News and notes on guns in America

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[Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons]

Daily Bulletin: Third Workplace Shooting in 24 Hours Leaves Three Dead, Several Injured

Good morning, Bulletin readers. In what by one count was the 262nd mass shooting of 2018, a woman killed multiple people and injured several more at a drug store distribution center in Maryland. We have the latest on the deadly incident, plus more news on gun violence in America, below.

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At least three people were killed in a workplace shooting in Maryland when a woman opened fire at a Rite Aid distribution center on Thursday. Several others were wounded. Here’s what we know about the shooting so far: 

  • Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said in a news conference that his department received 911 calls around 9:06 a.m. local time. Police arrived on the scene minutes later. No shots were fired by officers. 
  • Gahler said the killer, who acted alone and used a legally obtained handgun, shot herself in the head and died in the hospital. 
  • The trauma director at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore says the hospital received three other patients with gunshot wounds
  • Female shooters are rare2014 FBI analysis of 160 active shootings found that just 6 active shootings — or less than 4 percent — involved a female shooter.  
  • This is the 262nd mass shooting so far this year, according to Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as incidents involving four or more fatalities or injuries. It is the seventh in Maryland in 2018, happening less than three months after the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis. 

Students are more worried about school shootings than about peer pressure or fitting in. That’s one of the findings of a new study conducted by the Children’s Defense Fund and YouGov. Other takeaways: Only a third of children polled said that they believe arming teachers would make their schools safer. Among black students, that number dropped to 25 percent. Related: A separate study found that 65 percent of teachers are against carrying firearms to protect students from active shooters. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for a tough-on-crime approach in Chicago. In a meeting with law enforcement officials this week, Sessions blamed political leaders in cities like Chicago, Baltimore, and St. Louis, for high rates of crime. “If you want more shootings, more death, listen to the ACLU, Antifa, Black Lives Matter and groups who don’t know the realities of policing,” he said, arguing for a crime crackdown in Chicago. Related: Researchers have been critical of Sessions’s approach to policing, based on research suggesting that the long prison sentences and elevated incarceration rates he touts have little impact on violent crime rates. 

Overall, crime rates are declining in major cities. new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University predicts that murder rates in America’s 30 largest cities, including Chicago and Baltimore, will decline for the second straight year in 2018. In cities where crime spiked during 2015 and 2016, the decline was especially noticeable.

A federal judge dismissed a case against the bump stock company SlideFire. U.S. District Court Judge Gloria M. Navarro of Nevada issued an order on Monday in which she sided with the bump stock manufacturing company’s argument that the devices, which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire full-auto, qualify as component parts.” Under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Actcomponent parts” are protected from liability for the harm caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse [them].”

Hundreds marched against gun violence in New Orleans. The gathering at City Hall on Thursday drew students, parents, and school officials who called for action on the city’s gun violence crisis. Students carried signs that read no more silence,” come together in peace,” and I want to live.”

A man killed his parents at a Pennsylvania nursing home. The 59-year-old gunman began his rampage by firing at his ex-wife in the driveway of the home they shared. According to a local news station, he was upset over a divorce settlement that awarded her the home.


Yesterday’s shooting in Maryland was the third active shooting at a workplace in 24 hours. On Wednesday, seven people were shot in separate rampages at a Wisconsin office building and a Pennsylvania courthouse. It was also the second mass shooting at a workplace in Harford County, Maryland, in less than a year: Last October, an ex-employee of a granite business in Edgewood shot five former co-workers, three of them fatally.

Workplace shootings are the most common type of active shootings. According to a 2014 FBI analysis of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, shooters targeted business more than 40 percent of the time. Workplace shootings that don’t meet the FBI’s definition of a mass killing — three or more dead — happen several times a month.

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Cody Wilson holds a pistol that was made on a 3-D-printer at his home in Austin, Texas. [AP Photo]

Daily Bulletin: Why 3D-Printed-Gun Activist Cody Wilson Could Be Barred From Gun Possession

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Another American workday ended in horror as gunmen injured seven in separate rampages at a Wisconsin office building and a Pennsylvania courthouse. Plus, the man behind a notorious 3D-printed-gun company is facing felony charges for sex with a minor — and could lose his gun rights. Those stories and more, below.

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Gun control ads have skyrocketed this election season. Wall Street Journal analysis found that ads promoting stricter gun regulations have aired more than 100,000 times across the country this year — a 22-fold increase from four years ago. Anti-gun-reform ads also increased over the same period, but by a smaller margin. 

Cody Wilson, 3-D printed gunmaker, was charged with child sexual assault. Wilson’s Texas company entered the national spotlight this summer during a legal battle involving 3D-printed gun blueprints, which he sees as nullifying all gun restrictions. Court documents allege that Wilson met a 16-year-old girl online and sexually assaulted her at a Texas hotel. If convicted, Wilson would be barred from owning firearms. His last known location was Taiwan, where he did not board a return flight to the United States, according to Austin police.

