Pew finds young Republicans more likely to be social liberals

The youngest members of the GOP continue marching to a more libertarian drum as new polling data shows a majority, nationwide, supports marijuana legalization and same sex marriage.

According to polling data from Pew, 63 percent of Republicans who fall into the Millennial (born 1981 to ’96) demographic say that marijuana use should be legal in the United States. That’s compared to 35 percent who say it should remain illegal at the federal level.

While the number of Republican Millennials who support marijuana legalization is high, it’s still three percentage points lower than the number of their Democratic contemporaries favoring legalization.

According to Pew, a softer stance on marijuana from Millennials in the GOP could have electoral implications in 2016.

“The debate over marijuana … comes ahead of the 2016 presidential election, when both political parties are fighting over the coveted Millennial vote as this group of eligible voters swells in size, even if its members do not consistently show up on Election Day,” Pew noted.

But it isn’t just marijuana where younger Republicans are veering away from the party’s establishment messaging— they’re more socially liberal in general.

For instance, Millennials are also the only group in the GOP who support same-sex marriage by a majority (58 percent).

The Pew report came as attendees of the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., noticed (yet again) that the face of conservatism slowly appears to be getting more youthful and libertarian.

And that, as Reason notes in a video from this year’s event, is creating a divide within the GOP that won’t soon go away.

New bill aims to stop ammo grab in its tracks

A new proposal on Capitol Hill aims to halt the Obama administration’s plan to make it harder for American gun owners to obtain ammunition for popular AR-15 style rifles and other firearms chambered for 5.56mm/.223 caliber ammunition.

Last week officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives moved forward on a plan to reclassify certain types of 5.56mm/.223 caliber ammunition as armor-piercing. The ban would specifically ban the manufacture and sale of M855/SS109 “green tip” ammunition.

Florida Republican Rep. Tom Rooney introduced the Protecting Second Amendment Rights Act on Friday to take away the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosive’s ability to regulate the ammunition.

“The Obama administration’s proposal would unilaterally strip law-abiding hunters and sportsmen of their Second Amendment rights,” Rooney said in a statement. “Congress has made its intentions clear that this ammunition is for sporting purposes and should not be restricted. We cannot and we will not stand by while the Obama administration tramples on the Constitution, the rule of law, and the Second Amendment rights of hunters.”

The specific language in Rooney’s bill is not yet available– but the lawmaker says it would “would prohibit the ATF or any other federal agency from issuing or enforcing any new restriction or prohibition on the manufacture, importation or sale of ammunition in the United States.”

The legislative proposal comes as calls for the ATF to halt its regulatory plan are increasing among 2nd Amendment supporters as well as in Congress.

In the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia has joined forces with the National Rifle Association to gather the signatures of 172 lawmakers concerned about the ammo ban.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa is spearheading a similar effort in the upper chamber.

Some observers are speculating that a legislative shutdown of the plan could mean that the ATF scheme would backfire spectacularly for those interested in limiting ammo available for popular firearms as ammo hoarders put their stores back on the market.

Related: ATF’s ammo ban a slippery slope to useless guns

Holder: It’s not about race, but it is

On his way out, Attorney General Eric Holder contends that race should play a bigger role in the U.S. justice system.

In an interview with POLITICO, the nation’s outgoing AG reflected on the racially charged investigations that have become routine in his final years as the Department of Justice’s top official.

The DOJ announced Tuesday that it had “insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges” against George Zimmerman for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. And it’s looking increasingly likely that an investigation into the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer will end similarly.

That’s why, according to Holder, it needs to be easier for a federal investigation to take place more quickly in future similar incidents.

“I think some serious consideration needs to be given to the standard of proof that has to be met before federal involvement is appropriate, and that’s something that I am going to be talking about before I leave office,” he said.

When POLITICO asked specifically if “the bar for federal involvement in the civil rights offenses is too high for federal prosecutors to make cases,” Holder replied: “I think that if we adjust those standards, we can make the federal government a better backstop — make us more a part of the process in an appropriate way to reassure the American people that decisions are made by people who are really disinterested. I think that if we make those adjustments, we will have that capacity.”

During the interview, Holder also said that his race was “at least a piece” of the reason for opposition to his policies on Capitol Hill.

He added, “[I]t’s not something that I focused on an awful lot because, you know, the reality is I have a job to do — I had a job to do, and, you know, the criticism is going to come whatever its source.”

At the end of his interview, Holder offered his suggestion for the one book a young man “headed to Washington ought to read.”

“I would hope that I say this not to every African-American of his age but for every American, that you read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ to see the transition that that man went through, from petty criminal to a person who was severely and negatively afflicted by race, to somebody who ultimately saw the humanity in all of us, and that would be a book I would recommend to everybody,” Holder said.

Read the full interview here.

ATF’s ammo ban a slippery slope to useless guns

American 2nd Amendment supporters are doubling down on criticism of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plan to reclassify certain types of 5.56mm/.223 caliber ammunition as armor-piercing. If the plan moves forward, critics say it could amount to the de facto completion of the Obama administration’s plan to enact an extrajudicial ban on AR style rifles.

The ATF has released its proposal (available here) and opened a public comment period on the matter lasting until March 16.

The agency’s ban would affect specifically SS109/M855 ammunition — one of the most common ammo options for 5.56 NATO chambered AR-15 rifles.

For years, the ammo has been exempt from ATF ammo bans because of its popularity among target shooters and outdoorsmen. But the agency is now claiming that the “green-tipped” ammo poses a threat to law enforcement officers because it can be used in certain types of semi-automatic handguns.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation last week urged “all industry employees, target shooters and gun owners” to contact lawmakers and ATF officials to express opposition to the plan.

“ATF’s proposed ‘framework’ for applying the ‘sporting purpose’ exemption test rewrites the law passed by Congress to disregard the manufacturer’s intention that a projectile or cartridge is ‘primarily intended for a supporting purpose,'” the group said. “ATF inappropriately places the focus on how criminals might misuse sporting ammunition in a handgun.”

