By Jessica Gresko in Washington
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a major expansion of gun rights after a series of mass shootings, the Supreme Court said Thursday that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, a ruling likely to lead to more people legally armed. The decision came out as Congress and states debate gun-control legislation.
About one-quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, which struck down a New York gun law. The high court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade split the court 6-3, with the court’s conservatives in the majority and liberals in dissent.
Across the street from the court, lawmakers at the Capitol sped toward passage of gun legislation prompted by recent massacres in Texas,New York and California. Senators cleared the way for the measure, modest in scope but still the most far-reaching in decades.
Also Thursday, underscoring the nation’s deep divisions over the issue, the sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, pleaded with state lawmakers to pass gun legislation. The Republican-controlled legislature has stripped away gun restrictions over the past decade.
President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court ruling. It “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all,” he said.
He urged states to pass new laws. “I call on Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety. Lives are on the line,” he said.
The decision struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a particular need for carrying a gun in order to get a license to carry a gun in a concealed way in public. The justices said that requirement violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” That right is not a “second-class right,” Thomas wrote. “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”
California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have laws similar to New York’s. Those laws are expected to be quickly challenged.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., said the ruling came at a particularly painful time, with New York mourning the deaths of 10 people in a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo. “This decision isn’t just reckless. It’s reprehensible. It’s not what New Yorkers want,” she said.
Gun control groups called the decision a significant setback. Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice and an expert on the Second Amendment, wrote on Twitter that the decision could be the “biggest expansion of gun rights” by the Supreme Court in U.S. history.
Republican lawmakers were among those cheering the decision. Tom King, president of the plaintiff New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said he was relieved.
“The lawful and legal gun owner of New York State is no longer going to be persecuted by laws that have nothing to do with the safety of the people and will do nothing to make the people safer,” he said. “And maybe now we’ll start going after criminals and perpetrators of these heinous acts.”
The court’s decision is somewhat out of step with public opinion. About half of the voters in the 2020 presidential election said gun laws in the U.S. should be made more strict, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of the electorate. An additional one-third said laws should be kept as they are, while only about 1 in 10 said gun laws should be less strict.
About 8 in 10 Democratic voters said gun laws should be made more strict, VoteCast showed. Among Republican voters, roughly half said laws should be kept as they are, while the remaining half closely divided between more and less strict.
In a dissent joined by his liberal colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer focused on the toll from gun violence.
Since the beginning of this year, “there have already been 277 reported mass shootings — an average of more than one per day,” Breyer wrote. He accused his colleagues in the majority of acting “without considering the potentially deadly consequences” of their decision. He said the ruling would “severely” burden states’ efforts to pass laws “that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds.”
Several other conservative justices who joined Thomas’ majority opinion also wrote separately to add their views.
Justice Samuel Alito criticized Breyer’s dissent, questioning the relevance of his discussion of mass shootings and other gun death statistics. Alito wrote that the court had decided “nothing about who may lawfully possess a firearm or the requirements that must be met to buy a gun” and nothing “about the kinds of weapons that people may possess.”
“Today, unfortunately, many Americans have good reason to fear they will be victimized if they are unable to protect themselves.” The Second Amendment, he said, “guarantees their right to do so.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, noted the limits of the decision. States can still require people to get a license to carry a gun, Kavanaugh wrote, and condition that license on “fingerprinting, a background check, a mental health records check, and training in firearms handling and in laws regarding the use of force, among other possible requirements.”
Backers of New York’s law had argued that striking it down would lead to more guns on the streets and higher rates of violent crime. Gun violence, on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, has spiked anew. Gun purchases have also risen.
In most of the country gun owners have little difficulty legally carrying their weapons in public. But that had been harder to do in New York and the handful of states with similar laws. New York’s law, in place since 1913, says that to carry a concealed handgun in public, a person applying for a license has to show “proper cause,” a specific need to carry the weapon.
The state had issued unrestricted licenses where a person could carry a gun anywhere and restricted licenses allowing a person to carry the weapon but just for specific purposes such as hunting and target shooting or to and from their place of business.
The challenge to the New York law was brought by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which describes itself as the nation’s oldest firearms advocacy organization, and two men seeking an unrestricted ability to carry guns outside their homes.
The Supreme Court last issued a major gun decision in 2010. In that decision and a ruling from 2008 the justices established a nationwide right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. The question for the court this time was just about carrying a gun outside the home. Thomas, who turned 74 on Thursday, wrote in his opinion that: “Nothing in the Second Amendment’s text draws a home/public distinction with respect to the right to keep and bear arms.”
Associated Press reporters Mark Sherman, Hannah Fingerhut and Zeke Miller in Washington and Michael Hill in East Greenbush, New York, contributed to this report.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California dies at age 90, sources tell the AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a centrist Democrat who was elected to the Senate in 1992 in the “Year of the Woman” and broke gender barriers throughout her long career in local and national politics, has died. She was 90.
Three people familiar with the situation confirmed her death to The Associated Press on Friday.
Feinstein, the oldest sitting U.S. senator, was a passionate advocate for liberal priorities important to her state — including environmental protection, reproductive rights and gun control — but was also known as a pragmatic lawmaker who reached out to Republicans and sought middle ground.
She was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969 and became its first female president in 1978, the same year Mayor George Moscone was gunned down alongside Supervisor Harvey Milk at City Hall by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor. Feinstein found Milk’s body.
After Moscone’s death, Feinstein became San Francisco’s first female mayor. In the Senate, she was one of California’s first two female senators, the first woman to head the Senate Intelligence Committee and the first woman to serve as the Judiciary committee’s top Democrat.
Although Feinstein was not always embraced by the feminist movement, her experiences colored her outlook through her five decades in politics.
“I recognize that women have had to fight for everything they have gotten, every right,” she told The Associated Press in 2005, as the Judiciary Committee prepared to hold hearings on President George W. Bush’s nomination of John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court.
“So I must tell you, I try to look out for women’s rights. I also try to solve problems as I perceive them, with legislation, and reaching out where I can, and working across the aisle,” she said.
Her tendency for bipartisanship helped her notch legislative wins throughout her career. But it also proved to be a liability in her later years in Congress, as her state became more liberal and as the Senate and the electorate became increasingly polarized.
A fierce debater who did not suffer fools, the California senator was long known for her verbal zingers and sharp comebacks when challenged on the issues about which she was most fervent. But she lost that edge in her later years in the Senate, as her health visibly declined and she often became confused when answering questions or speaking publicly. In February 2023, she said she would not run for a sixth term the next year. And within weeks of that announcement, she was absent for the Senate for more than two months as she recovered from a bout of shingles.
Amid the concerns about her health, Feinstein stepped down as the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel after the 2020 elections, just as her party was about to take the majority. In 2023, she said she would not serve as the Senate president pro tempore, or the most senior member of the majority party, even though she was in line to do so. The president pro tempore opens the Senate every day and holds other ceremonial duties.
One of Feinstein’s most significant legislative accomplishments was early in her career, when the Senate approved her amendment to ban manufacturing and sales of certain types of assault weapons as part of a crime bill that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994. Though the assault weapons ban expired 10 years later and was never renewed or replaced, it was a poignant win after her career had been significantly shaped by gun violence.
Feinstein remembered finding Milk’s body, her finger slipping into a bullet hole as she felt for a pulse. It was a story she would retell often in the years ahead as she pushed for stricter gun control measures.
She had little patience for Republicans and others who opposed her on that issue, though she was often challenged. In 1993, during debate on the assault weapons ban, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, accused her of having an insufficient knowledge of guns and the gun control issue.
Feinstein spoke fiercely of the violence she’d lived through in San Francisco and retorted: ”Senator, I know something about what firearms can do.”
Two decades later, after 20 children and six educators were killed in a horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, first-term Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas similarly challenged Feinstein during debate on legislation that would have permanently banned the weapons.
“I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein snapped back at the much younger Cruz — a moment that later went viral. She added: “It’s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I’ve been here a long time.”
Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco after the 1978 slayings of Moscone and Milk, leading the city during one of the most turbulent periods in its history. Even her critics credited Feinstein with a calming influence, and she won reelection on her own to two four-year terms.