NRA magazine subscriptions have increased this year, suggesting a spike in membership. There is no independently verified count of the National Rifle Association’s membership, but a recent report from the gun group shows that it added about 350,000 subscribers to its four flagship magazines between February and June, reversing a previous decline.

A California Republican falsely claimed he hasn’t received donations from the NRA for his re-election bid. Representative Steve Knight made the statement in a recent podcast interview. But documents from the Federal Election Commission reveal that the gun group has made three donations to his campaign this election cycle. Fact-check your candidates: Our NRA spending tracker analyzes FEC reports to show you exactly how much the group is putting into local races.

Three people were injured in a shooting at a Wisconsin software company. A gunman opened fire at an office building in a Madison suburb Wednesday morning, wounding three people before he was shot by police. The motive for the shooting is not yet known. The same day, multiple people were shot at a Pennsylvania courthouse. The incident may have started as a domestic dispute, a local news outlet reported, and ended when the suspect was fatally shot by police. Four people, including an officer, were wounded.

A man died after shooting himself in the chest at a gun range. Vincent Alfonso Carrozza, 23, shot himself with a gun he rented from a Simpsonville, South Carolina, gun shop on Monday. The man had been shooting in a rental lane in an otherwise empty range when he fired the shot. He later died at the hospital.


One of the nation’s oldest red flag laws is rarely used. In 2016, California passed a law allowing family members, roommates, and cops to ask a judge to temporarily block potentially dangerous people from buying guns. But the law has been used fewer than 200 times during its first two years on the books.

As The Trace reported earlier this year, some California cities want to make better use of the tool. In 2017, San Diego launched an initiative to ensure that civil gun-seizure orders are issued as frequently as possible, and are done so correctly. In the first two months of this year, prosecutors in San Diego filed nine gun violence restraining orders, a significantly faster pace than during the first 24 months after the law went into effect.

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Stanford Medical School, Sept. 17, 2018 [Stand SAFE]

Daily Bulletin: Medical Students Are Mobilizing For Gun Reform

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, it’s usually impossible to see where traffickers get their wares. But Trace reporter Alex Yablon got ahold of a cache of raw trace records that shows how individual gun dealers contribute to the criminal flow of weapons. Also in today’s briefing: developments in some of the stories we’ve been watching all summer, including the NRA’s suspicious campaign spending activity, the battle over 3D-printed guns, and a landmark Second Amendment ruling in Hawaii.

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New from The Trace: The NRA has drawn another FEC complaint from a campaign finance watchdog. The Campaign Legal Center, along with the gun-violence-prevention group Giffords, filed a formal complaint on Monday with the Federal Election Commission regarding allegations of illegal campaign activity. One basis for the complaint: An audio clip, obtained by the Daily Beast last week, in which Matt Rosendale, the Republican nominee in a potentially pivotal Senate race in Montana, can be heard saying that the National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist assured him that the gun group would back his campaign. The other: Election spending flagged by our NRA Campaign Spending Tracker, which showed that the gun group is continuing to use a consulting firm that spurred an earlier complaint from the Campaign Legal Center. The company, Starboard Strategic, is functionally the same as a firm retained by Rosendale. In an investigation co-published with Politico Magazine this summer, Mike Spies laid out why the arrangement may flout campaign spending limits and prohibitions against unfair coordination.

Another scoop from Mike Spies: The actor Tom Selleck has suddenly stepped down from the NRA board. Selleck had served on the group’s board since 2005. “He has nothing to do with policy,” his publicist said in response to our reporting. “He’s never been active on the board or anything the NRA engages in,” she added, though evidence Mike gathered shows otherwise.

And here’s your Trace three-fer for Wednesday: Leaked ATF documents show how traffickers exploit lax sellers and weak laws. Alex Yablon dug into leaked records of more than 3,000 guns recovered by Mexican police and traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The 11 traffickers who appear most frequently on the list of crime guns reviewed by The Trace were each tied to 10 or more weapons recovered in Mexico. Nine of those purchasers got most — or, in some case, all — of their guns from a single gun store. But there’s no indication that the stores ever faced punishment for their part in sustaining the “river of iron” that pumps American guns across the border, fueling violence in our southern neighbor.

A 3D gun company is expanding its lawsuit against a group of state and local officials. On Monday, a pro-gun-rights group added four new defendants to a lawsuit alleging that a group of public officials violated the First and Second Amendments by seeking to block the release of their gun blueprints this summer. Meanwhile, a bill banning 3D-printed guns is advancing in New Jersey. The measure, which would make it illegal to manufacture untraceable firearms, was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday. ICYMI: Washington, D.C., proposed its own ban on “ghost guns” earlier this week.

Hawaii officials want to overturn a ruling that the open carry of guns is protected by the Second Amendment. In July, a three-judge panel ruled that laws banning the open carry of firearms are unconstitutional. Now, a group of state and local officials is asking to send the case before a larger panel for a retrial. What legal experts say: When the decision came down this summer, legal scholars told The Trace that there’s reason to believe it would be overturned if the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals considers the case. “Here in this 59-page opinion, there’s not one place where the majority looks at the state’s interest in public safety to decide whether it’s sufficient to justify this restriction,” said David Yassky, a professor at Pace Law School. “That’s a core failing.”

