Hello, readers. In two new Trace originals today, we examine a couple of post-Parkland trends. First, Daniel Nass compares public comments submitted to the ATF on bump stocks before and after the February attack, and finds tangible evidence that young activists are overcoming gun advocates’ former advantage on direct action. Meanwhile, parents are more fearful for their childrens’ safety now than during the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. Alex Yablon has that story, after today’s news.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
House Democrats wanted to question Maria Butina, but were blocked by Republicans, California Representative Adam Schiff said on CNN. It’s a beef the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee has raised before, but this time he elaborated: He said GOP members worried that bringing the accused Russian spy in for questioning would “tarnish” the National Rifle Association’s image. “We heard credible allegations that the Russians may have been funneling money through the NRA,” Schiff said. “But like many other things, when it got too hot, the Republican reaction was, we don’t want to know, we’d rather not know.”
Republican operative Paul Erickson was in financial trouble during his relationship with Butina, court documents show. A federal arrest affidavit of Maria Butina shows that “U.S. Person 1,” widely believed to be Paul Erickson, was in debt at the time he was working with Butina. Erickson is an NRA member who has raised funds for the group.
Russian officials hoped to meet with Butina on Thursday. In a Facebook post, the Russian embassy wrote that they would provide the Russian national, who is facing espionage charges, “all necessary help” and said the arrest was the result of “anti-Russian hysteria.”
New from The Trace: Gun reformers are gaining tangible grassroots muscle. One measure: a shift in sentiment in the public feedback to the DOJ on its proposed regulation of bump stocks. Daniel Nass analyzed more than 94,000 comments submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Before the Parkland massacre, only 13 percent of comments indicated support for regulating bump stocks. After Parkland, supporters outnumbered opponents nearly three to one. It’s “more evidence that gun regulation advocates are closing the participation gap,” one expert told us.
The Department of Justice is facing a multi-state lawsuit over crime-fighting grants. Six states and New York City are suing the Trump administration for putting immigration-related conditions on federal public safety grants. The lawsuit argues that by imposing conditions that require cities to crack down on immigration, the DOJ is interfering with cities’ abilities to set their own law enforcement policies. Related: The top Trump official at the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, which administers the grants, is being transferred to the Transportation Department.
The American Civil Liberties Union makes a case for gun restrictions. The civil rights organization, which does not typically engage in gun debates, published a commentary piece on Tuesday in which one of its senior policy analysts makes a “pro-liberty” case for gun reform. He argues that the intensity of gun ownership has led to greater restrictions on American freedoms, which take the form of increased physical searches, government surveillance, and an increase in police presence and police shootings.
A school district scarred by a shooting is “not interested” in arming teachers. The Indiana district is home to Noblesville West Middle School, where a 13-year-old student injured a classmate and a teacher with a gun this May. At a Wednesday night meeting with parents and community members, school district officials said that they would ban backpacks from classrooms and apply for free handheld metal detectors, but would not arm teachers. “All week long we’ve been training teachers, but we’ve been training them about teaching,” the superintendent said. “I just think that it would be impossible to train teachers to the level (law enforcement) are trained.”
A Maine police chief says the state’s permitless carry law led to an increase in crime in his city. Gun-related crimes are on the rise in Lewiston, Maine, and the police chief blames a 2015 state law that eliminated the need for concealed gun permits: “What used to be a fistfight, now a gun is brought into play,” he said. Context: Read The Trace’s 2017 explainer on the laws, a why they represent a frontier for Second Amendment advocates.
A Michigan school district is stocking classrooms with safety supplies in case of a shooting. The 100-plus “emergency supply buckets,” donated by Walmart, are currently empty, but the district will be crowdsourcing materials like gauze, bandages, and water bottles to fill them.
A 5-year-old girl in New Hampshire was found sleeping with a loaded gun on her chest. Police responding to a report of shots fired found the child sleeping in a bed filled with trash and rotting food, and a loaded handgun sitting on her chest. The girl was taken into foster care. A 13-year-old boy was fatally shot when a gun in his brother’s bed discharged. The Ohio boy’s 17-year-old brother told police that he was in his bed with a gun he had found earlier. When he rolled over, the gun discharged and hit his brother, who was sleeping in the bed next to him. His brother died.
A 7-year-old girl died two weeks after she was shot in the backseat of a car. Taylor Harris of Baltimore, Maryland, succumbed to injuries suffered July 5 and died in a hospital on Thursday morning.
NEW FROM THE TRACE
American parents are more worried about school safety now than after Sandy Hook. That’s the big takeaway from a new poll, released this week by Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional organization for teachers, Alex Yablon reports. The poll found that 34 percent of American parents of school-age children fear for their kids’ safety at school, up from 12 percent in 2013 when the last survey on the topic was conducted.
Anxious parents said they would support installing armed security guards in schools, but drew the line at arming teachers. Thirty-six percent said they believed armed teachers would make students less safe, compared to the 26 percent who believed that would make students safer.