Good morning, Bulletin readers. More details have emerged about the relationship between an accused Russian agent and the Republican operative who connected her to the National Rifle Association. Gun issues loom large in the Florida governor’s race. And a licensed concealed carrier fires warning shots at kids to get them off his lawn. Your roundup continues below.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
A lawyer for the accused Russian agent Maria Butina says her relationship with a GOP operative is genuine — and he even visits her in jail. Prosecutors say Butina used 56-year-old Paul Erickson to infiltrate the NRA and other conservative groups. But in a new interview, Butina’s attorney called their five-year romance “a classic love story.” What new court documents say: Butina kept Erickson in the dark about her conversations with an FBI agent in South Dakota, where the couple lived. Meanwhile: Private messages unearthed by the Daily Beast reveal that the Russian-born president of a D.C. think tank tried to use his connections with Butina and her handler, Alexander Torshin, to advance the business interests of one of its most generous donors, former federal reserve chairman Hank Greenberg.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a “proud NRA sellout,” lost his gubernatorial bid. Putnam, whose agency has come under fire for its mishandling of the concealed gun permit process, was handily defeated by Trump ally Ron DeSantis in Tuesday’s GOP primary. Both DeSantis and Putnam have A-ratings from the NRA. DeSantis will face off against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat who successfully fought the gun lobby for the ability to pass local firearm restrictions. Parkland survivor David Hogg said Gillum’s embrace of gun reform attracted the young voters who helped secure his surprise win.
The governor of Rhode Island issued an executive order banning civilians from carrying concealed guns in K-12 schools. Democrat Gina Raimondo said the binding directive, announced Wednesday, was issued to address inconsistent practices across the state. A state education official said he was confident the policy would stand up in court. Yesterday, the Virginia attorney general warned a rural school district that its plan to arm teachers and staffers is a violation of state law.
A grieving Parkland parent was elected to the local school board. Lori Alhadeff, who lost her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, in the shooting, has won a seat on the Broward County School Board. Initially, she blamed weak gun laws for the massacre; she has since turned her focus to the speedy implementation of school security measures. Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter also died in the shooting, lost his bid for a seat.
The Texas attorney general said some election officials can carry guns at polling places. Republican Ken Paxton issued an opinion holding that the state’s election judges — who are not actually judges, but instead keep the peace at polling sites — can carry out their duties while armed if they have a concealed gun license. Except for law enforcement officers, firearms are banned at polling places. Because election judges are political appointees, the Texas Democratic Party said the move is “a dangerous voter intimidation tactic.”
A licensed concealed carrier in Memphis was arrested after firing a warning shot at young children playing on his lawn. Tommy Smith, 71, was arrested for reckless endangerment last weekend after shooting into the ground to scare off a group of kids ranging in age from 2 to 12 years old. A neighbor said she wasn’t surprised because Smith shoots his gun “all the time…rats, kids, everything.”
A Kentucky man was gunned down while leaving Sunday church services. Bennie Berry, 43, a “servant leader” at a Baptist church in Louisville, was fatally shot while leaving a service last weekend. A criminal reformer in the community says Berry was embroiled in a dispute, but the venue was surprising: “Kind of an unwritten rule that a person coming out of church, you get a pass.”
ONE LAST THING
The United States, home to just 4 percent of the world’s population, accounts for more than a third of its gun suicides. According to a sweeping analysis of global firearm deaths published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, America’s rates of gun suicide and gun ownership are stark outliers on the world stage. The report estimated firearm mortality across 195 countries and territories. Among the findings: 10.6 out of every 100,000 Americans were killed by firearms in 2016, triple the global rate. The United States also has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world — no other country comes close. Across the globe, countries with more gun owners also see more firearm deaths. Read Daniel Nass’s post here.