Hello, readers. In today’s briefing: Another Sandy Hook family joins the legal battle against the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. New York will deploy busloads of peacekeepers to crime scenes. Plus, several people were struck by celebratory gunfire this Independence Day. Those stories and more, below.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
Alex Jones is facing another lawsuit from a Sandy Hook family. William Sherlach, whose wife Mary was killed during the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school shooting in 2012, filed suit against the conspiracy theory-peddling talk show host this week. Jones faces at least three other defamation claims by eight family members of victims and one FBI agent. Jones will be represented by Marc Randazza, a controversial free-speech lawyer who has represented figures like the founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, and the alt-right personality behind the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory. From The Trace archives: We talked to one of the plaintiffs, Lenny Pozner, about his battle to protect the honor of his murdered son.
New York’s attorney general filed a motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit by the National Rifle Association. In May, regulators in New York announced that the NRA’s self-defense insurance violated state law and fined two companies associated with the policy. Shortly after, the gun group sued for damages, claiming the regulatory actions violated their free speech and due process rights. This week, Attorney General Barbara Underwood asked the court to throw out the suit, saying that the decision to investigate the company’s insurance program had no impact on the group’s free speech ability.
New York City tries roving “violence interrupters.” The city will spend $1.8 million to send buses of peacekeepers to crime scenes in all five boroughs, starting in January 2019. The “mobile trauma units” will be made up of credible messengers, many with prior criminal records, who will offer social services and trauma relief in communities with high rates of violence.
Newsrooms held a moment of silence for the Capital Gazette victims. On Thursday at 2:33 p.m., exactly one week after five journalists were killed by gunfire in Annapolis, Maryland, the American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Media Editors called for a moment of silence to honor their lives. They joined The Capital’s sister newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, which already had plans to hold a moment of silence.
A Washington court rejected a gun right’s group challenge to a safe-storage proposal. Less than one week after it was filed, Court Commissioner Michael Johnston denied the gun group’s motion to keep the initiative off the November ballot. The group says it’s filing a motion to reconsider. ICYMI: The initiative would raise the minimum age to purchase semiautomatic weapons, expand background checks, and require safe storage of firearms.
More guns in schools, an Arkansas school safety panel recommends. In its preliminary report, released this week, the Arkansas School Safety Commission recommends that every school in the state have an armed presence at all times. The report also recommends mental health resources but does not address gun legislation.
A wildfire spreads from a Colorado gun range, engulfing homes. Fire department officials say that a man and woman were shooting “tracer rounds,” bullets coated with an explosive chemical casing, at a Basalt, Colorado gun range on Tuesday, which may have started the blaze. More than 500 homes were evacuated, and at least three have been destroyed. The two people who allegedly fired the rounds have been charged with fourth-degree arson.
Hundreds of Ohio courts did not respond to a state survey on gun background check records. In April, Republican Governor John Kasich signed an executive order asking courts to provide information about their use of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Since then, more than 200 courts in 63 Ohio counties seem to have skipped the survey, according to the Associated Press. The voluntary survey is being used by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services for a report due to the governor at the end of this month.
“Don’t believe what pollsters say” about NRA members’ support for gun safety laws, warns a lobbyist for the group. In an op-ed on a Florida politics website, the influential NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer asks readers to disregard polling about the group’s membership. “Law-abiding gun owners know better than to believe anything they read, see or hear in the mainstream media about NRA membership views or gun owner views on gun control,” she writes.
A gunman opened fire at the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Six people, all in their 20s and 30s, were shot after midnight on Thursday. “The only thing I heard last night were the fireworks,” said one woman who was staying nearby. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, six people were shot, three fatally, at a Fourth of July party in the Westlake area.
Celebratory gunfire injured at least three people during this year’s Fourth of July celebrations. A Tampa, Florida, man was struck by a falling bullet during a fireworks display at a theme park. There were at least two other incidents of celebratory gunfire reported in the Tampa area: bullet holes were found in the ceiling of a woman’s home and in the windshield of a parked car. In Nashville, Tennessee, three people were hit by celebratory gunfire while they watched a fireworks display. In yesterday’s newsletter, we wrote a number of law enforcement agencies warning their residents not to fire guns into the air to celebrate the Fourth of July. One Texas lawmaker wants to put some legal muscle behind those warnings. Representative Armando Martinez, who was himself injured by a fallen bullet during a New Year’s Eve celebration in 2016, plans to re-introduce a bill that would make celebratory gunfire a felony.
ONE LAST THING
Police in Chicago seize one illegal gun every hour, the city’s police chief said on Wednesday. That’s more illegal guns seized than in New York City and Los Angeles combined.
A recent study showed just how easy it is for Chicago shooters to obtain weapons. People who had been arrested were on average between two and three “handshakes” away from someone who could supply them with a gun, the report found. Most of the guns come from states with weaker gun restrictions — 60 percent of firearms recovered from police between 2013 and 2016 were originally purchased in another state.