Good morning, Bulletin readers. In Washington, D.C., right now, it’s all impeachment, all the time (understandably!). But today’s briefing is a reminder that across the country, the battle over gun safety rages on in city halls, court houses, and state capitols.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
NRA’s former ad firm hits back over “racist” charge. In an October 25 legal filing, the National Rifle Association criticized some NRATV content — which was produced by then-PR firm Ackerman McQueen — as “distasteful and racist.” The filing repeated the previously reported assertion that some NRA executives were displeased with the direction of NRATV’s programming. In a statement on Tuesday, Ackerman responded, saying that if the NRA “wants to conduct a public conversation about distasteful and racist, they should consider their systemic behavior.” Raising the stakes, the firm pointed to NRA leaders’ silence on the death of black concealed carrier Philando Castile and their refusal to comment on racist statements from board members.
A group of Florida parents lost their battle to keep guns out of schools. Circuit Court Judge Robert Dees said Monday that he’s siding with the city of Jacksonville in allowing school safety assistants who are not teachers to patrol K-12 campuses while armed. A group of parents and students sued last year to stop the practice.
A Pennsylvania judge struck down gun laws passed in Pittsburgh after the synagogue shooting. The ruling voids the city’s assault weapons ban and red flag law, which the Pittsburgh City Council passed in response to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. The judge argued the measures violated the state’s pre-emption law that constrains how local communities can tackle gun violence. Mayor Bill Peduto vowed to appeal.
The Capital Gazette shooter pleaded guilty. The 39-year-old gunman, who killed five people during the June 2018 newsroom rampage, issued his plea in an Annapolis courtroom on Monday. He is now arguing that he is not criminally responsible for the shooting on the basis of insanity, a claim a jury will weigh next month.
A gun reform group is vastly outspending the NRA in the run-up to Virginia’s election. Everytown for Gun Safety contributed more than $600,000 to Democrats in September, while the NRA gave $54,000 to Republicans. Gun violence has emerged as a pivotal issue in the state’s upcoming legislative elections in the wake of the Virginia Beach mass shooting in May, which claimed 12 lives. “The politics of guns in Virginia has changed dramatically over the last few years,” Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington, told Capital News Service. (Everytown’s nonpolitical arm provides grants to The Trace. Here’s our list of major donors and our policy on editorial independence.)
Washington State got new gun laws via a ballot initiative. Now gun rights activists are launching their own ballot initiative to try to repeal them. The coalition has until January 3 to gather the 300,000 signatures necessary to qualify a voter referendum that would overturn Initiative 1639, which set age, background check, and waiting period requirements to buy assault-style rifles. Initiative 1639 passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote last November.
Columbus, Ohio, announced a new initiative to keep guns from abusers. The city will become one of six U.S. jurisdictions involved in the Firearms Technical Assistance Project, a federally funded program that aims to streamline protocols for removing guns in domestic violence cases. The program will focus on “traditionally underserved and/or marginalized communities,” according to the nonprofit administering the funding.
Florida may increase requirements for gun owners who want to carry concealed firearms in public. Democrat Nikki Fried, who presides over the state office that issues gun licenses, unveiled proposals on Tuesday that would require license holders to retake a firearm training course and submit new fingerprints upon renewal, and mandate renewals in five years instead of seven.
Lincoln, Nebraska, passed a safe storage requirement. The City Council voted unanimously on Monday to require gun owners to lock their cars when transporting guns and keep the weapons hidden. The bill’s sponsor is Roy Christensen, a pro-gun Republican. He called it a “reasonable approach” that doesn’t “infringe on people’s rights.” Gun control groups criticized him for removing a provision requiring that guns be locked up in trunks.