Good morning, Bulletin readers. In today’s briefing: American guns flood New Zealand, bump stocks are a week away from being outlawed (but are still for sale), and a theft from an ATF facility has us probing the bureau’s system for securing the guns it’s supposed to be destroying.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
NEW from THE TRACE: An ATF heist exposes vulnerabilities in its system for destroying out-of-commission guns. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seizes roughly 23,000 guns every year. Field agents used to personally oversee the destruction of crime weapons no longer needed for evidence, but now they are sent to a centralized facility in West Virginia, where a security contractor has been busted for diverting an untold number of firearms marked for disposal to the black market. Alex Yablon has the background on the case ahead of a hearing tomorrow that could shed further light on the thefts.
The United States is the leading exporter of guns to New Zealand. Alex pulled the numbers from the United Nations Customs portal and found that between 2014 and 2018, American gunmakers shipped more than 90,000 guns to New Zealand. Authorities there have not yet revealed the manufacturers of the firearms a gunman used to kill 50 people at two mosques last Friday.
A federal judge denied a challenge to Trump’s executive action on bump stocks. A Utah gun enthusiast who argued in court that the Trump administration’s ban on the rapid-fire accessory is unconstitutional has been instructed to surrender or destroy his device by the time the rule goes into effect next Tuesday. The gun owner is appealing.
Meanwhile, bump stocks are still for sale online. Last fall, we reported on RW Arms, the Texas company that stepped in to sell the remaining inventory of the top bump stock manufacturer after it shuttered. With a week to go before the devices will be outlawed, RW Arms is still selling them, alongside a countdown clock to the effective date of the rule.
A dozen men were arrested in New Jersey after cops busted an alleged “ghost gun” ring. Law enforcement officials on Monday announced the takedown, part of a yearlong gun and drug investigation called Operation Stone Wall. Four of the 12 men are charged with conspiring to sell thousands of dollars’ worth of home-built AR-15 rifles. They are the first to be arrested under a new state law banning DIY firearms devoid of serial numbers (and therefore untraceable by law enforcement). From The Trace archives: “Ghost gun” trafficking cases are a law enforcement nightmare come true.
Police in Denver are on track to seize a record number of illegal guns in 2019. So far this year, Denver Police have seized at least 320 guns, putting the department on pace for more than 1,600 seizures by the end of December. Many of the crime guns had been previously stolen. A Denver TV station delved into the city’s gun theft problem as part of our “Missing Pieces” series. But local and state officials have yet to take action to limit the flow of purloined weapons.
A Missouri Republican trolled gun reform advocates with bills that would force residents to arm themselves. The proposals would require all adults to own handguns and young adults to own AR-15s. The lawmaker said the bills are intended to “point out the absurdity of the opposite side.”
A father and son were shot in a road rage shooting. Police say two Texas motorists drew weapons on each other Saturday afternoon after one driver cut another driver off. One of the drivers opened fire on the other vehicle with three children still inside. The driver and his son were both hit and transported to the hospital with gunshot wounds. There have been over 100 road rage shootings so far this year, resulting in at least nine deaths and 40 injuries, according to Gun Violence Archive.
ONE LAST THING
With hate crimes on the rise, some queer and trans people are turning to armed self-defense. In an essay for HuffPost, a nonbinary gun owner describes their decision to buy a gun after moving to rural Georgia. They found a community in an LGBTQ contingent of Second Amendment supporters, united by distrust in a government that they feel will not protect them. But being armed didn’t make them feel any safer, the person said: “All my fears remained, gun or no gun.”