Good morning, Bulletin readers. Gunfire shattered another American school yesterday as a student armed with a powerful handgun went on a brief, deadly rampage in Southern California. “It’s like a dream,” said a sophomore. “But not a good dream, like a nightmare you can’t wake up from.”

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Five people were shot, two fatally, at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita. It lasted just 16 seconds. But when it was over, a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy had been fatally wounded and three other teenagers injured by a classmate who opened fire with .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol in the school’s quad before shooting himself in the head. It was the gunman’s 16th birthday. He is in critical condition at a nearby hospital. Police have not yet said where the teen got his gun.

Panicked students texted parents their goodbyes. “i love you and im so thankful for everything youve done for me” a student texted her mother after the shots rang out. As students were led out of the school by police — an image that’s become all too familiar — one of them wondered aloud, “What kind of a world is this?”

The rampage was the fifth mass shooting at an American school or school event so far this year. Overall, there have been 366 mass shootings — defined by Gun Violence Archive as four people injured or killed — in the United States in 2019. Despite the attention they garner, mass shootings account for fewer than 2 percent of gun deaths. You can find more essential facts and context in our guide to understanding mass shootings.

Gunmakers are producing more and more of the type of powerful handgun the shooter used. According to our analysis, output of .40, .45, and .50-caliber pistols more than tripled over the past three decades, making those weapons one of the fastest growing segments of the handgun market. Generally speaking, bullets get more destructive as they increase in size and velocity. “That makes a .45 deadlier than a smaller .22 when aimed at the same target,” Alex Yablon wrote last year.


NEW from THE TRACE: The NRA moves to hide nuggets from Wayne LaPierre’s deposition. For months, the gun group has battled its estranged public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen. The dispute includes questions about LaPierre’s stewardship of the National Rifle Association and his spending habits. As part of ongoing litigation in Virginia, Ackerman’s lawyers deposed LaPierre in September. Two paragraphs of a counterclaim that Ackerman lodged in October characterize segments of LaPierre’s testimony that appear at odds with key claims the NRA has made during the legal fight. The characterizations have been part of the public court file for more than a month, but the NRA is now asking that they be sealed. Will Van Sant untangles the latest twist here.

Please remember to check out FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence in Chicago, the six-part series we launched this week with WTTW, the city’s PBS station. In addition to stories from our own Sarah Ryley and Brian Freskos, Chicago-based journalists Nissa Rhee and Arionne Nettles contributed in-depth pieces that explore the difficulty of finding housing for both gun violence survivors and perpetrators; a support group for family members of juvenile offenders; the trauma that the city’s gunfire is inflicting on children; and shooting survivors who feel compelled to arm themselves for protection even if they’re not legally allowed to own guns.

More than six million records have been added to the federal gun background check system since last year. Attorney General William Barr released the first progress report on last year’s Fix NICS Act, which requires federal agencies and incentivizes states to enter more records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Between April 2018 and August 2019, the volume of prohibiting records grew by 6.2 percent. Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection submitted records for approximately 13 million undocumented residents, the Justice Department said.

A second city in Washington State will tax gun sales. The Tacoma City Council voted on Tuesday to levy a $25 tax on guns and up to five cents on bullets. The tax was modeled on Seattle’s, which took effect in 2016. Ahead of the vote, 112 people testified for and against the bill.


60 percent of Chicago children 5 years old or younger live in neighborhoods where 91 percent of the city’s shootings occurred in 2018. —Nissa Rhee from FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence