West Views: Clinton’s email scandal; NRA-backed gun legislation

Clinton emails need thorough inquiry

The Seattle Times

It’s tempting to dismiss chatter about Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server, while secretary of state, as political theater staged by opponents and pundits who can’t stop talking about Benghazi.

But this is serious. New revelations that several emails on her server were classified as “top secret” and a widening inquiry involving the FBI, as reported by McClatchy, are pushing the issue from a sideshow into the spotlight.

It might turn out that the flap is overblown, excusable errors were made, the “classified” label is overused and Clinton truly is the Democrats’ best candidate for president. Wisely, she finally agreed to give the server in question to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Still, the practice of official correspondence straddling public and private computers is problematic and risky. It disdains laws on public records and muddies transparency, as Sarah Palin demonstrated when she was governor of Alaska. Perhaps it should be banned.

In the meantime, the Obama administration must proceed quickly with inquiries into Clinton’s email handling, regardless of political alliances. This is no time to dawdle and obfuscate.

To be fair, the administration should give Clinton the same level of scrutiny that it has applied to other government employees suspected of mishandling sensitive material and putting it on personal devices outside the firewall.

The federal government has plenty of experience after aggressively cracking down on those who have stepped outside the line with sensitive information.

Under President Barack Obama, more than twice as many people have been prosecuted for leaking information than under all previous presidents combined.

Even so, the administration has a mixed record of dealing with higher-ups. One former CIA director, David Petraeus, was prosecuted for disclosing secrets, while his predecessor, Leon Panetta, was not.

A fast and thorough assessment of Clinton’s email practices is needed to clear the air, build faith in the system and help voters know whom to trust.

NRA-backed gun bill

helps but falls short

Moscow-Pullman Daily News

While legislation intended to make the country safer and keep firearms away from potentially dangerous people is often welcome, the latest gun bill introduced in Congress garners skepticism.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, unveiled a new bill that’s backed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness and is supposed to get weapons out of the hands of those with mental health issues.

An Associated Press story said, according to the bill, that states sending at least 90 percent of their records on people with serious mental problems to the federal background check database would receive law enforcement grant increases.

Why states need further incentive to do this is beyond us, but that’s for another editorial.

The cause for skepticism? It’s backed by the National Rifle Association.

To be fair, the NRA has supported some efforts to make it difficult for the mentally ill to own firearms.

In 2008, for example, it backed legislation that provided incentives for states to upgrade their mental health records, according to their website.

But forgive us for being hesitant to throw our support behind the organization that’s earned a reputation for fighting gun regulations despite our nation enduring one mass shooting after another.

Plus, some say the measure would allow people discharged from involuntary psychiatric treatment to immediately purchase guns. It would also require court action before banning gun sales to veterans declared incompetent by the Veterans Affairs Department.

So, it’s something, but it’s not enough.

We would prefer the Senate bill that was opposed in 2013 by the NRA and Republicans only months after the Sandy Hook shooting. That bill would have required checks for firearms bought at gun shows and online. It also would have banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

So while we’re pleasantly surprised that the NRA and the GOP Congress put forth some effort to get guns out of the wrong hands, we’re still waiting for them to pull the trigger on legislation that could make an even greater difference.