Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin speak at a 2013 press conference about their background check bill. [CQ Roll Call via AP Images]

Daily Bulletin: Three Senators Push Trump to Restart Gun Talks

Good morning, Bulletin readers. California is still reeling after a rash of mass shootings in four days left 10 people dead and 10 others injured. We have updates on those incidents below. — Jennifer Mascia, engagement writer

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

The latest on California’s outbreak of high-profile shootings. 

  • Thousands gathered Monday night at a vigil in Santa Clarita to commemorate the two students killed in Thursday’s school shooting. “We are here to grieve the loss of two teenagers, two friends, two students, two siblings, and two children,” said Vince Perry, the school’s principal. Detectives were still searching for a motive for the 16-year-old shooter who later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • A San Diego man killed his estranged wife and three of his four children on Saturday before killing himself. A day before, the woman was granted a temporary restraining order after his repeated harassment, including an alleged shooting threat two weeks before. It’s not clear if the order was served, but the shooter was likely aware of it, police said. The fourth child victim remained in critical condition.
  • Fresno Police were still looking for an unknown number of assailants who killed four people and injured six others Sunday night. “This was not a random act,” the police chief said at a Monday news conference, but officials have still not identified a motive.

A gunman killed two people in the parking lot of an Oklahoma Walmart. The shooter also died after a self-inflicted gunshot wound outside the store in the town of Duncan, 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, local Police Chief Danny Ford said. No motive had been established, but one of the victims was a store employee, Ford added. Last week, an El Paso Walmart reopened months after an August mass shooting there claimed 22 lives.

Bipartisan background check supporters say they’re ready to dive back in when a political window reopens. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Chris Murphy of Connecticut were key negotiators in fall talks with President Trump about passing new federal gun laws after this summer’s string of mass shootings. They reaffirmed their support for expanding background checks in a Tuesday op-ed in USA Today. “For the time being, negotiations with the White House…have come to a halt,” they acknowledged. “But we think it’s important to note how far this debate moved over the summer and fall, and how close we were to a bipartisan agreement.”

Judges exercise discretion in red flag cases. The New York Times looks into examples of gun seizure requests denied by jurists who are sometimes being asked to balance free expression with public safety. In one case, a Seattle man posed with AK-47s above the caption “one ticket for Joker please”; in another social media post, he tweeted he would “shoot any woman any time for any reason.” Police used a red flag order to temporarily seize his firearms, but the gun owner’s lawyer argued that the posts were intended as jokes, and a judge returned the firearms a few weeks later. Another judge in Washington State told the paper, “We’re going to be on the front page if we make a mistake.”

A county in Wisconsin became the state’s first “Second Amendment sanctuary.” The Florence County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution that leaves it up to the local sheriff to decide whether to enforce a red flag law in the event such legislation is passed statewide. Governor Tony Evers has tried to advance extreme risk protection orders only to be blocked by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting has died in California. Kimberly Gervais, who was paralyzed in the 2017 massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, died Friday at a nursing facility. Local authorities have not added her to the list of fatalities from the October 2017 massacre that left 58 people dead. But one city official told The Las Vegas Review-Journal that discussions were underway about adding a 59th tree to a local memorial garden.

Mother Jones explains how a mass shooting led to the Democratic win in Virginia. “After the Virginia Beach shooting, gun groups went all in on Virginia,” Matt Cohen writes. “Meanwhile, the NRA — currently hobbled by political scandals and depleted finances — barely contributed $350,000 to GOP candidates.” The magazine reports that it wasn’t just Trump’s unpopularity that helped turn red suburbs blue — it was the gun issue itself, with suburban voters increasingly favoring gun reforms.

DATA POINT

There have been 41 mass shootings (four or more people injured or killed) in California so far this year, more than any other state. [Gun Violence Archive]

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Fresno, California [Google Maps]

Daily Bulletin: Two More Mass Shootings Leave California Reeling

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Investigators are probing whether the Saugus High School shooter used a homemade “ghost gun” to kill two classmates and wound three others last week. That and more in your Monday roundup.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Latest mass shootings leave California reeling. About three dozen people were watching NFL football last night at a home in Fresno when unknown assailants entered the backyard and opened fire, killing four men and injuring six other people. On Saturday in San Diego, a 31-year-old man fatally shot his wife and young sons, ages 3, 5, and 11, in their residence. A fourth child is in critical condition.

Police are investigating whether the Santa Clarita shooter used a ghost gun. Authorities are looking into the possibility that the shooter, who succumbed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Friday, assembled the .45-caliber handgun he used from parts purchased separately, law enforcement officials told The Los Angeles Times. As a 16-year-old, the gunman could not legally own firearms in California. In May, The Trace’s Alain Stephens reported that nearly a third of crime guns recovered in California are homemade, unserialized, and untraceable.

Portraits of the Saugus High victims emerged. Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15, was a “lover of all things fashionable,” according to a GoFundMe set up by her family. The assistant coach of her cheerleading squad said she was always encouraging her teammates. Another friend said she was particularly concerned with mental health after recently helping a friend through depression. Dominic Blackwell, 14, was a football player who was “always smiling and laughing,” a teammate said. “It’s so unfair.”

