What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Biden decries PLCAA. The DOJ keeps defending it in court. President Joe Biden has repeatedly called for the repeal of the Bush-era Protection of Law Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gunmakers and sellers from lawsuits when their products are used in the commission of a crime. He revived that attack last week during his first State of the Union address. But while Biden disdains those protections (and has overstated the immunity the firearms industry receives), his administration is going out of its way to defend PLCAA. “Our obligation in the Justice Department is to defend the constitutionality of statutes that we can reasonably argue are constitutional,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in October when asked about the law. While it’s not unusual for administrations to defend the constitutionality of laws its executive may not like, there’s also nothing forcing them to defend PLCAA in court, which the Biden DOJ has done. Chip Brownlee has more on that on our site today.

NEW from THE TRACE: Smith & Wesson gets a second chance to avoid release of internal documents. A federal appeals court gave the gunmaker an important legal reprieve yesterday in vacating a lower court ruling that could have forced the gun company to hand over advertising and research documents to New Jersey’s attorney general. In October of 2020, then-New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal used a state consumer fraud protection law to subpoena Smith & Wesson as part of an investigation into the company’s advertising practices. To fight the subpoena, Smith & Wesson countersued in December of 2020. The suit was dismissed, but this latest appeals court ruling will allow the company a second chance to argue that the subpoena should be thrown out. A spokesperson for New Jersey’s acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said the development would not affect the state’s ongoing investigation. Champe Barton has that story

What else is tucked in the Congress-passed spending bill. On Thursday, senators quickly approved a $1.5 trillion House-passed measure to keep the government funded through September. As we covered yesterday, among the many provisions was reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Buried elsewhere in the legislation is also a new $50 million community violence intervention and prevention initiative at the Department of Justice and a $25 million allocation for gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. It’s the third year in a row for federal gun violence research funding since it was restarted in 2019 after a decadeslong embargo.

Department of Labor announces $85 million in grants targeting jobs programs for underserved young people. The Reentry Employment Opportunities’ program will award more than two dozen grants to “youth and young adults impacted by community violence” for employment services, educational help, mentorship, and more. “Coordinated by workforce development organizations and justice system partners, the program is designed to enable grantees to improve participants’ conflict resolution skills and self-perception, and foster the necessary discipline for achievement of longer-term goals,” the department said in a news release.

Alabama enacts permitless carry. The state’s Republican governor signed the bill shortly after it cleared the Legislature on Thursday. The law will allow residents to carry handguns in most places without any licensing requirement. Similar bills passed in Indiana and Ohio, where they are also awaiting decisions by Republican governors.

Data Point

22 — including Alabama, the number of states that have passed permitless carry laws. Six GOP-controlled states passed them last year. [The Trace]