News and notes on guns in America

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[Youth Guidance]

A Chicago Program Proven to Lower Youth Violence is Enjoying a Growth Spurt

At least 2,721 people people have been shot in Chicago this year. While that’s down from the same time last year, it still represents a 44 percent jump from five years ago.

In one effort to stem the bloodshed, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his administration are putting significant resources into an intervention outside of the state Legislature, police department, or court system.

Becoming a Man is a school-based group-therapy and mentoring program for teenage boys designed to teach impulse control to kids who have suffered trauma. The idea (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy) is to halt the thought processes that lead to retaliatory violence — which often takes the form of gunfire — and develop coping strategies to defuse interpersonal conflicts, as Trace contributor Kate Masters wrote last year.

Politico Magazine reports that an influx of funding is helping Becoming a Man and its sister organization, Working on Womanhood, expand. The city is pouring nearly $5 million into the programs. Along with the public funding, Emanuel has helped raise an additional $10 million from private donors.

Last year, the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that the program reduced arrests for violent crime among its early  enrollees by nearly 50 percent, though those gains faded after young people left the program. The graduation rate rose by 19 percent.

“We were surprised by the impacts and how large they were,” Roseanna Ander, executive director of the Crime Lab, told Politico, “especially for a program that’s not super-super-intensive and expensive.

Becoming a Man will serve 6,000 students this academic year, up from 4,100 last year. In 2012, the program had just 534 participants. Working on Womanhood, which has been reported to lower depression in its participants, expects to sign up 1,750 girls this year, versus 1,080 last year.

“BAM saves kids’ lives,” one young man in the program told Politico. “They pull you from the hood, they take you different places to see different things. They want your mind somewhere else.”

Read Politico Magazine’s deep dive on Becoming a Man here.

Report: Gun-Silencer Vote Could Come Next Week

The House of Representatives could cast the first vote on a controversial bill to deregulate the sale of silencers as early as next week, Politico’s John Bresnahan reports. The legislation, part of a package bill called the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or SHARE Act, is the first significant gun bill of the Trump era to advance past its full committee, or to have a hearing.

Silencers have been subject to strict regulation since the passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934. Prospective owners of the devices must submit an application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Approval requires a background check and a $200 fee. All silencers must be registered with the agency. Should the House bill pass, silencers could be sold like a firearm. In the 32 states where unregulated private sales are legal, the accessories could change hands between individuals without a background check.

Gun-rights advocates say silencers should be more accessible because they are intended as harmless hearing-protection devices and are rarely used in crimes. Opponents counter that a profusion of silencers would make it harder for police to detect gun crimes, and that, in any case, the reason why they are not often used in crimes is because they are currently heavily regulated.

As I reported earlier this week, silencers were favored by criminals in the early 20th century before they were subject to strict regulation.

Politico quotes Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, who said his group supports eliminating silencer regulation. “The reasoning is because silencers are not — and have not been in the recent past — a law enforcement problem,” he said.

The Politico story doesn’t mention that Pasco is also a lobbyist for the CornerStone Group. The firm represents the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s largest trade group.

The NSSF’s silencer-manufacturing members are eager for the bill to pass. One of the country’s best-known makers of the devices, SilencerCo, laid off hundreds of employees in February. Joshua Waldron, the SilencerCo’s chief executive officer, has blamed his company’s difficulties on the slow pace of deregulation, and said he has made repeated trips from his Utah headquarters to Washington to lobby for policy change.

Bresnahan, the Politico reporter, wrote that the proposal is almost certain to pass the Republican-dominated House. It could face trouble in the Senate, however. Democratic senators have more procedural options for slowing the legislation, and the upper chamber’s version of the SHARE Act, as currently written, would not deregulate silencers.

Politico also reports that the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would make licenses to carry from any one state valid in all 50, could come up for a committee markup in late October or early November.

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Evangelical pastor and gun-reform advocate Rob Schenck. [Youtube]

Most Evangelical Leaders Favor Stricter Gun Laws, Survey Finds

A survey of evangelical leaders now making the rounds in Christian media suggests that influential pastors could be a conduit to a broader gun-reform coalition. The crucial caveat: More of them would need to decide to speak up on the issue.