NRA leader Wayne LaPierre got a 57 percent pay raise in 2018. The Washington Post reports that the bump raised his total compensation to $2.15 million. LaPierre’s fiduciary performance has been under scrutiny since details of his lavish business spending and extensive self-dealing by National Rifle Association insiders were brought to light by reporters at The Trace and other outlets. On Friday, Will Van Sant reported that the NRA asked a judge to seal references made about LaPierre’s September deposition after the gun group’s former PR firm characterized his testimony as contradicting the organization’s legal claims.

“60 Minutes” explored the “Second Amendment Sanctuary” movement. The CBS television newsmagazine interviewed several Colorado sheriffs who are refusing to enforce their state’s new red flaw law when it goes into effect in 2020. The show also heard from a sheriff who believes risk-protection orders who might have saved one of his deputies, who was killed in a shootout with a heavily armed man struggling with mental illness.

A new bill in Congress would require banks to report suspicious gun-related activity. The Gun Violence Prevention Through Financial Intelligence Act would require banks to develop systems for reporting suspicious gun transactions to the federal government. The bill was inspired by a New York Times report from 2018 about how several mass shooters used credit cards to finance their rampages.

Two kids were shot at a high school football game in New Jersey. A 10-year old boy was critically wounded and a 15-year-old boy and a 27-year-old man were injured when someone opened fire at a Pleasantville High School football game on Friday night. Five people were arrested in connection with the incident.

DATA POINT

More than 233,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at their schools since the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine. Washington Post

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[CNN]

Daily Bulletin: ‘A Nightmare You Can’t Wake Up From’: California School Shooting Kills 2 Students, Injures 3 Others

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Gunfire shattered another American school yesterday as a student armed with a powerful handgun went on a brief, deadly rampage in Southern California. “It’s like a dream,” said a sophomore. “But not a good dream, like a nightmare you can’t wake up from.”

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CALIFORNIA SCHOOL SHOOTING

Five people were shot, two fatally, at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita. It lasted just 16 seconds. But when it was over, a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy had been fatally wounded and three other teenagers injured by a classmate who opened fire with .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol in the school’s quad before shooting himself in the head. It was the gunman’s 16th birthday. He is in critical condition at a nearby hospital. Police have not yet said where the teen got his gun.

Panicked students texted parents their goodbyes. “i love you and im so thankful for everything youve done for me” a student texted her mother after the shots rang out. As students were led out of the school by police — an image that’s become all too familiar — one of them wondered aloud, “What kind of a world is this?”

The rampage was the fifth mass shooting at an American school or school event so far this year. Overall, there have been 366 mass shootings — defined by Gun Violence Archive as four people injured or killed — in the United States in 2019. Despite the attention they garner, mass shootings account for fewer than 2 percent of gun deaths. You can find more essential facts and context in our guide to understanding mass shootings.

Gunmakers are producing more and more of the type of powerful handgun the shooter used. According to our analysis, output of .40, .45, and .50-caliber pistols more than tripled over the past three decades, making those weapons one of the fastest growing segments of the handgun market. Generally speaking, bullets get more destructive as they increase in size and velocity. “That makes a .45 deadlier than a smaller .22 when aimed at the same target,” Alex Yablon wrote last year.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: The NRA moves to hide nuggets from Wayne LaPierre’s deposition. For months, the gun group has battled its estranged public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen. The dispute includes questions about LaPierre’s stewardship of the National Rifle Association and his spending habits. As part of ongoing litigation in Virginia, Ackerman’s lawyers deposed LaPierre in September. Two paragraphs of a counterclaim that Ackerman lodged in October characterize segments of LaPierre’s testimony that appear at odds with key claims the NRA has made during the legal fight. The characterizations have been part of the public court file for more than a month, but the NRA is now asking that they be sealed. Will Van Sant untangles the latest twist here.

Please remember to check out FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence in Chicago, the six-part series we launched this week with WTTW, the city’s PBS station. In addition to stories from our own Sarah Ryley and Brian Freskos, Chicago-based journalists Nissa Rhee and Arionne Nettles contributed in-depth pieces that explore the difficulty of finding housing for both gun violence survivors and perpetrators; a support group for family members of juvenile offenders; the trauma that the city’s gunfire is inflicting on children; and shooting survivors who feel compelled to arm themselves for protection even if they’re not legally allowed to own guns.

More than six million records have been added to the federal gun background check system since last year. Attorney General William Barr released the first progress report on last year’s Fix NICS Act, which requires federal agencies and incentivizes states to enter more records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Between April 2018 and August 2019, the volume of prohibiting records grew by 6.2 percent. Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection submitted records for approximately 13 million undocumented residents, the Justice Department said.

A second city in Washington State will tax gun sales. The Tacoma City Council voted on Tuesday to levy a $25 tax on guns and up to five cents on bullets. The tax was modeled on Seattle’s, which took effect in 2016. Ahead of the vote, 112 people testified for and against the bill.