With her success and growing recognition statewide came visibility on the national political stage.
In 1984, Feinstein was viewed as a vice presidential possibility for Walter Mondale but faced questions about the business dealings of her husband, Richard Blum. In 1990, she used news footage of her announcement of the assassinations of Moscone and Milk in a television ad that helped her win the Democratic nomination for California governor, making her the first female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the state’s history.
Although she narrowly lost the general election to Republican Pete Wilson, the stage was set for her election to the Senate two years later to fill the Senate seat Wilson had vacated to run for governor.
Feinstein campaigned jointly with Barbara Boxer, who was running for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat, and both won, benefiting from positive news coverage and excitement over their historic race. California had never had a female U.S. senator, and female candidates and voters had been galvanized by the Supreme Court hearings in which the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Anita Hill about her sexual harassment allegations against nominee Clarence Thomas.
Feinstein was appointed to the Judiciary panel and eventually the Senate Intelligence Committee, becoming the chairperson in 2009. She was the first woman to lead the intelligence panel, a high-profile perch that gave her a central oversight role over U.S. intelligence controversies, setbacks and triumphs, from the killing of Osama bin Laden to leaks about National Security Agency surveillance.
Under Feinstein’s leadership, the intelligence committee conducted a wide-ranging, five-year investigation into CIA interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s administration, including waterboarding of terrorism suspects at secret overseas prisons. The resulting 6,300-page “torture report” concluded among other things that waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not provide key evidence in the hunt for bin Laden. A 525-page executive summary was released in late 2014, but the rest of the report has remained classified.
The Senate investigation was full of intrigue at the time, including documents that mysteriously disappeared and accusations traded between the Senate and the CIA that the other was stealing information. The drama was captured in a 2019 movie about the investigation called “The Report,” and actor Annette Bening was nominated for a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Feinstein.
In the years since, Feinstein has continued to push aggressively for eventual declassification of the report.
“It’s my very strong belief that one day this report should be declassified,” Feinstein said. “This must be a lesson learned: that torture doesn’t work.”
Feinstein sometimes frustrated liberals by adopting moderate or hawkish positions that put her at odds with the left wing of the Democratic Party, as well as with the more liberal Boxer, who retired from the Senate in 2017. Feinstein defended the Obama administration’s expansive collection of Americans’ phone and email records as necessary for protecting the country, for example, even as other Democratic senators voiced protests. “It’s called protecting America,” Feinstein said then.
That tension escalated during Donald Trump’s presidency, when many Democrats had little appetite for compromise. Feinstein become the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel in 2016 and led her party’s messaging through three Supreme Court nominations — a role that angered liberal advocacy groups that wanted to see a more aggressive partisan in charge.
Feinstein closed out confirmation hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett with an embrace of Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and a public thanks to him for a job well done. “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” Feinstein said at the end of the hearing.
Liberal advocacy groups that had fiercely opposed Barrett’s nomination to replace the late liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were furious and called for her to step down from the committee leadership.
A month later, Feinstein announced she would remain on the committee but step down as the top Democrat. The senator, then 87 years old, did not say why. In a statement, she said she would “continue to do my utmost to bring about positive change in the coming years.”
Feinstein was born on June 22, 1933. Her father, Leon Goldman, was a prominent surgeon and medical school professor in San Francisco, but her mother was an abusive woman with a violent temper that was often directed at Feinstein and her two younger sisters.
Feinstein graduated from Stanford University in 1955, with a bachelor’s degree in history. She married young and was a divorced single mother of her daughter, Katherine, in 1960, at a time when such a status was still unusual.
In 1961, Feinstein was appointed by then-Gov. Pat Brown to the women’s parole board, on which she served before running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Typical of the era, much of the early coverage of her entrance into public life focused on her appearance, and she was invariably described as stunning, tall, slender and raven-haired.
Feinstein’s second husband, Bert Feinstein, was 19 years older than she, but she described the marriage as “a 10” and kept his name even after his death from cancer in 1978. In 1980, she married investment banker Richard Blum, and thanks to his wealth, she was one of the richest members of the Senate. He died in February 2022.
In addition to her daughter, Feinstein has a granddaughter, Eileen, and three stepchildren.
Michael Blood, Mary Clare Jalonick, Lisa Mascaro And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Cyberattacks hit military, Parliament websites as India hacker group targets Canada
The federal government is coping with apparent cyber attacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa. Hands type on a keyboard in Vancouver on Wednesday, December, 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa
The federal government is coping with apparent cyberattacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa.
The Canadian Armed Forces said that its website became unavailable to mobile users midday Wednesday, but was fixed within a few hours.
The military said the site is separate from other government sites, such as the one used by the Department of Defence and internal military networks. The incident remains under investigation.
“We have no indication of broader impacts to our systems,” said a statement from spokeswoman Andrée-Anne Poulin.
Meanwhile, various pages on the House of Commons website continued to load slowly or incompletely on Thursday due to an ongoing attack that officials say started Monday morning.
The Commons administration said it was facing a distributed denial-of-service attack, which is when bots swarm a website with multiple visits and cause it to stop loading properly.
“House of Commons systems responded as planned to protect our network and IT infrastructure. However, some websites may be unresponsive for a short period,” spokeswoman Amélie Crosson said in a written statement Thursday morning.
“The House of Commons IT support team, in collaboration with our partners, have implemented mitigating measures and restored services to appropriate service levels. The IT team is still continuously monitoring for such activities.”
She added that the Commons administration is helping their Senate colleagues “to provide guidance and support them to restore services.”
Elections Canada also experienced roughly an hour-long denial-of-service attack starting around midnight early Wednesday, Ottawa time.
“This website does not host any sensitive data or information. It is separate from our main website, elections.ca, and is hosted by an external service provider. It is in no way connected to the network that supports elections.ca,” the agency wrote in a statement.
“Our systems are monitored in real time both internally, and by the Canadian Cyber Security Centre, enabling us to quickly detect any anomalies on our platforms and systems. They are aware of the incident.”
That centre is under the umbrella of the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s signals-intelligence agency.
A hacking group named Indian Cyber Force claimed responsibility for the incidents involving the military and Elections Canada, and it appeared to have managed to infiltrate a handful of websites owned by small businesses in Canada.
The group made reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling Parliament on Sept. 18 that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the killing of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had been wanted by India for years and was gunned down in June outside the temple he led.
The hacking group has posted multiple versions of a message riddled with spelling and grammatical errors onto websites of restaurants and medical clinics.
The affected sites show a message on a black background with green digits, similar to the film “The Matrix,” as warlike music plays.
The message described Canada as a haven for terrorists — a “heaven hub,” it said in butchered English — and similarly insulted Sikh separatists.
It also criticized Trudeau for “throwing something without any prove,” or proof.
The group claimed to have attacked Elections Canada and the Ottawa Hospital, though these sites appeared to be operating normally Thursday morning. The Canadian Press has asked those responsible for these web pages to confirm whether they have been affected.
The hacking group also claimed to have taken down the Global Affairs Canada website for travel advisories, but the department insists this hasn’t happened, and the group deleted that claim from its account on the social-media application Telegram.
News of the attacks came as questions abounded over Indian officials’ level of co-operation with Canadian officials over Trudeau’s allegations — and to what extent allies such as the United States were advocating on Canada’s behalf.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with India’s foreign-affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
Neither of them made mention of the controversy in Canada when they emerged briefly to pose for photos before their meeting began.
During a State Department briefing prior to that meeting, spokesman Matthew Miller refused to speculate on what the secretary would tell Jaishankar directly.
“What I will say, however, is we have consistently engaged with the Indian government on this question and have urged them to co-operate, and that engagement and urging them to co-operate will continue,” Miller said.
“We urge them to co-operate with the Canadian investigation.”
Miller flatly refused comment when asked about a television interview last week with U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen, who confirmed that Canada received intelligence from one of its Five Eyes security partners.
“I am not going to speak to intelligence matters from the podium.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.
— With files from James McCarten in Washington, D.C.
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