Good morning, Bulletin readers. Another watchdog group has joined the chorus calling on the FEC to investigate the NRA’s campaign activities. Two men left a trail of destruction in separate shooting rampages. And more churches are welcoming worshippers with armed guards. 

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NEW from THE TRACE: Another watchdog group is calling for an investigation into the NRA’s campaign spending. The latest complaint, filed by the American Democracy Legal Fund, says the National Rifle Association “made illegal in-kind donations to the Senate campaigns of Richard Burr, Matt Rosendale, and Josh Hawley in the form of coordinated television advertisements” and calls on the Federal Election Commission to sanction the group. Earlier this month, The Trace reported that the NRA and the campaigns in question used the same firm to buy TV ads — and in several cases, ads for the campaigns and the gun group were purchased by the same people, despite the required firewall. Read the full update here.

A Louisiana man suspected of killing five people, including his girlfriend, was arrested on Sunday. Dakota Theriot, 21, shot his girlfriend, Summer Ernest, along with her father and her 17-year-old brother, in their trailer home in Livingston Parish, near Baton Rouge, before stealing their truck to drive to his parents’ trailer and fatally shooting them. Two young children in Ernest’s trailer at the time were physically unharmed. Police were conducting a check at Theriot’s grandmother’s home in Virginia when he pulled up outside early Sunday morning, pointing a gun out of the car window.

Another 21-year-old went on a shooting rampage in two locations in State College, Pennsylvania, before killing himself. On Thursday evening, Jordan Witmer was at a bar with Nicole Abrino, 21, and at some point, got up to speak to a father and son across the bar for an unknown reason, then opened fire, fatally shooting the men and critically wounding Abrino. Witmer left the bar, crashed his car, shot his way into a home, killed an 83-year-old man, and then shot himself to death. Witmer had a permit to carry concealed guns.

An increase in the proportion of handguns in American homes is associated with an increase in child firearm deaths. That’s according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics today, which finds that the percentage of white American families who own handguns (rather than rifles) rose from 49 percent in 1976 to 72 percent in 2016. During the past decade, the number of children killed by guns has doubled. The increase in handguns partially explains that jump, the researchers say.

The New York State Legislature is set to vote on some big gun reform bills this week. The measures include a red-flag law, safe-storage requirements, and extending the time limit on background checks. Many of these proposals had previously stalled in the Senate, which was held by Republicans until this legislative session. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has signaled he will sign bills tightening the state’s gun laws.


In the mass shooting era, many churches are turning to armed members to provide security. In the past 11 months, 200 houses of worship in 34 states have registered their security teams with the Faith Based Security Network, a nonprofit that offers safety guidance to religious institutions. The group’s founder says the majority of such security teams rely on armed members, like those at Ava Assembly of God in Missouri, where teams of three volunteers simultaneously greet worshippers and keep an eye out for threats each Sunday morning.

Some religious officials, like those in the United Methodist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, say there’s no place for guns in houses of worship. Others have responded to the gun violence epidemic in different ways, like the Episcopal Diocese in Massachusetts, which is engaging in shareholder activism against Smith & Wesson in an effort to hold the gunmaker accountable for the deadly use of its products.