In Santa Fe, Texas, shooting victims’ families are asking for the school board to resign. Four months after 10 people were killed at the town high school, families of the victims criticized the school board and superintendent for failing to protect their children. “All I have is my son here in my bag because safety wasn’t an issue,” said the mother of Chris Stone, whose ashes she carried to a recent meeting.

Vermont launched an anonymous collection program for bump stocks. Starting this week, Vermont State Police will collect bump stocks from residents ahead of October 1, when the state’s ban on the devices goes into effect. Under the law, any person in possession of a bump stock will be subject to a one-year prison sentence and/or a $1,000 fine. “Right now, voluntary compliance is the preferred method, and we want to give people the option and the means to do this,” a State Police captain said.


Medical students are mobilizing for gun reform. At 40 medical campuses on Monday, hundreds of doctors, nurses, medical students, and other staff gathered to call for action on what they’re calling a nationwide public health crisis. The actions were organized by Stand SAFE (Scrubs Addressing the Firearm Epidemic), an advocacy group started by a medical student and professor at Stanford University. “As medical students being trained to protect our patients’ physical and mental health and wellbeing, we were struck by the lack of medical education available on such a devastating and important issue,” one of the founders said in a statement.

Since the Las Vegas massacre, a growing chorus of medical associations and individual physicians have urged gun reform. At its annual meeting this summer, the American Medical Association endorsed an unprecedented slate of gun reform measures, including licensing and registration for all gun owners, red flag laws to reduce suicides, and a ban on assault-style weapons.

NRA Gets Hit With Another Complaint From Election Watchdog

An election watchdog has accused the National Rifle Association of violating campaign finance laws for the second time in less than three months, following a Trace report on the gun group’s use of an apparent shell company to attack Montana Senator Jon Tester.

The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that monitors campaign spending, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday arguing that there is “reason to believe” that the NRA made “illegal, unreported, and excessive” contributions to the campaign of Tester’s challenger, Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale.

The complaint alleges that there is strong evidence that the NRA is using what appears to be a shell company called Starboard Strategic Inc. to illegally coordinate independent expenditures with Rosendale’s campaign. Starboard Strategic is, according to the Legal Center, “functionally indistinguishable” from another political ad firm called OnMessage, which contracted directly with the Rosendale campaign as recently as June. The two entities share the same office addresses and partners. By using Starboard to attack Tester while OnMessage worked directly with Rosendale, the complaint says, the NRA may have skirted rules against coordinating with campaigns.

The Trace revealed last week that the NRA used Starboard as the vendor for a new ad that attacked Tester. The Legal Center filed a similar complaint in July, based on reporting from The Trace and Politico, accusing the NRA of using the same tactic to illegally support the 2014 Senate campaigns of Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Thom Tillis in North Carolina, along with Ron Johnson’s 2016 campaign in Wisconsin.

The latest complaint is also buttressed by a report in The Daily Beast, which obtained an audio recording of Rosendale saying that the NRA would soon begin running ads on his behalf and quoting top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox telling him, “We’re gonna be in this race.”

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“Previously, we had the evidence that the NRA is using a shell corporation to unlawfully coordinate with candidates,” the Legal Center’s director, Brendan Fischer, told The Trace. “Now we have evidence that at least one candidate supported by the NRA knew about that support. There’s a mounting body of evidence that the NRA is skirting campaign finance laws to unlawfully pour millions of dollars into U.S. elections.”

The filing was co-signed by Giffords, a gun violence prevention group.

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Daily Bulletin: The Links Between Mass Shootings and America’s Suicide Epidemic

Good Morning, Bulletin readers. Gun suicides are much, much more common than mass shootings. But some criminologists see the two problems as sharing deadly links — and the same potential solutions. That story and more in your daily news roundup.

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Theory: “Mass shootings are spreading and metastasizing out of the nation’s suicide epidemic.” That’s how a reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer summarized her conversations with several criminologists and psychologists following a deadly gun rampage at a bank in a busy part of the city’s downtown on September 6. “People who are inflicting these tragedies are already suicidal or primarily suicidal,” a psychologist told the paper. A criminologist added that mass shootings were “a final act of revenge” before the assailant takes his own life. Their assessments are backed by FBI data showing that many mass shooters expressed suicidal intent during the year before their attacks or took their own lives during them. What can help, according to the experts the paper spoke with: Red flag laws (a bill in Ohio is backed by the state’s Republican governor, but has not passed) as well as enlisting more gun rights advocates in the fight against gun suicides. America’s suicide rate has risen by 30 percent over the past two decades. About 25,000 Americans now die by gun suicide each year.