DATA POINT

60 percent of Chicago children 5 years old or younger live in neighborhoods where 91 percent of the city’s shootings occurred in 2018. —Nissa Rhee from FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence

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[Barbara J. Perenic/AP]

Daily Bulletin: Lone Wolves, Armed With Legally Purchased Guns

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Something else that happened in Washington yesterday: The attorney general unveiled a plan to increase enforcement of some federal gun laws. Those details lead your Thursday roundup.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

The DOJ unveils Project Guardian. Attorney General William Barr announced a new five-point plan to step up enforcement of existing gun laws. A central provision calls for state attorneys general to create guidelines for prosecuting people banned from owning guns who “lie and try” to buy them anyway from licensed firearm dealers and directs the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to provide a list of such violators to state law enforcement officials. The package also calls for better reporting on background check denials on the basis of mental health, coordinated prosecution of gun crimes, improved information sharing among law enforcement, and better coordination of crime gun intelligence. The plan stopped short of more aggressive Justice Department proposals floated over the summer, including restricting gun access to people on the terrorist watch list or expediting capital punishment for mass shooters. Gun violence prevention groups say new laws are still needed: Barr’s strategy makes “no serious effort to address the supply of guns and how they fall into the hands of individuals who have proven themselves a danger to themselves or to others,” the president of Brady told The New York Times.

The majority of lone-wolf domestic terror attacks are perpetrated with legally purchased firearms. The FBI studied 52 people who “attempted or completed an act of lethal violence in furtherance of an identified social, political, or ideological goal” between 1972 and 2015 and found that 65 percent of them used firearms. Nearly 70 percent of those shooters legally acquired their guns, while almost half were motivated by anti-government or racially motivated extremism.

One of the world’s biggest gunmakers is splitting into two public companies. American Outdoor Brands is becoming Smith & Wesson Brands, which will focus on guns, and AOB, which will deal with outdoor products and accessories. “There have been significant changes in the political climate as well as the economic, investing, and insurance markets since we embarked upon what we believe have been our very successful diversification efforts,” the company’s chairman said in a statement.

Gun suicide isn’t just a problem for service members, but for their families, as well. new analysis from the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence found that in 2017, guns were used in 49 percent of suicides of female military spouses, compared to 31 percent of suicides among women in the general population. In general, the gun suicide rate is much higher among veterans than it is among the civilian population.

A Philadelphia trauma center shuttered this summer just as gun homicides in the city began ramping up. Two criminologists told The Appeal that the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital and its Level 1 trauma center is likely resulting in more gunshot deaths as victims have to travel farther for care. ICYMI: Last month, The Trace, Measure of America, and THE CITY identified a trauma desert in New York City, where gunshot patients in Queens are at a greater risk of dying than other city residents.

Senate Democrats introduced a bill reauthorizing funding for the Violence Against Women Act. The funding reauthorization passed by the House in April includes provisions to prevent stalkers and abusive dating partners from possessing guns. On Wednesday, all 47 Democratic senators introduced a Senate companion bill. The GOP-led Senate has not taken up the measure.

A teacher in Washington State was arrested for threatening a shooting. The suspect, a 58-year-old geometry teacher at a high school southeast of Tacoma, was arrested Wednesday after threatening to shoot students and a school staffer. Police do not believe she has access to guns.

DATA POINT

At least 190 current and former youth football players under the age of 25 have been fatally shot since 2017. This year alone, 32 youth football players under 18 have been shot and killed. SBNation

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Daily Bulletin: SCOTUS Clears Way for Sandy Hook Lawsuit Against Gunmaker

Good morning, Bulletin readers. A potentially landmark lawsuit against a gunmaker will proceed after the Supreme Court decided not to intervene. The development could have big implications for a federal law that protects the gun industry from most liability. That story leads your mid-week roundup.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

SCOTUS declined to block a lawsuit against Remington brought by families of Sandy Hook victims. The gunmaker appealed to the nation’s highest court after the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in March that the suit against the company, which made the rifle used in the Newtown attack, could proceed. The lawsuit contends that Remington violated state law by irresponsibly marketing military weapons to civilians. The justices’ decision not to hear the case means that Remington may now be subject to discovery, potentially bringing company secrets into the public record. NEW from The Trace: See our updated explainer about the huge implications the case could have for the gun industry, which is currently shielded from most legal claims by a 2005 federal law.

Please remember to check out FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence in Chicago, our new six-part partnership with WTTW, the city’s PBS station. Last night, Chicago gun violence prevention activists whose stories were featured in the series gathered at a Kennedy-King College panel discussion. Our Brian Freskos listened in. “The better the South and West Sides are, the better the city is going to be,” Vaughn Bryant of CP4P, an alliance of outreach groups in Chicago, said during the discussion. Here’s Brian’s deep dive into the anti-violence agenda of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

About 200 people are injured by gunfire every day in America. The new estimate comes from a report by Everytown For Gun Safety, which analyzed 30 million discharge records from 950 hospitals and emergency rooms. That data is more comprehensive than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nonfatal injury estimates, which are derived from a survey of just 2 percent of American hospitals. (Everytown provides grants to The Trace through its nonpolitical arm. Here’s our list of major donors and our policy on editorial independence.) Previously from The Trace: The CDC removed 2016 and 2017 nonfatal gunshot injury estimates from its website after The Trace and FiveThirtyEight raised questions about their reliability. In response to our reporting, U.S. senators have been pressing the agency to fix its numbers.

