Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
In yet another challenge to the Second Amendment, an insurance company has refused to provide its products to schools that want to protect students by arming teachers or staff members.
Already, President Obama has made curbing gun rights a legislative priority, and his administration has limited the rights of certain veterans, people with various medical diagnoses and users of marijuana in states where possession is legal.
“We understand that the school districts have every right to decide which way they want to go,” a company vice president in Wichita told the Topeka Capital-Journal.
“But we have to make the decision based on what we perceive to be our best financial interest.”
A new state law allows teachers and other workers to carry guns on school grounds under some circumstances. Previously, only police officers were allowed to be armed.
It all comes in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting last fall in which a troubled gunman shot and killed 20 children. The tragedy has been used by the Obama administration to push for more gun bans, while Second Amendment advocates point out that nothing has changed. Schools where guns are banned become instant killing zones when a deranged person attacks, they argue.
EMC, which insures about 90 percent of the state’s 286 school districts, has issued a letter to its agents explaining that teachers carrying concealed weapons won’t be allowed by the company.
The letter is available on the Capital-Journal’s website.
The newspaper said some school districts had expressed interest in providing an additional level of protection to students under the new law that lets school boards designate employees who can bring guns to school.
Some Kansas school districts already have officers assigned to schools, and most of the rest have not determined their plans yet. School board officials were joining the insurance company in warning against allowing armed teachers or staff.
Commenters on the newspaper’s site were split. One said: “Small schools will continue to be free hunting zones for the criminal. Bet this isn’t the last on this story.”
Another agreed with the insurance company, stating: “An insurance company is in business to make money. The company has a responsibility to their investors to maximize their profits while at the same time controlling costs for their customers. The insurers do that in no small part by limiting their losses.”
The move in Dove Creek in the southwest corner of the state has turned the tiny town into a model for other Colorado school districts looking to get around laws that allow only peace and security officers to pack heat in schools. A legislative effort that would have changed that and put guns in the hands of Colorado schoolteachers died in committee earlier this year.
The security officer contracts were approved by the board at a February meeting. Each will be paid $1 a year for their officer duties to make the deal legitimate.
WND also has reported experts’ warnings about a strategy embedded in a federal plan to adjust privacy rules so that the federal government can access Americans’ mental health records as part of Obama’s agenda to curb gun rights.
According to the plan, the government would be told the details right away if anyone is sent to a mental institution for “mental defectiveness, or mental illness.”
But the White House plan also includes a notification to Washington should someone be lodged in a mental facility “for other reasons.”
“The phrase ‘for other reasons’ is overly broad and vague,” said the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Although the DOJ has illustrated that drug use is an example of ‘commitments for other reasons,’ the nebulous language would grant the DOJ sweeping authority to prohibit individuals from possessing firearms, a constitutionally protected right.”
The organization says the concern over the privacy of such records means that nothing should be changed right away.
“Until the DOJ clearly defines and enumerates the types of formal commitments that can bar gun ownership, HHS should not amend its regulations to release sensitive mental health information to the DOJ,” the organization said in a submission commenting on the Obama plan.
The issue erupted after the school shooting at Sandy Hook six months ago. In response, the Obama administration launched an agenda that includes “closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands,” a ban on “military-style” weapons and some ammunition magazines, as well as “making schools safer” and improving mental health services.
But the vague generalities used to describe the plans worry privacy experts and Second Amendment supporters.
The Department of Justice now wants to be notified of any mental health concerns and commitments “for other reasons” for Americans so their names can be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s list of people banned from owning guns.
But it appears the requirements of the privacy rule for medical records will be a barrier to the quick transfer of personal details, so the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a change.
“Concerns have been raised that, in certain states, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule may be a barrier to states’ reporting the identities of individuals subject to the mental health prohibitor in the NICS,” according to a strategy outlined in the Federal Register.
So, HHS said, it is planning to create “an express permission in the HIPAA rules for reporting the relevant information to the NICS by those HIPAA covered entities responsible for involuntary commitments or the formal adjudications that would subject individuals to the mental health prohibitor, or that are otherwise designated by the states to report to the NICS.”
WND recently reported on another anti-gun strategy that possibly explains why the Obama administration has failed to launch legal action against Colorado and Washington, where voters last fall legalized marijuana in their states, even though federal law doesn’t allow it.
The White House, nevertheless, has insisted state laws exempting people from the federal Obamacare law are invalid. And when Arizona took it upon itself to adopt a state law to enforce federal immigration restrictions, the Obama administration sued.
As attorneys Todd Garvey and Brian Yeh wrote in the report, Washington has flexibility regarding drug prosecution, stating: “The extent to which federal authorities will actually seek to prosecute individuals who are engaged in marijuana-related activities in Colorado and Washington remains uncertain. President Obama himself has suggested the prosecuting simple possession is not a priority, while the Department of Justice has said only that ‘growing, selling or possession any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.’”
What is more certain, they wrote, is that federal firearms regulators will be aggressive about banning anyone who uses marijuana from buying or possessing a weapon.
“With the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in Colorado and Washington, it seems likely the ATF will … consider a recreational user of marijuana to be a prohibited possessor of firearms regardless of whether the use is lawful under state provisions,” they wrote.
The problem arises when the agency wants to appoint a fiduciary – someone to advise a disabled veteran or one receiving certain government benefits – to help with the management of the benefits.
The government then routinely notifies the FBI’s NICS system, a federally maintained list of people whose competency has been challenged. That means they no longer can purchase a gun or even keep one they may have.
Michael Connelly, USJF executive director, told WND the initial lawsuit is to compel the VA to respond to two requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
“The information requested included Veterans Benefits Administration rules, regulations and criteria for making ‘determinations of incompetency due to a physical or mental condition of a benefit recipient,’” the legal team explained.
“The USJF has received numerous complaints from military veterans around the country who are being declared incompetent to handle their own financial affairs and then told that they can no longer purchase or own firearms or ammunition,” said Connelly. “This determination is being made without due process protections for the veterans and the basis for the incompetency ruling is often arbitrary and without a factual or legal basis.”