In other words, ATF officials are ignoring the fact that the ammunition has a widely used and perfectly legal purpose and effectively suggesting that ammo manufacturers produce the round solely for sale to criminals.

Other critics of the ATF plan note that the agency has failed to provide any evidence to back its claim that the “green-tipped” rounds are sought out by criminals.

That’s the gist of a recent Guns.com column penned by Jeffery Denning, a shooting expert and law enforcement officer.

“Viewing the ATF proposal through cop glasses, I understand law enforcement’s need and desire to keep armored-piercing ammo out of the hands of dangerous people,” he wrote. “I don’t want to get shot with armor-piercing rounds. I don’t want my buddies to get shot either.

“But the truth of the matter is that all my friends in law enforcement that have been shot were NOT shot by armor-piercing rounds,” Denning continued. “They were shot — and unfortunately one of them was killed — by everyday ammo, so singling out green-tip ammo simply makes no sense to me.”

Other 2nd Amendment supporters with law enforcement backgrounds have expressed similar sentiments.

“Criminals aren’t going to go out and buy a $1,000 AR pistol,” a Missouri gun store owner and former police officer told the Springfield News-Leader. “And as a police officer I’m not worried about AR pistols because you can see them. It’s the small gun in a guy’s hand you can’t see that kills you.”

That the ATF wants to ban a class of ammo based on conjecture has many critics worried about a slippery slope to bans on other ammo.

“Manufacturers will face serious limitations in their ability to develop and market alternative ammunition in other popular hunting rounds, such as .308 rifle hunting ammunition, if ATF’s so-called ‘framework’ is adopted,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation predicts.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, meanwhile, is telling supporters that the ATF effort is clearly the result of the Obama administration’s desire to “suppress the acquisition, ownership and use of AR-15s and other .223 caliber general purpose rifle.”

The NRA is working with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to produce a congressional plan to halt the proposed ammo ban.

In a letter to ATF officials, Goodlatte is asking for clarification on what authority the agency believes it has to usurp federal law and the 2nd Amendment by reclassifying the popular ammunition option.

“[T]his round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged — much less offered evidence — that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer,” the lawmaker wrote. “The idea that Congress intended [the ‘armor-piercing’ ammunition law] to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous.”

Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has also weighed in on the proposed ammo ban, saying supporters should call it what it is rather than pushing it as an officer safety issue.

“Banning ammo is the same as banning guns,” Jindal said via Twitter, adding, “Except it’s less honest.”

Yellen again decries Audit the Fed

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen once again lashed out against Sen. Rand Paul’s Audit the Fed bill during a lengthy testimony before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday.

“I want to be completely clear that I strongly oppose Audit the Fed,” she said. “Audit the Fed is a bill that would politicize monetary policy, would bring short-term political pressures to bear on the Fed.”

According to Yellen, political pressure has muddled Fed decision making in the past.

“In the early ’70s, when inflation built and became an endemic problem, history suggests there was political pressure on the Fed that interfered with its decision making,” said Yellen.

She continued, questioning whether Paul Volcker “would have had the courage to take the steps necessary to bring down inflation had it been subject to GAO reviews of real-time monetary policy decision making” at the time.

Yellen said that Paul’s legislation to open the Fed’s books for an audit would give lawmakers the ability to second guess Fed decisions, which could cause significant market volatility.

“Central bank independence in conducting monetary policy is considered a best practice for central banks around the world,” she said. “Academic studies, I think, establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that independent central banks perform better.”

The Fed chief said that Congress has the right to revisit how the Fed is structured, but she doesn’t believe it should.

“It’s of course something that Congress could, if it wished, revisit,” she said. “But I would say it’s worked very well.”

U.S. Muslim population set to double

A growing Muslim population in the U.S. is raising concerns that the nation could be at increased risk for instances of Islamic extremism in coming years.

According to numbers from Pew, current immigration trends will double the nation’s Muslim population to 6.2 million by 2030. That means that the U.S. will “have a larger number of Muslims than any European country” besides France and Russia.

Obama administration policies have reportedly helped around 300,000 people from predominately Muslim countries, including more than 40,000 from Iraq, immigrate to the U.S. in recent years. The State Department said earlier this month that it plans to bring at least 2,000 Syrian refugees into the nation this year.

“We have a lot of experience with this, with Afghanistan, with Iraq, with Somalia and other places where the United States has taken refugees in from,” State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said in an effort to address security concerns.

“Refugees are the most carefully vetted of all travelers to the United States. Every refugee under consideration for admission to the United States undergoes the same intensive security screening involving multiple federal intelligence, security, and law enforcement agencies,” she added “These include the NCTC, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, the FBI. This process includes a lengthy overseas in-person refugee determination and security screening interview conducted by specifically trained — specially trained DHS officers.”

But not everyone agrees with Psaki’s assessment.

Investor’s Business Daily’s Paul Sperry, in a recent editorial, said that to U.S. security experts and law enforcement are among those most worried by the growing Muslim population.

He wrote:

Authorities can’t even get a handle on homegrown IS jihadists who are already in America. Why would we risk adding so many potential jihadists from abroad to the already overloaded terrorist threat matrix?

The FBI director says he’s got open cases against IS suspects in every state but Alaska. More than 100 American Muslims have hooked up with the vicious terror group in Syria or Iraq, and at least a dozen fighters already have returned to America and may be forming sleeper cells to attack the homeland.

These suspects are hard for agents, who already are overstretched, to monitor. They’ve discarded their Islamic beards and garb and have blended into society. Analysts suspect some may have even infiltrated the military and government.

According to a recent report from Public Radio International, Islamic extremists are currently attempting to recruit new members in the U.S.

From the report:

Iraqi-American Zainab Al-Suwaij, who directs the American Islamic Congress, says she received a recruiting pitch a few weeks ago via social media.

“I myself got an message on my Facebook from someone I don’t know trying to recruit me to some of these things,” Al-Suwaij says. “The message said, ‘I would encourage you to look at this link.’ And when I clicked on the link, it’s for a radical imam preaching against the West and against America — and all Muslims should be united to fight against the Western world.”

