What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Their guns fueled Chicago crime. When they broke the law, the ATF went easy. The Trace and USA TODAY obtained ATF inspection records for 13 gun dealers singled out by the city of Chicago as suppliers of a disproportionate number of guns used in city crimes. The records show the agency found more than 120 federal violations for 12 of the stores and that, when it discovered violations at these stores, the ATF routinely issued softer penalties than agency guidelines warranted — in step with a pattern of conciliatory inspections we first uncovered last year. In at least three inspections, the agency discovered problems severe enough to warrant revoking a dealer’s license, but issued warnings instead. Champe Barton has more in this investigation.

President Joe Biden to nominate a new ATF director and finalize ghost gun rule. During an event at the White House later today, the president will announce Steve Dettelbach, an Obama-era U.S. Attorney, as his pick to lead the agency. If confirmed, he would be the ATF’s first permanent director since 2015. Gun reform groups have previously criticized the White House for failing to nominate someone since the failed nomination of David Chipman in September. The Justice Department is also finalizing its crack down on ghost guns, first announced last year, with a rule that classifies certain unfinished firearm parts in ghost gun kits as firearms subject to a background check. The rule also requires ghost gun kit manufacturers to have a license to sell and add serial numbers to any gun frames or receivers included in a kit. Federally licensed dealers and gunsmiths would also have to serialize any unserialized gun in their inventory.

NYPD’s anti-gun unit has mostly focused on low-level, non-violent arrests, data shows. NYPD figures on a key piece of Mayor Eric Adams’s public safety plan, so-called Neighborhood Safety Teams, show the majority of arrests resulted in charges that have nothing to do with guns. The teams are a reimagining of a controversial unit that was disbanded in 2020 amid concerns of brutality and racial profiling, and in their first month have made the most arrests for criminal possession of a forged instrument (27), followed by 26 arrests for illegal gun possession, 24 for illegal drug possession, and 11 for driving with a suspended or revoked license. The data, obtained by City and State, is selectively released to the public. Advocates say the department has an obligation to be more transparent. Zooming out: In a timely analysis for Vital City, Ted Alcorn dove into some history about anti-gun squads in different cities, how the New York teams may be pursuing their goals, and how policymakers and the public should consider evaluating them.

Sandy Hook parents say Alex Jones tried to shield his assets from defamation cases. Some relatives of victims of the 2012 mass shooting who have previously won defamation suits against the far-right conspiracy theorist also claimed Jones diverted millions of dollars in assets “to shell companies owned by insiders like his parents, his children, and himself.” The suit, filed in Texas court last week, comes just before the first of two trials that will determine how much Jones owes to Sandy Hook families after losing four defamation cases. The same day the new lawsuit was filed, Jones appeared for a deposition in Connecticut court after a judge ordered him to pay fines for every day he didn’t appear.

Maryland enacts ghost gun law mandating gun dealers safely store firearms to help curb gun thefts. A bill banning the possession and sale of DIY ghost guns will become law after Republican Governor Larry Hogan declined to veto the measure on Friday. The Democratic-controlled legislature voted to override Hogan’s veto and enact a separate law that would require federally licensed firearm dealers to lock up weapons after-hours, and implement stringent security measures. Context: Our 2019 investigation with The New Yorker, Easy Targets, revealed how vulnerable gun stores are to thieves.

We’re finalists for 2 awards! The Headline Club named our Aftershocks project by former Trace journalists Lakeidra Chavis and Daniel Nass in the category of best investigative or in-depth reporting for its annual Lisagor Awards. Meanwhile, the Deadline Club named our story “When Protective Orders Don’t Protect,” a partnership with The 19th by former Trace staff writer Ann Givens, in the category of reporting by independent digital media.

Data Point

41 — the minimum number of American children who lose parents to gun violence every day, according to a Washington Post analysis of 20 major cities by reporter John Woodrow Cox. [The Washington Post]