A gun-violence-prevention group is pouring millions into state races. Everytown for Gun Safety announced it will spend up to $10 million to elect pro-reform governors and attorneys general in a mix of red and blue states: Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and New Mexico. The push is part of its longterm strategy of securing new gun safety laws at the state level. The group described the outlay as a “curtain raiser” on its political spending in the 2018 election cycle. (Through its nonpolitical arm, Everytown provides grants to The Trace.)

The mayor of Washington, D.C., introduced legislation banning ghost guns. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s bill, which she announced on Monday, would prohibit the possession and manufacture of untraceable, DIY firearms of all types, including 3D-printed guns. The district already bans unregistered guns; the new measure is meant to close any loopholes.

Gun offenders in Los Angeles County will serve their full prison sentences. Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced last week that anyone convicted of illegal gun possession, or using a gun during the commission of a crime, won’t get any breaks on sentencing. He added 50 new charges to a list of gun-related crimes, including domestic violence and carjacking.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has confessed to fatally shooting four sex workers in Texas. Police say Juan David Ortiz shot four women in the head between September 3 and September 15. He was arrested after a would-be victim escaped and alerted police. The local prosecutor described him as a serial killer.

A 2-year-old Louisiana boy killed himself with a gun he found on a countertop. The unidentified toddler climbed a stool on Monday afternoon, grabbed a handgun, and fired it, shooting himself in the face, police said. No one has been charged.

An elementary school student in Alabama was unintentionally shot with a gun brought from home. Police say a student in Huntsville was showing the gun to a classmate during gym class on Monday when it discharged, hitting one of them in the hand. “If you’re a parent of a small child and you have a weapon at home, take this opportunity to lock it down,” the police chief implored.

Three Chicago teens were injured in a spray of gunfire while leaving school — hours after an active shooter drill. The students, ages 16, 17, and 18, were wounded when someone opened fire from a car as classes let out at Chatham Academy High School last Monday. “We weren’t doin’ nothin’ to nobody,” one of the injured students said. “I was just like, ‘Why?’”


A Nevada hospital hosted a reunion for more than 100 people affected by the Las Vegas massacre. Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the October 1 rampage, which resulted in 58 deaths and hundreds of injuries, first responders, doctors and nurses, and survivors gathered at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center to tell their stories on Friday. Dominica Zeolla, who was gravely injured by a gunshot to the back, said she formed personal connections with the medical professionals who brought her back to life. Dwayne Taylor, a new surgical technician who was supposed to start work the day after the massacre, rushed to the hospital after the news broke and relied on his Gulf War experience to assist surgeons — all before he knew a single co-worker’s name. “We showed the rest of the world who we are, and what it means to be Vegas strong,” said Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who spoke at the event.

The Trace Is Honored for ‘General Excellence’ by the Online News Association

The Trace won a “general excellence” award from the Online News Association at its annual conference in Austin, Texas, on September 15. We tied with a, a Cuba-based data journalism outlet, in the “micro newsroom” category, which debuted this year and honors newsrooms with 15 or fewer staffers.

The Online News Association is the world’s largest organization of digital journalists. Honored for general excellence this year in the ONA’s larger categories were the Washington Post, ProPublica, and the Marshall Project. 

“One winner delved deeply into the incredibly important topic of gun violence,” the judges said, “and stayed true to their mission of shedding light on gun statistics by using smart partnerships and data visualizations. They leveraged their limited resources well, creating impact and even making their data available to other journalists.”

In the year under consideration for this award, The Trace used its investigative chops to produce document- and data-driven deep dives into stolen guns and NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer. We published an audio report about the hurdles faced by gunshot survivors, highlighting The Trace’s use of digital storytelling techniques to cover deeply affected communities. An animated guide to bump stocks, produced in collaboration with The New Yorker days after the Las Vegas shooting, underscored the newsroom’s issue expertise at a time when public interest in gun violence was high. And we tested readers’ gun violence knowledge with a quiz, as part of our commitment to increase understanding of this issue among the public.

The other finalists in the micro newsroom category included PublicSource, a nonprofit reporting outfit in Pittsburgh, and The New Food Economy, a nonprofit that highlights underreported stories from the food industry.

The Online Journalism Award comes as The Trace continues to generate impact through watchdog reporting and investigations. Some recent highlights:

  • A federal judge in Virginia removed the star attorney representing the NRA in a case against its longtime insurance partner. The lawyer was kicked off the case for neglecting to mention a major ethics violation — which the judge only learned about when The Trace’s Alex Yablon reported it last month.
  • The city of Houston released a slew of policy recommendations to reduce gun violence. Included on the list: A requirement for gun owners to report their stolen firearms to law enforcement. The report cited The Trace’s Missing Pieces investigation, which examined how gun theft from legal owners is quietly fueling violent crime in America.
  • Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen penned a piece advocating for the mandatory use of ballistics technology by law enforcement in California. The op-ed was inspired by a Trace report about the underuse of NIBIN, an effective crime-fighting tool.