Al-Suwaij was among those attending the White House anti-extremism summit this week. At the conference, she heard stories of young Americans being recruited on college campuses.

“The danger is in our back yard,” she says. “Extremists… are using our system of freedom of press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion to spread their radical ideologies.”

Obama administration urged Border Patrol to slow deportation proceedings

As immigration continues to take center stage in a funding battle on Capitol Hill, more details are emerging about the Obama White House’s efforts to help illegal aliens avoid deportation.

President Obama said Tuesday that he plans to do everything in his power to block GOP attempts to reverse his immigration policies.

“It was my hope that a new, Republican-led Congress would seek to govern responsibly,” Obama wrote in a piece published by The Hill.

“[Instead] we’ve even heard irresponsible threats to shut down the Department of Homeland Security — the very agency tasked with securing our borders and keeping Americans safe in a time of new threats — for no reason other than partisan disagreement over my actions.”

Some Republicans continue to push a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that would undo parts of Obama’s immigration reforms. But Obama is calling on congressional allies to block the measure and initiate an immigration overhaul of their own.

“I am confident that all the steps I’ve taken on my own to fix our broken immigration system will eventually be implemented,” he wrote. “But I also continue to believe that these steps are no substitute for congressional action.”

A federal judge in Texas ruled earlier this month that Obama’s immigration actions are unconstitutional; the president also vowed to fight that decision.

“I disagree with this judge’s ruling,” Obama wrote. “My administration will fight this ruling with every tool at our disposal, and I have full confidence that these actions will ultimately be upheld.”

But the president will not be without critics. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott said Sunday that the illegal immigration problem in his state is growing out of control because of the administration’s policies.

“Already this calendar year, since Jan. 1, we have had more than 20,000 people come across the border, apprehended, unauthorized,” he said. “And so we have an ongoing problem on the border that Congress must step up and solve.”

According to Abbott, Obama is falling short on promises he made along with his immigration reforms to send thousands of illegal immigrants home.

“The president himself said as these people were coming across the border that he would repatriate them as soon as possible,” Abbott said. “So we need to see whether or not the president himself is going to live up to the commitment that he made.”

Border Patrol emails obtained by National Review indicate that the administration has no plan of following through on the points Abbott mentioned. The Obama White House has, in fact, ordered the agency to do what it can to slow the deportation process for illegal immigrants apprehended by agents.

Via National Review:

Before a federal judge last week halted the president’s executive amnesty program, the Border Patrol issued new guidance to agents that would eliminate the likelihood of deportation for thousands of illegal immigrants that will encounter by Border Patrol. Border Patrol division chief Kelly C. Good e-mailed agents last month to tell them they should issue far fewer “Notices to Appear,” or NTA, in immigration court for deportation proceedings. Notices to Appear are the charging documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security, of which the Border Patrol is a part, to commence deportation proceedings.

“Under the Executive Action, there will be limited instances where we will issue an NTA,” Good wrote. The result: a likely dramatic drop in the number of illegal immigrants deported from the country.

Border Patrol agents have also been instructed to “proactively identify detained and newly encountered individuals who may qualify” protections under Obama’s immigration overhaul.

DHS declares ‘right-wing sovereign citizens’ top U.S. terror threat

A Department of Homeland Security report obtained by CNN last week indicates that DHS officials believe “right-wing sovereign citizen extremists” are as big a threat to the nation’s safety as Islamic extremists who sympathize with ISIS.

CNN reported Friday that “federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS…”

From the report:

The government says these are extremists who believe that they can ignore laws and that their individual rights are under attack in routine daily instances such as a traffic stop or being required to obey a court order.

They’ve lashed out against authority in incidents such as one in 2012, in which a father and son were accused of engaging in a shootout with police in Louisiana, in a confrontation that began with an officer pulling them over for a traffic violation. Two officers were killed and several others wounded in the confrontation. The men were sovereign citizen extremists who claimed police had no authority over them.

According to the report, DHS officials outlined 24 incidents involving sovereign citizen extremists in the U.S. since 2010.

The DHS document classifies sovereign citizens as people who feel they have “unfettered authority to travel ‘on the land'” and who are likely to reject “the authority of the government, law enforcement, and the courts.”

DHS stopped short of declaring that all people who identify as sovereign citizens are dangerous but warned in the document that law enforcement personnel are most likely to come under attack from those who are violent.

Law enforcement officers “will remain the primary target of [sovereign citizen] violence over the next year due to their role in physically enforcing laws and regulations,” DHS asserts. The agency also contends that most violence involving sovereign citizens in 2015 will occur “during routine law enforcement encounters at a suspect’s home, during enforcement stops and at government offices.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which routinely criticizes the media’s focus on Islamic terrorism, championed the DHS report.

“We welcome this new intelligence assessment on the threat posed by domestic right-wing violent extremists,” CAIR said in a statement.

“It is the government’s responsibility to address all forms of violent extremism — regardless of ideology — and in proportion to the criminal threat posed by those groups.”

“We now call on the DHS and FBI to release an intelligence assessment addressing the spike in hate crimes targeting Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, Sikh, Hindu, and South Asian communities throughout the United States,” CAIR continued.

The report comes on the heels of the White House summit on “violent extremism” last week.

Fed continues efforts to discredit Paul as audit becomes increasingly likely

The Federal Reserve is continuing its push against legislation that would bring its books under public scrutiny as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) considers attaching his Audit the Fed bill to a forthcoming vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Fed officials have spent a great deal of time in recent weeks meeting with policy officials and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in an effort to make sure that Paul’s legislation is unable to move in the Senate.

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen has expressed vocal opposition to Paul’s efforts, saying that she intends to do everything in her power to block “audit” legislation.

“The ability of the central bank to make the decisions about monetary policy that it regards as in the best longer run interests of the economy free of short run political interference is very important,” Yellen said in December. “History shows, not only in the United States but around the world, that central bank independence promotes better economic performance.”

The Fed’s opposition to Paul’s Audit the Fed bill has been so constant, an attorney who advises governments on central banking policies told The Hill that it seems like the central bank is “running scared.”

