Last week, I spoke to Michael D. Anestis, a researcher and the executive director at the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center, about what needs to happen to get more Americans to safely secure their firearms. According to a study published in 2023, more than half of gun owners keep at least one firearm unlocked and hidden. But in the majority of American homes, an unsecured firearm is more likely to result in an accidental death or suicide than be used in defense against a home invasion.
Anestis explained that many Americans don’t practice safe storage because of decades of messaging by the gun industry emphasizing external threats and the little information available about the risks of unsecured firearms. “Researchers can’t be the singular voice speaking on risks,” he told me. “This has to be a message that comes from multiple channels.”
One of those channels may have just arrived: On Thursday, the White House announced a series of new federal actions to promote safe storage of guns in households, building on initiatives from an executive order by President Joe Biden last year.
The Biden administration’s new directives include a plan for the Department of Education to share a letter to school principals nationwide on the importance of safe storage and strategies to share information with their communities. This will come alongside a communication template for school officials to use when discussing the importance of safe storage with families and parents. There are also plans for the Justice Department to share what the White House is describing as “the most comprehensive guide on safe storage ever released by the federal government,” which will lay out best practices and types of storage devices.
These communication initiatives are exactly what Anestis told me could help change public perception of safe storage. “We need to think about how we can shift the national narrative again,” he told me. “It’s not about threatening people’s rights or saying guns are bad, but being honest about the risks.” You can read the full interview here. — Fairriona Magee, public health reporter
Outgoing NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre took the stand all day Friday at the New York corruption trial against him, the organization he’s led since 1991, and two other (current and former) top officials. LaPierre’s relationship with David McKenzie, a Hollywood producer and longtime NRA contractor, took center stage during testimony, reported The Trace’s Mike Spies. McKenzie repeatedly floated expense-free trips to his yacht in the Bahamas and a variety of international destinations — trips that frequently included various members of LaPierre’s family, and always included his wife, Susan, who also used McKenzie’s boat free of charge for trips with friends. LaPierre never disclosed any of this to the NRA, despite questionnaires that required him to.
LaPierre’s niece, Colleen Sterner, was another major focus on Friday. She was an NRA employee and received many of the same benefits — chartered travel, trips to the Bahamas, and a separate contract from McKenzie — in apparent violation of NRA policy. LaPierre was also questioned about lobbyist and powerbroker Marion Hammer, the NRA’s relationship with its longtime PR firm Ackerman McQueen, and the gun group’s arrangement with the hunting TV show “Under Wild Skies.”
What to Know Today
Democrats in the Massachusetts Senate unveiled a wide-ranging gun reform bill that would address a reported rise in ghost guns, expand the state’s extreme risk protection order law, and limit where firearms can be carried, among other measures. Unlike a controversial reform bill approved by the House in October, the Senate legislation is endorsed by Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. [WBUR]
As the Supreme Court considers taking up a challenge to the federal statute preventing people who use cannabis from having guns, a Pennsylvania district attorney teamed up with gun rights advocates to file a civil lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban for medical marijuana patients. The suit names Attorney General Merrick Garland and the heads of several agencies. What’s notable about this lawsuit: The local prosecutor himself is a state-certified medical cannabis patient. [Marijuana Moment]
After Lewiston, Maine, suffered the deadliest mass shooting in state history in October, the owners of Just-In-Time Recreation and Schemengees Bar & Grille, the businesses where the attacks took place, thought they were closing their doors for good. But as time passed, they realized they had to reopen. Here’s why. [Associated Press]
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’s administration has been fighting to keep an audit of a city police department unit tasked with investigating shootings by officers out of the public eye since it was completed in 2018. Newly obtained elements of the Force Investigative Unit audit show that its reports were often filed late and without key information — if they were filed at all. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
Could Gun Regulations Reduce Police Shootings?: Research has shown the connections between the proliferation of firearms, officer safety, and police use of fatal force. But a new study looks at the flip side: whether certain gun laws could reduce the number of police shootings. (November 2023)