North Korea conducted a third nuclear test on Tuesday, the first since the country's leader Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011. Though it is still unclear whether the test was successful, experts say it could bring the country closer to its goal of building nuclear-tipped missiles designed to strike the US. Official state media characterized the test as a response to US hostility, and warned of "second and third measures of greater intensity" in the future if Washington doesn't back down. (The UN imposed sanctions on the country after a December 2012 rocket launch that the UN and Washington said was a cover for a banned missile test.)
When I get on the phone with Richard Mack, better known as "Sheriff Mack"—NRA darling, militia hero, and former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona—he tells me he doesn't personally own that many guns. But he won't say how many: "That's between me and the good Lord."
Mack isn't a hunter, either. For him, the specter of new gun control legislation is all about the Constitution. Which is why he has been leading an all-out crusade to prevent the federal government from taking away your firearms—if they ever were taking away your firearms. The idea is to convince county sheriffs around the nation to refuse to enforce any new gun laws.
Sheriff Mack has been a celebrity amongst anti-federalist militia types and Second Amendmenters for years. In 1994, the NRA recruited him as a plaintiff in one of nine lawsuits against the Clinton administration over the 1993 Brady Law, which required federal background checks on firearms purchasers. "The case was based on the principle that the federal government is not our boss," Mack says. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled in Mack's favor, finding that federal agents may not force local law enforcement to require those background checks. In appreciation, the NRA made Mack its Law Officer of the Year and inducted him into the NRA Hall of Fame.
On his first day in office President Obama issued a memo committing to a strong, effective FOIA. "The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails," it read. But filing a FOIA request and getting information back is still a struggle. On Monday, the top members of the House oversight committee, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Darrell Issa (R-Ca.), sent a letter to the Justice Department, which keeps tabs on how FOIA requests are carried out, demanding information on nearly two dozen problems with the Obama administration's FOIA policy. The congressmen point to "outdated FOIA regulations, exorbitant and possibly illegal fee assessments, FOIA backlogs, [and] the excessive use and abuse of exemptions."
A scholar and a political commentator are about to let fly to some very, very dangerous speech at a New York college next week. It's so dangerous, in fact, that four Democratic members of Congress are getting involved.
Next Thursday, Brooklyn College's political science department and the student group Students for Justice in Palestine are scheduled to hold a panel discussion with philosopher Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian political analyst, on something called "BDS." BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, the controversial international movement that pushes to get Israel to withdraw its settlements from the Palestinian territories by boycotting Israeli products, divesting from Israeli industries, and imposing sanctions.
Second Amendment alert: New York is preventing Americans with second, third, and fourth homes in the state from obtaining pistol and revolver licenses—and a federal appeals court opinion issued Tuesday suggested this might violate the Constitution.
The case involves a man named Alfred G. Osterweil who owns a vacation home in Summit, NY, and who was denied a handgun permit in the state because his formal residence is in Louisiana. A local judge said this was okay because New York law only allows licenses for full-time residents, and argued that this did not violate the Second Amendment because it's more like a regulation than an outright ban. (An outright ban would be unconstitutional.) He held that it is in the state's interest to "monitor… its hand gun licensees to ensure their continuing fitness for the use of deadly weapons," the opinion said. If Osterweil is out of state for much of the year, the argument goes, New York can't keep tabs on whether he is a law-abiding citizen or a mass murderer.