“It’s beneath them to be doing this lobbying,” he said, adding that the efforts are “surprising” and “unseemly.”

The central bank has been joined by many mainstream economists and media pundits in its opposition to the audit.

Early last week, American Enterprise Institute scholar James Pethokoukis told POLITICO that Paul’s efforts are misguided because the senator lacks understanding of how the Fed operates.

“He seems to have a poor understanding of what’s actually on the Fed balance sheet and how the bank operates,” he said. “And if you don’t have a firm grip on one of your signature issues, people eventually are going to doubt other things you have to say.”

That assertion was based on a recent Paul opinion piece in which the senator wrote: “The Fed has $4.5 trillion in liabilities and only 57 billion dollars in equity. It is leveraged at 80:1, nearly three times greater than Lehman Brothers when it failed.”

According to the POLITICO piece, the Fed can’t be “leveraged” because credit risk is negated by the Fed’s ability to print money.

Paul responded to his critics later in the week during an interview with Glenn Beck.

“When they say there’s no credit risk, they created four-and-a-half trillion dollars to buy these bad mortgages. So is there no risk in creating it?” Paul said.

Paul also noted that there could be an issue of central bank favoritism.

“Is there any conflict of interest?” he said. “Are any of these assets, so-called assets, which are sometimes bad car loans, bad home loans, are any of these assets owned by friends of theirs?”

“I mean, Bear Stearns is bailed out, Lehman Brothers isn’t,” he said. “Does that have anything to do with who runs the bank or who owned the banks?”

The senator also told Beck that his push to audit the Fed has long been supported by tea party members and libertarian leaning Americans.

“I think the one sincere thing that came out of the tea party movement and that still exists in the country is that there are millions of us that are worried about the future of the country,” Paul said. “We’re worried about the enormous death debt we’re incurring. We’re worried about the ramifications of the Federal Reserve simply creating money to pay for that debt.”

The bottom line, according to the lawmaker, is that it is time for a change in the relationship between Washington and Wall Street.

“You know, for about the last two decades, there’s been a revolving door between the Fed, the Treasury, and Wall Street again,” Paul said. “I’m tired of bailing out these big banks when they make bad decisions.”

Billionaire investor says net neutrality is a bad idea

Mark Cuban, a billionaire investor and star on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” told an audience at a California tech conference that the Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission should back off of the current net neutrality plan.

“Net neutrality is just a demonization of big companies,” Cuban told an audience at the Code/Media conference in Dana Point.

Cuban also said that government bureaucrats being in charge of the Internet “scares the sh*t” out of him.

“That will f*ck everything up,” he said.

Wheeler unveiled a series of tough new FCC rules for broadband providers earlier this month. The rules, which the agency is expected to approve at a Feb. 26 hearing, have been touted as a way to prohibit major tech companies from throttling the speed at which consumers receive content based on corporate favoritism.

But Cuban takes the side of critics who note that, except for an instance in 2008, there is no evidence of tech companies attempting to throttle the Internet.

“They’re trying to introduce things that don’t need to be introduced,” he said. “I’ve talked to all the FCC commissioners, I’ve made presentations in front of them over the last 15 years. And they change every few years, and they’re politically appointed. And so the uncertainty associated with that, applied to the Internet, scares the sh*t out of me.”

“In six years, we won’t know who Tom Wheeler is,” Cuban added of the current FCC chair. “There’s so much uncertainty there, versus… the free market.”

Google warns of potential new Justice Department spying scheme

Google is warning against a government plan to expand the FBI’s ability to access computer files remotely. According to the tech giant, the changes could give the U.S. government the ability to hack any computer in the world.

Google’s concerns stem from the Department of Justice’s attempt to rewrite Rule 41, a provision that regulates how judges are able to grant warrants for remote computer searches. Currently, a computer tap must be authorized by a judge whose jurisdiction covers the place of the computer under investigation.

The Department of Justice initiated a plan last year allow judges to approve search warrants for remote snooping on computers outside their districts. DOJ officials claim the change is needed because investigators don’t always know where a computer is located.

But Google law enforcement and information security expert Richard Salgado told Justice Department officials in recent comments on the proposal that the plan would substantially expand government search capabilities.

The proposed change “raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal, and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide,” he wrote.

If the DOJ change goes through, judges in the U.S. would have the ability to issue warrants for the hacking of millions of American computers and potentially more overseas.

If the rule change takes place without congressional input, Google says that courts will have a hard time keeping up with potential threats to American privacy.

“The serious and complex constitutional concerns implicated by the proposed amendment are numerous and, because of the nature of Fourth Amendment case law development, are unlikely to be addressed by courts in a timely fashion,” Salgado wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also weighed in on the plan, saying DOJ officials are attempting to make a major change by disguising it as a minor update to an existing regulation.

“The government is seeking a troubling expansion of its power to surreptitiously hack into computers, including using malware,” ACLU technologist, Christopher Soghoian told the Guardian. “Although this proposal is cloaked in the garb of a minor procedural update, in reality it would be a major and substantive change that would be better addressed by Congress.”

Government officials, meanwhile, are accusing critics of the plan of “misreading the text of the proposal or misunderstanding current law.”

Judge to decide if impossible ‘safety’ requirements for guns are constitutional

California 2nd Amendment advocates are awaiting a judge’s ruling on whether the “microstamping” requirement, which has effectively banned new handgun sales in the state since 2013, is unconstitutional.

Back in 2007, then- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law legislation that required all handguns manufactured after 2013 to include firing pins capable of stamping each shell with a unique and traceable mark.

But because the technology to adhere with the requirement didn’t exist when the law was signed and has yet to be perfected, critics say that it the law exists simply as a de facto ban on the manufacture and sale of new handguns.

“This is about the state trying to eliminate the handgun market,” Alan Gura, the lead attorney in a lawsuit against the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms, told Fox. “[E]vidence submitted by the manufacturers shows this is science fiction and there is not a practical way to implement the law.”

He added that gun sales of firearms covered under the legislation will eventually cease.

