Gov. Greg Gianforte on Friday signed a bill that prohibits state and local law enforcement in Montana from enforcing federal bans on firearms, ammunition and magazines.
Supporters of the law have said it would protect the Second Amendment from stiffer gun control laws that could come from federal legislation or executive orders by President Joe Biden in the wake of several mass shootings that took place this year, including a recent shooting that killed eight people in Indianapolis.
Opponents of the bill have said it would make it difficult for local law enforcement to collaborate with federal authorities on issues beyond gun access when such collaboration is essential to protect public safety, including in cases of domestic violence and drug offenses.
Montana law would prohibit law enforcement officials and other state employees from enforcing, implementing or spending state funds to uphold federal bans on particular kinds of firearms, ammunition and magazines.
Biden announced this month several executive actions to address gun violence, including a move to crack down on "ghost guns," homemade firearms that lack serial numbers used to trace them and are often purchased without a background check. The U.S. Justice Department is expected to release new rules on ghost guns in coming weeks.
The president has also called for a ban on assault weapons, but such legislation will likely face an uphill climb.
Montana is one of at least a dozen states that has sought to nullify new gun restrictions this year. The state's Republican-controlled Legislature has attempted to pass similar measures into law for almost a decade. Such bills were vetoed by former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Saturday, April 24, 2021
The United States is formally recognizing that the systematic killing and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces in the early 20th century was “genocide” as President Joe Biden used that precise word that the White House has avoided for decades for fear of alienating ally Turkey.
With the acknowledgement, Biden followed through on a campaign promise he made a year ago Saturday — the annual commemoration of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day — to recognize that the events that began in 1915 were a deliberate effort to wipe out Armenians.
While previous presidents have offered somber reflections of the dark moment in history via remembrance day proclamations, they have studiously avoided using the term genocide out of concern that it would complicate relations with Turkey — a NATO ally and important power in the Middle East.
But Biden campaigned on a promise to make human rights a central guidepost of his foreign policy. He argued when making the campaign pledge last year that failing to call the atrocities against the Armenian people a genocide would pave the way for future mass atrocities. An estimated 2 million Armenians were deported and 1.5 million were killed in the events known as Metz Yeghern.
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” Biden said in a statement. “We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
Turkish officials immediately criticized Biden’s statement, while Armenians praised Biden for making what they said was a principled move.
“Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is important not only in terms of respecting the memory of 1.5 million innocent victims, but also in preventing the repetition of such crimes,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a letter to Biden.
“We reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the President of the US regarding the events of 1915 made under the pressure of radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that “words cannot change history or rewrite it,” and that Turkey “completely rejected” Biden’s statement.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin suggested on Twitter than Biden was repeating “the slander of groups whose only agenda is being hostile to our country.” He added: “We recommend that the U.S. President takes a look at his own history and today.”
During a telephone call Friday, Biden informed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his plan to issue the statement, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private conversation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The U.S. and Turkish governments, in separate statements following Biden and Erdogan’s call, made no mention of the American plan to recognize the Armenian genocide. But the White House said Biden told Erdogan he wants to improve the two countries’ relationship and find “effective management of disagreements.” The two also agreed to hold a bilateral meeting at the NATO summit in Brussels in June.
A Maricopa County judge on Friday temporarily halted a Republican-led effort in Arizona to recount ballots from the 2020 presidential election, after Democrats filed a lawsuit arguing that the audit violated state election security laws.
But the judge, Christopher Coury of Maricopa County Superior Court, said the pause would go into effect only if the state Democratic Party posted a $1 million bond to compensate a private company — Cyber Ninjas, a cybersecurity firm based in Florida — that Republicans have hired to review the ballots. In a statement on Friday afternoon, Democratic officials said they would not do so, but they vowed to continue the fight in court.
Another hearing was set for Monday morning, and the judge emphasized that he expected the audit to move forward.Republican State Senate officials hired Cyber Ninjas to review nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa, the state’s largest county, though there is no substantiated evidence of significant fraud or errors.
Election officials and local courts have found no merit in the allegations, and the Republican-controlled county board of supervisors has also objected to the recount.
The lawsuit, brought by the state Democratic Party and Maricopa County’s only Democratic supervisor, argues that the State Senate is violating Arizona laws and regulations over the confidentiality and handling of election materials, and questions whether Senate officials can contract audit-related activities to private third-party vendors.
The Arizona Senate passed a bill allowing the Arizona legislature to subpoena election records, which means they can now check tabulating equipment and ballots for any evidence of tampering.
Under this bill, county election equipment, records, systems and other information that are under control of the county personnel will no longer be considered confidential. The bill also opens these records for subpoena and the legislature has the right to conduct any investigation into these items without infringement from any law.
State Sen. Warren Petersen helped introduce the bill. The GOP has been trying to investigate any tampering during the 2020 presidential election and they targeted Maricopa County but the latter voted against any subpoenas. The Maricopa County Board of supervisors sought judgment from a court to clarify if they are mandated to release those records or not.
Senators from Arizona filed a countersuit asking the court to enforce their subpoenas and help release the records they are asking for. The court decided against it and dismissed the case.
The bill would give the state legislature the authority to issue subpoenas for election records and equipment.