Hello, readers. In today’s briefing: In today’s briefing: Details continue to emerge on Russian gun rights activist and alleged spy Maria Butina. Plus, the NRA’s latest lawsuit targets a local law intended to keep guns stored safely and out of children’s reach. We’ve got that story, and why researchers support safe storage laws, as your briefing continues below.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
The U.S. Treasury’s financial crimes unit collected suspicious activity reports on Maria Butina, Alexander Torshin, and Paul Erickson. In August 2017, Buzzfeed News reports, the Senate Intelligence Committee requested suspicious activity reports on Butina, Torshin, and Erickson, three of the central figures in Moscow’s courtship of the National Rifle Association. The reports were shared with the Senate Intelligence Committee, along with federal investigators, including Robert Mueller, according to Buzzfeed News. Related: Ron Wyden of the Senate Intelligence Committee is renewing his request for U.S. Treasury documentation on any financial links between the NRA and Russia. Fellow Democratic senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Robert Menendez of New Jersey have also joined Wyden’s request.
We translated several of Butina’s Russian blog posts. Here’s what they revealed about her obsession with the NRA.
Maria Butina’s gun rights group started dissolving when she began visiting the U.S. A former manager of the group told CNN that “Right to Bear Arms” lost its momentum around 2014, the same year Butina started traveling frequently to the United States. The group, he says, has “ceased almost all activities” and is no longer adequately funded.
The U.S. summary of a call with Russian diplomats has a curious omission. A report from the Guardian suggests that the State Department may have left out some details in its summary of a call between top American and Russian diplomats on Sunday. In the notes on the call, there is no mention of alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, although officials in Moscow say Butina’s case did come up in conversation.
WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY
At a meeting with school shooting survivors, Maryland’s governor vowed not to take money from the National Rifle Association. Republican Governor Larry Hogan and his Democratic challenger Ben Jealous each met with a group of survivor-activists from Great Mills High School over the past week. During his session, Hogan vowed not to take any donations from the NRA. On Saturday, Jealous also vowed to help the students fight the gun lobby. But he questioned why Hogan wouldn’t release a 2014 questionnaire that earned him the gun group’s endorsement in the last election.
The NRA is suing the city of Seattle over a safe storage ordinance. It joined another gun rights group and two individuals in challenging Seattle’s new law, which penalizes gun owners who fail to secure their guns safely with fines up to $10,000. The suit, filed Friday, claims that the ordinance violates preemption laws, which prohibit localities from passing gun regulations stricter than the state’s.
A panel of judges narrowly voted not to grant a retrial in a challenge to a long-established federal gun restriction. The judges on the U.S. 5th Circuit were divided on overturning a decades-old federal law banning handgun sales to out-of-state residents, ultimately voting 8-7 to uphold the ban. The challenge was brought in 2014 by gun rights advocates after a couple from Washington, D.C. was barred from buying handguns in Texas.
One person died and another was injured at a shooting at a Mormon church on Sunday. Police say a 48-year-old man walked into the Nevada church where nearly fifty people were worshipping and opened fire. After killing one person and injuring another, the man walked home. He later surrendered to police after speaking with a hostage negotiator, and was taken to the county jail.
A 25-year-old father was fatally shot defending his friend from a racist. Chad Merrill of York County, Pennsylvania, was killed in the parking lot of his favorite bar early Saturday after confronting a man who hurled a racial slur at his friend. “He was always the peacemaker. He didn’t want people hating each other,” his brother said. He leaves behind a five-month-old son.
ONE LAST THING
A summer weekend in America: 2 two-year-olds, shot by other children. In Pensacola, Florida, a two-year-old was transported to a local hospital on Sunday after he was unintentionally shot in the back by an older child, who found the gun while climbing on a cabinet. And in San Bernardino County, California, a two-year-old died after a four-year-old unintentionally shot her on Friday. “Have a gun safe, if not a strong-armed box, with a lock on it so this type of situation won’t ever happen again,” one neighbor commented.
Every other day, a child kills or wounds another person in an accidental shooting, according to Gun Violence Archive data analyzed by The Trace. In its study of children and gun violence, the CDC found that most unintentional shootings of kids happen while they are playing with guns they found. Separate studies suggest that shootings by children are among the most preventable forms of gun violence. Researchers have found that laws penalizing gun owners who fail to secure their guns safely have consistently shown to reduce accidental shootings among young people.