The poll found that among top evangelical officials, 55 percent support stricter gun laws, even as a solid majority say they live in gun-owning households. Only 5 percent support relaxing existing gun laws.

Those views put church leaders at odds with their congregations.

A January 2013 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the white evangelicals who form the core of the religious movement (not to mention a powerful voting bloc) are more opposed to stricter firearms laws than any other religious demographic. Fifty-nine percent opposed more gun laws, even in the immediate aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The new survey of church leaders collected the views of the 109-member board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals, a group that represents 45,000 American churches.

It’s the second time that the NAE has asked its directors about gun laws. The earlier survey, conducted the month of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, found 73 percent in favor of tighter gun regulation.

Carl Nelson, president of the Transform Minnesota church network, said in a press release accompanying the new poll, “While I support the Second Amendment, we clearly have a growing citizenry that is incapable of the responsibility necessary to keep and bear arms.”

One evangelical figure attempting to bridge the divide between preachers and the faithful is the Reverend Rob Schenck. An ardent pro-life activist known for his sometimes confrontational tactics, Schenck became a convert to gun control after his Washington, D.C., apartment building was placed on lockdown during the Navy Yard mass shooting in 2013. His Christian-inspired anti-gun-violence activism was the subject of the 2015 documentary Armor of Light.

Schenck has been blunt about what he sees as the failure of his fellow clergy to tackle the issue.

This topic is not even treated in the average church. It is ignored,” he said last year. “Most pastors have said to me, ‘I just don’t touch it. It’s too volatile. It ends up dividing the church.’ I think that does a disservice to the people of God, who need moral guidance on this question.”

Armor of Light shows Schenck going from church to church, trying to recruit more clergy members to the cause. His outreach continued after the film wrapped.

On October 15, Schenck will lead a national day of prayer for victims of gun violence called Survivor Sunday, with the aim of enlisting more faith leaders to directly address the crisis. The event, per the press release, will send “the critical message that Christians care about all the ways in which people suffer after a gun is used to harm someone.”

On These Florida Beaches, Guns Are Now OK, but Bounce Houses Are Banned

It just got a lot easier to tote a gun to the beach in one Florida county — and harder to bounce there.

On September 5, local officials in the Florida Panhandle county of Okaloosa lifted a ban on the carrying of guns at beaches, parks, and recreation areas. The same ordinance that allowed guns in those spaces also banned trampolines and bounce houses.

It’s the second gun restriction the Okaloosa Board of Commissioners has nixed this year. In February, the board struck down a law prohibiting public employees from carrying guns on the job.

The move appears to have attracted scant media attention, and only came to our notice via a letter to the editor of the Northwest Florida Daily News. The author, a resident of the town of Shalimar, fretted over where exactly beachgoers in the tourist-friendly town are expected to conceal their guns — “in a man’s Spandex or a woman’s bikini?” — and wondered why “flying trampolinists” are more dangerous than firearms.

The reader correctly pointed out that Florida law restricts cities and towns from regulating guns, putting such rulemaking firmly in the purview of the state Legislature and courts.

In 2011, the pre-emption statute was augmented to allow people to sue individual cities for crafting gun laws stricter than the state standard, and to collect damages and legal fees from the municipalities — and their elected officials — if those municipalities lost. In 2014, two gun groups sued the city of Tallahassee over laws that banned the firing of guns in public parks. In February, an appellate court ruled that it couldn’t compel the city to repeal its gun ordinances.

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NRA’s Sway to Be Tested by Alabama Senate Primary

The runoff primary in Alabama for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s old U.S. Senate seat has unexpectedly pitted the moneyed mainstream of the gun-rights movement, the National Rifle Association, against its ideological hard core, Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights.

The NRA has endorsed incumbent Luther Strange, appointed to the post in February after Sessions took the top job at the Department of Justice. So, too, has President Donald Trump, and the conservative GOP establishment.

GOA and NAGR, which oppose virtually all gun laws, back Roy Moore, a former chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and a firebrand with a decades-long career as a far-right provocateur. Moore has also cultivated favorites of the Breitbart-reading fringe like former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska and Sebastian Gorka, the stridently anti-Islamic former White House official. Political observers have called the race “an iteration of the GOP civil war.”

Trump highlighted Strange’s NRA endorsement in tweets about the race, telling followers that the group’s stamp of approval means “all gun owners should vote for Big Luther. He won’t let you down!” The NRA has pumped a lot of money into the state: it spent $873,790.55 in a single week on advertising and voter outreach on behalf of Strange, exceeding the entire amount spent by all outside groups to support his opponent.

The group has also released an ad for Strange in which a shooter takes aim at targets that highlight its endorsement of “Big Luther.” The spot claims Moore is “soft on gun rights,” but doesn’t get specific.

In an effort to build support for its preferred candidate, the far smaller GOA, which has not spent any money at all on the race, has stressed Moore’s ideological pedigree. Officials for the group have said that Moore must be elected to pass the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity, a bill that would force all states to recognize each other licenses to carry weapons regardless of differences in standards for training or background checks. That legislation has long been gun activists’ Golden Fleece. GOA has expressed disappointment at the lack of visible effort to pass the legislation by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Earlier this month, in an interview with Breitbart, Moore said Congress should vote immediately on the stalled reciprocity bill. Strange co-sponsored the proposal, but so have 37 other Republican senators. Strange hasn’t made reciprocity a campaign issue.

Moore, who enjoyed a solid if not insurmountable lead in a poll released at the beginning of this week, is attempting to cater to the most engaged gun-rights voters at the grassroots level.

He spoke to a small pro-gun group, ‘Bama Carry, at a Birmingham Chinese restaurant, a far cry from Strange’s large, well-financed campaign events featuring national allies like Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. In early August, the former judge pulled a gun out of his wife’s purse at a local Republican meeting and boasted, “We carry.”


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An educator undergoes firearms training. [CBS News]

One Gun Group Has Trained Hundreds of Teachers to Take Out School Shooters

More than 1,000 teachers and administrators from 12 states have taken a firearms course designed to protect classrooms against intruders by arming teachers, according to a CBS News report.

The program, called FASTER Saves Lives, takes the prescription for school shootings that the National Rifle Association has advocated since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and turns it into a three-day curriculum. The program is run by the the hardline Buckeye Firearms Foundation, which launched the trainings in 2015.

Courses are offered free of charge at a facility in rural Ohio.

In a CBS News segment, teachers and at least one school principal are shown navigating replica classrooms and hallways, firing away at targets and mock gunmen with blank rounds. Instructors also test participants on their ability to treat gunshot wounds.

Most participants in the video asked for their identities to be protected. At one point, the reporter asks how many carry guns, or have access to them, at their schools. Most raised their hands.

Private firearm owners are barred from bringing their guns into K-12 schools under the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act. But a handful of states either authorize school staff to be armed,  have no relevant law prohibiting it, or let districts include armed teachers in their crisis response plans.

As many as 20 Colorado school districts have already designated select teachers and administrators as armed security. (A group of them underwent their own FASTER training earlier this summer.) An undisclosed number of teachers and staff have been armed in a school district 40 miles north of Dallas. A bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature would pave the way for arming school employees in that state.  

“It’s way more prevalent than people realize,” the superintendent of Ohio’s Mad River school district told the Dayton Daily News last month. His district, he said, is one of 63 in Ohio – out of a total of 88 – to have set up a shooting response team.

The CBS News report notes that one participant in the session hit a target that represented a student.

“We might take one,” conceded a school principal interviewed for the segment. “But we might’ve saved 30, 40 other kids.”

Over the past two weeks, school staff in Washington State and Illinois have stopped students’ shooting rampages without turning to guns themselves.

There are at least three more FASTER training sessions scheduled for next month.  

Watch the CBS Evening News segment in its entirety here.

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A still from the 1960 film, "The Color Gang." News archives show that the criminal use of gun silencers is no Hollywood fancy. [Allied Artists/Getty Images]

Pre-Regulation, Gun Silencers Showed Up at Some Horrific Crime Scenes

Second Amendment activists and their Republican allies in Congress are pushing to slash a more than 80-year-old law regulating the sale of gun silencers. The proposal, included as a plank of the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreation Enhancement Act, has advanced further than any other significant pro-gun bills of the Trump era. It now awaits a vote by the full House of Representatives.

Debate over the measure has been defined by clashing claims about what deregulation of silencers, or suppressors, would mean for public safety. The restrictions imposed on the products by the National Firearms Act of 1934 require would-be owners to pay a $200 tax, undergo a vetting process that can stretch to a year, and register their purchase with the federal government. Opponents of relaxing the rules worry that removing those hurdles would make silencers readily available not just to hunters and target shooters, but also to buyers with violent intentions.

Supporters of silencer deregulation call those fears overblown. Echoing a pro-gun talking point, Stephen Halbrook, a gun-rights attorney, told lawmakers at a House committee hearing last week that “other than in Hollywood’s fantasy world, silencers have rarely been used in crime.”

That’s true today, according to crime statistics. A review of federal prosecutions from 1995 to 2005 found only 153 cases during that decade in which a silencer was used in a crime. The majority of those charges were for criminal possession of a silencer, not the use of the device in the course of a separate crime like murder. But the suggestion that the use of silencers is limited to benign ear protection does not square with the historical record.

A dive into the New York Times archives from the decades between the silencer’s invention at the turn of the century and the devices’ regulation in the 1930s shows they were engineered for offensive purposes, and sometimes used in horrific crimes.

An ominous debut

The silencer’s pedigree belies the harmless origin story that their boosters peddle. It was first designed by Hiram Percy Maxim, son of the inventor of the first portable automatic weapon, for explicitly military purposes. Boasted Maxim the younger, during a 1909 demonstration: “I shall make war noiseless!” He marketed the device to militaries.

The prospect of criminal misuse was immediately apparent. A month after Maxim’s demonstration, a New York Times editorial argued of his invention: “A true sportsmen would not use it…. The burglar, the highway robber, and the Black Hand assassin are the only other persons to whom it could be of advantage.”

Fears manifest

Within a few years, police reports began to prove the Times right. In 1915, a New York father used a rifle fitted with a silencer to massacre his wife and children before he turned the gun on himself. The incident lead New York legislators to ban the devices within the state under the Sullivan Act.

A quiet daytime murder

One afternoon in December 1920, a group of robbers equipped with silencers murdered a Fifth Avenue jeweler and managed to escape in broad daylight. “Neighboring tenants had heard no unusual noise” during the heist, reported the Times.

A silenced rifle fells a man in the arms of his in-laws-to-be

On a summer evening in 1924, a Brooklyn fruit merchant named Anthony Panno died in the apartment of his betrothed, Sadie Valente, when rifle bullets crashed through the windows. As Panno collapsed, his intended sister-in-law assumed he was joking, only to be horrified as the floor spread with blood. Police told reporters they believed a silencer was used: Neither the Valentes “nor any other person in the vicinity heard the shots.”

A gangland assassination in front of hundreds

A Brooklyn party in 1925 was ruined when three gunmen bearing pistols equipped with silencers infiltrated the event and shot Henry “Doggy” Ginsburg at his banquet table as 200 guests looked on. He “was waiting for a show to start when suddenly those about him heard him groan and sink to the floor.” Ginsburg had been implicated in a feud among East New York laundrymen. His killers got away.

Massive theft rings rely on silenced guns

Within a single 24-hour period in 1925, the NYPD broke up two massive stick-up gangs. The “‘Cowboy’ Tessler” gang was accused of 80 street robberies in the city, along with a murder.  The Rothenberg gang was charged with committing more than 100 thefts. Both were notable for their reliance on silencers.

Members of the gang led by Tessler  — “a cool, smiling, well-spoken youth of 25 years, who was educated at Columbia University” — confessed they had shot at police officers dispatched to round them up, firing 10 rounds from suppressed weapons at police and three from typical guns. “I only heard the three,” one of the pursuing officers said of the shots aimed his way. “My God! I never knew how near death I was.”