About the Trace

The Trace is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization, and the only media outlet dedicated to full-time and in-depth reporting on America’s gun violence crisis. Since our launch in June 2015, we have partnered with more than 60 national and local media organizations, including The New Yorker, BuzzFeed, USA Today, Politico Magazine, Huffington Post, WNYC, Tampa Bay Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Sun-Times, and Teen Vogue. Our stories increase the public’s knowledge and understanding of the issue and spur action by policymakers, researchers, and law enforcement.

The Trace is always eager to hear from journalists interested in partnering with our nonprofit newsroom. Got an idea for a project? Please drop a note to Senior Editor Akoto Ofori-Atta at [email protected].



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Daily Bulletin: Where Schools Are Installing ‘Active Shooter Alarms’

Good Morning, Bulletin readers. A Stanford doctor — and ex-Trump nominee — is leading a rally today to recognize gun violence as a public health epidemic. A former Trump campaign worker has a new revelation about Maria Butina. But, as usual, this newsletter is one of the few 2018 news sources in which most of the items are Trump-free. Your Monday briefing continues below.

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Doctors and medical students will rally today to protest the lack of action on gun violence. The fledgling, nonpartisan group calls itself SAFE, for Scrubs Addressing the Firearms Epidemic. Today marks its first protest action, with demonstrations planned at Stanford Med and dozens of other medical schools across the country. SAFE wants funding to research the answers to standard epidemiological questions and training for doctors on how to talk to patients about guns. It is spearheaded in part by Dean Winslow, who found himself at the center of the national gun debate when he was nominated for assistant secretary of defense for health affairs last year. Winslow’s confirmation hearings took place two days after the shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; during his testimony, Winslow said it is “insane … that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic weapon like an AR-15.” He did not get the job.

A new interview reveals Maria Butina was trying to cozy up to the Trump campaign as early as July 2015, a year earlier than federal prosecutors have alleged. Sam Nunberg, a former campaign official, told Politico that Butina’s boyfriend, GOP operative Paul Erickson, contacted him in the early days of Trump’s candidacy seeking to arrange an introduction between Trump and Butina, whom Erickson described as a Russian national with links to the NRA. The meeting, which Erickson wanted to take place at a Las Vegas campaign stop, didn’t pan out. However, at the event, Butina was able to ask Trump a question about whether he would continue to impose sanctions on Russia.

More details have emerged regarding last week’s rampage shooting in California. Across four locations in Bakersfield on Wednesday, gunman Javier Casarez killed five others, including his ex-wife, and then himself. The couple was in the process of dividing their assets. The other victims include one of his former colleagues at a trucking company and three other individuals — including a father and his adult daughter, who were killed in their home — whose connections to Casarez are unknown.

Illinois schools are installing “active shooter alarms.” The blue boxes resemble fire alarms and automatically call police when pulled. Twenty schools in the state, most of them private, have invested in the systems, provided by a company called BluePoint. Meanwhile, across the border in Indiana, a district will allow school personnel like custodians to carry concealed guns while on school grounds. The measure was approved by the board of Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools in eastern Indiana on Thursday evening, though it did not announce when the policy — which specifically prohibits teachers from being armed — would take effect.

Suicide-prevention efforts championed by gun store owners have spread to 20 states. The Gun Shop Project began in New Hampshire in 2009, as a way to teach firearms retailers how to spot a potentially suicidal person. Since then, the project has spread to 10 states, including Utah, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, and a particularly high gun suicide rate: 86 percent of its firearm-related deaths are suicides. About 10 other states have implemented similar programs, including some that were borne out of a partnership between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and a gun-industry trade group.


We are pleased to relay that The Trace won a “general excellence” award from the Online News Association. The news was announced Saturday. We competed in the “micro” newsroom category and tied with a, a Cuban data-journalism outlet. Thank you, dear readers, for engaging with and sharing our work — your support makes our reporting possible!

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Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's lobbying arm, speaks at the group's annual meeting in 2016.

Daily Bulletin: New Audio Suggests the NRA Could Be Involved In Illegal Campaign Coordination

Happy Friday, Bulletin readers. The National Rifle Association’s star lawyer has been kicked off a case for a misleading claim unearthed by The Trace. The White House will reportedly oppose age restrictions for firearm sales. And parents sue an Ohio school district to stop it from allowing teachers to carry firearms.

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After The Trace reported his false claim, an NRA lawyer is booted from a case. Last month, Alex Yablon reported that William A. Brewer III, who is representing the gun group in its suit against the insurance broker Lockton, failed to disclose an ethical violation in Texas. Shortly after, a judge ordered Brewer to explain the misrepresentation. Yesterday, the same judge removed Brewer from the case. Read on for the full story.

Meanwhile, a new recording suggests the NRA could be involved in illegal campaign coordination. In audio obtained by The Daily Beast, Matt Rosendale, a Republican Senate candidate in Montana, says the NRA’s top lobbyist assured him that the gun group would spend heavily to unseat his Democratic opponent. Campaign finance watchdogs say the comments suggest impermissible coordination. Follow the money: On Monday, The Trace reported that the NRA has paid the election contractor Starboard Strategic almost $400,000 against Rosendale’s opponent. Starboard bears no meaningful distinction from an established campaign firm called OnMessage, Inc. Federal Election Commission data shows that Rosendale’s campaign has paid OnMessage more than $400,000 this cycle.

The White House School Safety Commission will oppose age limits for gun purchases. The Washington Post reports that the commission, formed in the wake of the Parkland shooting, has concluded that there’s no evidence that age restrictions can help prevent school shootings. Instead, its upcoming report will recommend safety trainings for gun owners. From the Trace archives: The 19-year-old Parkland gunman was too young to purchase a handgun. But no law prevented him from buying the AR-15 he used to kill 17 people.

A group of parents is suing an Ohio school district over its plan to arm teachers. In April, the Madison Board of Education passed a resolution allowing armed staff in district schools. On Wednesday, five parents filed a lawsuit against the board and superintendent, alleging that the resolution does not meet the firearms training requirements mandated by Ohio law.

Police in Chicago will be required to report when they point a gun at someone. The new rule is part of a consent decree to reform the Chicago Police Department finalized on Thursday. Officers must file paperwork each time they point a weapon at a suspect, even if they don’t fire.

Los Angeles County rolls out increased penalties for gun-related crimes. Law enforcement officials announced Thursday that anyone who is convicted of illegally possessing a gun or using one in a crime will serve a maximum sentence. “Doing time for your crime is a critically important message, as the debate over gun violence is waged across our nation,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said during a press conferenceWhat experts say: The evidence that mandatory minimums directly reduce gun crime is thin and some experts question how much greater public safety can be clearly attributed to such laws.


Murder-suicides claimed at least 20 lives this week. Murder-suicide by gun is an everyday occurrence in America. According to an analysis by The Trace earlier this year, the shooters are almost always male, and the vast majority of cases involve current or former romantic partners. Among this week’s victims: 

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[AP/David Goldman]

Daily Bulletin: A Gunman in Bakersfield, California, Killed Five People

Good morning, Bulletin readers. A shooting rampage claimed the lives of five people in Southern California. Amnesty International is criticizing the U.S. government for allowing gun violence to become a human rights crisis. And prosecutions of straw purchasers are up in Pennsylvania. More in today’s bulletin. 

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A gunman in Bakersfield, California, killed five people. In what authorities believe was a case of domestic violence, a Southern California man shot his wife and two men working at a trucking company, then killed two more people at a private home. When the gunman was confronted by a sheriff’s deputy, he shot and killed himself.

Protesters are taking to the streets of Dallas after an unarmed black man was shot in his home. Following tense protests in downtown Dallas on Monday evening, demonstrators continued to put pressure on lawmakers to punish the police officer who killed Botham Jean in his apartment last week. On Wednesday, Mayor Mike Rawlings called a recess at a city council meeting after it was interrupted by a group of protesters.

Straw purchase prosecutions in Pennsylvania jumped after the state passed its 2012 sentencing law. That’s according to a new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health comparing prosecutions in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The study found that prosecutions rose in Pennsylvania after it passed a law imposing mandatory sentences for straw purchasers, while prosecutions dropped in Maryland after a court ruling weakened its straw purchasing laws. “The main takeaway from our paper is that the language of the law really matters,” one of the researchers said. From The Trace archives: Measuring the effectiveness of straw purchasing laws at the state level is notoriously difficult, and federal prosecutions are rare. According to a new government report, less than a tenth of 1 percent of people who lied on their gun background check forms — a federal crime — were prosecuted during the last fiscal year.

A California judge overturned a 95-year-old ban on handgun ads at gun stores. State officials had argued that the 1923 law, which made it illegal for gun shops to display advertisements for pistols that were visible from outside the store, would prevent violence and suicide. On Tuesday, an Obama-appointed judge rejected the law, ruling that it violates the First Amendment.

A gun show was postponed because of public concern about violence. The board of the Del Mar Fairgrounds in California, which has hosted the gun show for 30 years, voted on Tuesday to suspend the event until it can formulate a policy that bans guns and ammunition. Gun safety advocates have been pressuring the company for months to end the expo, which they say makes the community less safe.

A teenager was fatally shot outside a Las Vegas high school. Police say the 18-year-old victim was killed near his school’s baseball field on Tuesday afternoon while school was in session.


American gun violence is a human rights crisis, says Amnesty International. In a new report, the non-governmental organization says that all aspects of American life have been compromised by a wide availability of guns and a dearth of regulations. The report also found that young men of color in the United States are 20 times more likely to be gunned down than their white counterparts.

“The U.S. government is prioritizing gun ownership over basic human rights,” Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. “While many solutions have been offered, there has been a stunning lack of political will to save lives.” The organization offers a range of recommendations to reduce gun deaths, including expanded background checks, investment in community-based gun-violence-prevention programs, and a comprehensive licensing and regulation system for gun ownership.

