What To Know Today

Wayne LaPierre: Texas officials have floated financial incentives to aid the NRA’s plan to relocate there. The gun group’s CEO did not identify the Texas officials or specify the kind of incentives discussed while speaking under oath at a frequently testy meeting of creditors in the National Rifle Association’s bankruptcy case. He made the comment while noting that several governors and attorneys general had contacted the NRA and offered refuge after New York Attorney General Letitia James sued to dissolve the organization in August. “Texas made it clear they really wanted us,” he said. LaPierre also said that in January, he accepted a new employment contract; under its terms, he’ll keep his job through the NRA’s annual meeting in September. Should the board vote not to retain him at that meeting, LaPierre said, the NRA can pay him up to $500,000 annually for up to two years for use of his image and likeness. — Will Van Sant, staff writer

Historic gun sales and the 2020 murder spike. Yesterday, we highlighted a new analysis of the role the pandemic and police violence played in last year’s homicide rise. Authors Jeff Asher and Rob Arthur also probed the connection between record gun sales and the surge:

  • A jump in crimes committed using guns: That’s what their data showed in several cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles. In other cities, gun seizures increased amid declines in other kinds of arrests. “So what you see is that as gun availability increases, a higher percentage of the crimes are committed with guns, and as a result there are more deaths than there would be otherwise,” Philip Cook, a professor emeritus of public policy at Duke University, tells the authors. 
  • A caveat on more gun availability: Arthur and Asher note that the government releases delayed crime data and that the “ATF does not track the chain of custody from a gun’s initial purchase through subsequent secondhand purchases or thefts into use in a crime, making it impossible to know exactly how surges in gun purchases translate into greater availability of firearms among those who use them to commit crimes.”

Merrick Garland on the Biden administration’s gun policy agenda: “As long as it is consistent with the law.” In his first Senate confirmation hearing, the attorney general nominee largely demurred on his own gun policy preferences by saying he would work to enforce existing laws — including keeping people barred from having guns from obtaining them — and ensure any new laws or actions are legally sound. On police reform: Garland expressed support for the Department of Justice’s role in pursuing local accountability: “I think police accountability is an essential element of the ability of a police department to have credibility with the community.” His first priority as AG: Garland named the ongoing investigation into Capitol insurrectionists.

Pro-gun reform group calls on Biden to appoint national director of gun violence prevention. The advocacy group March for Our Lives, which had a virtual meeting with White House officials last week, wants the position to have cabinet-level authority. The group is also pushing the administration to fulfill a campaign pledge to spend $900 million on a federal grant program for community anti-violence programs.

Illinois governor signs wide-ranging criminal justice reform bill. The legislation includes provisions that would outfit every police officer with body cameras, require officers to intervene if their colleagues use excessive force, eliminate cash bail, and, in Chicago’s Cook County, assign special prosecutors for police killings.

The application of gun restrictions for protective orders. Last month, my colleague Ann Givens reported on the 13 states where a judge decides whether the subject of a temporary protection order is allowed to have firearms. In Michigan, one of four states we looked at, there is wide variation from county to county. The Lansing State Journal follows up on the process in Ingham County, home of the state capital of Lansing, where there seemed to be little correlation between whether a person asked for a firearms restriction for an alleged abuser and whether they received one. “We’re inclined to only issue restrictions on someone’s liberty interests that are narrowly tailored to the facts as we get them,” a local judge tells the paper about officials like him being hesitant to restrict gun possession.

The Trace welcomes new faces. We’re pleased to announce that Joy Resmovits starts this week as senior editor for local impact, and Mike Spies has returned as a senior staff writer who will report on the NRA and other subjects.

Data Point

126 — the number of unserialized ghost guns Baltimore Police recovered in 2020, a 400 percent year-over-year increase. Maryland legislators have proposed legislation that would attempt to register such firearms. [The Baltimore Sun]

The top item previously included the authors’ estimate that 2020’s surge in gun sales may have provided “half a million more weapons available for use in crimes.” In coming to that figure, they stated that ATF figures showed that 10 percent of all guns are used in a crime within six months of purchase. But the ATF data referred only to crime guns, not all guns. We have updated it to reflect changes made to the original piece.