The NRA retroactively approved celebrity board members’ big-ticket transactions. Among the transactions, which were revealed in board meeting minutes from April obtained by The Wall Street Journal, is nearly half a million dollars’ worth of collectible guns the actor Tom Selleck sold to the National Rifle Association in 2018. Selleck quit the group’s board of directors last year.

Judge rules that the Trump administration illegally allowed 3D-printed gun sharing. A federal judge concluded that the State Department didn’t give sufficient reason when in 2018 it overturned an Obama-era policy that blocked the company Defense Distributed from disseminating its online gun blueprints. “Given the agency’s prior position regarding the need to regulate 3D-printed firearms and the CAD files used to manufacture them, it must do more than simply announce a contrary position,” Judge Robert Lasnik wrote.

Colorado gun stores are still selling high-capacity magazines, despite a 2013 ban. 9News filmed gun store staffers selling the device’s disassembled components in order to circumvent the state’s prohibition on ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.

The University of Virginia discontinued its 21-gun salute. The school said the ceremonial gunfire, which has marked Veterans Day on the campus for more than a decade, might startle students and teachers. “Unfortunately with gun violence in the U.S., there was some concern that we would cause a panic if someone heard gunshots on grounds,” the UVA president said.

DATA POINT

Chicago Police have failed to make an arrest in 85 percent of the violent crimes committed with guns that have taken place in the city since 2001. The Trace’s Sarah Ryley, from FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence

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Daily Bulletin: Lots of California Cops Who Abuse Their Partners Get to Keep Their Guns

Good morning, Bulletin readers. How do communities experience gun violence, and how can they heal? Those are questions we set out to address with our new partnership on gun violence in a city that’s seen far too much of it. That package kicks off your Tuesday roundup.

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NEW FROM THE TRACE

Introducing FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence in Chicago. We partnered with WTTW, the city’s PBS station, to explore some of the overlooked ways that people experience gun violence. The multimedia package includes a documentary series profiling five Chicagoans as they struggle to secure support for childhood trauma, confront housing insecurity that exposes them to the risk of getting shot, work together for prison reforms that can better rehabilitate juvenile offenders, and turn to gun ownership for the security they feel city officials are failing to provide.

To complement WTTW’s films, reporters for The Trace dug into the related issues — and what Chicago is doing about them. As we launch the project today, we hope you’ll make time  for two of those stories in particular:

  • Sarah Ryley scored an important scoop when analyzing Chicago police records on arrests in white and nonwhite areas. She found that in the same neighborhoods where the vast majorities of shooters go free, low-level drug arrests are almost constant. 
  • Brian Freskos took a hard look at the anti-violence agenda of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has said combating gun violence is her highest priority. His reporting underscores the tough choices facing her administration as she tries to make good on her promises.

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Lots of California cops who abuse their partners get to keep their guns. A coalition of news organizations analyzed more than 600 domestic abuse convictions involving police officers. They found that 38 percent of defendants pleaded guilty to lesser offenses, like disturbing the peace, which don’t trigger the federal domestic violence gun ban. Some 15 percent are still employed as police officers. In more than a dozen individual cases, judges provided a special exemption so officers could keep their guns.

Bernie Sanders said mandatory gun buybacks are “unconstitutional.” At a town hall in Iowa on Sunday, the 2020 Democratic candidate said mandatory assault weapons buybacks are “essentially confiscation.” Sanders and the rest of the 2020 field is largely united on enacting comprehensive federal gun reform. But after former candidate Beto O’Rourke made mandatory buybacks a major plank of his campaign, several have distanced themselves from that position. Get caught up on where the Democratic candidates stand on gun policy with our handy guide.

At least one more major donor has abandoned the NRA. The Associated Press spoke to Joe Olson, who said he eliminated a several-million dollar bequest from his will: “The rot had gotten worse and I simply decided: No, I’m not giving those people my money,” he told the wire service. His decision comes amid a months-long campaign by National Rifle Association donor David Dell’aquila to force leadership changes at the scandal-rocked organization by starving it of funding.

Amnesty International will hold a hearing on American gun violence. The human rights organization’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will examine how our country’s gun violence affects the Organization of American States member countries. “[It] has become so prevalent that it amounts to a human rights crisis,” said the campaign manager of the group’s End Gun Violence campaign.

A teen anti-violence march near St. Louis was interrupted by a gun threat. The young activists were rallying against child shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday when someone pulled out a gun during an altercation. “This is what we are trying to fight against,” said Skylar Robinson, 17, who led the demonstration.

