When University of Texas Law School student Cody Wilson published a YouTube video last month of an AR-15 he'd made with the assistance of a 3D-printer, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) sprang into action. He announced new legislation (actually a reauthorization of the 1988 Undectable Firearms Act, which expires at the end of the year) that he said would "stop so-called 'wiki-weapons.'" As I reported at the time, Wilson's response was fairly understated. He believed his plan to make and test guns made with printed plastic parts—and then post all of the instructions online—was legally sound, and had no intention of backing down.

Last week, Wilson published a new video. This time, his AR-15 is outfitted with a different printed plastic component—a 30-round magazine, the same kind President Obama proposed outlawing in his new gun control package. Take a look:

Israel's response: ban plastic magazines too. Wilson's response:

WikiWeb DevBlog/Tumblr

If nothing else, it should make for a fun set of hearings—if it gets that far.

Almost three months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, the GOP-controlled House approved a bill that provides $50.7 billion in disaster relief for the storm's victims. While passage of the bill is being hailed as a bipartisan success by some (the vote was 241-180), a closer look at how the parties voted by state lines indicates otherwise. GOPers overwhelmingly voted against funding—unless, of course, their state was hard hit.

In 22 states, every last Republican representative voted against HR 152 or abstained on the bill, which includes $17 billion for immediate repair and an amendment introduced by a Republican, New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, that tacks on another $33.7 billion for long-term recovery and prevention. These included Maryland and the Carolinas (remember Hugo and Floyd?), states that are vulnerable to seasonal hurricanes but were largely spared by Sandy.

This morning, President Obama unveiled his 23 executive actions for reducing gun violence after Newtown. With many of these recommendations sure to rankle the gun lobby, congressional approval is far from certain. Gun control needs to be a values issue, not a wonky, policy issue argues Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn on MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner. (Read more of our special report on gun laws and mass shootings here.)

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has new polling data out about Roe v. Wade ahead of the decision's 40th anniversary next week. Here are two charts that say quite a bit.

The first shows public support for the decision. I've heard, again and again, that the pro-Roe crowd is "losing." (Look no further than the cover of the new issue of Time for the latest example.) But support for the decision has held pretty firm, Pew found:

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Millennials, meanwhile, apparently think "Roe" is something you do in a boat. Less than half of them could correctly identify it as a case dealing with abortion rights:

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) recently introduced legislation to entice candidates to raise a greater percentage of money from small donors.

On Wednesday, Democrats in Congress took their first big step of the 113th Congress toward staunching the flow of money into US political campaigns. A group of House Democrats unveiled a trio of political money-themed bills, each proposing to establish new public campaign financing that would reward candidates for hauling in lots of small donations instead of fewer, larger ones, by matching small-dollar donations with public funds and tightening the rules governing super-PACs.

The 2012 presidential election marked the first time since the post-Watergate creation of public financing system that neither party's candidate accepted public money to fund his campaign. And little surprise why: Had they accepted public financing, Obama and Romney would've received a paltry $45.6 million for the primary season and $91.2 million each for the general election. Instead Obama raised roughly $1.2 billion overall and Romney raised more than $900 million.

In addition to revamping the public financing of federal elections to encourage more courting of small donors, the "Empowering Citizens Act," introduced by Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), would beef up rules banning coordination between super-PACs and campaigns, which critics say aren't strong enough right now. Congressional Democrats point to super-PACs such as Restore Our Future, which spent $152 million solely to elect Romney, and Priorities USA Action, which spent $74 million to elect Obama, as evidence of the blurry lines between candidate-specific super-PACs and the candidates' campaign. For instance, Romney appeared at a fundraiser for Restore Our Future, and top Obama advisers such as David Plouffe and David Axelrod spoke at Priorities events. (Conservatives dismiss the notion that this constitutes coordination and say Democrats just want to restrict the speech of outside groups with whom they don't agree.)

Another of the new bills, the "Grassroots Democracy Act" offered by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), would create a small-donor matching system as well as a "People's Fund," which would send additional federal money to candidates in races flooded with outside money and, in Sarbanes' words, "the voices of grassroots candidates are being drowned out." The third bill, the "Fair Elections Now Act" introduced by Reps. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Me.), would provide a 5-to-1 match of donations of $100 or less from in-state donors in the primary and general elections.

In the weeks ahead, House Democrats say, they plan to hash out a compromise bill that incorporates what they believe are the best ideas of the three bills introduced on Wednesday. Of course, with Republicans in control of the House, any legislation aimed at reforming money in politics is dead-on-arrival. But with the ebb and flow of Congressional control, Democrats will inevitably find themselves back in charge of the House in two or four or six years, and when they do, Democrats and reform advocates say they want a tough, comprehensive campaign finance bill ready to grab off the shelf and put into play.

Some people are calling the NRA's new anti-Obama ad a thinly veiled threat against the president's children. I doubt that this was its intent, but nonetheless, it's well beyond poor taste to use Obama's kids to make a point. (And it's absurd on its face: Like Jenna and Barbara Bush before them, Sasha and Malia get protection at school, as do all US presidents' children. It's called the Secret Service.) Between this and the Shooting Range app recently released by the NRA on iOS devices, the lobbying group's public-relations wing is failing miserably.

Now let's take a look at the substance of the ad itself: The NRA wants to staff every school in America with armed guards, and the president is "an elitist hypocrite" for being skeptical of the idea.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009-10 there were 98,817 public schools, 33,366 private schools, and 6,742 two-year and four-year colleges in America. Assuming that many of the colleges and at least some of the schools already have security and that private schools would require private funding for private security, that still leaves somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 schools with no armed security staff.

Hiring an armed guard for each of these would be enormously expensive, especially since these guards would need extensive background checks and would require expensive equipment and training, as well as benefits, pensions, and so forth. While many Americans have indeed expressed support for this sort of measure in recent polling, the public often supports expensive plans with little attention to the cost.

With its argument for getting rid of all "gun-free zones" in the country—which relies on fallacy rather than real data—the NRA has also recommended staffing these 100,000 public schools with armed volunteers: Retired police officers or ex-military types who would bring their guns to schools across the country each day—vigilantes of a sort, with the power of life and death just a trigger finger away.

Of course, assuming we could rally 100,000 full-time volunteer guards (or many more part-time guards) and then vet each of them properly, one has to ask whether we'd trust our nations' children in their hands. Would these retirees themselves pose some possible danger? Would they be able to stop a shooter should one attack? The armed security at Columbine and Virginia Tech proved incapable of stopping those mass shootings, and shooting rampages have rarely if ever been stopped this way.

President Barack Obama unveiled his proposal for responding to gun violence Wednesday, issuing a list of 23 executive actions he intends to take to try to reduce gun violence in the United States. Many of these steps, such as appointing a director of the ATF and improving background checks, resemble those gun control advocates mentioned to me and my colleague Tim Murphy earlier this week. The 23 executive actions can happen right away, but other parts of Obama's plan, such as a new assault weapons ban, will require congressional approval.

Here's a list of the executive actions Obama has said he has taken or will take:

1. Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rule making to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental-health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental-health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Most of these recommendations, such as getting the CDC involved in research on gun violence, will rankle the gun lobby. (The National Rifle Association has long opposed such research.) Obama has, however, included ideas from gun control critics in his plan. Shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre gave a rambling speech in which he blamed violent movies and video games for gun violence and called for more armed guards in schools. The White House proposal not only includes more armed protection of public schools, but also directs the CDC specifically to "explore the impact of violent media images and video games" on gun violence. 


As President Obama got ready to release his proposals on gun reform Wednesday, the right wing was continuing its freak-out over alleged "threats" to the Second Amendment. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Obama is acting like a "king" by proposing executive orders on firearms, and there have been multiple threats to impeach Obama for such action, and calls for "civil war" from the right-wing talk show people.

Mother Jones' DC bureau chief David Corn joined The Daily Beast's Bob Shrum on MSNBC's The Ed Show with Ed Schultz to talk about the dangers of this kind of rhetoric.

For more of David Corn's stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Security force team members for Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah wait for a UH-60 Blackhawk medevac helicopter to land before moving a simulated casualty during medical evacuation training on FOB Farah, Jan. 9. U.S. Navy photo by HMC Josh Ives.

Abortion continues to be a hot-button issue in the US, as dozens of states have passed measures to limit women's access to the procedure. But even women who want to be pregnant are not free of legal restraints on their bodies, as a new paper in the Journal of Health, Politics, Policy and Law demonstrates. In many instances, women have been arrested, institutionalized, or subjected to unwanted medical interventions due to their pregnancies.

The paper looks at 413 criminal and civil cases from 1973 to 2005 in which women were subject to legal action related to their unborn children. In all the cases, the women were deprived of their own civil liberties by legal authorities claiming to seek protection of the fetus. Many dealt with charges related to drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, refusing to follow doctor's orders, or for miscarriages that were blamed on their actions (even if there was little to no evidence to prove that those actions led to the miscarriage).

In a piece at RH Reality Check, the paper's authors detail some of the examples they found in their search of legal and public records, as well as media accounts. Here are just a few of them they include: 

  • A Louisiana woman was charged with murder and spent approximately a year in jail before her counsel was able to show that what was deemed a murder of a fetus or newborn was actually a miscarriage that resulted from medication given to her by a health care provider.
  • In Texas, a pregnant woman who sometimes smoked marijuana to ease nausea and boost her appetite gave birth to healthy twins. She was arrested for delivery of a controlled substance to a minor.
  • A doctor in Wisconsin had concerns about a woman's plans to have her birth attended by a midwife. As a result, a civil court order of protective custody for the woman's fetus was obtained. The order authorized the sheriff’s department to take the woman into custody, transport her to a hospital, and subject her to involuntary testing and medical treatment.

Fifty-two percent of the women in the cases they found  were African American. Seventy-one percent were likely low income, as they were represented by indigent defense in the legal case. Sixty-nine percent were under the age of 30, and 56 percent were in the South. And, lest you think these are mostly old cases, they found more than 25 in 2005, the last year included in the paper. The authors also said that, while not included in this research, they are aware of at least 250 cases since 2005.

"It's a system of law in which pregnant women are treated as an underclass."

The authors argue that the issues at play here are greater than reproductive choice, but about women's rights.

"What we saw was not just a limitation on abortion or reproductive rights, or even the deprivation of civil liberties, but the denial of pregnant woman of virtually every right," said Lynn M. Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and the lead author of the study in a call with reporters on Tuesday. "It's a system of law in which pregnant women are treated as an underclass."

They also note that many women were charged under state-level laws dealing with fetal homicide—or "feticide"—laws that were, in theory, designed to protect pregnant women from acts of violence and are now in place in 38 states. But rather than dealing with criminal acts against the women, they've been used to prosecute the women themselves.

Paltrow and coauthor Jeanne Flavin, a sociology professor at Fordham University, also related their findings to the so-called "personhood" movement, an extreme anti-abortion effort that has sought to grant fertilized eggs the same rights as adult humans. While no states have passed that type of law, many are using other legal measures that, in practice, grant fetuses precedent over the rights of the women carrying them. "The question isn't 'Are you for or against abortion?'" said Paltrow. "It's, 'Do you believe that upon becoming pregnant, women become an underclass?'"