What To Know This Week

Why this weekend’s armed protests fizzled. Conspiracy theories can cut both ways, and far-right figures’ paranoid hesitancy to encourage participation likely contributed to the weak turnout at demonstrations that days earlier had prompted an FBI warning, experts say. During the buildup, some on the right took to claiming the plans for armed protests over MLK weekend were “false flags” organized by antifa or federal authorities to justify the mass arrest of Trump supporters. Another possible deterrent: The growing number of people charged or under investigation in connection with the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — a list that now includes several people affiliated with militias and other far-right groups. 

  • “After that initial flash of celebration, as people started getting arrested, as the national security apparatus roared to life and started taking a good hard look at what happened at the Capitol, there’s been growing consensus, even in these extremist communities, that trying to participate in any sort of protest or demonstration in the immediate week [leading up to the inauguration] would be a bad idea,” said Jared Holt, who tracks extremists and disinformation for the Atlantic Council.

Holt cautioned that the threat from right-wing extremists had not subsided, but rather mutated: “What’s more likely to occur is smaller groups or even individuals engaging in acts of violence. That requires more aggressive vigilance.” — Chip Brownlee, investigative fellow

Virginia gun lobby day draws more media cameras than firearms — and questions of fairness in enforcement. The annual advocacy event in Richmond was a shadow of past years’, with a truck convoy of gun activists from around the state converging on the city and up to 100 armed demonstrators showing up downtown, including small contingents from the far-right Proud Boys and boogaloo movement. Police made no arrests under a city ordinance passed last September that bans firearms from any public event that would require a permit, drawing the ire of some local activists and politicians. “Everybody in the city is carrying today, and you’re only pulling us over,” a Black woman yelled at police after officers stopped two Black men in a nearby car. The department later said it issued a summons to one of the men and confiscated his gun for not having a state concealed carry permit. Less than an hour before the stop, a boogaloo leader had boasted of openly defying local gun laws in front of officers. — Champe Barton, reporter

A gun violence prevention hero, felled by the scourge he fought. Dante Barksdale, who for more than a decade was a public face of Baltimore’s Safe Streets program, was fatally shot shortly before lunchtime on Sunday. Gun violence prevention leaders in Baltimore and across the nation mourned his death. “A man who saved thousands of lives in our city,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who honored Barksdale by having the dome of City Hall illuminated in orange, the movement’s symbolic color, last night. “For all of us who are warriors in this, this is a war cry, to get this work done,” added local anti-violence activist Erricka Bridgeford. Police say they are investigating the killing.

A white man was charged with attempted murder for shooting a Black teen at a Trump rally. In December, Michael McKinney wounded the 15-year-old girl following a dispute between a car carrying four Black teenagers and a crowd of Trump supporters who had surrounded their vehicle. After the driver of the car reversed and struck a pickup, McKinney, who was wearing body armor, walked over and shot into the vehicle, court documents allege. “Trump supporters have blasted authorities for charging McKinney,” the AP reports, arguing that he shot in self-defense. An employee of Iowa’s Department of Safety who organized the Trump rally has raised funds for McKinney’s legal costs. 

After outcry, Facebook said it would pause targeted ads for gun accessories. A day later, they still showed up. A collection of state attorneys general and U.S. senators separately complained to the tech giant after BuzzFeed News reported that the social network was targeting ads for gun accessories and tactical gear to accounts that follow extremist content. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are temporarily banning ads promoting weapons accessories and protective equipment in the U.S. until at least January 22,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed on Saturday. But less than 24 hours later, the news site found that some of the ads were still circulating. 

ICYMI: Suit asks ATF to close down gunmaker with dubious history. In a suit filed on January 15, Illinois and Kansas City, Missouri, are seeking to force the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to withdraw the federal firearms license granted to J.A. Industries. The head of the company, Paul Jimenez, previously operated Jimenez Arms, which filed for bankruptcy last year. Critics saw the bankruptcy as an effort to avoid legal liability stemming from revelations that Jimenez Arms had supplied pistols that were part of a trafficking operation. In August, The Trace and The Daily Beast detailed how Jimenez’s repackaging of Jimenez Arms reflects a well-worn strategy for countering litigation and regulatory scrutiny.

Data Point

73 percent — the decline in online misinformation the week after social media companies suspended the accounts of President Trump and a handful of his allies, according to an analysis by an online analytics firm. [The Washington Post]