On the News With Thom Hartmann: The US Senate Is Expected to Vote on Gun Control Legislation Today, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Today, the US Senate is expected to vote on gun control legislation for the first time in nearly 20 years; the so-called “Gang of Eight” has finally released their immigration bill; the Supreme Court released a ruling which states that administering an invasive blood test requires a warrant under the Fourth Amendment; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Information is flooding in rapidly about the Boston Marathon bombings and the suspicious letters sent to President Obama and Representative Roger Wicker, so stay tuned to The Thom Hartmann Program and your local news outlets for the latest information. We’ll be discussing it on this show, and bringing you updates as information is released.

Today, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on gun control legislation for the first time in nearly 20 years. Senators will consider the bipartisan proposal put forward by Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin. If the bill reaches the 60 vote threshold, it will expand background checks and close the gun-show loophole. The Senate will also consider nine possible amendments to the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has come out in favor of a democratic amendment banning assault weapons, which is a remarkable break from his long history of supporting gun rights. Republicans also submitted provisions to the bill, like mandating concealed weapons permits be recognized across state lines. Advocates of stronger gun laws say that the bill does not go far enough to take weapons of war off our streets, but Democratic leaders are imploring colleagues to support the bill. Senator Diane Feinstein, who has pushed for a new assault weapons ban, said, “It may not be everything I want, but it’s a step in the right direction.” The razor thin margins indicate that the vote could go either way. At the very least, for the first time in nearly two decades, victims of gun violence will get a vote. It’s about time.

In screwed news… The so-called “Gang of Eight” has finally released their immigration bill. Advocates of the reform are cheering some of the plan’s components, like an expedited path to citizenship for Dreamers and farmers, and an immediate halt to the deportation of immigrants who have not committed serious crimes. However, activists and immigrants hoping for real reform are concerned by the bill’s border-security benchmarks. The legislation calls for adding “100 percent eyes on the border” and preventing 90 percent of all illegal border crossings. According to the plan, if those goals are not met within five years, the so-called “Border Commission” of state governors can step in to recommend action. That commission is made up of some of the most anti-immigration governors in our nation, like Jan Brewer of Arizona and Rick Perry of Texas. And undocumented immigrants can’t even apply for legal status until the Department of Homeland Security creates a strategy to achieve this nearly-impossible goal. Immigration reform advocates have been calling for a comprehensive plan for decades, but this may not quite be the plan they’ve been waiting for.

In the best of the rest of the news…

This morning, the Supreme Court released a ruling which states that administering an invasive blood test requires a warrant under the Fourth Amendment. The case involved the arrest of Tyler McNeely, who was pulled over and asked to take a breathalyzer. When the suspect refused, police brought the man to a local hospital and had a blood alcohol test performed against the will of Mr. McNeely. However, police neglected to obtain a warrant for Mr. McNeely’s blood, and failed to show “exigent circumstances” to excuse their failure to do so. The Court upheld the ruling from a lower state court, which read, “warrantless intrusions of the body are not to be undertaken lightly.” And according to the Supreme Court, the fact that alcohol dissipates from the bloodstream does not give the police the right to draw blood without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t have a carve-out for the convenience of law enforcement. If police think drawing the blood of a suspect is vital to preserving evidence, then they should obtain a warrant to stick a needle in someone’s arm – a person who at that point is presumed innocent. It’s good news that the Supreme Court is upholding the Fourth Amendment in this case.

Last week, a House Committee approved the controversial CISPA legislation, but removed four key provisions meant to protect online privacy. Today, the Obama Administration delivered a formal veto threat, which reads, “citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable – and not granted immunity – for failing to safeguard personal information adequately.” CISPA advocates say the bill is necessary to encourage companies to provide the federal government with more information about users, but opponents argue that the bill provides sweeping legal protection for companies that violate our privacy. The President’s threat is a major victory to advocates of online privacy. As more and more information is collected about us, and shared with corporate and government partners, our right of privacy seems to deteriorate more each day. For once, it’s nice to see that the President is standing up to corporate power, and protecting our right of privacy.

And finally… To a car thief, a Porsche 911 turbo must look like one sweet score. But – if you plan on stealing one, you better know how to operate a manual transmission. On Monday, Anthony Reynolds of Newark, New Jersey plead guilty to theft of a motor vehicle by force. The 18-year-old attempted to steal the car last September, when he ordered the driver out of the car at gun point. Mr. Reynolds then attempted to flee the scene in the high-end sports car, but wasn’t able to operate the six-speed manual transmission. Police were able to detain the suspect when the car stalled, and he attempted to flee on foot. Had he been able to operate the Porsche, which can go zero to sixty in about 4 seconds, police would have had a difficult time detaining Mr. Reynolds. In addition to being illegal, stealing cars requires actually knowing how to drive them. To avoid jail time, and additional embarrassment, Mr. Reynolds may want to rethink his choice of career.

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, April 17, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.