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Social media platforms launch a new push to rein in pro-gun extremists. Last week, The Trace published an investigation by contributor Ian Karbal on gun sellers using “boogaloo” memes and imagery to market their products on social media. Facebook and Instagram have now removed the accounts of the Michigan ammunition dealer featured in the story, a few days after banning hundreds of users associated with a network of boogaloo proponents using the platform to plan offline violence. A Facebook representative told Karbal that it’s considering further action — including stricter rules for gun sellers. YouTube, Reddit, and Discord also recently purged users and groups for posting extremist content. Meanwhile, civil rights organizations continued their Facebook advertising boycott. Our article’s co-publisher, Nick Martin of The Informant, asked: Is the company’s action this week too little, too late? You can find more updates in this thread. —Gracie McKenzie, engagement editor
NEW from THE TRACE: The NRA’s unshakable support for police. In 2017, an NRATV host warned that the “blatant racism and violence” of the “Black Lives Matter crowd” could lead to the massacre of white people. The National Rifle Association has repeatedly denounced taking a knee to protest police brutality and discrimination. Most recently, the gun group declined to offer public support to Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, a licensed gun carrier arrested for firing at the undercover officers who forced their way into his Louisville, Kentucky, apartment and killed Taylor during a no-knock raid. It’s all part of a striking paradox: The NRA styles itself as an essential check on state power, but its interest in confronting government abuses comes to a hard stop at the thin blue line. There’s a financial backdrop to the allegiance, Will Van Sant reports: Cops are reliable NRA donors, and rely extensively on the gun group’s firearm instructors.
The NYPD says bail reform is behind the city’s gun violence spike. Its own crime stats tell a different story. Shootings are up 46 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said last week: “It’s bail reform. It’s COVID. It’s emptying out prisons,” referring both to policy changes that took effect in January and the release of inmates from city jails this spring to reduce coronavirus infections. But an analysis of NYPD crime data by The New York Post found that of the 11,000 inmates released from Rikers Island this year, just one has subsequently been charged for a shooting; another 41 (or less than 1 percent) are listed as perpetrators or suspects in gun violence cases. Of the 2,500 incarcerated persons released to relieve crowding during the city’s coronavirus outbreak, nine have since been linked to a shooting.
Meanwhile, the city’s summer youth anti-violence program is going virtual. Amid a pandemic-related budget crunch, New York City canceled the Summer Youth Employment Program this spring. After criticism from community leaders, the city announced its revival, albeit in an altered form. Starting next week, the Anti-Gun Violence Employment Program, made possible through a mix of public and private funding, will offer stipends to 700 teens who receive training in “youth leadership and organizing, career readiness, financial empowerment, web development and coding, urban planning, music and film production, and civic engagement.” Researchers have found that participants in the summer jobs program are less likely to be incarcerated and have lower mortality rates.
Trump DOJ launches new crackdowns on gun violence in cities. Attorney General William Barr announced the launch of Operation Legend, which will direct more than 100 federal agents to Kansas City, Missouri, where homicides are up 40 percent compared to the same time last year. White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said the deployment is in response to a request by the city’s mayor to Missouri’s governor — but Mayor Quinton Lucas said he learned about it via Twitter. In Minnesota, U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald unveiled the Twin Cities Violent Crime Task Force with the support of the mayor and police chief. McDonald didn’t mention the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, but did appear to anticipate concerns about over-policing, saying that “the goal is not to flood our communities with law enforcement, but rather to leverage law enforcement’s collective resources to allow for focused and effective enforcement actions.” And on Fox News last night, President Trump threatened federal intervention in Chicago, where murders are also up sharply over the 2019 pace. “We’re supposed to be asked” by the mayor or governor, Trump told Sean Hannity. “At some point, we may have to act anyway.”
Phoenix asks FBI to investigate a police shooting that’s sparked protests. James Porter Garcia, 28, was parked in a friend’s driveway on July 4 when two officers looking for a stabbing suspect fired into his car, killing him. Officers say he had a gun and refused to drop it. Video from a police bodycam, which didn’t capture the shooting itself, shows cops retrieving a firearm from Garcia’s lap. Garcia’s friends, who were inside the house and heard the gunshots, struggled to reconcile the department’s claims with a man who was “afraid of his own shadow at times.” The police chief said in a statement that she has asked the FBI to conduct an independent civil rights review.
Federal judge tosses challenge to New York gun store closures. The suit was brought by a Long Island gun store and two men who tried to purchase guns in March, when Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered gun shops to close as part of the broader business shutdown imposed to stem the coronavirus outbreak. The plaintiffs called the closures “a bloodless coup against the Constitution.” In his ruling, a U.S. District Court judge disagreed. “In the face of a global pandemic, the Court is loath to second-guess those policy decisions.”
Police officers receive firearm training from roughly 13,000 instructors certified by the NRA’s Law Enforcement Division, which promotes its lessons as teaching officers how to “win the lethal encounter.” — The Trace