Hello, readers. We’re finishing off the week with a deep dive on the National Rifle Associations’s favorite campaign consulting firm. You’ll want to stick around for the kicker. That investigation, and more, in today’s briefing.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
A new investigation from The Trace’s Mike Spies digs into the mystery firm that came out of nowhere to become the NRA’s top election consultant. In a report published this morning in collaboration with Politico Magazine, Mike unravels the origins of Starboard Strategic, which appears in Federal Election Commission filings as the gun group’s go-to outfit for swaying key political races, yet has virtually no other clients. Public records, internal emails, and an ex-employee show that Starboard overlaps extensively with a well-established and well-connect agency known as OnMessage — whose team has made ads for Republican candidates in the same elections the NRA spends heavily to influence. Mike shared his findings with two ex-FEC chairs, one a Republican, the other a Democrat. They independently came to the same conclusion: “The FEC should investigate.” Please click through to read the full story.
The Secret Service released guidelines for preventing school shootings. The report outlines eight steps schools can take to conduct threat assessments, meant to identify students who might pose a risk of violence. Although the report acknowledges that “there is no profile of a student attacker,” it encourages school staff to look out for “inappropriate interests” and “bizarre” communications. Schools are advised to facilitate ways for the student body to surveil itself, such as anonymous tip lines and e-mail forms. The report also recommends “asking the family or law enforcement to block the student’s access to weapons.”
Meanwhile, the federal school safety commission discussed privacy laws and mental health. The panel discussed whether privacy laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevent educators from openly sharing information about students. The commission also considered the impact of psychotropic drugs like Ritalin on students’ mental health and safety. After the Santa Fe school shooting, incoming NRA president Oliver North cited a link between Ritalin and school violence, despite lack of evidence.
… And students protested the Department of Education’s school security grant programs. Youth organizers gathered in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to call for the removal of metal detectors and police from schools and for that funding to be diverted to restorative justice and mental health programs.
A bill in Congress would ban people convicted of animal cruelty from owning firearms. The bill, introduced by Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark on Thursday, is modeled on legislation that bars domestic abusers from accessing guns. “There is a well-documented link between animal abuse and future violence,” the congresswoman explained. “From Columbine to Parkland to Sutherland Springs, these perpetrators of mass gun violence had a history of animal abuse, and addressing this pattern of behavior is part of the solution when it comes to preventing gun violence and saving lives.”
A Utah movie theater canceled a March for Our Lives town hall. The Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theatres said Wednesday that they will no longer host the event because of what “appears to be escalating into a potentially contentious situation where additional security will be required.” As we highlighted in yesterday’s newsletter, a Utah gun company has been trailing the Parkland activists on their tour in a very large armored vehicle.
“Unite the Right” organizers vowed not to allow armed paramilitary activity at future demonstrations. The consent decree is meant to prevent them from repeating “the organized and intimidating displays of paramilitary power that led to chaos, fear, and violent confrontations in the city streets last year” at a planned anniversary rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, said the lawyer who brought suit on behalf of the city and local businesses. Because Virginia is an open-carry state, individual white supremacists would still be able to openly carry firearms.
A leading police organization is launching a center to study mass violence. The Police Foundation will research how law enforcement can better respond to mass shootings and other terrorist attacks. “As threats constantly evolve, it is critical that we continuously evaluate protocols to ensure our communities remain as safe as possible,” the foundation’s president said.
A retired New Hampshire police officer is on a mission to get his state a red flag law. The 22-year veteran of the Keene, New Hampshire, police department is drafting an extreme-risk protection order bill that is less extensive than similar bills in other states, which allow family or household members, in addition to law enforcement, to petition a court for the removal of weapons from gun owners at risk of harm. “In this bill,” he says, “the investigation is conducted by professionals, not family members who are emotionally involved.”
Louisville, Tennessee, passed an ordinance making it illegal to discharge a gun in some parts of the city. The measure, which prohibits firing weapons within 100 yards of homes, public parks, schools, churches, or public roads, is facing opposition from gun rights advocates. The Louisville mayor says its intended to improve public safety.
California gun groups are suing over the state’s gun registration system. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges that errors with the system prevented gun owners from registering their assault weapons before the July 1 deadline. They say they are now at risk of criminalization under a 2017 law that changed the definition of an assault weapon and required Californians in possession of weapons that incorporate a so-called bullet button to register them with the state.
A man who planned a Charleston copycat attack was sentenced to 33 months in prison. The 31-year-old white supremacist from South Carolina says he idolized the gunman who killed nine people in a historically black church in 2015, and was planning a similar attack. The man, who was prohibited from purchasing a gun because of a burglary conviction, was arrested after buying a gun from an undercover FBI agent. A behavioral specialist wrote a letter to the court asking for the man to receive mental health treatment while incarcerated.
A Denver woman was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for firing a gun at a Dakota Access Pipeline protest. The 39-year-old member of the Ogala Sioux tribe was sentenced on Wednesday for firing a handgun three times during a 2016 protest in North Dakota. No one was injured.
A Texas woman was fatally shot by her husband less than a week after leaving him, Houston police say. The woman’s body was found Thursday morning in the parking lot of an assisted living facility, where authorities say she was working as an attendant. Reminder: Once every 16 hours, an American woman is fatally shot by a current or former romantic partner.
ONE LAST THING
House Republicans rejected a proposal to fund gun violence research. GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee said they did not want to politicize the spending bill by granting $10 million to the Centers for Disease Control for gun violence research and argued that the agency is “free to research anything they care to research.”
In March, Congress passed a federal funding bill that clarified that the CDC “has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence,” but gun researchers said that clarification amounts to very little if not matched with actual funding. “It falls woefully short of what is needed,” one Harvard professor told The Trace.