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Daily Bulletin: California Orders the NRA to Stop Selling its Carry Guard Insurance in the State

Good morning, Bulletin readers. California orders the National Rifle Association to stop selling its Carry Guard insurance. Federal prosecutors suggest that accused Russian spy Maria Butina could turn on the GOP operative with whom she’s been romantically involved. Plus, millions of American women experience an overlooked form of domestic abuse called coercive control. 

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California orders the NRA to stop selling its Carry Guard insurance in the state. On Tuesday, the California Department of Insurance issued a cease-and-desist order to the NRA claiming the gun group marketed its self-defense insurance without a proper license. As The Trace has reported, the insurance product — dubbed “murder insurance” by critics — faces scrutiny from regulators in several states, including New York, New Jersey, and Washington State.

New from The Trace: Smith & Wesson’s parent company is using pseudoscience in its fight against an activist-led shareholder campaign for transparency. In a filing on Monday to the Securities and Exchange Commission, American Outdoor Brands cited the debunked economist John Lott, Jr. to make the dubious claim that more guns result in less crime. Alex Yablon has the story.

The accused Russian agent Maria Butina has offered to flip on her American boyfriend, court documents suggest. In a recent filing, federal prosecutors allege that Butina has offered details on Republican political consultant Paul Erickson’s “illegal activities.” The document also suggests that Erickson “played an integral role in the defendant’s efforts to establish an informal line of communication between the Kremlin and the incoming Presidential Administration,” with the knowledge that she was acting on behalf of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a former Russian senator.

Active shooting incidents involving semiautomatic rifles are more deadly than those involving handguns, according to a new paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, which examined 248 shootings, found that gunshot wounds from semiautomatic rifles are no more fatal than those from handguns, but the number of victims nearly doubled when a rifle was used. Another key finding: High-powered rifles are not commonly used by active shooters. Such weapons were present in only 25 percent of the incidents analyzed in the study, reaffirming the findings of a recent ALERRT analysis of active shooter incidents.

The NRA weighed in on the shooting of an unarmed Black man in Dallas. In an NRATV segment Monday night, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch said the man who was killed inside his home by a police officer might have survived if he had been “a law-abiding gun owner.”

Police in Des Moines, Iowa, are now using a federal database to solve gun crimes faster. The Des Moines Police Department announced this week that it would be the first in the state to install a machine to access the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, or NIBIN, a database that helps police match shell casings to the guns that fired them. More on NIBIN: Many see the database as law enforcement’s best hope for getting shooters off the street before they commit more crimes. Some crime labs are making better use of the tool than others.

A white man pulled a gun on a group of black college students in Florida. The students were waiting to get into their friend’s Tallahassee apartment building on Saturday night when an armed white man tried to stop them from boarding the elevator. The students later posted a video of the incident on Twitter, where it has been shared thousands of times. Tallahassee Police said they are investigating.


How abusers use guns to terrorize their intimate partners, without pulling the trigger. Millions of people, many of them women, have been threatened with guns by their partners. For a new feature in collaboration with Cosmopolitan, Jennifer Mascia took a closer look at this form of abuse, known as coercive control, and the lasting damage it leaves behind. “It was almost like being held captive,” one survivor told her.

Smith & Wesson Touts Pseudoscience to Counter Shareholder Demands

Firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson’s parent company American Outdoor Brands Company (AOBC) is citing the debunked economist John Lott, Jr. in its fight against an activist-led shareholder campaign for transparency.

In a Monday filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, American Outdoor Brands explained why it opposes a shareholder proposal by a group of Catholic activists that would require the company to produce a report on the public safety risks associated with its products. The proposal is up for a vote at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on September 25.

In May, shareholders in Sturm, Ruger, which is AOBC’s main publicly traded competitor, approved an identical proposal submitted by the same group of activists. But AOBC argued in this latest filing that advocates of the shareholder proposal have relied on “faulty and misleading gun violence statistics.”

Instead, AOBC said, stockholders should look to the ample body of research produced by the Crime Prevention Research Center, a pro-gun think tank run by independent economist John Lott, Jr. Since the late 1990s, Lott has advanced what he calls the “More Guns, Less Crime” hypothesis, which posits that the decline in crime during the Clinton era was caused by more everyday citizens carrying concealed weapons, thus warding off potential criminals.

The AOBC filing was a response to separate reports by large shareholder advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services and GlassLewis. Both companies endorsed the activist proposal, as they had with the successful Ruger initiative earlier this year.

Unfortunately for AOBC, Lott’s research has been debunked for years, and the man himself has engaged in unseemly and dishonest academic behavior.

Lott’s claim to fame, the “More Guns, Less Crime” argument, has been disputed for years. More recent research suggests that if anything, the opposite phenomenon is true: more guns are associated with more crime. According to one 2017 paper, in states that passed looser right-to-carry laws, violent crime fell at a far lower rate in the 1990s than it did in states like New York that tightly regulate guns in public. The paper found that trend held even with projections made using Lott’s own methods.

