Hello, readers. In today’s briefing: Two smart takes on the ascension of notorious arms-runner Oliver North to NRA president. Two developments in the continuing evolution of Dick’s Sporting Goods as a champion of gun reform. And one gun law that wonks really like.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
Oliver North will become president of the National Rifle Association. In a surprise move, the group’s board announced on Monday that the retired Marine lieutenant colonel, notorious for his role in the illegal sale of weapons in the Iran-Contra affair, will take over the largely ceremonial post. His tenure will begin in a few weeks. “This is the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became President of our Association,” said CEO Wayne LaPierre in a statement. Pete Brownell, who was elected president of the organization in May 2017, reportedly did not seek a second term and will return to running his family’s Iowa-based gun parts superstore. Brownell was part of the 2015 NRA junket to Russia that has come under scrutiny as the group’s ties to Russia draw scrutiny.
Why the NRA would give the controversial North a prominent job: The group “has found its true north in provocation” and the conservative martyr and “veteran culture warrior” is well suited to be one of its faces, argues David A. Graham in The Atlantic. And how North’s embrace by hard-right populists presaged the election of Donald Trump: “Conservatives rallied to North’s defense because he was on their side, next to which the breaking of ‘technical laws’ was a trifling concern,” writes Jonathan Chait in New York.
The NRA is suing the firm that handled its controversial insurance program. Last week, the New York State Department of Financial Services fined Lockton $7 million for administering Carry Guard, which it found was in violation of state law. Now, the NRA has filed a breach of contract suit against Lockton, which said after Parkland that it was pulling its NRA-endorsed insurance products.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is cutting ties with Dick’s Sporting Goods. After news broke last week that the retailer had hired lobbyists to push for gun reform, the board of the NSSF, a hunting and shooting trade organization, unanimously voted to expel Dick’s from its membership. Firearms manufacturer Springfield Armory will also end its relationship with Dick’s. “We will not accept Dick’s Sporting Goods’ continued attempts to deny Second Amendment freedoms to our fellow Americans,” reads a post on the company’s Facebook page.
Gun sales were down in April. After a spike in gun purchases after the Parkland shooting, handgun sales declined by 9.6 percent last month, while long gun sales remained flat.
In Illinois, at least five rural counties have declared themselves “sanctuaries” for gun owners. County officials passed resolutions to shield gun owners from federal gun restrictions, borrowing language from “sanctuary city” measures meant to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.
In Oklahoma, gun rights advocates demonstrated in support of permitless carry. Dozens gathered outside the office of Republican Governor Mary Fallin, urging her to sign new legislation that would allow people to carry weapons without first securing a license.
A Colorado lawmaker faced a barrage of violent threats on social media after introducing a bill that would allow police to remove guns from people deemed a violent threat. State Representative Cole Wist’s red flag bill would allow police officers to temporarily seize guns from people likely to commit violence. He said the threats he received afterward were so “hostile and intimidating” that he reported them to law enforcement. The bill passed the state House late Friday. On Monday, Republican state lawmakers said that the bill would fail upon arrival to the Senate.
Stronger gun laws may save young lives, findings from a new study released by the Children’s National Health System suggest. Researchers found that states with stronger gun laws have lower child mortality rates. They also found that states with universal background checks had fewer gun-related deaths among children.
Bicyclists are on a 400-mile ride to raise awareness for gun safety. The group, named Team 26 to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, left Newtown, Connecticut, on Saturday and is expected to arrive at the U.S. Capitol building Tuesday afternoon. They are calling for expanded background checks and restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
More people are calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline about armed abusers. Calls to the hotline involving guns were up 75 percent last year compared to 2016. The surge is attributed to increased publicity surrounding the link between mass shootings and domestic violence.
Five years after he was acquitted for fatally shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman is facing a misdemeanor stalking charge. Police say he is under investigation for threatening and harassing an investigator. If convicted, he will lose his right to own a gun.
SOLUTION OF THE DAY
HuffPost looks at the Massachusetts law that sets the nation’s highest bar for gun ownership. Massachusetts requires that prospective gun buyers apply for a license before purchasing a weapon. The permitting requirement also includes a four-hour firearms training class, an interview with a police officer, and character references. Unlike the handful of other states with so-called permit-to-purchase laws, writes HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn, Massachusetts gives police departments discretion to deny applicants they determine to be too high-risk. (It provides an appeals process to challenge those rejections.) Massachusetts, as it happens, has also had some of the lowest rates of gun violence in the U.S.
There’s no definitive evidence that Massachusetts’ permit-to-purchase law is the reason for its low gun violence rate. But research suggests that it could be playing a role. As The Trace reported in 2015, states with similar laws have also recorded reductions in gun violence. After Connecticut instituted a permit-to-purchase law in 1995, there was a 40 percent reduction in the state’s firearm-related homicide rate.