The son of an anti-violence activist in Milwaukee was fatally shot. Darnell Woodard II, 21, was killed while sitting in a car Sunday night. His mother, Camille Mays, founded Peace Garden Project MKE, which provides permanent memorials for the city’s crime victims. “I do this every day,” Mays said. “I tried to stop it from coming to my door, from touching my family, but it didn’t.”

DATA POINT

There have been at least 364 mass shootings (4+ people shot) in the United States this year, putting the country on pace for 420 mass shootings by the end of the year — which would be the highest annual total since Gun Violence Archive began collecting the data in 2014. Gun Violence Archive

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Daily Bulletin: Senators at Odds Over Measure That Would Expand Gun Restrictions for Domestic Abusers

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Forgive us if today’s briefing is a little meta: A roundup of gun violence reporting, topped by some takeaways from a summit where a quarter of Trace staffers joined journalists from around the country in conversations and presentations about how to cover the issue better. Please read on for the details.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Journalists gathered for a community gun violence reporting conference in Philadelphia. The Better Gun Violence Reporting Summit drew local and national reporters, trauma doctors, high school students, gun reform activists, public health experts, and a former mayor. The Trace organized the kickoff panel, during which reporters from Miami, Louisville, and Oakland shared lessons learned while documenting shootings in communities of color. Among the best practices discussed: the importance of committing to sustained coverage, going beyond law enforcement narratives, humanizing victims and their loved ones, and balancing articles conveying the urgency of the problem with explorations of possible solutions. Check out the Summit’s Twitter feed or our own takeaways for more highlights from the day.

Senate talks on the Violence Against Women Act reach an impasse. The reauthorization of the 1994 law passed this spring by the Democratic-controlled House includes provisions to prevent stalkers and abusive dating partners from possessing guns. Republican Senator Joni Ernst and Democrat Dianne Feinstein were tasked by their parties with negotiating a deal that could get the legislation through the upper chamber. On Friday, Ernst said talks have broken down and promised to introduce an alternative version of VAWA reauthorization. Democrats are accusing Republicans of caving to the National Rifle Association, which had opposed the House version because of its expanded gun restrictions.

A Facebook advertiser is running an alleged concealed carry scam. Reporting by HuffPost reveals that Concealed Online offers a test that it claims can directly yield a gun permit from Virginia, which allows nonresidents to apply online. But the company is not telling customers they must apply to Virginia authorities in order to receive the permit, potentially leading some gun owners tricked by the ads into carrying hidden handguns without the required license.

The NRA dropped its lawsuit against San Francisco. The court case stemmed from the city’s largely symbolic declaration of the gun group as a domestic terror organization.

Two Saudi nationals were charged with weapons trafficking. Federal prosecutors say the suspects, who were living in the United States on student visas, bought rifle parts from gun dealers in the U.S. and smuggled them into Saudi Arabia in their luggage.

Study reveals that some Florida doctors don’t know counseling patients about guns is legal. A survey of University of Florida faculty physicians found that only 24 percent are aware that an appeals court overturned a law banning doctors from discussing gun safety with patients. Fifty-five percent feel comfortable initiating such discussions.

Elsewhere in Florida: A county became the first in the state to declare itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary.” Lake County adopted a non-legally binding resolution rejecting future gun restrictions. A county commissioner said the proposal was a response to former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s pledge to confiscate semiautomatic rifles.

DATA POINT

Gunmaker Sturm, Ruger reported a 47.7 percent drop in net income in the third quarter of 2019 because of flagging demand. —Winston-Salem Journal

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[Vijay Kumar Koulampet/Wikimedia Commons]

Daily Bulletin: GOP Lawmakers Cut Short Another Special Session on Guns

Good morning, Bulletin readers. As happened in Virginia earlier this year, a special legislative session on guns in Wisconsin ended almost before it began. That story leads your Friday round-up.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Lawmakers in Wisconsin ended a special session on guns with no debate. The GOP leaders of the state Assembly and Senate took just seconds to gavel in and gavel out a special session on guns convened by Democratic Governor Tony Evers. “There’s just not any momentum in the caucus to take up either one of the bills that the governor has offered,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said afterward. Evers’s bills would expand background checks and institute a red flag law. In a letter Thursday, he said the Republicans who control the legislature were “effectively ignoring the will of 80 percent of the people you and your colleagues represent.”

NEW from THE TRACE: The NRA’s donor base is steadfast — but aging. Despite leadership upheaval and revelations of financial mismanagement, the National Rifle Association can still draw support from a committed donor base: Its political action committee collected $9 million in the first nine months of this year, according to Federal Election Commission filings. In the same FEC reports, however, is an indicator that’s not so rosy for the NRA: This year, 56 percent of donors who reported their occupation or job status identified themselves as retired, up 16 percentage points from 2003, the first year for which complete records are available. Will Van Sant and Daniel Nass dig into the numbers.

