Court upholds Trump administration’s ban
of gun bump stocks
NEW ORLEANS | A federal appeals court in New Orleans is the latest to uphold a federal ban on “bump stocks” — devices attached to semiautomatic firearms so that a shooter can fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull.
The ban was instituted in 2019 by the Trump administration after a sniper in Las Vegas used the device to help him massacre dozens of concertgoers in 2017 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The U.S. Supreme Court could decide next year whether to hear arguments on the ban.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision dated Tuesday, affirmed a Texas-based federal judge’s ruling in a lawsuit challenging the ban.
A challenge failed recently in the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit when judges split 8-8 on the issue. Another challenge is on appeal to the Supreme Court, arising from an unsuccessful attempt to overturn the ban at the Denver-based 10th Circuit.
The ban was instituted by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a rule declaring that bump stocks are classified as “machineguns,” banned by National Firearms Act.
According to the ATF, bump stock devices harness the recoil energy of a semiautomatic firearm so that a trigger “resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.” The National Firearms Act, according to the court records, outlaws weapons that fire continuously with “a single function of the trigger.”
Opponents of the ATF rule argue that the trigger itself functions multiple times when a bump stock is used. Judge Stephen Higginson, writing for the three 5th Circuit judges that ruled Tuesday, disagreed, quoting from a lower court ruling in the 10th Circuit case.
“As one district court has observed, there is no reason why ‘Congress would have zeroed in on the mechanistic movement of the trigger in seeking to regulate automatic weapons,’ given that the ‘ill sought to be captured by this definition was the ability to drastically increase a weapon’s rate of fire, not the precise mechanism by which that capability is achieved,’” Higginson wrote in an opinion joined by judges James Dennis and Gregg Costa.
5 children die in bouncy castle accident in Australia
SYDNEY | Five children died and four others were in critical condition on Thursday after falling from a bouncy castle that was lifted 33 feet into the air by a gust of wind at a school on Australia’s island state of Tasmania.
The school was holding a celebration to mark the end of the school year.
The children who died included two boys and two girls in year 6, which would make them 10 or 11 years old, said Tasmania police Commissioner Darren Hine. Police later Thursday confirmed a fifth child died in the hospital.
Five other children were being treated, including four in critical condition. Hine said an investigation is underway.
Images published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation showed police officers consoling each other as paramedics provided first aid to victims.
Parents arrived at the school gate to collect their children as helicopters ferried the injured to hospitals.
Tasmania state Premier Peter Gutwein called the incident “simply inconceivable… I know this is a strong and caring community that will stand together and support one another.”
Tasmania police commander Debbie Williams told reporters “several children fell from the jumping castle. It appears they may have fallen from a height of approximately 10 meters.”
“This is a very tragic event and our thoughts are with the families and the wider school community and also our first responders,” Williams said.
Biden presents 3 soldiers with top military award for valor
WASHINGTON | President Joe Biden on Thursday presented the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for valor in combat, to three soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Two were recognized posthumously.
“Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude today as we honor the unparalleled courage, the commitment to duty, and the indispensable, indisputable gallantry,” Biden said at a White House ceremony.
Those honored were:
Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee, a Special Forces soldier who fought off Taliban insurgents after an attack in Afghanistan in 2013.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, 32, an Army Ranger who died after stepping between Taliban fighters and a U.S. helicopter evacuating wounded in 2018 in Afghanistan.
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, 35, who died as a result of burns he suffered while rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle in Iraq in 2005.
Kate Celiz and Tamara Cashe accepted the medals of behalf of their families.
“As honored as you are, it’s gotta be tough to be here today,” Biden told Cashe’s family.
Cashe is the first Black service member to receive the Medal of Honor for military actions since Vietnam, according to the White House.
He was on patrol in Iraq in October 2005 when the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was commanding was attacked with small arms fire and a roadside bomb. Cashe repeatedly returned to the burning vehicle and pulled six soldiers from the wreckage. Despite his burns, Cashe refused to board the medical evacuation helicopter until the other soldiers were evacuated first.
Cashe, who grew up in Oviedo, Florida, died the burn at a Texas hospital the following month. Three of the soldiers he pulled from the flaming vehicle also died.
Celiz was leading an operation to clear an area of enemy forces in Afghanistan in 2018 when his team came under attack. He used his body to shield his unit from enemy fire as a casualty was loaded on to a medical evacuation helicopter. Celiz stayed behind to cover the aircraft.
As the helicopter lifted off, Celiz positioned himself to shield the cockpit. He was hit by enemy fire. Despite his injuries, he motioned to the aircraft to depart rather than remain to load him at the risk of further casualties.
Celiz was a South Carolina native and had enlisted in the Army in 2006.
Plumlee was serving at a base in Afghanistan when it came under attack, with insurgents blowing a 60-foot breach in the perimeter wall.
Ten insurgents wearing Afghan National Army uniforms and suicide vests poured through. Plumlee and five other soldiers drove toward the explosion to head off the attack.
Armed with just a pistol, Plumlee killed two insurgents and engaged several others at close range, despite heavy enemy fire and his own injuries. At one point, Plumlee ran to a wounded soldier, carried him to safety and rendered first aid.
Plumlee is currently serving with the 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Tornado, storm death toll at 90 after Ky teen’s body found
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. | A Kentucky neighborhood ravaged by a tornado by got more bad news Thursday: the body of a missing teenager was found.
Nyssa Brown was the seventh member of her family to die in the tornado that hit Bowling Green last week. Warren County coroner Kevin Kirby said the 13-year-old’s body was found Thursday morning in a wooded area near her subdivision.
The teen’s death pushed the total of storm-related casualties in five states to 90, including 76 in Kentucky.
Florida men guilty of running $35M COVID-19 fraud scheme
AKRON, Ohio | Two South Florida men have pleaded guilty in Ohio to leading a nationwide scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $35 million in COVID-19 relief loans.
James Stote, 55, of Hollywood, Florida, and Phillip Augustin, 52, of Coral Springs, Florida, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Akron, Ohio, federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to court records. They each face up to 20 years in prison.
“While many businesses in our communities relied upon relief funds to keep their doors open and employees paid, these defendants profited off a scheme that stole millions of taxpayer dollars intended for struggling businesses and spent it lavishly on themselves,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio said in a statement.
According to court documents, Stote and Augustin led a group that fraudulently obtained Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Authoriteis say they initially obtained a fraudulent loan for Augustin’s company, Clear Vision Music Group LLC, using falsified documents. After that, they immediately began working to obtain larger PPP loans for themselves and their associates, the documents added.
—From AP reports