Good morning, Bulletin readers. During Day 1 of SCOTUS confirmation hearings, Democrats called out Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s ties to the National Rifle Association and his hard-line record on the Second Amendment. And new developments show how student activists are working to reverse a decades-long trend in their push to make gun reform a central issue in this year’s midterms. Those stories and more, below.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
At Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, Democrats criticized Kavanaugh’s record on guns. In her opening remarks, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California called Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Second Amendment views more extreme than those of Justice Antonin Scalia, and highlighted a dissenting opinion Kavanaugh wrote in which he argued that banning assault-style rifles is unconstitutional. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island also raised questions about the NRA’s influence on Kavanaugh, pointing out that the gun group “has poured millions” into his confirmation. Viral moment: The father of a Parkland victim says Kavanaugh refused to shake his hand during a lunch break. “He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence,” Fred Guttenberg wrote on Twitter. Photographs and videos captured the apparent snub.
A new study suggests that gun owners have been more engaged than non-gun owners during past election cycles, regardless of NRA affiliation. The study compared the political activity of gun owners to that of non-gun owners during every election year between 1972 and 2012. The authors’ findings: Even gun owners who did not belong to the National Rifle Association were more politically active than non-gun owners. “Only one in five gun owners belong to the NRA, so we think there is something else going on than just the NRA when it comes to mobilization,” one of the study’s authors said. This could be a very different election year. The post-Parkland youth gun reform advocacy has inspired a new generation of young voters. In previous elections, Democrats steered away from gun reform. But according to an NBC news analysis, 71 percent of Democratic candidates, including those in Republican-leaning districts, mention gun control on their campaign websites.
Youth gun reform activists are getting a million-dollar boost from Levi Strauss. On Tuesday, the clothing company announced the launch of new anti-gun-violence initiatives, including a philanthropic fund to support youth anti-gun-violence efforts over the next four years. The company is also joining a newly formed anti-gun-violence coalition of business leaders, supported by Everytown for Gun Safety. (Through its 501c3, Everytown provides grant funding to The Trace.)
Another student-led initiative is joining the push to mobilize the youth vote. The 37 Days Campaign will kick off with a rally in Las Vegas on the one-year anniversary of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival shooting and stretch to the midterm elections on November 6. A group of youth activists called Shattering the Silence is organizing marches, town halls, and voter registration drives in cities across the nation.
Chicago’s alternative schools experience a disproportionate number of student deaths, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of school and crime data. A quarter of public school students in Chicago who died of gunshot wounds between 2013 and 2017 attended alternative high schools — despite only accounting for 2 percent of enrollment. Alternative high schools serve some of Chicago’s most vulnerable students, many of whom have been expelled from other schools because of behavioral issues. Students at alternative schools are also more likely to live in neighborhoods with high homicide rates, the analysis found.
Smith & Wesson says a shareholder-requested risk report is part of an “anti-gun agenda.” The gun company’s CEO said a proxy motion filed by a group of Catholic activist shareholders to compel it to study gun violence “is designed to harm our company, disrupt the local sale of our products and destroy stockholder value.” ICYMI: Last week, activist shareholders, which include a group of nuns, filed a resolution asking Smith & Wesson’s parent company to report on the public safety risks of their products. Back in May, the group compelled Ruger to produce a similar study.
Researchers are analyzing social media to predict teen gun violence. A project at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor uses artificial intelligence techniques to analyze the profiles of Chicago teens and identify those most at risk. The researchers are hoping to partner with gun-violence-prevention programs like Cure Violence to use the data to intervene before shots are fired. Other forms of predictive technology and online surveillance have raised questions about racial profiling, and researchers themselves worry that the technology could be misused to “police activity in marginalized communities.”
A Florida gun rights group is suing a local university over its ban on rifles and shotguns in cars. The lawsuit, filed last week by Florida Carry, alleges that Florida State University’s rules prohibiting certain types of guns inside private vehicles violates students’ Second Amendment rights.
A man who opened fire outside of an Ice Cube concert was shot and killed by police. Police say the man was attempting to buy tickets to the sold-out show at the Del Mar racetrack in San Diego. After an argument, the man fired a handgun into the crowd and was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies. No other injuries were reported.
ONE LAST THING
With midterm campaigns now in full swing, we’re making it easy to follow the NRA’s spending on key races. The NRA has been spending increasingly aggressively to elect federal candidates who the group believes will advance its gun-rights agenda. Our NRA Campaign Spending Tracker pulls daily Federal Election Commission reports to show you exactly how much the group is putting behind its favored candidates. We’ve also created a Twitter bot that will share every new expense we log.
Data from previous cycles shows that the NRA’s general election spending typically begins in earnest after Labor Day. As spending ramps up, you can join us in digging into the data and finding the stories behind the numbers.