Lott has regularly responded to critics over the past two decades, sometimes with help: in 2003, The Washington Post reported that Lott had invented a persona called “Mary Rosh” to defend his pro-gun findings in internet forums and write favorable reviews of his book on Amazon. Lott fessed up to the practice when confronted. That same year, he was accused of fabricating survey data. More recently, he has falsely claimed that his papers were peer-reviewed by publications that in fact rejected his research.

That hasn’t stopped Lott. He still vociferously defends his work against any criticism and has continued to make dubious arguments in newspaper editorials. For all his effort, he hasn’t made any inroads in academia: he’s still working without a university job, and isn’t published in reputable scholarly journals. But he has made himself useful to organizations like AOBC and the National Rifle Association that oppose stricter gun laws. In the Trump era, Lott has even branched out and presented himself as an expert on voter fraud — another topic with which his opinion conveniently dovetails with right-wing policy goals.

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Daily Bulletin: Maria Butina Pitched a Putin-Themed Show for a U.S. Audience

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Emails reveal that alleged National Rifle Association infiltrator Maria Butina worked with an Outdoor Channel exec in 2016 to launch a show starring Vladimir Putin that would serve as a preview of “the kind of relationship Russia could have with America … and with President Trump.” A left-leaning think tank says the NRA’s reputation isn’t rebounding after Parkland. And it’s time to vote on the gun violence questions you’d like us to answer. 

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Maria Butina was working with the Outdoor Channel to develop a TV show featuring Vladimir Putin. Emails obtained by ABC News reveal that the accused Russian agent, who prosecutors say infiltrated the NRA to access Republican lawmakers, emailed with a senior executive from the network in 2016 and said she had “contacts directly within [Putin’s] office” who were “VERY happy” about the project. In another email, she claimed she’d arranged for cabinet ministers from the Kremlin to come to the United States and observe the 2016 election. The email also said that Russian officials had told Putin to do the show “as an example of the kind of relationship Russia could have with America … and with President Trump.” The channel’s CEO, Jim Liberatore, confirmed that Butina had been paid $20,000 for consulting work. Meanwhile, a federal judge denied Butina’s request for bail — and imposed a gag order that forbids prosecutors and defense attorneys from discussing the case publicly.

The NRA has suffered “lasting damage” since Parkland. According to a new report from the progressive think tank Navigator Research, polling data suggests that more than half of Americans view the NRA unfavorably. While the group’s favorability usually takes a dip after a major mass shooting, this marks the first time that it hasn’t quickly rebounded, the firm noted.

Meanwhile, the NRA is endorsing a Texas official who can’t even legally buy a gun. Last week, the gun group threw its support behind the re-election campaign of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who “has been a champion for law-abiding gun owners,” Chris W. Cox, the head of the group’s lobbying arm, wrote in an email. But Paxton, who has an A+ rating from the group, can’t own guns himself, as he’s been under felony indictment since 2015 for alleged securities law violations.

His gun comments cost him a post in the Trump administration—but the reaction spurred him to take an active role in gun reform. During his confirmation hearing last November, retired Air Force Colonel Dean Winslow, who was up for a Defense Department post, said it was “insane” that civilians can buy AR-15s. His nomination was put on hold, and he withdrew his name from contention. Since then, he’s launched Scrubs Addressing the Firearms Epidemic, or SAFE, for health care professionals working to address gun violence. “We really feel that our country can do better in terms of reducing the terrible toll,” Winslow said.

A Dallas police officer was charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting her neighbor in his own apartment. Amber Guyger, 30, was arrested on Sunday, three days after she allegedly returned to her apartment building after a shift, got off on the wrong floor, entered the apartment of Botham Jean, 26, and opened fire, killing him. Guyger says she thought the apartment, which was reportedly unlocked, belonged to her.

A small-town North Carolina mayor and his wife were shot to death. Last Thursday, Gary Skelton, 70, the mayor of Leggett, population 55, was found shot to death along with his wife, Jackie Skelton, 66, on their property. Police did not disclose a motive.

A former California cop will plead guilty to selling more than 100 guns without a license. Vasken Gourdikian, a former police lieutenant in Pasadena, faces 30 months in prison for selling 108 guns without a federal firearms license between 2014 and 2017. At least one of the guns was seized at a crime scene.

A Louisiana woman killed her husband in front of their kids in a Walmart parking lot. Kayla Jean Giles has been charged with second-degree murder after police say she confronted her estranged husband, Thomas Coutee Jr., 30, during a custody exchange in a shopping center parking lot in Alexandria and shot him in the chest.


Readers of our weekly newsletter, The Canon, know that we’ve moved into a new phase of our project to answer your questions about gun violence, Ask The Trace. We’d like you to help us identify the questions that feel most urgent, so that we can move them to the top of our list.

Please click here to vote for one of the following:

  • Are there any rules about selling guns to people who are obviously drunk?
  • Do firearms need to be registered? I read about people arrested for “firearms violations” or “on weapons charges.” What does this mean?
  • How many military-style assault rifles are in the hands of civilians?

Once we have a clear top pick, our reporters will chase down the answer, and we’ll report back on