Good morning, Bulletin readers. Congressional investigators are signaling that they plan to dial up their NRA-Russia investigation as a key figure heads to court today. Proposed state reforms look to stop the cycle of violence and prevent suicides. And a California official is sharing details on how her city uses red flag laws to disarm potential shooters.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
NEW from The Trace and Mother Jones: The House Intelligence Committee will investigate whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump. The inquiry appears set to ramp up when Democrats take control of the chamber next year. Under the outgoing Republican majority, efforts to get to the bottom of any ties between the National Rifle Association and Russia had been sidelined. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are also looking into whether Vladimir Putin’s government boosted the 2016 campaign of Donald Trump via the gun group. The NRA has responded that any money from Russians was limited to membership dues. Says a Senate source: “We don’t believe them.” The 30-year-old Russian woman at the center of the intrigue, Maria Butina, is now cooperating with federal investigators. She has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges and is scheduled to appear at a hearing today.
The Parkland shooting commission condemns the local sheriff’s office in a new report. The draft report released Wednesday by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission recommends an internal review of the performance of the seven Broward County sheriff’s deputies who failed to act after they showed up at the school and heard gunshots. The commission also cites deficiencies in school security and recommends an overhaul of safety measures in all Florida districts. The report, a final version of which will go to the state Legislature in January, does not recommend any changes to gun laws.
Legislation in New Jersey would expand services to shooting victims in hospitals. The package introduced in the state Assembly would require certain hospitals in communities with high levels of violence to provide additional services, including mental health counseling, with the aim of breaking the cycle of violence. “Many hospitals see a ‘revolving door’ of gunshot injuries, as patients who have been shot are at a very high risk of being violently re-injured and committing violent acts themselves,” said the lawmaker who introduced the measure.
Pittsburgh leaders want to increase funding for gun violence prevention. The measure introduced in the City Council on Wednesday would put $500,000 toward city’s Group Violence Initiative, which uses a grassroots approach to stopping shootings. The initiative has already shown promise, one council member said. “On the news, all you hear about is the kid that’s been shot. You don’t hear about all the lives we’ve saved.”
A South Carolina gun club has lost support after it refused to accept a black member. Two local organizations have severed ties with the Charleston Rifle Club after the group denied a black man’s application in October. Around the same time that Melvin Brown was rejected, 13 white men were accepted into the group. Brown, a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, would have become the club’s first black member.
New York City busts a multi-state gun-trafficking ring. Two gunrunners are facing prison time for bringing guns from states with lax regulations to New York City streets. Between March 2015 and April 2016, one of the men sold 80 weapons to an undercover detective. Both men were convicted on charges of criminal sale of a firearm and conspiracy, prosecutors announced this week.
A 2-year-old in Missouri shot his brother and himself while looking for snacks. Police say the toddler was hunting for something to eat in his father’s backpack when he found a gun instead. He fired the weapon (as children frequently do), sending a bullet through his own elbow and then into his 7-year-old brother’s head. Both boys were taken to the hospital and are expected to survive.
A 23-year-old man in Vermont killed himself with a gun he bought hours earlier. His mother says the man became upset and walked into a gun shop at 11:02 a.m. By 11:26 a.m., the shop had completed a background check, run his credit card, and handed over a firearm. He was dead by 4 p.m. that afternoon. In his obituary, his family included a plea for new legislation that would create a state waiting period for gun purchases. Lawmakers say they’ve begun to hear from more constituents since the obituary was published.
ONE LAST THING
In San Diego, prosecutors are using gun violence restraining orders to prevent potential tragedies. Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs) — also known as red flag laws — allow law enforcement, and sometimes family members and other concerned parties, to petition a judge to remove guns from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others. Since Parkland, red flag legislation has been enacted in eight states across the country. But passing laws is just a first step. While research on the laws is sparse, available data show that local police departments have been slow to employ the orders.
San Diego is an exception. Back in March, Alex Yablon wrote about the city’s push to issue more GVROs. In an op-ed for CALmatters, San Diego City Attorney Maria W. Elliott shared examples of how her office is putting the law to use. They include:
- Confiscating seven guns, including three AR-15s, from a man who told his wife he was suicidal, then assaulted his elderly father when he tried to take the guns away.
- Restricting gun ownership for a student who killed small animals on campus and posted violent and racist threats on social media, along with images of him shooting an AK-47.
- Removing three guns from a man believed to be in the early stages of dementia after he threatened to shoot his wife and a neighbor because he erroneously believed they were having an affair.