Good morning, Bulletin readers. The NRA makes its first big ad buy of the 2018 cycle. California experiments with ammunition control. Plus, at least one accusation against Marina Butina has been dropped. Those stories and more in your Monday morning roundup.

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NEW FROM THE TRACE: The NRA is still using a mystery firm to pour money into Senate races. The National Rifle Association made its first major foray into the 2018 election cycle last week, unleashing ads on behalf of Republican challengers to Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And in both cases, the gun group continued to pay Starboard Strategic Inc., a mysterious vendor that, according to one election watchdog, appears to be a shell company set up to circumvent election laws limiting how much the NRA can spend on candidates. Read the update to Mike Spies’s investigation here.

U.S. prosecutors: We erred in alleging Maria Butina traded sex for political access. In court papers filed late Friday, lawyers in the U.S. Attorney’s office conceded that they had misinterpreted text messages when they claimed that Butina had used sex to pay her debts. However, they argued that the young Russian remains a flight risk, and should remain in custody until her trial for attempting to influence Republican party politics by infiltrating the NRA.

California tries to address gun violence by regulating something other than guns: ammunition. As The New York Times notes in its analysis, bullets are easier to buy than cold medicine in some parts of the country. California cities Sacramento and Los Angeles have reversed that trend within their borders — both require ammo dealers to keep logs of their customers, which law enforcement says has proved helpful when investigating crimes. Beginning in January, such record-keeping will be required statewide and, later in the year, a law will take effect requiring customers to undergo background checks when they purchase bullets.

A 12-year-old in Iowa pointed a gun at his teacher’s face and pulled the trigger — but the safety was on. According to court documents about the incident, which took place on August 31 in the city of Eldridge, the boy entered a classroom armed with a .22-caliber handgun and ordered his classmates to the floor before attempting to shoot his teacher. After the weapon failed to fire, the teacher disarmed the boy. He is charged with attempted murder.

After school shootings, photos of the perpetrator outnumber photos of victims by a ratio of 16 to 1. A newly released paper analyzing media coverage of three high-profile school shootings over a 10-year period found that newspapers are also more likely to run larger photos of the gunman. Read more about the study on The Trace.


West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is emphasizing his support for gun rights in a re-election campaign TV ad. The spot features Manchin reciting a list of things he’s “fighting for,” focusing primarily on economic topics like jobs training and healthcare but including “the Second Amendment, always.” Manchin makes the statement with a rifle in his hands.

Despite Manchin’s support of gun rights, the NRA has made the Democrat a target of its ire, and — as we mentioned above — is running a competing ad, saying Manchin is “part of the problem.” According to our NRA Campaign Spending Tracker, the gun group has spent more than $400,000 on the race between Manchin and Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Manchin has a moderate record: In 2013, he co-sponsored bipartisan gun reform legislation in the Senate that narrowly failed. He votes in line with President Trump’s positions more than 60 percent of the time. However, keeping Manchin’s seat is crucial to any hopes Democrats have of winning back Senate control.