After white supremacists used Discord to plan the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia, executives at the chat platform banned prominent far-right groups and promised to clean up the service. But their efforts did little to kick hate speech or plans for violence off the platform, The Washington Post and FRONTLINE reported last month. In the years since, Discord has been linked to the 2021 Capitol insurrection; the racist mass killing at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in 2022; and a mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, that took place months later. Employees, moderators, and researchers told the Post and FRONTLINE that the company’s rules allow users to continue flouting community guidelines.
Now, NBC News reports that the 17-year-old shooter who attacked a school in Perry, Iowa, last week, killing a sixth-grader and injuring seven other people, was apparently active on the platform and posted messages about “gearing up” in the minutes before opening fire. One Discord user told NBC that a social media account affiliated with the shooter was also active in a now-defunct server called “School Massacres Discussion,” which was reportedly shut down sometime before the attack.
This news comes after Discord rolled out new sensitivity and safety features for young users in October — and at the same time relaxed penalties for violating its community guidelines. Under those rules, however, accounts found to be encouraging violence would still be subject to permanent suspension. “I don’t think any platform is ever going to catch everything,” Katherine Keneally, of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told the Post and FRONTLINE in December. But a “data retention change … would probably be a good start in ensuring at least that there is some accountability.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s case against the National Rifle Association began in Manhattan on Monday with the state giving jurors an overview of alleged financial abuses at the gun rights group spanning decades. Assistant Attorney General Monica Connell described how outgoing CEO Wayne LaPierre put loyalists in positions of influence, hid financial misdeeds, and retaliated against dissenters to maintain power and benefit himself and his allies. In one five-year stretch, Connell said, $11 million in NRA money was spent on private travel for LaPierre, his family, and friends in violation of internal controls.
On January 5, LaPierre announced his resignation effective the end of the month. According to a recent NRA filing in the case, LaPierre has chronic Lyme disease, which is prompting his departure. In the same filing, the NRA argues that LaPierre’s exit undercuts James’s claims that the NRA’s violations of nonprofit laws are “continuing or imminently likely to occur.” In opening remarks, Connell said that, despite LaPierre’s resignation, the state will ask the jury to find cause for his removal. Attorneys for the defendants are to make opening remarks today. —Will Van Sant
What to Know Today
Following the beginning of the legislative session today, how Tennessee lawmakers address residents’ concerns about gun violence seems likely to remain a top issue this year. The Covenant School shooting marked the state’s tumultuous 2023 session, in which two Democratic House members were briefly expelled over their participation in a gun safety protest and a special session on public safety resulted in little substantive change to the state’s firearm laws. [The Tennessean]
Most owners of assault-style weapons in Illinois failed to register their firearms by a January 1 deadline, police data indicates, which is legally required to keep them. But there are minimal consequences for failing to register, and enforcement is uneven across the state. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Homicides plummeted in much of the country last year, declining by an average of 12.3 percent across U.S. cities. But the nation’s capital proved an exception: 2023 was Washington, D.C.’s deadliest year in two decades, with 90 percent of the killings attributed to gunfire. Why is violent crime spiking in the district? [The Washington Post/The New Republic]
The race for Washington state attorney general just got its first prominent Republican hopeful: Pete Serrano, an attorney and the recently elected mayor of Pasco who has been at the forefront of legal challenges to the state’s gun safety laws and COVID health mandates. He announced his candidacy on the “Washington Gun Law” podcast. [Tri-City Herald]
A GOP member of the Florida House renewed an attempt to roll back a law, passed in the wake of the 2018 Parkland mass shooting, that raised the minimum age to purchase long guns and rifles from 18 to 21. The state House approved a virtually identical measure in the 2023 session, but the Senate declined to take up the issue. [CBS Miami]
1 percent — the proportion of people in Illinois with firearm owner identification cards who had registered assault-style weapons by the January 1 deadline. There are 2.5 million card-holders in the state. [Chicago Sun-Times]