What to Know Today

Why, exactly, is Biden’s DOJ appealing the Sutherland Springs case? More than five years after the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the Justice Department is continuing to fight a ruling that held the U.S. government liable for the massacre — a federal judge in 2021 found that the Air Force failed to send the shooter’s criminal history to the FBI  — as well as the $230 million in damages it was ordered to pay the victims. An attorney for the victims and their families said the DOJ is “walking right into the NRA’s trap,” NPR reports. He joins a chorus of gun safety groups who have said that if the department wins its appeal, background check laws could be significantly weakened. 

House Republicans file first marijuana bill of new Congress — and it’s centered on gun rights. Representative Alex Mooney of West Virginia introduced legislation that would allow medical marijuana patients to purchase and possess firearms, Marijuana Moment reports. Cannabis users — even those using medical or recreational marijuana pursuant to state law — are currently prohibited from obtaining guns because they’re considered an “unlawful user of or addicted to” a federally controlled substance.

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Judges aren’t historians. Bruen puts pressure on them to analyze historical records. Although the majority opinion in the landmark Supreme Court case states that it is not the job of judges to “resolve historical questions,” but that of involved parties, there’s an immediate problem: Judges don’t want to appear unmotivated or risk being overruled. As Andrew Willinger writes for the Duke Center for Firearms Law, those who have presided over Second Amendment cases post-Bruen have conducted their own historical analyses, keeping optics in mind. That presents another problem, Willinger writes: the possibility that judges, without specialized expertise, “will fail to treat the historical record with the appropriate level of care and suspicion.”

California ban on marketing firearms to children survives legal challenge. A federal judge denied an injunction request from Safari Club International and other gun groups, which claimed that the ban inhibited manufacturers’ free speech rights. The 41-page opinion, Courthouse News reports, concluded that there is “ample documentation of the serious and ever-increasing problem of gun violence involving minors, and the state has a substantial interest in addressing that problem.” Piercing the liability shield: The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects the firearms industry from lawsuits over harms committed with its wares. As The Trace’s Champe Barton reported in August, a slate of states, including California, may have found a way through the industry’s special legal immunity: regulating their marketing practices.

The best way to prevent suicide? Talk about it. Mental health treatment is expensive and time-limited, and many therapists shy away from taking on patients with suicidal ideation. But one of the most effective prevention methods, writer Jason Cherkis said on The Intercept’s Deconstructed podcast, is also one of the simplest. Studies show that regularly contacting suicidal people — simply checking in — can reduce symptoms, hospitalizations, and death. It’s a promising treatment, Cherkis wrote in 2018, but implementing it at scale is a complicated endeavor. If you are having thoughts of suicide, help is available 24 hours a day: The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a free, confidential service for those in distress. Call or text 988, both toll-free, and find more resources here.

Data Point

Nearly 50 — the number of federal court cases challenging gun restrictions nationwide. [ABC News]