What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: The AR-15, explained. In the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, attention has once again turned to the AR-15-style rifles used by the 18-year-old gunmen. Some lawmakers have proposed raising the age to buy these weapons to 21, while others want to ban them altogether. But what is the AR-15, exactly? Jennifer Mascia offers a detailed look, including how we define them, how many are in circulation, why they appeal to gun owners, how often they’re used in crimes, and efforts to restrict them.

LAPD approval declines sharply even as a plurality of voters still want more officers. Ahead of tonight’s Democratic mayoral primary, just 30 percent of registered voters in Los Angeles say they approve of the LAPD’s performance, according to a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll. At the same time, 47 percent of respondents also said they want more police, including a plurality of Black, white, and Latino voters. People aged 18 to 29 were the only cohort where a plurality wanted the size of the force to decrease. However, 49 percent of voters also said it would be better if the city diverted some police funding for social services, compared to 33 percent who said that would leave the city worse off. The results show the “ambivalence and complication in how the public thinks about policing,” the co-director of the Institute of Governmental Studies told The Times. 

New York enacts a major gun control package following the Buffalo shooting. Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law 10 measures that include raising the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle to 21, in addition to requiring a permit; banning the sale of body armor vests to civilians; and expanding who can file for Emergency Risk Protection Orders under the state’s red flag law. Most of the laws in the package will go into effect early next month, though the new age limit will go into effect in 90 days. You can read about the full package here. A major Supreme Court decision looms: In the coming weeks, the high court will release its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen over the state’s “may-issue” law that requires people to demonstrate “proper cause” when they apply for licenses to carry concealed handguns. During oral arguments last fall, a majority of the justices signaled they were likely to overturn the New York law, and Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have said they are preparing for a decision that could have major ramifications for gun laws in the city, state, and beyond. 

Top Republican in Senate gun policy talks: Discussions not about new gun restrictions. Senate Democratic negotiator Chris Murphy has expressed optimism about the talks that could gain enough Republican votes to pass the 60-vote filibuster-proof threshold, while admitting the policies under consideration fall far short of what he and President Biden want. Policies said to be under discussion include legislation incentivizing states to create their own red flag laws, more funding for mental health programs and school security, and a limited update to enhance background checks for people under 21. Senator John Cornyn, who is leading talks on the Republican side, said yesterday on the Senate floor he was optimistic about “targeted reforms,” adding that “we’re not talking about banning a category of weapons across the board, a ban for certain high-capacity magazines, or changing the background check system by adding additional disqualifying items.”

Supreme Court denies appeal over law licenses of gun-toting St. Louis couple. Mark and Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges after pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in the summer of 2020, but were later pardoned by the Republican governor. Missouri’s chief disciplinary counsel nonetheless sought to bar them from practicing law for a year. The Missouri Supreme Court delayed that suspension, returning a yearlong probation subject to certain terms. Appealing their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the couple argued — to no avail — that the state court’s ruling violated their gun rights.

Data Point

44 percent — the share of self-identified Republican voters who say mass shootings are “unfortunately something we have to accept as part of a free society,” according to a poll taken after the Uvalde shooting. That compares to 15 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents. [CBS/YouGov poll]