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Trump slams the brakes on Obama gun-safety measures

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WASHINGTON — In the wake of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, President Donald Trump vowed to use his executive authority to enact gun control through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But over the past year, the ATF has been moving in the opposite direction, delaying new gun-safety rules that the Obama administration had been developing.

As part of Trump’s government-wide push for deregulation, the ATF has stalled a number of gun regulations that had been moving forward under Obama, including a new requirement to make secure gun storage or safety devices more widely available. Last year, the administration formally reclassified the proposed gun storage rule and other regulatory changes as “long-term actions,” indicating the ATF was not expecting to act on them within the next year.

Under Obama, the ATF had drafted a rule that would require gun dealers to make secure gun storage or safety devices available anywhere that firearms are sold to unlicensed individuals.

“That is something that could really save a lot of lives,” said Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Dealers have an important role to play in terms of preventing gun deaths in this country.”

“This is a no-brainer if you want to promote gun safety,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, who added that safe storage could help prevent teen suicides, accidental shootings, school shootings and gun thefts.

Formal changes to regulations can take years, and the gun storage requirement had been moving toward the finish line in 2016. But the Trump administration announced in July that it would be put on the back burner, and reaffirmed the decision in December.

Asked why it had delayed the gun regulations, ATF referred NBC News to the White House, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration took the same steps on proposed changes to existing prohibitions on gun sales to those determined by a court to be mentally ill. Under the 1968 Gun Control Act, those who are deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial or who are involuntarily committed to a mental institution are barred from buying or selling guns that have crossed state lines.

Obama’s Justice Department proposed expanding the prohibitions to those who were found guilty but mentally ill by a court, as well as those who were involuntarily committed to outpatient mental institutions.

Lindsay Nichols, federal policy director for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said that the proposed change would have been “a significant step forward” in keeping guns out of the hands of high-risk individuals, as these federal regulations affect which records have to be reported in the background check system.

Nichols notes that the 2007 Virginia Tech shooter who killed 32 people had been court ordered to receive outpatient treatment, but his involuntary admission did not show up in the background check system, due to the loophole in state and federal laws.

Virginia officials tightened up the laws in the aftermath of the 2007 massacre. But not all states have such requirements, which is why Nichols believes the Trump administration should push forward with the proposed change, rather than delaying it further.

“There’s no question that they should just finish this process,” Nichols said. “It wouldn’t be a dramatic change but it codifies something in a way that’s helpful in implementing already existing laws.”

The ATF’s moves last year are part of a broader pattern across the administration, notwithstanding the president’s latest promise to ban bump stocks: On Trump’s inauguration day, a senior ATF official proposed rolling back a host of gun regulations in a white paper he wrote with the help of an industry lobbyist. The administration has taken other steps to relax current gun rules in its first year, following on Trump’s campaign promises to uphold the Second Amendment and support the National Rifle Association.

Gardiner says that ATF may have a good reason not to prioritize regulations that would have a minimal immediate impact, like a proposed change to identification markers on gun silencers. Despite Trump’s recent pronouncements, the ATF and other federal agencies have limited statutory authority to regulate guns, and it’s unclear whether the administration would be allowed to ban bump stocks without Congress.

The ATF, moreover, has already been struggling with a lack of staff and other resources that it needs to carry out basic tasks like gun dealer inspections. Under the Obama administration, the agency’s last significant move on the mental illness regulation was in 2014, even while classifying the rule as being in its final stage.

But Gardiner and other advocates believe that Trump administration should still account for its decision to delay gun safety measures that had been moving forward, particularly in light of Trump’s latest promises to act.

“It’s directly at odds with what Trump has claimed is going to be a renewed interest in gun control regulations,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen.

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U.S. has administered over 309 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, CDC says

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The United States had administered 309,322,545 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and distributed 374,398,105 doses in the country as of Sunday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Those figures were up from the 308,112,728 doses of vaccine that the CDC said had been administered as of Saturday, out of 374,397,205 doses delivered.

The agency said 173,840,483 people in the United States had received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 143,921,222 people were fully vaccinated as of 6 a.m. ET on Sunday.

The CDC tally includes the two-dose vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc/BioNTech/ as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

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Nigel Farage SHOULD be honoured for 'services to EU exit' – 'He's the man of the Century!'

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DOZENS of influential figures have been rewarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for their services to Brexit – but one former MEP has pointed out that Nigel Farage has been excluded.

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Queen Elizabeth II hosts Bidens at Windsor Castle

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LONDON — They met Friday at the Group of Seven summit, but President Joe Biden and the first lady had an altogether more private meeting with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday, at her home in Windsor Castle.

The monarch, 95, received the Bidens for tea at her historic residence, about 30 miles west of London. On arrival they were greeted with an official Guard of Honor military parade, which gave a royal salute and played the American national anthem.

Biden stood next to the queen in the sunshine, wearing his aviator sunglasses, before inspecting the troops in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle, last seen on television during the somber funeral ceremony of her husband, Prince Philip, who died aged 99 in April.

The queen has stoically continued with her official duties since then and met Biden alongside other world leaders and their spouses on Friday at the G-7 summit, by the seaside in Cornwall, southwest England.

There, she amused leaders when she quipped during a photo-call: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourselves?”

Biden first met the queen in 1982 as a Democratic senator for Delaware but this time he joined her as president. He is the 13th serving president the monarch has met. She has met every serving American president since Dwight Eisenhower — except Lyndon Johnson who did not travel to Britain while in office.

As a 25-year-old princess in 1951, she also stayed with President Harry S. Truman and his family in Washington, D.C.

The queen has hosted four other American presidents at Windsor Castle in recent years, including former-President Donald Trump in 2018, who shocked press and palace pundits when he breached royal protocol by walking ahead of the queen, at times blocking her view and giving her his back.

After a state visit in 2019, Trump told Fox News: “There are those that say they have never seen the queen have a better time.”

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On arrival to England last week, first lady Jill Biden told reporters that meeting the queen was “an exciting part of the visit for us.”

She also undertook a separate engagement with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, when the two visited a school on Friday.

Kate told NBC News during the visit that she was looking forward to meeting her new niece, Lilibet Diana, born in California earlier this month.

Britain’s royal family have had a turbulent year in the public eye following a bombshell interview given by the queen’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

The couple stunned viewers with allegations of royal racism — denied by the palace — while Meghan also spoke publicly about how royal life and media pressure had taken its toll on her mental health.

After taking private afternoon tea with the queen on Sunday, Biden will then travel to nearby Brussels for a NATO summit, before heading to Switzerland on Wednesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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