Good morning, Bulletin readers. In a single spree, a gang member and his two accomplices stole some 200 guns. In our latest investigation with The New Yorker, Brian Freskos traces the path of those weapons, from licensed gun dealers in North Carolina to crime scenes across three states. That story leads your Thursday briefing.
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READ OUR LATEST INVESTIGATION
There are more gun stores in America than Starbucks and McDonalds combined. Unlike pharmacies, explosives facilities, and other businesses that handle potentially harmful products, most are not required to secure their inventories.
Thieves have taken notice.
Our new investigation, published in partnership with The New Yorker, tracks firearms stolen from gun store shelves to crime scenes across the nation.
WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on gun violence prevention. Law enforcement, shooting survivors, victims’ family members, and researchers spoke about universal background checks and other measures intended to stop firearm-related crimes. At one point, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, a staunch ally of the National Rifle Association, sought (unsuccessfully) to have the father of a Parkland victim removed from the hearing room.
Maria Butina’s boyfriend was also not what he seemed, a federal indictment alleges. Conservative operative Paul Erickson divides his time between Washington, D.C., power circles and South Dakota, where the U.S. Attorney’s office just charged him with bilking investors via fraudulent business schemes. Prosecutors say the case is unrelated to the investigation of Butina, who has pleaded guilty to acting as a covert agent for Russia while using Erickson’s connections to cozy up to the NRA. But two of the transactions described in a money laundering portion of the indictment include a payment to American University, where Butina was enrolled as a grad student, and another to a payee identified as “M.B.”
In 2018, there were over a million ads posted online for guns that required no background checks for buyers. That’s according to a review of gun brokering sites like Armslist.com by Everytown for Gun Safety. The 25-year-old federal background check law does not require private sellers to vet their buyers — including in transactions negotiated over the internet – and while some states do require checks for all gun purchases, only 6 percent of Armslist sellers indicated that they would run background checks on their buyers. (Everytown’s 501c3 provides grants to The Trace. See here for our transparency policy and full list of institutional donors and here for our editorial independence policy.) More: Our explainer on internet gun sales and background checks takes you through the steps of buying a gun online and identifies where safeguards are likely to fall through the cracks.
The Alabama cop who killed a black gun owner on Thanksgiving will not be charged. The State Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that the officer, who has not been publicly identified, will not face criminal charges for fatally shooting 21-year-old Army veteran Emantic F. Bradford Jr. after mistaking him for the perpetrator of a mall shooting.
Newly released videos show the aftermath of another high-profile police shooting. The sheriff in Cook County, Illinois, released a series of videos this week showing the moments after 26-year-old security guard Jemel Roberson was shot by police in November. Roberson was responding to shots fired in the bar where he worked when police arrived and shot Roberson, who is black, believing that he was the gunman. The videos, released in response to public records requests and a lawsuit from Roberson’s family, do not show the events leading up to the shooting or the shooting itself.
Several Parkland parents attended the State of the Union address. Manuel Oliver and Fred Guttenberg, who both lost children in the massacre last February, said they were disappointed that President Trump didn’t discuss stronger gun laws in his speech. Andrew Pollock, whose daughter was also killed in the shooting, was in attendance, as well, as were two Tree of Life synagogue shooting survivors. Officer Timothy Matson, who was shot several times in the line of duty while responding to the October attack, was honored along with Judah Samet, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor who was at the synagogue during the attack. And a chair was left open for victims of the Las Vegas massacre. For the second year in a row, Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus left her guest seat empty to honor the victims of the 2017 attack and to protest congressional inaction on gun reform.
ONE LAST THING
Gun security companies say their ads are getting caught up in gun advertising bans. Increasingly, companies like Facebook and Google are tightening policies to ban advertising for firearms. But because videos advertising devices like gun locks, safes, and sensors often show images of firearms, those ads are frequently rejected, as well, manufacturers of the devices say. “It really blocked all the ways we wanted to get people,” said a spokesperson for one company.