What To Know Today
Pro-Trump rallies in D.C. expected to draw far-right extremists. Fringe personalities, conspiracy theorists, and hate group leaders have promoted the demonstrations — variously billed as “Stop the Steal,” “Million MAGA March,” or “March for Trump” — that are scheduled to kick off in the capital city this Saturday morning. InfoWars host Alex Jones and the leader of the neo-fascist Proud Boys have said they’ll attend; the Southern Poverty Law Center expects militia members and white supremacists to be on hand as well. Anti-fascist and anti-racist groups are planning counter demonstrations nearby. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser warned protesters to leave their guns at home: Open carry is prohibited in the District.
A militia backlash to Virginia’s gun reforms. As Democrats claimed control of the state’s government last year, more than 90 counties passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions opposing new gun reforms. The legally unenforceable resolutions did not deter legislators from passing a historic slate of reforms, but as a new CBS documentary explores, the gun rights backlash has fueled expanded militia activity. “Gun Fight” profiles members of one local militia that even gained symbolic recognition from the county government. “[The Second Amendment] is not about hunting. It’s not about self-defense. It’s about shooting tyrants in the face,” said the group’s leader. What’s in a name? As legal experts have pointed out, militias have no authority to operate as law enforcement without explicit state authorization. All 50 states have laws restricting paramilitary activity.
Veterans continue to face elevated suicide risks, latest federal numbers show. More than 6,400 former servicemembers died by suicide in 2018, according to an annual VA report that releases data on a two-year lag. That was three dozen more than in 2017. The rate of suicide among veterans is 1.5 times higher than the general population, and firearms continue to be the most common means — close to 70 percent compared to just under half for the population at large. A bright spot: Suicide rates decreased for veterans who had recently used VA health services. A third rail: In April, the VA released a suicide prevention toolkit — developed in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Shooting Sports Foundation — to help communities promote safe gun storage, an effort the report references. But a federal bill passed last month to combat veteran suicide omitted a requirement for VA clinicians to counsel patients about gun access after Republicans objected. [If you or someone you know if struggling with mental health, help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line, and the Veterans Crisis Line.]
More protesters sue Austin over police use of “less lethal” rounds. In a pair of federal lawsuits, two men are seeking damages for injuries they sustained when officers allegedly shot them with beanbag rounds during demonstrations against police violence this summer. At least two other people have sued the city over protest-related incidents. Warnings unheeded: Experts told us in June that less lethal weapons can still kill and were likely to escalate conflict. Blasted by critics, the Austin PD restocked. The city’s police chief vowed to the city council that his department would never use the rounds again. But in partnership with public radio station KUT, our Alain Stephens unearthed a purchase contract showing that police went on to order thousands more of them.
The new LA County DA pledged to hold officers accountable. That pledge may soon get its first test. Over the summer, sheriff’s deputies in Gardena, California, shot Andres Guardado in the back five times following a chase, according to the coroner’s autopsy. The shooting sparked days of protests and was the kind of incident progressive reformer George Gascón has vowed to prioritize as the county’s chief prosecutor. This week, the local medical examiner called for an independent review of the case, the results of which could factor into Gascón’s decision on whether to charge the two officers.
Since Election Day, 16 out of 20 of the top-performing Facebook posts with the word “election” have featured misinformation casting doubt on the results in favor of the president. [The Guardian]