Steven Oetzell, vice president of the South Bay Members’ Council of the National Rifle Association, agrees that the microstamping requirement is a cloaked attempt at abrogating the 2nd Amendment.

Oetzell contends that California began its firearm elimination by regulation scheme back in 2000 when politicians passed legislation creating the Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale, a list of handguns approved for sale in the state.

That law, according to the NRA member, “effectively, made all guns unsafe until the manufacturer paid a fee and submitted their handgun for testing. Once approved, a yearly fee was required to keep a handgun on the list. If the fee was not paid or the gun not resubmitted, it fell off of the list, once again, becoming an ‘unsafe’ handgun.”

Since the law’s passage, California has added numerous “safety” requirements for a handguns inclusion on the list.

“The roster had been distorted into a ‘wish list’ of ‘safe’ handguns which the state of California envisions for the future — which is no handguns at all,” Oetzell said.

And Oetzell may be on to something, considering that no firearm manufacturer has produced a handgun eligible for sale in California since 2013.

Two of the nation’s largest firearms manufacturers — Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. — announced last year that they’d be doing less business in the state.

Smith & Wesson said in a statement at the time: “A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes. The microstamping mandate and the company’s unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents.”

Ruger also issued a statement, saying it “will do all we can to fight this draconian law,” and “until microstamping is repealed, we expect that Ruger pistols — some of the safest available — will continue to be forced off the roster.”

A bevy of gun control groups, including the Brady Campaign, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, have expressed support of the microstamping law.

Here’s the difference instability in Libya makes

Back in 2011, President Barack Obama insisted that the U.S. had a moral obligation to support so-called peaceful, pro-democracy protesters in Libya with U.S. military intervention. Since the U.S. intervened, Libya has descended into chaos — and today the nation is becoming one of the Islamic State terror group’s biggest assets in its quest for global jihad.

According to an analysis from British counterterror think tank Quilliam, ISIS is aggressively repositioning militants from Syria and Iraq to the North African country in an effort to build a staging ground for attacks on European countries.

ISIS has been active in Libya since at least October. But recent developments, including an attack on a hotel in Tripoli last month and the beheading of 21 Christian Egyptian captives in the country this week, indicate growing activity in the country.

And for the analysts at Quilliam, that’s not a surprise.

The think tank notes in its report: “It has been long suspected that the IS bureaucracy has looked upon Libya as a source of great potential due to its asset wealth, strategic location and the immense amount of weaponry still present there following the overthrow of al-Qadhafi.”

The Quilliam analysis followed claims from ISIS propagandist Abu Ibrahim al-Libim that Libya would serve as the terror group’s perfect gateway to the West.

“It has a long coast and looks upon the southern Crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat,” the ISIS member said in a propaganda document.

Perhaps most concerned about Libya’s geographical proximity to Europe are Italian officials. The North African nation is only 300 miles from Italy’s nearest territory.

As The Daily Beast noted this week, the fears are not unfounded:

Italy has been on ISIS’s radar for quite some time. In October, the group dedicated the cover of its Dabiq magazine to a story called “Reflections on the Final Crusade” about how it will conquer Rome, complete with a photo of a black jihadist flag flying over St. Peter’s Square. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market,” said the article in Dabiq. “Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader and kill him… And the Islamic State will remain until its banner flies over Rome.”

But according to a translation of the ISIS propaganda, the threat of militants reaching Europe extends far beyond Italy because the militants could be planning to pose as refuges to exploit immigration weaknesses.

From the translation:

[T]he number of “illegal immigration” trips from this coast is massive, estimated to be as high as 500 people a day, as a low estimate. According to many [of these immigrants], it is easily possible to pass through Maritime Security Checkpoints and arrive in cities. If this was even partially exploited and developed strategically, pandemonium could be wrought in the southern Europe. It is even possible that there could be a closure of shipping lines because of the targeting of Crusader ships and tankers.

Italian officials expect as many as 200,000 refugees and immigrants to make their way across the Mediterranean this year. There’s no way to know how many of them will be ISIS affiliates, or where they may head after reaching Europe.

Unloaded flintlock in car lands collector in jail

An elderly New Jersey man found himself in hot water after police discovered an unloaded 250-year-old flintlock pistol in his glove compartment during a traffic stop. According to reports, the 72-year-old is now charged with a felony and facing considerable prison time.

Gordon Van Gilder, a retired schoolteacher, told the National Rifle Association’s Ginny Simone in a recent interview that he was pulled over in November by a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy for a minor traffic violation.

Van Gilder said that he didn’t think the antique firearm wrapped up in his glove compartment would cause him any problems when the officer pushed him into consenting to a vehicle search.

“The deputy… started screaming at us, he wanted to search the car,” Van Gilder said, adding that the officer threatened to “get the dog” if he didn’t content to a search.

Van Gilder said he then notified the officer that the flintlock pistol was in the glove compartment.

Following the search, the officer let Van Gilder go home for the night. But the next morning, he woke to the sound of officers pounding on his door.

“Four of them came and handcuffed me and took me away,” Van Gilder said.

The arrest occurred because New Jersey includes antique firearms under its restrictive gun bans, even as federal laws exempt them.

“It’s a mid-1700s flintlock bonafide antique pistol, unloaded, and yet he’s facing the same draconian penalty as if he had a .44 magnum loaded on his person. It doesn’t matter. There’s no distinction,” said his attorney Evan Nappen, who specializes in gun law cases.

If convicted, Van Gilder would spend a minimum of three and a half to five and a maximum of 10 years behind bars. He could also lose his pension as a New Jersey educator and his voting rights.

Underscoring the absurdity of his arrest, Van Gilder told the NRA, “Apparently there must be a lot of drive-by flintlock shootings in North Jersey to account for the fear the state has of ancient collectable pistols.

His attorney said that the arrest is just another example of how New Jersey’s overzealous regulations are hurting citizens.

“You name it, New Jersey regulates it. And they just don’t make it into misdemeanors,” he said, noting that residents could even be charged with a felony for having a slingshot.

Presidential scholars find Obama overrated, polarizing

President Barack Obama is “overrated” and possibly one of the worst inhabitants of the White House to date, according to a survey of scholars who belong to the American Political Science Association.

