What To Know Today

‘Let us finally do something’: In a speech last night, President Joe Biden implored Congress to pass new gun restrictions. “We spent hours with hundreds of family members who were broken, whose lives will never be the same,” Biden said. He spoke in the White House Cross Hall, which had been lined with candles to honor the victims of gun violence. “They had one message for all of us: ‘Do something. Just do something.’” It was the president’s first primetime address on gun violence, underscoring a sense among Democrats and gun reform advocates that the president needed to use his bully pulpit to advance the issue as America continued to mourn for those lost in back-to-back mass shootings.

  • In an effort to put pressure on Congress, which has not passed new gun regulations for two decades, Biden called for a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines; expanded background checks; federal red flag and safe storage laws, and a repeal of liability protections for gun manufacturers. 
  • Biden campaigned on many of these proposals. In the Senate, any new gun regulations will need 60 votes to pass, so long as the filibuster remains. Reflecting on the limits of his power, Biden acknowledged that getting the body to approve the proposals will be difficult, if not impossible. Alternatively, he proposed raising the age to purchase assault weapons to 21. 
  • The president signaled he will make gun reform central to the midterm elections. “If Congress fails, I believe, this time, a majority of the American people won’t give up either,” he said. “I believe the majority of you will act and turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.” 
  • But he did not say what he would do if Congress didn’t act. Gun reform advocates have been calling on the president to appoint a national director of gun violence prevention and use his executive power to implement tougher gun regulations. He didn’t do either in his speech. — Chip Brownlee, reporter

NEW from THE TRACE: How often are guns used for self defense? Gun rights proponents frequently invoke the notion that “a good guy with a gun” is the only thing that can stop “a bad guy with a gun.” A reader asks, “Are there more instances of defensive gun use than gun crimes, and where does the claim come from?” Estimates of DGUs, as they’re called, are so squishy that the CDC in May removed all figures from its website, as Jennifer Mascia reports in a new explainer. According to one leading survey of crime victims, there are seven times as many gun crimes (484,800) as there are instances of defensive gun use (70,040) each year. Meanwhile, claims that DGU’s exceed 2 million per year have circulated for years based on telephone surveys conducted in the early 1990s by a self-described “gun control skeptic” that researchers have repeatedly challenged. You can read the story here — and see why its so tricky get a more exact figure for DGUs.

More young men are committing mass gun killings. The New York Times reports that six of the nine deadliest shootings since 2018 were committed by people 21 or younger. Before 2000, mass casualty shootings were often men in their mid 20s, 30s, and 40s. “We see two clusters when it comes to mass shooters, people in their 40s who commit workplace type shootings, and a very big cluster of young people — 18, 19, 20, 21 — who seem to get caught up in the social contagion of killing,” said Jillian Peterson, who founded the Violence Project, which keeps a database of shootings with four or more people killed.

New York lawmakers approve new gun regulations. Meeting late into the evening Thursday, the state Senate and Assembly approved a slate of 10 proposals from Governor Kathy Hochul and Democratic leadership that would tighten the state’s already strict gun laws. The lawmakers moved quickly to approve the bills before the session ended in Albany in response to the racist mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14, which killed 10 people. The bills, once Hochul signs them, will:

  • raise the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle to 21, in addition to requiring a permit
  • ban the sale of body armor vests to civilians
  • expand who can file for Emergency Risk Protection Orders under the state’s red flag law
  • require new semiautomatic handguns sold in the state to be capable of “microstamping”

Six other proposals also got lawmakers’ OK. You can read about them here. — Chip Brownlee, reporter

Tulsa gunman targeted doctor who treated him and bought gun the day of the shooting, police say. The suspect, who killed four people — two doctors, a patient, and a receptionist — and later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, targeted the doctor whom he blamed for recurring back pain after a recent surgery. Just hours before the shooting on Wednesday, the gunman purchased an AR-15 style rifle — one of two guns he had with him — from a local gun store in Oklahoma. The other, a semiautomatic pistol, he purchased from a pawn shop on May 29. 

A shooting outside a church in Ames, Iowa, leaves two dead. A gunman killed two church members in a parking lot outside Cornerstone Church last night, according to church officials and police. The shooter then took his own life, police said. Authorities release few other details. “Right now, we are brokenhearted,” read a statement from the church. Separately in Racine, Wisconsin, two people were injured by gunfire at a cemetery during a funeral for a man who was recently fatally shot by the police. An attack averted in Berkeley, California? Police there said they arrested a 16-year-old last week after receiving a tip that he had recruited fellow high school students to conduct a mass shooting; police said they found numerous weapons in his home. 

Ohio Legislature passes bill making it much easier for school staff to carry guns. The bill, which Governor Mike DeWine has said he will sign, allows school districts that want to participate to get plans approved by a state agency to designate non-law enforcement armed personnel in schools. The bill lowers the training threshold for an armed school staff member to somewhere around 20 hours — legislators and experts dispute the exact number — down from over 700 hours of training for teachers currently.

Data Point

$15.8 million — the record outlay on lobbyists from gun rights advocacy organizations last year, according to Open Secrets, a nonprofit that follows lobbying and campaign contributions. The biggest spender was the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which paid $5 million to lobbyists in 2021. [USA TODAY]