Hello, readers. In today’s briefing: Gun violence in 2018 reaches a grim milestone. A gun-trafficking scheme facilitated through social media exposes the dangers of background check loopholes. And a new report from Senate Democrats returns the spotlight to Russia’s NRA ties.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
New from The Trace: How Armslist and Facebook enabled a Chicago gun-trafficking scheme. A man prohibited from legally purchasing firearms because of a felony conviction used Armslist to evade background checks and acquire weapons for a gun-selling ring, according to a federal indictment. Posts to Facebook helped the ring find buyers, despite the fact that the social network officially bars use of its platform for gun sales. Alex Yablon has the details.
America had its 100th mass shooting of the year on Wednesday morning. Police say a gunman fatally shot four people and injured one at a home in rural Texas before taking his own life. The incident is the fourth mass shooting in Texas since February. The tallies here come from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as any incident in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunfire.
Senate Democrats say they still have unanswered questions about the relationship between the NRA and Russia. A preliminary report compiles details about the link between the National Rifle Association and powerful Russian interests that have trickled in since President Trump’s election and notes that Maria Butina, a figure at the center of the intrigue, has not cooperated with the panel’s investigation. We’ve collected everything we know about the NRA’s Russia ties in this timeline.
Boulder, Colorado, passed an assault weapons ban. Its City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to pass an ordinance banning the sale and possession of military-style rifles, bump stocks, and high-capacity ammunition magazines. A gun group vowed to challenge the new policies.
Ten more Florida cities joined a lawsuit against the state’s gun laws. Orlando is among the plaintiffs that this week joined 10 others in a challenge to the constitutionality of a 2011 NRA-backed pre-emption statute, which prevents the creation of local gun regulations and penalizes lawmakers who try to enact them.
A former student who fired his weapon at an Illinois high school on Wednesday was shot by a school resource officer. Police say the 19-year-old suspect fired several shots into a crowded gymnasium where students were gathered for graduation practice. When approached, he shot at the officer, who returned fire. The suspect is in custody with what officials describe as non-life threatening injuries.
A Louisiana bill would allow guns near schools, but not in them. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to clarify that guns should be allowed within 1,000 feet of schools and universities. The proposal is a substitute for a bill that would have allowed guns on school property. The original measure passed the House but faced opposition from universities and other groups. It now goes back to the House.
The Maryland man who shot and killed three people last week once had his guns confiscated. When the man’s cache of weapons was temporarily seized after a domestic violence incident in 2014, he sent a series of emails to a police officer, who said he was “obsessed” with getting the guns back. The firearms were eventually returned, and the man fatally shot three neighbors who were protecting his estranged wife.
ONE LAST THING
Laws requiring domestic abusers to surrender their guns are not being enforced. In 2013, Colorado passed a law mandating that people convicted of domestic abuse relinquish their firearms. But it’s not working as intended, an investigation by 9News Denver found.
Since the law went into effect, Colorado judges have issued nearly 70,000 gun-relinquishment requests. Only 165 people subject to those orders have been charged with illegal gun possession. The local station evaluated a random sampling of high-profile violent crimes and found that in several cases, the suspects had been under a relinquishment order. “There is not a way to track compliance,” said one judge.
A similar law went into effect in Kansas earlier this month, and it appears the state may face the same problem. One district attorney says it will be up to domestic abusers themselves to comply with the law.
In December, The Trace’s Alex Yablon looked at how other states have addressed compliance:
- A county in Washington State funded a program that serves domestic abusers with search warrants to find their guns.
- California allocated $24 million to a task force that confiscates firearms still possessed by people prohibited from owning them.
- Seattle hired a dedicated prosecutor and court coordinator to review records and alert court officers to the possibility that an abuser may still have weapons.
- A state attorney in Florida asked judges to make the relinquishment of guns a condition of bail release.