Good morning, Bulletin readers. A man whose case was the subject of a Trace/BuzzFeed News investigation into how police departments fail to solve shootings had his conviction overturned. Plus, our one-stop guide to tracking the tangle of congressional investigations into the NRA.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
NEW from THE TRACE: A guide to every known congressional probe of the NRA. The gun group is caught up in a total of five active inquiries on Capitol Hill, including three launched since Democrats assumed control of the House in January. Some of the probes concern the NRA’s ties to Russia; others are based on The Trace’s own reporting into the group’s potential campaign finance violations. We’ve summarized all of them in this primer, which we’ll update as new info comes to light.
A Baltimore man at the center of our story on unsolved shootings had his conviction overturned. A Maryland court this week reversed the murder conviction of Devin Little, whose case was featured in an investigation by The Trace and BuzzFeed News. Our story reported that police had no physical evidence linking Little to the killing and failed to follow leads that might have exonerated him. Sarah Ryley has the update. Go deeper: Three-quarters of fatal and nonfatal shootings in Baltimore don’t lead to an arrest. In big cities across the country, more and more shooters are getting away with it.
Today, the House is expected to pass a bipartisan bill to extend background checks to private gun sales. For Congress, it’s the “most significant gun control vote” since a background check expansion failed in 2013 during the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to quash the bill, which President Trump has said he’d veto. Trump’s statement is a reversal: Last February, following the Parkland shooting, he tweeted his support of a background check expansion.
A federal judge blessed the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks. On Monday, the U.S. district judge rejected challenges by gun rights groups on the ban for firearm accessories that allow semiautomatic rifles to mimic the firing rate of machine guns. The ban is scheduled to go into effect on March 26, when bump stock owners must turn in or destroy the devices.
Crime was down overall in the first six months of 2018. Preliminary statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show a roughly 4 percent drop in violent crime during the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017. Homicides were down nearly 7 percent. The decrease was fairly consistent across the United States with the exception of the West, which saw a slight uptick.
The U.S. Coast Guard is failing to report service members who shouldn’t have guns. After a Coast Guard lieutenant was arrested for stockpiling weapons in pursuit of white nationalism, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general said the military branch isn’t flagging all members who commit offenses that may disqualify them from gun ownership.
Police in Portland, Oregon, are changing the way they respond to shootings. The Portland Police Bureau on Tuesday announced the launch of a new Gun Violence Reduction Team. The division will be made up of four previously independent units, including three focused on gang activity. In a statement, the bureau said the merging of these groups would “allow for a more collaborative approach for responding to and preventing gun violence in the City of Portland.”
A bystander was killed when a man opened fire in a restaurant on New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street. As security guards tried to kick out a rowdy patron, the man grabbed one of their guns and started shooting. Julie Couvillon, a registered nurse enjoying a rare late night out with friends, was struck during the chaos and died early Sunday.
ONE LAST THING
American schools have put a patchwork of defenses into place against shootings. A BuzzFeed News listicle breaks some of the measures, from stocking classrooms with buckets of rocks to throw at a gunman to bulletproof windows and auto-locking doors. In September, we spoke to teachers across the country about what they felt would make their schools feel safer. Their answers were much simpler than you might expect. Many mentioned counselors and school psychologists, and emphasized the role of community in creating safe spaces. “Those are the kinds of things that breathe safety into schools,” one of them said.