News in Brief: New Gun Control Legislation Unlikely, and More

New Gun Control Legislation Unlikely

Lawmakers are gloomy about the prospects of passing significant gun control legislation in a culture that has long been accepting of guns, reported The New York Times. A flurry of bills to create no-gun zones around members of Congress, ban big-volume magazines like that used by the Tucson gunman and step up background checks are being drafted, and the National Rifle Association has lain low since Saturday’s shooting. But even these measures have stirred up significant opposition. Rep. Peter King (R-New York), who is behind the proposal to ban firearms within 1,000 feet of members of Congress, has received “100 calls an hour from people who think I am trying to take away their Second Amendment rights,” he said.

Justice Department Defends the Defense of Marriage Act

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion Thursday to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the definition of marriage between a man and a woman in the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Noting that President Obama thinks the law should be axed, Talking Points Memo reported that the DOJ has a policy of defending federal statutes that it considers to have reasonable arguments to support their constitutionality, even if the current administration disagrees with the statute itself. Obama has recently stated that his views on gay marriage were “evolving” and he may reconsider his opposition to it.

US Military Denies Holding Manning in Solitary Confinement

The US military is denying that it is holding Bradley Manning, the alleged military whistleblower, in solitary confinement. Manning has been held at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia, since July on suspicion of leaking classified documents to the whistleblower site WikiLeaks. Manning’s attorney has said his confinement violates military rules against “pretrial punishment,” and that his mental and physical health is declining. But a military spokesperson dismissed the allegations to The New York Times as “poppycock,” saying that Manning is allowed to speak to guards and prisoners in nearby cells, though he is not allowed to see them. He also acknowledged that Manning is confined to his cell for 23 hours each day. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks has donated $15,000 to Manning’s defense fund.

Banks to Resume Paying Dividends

Wall Street Banks will resume paying dividends again in the first half of 2011, reported The Wall Street Journal, which will put billions back in pension funds, and in the pockets of retirees, who used their investment bank shares as a source of income. The banks withheld dividends for three years following the financial crisis of 2008, reducing their once-lucrative investment bank shares to pennies per share and hitting ordinary investors hard. If big banks such as JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo announce a second straight year of profits, regulators are likely to approve dividend increases as early as March.