Congressional Democrats push Trump to “confront America’s gun violence epidemic.” In a letter on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the president to “reaffirm your clear support for strengthening background checks,” reminding him that in August he said “we cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain.”

It may soon be easier for the government to export guns. This week marks the close of the interagency comment period for a rule change that would shift oversight of gun exports from the Commerce Department to the State Department. The policy could take effect by the end of this year. According to one estimate, the change could increase foreign gun sales by 20 percent. Alex Yablon reported in March that Commerce lacks the capability to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Most school attackers exhibited warning signs, according to a new review. The Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center looked at 41 incidents of deadly violence perpetrated by current or recent students at K-12 schools between 2008 and 2017. The report found that most perpetrators had a history of disciplinary actions or behavior that troubled others. Firearms, often obtained from the home, were the most common type of weapon used. Find the full report here.

Police probe Orinda mass shooting’s connection to 2015 killing. Police in California are looking into the possibility that the Halloween shooting in Orinda, which left five people dead, is linked to a quadruple homicide in San Francisco in 2015. Two Orinda victims have connections to the earlier shooting, and authorities are investigating whether the Halloween rampage was an act of retaliation.

DATA POINT

So far this year, there have been 303 homicide victims in Philadelphia, the highest number since 2007. Philadelphia Police Department

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[RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images]

Daily Bulletin: Election Results Have Democratic State Lawmakers and Reform Groups Pressing Their Edge on Gun Policy

Good morning, Bulletin readers. With many suburban voters indicating their desire for more action on gun violence, gun reform groups and Democrats in several red and purple states are going on offense.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

The governor of Virginia previewed state Democrats’ gun reform agenda. Ralph Northam said he will introduce a package of bills as soon as the new Democrat-led General Assembly convenes in January. Among his first priorities, according to an interview with CNN and a subsequent cabinet meeting: passing bills for universal background checks; banning assault weapon sales and high-capacity magazines; instituting a red flag law; and banning bump stocks.

Gun safety advocates see opportunities in Texas. The gun reform group Giffords Law Center has “targets up and down the ballot in Texas in 2020,” its executive director told the Houston Chronicle. Like Virginia, Texas has fast-growing suburbs where voters are gradually shifting to the left, and opinion polls in the Lone Star State consistently show more appetite for gun reform among residents than the GOP-dominated legislature. “It’s a huge shift in this politics, and it’s really driven by suburban voters,” Don Mark, a Democratic strategist in Virginia, told the Chronicle.

Wisconsin will hold a special session on gun violence today. Democratic Governor Tony Evers called the session late last month in the face of opposition to gun safety policies by the GOP lawmakers who control the Legislature. But Republicans plan to end the session without debate, much as their counterparts in Virginia did after a mass shooting there in May. Evers has said he would keep calling more sessions to keep up the political pressure.

Philadelphia plans to pump more money into fighting community gun violence. Mayor Jim Kenney said the $5 million injection, which needs final approval from the City Council, will go partly toward a relaunching a focused deterrence program sidelined in 2013. In January, the city unveiled a five-year “Road Map to Safer Communities” supported by a $31.5 million investment in efforts such as beautification of crime hotspots, grants to neighborhood groups pursuing promising anti-violence strategies, and services to reduce recidivism among people returning from incarceration. Kenney was re-elected this Tuesday and has declared preventing gun violence as the top priority for his next term.

  • Attention Philly area readers! Join us tomorrow for the first-ever community gun violence reporting summit. We’re hosting a talk on some hard lessons we and our fellow panelists have learned while reporting on shootings in underserved communities. WHYY is hosting the event at its studios. Non-journalists are encouraged to attend.

Bay Area residents decried the lack of attention for the Orinda shooting. Five people of color were fatally shot at an Airbnb on Halloween. But in the aftermath, much of the media coverage has been on Airbnb’s crackdown on “party houses” — which will reportedly include a “rapid response team” to field neighbor complaints — than the victims, who were from less-affluent communities. “[If] it’s an inner-city area, that kind of stuff gets looked over because people think it’s common,” Richmond resident Darrion Jones told The Guardian.

An Arizona county declared itself a “Second Amendment sanctuary.” Mohave County is the first in the state to adopt a non-legally binding resolution opposing new gun laws. Texas counties have also recently joined the scattered movement, which has adherents among sheriffs and county officials in rural parts of Illinois, Oregon, and Washington State — as well as the support of the National Rifle Association, as this USA Today investigation found.

A man turned away from a California fast food restaurant opened fire on three employees. The gunman, who is still at large, was ejected from a Church’s Chicken in San Diego on Wednesday afternoon. He returned and shot three employees, killing one of them.

Another police department revised its use-of-force policy. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said its officers should attempt de-escalation tactics, including “time, distance, and cover,” before resorting to using their weapons.

Police released the suspect in the Texas homecoming party mass shooting. Authorities in Greenville said Wednesday that the 23-year-old man they arrested the day after the shooting would be released after several alibi witnesses came forward. Two people were killed and six others were wounded in the October 27 incident.

