What To Know Today

Biden administration launches security review on domestic extremism. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced Friday that the director of national intelligence would lead the threat assessment in conjunction with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. The Biden team is tapping Joshua Geltzer, a former counter-terrorism official at the National Security Council, to return to the NSC to build the government’s capacity for addressing the dangers posed by domestic extremists.

  • Far-right groups and guns: Federal officials and civil rights groups have previously singled out the sizable role firearms play in domestic attacks. As we reported last year, some extremists are turning to DIY ghost guns to arm themselves while evading firearm restrictions. 
  • Impeachment trial brings fresh concerns: The potential for mass demonstrations related to Donald Trump’s Senate’s trial means up to 5,000 National Guard troops will stay in D.C. through mid-March. One guard member told Politico that while the troops have not been briefed on any specific plots, “far-right militia groups remain the biggest cause for concern.” 

“There’s no place in America right now that can say, ‘that’s not my problem,”said Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor who argues for stronger legal action against armed militia groups using existing anti-paramilitary statutes. 

States pursue divergent steps on guns carried in public spaces. Lawmakers in at least nine Republican-leaning states have proposed measures to allow or expand carrying firearms without requiring a government permit, according to a count by the AP. In Utah and Tennessee, the measures have gubernatorial support, while in Montana legislation has already passed the House. Overall, 15 states currently allow permitless concealed carry. Meanwhile: Legislators in several Democratic-leaning states are trying to put new limits on where guns may be lawfully carried. In Washington State, a measure is advancing that would prohibit openly carried weapons at protests; in Vermont, a bill seeks to prohibit guns in government buildings (and other sensitive locations like hospitals); and in Virginia, the state’s lower chamber is scheduled to vote later today on a gun ban at polling places. “This issue of guns and intimidation is real,” said Vermont’s attorney general.

Dems decry lawmaker’s attempt to bring a gun into the House chamber. On Thursday, Capitol security stopped Republican Andy Harris of Maryland after his gun set off a metal detector outside the House chamber. “The moment you bring a gun on to the House floor in violation of rules, you put everyone around you in danger,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told CNN. Members of Congress are allowed to keep firearms in their offices, but those guns are not permitted in legislative chambers. Related: Federal officials said that a man arrested over the Capitol insurrection had threatened on social media to assassinate Ocasio-Cortez. 

Five people, including a pregnant woman, were killed in a shooting in Indianapolis. The early Sunday morning incident at a North Side home was the biggest mass casualty event in the city in more than a decade, authorities said. A teenager found wounded nearby was thought to be the only survivor. The shooting comes days after Indianapolis announced a new violence reduction plan. The city was one of numerous metros to end 2020 with record high homicides.

Sandy Hook defamation lawsuits against Alex Jones can proceed, Texas court rules. The state supreme court denied Jones’ request to throw out the cases brought by parents of children killed in the 2012 mass shooting, who are claiming emotional distress after Jones and his conspiracy theory site InfoWars called the shooting a hoax.

D.C. judge denies pre-trial release for Capitol rioter photographed with zip ties. Eric Munchel was charged with several offenses related to his actions during the January 6 siege. On Friday, a Tennessee judge denied federal prosecutors’ request for pre-trial detention after federal agents found more than 15 guns when they searched his Tennessee home, but a D.C. judge granted their request on appeal. 

Data Point

67 percent — the share of domestic U.S. terrorist attacks and plots during the first eight months of 2020 that were carried out by far-right actors. [Center for International and Strategic Studies]