Good morning, Bulletin readers. Today, we bring you a follow-up to our investigation of America’s largest active-shooter training company, published in partnership with HuffPost last month. We’ve also got a news item on a Virginia bill sure to add fuel to the fight over gun laws already underway there.
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NEW FROM THE TRACE
A Virginia bill that could shutter the NRA’s shooting range draws criticism from both sides. The proposal, introduced Wednesday, would outlaw ranges at private buildings where 50 or more employees work. One of the only two known facilities it would affect is housed within the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Fairfax. Sponsor Dan Helmer, a freshman Democratic delegate, did not reply to our request for comment, but told a local paper: “Yes, this plan would affect the NRA. We also think it will save lives.” Andrew Goddard, the legislative director of the Virginia Center for Public Safety, which supports stronger gun safety laws, takes a different view. He called the measure “a very ill-advised move.” Will Van Sant has the story.
The ALICE Training Institute is overstating the effectiveness of its active shooter protocols. The company advocates training students and teachers to physically confront gunmen if necessary. As our December investigation highlighted, there’s little evidence to support its approach, which has been linked to injuries and can traumatize participants. On its website, the company lists 18 incidents in which it claims its training saved lives. We just completed a review of every case — and found that the record is a lot more complicated.
WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY
Joe Biden is emphasizing gun reform as he makes his final push in Iowa. The former vice president is spending $4 million in the state ahead of the February 3 caucuses, BuzzFeed News reported. Biden supported stronger gun laws throughout his three decades in the Senate and helped to spearhead the Obama administration’s response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
A Walmart employee in Illinois disarmed a potential gunman. Justin Smithey intervened on Saturday when a fight broke out in a Walmart across the river from St. Louis. One of the participants pulled out a gun, terrifying shoppers. “I started to see all the kids and innocent people, and I knew something had to be done,” he said.
New Jersey dropped a gun charge that could have barred the Texas church shooter from firearms. The man who killed two armed security volunteers at a church in White Settlement, Texas, last month was charged with felony-level unlawful weapon possession in 2016. But prosecutors let him plead the charge down to misdemeanor criminal trespass, so his offense did not trigger a federal gun ban. The New Jersey prosecutor said the deal was “fully reasonable and legally appropriate.”
Grants are now available for Pennsylvania churches that want to beef up security. The state’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency is providing $5 million to faith-based nonprofits for threat assessment, emergency response training, surveillance, and metal detectors. The funding comes 14 months after an anti-Semitic gunman stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 people.
The New Hampshire House advanced a bill that would create extreme risk protection orders. The measure is also expected to pass the Democrat-led Senate, but the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, might not sign it. In August, Sununu vetoed three gun bills, including a universal background check expansion and a three-day waiting period to buy a gun.
An estimated 13.9 million guns were sold in the United States in 2019, according to a gun industry research consultancy that analyzed federal background check figures and excluded concealed-carry permit checks, rechecks, and renewals. The total is up roughly 100,000 from 2018, but well shy of the record set in 2016, when Americans purchased an estimated 16.6 million guns. — Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting