WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
The FBI says it thwarted a plot to violently overthrow the Michigan state government. Thesix alleged co-conspirators trained with guns and explosive devices, surveilled the vacation home of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and discussed plans to kidnap her and storm the state Capitol and take hostages, according to a federal affidavit first reported by The Detroit News. Separate state felony charges claim that seven members of a militia known as the Wolverine Watchmen also contributed to the plot and are accused of planning to attack police officers and “instigate civil war.” Responding to the news, Whitmer said: “I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this,” and called out President Trump for his refusal to clearly denounce far-right extremists.
Lockdown protests as prelude: Two of the seven men indicted on state charges were among the armed protesters who stormed the state Capitol two weeks after Trump’s April tweet to “Liberate Michigan!” the Michigan attorney general confirmed. Some of the alleged kidnapping and hostage plotters later met during a Second Amendment rally in June. “Boogaloo” motives? NBC News reports that several of the 13 men had social media histories indicating support for the violent “boogaloo” movement and affinities with other militia groups. Their online activities suggest they believed they were “countering what they saw as an ‘uprising’ against President Trump.” Occupational hazards: “Every day when I enter the Capitol floor, I look into the gallery for armed gunmen. I keep a bulletproof vest under my desk. And that’s just how it is in my workplace,” a Michigan Democratic state senator told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. From a former GOP congressman, a call for de-escalation: “We should all be concerned,” said Mike Rogers, ex-chair of the House Intelligence Committee. “We really need to talk about how this stuff needs to be tamped down.”
Prior warnings of extremists mobilizing over pandemic restrictions. A newly disclosed FBI bulletin from June warned that militias were using lockdown policies — as well as state-level gun reform legislation — to re-energize their movements. Separately, a new Department of Homeland Security assessment described the threat of violent extremists exploiting coronavirus-related restrictions. Are private militias constitutionally protected? No, argues Mary McCord, a former senior official at the Justice Department.
A man sold the gun used in a mass murder; now, he’s calling for universal background checks. Marcus Braziel pleaded guilty to not having a dealer’s license when he sold the AR-15 used in a 2019 shooting rampage in West Odessa, Texas, that left seven people dead and 25 injured. While federal law doesn’t require private sellers to conduct background checks, they must have a license if they are “engaged in the business” of dealing or making guns. Prosecutors said Braziel, who advertised his products online and sold guns to several people barred from owning them, met that benchmark. “My primary objective is that this never happen to anyone else,” Braziel told CNN, describing his support for expanded background checks. “My life has not been the same since. I will be forever sorry.”
Gun suicides largely concentrated in rural parts of the West and South. Data from Everytown for Gun Safety reveals massive disparities in where the nearly 23,000 annual deaths by suicide that involve a firearm take place. The 20 most affected Congressional districts were all located in the West and South, and 11 districts in those regions had gun suicides rates more than twice the national average. [Everytown provides grants to The Trace through its nonpolitical arm. Here’s our list of major donors and our policy on editorial independence.]
Gun control groups mount opposition to quick confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. In a letter, the coalition of 31 advocacy organizations objected to the judge’s conservative views on the Second Amendment and gun rights. Trace context: As a Supreme Court justice, Barrett is likely to push a “history and tradition” standard for gun cases — a test that many gun restrictions might not survive. Read more here.
A Thursday night mass shooting in Philadelphia that left one person dead and six others wounded was the city’s 368th homicide of the year, surpassing every annual total since 2007. [Philadelphia Police Department]