Federal gun-buying ban upheld for medical marijuana cardholders



A federal appeals court upheld the federal ban on the sale of guns through federally licensed firearms dealers to individuals who hold medical marijuana cards, agreeing that possession of a card gives a dealer “reasonable cause to believe” that a person is an unlawful drug user.

A Nevada woman brought the case after a gun store owner declined to sell her a firearm, citing the federal rule banning the sale of guns to illegal drug users because he knew she possessed a medical marijuana card.

A unanimous ruling Wednesday by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, upheld a lower court decision that dismissed the woman’s claims.

S. Rowan Wilson sought to buy a firearm from a gun store in the small town of Moonstone, Nevada, in 2011, several months after obtaining a medical marijuana card in the state. Gun shop owner Frederick Hauser stopped her as she was filling out required paperwork for the purchase, saying he could not sell her a firearm because he knew she had obtained a medical marijuana card.

Medical marijuana has been legalized by eight of the nine states covered by the 9th Circuit ruling — with recreational marijuana also being legal in Alaska, Washington and Oregon. But the federal government still outlaws pot as a Schedule I controlled substance

Tragic Death Of The First Black Female Judge



Last week, Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam attended an event to honor Jonathan Lippman, a fellow jurist on the New York State Court of Appeals. Given her stature amongst her colleagues, other women in the New York legal community attending the event were all anxious to greet the first black woman appointed to the bench of the state’s highest court.

Claire Gutekunst, president of NY State Bar Association, told BuzzFeed News she recalled approaching Abdus-Salaam — who was also the first black female judge to sit on New York’s highest court — while she was seated in the front row with the other judges, and giving her a hug.

“She seemed her normal, very friendly. She seemed herself,” Gutekunst said. “I have no idea now whether anything was amiss.”

Vickey Graffeo, a former judge on the Court of Appeals with Abdus-Salaam for seven years, found her old colleague at the event, too — eager to tell her that she had met a young African-American woman interested in attending Columbia Law School, Abdus-Salaam’s alma mater.

“I said, ‘I’m going to send you the contact information. I think you’d be a great role model,’” Graffeo told BuzzFeed News. “She, of course, agreed.”

“I just dictated the letter yesterday,” Graffeo added. “Unfortunately, there’s no one to send it to today.”

On Wednesday, the 65-year-old Abdus-Salaam was found dead, her body floating in the Hudson River by the shore of Manhattan’s West 132nd Street, just a few blocks from her Harlem home.

Details of her death are still unclear. On Thursday, the New York Times reported, citing law enforcement officials, that her death was being investigated as a suicide. She was reported missing by her husband, Gregory Jacobs, the day before. The NYPD could not confirm the details of Abdus-Salaam’s death but said that there was no sign of trauma or struggle. Police said the final cause of her death will be determined by the city’s medical examiner.

With her death, Abdus-Salaam leaves behind a storied career of — as her colleague John Kiernan, President of the New York City Bar Association described it — “Keeping an eye on the little guys and the underdogs.”

Born in 1952 in Washington, DC, Abdus-Salaam first came to New York in the early 1970s to attend Barnard College in Upper Manhattan. From there, she attended Columbia Law School, graduating in 1977.

UNC law school professor Ted Shaw, a former law school classmate of Abdus-Salaam’s, remembers going over to her Harlem apartment with his then-girlfriend where Abdus-Salaam would feed them because he “wasn’t much for money at the time.”

“Sheila was just a wonderful soul. She was a sweet soul — loving, caring, gentle person,” Shaw said.

In the years since law school, Shaw regularly visited his friend in Harlem. He remembers having barbecues in her backyard — even though Abdus-Salaam was a vegetarian — and watching Yankee games.

“She had a wonderful easy way about her,” Shaw said.

During her early years in New York, Abdus-Salaam, whose maiden name was Turner, and her first husband began to follow the Nation of Islam and converted to the Muslim religion. The couple eventually broke up and she left the Nation. However, those close to her believe that she continued to be quietly associated with Islam. “Sheila was not one to proselytize,” Shaw said.

After law school, Abdus-Salaam started her career at East Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, a federally funded program coordinating legal assistance for the poorest people in Brooklyn — one of the lowest paying jobs in the profession at the time.

“It is retail human vulnerability. One person at a time, work like hell to save them,” Kiernan said in describing the job. “My personal view is that the character of those people is heroic.”

From Brooklyn, Abdus-Salaam went to work for the New York State Attorney General, spending most of her time in the AG’s office in the civil rights bureau.

She became a judge in 1992 when she was elected to the New York civil court. A rising star, Governor David Patterson appointed her to the Appellate Division in 2009. Then, four years later, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed her to the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals. At her swearing-in ceremony, her former law school classmate Eric Holder, the former US Attorney General, said on her behalf: “Sheila could boogie.”

