Company spokesman Steve Peterson told KSTP-TV, which first reported the decision, that staying on MNsure wasn’t financially or administratively sustainable. The membership they gained through MNsure was small, but was taking “a significant amount of our resources” to administer, Peterson said.
Republicans called it the latest sign of systemic problems in MNsure, an issue they plan to use to bolster their election-year pitch to take back control of the House and the defeat Dayton. Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, said Tuesday’s news makes it clear Democrats have mismanaged the state’s health care overhaul.
“If you tell your average Minnesotan that we spent $160 million to develop a website and it doesn’t work, I think it makes a pretty strong argument for new management, not only in the state House, but in the governor’s office as well,” Hoppe said.
But Leitz and MNsure board chair Brian Beutner said it was proof the exchange is working as a competitive marketplace. Both officials acknowledged the exchange’s rocky rollout, but Beutner suggested PreferredOne’s low rates led to its exit.
“They offered the lowest rates and the broadest networks offered last year. I can understand how that might impact them,” Beutner said.
It’s unclear whether PreferredOne’s exit will affect premium rates for 2015, which were already expected to increase because health care costs have been rising. The state’s Department of Commerce is expected to release an early snapshot of rates in early October, with full details to follow when open enrollment begins. The department is still reviewing rates from the four remaining providers.
Rep. Joe Atkins, an Inver Grove Heights DFLer and the lead House sponsor of the legislation that created MNsure, said he expects premiums to stay low compared with the rest of the country. He laughed off the Republican criticism as election-season politics.
Atkins said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement because he expected some losses and some additions to the online marketplace for 2015. He pointed out that despite its large market share on MNsure, PreferredOne is one of the smaller carriers in the Minnesota health insurance market.
The Dayton administration opted to set up the state-run exchange rather than have Minnesota participate under the federal exchange created by the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.
Dayton’s GOP opponent, Jeff Johnson, blasted the governor and MNsure officials for PreferredOne’s withdrawal. If elected, Johnson said he’d sweep out the MNsure board and replace its top management.
Johnson said Dayton himself used PreferredOne’s “artificially low” rates to tout MNsure as having the lowest rates in the country.
“It was all a house of cards,” Johnson said. “Now 60 percent of policyholders are going to have to go through this whole nightmare again.”
Since when does the Department of Justice coordinate with an obviously liberal media organization to go after a conservative reporter? It’s official: At least since 2011.
In email exchanges obtained by The Daily Caller in two separate FOIA requests, a coordinated effort to slam Breitbart News reporter Matthew Boyle emerged. To be sure, Boyle is not a reporter who is beloved by other reporters and he’s been critiqued on any number of matters that include his youthful chipmunk cheeks, his previously questionable Twitter avatar and his TV skills. But his beat was DOJ and Eric Holder and shouldn’t a reporter be commended for going after an enterprising story or two on his beat?
Even Slate‘s Dave Weigel agreed with that sentiment. “I see Media Matters giving Holder a huzzah for calling the Caller out,” he wrote in November 2011. “But calling it out for what? Are news organizations not allowed to enterprise stories by asking people whether they think someone should resign? News organizations do this all the time. The Caller’s ‘sin’ seems to be doing it with no back-up from the rest of the press.”
And yet, all this media scheming from the Department of Justice.
As revealed in the FOIA docs, Media Matters Deputy Research Director Matt Gertz sent a post concerning the NRA’s growing contributions to Holder’s critics to DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, Holder’s top press flack who resigned in March, 2013. She replied, “Thanks, you know boyle has been doing robo calls to top members right? This is campaign mounted by daily caller. He has called 60 offices and gotten to 8 last week.” Gertz replied, “Yeah, that was what my original piece on the story was about.”
At the time of the exchange, Boyle worked for The Daily Caller.
Years later in February, 2013, Boyle wrote a story for Breitbart News about Schmaler’s “colluding” with “far left wing” Media Matters to attack him, lawmakers and other members of the media. Funny enough, Boyle attempted to seek comment from Schmaler on why she resigned. He wrote, “Schmaler has not answered when asked by Breitbart News whether her resignation has anything to do with the coming hearings on DOJ collusion with groups like Media Matters.”
