New From The Trace

Keybase, a platform acquired by Zoom last year, will ban groups sharing blueprints for 3D-printed guns. In 2019, facing a wave of bans from larger social media companies, fans of 3-D printed guns found refuge on Keybase, an encrypted chat and file sharing service. The platform was home to dozens of groups with tens of thousands of members that shared blueprints for printing guns at home. But now the company, which Zoom acquired in May 2020, says it is kicking them off. Read Champe Barton and Chip Brownlee’s full story here

What are 3-D printed guns, and why are they controversial? Interest in the plastic, DIY firearms has swelled in recent years. In this companion explainer, we break down the basics of the weapons: how they’re created, whether or not they’re legal, and the groups of people trying, anonymously, to build them. 

January was the third-highest month on record for gun sales. According to our tracker, Americans bought an estimated 2.19 million guns last month, a 79 percent year-over-year increase. This seasonally adjusted figure includes about 1.24 million handguns and 950,000 long guns (rifles and shotguns).

What Else To Know Today

Bipartisan commission: Homicide totals were historic in 2020, but rates remained well below the mid-90s. The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, which has tracked crime rates since the beginning of the pandemic, just released its final numbers for 2020 based on a representative sample of 34 cities. The results are startling: There was a 30 percent increase in homicides, which the commission said was likely the biggest year-over-year increase on record. The violent crime trend closely hews to our own reporting from December. An important caveat: The commission notes that the overall homicide rate in the sample cities — 11.4 per 100,000 residents — was still just over half their rate when violent crime reached a high-water mark in 1995.

Armed and ready for insurrection: The military links of the Boogaloo followers. The loose collection of extremists, preppers, and gun enthusiasts have alarmed law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials for their far-right, anti-government beliefs. A joint ProPublica and Frontline investigation explores one aspect that makes the ideology particularly dangerous: the military backgrounds of key leaders that have given the movement infantry tactics and weapons skills. “I really feel we’re looking at the possibility — stronger than any time since, say, the 1860s — of armed insurrection,” Mike Dunn, an ex marine and boogaloo leader in Virginia, told the news outlets. “We have the upper hand,” he added. “A lot of the guys have knowledge that your normal civilians do not have. Police officers are not used to combating that kind of knowledge.”

Data Point

More than 20 — the number of Boogaloo believers or sympathizers with military backgrounds identified by the ProPublica/Frontline investigations. In the last year-and-a-half, more than a dozen were arrested on charges ranging from possession of illegal guns and manufacturing explosives to murder. [ProPublica and Frontline]