Good morning, Bulletin readers. The 2020 legislative season is underway at statehouses around the country, bringing policy battles that could shape the trajectory of gun reform during this election year. Below, we flag some of the developments worth tracking.
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Gun reform push in Virginia draws increasingly aggressive backlash. In a Guardian dispatch, Lois Beckett looks at the highly charged atmosphere in the state, where Democrats are preparing to follow through on their pledge to pass a slate of new gun laws. A number of Democratic lawmakers have reportedly received threats, and “some of these [gun rights] activists have warned of violence if Democrats push forward with gun control,” Beckett writes. The state’s leading gun rights group expects a turnout of 30,000 at a January 20 rally in Richmond; armed militia groups are also expected to send members, raising fears of a repeat of the deadly clashes sparked by the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. A spokesperson for the governor, who has no plans to withdraw gun reform measures, said that “everyone needs to work to turn the rhetoric down.”
Across the Potomac, the mayor of Washington, D.C., pleaded with Virginia lawmakers to carry through with reforms. Forty-one percent of crime guns seized in the District in 2018 were traced to Virginia. “As a neighboring jurisdiction, Washington, D.C., is directly impacted by Virginia gun control,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
Missouri officials begin 2020 with a focus on community gun violence. As the state Legislature convened Wednesday, the Republican House speaker urged a tough-on-crime approach, calling on lawmakers to beef up law enforcement and witness protection programs in cities like St. Louis and Kansas City. The Democratic House minority leader countered with a plea for “common sense” measures that will “make it harder for the bad guy with the gun to get the gun in the first place.” Gun deaths in Missouri have increased by more than 55 percent over the past decade. Last week, the Missouri Foundation for Health gave $1.5 million to the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research to study the epidemic in the state and look at potential solutions.
New Mexico’s governor unveiled a new red flag bill. The new measure from Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, would let family, friends, and police petition a judge to remove a gun from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others. The measure is expected to pass Democratic-led Legislature, but has drawn the ire of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, which said the vast majority of the state’s sheriffs oppose the bill. Seventeen states have red flag laws. Legislatures in other states, including New Hampshire and Virginia, are considering similar measures this year.
A start-up aims to more seamlessly detect weapons for large crowds. Evolv Technology, an alternative to traditional metal detectors, raised $30 million in a new round of funding this week. The technology is already in use in several places, and the company’s CEO says the first year the scanners were installed at the Biltmore — a historic hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, that doesn’t permit guns — about 1,500 people were asked to remove firearms from the premises. Jeb Bush and Bill Gates are the among the investors.
Delaware shooters often share a “community gun,” making it harder to solve crimes. Communal firearms or “block guns” are not a new phenomenon in high-crime neighborhoods, but knowledge of the phenomenon is not widespread: The Delaware News Journal reports that participants in a gun violence forum were “stunned” by a Wilmington defense attorney’s description of the practice: “I’m now having cases where one gun is attached to five, six, seven, eight different shootings.”
There were zero people shot in Chicago on Tuesday, the first time the city has gone a full day without a reported shooting since November. So far this year, 37 people have been shot in the city, seven of them fatally, according to Gun Violence Archive. — ABC 7