Friday, February 23, 2018
Q & A: Gun Violence
Q: Can you explain the Obama administration’s regulation that would have added certain Social Security recipients to the federal gun ban list?
A: Last year’s repeal of this flawed regulation is being used as a misleading talking point in the aftermath of the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The repealed regulation has nothing to do with the alleged shooter or the tragic loss of innocent lives in Parkland, Fla. What’s more, the portrayal fuels a stereotype that stigmatizes people with disabilities as second-class citizens. Those who perpetuate this myth effectively are saying that Americans who need assistance with their Social Security finances ought to be considered deranged and dangerous to society. The regulation would have transmitted names of any person assigned a fiduciary by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). That’s the federal database operated by the FBI used to determine a person’s eligibility to purchase firearms.
After careful study, it became clear the SSA regulation abridged the Second Amendment right of certain Social Security beneficiaries, failed to pass constitutional muster and was unfair in a number of ways. First, the SSA regulation did not require a formal hearing before reporting people to NICS, thereby violating due process rights. Federal law makes clear that an “adjudication” is required before a firearms ban is incurred. The agency regulation failed in that regard because there can be no “adjudication” without a hearing. Second, it did not require the SSA to find a person mentally ill before reporting the individual to the NICS. The agency regulation used a vague disorders list that included eating disorders and disorders that impact sleep to assign a person a representative payee. Then, once that assignment is made, the SSA would report people to the gun ban list, automatically taking away the right to purchase firearms. And third, the rule did not require the SSA to find a person dangerous to self or others before reporting an individual to the NICS. However, for an individual to remove his or her name from the gun ban list, they must prove they are not dangerous. So, on the one hand, the regulation did not require the government to prove someone is dangerous before reporting them to list. On the other hand, existing law requires anyone on the gun ban list to prove they are not dangerous to get their Second Amendment right restored. This double standard is unfair. The government should be held to the same standard as the people.
In fact, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate voted to rescind this rule. Plus, a broad coalition representing dozens of civil rights and disability advocacy groups agree that the Obama-era rule unjustly maligned persons with disabilities. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was one of the lead organizations who spoke out against this regulation, stating:
“We oppose this [SSA] rule because it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotypes that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent and should not own a gun. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence. The rule further demonstrates the damaging phenomenon of ‘spread,’ or the perception that a disabled individual with one area of impairment automatically has additional, negative and unrelated attributes.”
Serious times call for serious conversations. Conflating the Second Amendment right of law-abiding citizens with those who truly are dangerous will not solve gun violence in our communities. Importantly, even with the repeal of the SSA’s regulation, gun safety prohibitions are still in place. For example, federal law still prohibits those who are actually found to be dangerous or mentally ill from purchasing firearms. The same can be said for felons, those with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, and people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. However, as we have seen, federal agencies need to do a better job, and be held accountable for not enforcing the laws that could prevent dangerous individuals from purchasing firearms. I have consistently fought to strengthen our nation’s mental health services and to limit access to firearms for those who seek to do us harm.
Q: What measures do you support to address gun violence in America?
A: Just a few years ago, I led an effort with Senator Ted Cruz to improve the national background check system, end trafficking of illegal firearms and beef up resources for gun-crime prosecutions, school safety and mental health. Specifically, my amendment would have provided more resources to states to provide mental health services for people in local courts and jails and to help veterans with mental health and substance abuse challenges. For example, it would have allowed Byrne and COPS grants to be used for mental health programs. The Grassley-Cruz amendment to the Safe Schools, Safe Communities Act of 2013 fell short of a 60-vote majority needed to advance. In December, I led a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee to weigh proposals aimed at improving background checks for gun buyers and to examine firearm accessories, including bump stocks. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is working to draft new rules to clarify the definition of a ‘machine gun’ that would ban the use of bump stocks. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I’ve committed to work with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator John Cornyn to identify comprehensive solutions that will curb gun violence in our communities. I also support the bipartisan STOP School Violence Act that would increase resources for local law enforcement, school personnel and students to improve school safety infrastructure, implement violence prevention programs and improve reporting systems for threats of school violence. Improving mental health screening and services, enforcing compliance of gun laws and maintaining updates to the federal background database are crucial to ending school violence. Through my congressional oversight responsibilities, I am working to hold the executive branch and law enforcement accountable for the faithful implementation of the nation’s gun laws including federal background checks to keep our streets and our schools safe. Following the tragic shootings in Sutherland Springs, Texas and Parkland, Fla., cracks in the reporting system and noncompliance with background checks are under renewed scrutiny. Public safety in our public squares, especially in the nation’s classrooms, is a paramount concern for every American that we cannot take for granted. The President has made school safety a top priority of his administration. Like every parent and grandparent in America, I want to see an end to senseless violence that rips apart the fabric of American life. I’m committed to finding solutions that protect the blessings of life and liberty, uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and keep guns from getting into the wrong hands.