DATA POINT

Transportation Security Administration agents seized 403 guns from carry-on bags at airport security checkpoints last month, 12.5 percent more than October of last year. Transportation Security Administration

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[Farragutful/Wikimedia Commons]

Daily Bulletin: Democrats Flip Virginia’s Legislature, Putting Gun Reform on the Agenda

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Democrats in Virginia highlighted Republicans’ obstruction on gun reform. Last night, they won big in an election seen as holding signs for 2020. That story leads your mid-week roundup.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Democrats take control in Virginia, putting gun reform on the agenda. The party will hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, as well as the governor’s office, after wins in key races last night. Last month, a poll found that gun violence was the top issue for the commonwealth’s voters, with 75 percent saying it was “very important.” Following the May mass shooting at a municipal center in Virginia Beach, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam recalled lawmakers for a special session on gun safety, calling for passage of expanded background checks, bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, and a one-per-month limit on handgun purchases. Republican lawmakers adjourned the session after just 90 minutes. Democrats seized on that inaction during the campaign, and gun safety groups vastly outspent the National Rifle Association in its home state. Now that Democrats are taking charge, they’re promising to break the logjam: “I can assure you we’ll get universal background checks,” said re-elected delegate Danica Roem.

The Supreme Court will decide on Friday whether to hear a challenge to gun makers’ legal immunity. The case concerns a lawsuit brought by Sandy Hook families against Remington, which they say violated Connecticut law by recklessly marketing a military rifle to civilians. From The Trace archives: What SCOTUS’s decision could mean for the federal law that shields gun makers and sellers from lawsuits in most circumstances.

NEW from THE TRACE: Fresh data shows how focused deterrence can keep at-risk people from crime. Extensive research already demonstrates the crime-prevention strategy’s ability to curb community gun violence. The new study, looking at a focused deterrence initiative in Detroit, found the intervention had a particularly strong effect on violent offenders it reached, who were roughly 47 percent less likely to be re-arrested for violent crime. Champe Barton has the story.

Two American gun violence researchers won a prestigious criminology prize. Duke University’s Philip Cook and the University of California’s Franklin Zimring were awarded the Stockholm Prize in Criminology. The jury said Cook and Zimring’s “innovations have helped to produce a wide body of evidence that falsifies the claim that gun availability is irrelevant to the volume of gun injuries.” The Trace archives: After a survey estimated that 22 percent of guns are sold in the United States without a background check, Cook argued that the figure bolstered the case for a federal fix.

A majority of Texans want stricter gun laws. The results came from the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, which has shown that support for stricter gun laws in the state has outpaced support for looser gun laws since at least February 2015. Among Republicans, 24 percent favored stricter gun laws, up five percentage points from February. The most popular gun reform among GOP respondents was universal background checks, with 74 percent support.

Nine American citizens were brutally killed in northern Mexico. The three women and six children were members of an extended Mormon family with joint U.S.-Mexican citizenship. Authorities suspect that drug traffickers were involved in the slaying, in which some victims were shot at close range and others were burned in their vehicles. As Alex Yablon reported last month, the cartel-led criminal insurgency raging in Mexico is often carried out with American guns.

The new NYPD police commissioner pledged to tackle a shooting uptick. Dermot Shea, who will succeed James O’Neill in the position later this month, said in an interview that he will target the violent hotspots that have contributed to a 5 percent year-over-year jump in shootings in New York City.

Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang proposed ending lockdown drills in schools. “We are terrorizing our children unnecessarily,” the entrepreneur announced on his campaign website Monday. “There is no evidence that these active shooter drills proportionally help prepare students for an actual shooter.”

DATA POINT

Last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced 217 guns to people under 18 in Missouri, up 40 percent from 2012. —Columbia Missourian

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[Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/Sipa/AP Images]

Daily Bulletin: The NRA’s Latest Spending Scandal Involves Wayne LaPierre’s Private Travel Agent

Good morning, Bulletin readers. More details emerge about potential governance lapses at the NRA. That story leads your Tuesday roundup.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Top NRA officials’ travel was arranged by an unregistered travel agent accused of fraud. The National Rifle Association has a travel agency that most employees use to book work trips. But chief executive Wayne LaPierre and some other top officials make their arrangements through a California woman named Gayle Stanford, who while working for the NRA once settled claims that she was involved in an alleged scheme to defraud small businesses. The Wall Street Journal digs into the “unorthodox” arrangement: NRA accountants were instructed to pay bills from Stanford’s company — which reached about $2 million one recent year, according to a source — without requiring full documentation. Stanford also received a separate retainer from former NRA ad firm Ackerman McQueen, which the NRA reimbursed. The NRA has justified expensive charter travel for executives for security reasons. But a nonprofit attorney told the Journal: “If I’m on a board spending substantial amounts of money on private jet travel for our CEO because of security concerns, yet we’re working with alleged fraudsters, it doesn’t add up.”

