What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: The ATF is scrutinizing the license it granted an offshoot of a notorious gunmaker. In August 2020, Brian Freskos reported on Jimenez Arms, a gun manufacturer that experts say used bankruptcy to avoid the consequences of unscrupulous business practices. In a federal court filing last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said the ATF had agreed to initiate an inspection of J.A. Industries, a gun manufacturer founded within two months after Jimenez Arms enlisted bankruptcy protections in 2020. The bankruptcy was widely seen as an effort by owner Paul Jimenez to jettison lawsuits stemming from revelations that his company had supplied pistols to a Kansas City, Missouri, firefighter who later pleaded trafficking guns, at least one of which was used in a murder. Brian’s new story explores the ATF scrutiny now being applied to what appears to largely be a clone of Jimenez Arms.

Dick Heller again gets D.C. to change its gun laws — this time over ghost guns. The city resident has sued the District on several occasions, including in the landmark 2008 Supreme Court case that bears his name. In September, Heller and two other city residents sued D.C. over its bans on home firearm manufacture and a 2020 law barring the possession and registration of ghost guns. Heller said the laws had prevented him from building his own gun even though he said he was willing to register it with a traceable serial number. Now, the D.C. Council has voted to amend the ghost gun law to address Heller’s suit, and Heller’s lawyer said that if the mayor approves the change, it would satisfy their concerns.

Oklahoma governor commutes sentence for Julius Jones hours before planned execution. Jones was convicted of a fatal 1999 shooting, but he has always maintained his innocence. In September, the state Pardon and Parole Board recommended that Jones be given clemency. At the 11th hour, Governor Kevin Stitt commuted the sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Though noting they hoped for a clemency of life with a parole possibility, Jones’s lawyer nonetheless praised the decision: “We are grateful that the governor has prevented an irreparable mistake.”

Do courts treat the Second Amendment as a “second-class” right? In the last decade, a growing chorus in conservative legal circles and on the federal bench — including SCOTUS justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas — have argued that the court system regularly downplays protections for the amendment compared to how it enforces other rights. But in an op-ed for The Washington Post, gun law experts Joseph Blocher and Eric Ruben take an opposing view: “Our empirical analysis of the first eight years of post-Heller Second Amendment cases found that civil plaintiffs represented by an attorney — that is, people challenging gun restrictions — have a success rate of 40 percent in federal appellate courts. That figure hardly suggests that judges are turning their backs on pro-gun-rights arguments; it is in line with, or higher than, success rates in other constitutional contexts.”

Trump official regularly floated ethics rules through contact with ex-NRA colleagues. That’s according to a new report from the inspector general of the Interior Department. While the report does not name the official, HuffPost reports it is Ben Cassidy, a one-time NRA lobbyist and high-up official in the department. The Interior report found that the official violated rules by participating in discussions involving his former employee, and by helping to install NRA-backed gun advocates on two department advisory councils.

Data Point

4 seconds — the amount of time Pennsylvania authorities obscured in previously released video of the final moments of Christian Hall’s life, leading to speculation that Hall had pointed a pellet gun at officers before they fatally shot him. Newly obtained footage shows the Asian-American teenager, who had been diagnosed with depression and was standing on the edge of a bridge, kept his hands, and the pellet gun, in the air up until the moment police opened fire. [SpotlightPA]