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NAAG DC Meeting Highlights Gun Safety and Online Privacy

Online privacy, the prescription pill epidemic, and U.S. Supreme Court cases led the state and federal issues discussed during NAAG’s Winter-Spring Meeting, Feb. 25 – 27 in Washington, D.C. Forty-four state and territorial attorneys general attended, and special guest federal speakers included Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The meeting theme was “Privacy in the Digital Age: Aligning Governmental and Citizen Interests,” to correspond with NAAG President and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler’s year-long presidential initiative focusing on online privacy. He moderated a Tuesday morning panel of speakers who explored the challenge of balancing governmental interests in collecting and sharing online users’ data with individual privacy concerns.

“Protecting our constituents requires us to look at our own actions when it comes to online privacy as much as it requires looking outward,” Attorney General Gansler commented.

Vice President Biden presented the Obama administration’s policy proposals for reducing gun violence.

“I need your advice and I need your help,” Biden said on the final meeting day. “All of you, unlike any other elected or appointed official in your state, are cloaked with both moral and political credibility that no other office holds. Each of you is able to operate in an area that is not viewed as a partisan bloodbath. You are doing things that fundamentally affect the health and safety of the people in your state.”

In separate presentations, Attorney General Holder and Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West addressed programs and policies of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, as well as coordinated actions with the state attorneys general.

“From protecting our national security, to preventing domestic violence, eradicating human trafficking, cracking down on intellectual property crimes, and combating youth violence – my colleagues and I have been proud, and fortunate, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you all,” Holder said on Tuesday morning. West presented on Monday afternoon.

Holder discussed the recently announced S & P civil lawsuit, progress on the national mortgage settlement, support for Byrne JAG funding and supplying information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which determines whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives.

Holder commented state records are the lifeblood of the NICS system and encouraged law enforcement agencies in the states to make the most of the National Crime Information Center by both supplying and accessing pertinent crime data.

Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray discussed on Tuesday morning state and federal enforcement of consumer protection laws, with Cordray describing some short-term loans as “debt-traps” for borrowers.

Supreme Court experts Walter Dellinger and Ted Olson returned for their annual session to share perspectives on interesting cases before the court this Term, including same sex marriage, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action.

Laurel Bellows, president of the American Bar Association with its 400,000 members, gave the opening Monday luncheon address to discuss common areas of interest between the ABA and state attorneys general, including combating human trafficking and improving cyber security.

The prescription pill epidemic panel, with Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, focused on prescription pill abuse, including the most common avenues for diversion, national trends, law enforcement responses and treatment options.

The annual NAAG Supreme Court Reception Tuesday night included a meeting of the attorneys general with Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Chief Justice John Roberts made a brief appearance at the reception, much to the pleasure of the NAAG guests. Wednesday morning was a guided tour of the Holocaust Museum.

To view video of the 2013 Winter-Spring meeting sessions, go to http://www.naag.org/naag-2013-winterspring-meeting.php. The 2014 NAAG Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. will be held Feb. 24-26.

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NC AG Roy Cooper, MS AG Jim Hood, VP Joe Biden, MD AG Douglas Gansler and DE AG Beau Biden.
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Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, right, with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
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Dan Schweitzer, Walter Dellinger and Ted Olson during Supreme Court Perspectives session.