Friday, December 22, 2017
Grassley Statement on President Trump Signing Historic Tax Reform Legislation into Law
“The President’s signature on this historic tax reform legislation means more money in the pockets of hardworking Iowans.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, voted for landmark tax reform legislation, which was signed into law this morning by President Trump.
“President Trump deserves credit for not only running on a promise to reform the tax code, but keeping his word to Americans and signing this historic accomplishment into law. Tax reform makes good on a years-long promise to deliver significant tax relief to Americans from every walk of life and income level. For millions of Americans that relief will begin in February when they begin to see the benefits of lower across-the-board income tax rates in their paychecks,” Grassley said. “The President’s signature on this historic tax reform legislation means more money in the pockets of hardworking Iowans. Americans will also see increased wages and more jobs created here and brought back to our shores from overseas. We’re already seeing tax reform improve the lives of millions of Americans. Major U.S. companies are making significant commitments to invest millions of dollars back into their domestic operations, increase wages, give bonuses to the men and women on the front lines of their organizations and donate millions more to charitable organizations throughout the nation.”
Grassley successfully included taxpayer rights and corporate accountability measures in the tax reform legislation. Details of those two provisions are below. Grassley also helped protect the wind energy production tax credit, which he originally authored, and the student loan interest deduction. The wind energy production tax credit was modified in the House-passed version and the student loan interest deduction was eliminated.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley previously led through Congress $2 trillion in bipartisan tax relief, leaving more money in workers’ pockets, reducing tax rates across the board and spurring economic growth and activity. Congress later made permanent the vast majority of the Grassley-led measures with significant bipartisan support.
Grassley-led provisions include:
To increase the time period in which taxpayers may seek to have proceeds from the sale of wrongfully levied property returned to them.
The IRS is authorized to levy on property to satisfy a tax debt in certain instances. While the IRS is authorized to return property at any time, it is only authorized to return the monetary proceeds from a sale for up to nine months from the date of the levy. Similarly, if a third party believes the property levied or seized belongs to him/her and not the person against whom the tax is assessed, the third party generally only has nine months from the time of the levy to bring an administrative wrongful-levy action to seek the return of monetary proceeds. In many cases the nine month period is insufficient for individuals and third parties to discover a wrongful or mistaken levy and seek to remedy it. Consistent with section 202 of S. 1793, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Enhancement Act of 2017, this amendment would extend from nine months to two years the time period that individuals and third parties have to seek the return of proceeds on the sale of wrongfully levied property.
Government Settlement Transparency Act.
This amendment, consistent with S. 803, Government Settlement Transparency Act, would expand provisions relating to the nondeductibility of fines and penalties to prohibit a tax deduction for any amount paid or incurred to, or at the direction of, any governmental entity relating to the violation of any law or the investigation or inquiry into a potential violation of law. The bill exempts from such prohibition: (1) restitution or amounts paid to come into compliance with any law that was violated or otherwise involved in the investigation or inquiry, (2) amounts paid pursuant to a court order in a suit in which the governmental entity was not a party, and (3) amounts paid or incurred as taxes due.
Charles E. Grassley
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Des Moines Office
721 Federal Building
210 Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50309