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Australians Surrender More Than 50,000 Weapons in First National Gun Amnesty in 20 Years

Anyone found with an unregistered firearm in Australia now faces up to 14 years in prison or a heavy fine

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Salesperson Lauren Ungari checks rifles in a display in a gunshop in Sydney, Australia (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft) (VOA)

Sydney, October 8, 2017 : Australians have handed in 51,000 weapons during the first national gun amnesty in more than 20 years.

Authorities in Australia believe the three-month gun amnesty that ran through Sept. 30 has made the country safer. By their count, 51,461 firearms were surrendered in Australia’s first no-questions-asked amnesty since a mass shooting in the state of Tasmania in 1996.

A proliferation of illicit weapons and the potential impact on national security prompted the government to urge Australians to hand in their firearms without fear of prosecution. Officials were worried that unwanted military-style rifles, pistols and shotguns could fall into the hands of extremists and criminal gangs.

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It is estimated that there are about 260,000 unregistered weapons in Australia, which has some of the world’s toughest gun control measures. They include a 28-day waiting period, comprehensive background checks, and a requirement to have a “justifiable reason” to own a firearm. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since the legislation was introduced.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the measures are crucial to Australian society.

“Now, it is vitally important that we maintain our gun control laws. They are among the strictest in the world,” he said. “We have seen the shocking tragedy in Las Vegas. The killer there had a collection of semi-automatic weapons, which a person in his position would simply not be able to acquire in Australia. So, we have strict gun control laws … we do not take anything for granted.”

Anyone found with an unregistered firearm in Australia now faces up to 14 years in prison or a heavy fine.

The opposition Labor party has called for the three-month gun amnesty to be extended, and for life sentences to be handed down on criminals who smuggle firearms into Australia. (VOA)

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Trump Grants National Security to People Rejected by Government for an Array of Concerns

The White House had no immediate comment on the security clearance issues

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FILE - White House adviser Jared Kushner speaks with people in the East Room of the White House, June 29, 2018. VOA

A whistleblower from inside the White House has told congressional investigators that senior Trump administration officials granted national security clearances to at least 25 people that government reviewers had rejected for an array of concerns.

The whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, said the officials, cleared for security credentials after career employees recommended they be denied, include two current unnamed senior White House officials, government contractors, and other staff aides working for the office of President Donald Trump.

Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process under both Republican and Democratic presidents, last month told investigators for the House Oversight and Reform Committee that while Trump had the right as president to overrule career employees’ denials of the security badges, the officials’ clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security.”

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FILE – House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 14, 2019. VOA

The committee chairman, Congressman Elijah Cummings, told the panel’s members that Newbold told investigators that those eventually cleared by senior Trump administration officials “had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.”

Newbold told investigators she had been suspended for 14 days without pay earlier this year after protesting internally about the way in which the security clearance denials had been overturned and now was worried about returning to work after she decided to go public with her concerns.

“I’m terrified of going back,” she told investigators. “I know that this will not be perceived in favor of my intentions, which is to bring back the integrity of the office.”

But Newbold said she decided to become a whistleblower because “I would not be doing a service to myself, my country, or my children if I sat back knowing that the issues that we have could impact national security.”

Cummings’s memo on Newbold’s statements to investigators did not identify any of the officials who have been granted security clearances against the recommendations of the security reviewers.

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FILE – (L-R) White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington,Aug. 4, 2017. VOA

But the panel said it is reviewing the clearances given to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom are White House advisers, and national security adviser John Bolton. News accounts earlier this year said Trump had personally intervened last year to overrule then-White House chief of staff John Kelly to grant a clearance to Kushner, a move Kelly found so unsettling that he recorded Trump’s direction to him in a memo.

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Cummings, in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, said he “has given the White House every possible opportunity to cooperate with the investigation, but you have declined. Your actions are now preventing the committee from obtaining the information it needs to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.”

Cummings said his panel would vote Tuesday to subpoena Newbold’s former boss, Carl Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, along with five other current and former White House officials involved with the security reviews to testify about their role in the clearances.

The White House had no immediate comment on the security clearance issues. (VOA)