Robert Earl Tucker Jr. spent years trying to get his Ruger back. Authorities seized his pistol in August 2019, in connection with an incident in which Tucker apparently drew his gun during an argument in a Baton Rouge Walmart just days after the mass shooting at one of the company’s stores in El Paso, Texas. The saga that followed, The Advocate reports, showcased the limits of Louisiana’s gun laws.
For the Walmart altercation, Tucker was initially charged in state court with disturbing the peace; prosecutors later enhanced it to aggravated assault with a firearm. At the same time, he was fighting federal charges: Tucker had been involuntarily committed a decade before, and a physician’s report from the time declared him a danger to himself and others. He was indicted for allegedly lying on a screening application when he tried to buy a firearm in June 2020, and he was eventually found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and making false statements to a Federal Firearm Licensee, for which he spent 10 months in prison.
Then the 5th Circuit got involved. Tucker appealed his conviction, and the federal appellate court overturned it and vacated his sentence, ruling that because he had been declared a danger by a physician, rather than a judicial authority, there wasn’t “sufficient evidence” to back the charges. The state case was dismissed in September, and a Louisiana judge last week ordered that Tucker’s gun be returned.
When he ruled that the Ruger should be returned, the state judge noted that Louisiana has no extreme risk protection order law. “The issue is: Under whose authority can I do anything,” he asked prosecutors during the hearing. “You want me to do something that I have zero authority to do.”
What to Know Today
Fatal shootings are falling in the U.S. this year, per data from the Gun Violence Archive. Among big cities with available 2023 statistics, the drops in gun violence over time look remarkably similar: big increases in mid-2020, followed by declines in late 2022 or the first six months of 2023. [Jeff Asher]
Four Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, including one retired officer, died by suicide within a 24-hour time period. Department officials said the deaths, three of which were carried out with guns, do not appear to be related. The suicides highlight the unique mental health challenges of policing, particularly as agencies grapple with severe staffing shortages. [Los Angeles Magazine/CNN]
Jose Refugio Quezada Jr. — better known under the moniker Coach, for his three decades of leading youth baseball and basketball teams — dedicated his life to supporting his community in Wilmington, California, before he was shot and killed in July. Writer Suzette Hackney is confident someone else will pick up where he left off, because “there is a neighborhood hero in every city and on every corner in America, if you’re willing to see.” [USA TODAY]
In his new book “Gun Country,” on the emergence of American gun culture, historian Andrew C. McKevitt chronicles how firearms transformed from a commodity as unglamorous as washing machines into symbols of ideological principles and identity. [The Washington Post/UNC Press]
Years ago, Adeeb Barqawi reached a tipping point: The mother of one of his students was murdered, and by the time Barqawi found resources to help the student with her trauma, she had stopped coming to class. That episode spurred him to found ProUnitas, a nonprofit that connects young people who need support with the right resources for their needs. Hundreds of Texas school districts now use Barqawi’s model — and, he says, it’s been shown to improve attendance and decrease behavior infractions. [Texas Monthly]
The Baltimore Police Department disbanded its plainclothes gun squad in 2017 after a high-profile corruption scandal. Two recent police shootings involving the latest iteration of the gun unit raise renewed concern about members of the patrol escalating otherwise-peaceful encounters. [Associated Press]
9 — the number of officers in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who have died by suicide so far this year, according to a police union spokesperson. That far surpasses recent years: there was one in 2022, three in 2021, and two in 2020. [CNN]