Ask AP: Firearms In Finland, Auditing The Fed

Some people on Capitol Hill want to get the ball rolling on a thorough audit. But don’t worry — they’re not talking about your tax return.

A Senate bill proposes a full audit of the Federal Reserve. But what exactly would that entail? And when did the Fed last go through such a comprehensive inspection?

Curiosity about the proposed audit inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

You can also find Ask AP on AP Mobile, a multimedia news service available on Internet-enabled cell phones. Go to http://www.apnews.com/ to learn more.

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In your stories on the recent tragic shooting in Espoo, Finland, you mentioned that Finland is among the top five nations in the world regarding civilian gun ownership. I assume the U.S. is also among the top five. What are the other three nations?

Andrew Gallagher

Costa Mesa, Calif.

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There are 1.6 million firearms in private hands in Finland, which has 650,000 licensed gun owners — about 12 percent of the country’s 5.3 million people. They include hunters, target shooters and gun collectors.

Finland ranks fourth in civilian gun ownership per capita after the United States, Yemen and Switzerland, and Serbia is fifth, according to a 2007 report on civilian firearms by the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based watchdog organization. It’s the most recent report they’ve done on the subject.

After two school shootings in 2007 and 2008, the Finnish government began preparing tighter gun laws. But the antigun lobby in Finland is weak, especially in rural areas, where Finns say hunting traditions justify widespread gun ownership.

A 2002 government study found that 14 percent of homicides in Finland are gun-related. In the United States, nearly 67 percent of murders reported to police in the same year were committed with a firearm, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Matti Huuhtanen

Associated Press Writer

Helsinki

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A lot of noise has been made about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bill to audit the Fed. What does this bill actually do, and has the Fed ever been audited? If so, when was the last time that happened?

Richard B. Kahn

Hudson, N.H.

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Sanders’ legislation, dubbed the Federal Reserve Sunshine Act of 2009, would require Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, to complete an audit of the Federal Reserve in Washington and its 12 regional banks around the country before the end of this year.

Under current law, the GAO has the authority to audit nearly every aspect of the Fed — with a few exceptions. An important one: the setting of interest rates used to steer the economy. That exemption for monetary policy was passed by Congress in 1978.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is opposed to Sanders’ bill because it wouldn’t retain that exemption. Without it, Bernanke fears that Congress would be able to meddle with the Fed’s interest rate decisions. (Some transactions, such as those with foreign central banks and foreign governments, also are currently exempted from GAO audits.)

Over the years, GAO has conducted multiple audits of various Fed operations. More recently, GAO has been looking into the Fed’s role as banking supervisor.

Jeannine Aversa

AP Economics Writer

Washington

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What is current health status of George H.W. Bush?

Charlie Sanders

Santa Fe, N.M.

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Former President George H.W. Bush, 86, frequently attends Houston Texans NFL games and Houston Astros baseball games in his adopted hometown and appears at other events as well. Last month, he was at the dedication of a museum wing in his honor at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

He has been walking with a cane for well over a year. He has had two hip surgeries and a back operation since 2000, but aides say he is pain-free, contending only with balance issues, and has no other overriding health issues. He went skydiving to mark his 80th and 85th birthdays and has said a skydive on his 90th birthday is still in the plans.

Michael Graczyk

Associated Press Writer

Houston

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Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

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