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How much should the public know about a mass shooter?

That’s the subject of an unusual legal battle playing out in Nashville, Tennessee, over whether the writings of the shooter who killed six people, including children, at a private Christian elementary school in March should be released to the public. Per The New York Times, there are, at present, three sides in the debate: Family members of victims and their classmates, the Covenant School, and the church all say that publicizing the records could worsen survivors’ trauma and inspire copycat attacks. The city and the Police Department say that releasing the documents could endanger an ongoing investigation. And a group of petitioners including The Tennessean newspaper and a gun rights group say the information must be released under state open records laws.

The case is “uncharted territory,” said the judge overseeing it, and the lawsuit itself is as thorny as its subject. In June, The Tennessean reported, the shooter’s parents handed legal ownership of the documents to the Covenant School families, which the judge said solidified the families’ standing in the case. Freedom of information advocates have questioned the school’s role in the lawsuit — the shooter previously attended the Covenant School — and the precedent a ruling against the documents’ release could set. 

“As a journalist devoted to reporting that makes mass shootings less likely, I fear that states or courts blocking access to basic evidence, facts and background about these acts of brutality could lead us to ineffectual, inappropriate or dangerous policies,” Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, told the Times. He continued: “It should be a warning sign when an institution, which may or may not have done everything to protect its student body, is trying to shut down access.”

What to Know Today

ICYMI: Homicides in Philadelphia are trending downward. City officials argue that to keep killings on the decline, the Republican-led Pennsylvania Senate needs to pass stronger gun laws. [The Trace

The California Attorney General’s Office found that annual state law enforcement seizures of ghost guns have grown 16-fold over the past decade, surging from less than 1,300 in the early 2010s to more than 20,000 in 2021 and 2022. [San Francisco Chronicle] Context: As ghost guns have grown in popularity, criminals have identified them as a way to get around California’s restrictive gun laws

The New York Police Department granted fewer gun permits in 2022 than the year prior, despite the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision that loosened the state’s concealed carry licensing law. The department received more than 7,000 applications in 2022; most are still pending. [THE CITY]

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that universities are entitled to ban guns on campus regardless of permitting status, upholding an established University of Michigan policy. The case could still end up at the state Supreme Court. [Bridge Michigan] Context: Pro-gun students may be the face of the campus carry movement, but seasoned right-wing operatives gave it funding and focus.

A newly released audio recording of a closed-door Denver school board meeting that took place a day after an on-campus shooting sheds new light on why members unanimously approved returning police officers to schools — reversing a major policy without public discussion, even as several board members acknowledged that the change wouldn’t entirely solve the problem of gun violence. [Chalkbeat Colorado

The person who shot three police officers, killing one, in Fargo, North Dakota, earlier this month used a gun modified with a binary trigger. The relatively inexpensive device essentially doubles a weapon’s firing capacity, equipping a gun to fire one round when the trigger is pulled and another when it’s released. [Associated Press

Almost two years after the Mexican government filed a lawsuit against seven U.S. gunmakers for “pandering to the criminal market” in its country, both sides presented their cases to a federal appellate court in Boston on Monday. The stakes, for both Mexico and the firearms manufacturers, are high. [CT Mirror] Context: Data shows that American companies produce the weapons driving cartel violence: U.S. gun manufacturers make up seven out of the top 10 companies whose guns are most frequently seized by the Mexican military.

The 6th Circuit cleared the way for a lower court to respond to a novel question posed in a Michigan lawsuit: How should the legal system treat public firearm brandishing over Zoom? [Duke Center for Firearms Law

Actor Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila, launched an initiative to help school districts apply for federal grants to pay for security upgrades and mental health programs. McConaughey has frequently called for gun safety laws since last year’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, his hometown. [The Dallas Morning News]

Data Point

21 percent — the proportion of firearm permit applications the NYPD approved in 2022, compared with 56 percent in 2021. The department saw a surge in applications after the Bruen ruling. [THE CITY]