Good morning, Bulletin readers. After the gun industry successfully lobbied the federal government to classify its employees as “essential” amid the coronavirus pandemic, governors in two states reversed course on closing gun stores. Politico has the backstory behind that effort.
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NEW from THE TRACE: Gun background checks reached a record high during the first full month of the U.S. outbreak. According to the FBI, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System conducted 3.7 million screenings in March, topping by 12 percent the old record, set after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015. Factoring out checks run for concealed carry licenses and other purposes outside the specific purchase of firearms, a consulting firm calculates that dealers sold roughly 2.6 million guns last month. Daniel Nass digs into the numbers.
A Pennsylvania man upset over the coronavirus pandemic shot his girlfriend and killed himself. The survivor of the shooting said her boyfriend was despondent over losing his job. Big picture: Surging gun sales and stay-at-home orders are a dangerous mix for domestic violence.
More on how the gun lobby got the Trump administration to deem the gun industry “essential.” Politico unearthed new details on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering leading up to the updated Department of Homeland guidance that has reopened some gun stores that had been subject to local or state business closure orders. In addition to pressuring the agency, gun groups worked their ties to Trump’s inner circle: The change came after a “lobbying blitz that included calls to both the outgoing and incoming chiefs of staff and a White House aide who used to work for the National Rifle Association,” the site reports.
Another state is letting gun shops stay open during the lockdown. As we were sending out yesterday’s newsletter, Maine Governor Janet Mills amended her stay-at-home order to exempt gun stores. Massachusetts issued another update to its directive. Gun and ammunition “manufacturers, importers, and distributors” may now continue operating, but firearm dealers and shooting ranges are again expected to close. The national picture as of this morning: New Mexico, Washington, New York, and Vermont join Massachusetts as the only states where governors have ordered gun stores to temporarily shut down. Find our tracker here.
A St. Louis anti-violence group is urging safe firearm storage amid shutdown. Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice has given away 5,000 gun locks over the past five years. While the city and county are under a stay-at-home order, the group is pleading with parents to secure their weapons from children. “The hospitals are struggling the way it is with COVID-19, and they need those hospitals for those patients not for victims of gun violence,” one of its members said.
A playwriting competition centers on the impact of gun violence on kids. “#Enough: Plays to End Gun Violence,” conceived by Chicago theater director Michael Cotey, will feature 10 short plays written by middle and high school students. Submissions will be accepted through June 20, and the winning selections will be featured at a reading on December 14, the eighth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. “The world will still be here when we make it through all of this and, unfortunately, so will gun violence,” Cotey said.
As many as one in 20 American households may have bought a gun during the coronavirus pandemic, a new poll shows. —Newsy/Ipsos