Presidential scholars questioned in the Brookings Institution survey were more likely to rate Obama as one of the nation’s worst presidents than one of its best by a margin of 3 to 1. Likewise, they were twice as likely to describe the current president as overrated than underrated.

“Obama does not perform well on more specific dimensions of presidential greatness, often viewed as average or worse,” Brookings noted. “For example, he is the midpoint in terms of both personal integrity and military skill (e.g., 10th of 19 in both categories), but falls to 11th when it comes to diplomatic skill and 13th with respect to legislative skill.”

Another problem, according to the scholars, is Obama’s ability to polarize the nation.

“One area where there is significant expert consensus about the president, however, concerns how polarizing he is viewed as being — only George W. Bush was viewed as more a more polarizing president,” Brookings said.

Obama’s lackluster performance in the survey can also be partially attributed to the dashed hopes of people who held the current president in too high regard from the beginning.

“It is easy to infer that scholars and the public alike expected greatness from Obama early on and awarded it to him prematurely,” Brookings said. “Compare, after all, the fact that Obama’s first ranking in a major greatness poll was at #15; one must go back a half-century to Lyndon Johnson to find a president who entered the rankings at a higher number (#10), and LBJ was a well-known figure on the national stage who entered office after the national tragedy of his predecessor’s assassination.”

Even though they “view his skills and performance as mediocre to poor,” Brookings found that scholars still tend to hold Obama in high regard personally. In fact, the current president tied James Madison as the 7th most popular choice of which chief executive should be the fifth face of Mt. Rushmore.

“It could be worse for Obama,” Brookings concluded. “Barring unforeseen scandal, he’s unlikely to become significantly less popular, and as he enters his post-presidency, he is likely to experience the same slow rise up the greatness polls George W. Bush has had.”

Cruz trolls Obama on FCC’s Internet plan

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has continued his fight to halt the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to regulate the Internet like a public utility by trolling President Barack Obama with a new video.

On Friday, Cruz shared a video containing a mock weekly address from an Obama happy that the FCC plan was completed.

“Today I am happy to announce that the FCC has taken over the Internet,” says the mock Obama, before adding that the World Wide Web is now under control of the same government responsible for healthcare.gov.

The video is a parody of a video Obama released last fall to endorse the FCC plan.

On his website, Cruz explains his opposition to the plan:

The Internet is an incredible platform for 21st century jobs, growth, and opportunity — we need to make sure it continues to be.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is attempting to impose outdated 1934 rules on the Internet that are certain to stifle innovation. The FCC’s net neutrality plan will drive up the cost of consumer Internet plans, impose billions of new taxes on the Internet, and allow a panel of five unelected bureaucrats to regulate and control every aspect of the Internet.

RELATED: “Critics worry that FCC rules will kill the Internet”

Americans rate ISIS and Russia high on list of critical threats

A majority of Americans consider Russia to the be country most threatening to U.S. interests, though the former Cold War foe is still low on the list of concerns compared to the Islamic State terror organization.

According to data compiled by Gallup, 18 percent of Americans consider Russia to be the United States’ top enemy.

Here’s how other top U.S. foes stacked up:

  • 2: North Korea (15 percent)
  • 3: China (12 percent)
  • 4: Iran (9 percent)
  • 5: Iraq (8 percent)

Americans considered China to be the nation’s top enemy last year and named Iran as the biggest threat in 2011 and 2012.

Russia’s newfound place at the top of the list of foes can be largely attributed to its show of force in Eastern Europe. Gallup reports that favorable views of the country among Americans have plummeted in recent years, noting, “Russia’s favorable rating has declined 10 points in each of the last two years. Just three years ago, Americans’ views of Russia were more positive than negative.”

Seventy percent of Americans currently say they have an unfavorable opinion of Russia. Meanwhile, just under half (49 percent) said that they believe Russia’s military capabilities are a critical threat to the U.S.

Still, Americans are less apt to feel threatened by Russia when it’s listed alongside various other geopolitical problems facing the U.S.

Just 4 percent of respondents said that “countries where ISIS operates” are the top U.S. enemies. But in a separate Gallup poll, 84 percent of respondents said that “Islamic militants currently operating in Iraq and Syria” are a critical threat to the U.S.

Russia’s military power was considered a critical threat 49 percent of the time, less often than “international terrorism” (84 percent), the development of nuclear weapons in Iran (77 percent) and North Korea’s military power (64 percent).

More gun rights could be coming your way on both the state and federal levels

Concealed carry laws could be getting a makeover, thanks to various state-level legislative initiatives to make it easier to carry a firearm for personal protection and a proposal being considered in Congress.

A growing number of states are opting to do away with concealed carry permit requirements as constitutional carry legislation advanced last week in New Hampshire, Kansas, Mississippi and Montana.

If successful, the residents of those states would be permitted to carry a firearm for personal protection concealed without having to apply for a permit.

“This bill recognizes that the simple act of putting on a coat should not require a permit,” New Hampshire State Sen. Sharon Carson said of the concealed carry legislation in her state last week.

Americans living in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont and Wyoming already enjoy unrestricted concealed carry.

New Hampshire State Sen. Jeb Bradley used Vermont as an example of how constitutional carry should work in a speech to his state legislature last week.

“Our radical and dangerous neighbor to the west — Vermont, which has allowed concealed carry without a license for 200 years without a problem — is the safest state in the nation,” he said.

But people living in states where concealed carry is, or may become, unrestricted may still want to consider obtaining a permit if they plan to carry out of state.

That’s because Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced last Thursday legislation that would do away with the current confusion surrounding concealed carry reciprocity by establishing uniform reciprocity in all states with permits.

The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015 would treat concealed carry permits much like driver licenses and give permit holders the right to carry concealed in any other state that issues permits.

“This bill strengthens two of our nation’s fundamental rights — the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and states’ rights to adopt laws that are best suited for their residents,” Cornyn said in a statement.

Concealed carry is currently permitted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, though some jurisdictions make it much harder than others for residents to obtain a permit.

