Good morning, Bulletin readers. In today’s briefing: A high-stakes court case in Germany could spill some gun company secrets. It’ll be a big week for gun bills inside (and just outside) the Beltway. And homicide rates are trending upward in two big cities.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
The House will vote on two bills to reform federal background checks this week. Congress members will give their yay or nay to a universal background check measure that includes exemptions for gifts between family members, and a bill seeking to close the Charleston loophole by extending the time allowed for a background check to be completed before a sale is allowed to automatically go through. The proposals are expected to pass the Democratic-controlled chamber. What to watch for: How many House Republicans vote for the bills. Following a midterm election that showed gun reform to be a winning issue in swing districts, supporters will be looking to demonstrate that policies enjoying overwhelming support in opinion polls can also draw bipartisan backing on the Hill.
The CEO of Sig Sauer faces up to five years of jail time in Germany. Ten years ago, the company agreed to sell pistols to the Colombian National Police — a deal worth $306 million. German law forbids companies from selling weapons to countries in conflict, a category that included Colombia at the time. The German government now alleges that at least 38,000 guns manufactured within its borders were shipped to the United States and then to on to Colombia, despite export papers that said they would be sold only within the U.S. The trial starts tomorrow. If convicted, the head of Sig Sauer’s American subsidiary could face prison and millions of dollars in fines.
A 15-year-old boy was fatally shot in Brooklyn, where murders have increased sharply during the first weeks of 2019. Samuel Joseph, the youngest in a family of Haitian immigrants and a skilled point guard, was gunned down in his doorway in the Flatbush neighborhood while nearby businesses bustled with customers on Friday evening. As of mid-February, there had been 48 murders in the city, compared to 31 during the same period in 2018, which ended with New York posting record-low homicides. The bulk of the increase has come in Brooklyn, which has had at least 15 more murders this year than last.
The Maryland Legislature will consider multiple gun reform bills this week. Beginning this morning, the Judiciary Committee in the House of Delegates will consider measures that would: require licenses for long guns, regulating them the same way handguns are regulated; ban 3D-printed guns; and lengthen mandatory minimum sentences for those who use firearms while conducting a violent crime. The latter bill has been put forward by the state’s Republican governor. Meanwhile, gun violence continues to rise in Baltimore, with 14 people shot — five fatally — in one 19-hour stretch at the end of last week. Officials say the city’s homicide rate is up 10 percent year-over-year.
A Michigan mother who fatally shot her three children had picked them up from school for a fake doctor’s appointment. She took the kids, aged 8, 6, and 2, out to lunch, then to a wooded area, where she killed them all with a hunting rifle. She later committed suicide. According to court records from September, a social worker had recommended that the mother receive 60 days of care in a mental health facility. She was released on deferred status without having completed treatment.
ONE LAST THING
An Indiana man who fatally shot a passenger in a vehicle won’t be charged in her death. In September, Brandy Brock, 31, was in the car with her friend, Andrew Holder, who began having a protracted road-rage fight with a man in another car. When the other driver stopped, Holder fired a single shot out his window. The second driver then got his own gun and fired once at Holder’s car.
The other driver told authorities he was aware that there were two passengers, but he tried only to aim at Holder. And even though both men opened fire, because the man whose bullet killed Brock was firing in self defense, authorities say he can’t be charged under Indiana state law. Holder is facing charges of criminal recklessness and carrying a handgun without a license. Brock’s mother, Melissa, says she’s “angry with the system for failing [her] daughter and her rights as a human being.”
So far this year, at least seven people have been killed during road rage episodes, including a man in Indiana earlier this month. In 2017, we looked at what the available data reveals about the mix of angry motorists and firearms.