During her short time as a Court of Appeals judge, Abdus-Salaam left an indelible mark, authoring two landmark decisions in just the last year.

In the Matter of Brooke S.B. v Elizabeth A.C.C., Abdus-Salaam wrote the decision that overturned an over two-decade old ruling that said nonbiological parents in a same-sex couple had no standing to seek custody of a child after the couple broke up.

In her opinion, Abdus-Salaam said she determined that nonbiological parents could seek custody if they showed “by clear and convincing evidence that all parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together.”

Susan Sommer, lawyer for the plaintiff in that case, told BuzzFeed News that since the Brooke decision she has seen “a ripple effect” across the state.

“Just a few days ago, I got a thank-you email from somebody I don’t know at all who has custody,” Sommer said. “It has opened doors that were slammed for decades in New York.”

“She embodied so many important features for New York,” Sommer said. “A woman, an African American, a jurist who broke critical new ground for LGBT families. She represented much that we should aspire to.”

In another recent Court of Appeals ruling, People v. Bridgeforth, Abdus-Salaam authored the decision that said that an attorney could not disqualify a potential juror in a case based on skin tone, not just race.

“Defendant argues that, contrary to the people’s position, dark skin color is a cognizable class and, indeed, must be one unless the established protections of Batson are to be eviscerated by allowing challenges based on skin color to serve as a proxy for those based on race,” Abdus-Salaam wrote. “We agree with defendant.”

Despite the demands of a high-profile job, other colleagues of Abdus-Salaam remember her as someone who was generous with her time, particularly with law students.

Albany Law School Professor Vincent Bonventre, who brings his class to the Court of Appeals on Wednesdays to watch arguments, said Judge Abdus-Salaam would not hesitate to come out after the proceedings and chat with the students.

“It wasn’t ‘you’re lucky to be speaking with me’ with her — it was exactly the opposite,” Bonventre said. “She was thrilled. She would be very, very candid about how tough the cases were, open about the fact that voting in the cases was close and that she struggled with how to vote.”

Through all the triumphs of her career, Abdus-Salaam dealt with her share of tragedy in her personal life. In 2014, her brother committed suicide, the Times reported. And last year she lost her mother.

As reports emerged on her death, her colleagues and friends remained in disbelief about the possibility that Abdus-Salaam might have taken her own life.

Kaylin Whittingham, president of the New York Association of Black Women Attorneys, an organization that Abdus-Salaam was active with, said she saw the judge several times over the last few weeks.

“I did not see signs she was dealing with anything,” Whittingham said. “You can never quite tell. Whatever it is, it was just really tragic and heartbreaking.”

Whittingham remembers when Abdus-Salaam’s brother died in 2014. Around the time of his death, the ABWA was set to honor Abdus-Salaam as a trailblazer for African-American women. But because of her brother’s death, she could not attend the event, so Whittingham accepted it on Abdus-Salaam’s behalf.

“When I saw her, I gave her the award and told her, ‘This girl is on fire,’” making a reference to the Alicia Keys song, Whittingham recalls.

“All the time, that’s what I tell her: ‘This girl is on fire!’”


It is unclear if Abdus-Salaam was a Muslim or if she was practicing or identified with the faith. A previous version of this article definitively called her a Muslim

SoCal cops buying and selling crime scene guns



Law enforcement officers in Southern California could be breaking federal firearms laws by buying guns recovered at crime scenes and re-selling them without a license.

In a March 31 memo, Eric Harden, the ATF’s special agent in charge in Los Angeles, told police chiefs and sheriffs that some officers have purchased more than 100 “off roster” firearms recovered at crime scenes, and then sold them to non-law enforcement individuals.

“Such transactions potentially constitute violations of federal firearms laws, to include dealing firearms without a FFL, and lying on a federal firearms form when purchasing said firearm — also known as ‘straw purchasing,’” wrote Harden. “When presented with compelling evidence of flagrant violations of federal firearms laws, ATF is obligated to conduct a criminal investigation.”

A FFL, or Federal Firearms License, allows individuals or companies to manufacture, import and sell firearms. Calling it an “emerging problem,” Harden offered an advisory for law enforcement to teach them how to lawfully deal the recovered firearms.

“Per 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(21)(C), a law enforcement official who regularly acquires ‘off roster’ firearms and sells or disposes of them for a profit is engaging in the business as a dealer of firearms and must be licensed,” reads the advisory. “It is unlawful to knowingly misrepresent that you are the transferee-buyer of a firearm when you acquire a firearm with the intent to sell or otherwise dispose of that firearm to someone else, even if the subsequent transfer is processed through a Federal firearms licensee.”

Anyone convicted of unlawfully dealing firearms without a license is subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. False statements on FFL’s could draw up to 10 years in prison. The advisory pointed out those penalties, but in his memo, Harden said his office is concerned with education.

“It is our goal to educate, not investigate, to ensure law enforcement officials comply with federal law in order to avoid unnecessary public embarrassment to themselves and your Department/Agency,” he wrote.

10 East African coutries team up to form regional force


Kenyan soldiers in Kulbiyow, Somalia, on February 6, 2017.



A joint force of 10 Eastern Africa countries is now fully fledged, setting the pace for the creation of a unified continental military force, Kenya Defence Forces chief Samson Mwathethe said yesterday.

The countries have also established a peace fund that so far has nearly Sh100 million, excluding the total amounts pledged by member States.

The money is to be used for military operations and supporting interventions.

“It is the first regional force on standby. A peace fund was also established and operationalized. It now has Sh97,624,100,” he said.

The other four regional forces in Africa are at various stages of becoming fully fledged.

The military forces were established by economic blocs on the continent – Ecowas, Eccas, Sadc and Narc.

The East Africa Standby Force (EASF) is made up of soldiers from Kenya, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

Mr Mwathethe spoke at the farewell ceremony for EASF Director Issimail Chanfi at the International Peace Support Centre in Karen, Nairobi.

Member countries hold the position on a rotational basis and the new director is from Djibouti.

Danish Ambassador to Kenya Mette Knudsens said EASF would help in sustaining peace in the region.

“Denmark is very proud for being engaged with EASF and IPSTC. These institutions are very important players in this region. They are demonstrating that Africa has important tools for peace and security,” she said.

EASF troops are currently serving in Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia as well as the United Nations missions in Darfur and South Sudan.

The EASF secretariat is located in Karen, Nairobi, while the logistics headquarters are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The desire to have a common defence force in Africa was initially mooted in 2002 during the inaugural AU summit in Durban, South Africa.

The continent’s leaders wanted to no longer depend on countries outside Africa in solving problems that threaten security among member States.

Gov. Branstad signs Iowa gun expansions into law


Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signed two proposals on Thursday that bring a wide range of changes to Iowa’s gun laws including instituting “stand your ground” protections.

In all, Branstad signed some 14 pieces of legislation to include HF 517, an omnibus gun rights package, and HF 475, a popular measure expanding the use of straight-walled cartridge rifles to hunt deer.

Of the two, HF 517 was by far the more controversial in its passage and was subject to lengthy debate in the GOP-controlled legislature before passing the Iowa Senate 33-17 and House 57-36 earlier this month.

“Just signed HF517, making Iowa one of the most pro-2nd amendment states in the country,” Branstad posted to social media.

The new law removes the duty to retreat from Iowa’s self-defense statutes on the use of reasonable or deadly force. This so-called stand-your-ground model has been adopted in many conservative states with Florida passing the first of its kind in 2005.

Next, the law puts gun permit holder information out of bounds from public and Freedom of Information Act requests. Previously, anyone could get the name, address and birth date of concealed carry permit holders.

In addition to the use of force and privacy sections, the act includes mandates to loosen regulations on youth handgun possession for target shooting and hunting reasons provided they are given the firearm by a parent, instructor or guardian. Prior to the new law, only youth 14 and over could legally shoot handguns.

Finally, the law strikes gun-free zones at the state capitol, expands Fourth Amendment search and seizure protections for those carrying firearms, scraps the state ban on short barreled rifles and shotguns, and prevents officials from restricting the carry of firearms during a state of emergency.

Gun control organizations pushed hard to derail HF 517 during the legislative process and urged the governor for a veto, arguing the package was a danger to public safety.

“No matter what your position was on this bill, none of us wants to see the kind of homicide rate increase here that other states have seen after enacting Stand Your Ground laws,” Amber Gustafson, with the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Second Amendment groups including the National Rifle Association were pleased with the new law. Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said, ““It is a great day for freedom. Today, Iowa joined the nationwide movement to expand law-abiding citizens’ constitutional right to self-protection.”

Hunting expansion

Also signed into law is an expansion of the state’s hunting regs to allow the use of straight-walled handgun cartridges .357 caliber and larger already approved for pistol and revolver hunting in rifles chambered for the same round.

The law directs the Iowa Natural Resource Commission to establish rules allowing the use of the rounds in long guns during the youth and disabled deer hunting seasons and for the first and second shotgun deer hunting seasons by licensed hunters. Possession of a prohibited rifle can result in a $250 fine.

The measure was well-received in the legislature, passing unanimously in both the House in March and the Senate in April while the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was reportedly neutral on the bill.

We asked 86 Burglers how they broke into homes


Do you ever wonder whether your home security system or “Beware of Dog” sign actually keeps burglars away?

We did too. So KGW’s investigative team sent letters to 86 inmates currently serving time for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections.  The inmates were asked to respond anonymously to 17 questions detailing how they broke in, when the crime occurred and what they were looking for.

What we learned could help you keep your home safe from burglaries.

California Dems kill ‘shall-issue’ concealed carry bill


Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez feels, “If a citizen passes the background check and completes the necessary safety training requirements, there should be no reason to deny them a CCW.” (Photo: CA Assembly GOP)

The Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday rejected legislation to reform California’s strict “may-issue” concealed carry licensing practices and make permits more obtainable.

The bill,  AB 757, aimed to amend state law to allow a desire for self-defense to be enough required “good cause” to obtain a permit. It failed 2-5 after a party-line vote.

The measure’s sponsor Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, a Republican from Lake Elsinore, argued the legislation was needed to reign in some sheriffs and police chiefs who refuse to grant licenses for personal reasons.

“Today the Democrat majority spat in the face of the Constitution by killing this measure,” said Melendez in a statement. “The Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law, yet the current system we have for issuing CCWs in California is anything but equal. Rest assured, this fight for equality isn’t over.”

Melendez’s proposal would have inserted language into the current law so that those applying for a carry permit from their local sheriff or police chief could use a desire for “self-defense, defending the life of another, or preventing crime in which human life is threatened” as sufficient reason to obtain a licence without having to show further good cause.

California is just one of eight states that still practice may-issue permitting for concealed carry licenses and one of just five that ban open carry. A number of lawsuits including Peruta v. San Diego— now pending at the short-staffed U.S. Supreme Court– are underway fighting for shall-issue reform while other litigation including the NRA’s Flanigan v. Harris/Becerra and Nichols v. Brown are pending with the U.S. 9th Circuit on the subject of open carry.

North Dakota passes bill let lawmakers take guns in buildings


The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow lawmakers to carry concealed guns into public buildings and gatherings.

Lawmakers in the House passed the bill Tuesday on a 86-5 vote, the Billings Gazette reported. The measure, Senate Bill 2139, now heads back to the Senate for approval of minor changes made by the House.

If passed in the Senate and signed into law, lawmakers and other qualified elected officials would have to obtain an enhanced concealed carry permit and receive the same firearms training as law enforcement officers.

Current North Dakota law allows attorney general staff members, municipal and district court judges, and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed handguns into public buildings and gatherings.

A public gathering is currently defined as a school or school function, and as an athletic or sporting event.

While Republican Rep. Pat Heinert described the measure as a “good bill,” there were a few lawmakers who voted against the legislation, such as Democrat Rep. Pam Anderson.

“Think of it — I could be walking around with a gun, and that should make everybody nervous,” Anderson said.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum would not comment on the bill before it reached his desk.

south carolina house passes permitless carry measure


House lawmakers on Thursday forwarded a bill to the Senate that would allow for the lawful carry of handguns in the Palmetto State without a license.

South Carolina is one of just five states that ban open carry and requires a permit for concealed carry, both of which would be a thing of the past under HB 3930 which was approved 64-46 by the House on Wednesday and sent to the Senate the day after.

“Pleased to announce that Constitutional Carry has passed the SC House,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Greenwood, noted on social media. “Now it is on to the Senate.”

The bill would remove the requirement to obtain a concealed weapon permit to carry a handgun in the state. It would also retain the current permitting system for those who want to take advantage of reciprocity agreements with other states.

Currently, permits are issued by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, who had 308,406 active permits in circulation as of the end of last year. The permits cost $50, which is waived for retired law enforcement and some veterans and are valid for five years.

Previous efforts in 2015 and 2012, which concentrated on permitless concealed carry alone, failed to become law.

The legislation this week was the subject of fierce opposition in the House, with some lawmakers citing that it posed potential unanticipated consequences that could amp up interactions with police.

“If I’m an African-American male on the Battery in downtown Charleston and I’m open-carrying at 1 or 2 in the morning, which I’ll legally be able to do, is my very being, the very breath in my body going to give law enforcement probable cause to stop me?” said Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, as reported by the Charleston Post and Courier.

While supported by gun rights groups, the measure drew the ire of gun control advocates who feel allowing people to carry a handgun without a permit or training is a risk to the public.

“Passing legislation that would drastically lower the bar for who can carry a handgun in public in South Carolina defies common sense,” said Jackie Shelley with the South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action. “South Carolinians deserve laws that work in favor of our safety and not those that abandon critically important safety standards. We hope that the Senate stands on the side of public safety and common sense and rejects this legislation.”

The measure is currently residing in the Senate but has not been referred. The chamber has had a Republican majority since 2001.



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