Current Event April 16, 2021
The U.S. has an especially high rate of gun violence, and several recent mass shootings have renewed calls for restrictions on gun purchases. Advocates of tighter gun laws say simple measures like expanding background checks and banning assault weapons would help keep guns away from people who should not have them. Several such bills are being considered by Congress and are widely popular. Opponents say their right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution, and new gun restrictions would interfere with that right. Listen to learn about the latest battle in the long fight over gun laws and then debate: Should Congress restrict gun purchases?
Update: Since this story aired, President Biden announced a series of executive orders restricting “ghost guns,” handmade firearms that do not require background checks.
Current Event May 11, 2018
After recent mass shootings there has been a lot of talk about guns. In this country, it's hard to restrict guns because of the Second Amendment. There is a large divide between people supporting gun rights and people supporting gun control. The current politics in the United States do not support changing our Constitution, even after many mass shootings. But, the Supreme Court has said that the individual right to bear arms may be regulated. Listen to this story and then debate: Should we repeal the Second Amendment?
Current Event October 16, 2017
In Las Vegas, a man shot hundreds of rifle rounds into a crowd at a concert in the deadliest mass shooting in recent history. This has reopened the debate about gun control. Owning guns, hunting and recreational shooting are part of the culture in parts of Nevada. The state gun laws are less restrictive and difficult to enforce. Listen to this story about federal, state and local gun laws.
Current Event October 27, 2016
Democracy has lasted in the United States when it has failed in other countries. This is due to many reasons, but mainly because there has always been a peaceful transfer of power following an election. Going against political norms for hundreds of years, Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has claimed the election will be rigged and has hinted that he may not concede if his opponent, Hillary Clinton, is elected. Trump has expressed concerns about voter fraud at polling stations, and encouraged people to closely monitor voting. Listen to this story to hear an expert in election law explain why he doesn’t believe the recent polls are close enough for concerns about a rigged election to be realistic.
Current Event October 24, 2016
The Supreme Court is short handed with only eight justices to do the job of resolving the important legal questions of the United States. Since February 2016 when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly, the Supreme Court has been evenly divided in important cases. Under the Constitution, the Senate’s job is to confirm or reject the President’s nominee. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that no Obama nominee would get a hearing or a vote and he believes the next president should select a nominee. Listen to hear more about how the presidential election may impact the next appointment to the Supreme Court.
Current Event February 29, 2016
President Obama has wanted to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay since his second day in office. Now, the President has announced a plan to transfer prisoners to the U.S. and other countries before his term ends. He faces resistance from members of Congress who are trying to block the closure of Guantanamo. Many are concerned about bringing known terrorists to U.S. soil. While the Administration hopes to work with lawmakers, it argues that the President does have the authority to act on his own in this matter. Listen to learn more about arguments for and against the President’s plans.
Current Event October 16, 2015
With the most recent school shooting at a Community College in Oregon, gun control is still a hot topic of debate. Passing stricter gun control laws is a political challenge. Voters who oppose gun control often decide who to vote for based only on this issue. Politicians don’t want to be hurt in the next election and are reluctant to propose strict gun control laws. However, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has proposed new gun control legislation in the past and is currently introducing new legislation. Listen to this story and then have your class debate whether new gun control laws will keep Americans safer.
Current Event September 10, 2015
A county clerk in Kentucky was briefly jailed for contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A 2015 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and requires all clerks to issue licenses to same-sex couples. The Kentucky clerk says she won’t go against her religious beliefs, which condemn same sex relationships. Although the law does not support her decision, she has supporters in Kentucky. She lives in a state where same-sex marriage was banned in 2004.
Current Event July 1, 2015
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the right to marry to same-sex couples in the United States. The Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the 14th amendment and that all states must allow same-sex couples to wed. This 5-4 decision overrides state laws and state constitutional amendments that forbid same-sex marriage. Many groups are celebrating the decision saying that this is a civil rights case that will one day be celebrated like the landmark integration case, Brown vs. Board of Education. Others who oppose same-sex marriage vow to fight the decision saying the court doesn’t have the right to override public opinion and states’ rights to define marriage. Listen to learn more about this historic decision. You can see how this decision will impact different states with this NPR Map and read the decision for yourself.
Current Event May 21, 2015
The provision of the U.S. Patriot Act that authorized the mass collection of phone records in the United States and abroad is set to expire at the end of this month. The National Security Agency has been collecting data from personal phone calls in an effort to prevent another terrorist attack. The U.S. House of Representatives has taken action and passed a bill that strictly narrows the scope of this surveillance. But some members of the U.S. Senate want to leave the Patriot Act as it and renew it. Listen to learn more about this debate and the impact it will have on how government surveillance is used to fight terrorism.
Current Event April 7, 2015
The Indiana state legislature has been in the harsh spotlight since passing a Religious Freedom Law that would make religious beliefs a valid legal defense against government regulations. This law, backed by the conservative right, was seen as a move to discriminate against or refuse service to gays and lesbians with state approval. Listen to learn how the national media and business community responded by forcing the legislature to pass another bill that does not allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Current Event March 29, 2015
The first candidate in the 2016 US presidential race has announced he is running for president. But there could be a major problem with his candidacy. Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father. Cruz was naturalized at birth because his mother is an American citizen. He renounced his dual US-Canadian citizenship in 2013. But the US Constitution says the US president must be a “natural born citizen.” Listen to learn more about what the Constitution says on this issue and what the founding fathers were protecting against when they included this requirement in Article 2.
Current Event March 26, 2015
In the U.S. all voters are required to cast their ballots in the district that’s been assigned to them by their state legislature. The state has the power to create and change legislative districts. In some states legislative districts look like jigsaw puzzles, created to increase the chance that the party in power remains in power. This process is called gerrymandering. Some states are fighting this practice by creating independent commissions to control redistricting. One case has risen to the U.S. Supreme court, where the constitutionality of independent commissions is being challenged.
Current Event March 17, 2015
Recently there’s been more violence in Ferguson, Missouri. Two police officers were shot last week while protecting the police department during a protest. The violence comes months after police shot and killed an unarmed black teenager last August. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the police department in Ferguson and found a pattern of discrimination against black residents in everything from traffic stops to use of force. Listen to learn more about this DOJ report and how police in Ferguson were found to be violating the Constitution.
Current Event March 13, 2015
The First Amendment protects freedom of religion and freedom of expression, but what about religious expression? The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case where religious expression and company policy clash. When a 17-year-old Muslim woman applied to work at Abercrombie and Fitch, her applicant score was downgraded because she wore a headscarf to her interview. Abercrombie argues that wearing caps is against their “Look Policy” and that Samantha Elauf should have asked for an accommodation. Elauf argues that Abercrombie broke the law banning religious discrimination in employment. Listen to learn more about this First Amendment debate.
Update: The Supreme Court ruled in an 8-to-1 decision in favor of a Muslim woman who was denied a job because of her headscarf.