The perpetrator of a deadly mass shooting on Halloween is still at large. Five people were killed at a party at an Airbnb in Orinda, California, outside San Francisco. Police have not announced any suspects. Airbnb said Monday that it was cracking down on unauthorized parties at its rentals. One hundred people were reportedly crammed into a space that fit only 13. “Everybody started running, scrambling,” a witness told the AP. “People were just collapsing.”

A private security company employed people barred from owning guns. G4S, the world’s largest private security company, has hired or retained at least 300 people with criminal convictions and other prohibiting factors, including domestic violence and commitment to a psychiatric facility, a USA Today/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found. Former G4S managers said staffing shortages prompted the company to loosen background screening standards. Most infamously, the perpetrator of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre worked for the company.

St. Louis’s Board of Aldermen passed a “lie-and-try” law. The measure requires federally licensed gun dealers to alert police whenever someone fails a gun background check. St. Louis is believed to be the first city in the country to enact such a rule, which some states have used to arrest people who are prohibited from owning firearms but have sought to acquire them.

Some parents are protesting NRA gun auctions held in schools. “What if a gun they raffled off at the school ended up in the hands of one of their students and they committed a terrible act?” the mother of a Kentucky school shooting victim told The Washington Post. The NRA Foundation generated $33 million last year from its gun auction program.

Maria Butina says the idea that she infiltrated the NRA to influence GOP politics is “nonsense.” In a “60 Minutes” interview, the self-styled Russian gun rights activist claimed her efforts to “establish friendship” between Russia and the U.S. “would be called social networking,” if not for her ethnicity. Butina was deported to Russia last week after serving 15 months in prison for acting as a foreign agent. One of the federal prosecutors who successfully tried Butina for being an unauthorized Russian agent called the interview “a masterpiece of disinformation.”

Despite consumer divestment push, mutual funds still have large gun assets. The WSJ reports that investment companies still own nearly a third of the combined stock in the country’s two publicly traded gun companies, American Outdoor Brands and Sturm Ruger. Investments in funds that screen out weapons have risen markedly since 2016, as investors increasingly seek that option.

Colorado school safety proposals don’t address gun access. Lawmakers on the Legislature’s School Safety Committee submitted five bills, including a proposal to expand mental health care. “Unfortunately, firearms is an exceptionally partisan issue,” the committee’s Democratic chairperson told the Colorado Sun.

DATA POINT

In the last five years, at least 130 U.S. school districts have spent a total of more than $2.5 million on Social Sentinel, an automated monitoring system that scans social media for potential school shooters. BuzzFeed News

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[Jeremy Hogan/Getty Images]

Daily Bulletin: An Eighth NRA Board Member Has Resigned

Good morning, Bulletin readers. After we released our latest data resource late last week, one scholar reacted, “Holy data dump, Batman!” Read on to see what inspired his crime nerd humor.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: We obtained data on 4.3 million violent crimes. Now it’s yours to use. As part of our investigative project on unsolved shootings, The Trace’s Sarah Ryley led a team of reporters in sending public records requests to dozens of the nation’s largest police and sheriff’s departments. Many didn’t readily give up the information; in a number of cities, we had to seek legal help to get access to the records. With data on gun violence in short supply, it’s important that this information be available to the public — so that’s what we’re doing. On Friday, we posted raw data from 56 agencies, totaling 4.3 million violent crime incidents, on our site. Download it hereCrime experts are already finding patterns: Statistician Jeff Asher plotted a visual comparison between murders and homicide clearance rates in St. Louis between 2007 and 2017.

An eighth NRA board member has resigned. Dan Boren, a former Oklahoma Congressman, became the latest National Rifle Association director to quit since The Trace and The New Yorker revealed a pattern of self-dealing among high-ranking executives at the gun group.

President Trump has officially lost all interest in releasing a plan for reducing gun violence. The Washington Post says Trump’s advisers warned him that pushing gun reforms, which he pledged to do after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, would fracture the GOP coalition he needs to get re-elected. A source close to the NRA told the paper that the absence of Wayne LaPierre at the White House lately means that the gun group is no longer threatened by the prospect of gun reform.

Beto O’Rourke ended his presidential campaign, which was marked by aggressive positions on gun control. “We took the boldest approach to gun safety in American history,” he said in a Medium post Friday, but said his campaign lacked “the means to move forward successfully.” O’Rourke reframed his campaign around gun violence prevention after 22 people were killed in a shooting in a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso, and he doubled down on his stance five weeks later when he said at a Democratic debate, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

The Chicago teachers strike yielded more mental healthcare for violence-scarred kids. The 11-day strike ended on October 31 with a plan to put a social worker and a nurse in every public K-12 school. The mayor says that there aren’t currently enough social workers to fulfill that demand. “When they hear freaky firecrackers or they hear a bang, it’s hit the floor,” a South Side parent said of the students in her neighborhood.

A 3-year-old in Texas fatally shot himself with his parents’ gun. The handgun was loaded and unsecured when the boy found it in his Harris County home on Friday. No word on whether his parents will face criminal charges.

DATA POINT

At least 159 people were shot in Philadelphia last month, the highest single-month total in more than four years. Jim McMillan via Philly.gov