Reciprocity varies throughout the nation. In gun-friendly Alabama, for instance, authorities already recognize valid permits issued by any other state. On the other end of the spectrum are states such as New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland that recognize only in-state permits.

Cornyn’s legislation, despite the inclusion of provisions that protect individual states’ concealed carry laws, has drawn criticism from gun control groups that claim universal reciprocity would undermine state’s rights.

“Under this scheme, even if a state has determined that public safety requires live-fire training for permit holders, the state would have to allow permit-holders from other states without any training requirement to carry guns on their streets,” the group Everytown for Gun Safety said in a report on universal reciprocity.

Supporters say that the reciprocity legislation is aimed only at keeping law-abiding gun owners on the right side of the law when they travel out of state.

“Our fundamental right to self-defense does not stop at a state’s borders. Law abiding citizens should be able to exercise this right while traveling across state lines,” the National Rifle Association’s Chris Cox said in a statement.

The push for doing away with permit requirements for concealed carry is not without critics as gun control advocates continue to lash out at concealed carry in general.

The New York Times editorial board last week cited a recent concealed carry study from the Violence Policy Center as “an alarming check on all the swagger about the woeful phenomenon of more citizens packing more guns.”

The study found that 722 nonself-defense deaths in the U.S. since 2007 were related to concealed carriers. What The Times failed to mention is that 84 percent of those were suicides by people with concealed carry permits.

Critics worry that FCC rules will kill the Internet

The Federal Communication Commission and the Obama administration continue to tout net neutrality as a populist answer to corporate favoritism online. Critics of the plan, however, are increasingly worried about the FCC’s lack of transparency in crafting the rules.

At worst, some say, the current net neutrality plan is a massive government power grab of the one place where ideas are spread with limited meddling by gatekeepers; at best, it’s a solution in search of a problem destined to stifle technological innovation and online competiveness.

With the FCC expected to approve the net neutrality rules at a Feb. 26 hearing, Congressional Republicans are scrambling to hold hearings to investigate the rule-making process. Currently, lawmakers in both chambers are actively seeking information whether the White House pressured the FCC on the rules.

Since the agency has released only limited information about its 322-page Internet proposal, the lawmakers have little to go on in predicting the extent to which the bureaucrats want to regulate online activities. But based on the complaints of FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, the government is looking to gain “broad and unprecedented discretion to micro-manage the Internet.”

“It is worse than I imagined,” Pai told reporters Tuesday.

The dissenting commissioner also claimed that the FCC rules will likely also lead to billions of dollars in new taxes.

Former Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher of Virginia made a similar argument in a Wednesday column for The Wall Street Journal. Boucher, an honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, backed up his argument with a study of how a similar Internet regulatory scheme imposed in Europe has limited broadband access to populations and increased costs by stifling provider incentive.

He wrote:

Consider capital investment, without which broadband networks do not exist and cannot be modernized. Fixed-broadband operators in the U.S. invested $137 billion in 2011 and 2012, more than four times Europe’s $31 billion over the same time period. U.S. mobile operators, at $55 billion, invested twice as much as their European counterparts’ $29 billion. Even when the comparison is made as a percentage of industry revenue, the U.S. investment advantage persists.

Europe’s “wholesale-access” regulatory regime, under which fixed operators must make their networks available to competitors at a regulated price, was ostensibly designed to promote competition. Yet in Europe, powerful incumbent carriers hold 65% of the local telephone market, while in the U.S. 59% of the local telephone market is served by new competitors. More than 90% of U.S. households can choose from among 10 or more providers.

European officials eventually learned from their mistakes and opted in 2013 to take steps to scale back regulatory burdens on Internet providers.

Boucher believes that makes it a particularly bad time for U.S. officials to be considering similar Internet regulations because they could “send capital overseas to a more welcoming investment environment.”

Other critics of the net neutrality plan have focused on the inconvenience consumers could face if the government becomes more heavily involved in their day-to-day online activities.

A group called Protect Internet Freedom is releasing comical videos detailing how future Internet users could find themselves burdened by confusing new Internet taxes and regulations on their personal computers and devices.

On its website the group argues that the current proposal’s basis in Title II of the antiquated 1934 Communications Act will lead to what basically amounts to a massive middle-class tax increase.

“The various state and local rules alone could add an additional $84 or more to your household’s yearly Internet bill for each wired and wireless Internet account you have. When you add it up, Title II classification will likely cost users $15 billion in new fees.”

Most maddening to many critics is that it’s not net neutrality they oppose, it’s making the Internet a public utility.

And the FCC, Broucher noted, can “use its existing authority to adopt strong network-neutrality protections without reclassifying broadband as a public utility.”

So why would the FCC go so far? If congressional Republicans are able to dig up any communications between the agency and the White House, Americans may get the full answer.

In public, Obama claims it’s about making the Internet operate more smoothly for the people.

“You know what it feels like when you don’t have a good Internet connection,” he said back in January. “Everything is buffering, you try to download a video and you’ve got that little circle thing that goes round and round, it’s really aggravating.”

Of course, it’s probably safe to assume the president has grander ambitions for Internet control given the headaches it has caused for the White House during his tenure.

Rand Paul says Hillary Clinton’s failures helped build ISIS

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said this week that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should take much of the blame for the Islamic State terror group’s rise to power in the Middle East.

According to Paul, U.S. actions in Libya under Clinton’s watch gave the ISIS militants room to grow.

“The disaster that is Libya is now a breeding ground for terrorists and is a breeding ground for armaments. So I really do blame Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya for creating a lot of the chaos that is spreading throughout the Middle East,” Paul said on “America’s Newsroom.”

The Kentucky Republican has long been vocal in his opposition to U.S. intervention to quell unrest in the Middle East.

“To those who wish unlimited intervention and boots on the ground everywhere, remember the smiling poses of politicians pontificating about so-called freedom fighters and heroes in Libya, in Syria, and in Iraq. Unaware that the so-called freedom fighters may well have been allied with kidnappers and are killers and jihadists,” he said on the Senate floor in September.