Weirdly, it takes two years (or longer) for DOJ to respond to FOIA requests.
Further perplexing: TheDC FOIA’d the Justice Department for all mentions of Matthew Boyle in agency communications. The specific request was ”All records relating to and about Matthew Boyle.” Carmen Mallon, chief of staff for DOJ, replied in a formal letter saying that no such records existed despite the above exchange between Schmaler and Gertz.
“For your information, neither this Office nor any of these senior leadership offices of the Department typically maintain records on individuals,” she wrote. “As such, this office would not maintain the type of records you are seeking.
“However, in an effort to be of assistance, please be advised that a search has been conducted of the electronic database of the Departmental Executive Secretariat, which is the official records repository for the Offices of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and Associate Attorney General, and no records subject to FOIA were located. A search has also been conducted in the Office of Information Policy and no records subject to the FOIA were located.”
Gee, thanks Carmen. Except that the records concerning DOJ and Boyle were maintained, located and sent.
Please be advised. If you’re the DOJ and want to get some bad press out there on a reporter who may or may not be a thorn in your side, Media Matters is on speed dial.
Several Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) Penn State student activists were tabling for their organization in celebration of Constitution Day on Wednesday.
Jolie Davis, chair of her YAF Chapter, had copies of the Constitution as well as literature at the table informing students of Penn State’s “speech code” policies. On the 8,500 acres of Penn State, there are only 12 small spaces designated as “Free Speech Zones” on campus. The organization’s table, located outside of the Hetzel Union Building (HUB), had a poster that read “Free Speech Banned at Penn State.”
After an hour or so of tabling, the YAF table was approached by campus security personnel, who told Jolie to take the table down. Jolie pressed the official with questions, asking why she had to take down her table. The campus security officer replied, “You can’t have a table but you can pass out flyers.” It is important to note that the area in which Davis was tabling was a “designated free speech zone.”
Davis and other activists decided to film the whole encounter. Once the official realized he was being recorded, he said, “It’s not going to help your cause to put this on video.” The official brought two more people from the college with him, one of them from Student Affairs, where they explained to Davis that she needed to reserve the space. She asked why she would have to reserve the space since it is a “designated free speech zone.” The college representatives told her she could go inside and discuss the policy. However, when she did, the officials hurried away.
Davis and other YAF activists have tabled at this exact location before; the only difference this time was now her organization was highlighting Penn State’s ridiculous speech code policies. Davis said, “At Penn State not all free speech is created equal.”
Apparently, it isn’t enough to restrict students’ free speech rights on campus because now students’ rights are restricted even in designated free speech zones.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was told by an NFL representative to flip his ‘Know Jesus, Know Peace’ t-shirt inside-out at a press conference over his dislocated ankle on Sunday, reportedly because it was not a Nike t-shirt.
Here is RGIII walking into the presser on crutches to discuss his injury:
Now, let’s see what he’s wearing when he takes the podium, in a before-and-after shot:
Now let’s assume that argument is legitimate. Then why were these policies not applied to Redskins teammate Ryan Kerrigan, who wore a non-Nike t-shirt to the press podium?
That would be a ‘Five Four Clothing’ t-shirt being worn by a Redskins player at the same press conference, according to CSN Washington. JP Finlay provides us with a better look:
Finlay reached out to the league and got a different story: NFL players are forbidden from wearing t-shirts with personal messages on gameday.
It’s unclear if the “personal message” that RGIII was displaying was the trigger for the message to turn the shirt inside-out or face a fine, given the background of being fined for wearing Adidas shirts to gameday press conferences.
If there’s anything we know from the past few weeks of spousal abuse and child abuse stories coming out of the NFL, maybe letting a little personal message like RGIII’s go would have been a wise thing to do.
Certainly, there will be cases where the NFL did not censor or fine players for personal messages on gameday coming out in the future. Another thing is likely – the ignored apparel or messages will be of the politically correct, NFL-approved kind.
