What To Know Today

DOD leaders to expand focus on gun safety in a bid to curb suicide among veterans. The Defense Department’s Suicide Prevention Office will soon launch an awareness campaign to show troops how to safely secure guns when they face a mental health crisis. “Our data tells us that suicide is often a sudden and impulsive act, and that adding time and distance between an individual’s suicide risk and a lethal means can be life saving,” Karen Orvis, who directs the office, said in congressional testimony this week. The new effort entails sharing information about the benefits of safe storage and providing new guides for military leaders to discuss gun safety with their troops. A heightened risk: Veterans are more likely than the general population to take their own lives, and are more likely to use a gun while doing so. Seventy-two percent of current and former veteran suicides involved a firearm in 2019, according to a new analysis of CDC data by the left-leaning Center for American Progress. That’s compared to about 50 percent for the general population. [If you are having thoughts of suicide, help is available 24 hours a day: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (@800273TALK) at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741 to reach the @CrisisTextLine.]

The NRA and its former public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, have reached a settlement. The result comes after almost two years of bitter litigation and a week before the two entities were set to go to trial. The terms are not yet known, but the 2019 divorce of the two once-indistinguishable entities marked a shocking end to a relationship that spanned 40 years. During that period, the firm placed the NRA at the vanguard of the culture wars, crafting its signature messaging and media campaigns and devising a larger-than-life, swaggering persona for the nonprofit’s introverted leader, Wayne LaPierre. The successful run concluded in a series of disputes over unpaid bills, contracts, and allegations of deceptive business practices. — Mike Spies, senior writer

New York congressman presses Biden to do more to prevent gun violence. Representative Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat, called on Biden to take executive action to treat gun violence as a public health issue. “This recent gun violence has shaken our community and left many wondering what will be done to stop this from happening again,” Bowman wrote in the Friday morning letter. It comes as the Bronx, parts of which Bowman represents, continues to experience elevated rates of gun violence, along with other parts of New York City. Bowman specifically highlighted a recent shooting outside of a school in Mount Vernon, just north of New York City, and the death of a 16-year-old killed by a 9mm ghost gun fired by another teenager in Yonkers. Citywide, shootings are up 26 percent so far this year. Bowman called for a “whole-of-government” approach, saying the Biden administration should declare a public health crisis, push for background check laws, provide funding for school-based violence and suicide prevention, and crack down on rogue gun dealers. — Chip Brownlee, reporter

Austin, Texas, has now paid out more than $13M to protesters over “less-lethal” rounds. City officials agreed to a $2.95 million settlement with Brad Ayala, who was 16 when police shot a projectile at him during a May 2020 protest, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury. The city has now settled four cases with some of the dozens of people who landed in the hospital after police used bean-bag and other rounds on them at protests. The officer who shot Ayala is one of 19 Austin police officers to be indicted over use of force related to the 2020 protests. Related from The Trace: After pledging to stop using less-lethal rounds on crowds, we later reported with KUT in November 2020 that the department signed a contract for more.

The former officer involved in the Breonna Taylor shooting was found not guilty. Brett Hankison was fired from the Louisville Police for “wantonly and blindly” firing 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment during the March 2020 no-knock raid in Louisville that killed her. He faced criminal charges after police accused him of shooting into a neighboring apartment. But on Thursday, a Kentucky jury cleared him on charges that he endangered neighbors with his errant shots. Hankison was the only officer ever charged in Taylor’s death.

Data Point

0 — the number of convictions for a 2015 biker shootout in Waco, Texas, that left nine people dead and 20 wounded, and led to 177 arrests and 151 gun recoveries. New reporting shows the lack of a conviction can be partially explained by poor prosecutorial decisions, strong defense work, and the state’s broad gun laws. [The New York Times]