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US Supreme Court deals setback to gun control advocates on felon ban

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dealt a blow to gun control advocates by opening the door for some convicted felons to challenge a federal ban on them owning firearms.

The justices let stand a lower court’s ruling that uniformly denying felons whose crimes were not serious the right to own guns violated the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects the right to “keep and bear arms.”

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The case involved two Pennsylvania men who were convicted of non-violent crimes who challenged the ban. The Trump administration had appealed last year’s ruling by the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, calling it a threat to public safety.

The 3rd Circuit ruling does not set a nationwide legal precedent.

Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have granted the appeal to hear the case.

The Pennsylvania men who challenged the ban, Julio Suarez of Gettysburg and Daniel Binderup of Manheim, both were convicted of non-violent misdemeanors, but the crimes carried maximum possible sentences of more than two years, falling within the definition of felony in the federal gun ban. Neither Suarez nor Binderup served jail time.

Binderup, who owns a plumbing business, pleaded guilty in 1998 of corrupting a minor after having a sexual affair with a 17-year-old female employee. Binderup was sentenced to three years of probation.

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Suarez was convicted in Maryland in 1990 of carrying a gun without a permit. Suarez was given a suspended jail sentence and a year of probation.

Federal law generally prohibits firearm possession by individuals convicted of a crime punishable by a year or more in jail, the traditional definition of a felony. However, the law does not apply to offenses labeled as misdemeanors under state law that carry jail time of two years or less.

In 2013 and 2014, the men separately sued to escape the felon gun-possession prohibition. Emphasizing their non-violent offenses and light sentences, they argued the law violates their right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

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The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an 8-7 decision, held that people may challenge the ban depending on their particular criminal conviction, and found that it was unconstitutional as applied to the two men.

Trump has strongly embraced the National Rifle Association but his administration in this case was on the same side as gun rights advocates including the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

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The administration said in court papers the appeals court ruling would force judges to make case-by-case assessments of the risks possession by convicted felons, a job for which they are ill-suited. The administration added that too many felons whose gun ownership rights were restored for various reasons have gone on to commit violent crimes.

The Brady Center noted that the prohibition has been on the books in its current form since 1968, when Congress determined that the acquisition of firearms by people convicted of serious crimes posed a danger to public safety and to public figures.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers

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The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Trump is deploying national guardsman to provide pandemic support without any health benefits: report

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The National Guard are an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of them have potentially been exposed to infected civilians, making it a particularly dangerous and important time to serve.

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Vaccine researchers grew ‘alarmed’ as Trump’s CDC wasted weeks of their time with a flawed coronavirus test: report

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According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.

As it turned out, that test was flawed.

Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, "On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing 'unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,' according to an email summarizing the call."

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