…because I can no longer watch the NFL. I’m finished with the league and its insistence upon inundating its audience with socio-political claptrap at every turn.
For a long time now I’ve put up with a free agency system and salary caps that have resulted in teams losing many of their best players to rivals year after year. I’ve tolerated the ridiculous rule changes and the gradual feminizing of the game I love. But this recent inclination to preach to me and all my fellow football fans about political and social issues whenever some thug player does something immoral or unlawful in his private life, is the final straw that has broken this aging camel’s back.
I saw this trend toward increasingly inappropriate behavior coming several years ago when players on a number of teams began wearing pink shoes and gloves in order to help raise awareness about breast cancer. Now I ask you, who the hell wants to be constantly reminded of cancer while watching a sporting event? Anyone?!?
Look here, if you’re a multi-millionaire football player or team owner who wants to spend his free time supporting worthy causes, then God bless you! That is a noble endeavor, to be sure, but please leave your pet projects OFF THE PLAYING FIELD!
Now, you may well ask what cancer awareness has to do with the recent Ray Rice incident, or any similar scandal that has permeated the industry of late.
My answer is simple. It has nothing to do with Ray Rice’s behavior off the field in exactly the same way it has nothing to do with professional football games.
As for those pretentious, hollier-than-thou sports commentaters who’ve decided that it’s somehow their duty to waste countless hours mindlessly chattering about things like gun violence and spousal abuse – as if your average 5-year-old boy didn’t know that it’s wrong to go around punching out girls – instead of talking about football, SCREW YOU TOO!
I can’t speak for every football fan in America, but I bet I speak for the vast majority of them when I say that I don’t tune into an NFL game to hear some barely literate ex-jock lecture me on the importance of treating women with respect, or analyze to death the psychological makeup of a guy who gets off watching dogs tear each other to shreds.
I watch the NFL Channel and other sports networks in order to see my favorite teams play ball, and occassionally get scores and injury updates from around the league. On the off chance that some key player gets in trouble and is suspended for however long that may prove to be, all I need to know is that it happened. What I don’t need to hear is anyone’s opinion about why it happened, how many times similar things happen every day in America, or the cultural significance of such events. That’s NOT NEWS! That, my friends, is egotism run amok. THAT is claptrap.
Instead of you so-called sports reporters gibbering like monkeys about the latest cause celebre, how about sharing with fans like me some inside dope about why the Pittsburgh Steelers can’t seem to rebuild their once-dominant defense in any significant way – or is that too freakin’ relevant to your job description?
Former President Ronald Reagan once said: “I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left me.” What he meant by that should be fairly obvious to most people, but I’ll try to clarify his sentiment just in case some of my readers don’t get it. What Reagan was saying is that he hadn’t changed substantially from who he’d been as a much younger man, but that an institution he once admired and had always identified with HAD changed in ways which left it fundamentally at odds with his worldview.
I, of course, am no Ronald Reagan, so please excuse me if my farewell to an institution that I once admired and identified with is somewhat less diplomatic in tone.
Today’s NFL is but an ever-fading shadow of its former self. It is increasingly more money-driven and arrogant than ever before, and it has completely lost touch with the fans for which it owes its very existence. The media personalities who surround it are even more clueless, but that’s hardly surprising considering the general nature of mainstream journalism in the 21st century.
Suddenly, the words “tits on a bull” leap to mind, but I won’t belabor the point out of respect for the few truly good news reporters out there – sports or otherwise – who understand what people actually expect them to do, and then seek to fulfill those expectations to the best of their abilities.
Now, getting back to the NFL itself, the thing that pisses me off as much as anything else about the modern league is the complete lack of loyalty exhibited by many of its players. These all-about-the-Benjamins bellends don’t give a square shit about anybody but themselves, so they can just go learn French for all I care.
Again, “tits on a bull”… but I digress.
In the final analysis, The National Football League has proved to me beyond all reasonable doubt that it is no longer worthy of my emotional investment or my kind attention.
So, go ahead and stick a fork in me, NFL. I’m done!
Sincerely, Edward L. Daley