As for the war proposal to fight ISIS released by the White House Tuesday, Paul said he’s concerned that it contains too few limits on how far U.S. intervention could go.

“We’re still looking at it,” he told The Huffington Post. “I’m concerned about it really having no limitations on how big the war can become and how many troops can be on the ground.”

Last year, Paul introduced his own proposal to stop ISIS’s spread. It contained language to “sunset” a 2001 authorization of military force in the Middle East while providing limited power for the U.S. to attack high value targets, ground forces for intelligence gathering and rescuing U.S. hostages.

Prison reform measures introduced in Senate

Bipartisan legislation introduced Thursday aims to reduce the nation’s growing prison populations by giving judges more discretion in sentencing for nonviolent offenders arrested on drug charges.

The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), gives judges the ability to sentence nonviolent drug offenders below existing mandatory minimums without doing away with mandatory sentencing.

“A lot of people like to refer to the fact that it costs $20,000 a year in this country to put a person in a minimum security prison, but that, in my opinion, is not the most significant cost,” Lee said of the proposal. “The most significant cost is the human one.”

Supporters of the reform effort cite a 500 percent increase in the U.S. prison population since tough-on-crime legislation was rushed through Congress in the 1980s.

A separate prison reform effort was unveiled by two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the week.

The Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System (CORRECTIONS) Act would attempt to reduce the prison population by offering convicts reduced time in return for participation in recidivism reduction programs.

That legislation is sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Obama’s ‘intentionally’ vague request for war powers

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have recoiled at the vagueness of President Barack Obama’s request for an authorization of use of military force (AUMF) to pursue ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. But the White House said Wednesday that the president’s plan was “intentionally” vague.

House Democrats centered much of their criticism of Obama’s request on the inclusion of phrasing which prohibits “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” The lawmakers expressed concern that the phrase leaves the door open for U.S. ground forces being sent to battle in the region without a clear withdrawal date.

House Democrats also want the president’s latest proposal for a three-year AUMF to include a provision ending the 2001 force authorization which Obama is currently relying on to justify actions in the Middle East.

“Without one, any sunset of the new authorization will be ineffectual, since the next president can claim continued reliance on the old one,” Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, are also complaining about the vagueness of Obama’s proposal — but their biggest gripe is that it doesn’t include enough language to indicate that large-scale military operations are on the horizon.

“I believe that if we are going to authorize the use of military force, the president should have all the tools necessary to win the fight that we are in,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. “As you’ve heard me say over the last number of months, I am not sure that the strategy that has been outlined will accomplish the mission the president says he wants to accomplish.”

The White House countered the bipartisan criticism Wednesday, saying that the AUMF proposal was intentionally broad to avoid placing “overly burdensome constraints” on the president as the situation in the Middle East evolves.

“[The president] needs the flexibility to be able to respond to contingencies that emerge in a chaotic military conflict like this,” White House press secretary told reporters.

Earnest went on to say that the administration does not expect a long-term, large-scale military conflict but stopped short of clearing up the confusion behind the term “enduring” by saying he has no “specific number to assign to that word.”

Report says Americans are being robbed of justice by the nation’s jails

When politicians and activists talk about prison reform, they seldom mention the 3,000 jails that serve as detention centers at the municipal and county levels throughout the nation. But that could change following the release of a new report highlighting an alarming increase in the number of Americans incarcerated in the facilities for minor violations.

The justice system is designed to reserve jail for the detention of people awaiting trial who have either been deemed a threat to the public or who pose a significant flight risk. But according to the study, “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America,” a majority of the nearly 731,000 people locked away in the nation’s jails on any given day fall into neither of the aforementioned categories.

In fact, the study released Wednesday by the VERA Institute of Justice says that 75 percent of the people locked up in local and county jails throughout the nation were picked up on nonviolent minor offenses such as skipping fare on public transit, driving on a suspended license or failure to pay government fines. Drug crimes account for about one-fourth of the charges that land people in U.S. jails.

That would explain why the rate of jail incarceration in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 1983 as the rate of violent and property crime has plummeted.

“While the country has continued to grow safer — at least by the most common measures of public safety — an ever-larger proportion of the population is being sent to jail, though research demonstrates that there is little causal connection between improved public safety and an increased use of incarceration,” the report notes.

And as the number of Americans held in jails has increased over the past three decades, so too has the length of time individuals picked up by police are likely to stay in jail. The average jail stay as of 2013 was 23 days, according to the report.

In many cases, the report says, prisoners are doing time pretrial — meaning that some Americans are doing considerable amounts of time in cases where the state can’t prove they’ve committed a crime.

“[S]ince the proportion of jail inmates that are being held pretrial has grown substantially in the last thirty years — from about 40 to 62 percent — it is highly likely that the increase in the average length of stay is largely driven by longer stays in jails by people who are unconvicted of any crime,” the report states.

Increases in pretrial incarceration throughout the nation are largely due to the inability of many defendants to raise the funds required to post bail, according to the report. And bail amounts are often set too high for a defendant’s charge because of court fee schedules and prosecutors who pile on charges in hopes that something will stick.

“When out-of-reach bail amounts are combined with overloaded courts, a situation arises in which defendants can spend more time in jail pretrial than the longest sentence they could receive if convicted,” the report points out. “These cases, in particular, turn our ideals about justice upside down. Sentenced to ‘time served’ and released, the system punishes these individuals while they are presumed to be innocent, and then releases them once they are found guilty.”

Worse yet, many low-income people find themselves back in jail for failure to pay mountains of court-mandated fees.

The report also ascribes the increasing number of Americans in jail to a number of other factors, including: misguided “war on drugs” policies, informal arrest quotas in police departments and the arrests of mentally ill people who need medical care rather than incarceration.

Whatever the reason for the increase in the number of those jailed, VERA says it is having a negative impact on community safety and stability in addition to the taxpayer bottom line.

On paper, local jurisdictions spend a combined $22.2 billion on jails annually. But taking into account the societal consequences of disrupting lives, jobs and housing situations with jail time for minor offenses, the report argues that the figure ends up being much higher.

Read VERA’s full report here.