The Rothenbergs, meanwhile, maintained a gang shooting gallery in a warehouse specifically for getting accustomed to shooting with the extra bulk of a silencer. A detective “told of two instances where members of the gang had done some free shooting with the silencers, though in other cases they opened fire with the old-fashioned ‘loud speakers.’”

A madman with a silencer terrorizes the Plains

A 45-year-old farm hand named Frank Carter “spread terror from Omaha to Council Bluffs” in February 1926 using a .22 pistol and a Maxim silencer. Carter, deemed insane by “Omaha neurotic experts,” told reporters soon after his arrest, “Sometimes I want to kill, kill, kill.”

After boasting of two particular killings, he explained that he had bought the silencer because “I just thought thought that one day I might use [the pistol] and would not want anyone to hear me, so I had the silencer put on.”

Too much for Maxim

As the headlines mounted, Maxim grew sick of the bad press. In 1930, he announced his company would cease making gun silencers “because of the popular impression that this invention was an aid to crime,” the Times reported.

He vowed to only sell similar devices to quiet the exhaust of cars.

Gun Silencer Maker’s New Release Offers a ‘50-State Legal’ Way Around Suppressor Rules

SilencerCo isn’t waiting for lawmakers to bring suppressors to the masses. On Tuesday, the company unveiled a new product that it promises makes owning one of the devices perfectly legal to residents of all 50 states.

The Maxim 50 is a muzzleloading rifle with an affixed suppressor, which according to SilencerCo sidesteps tight regulations enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and state laws banning the devices outright.

“SilencerCo has created a product that is 100% legal for civilian ownership in all 50 states while providing hearing-saving suppression at a reasonable price point,” a press release reads. “How is this possible? By paying very close attention to the law.” 

States didn’t wait long to test challenge SilencerCo’s claim. On Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the Maxim 50’s release, SilencerCo said in a Facebook post that it was halting sales of the weapon in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California after “several immediate legal challenges from authorities and lawyers.”

“Since we have no desire to place any consumer in a situation where they may get arrested and charged with a felony … we have placed orders from those states on hold and are refunding customers pending legal confirmation,” the post reads.

The National Firearms Act of 1934 created strict limits on the ownership of suppressors, or silencers, as they are also known. In the 42 states that permit civilian ownership of the products, individuals must submit an application to the ATF, pass a background check, and pay a $200 tax stamp. If the application is successful, the suppressor must be registered with the ATF.

The NFA’s rules apply to any suppressor that can be affixed to firearms. They do not apply, however, to muzzle loaded weapons, which the ATF classifies as “antique firearms.”

A muzzleloader is a firearm in which the projectile (bullet) and the propellant (gun powder) are loaded from the muzzle. (If you’re imagining a scene from the Revolutionary War, you’ve got the gist.) Most modern firearms are what’s known as breach-loading, which means a cartridge is loaded from the rear of the barrel. You can see the Maxim 50 in action here:

The new gun comes with the suppressor pre-attached. Since muzzleloading isn’t practical at the local range, the Maxim 50 is likely to appeal to narrow subsets of gun buyers: novelty seekers, collectors, and those who enjoy thumbing their nose at gun laws.

An ad for the Maxim 50 plays on the last group’s sympathies. Press materials for the weapon, which retails for $999, show a model handling the weapon and walking across the California state line, where the possession of suppressors is banned outright. The video includes a voiceover describing the Second Amendment as a defense against tyranny and overreaching politicians.

The restrictions that suppressors are subject to have not stopped their popularity from exploding over the last few years. According to the ATF, there were 1.36 million suppressors registered in April 2017. That’s up from 285,000 in 2010.

The SHARE Act, a bill that would remove suppressors from the NFA, is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.

Arrest Made in Brutal Shootings of Black Pedestrians in Baton Rouge

Police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have arrested a suspect in the fatal ambushes of two black pedestrians last week. Police said they had matched DNA from the alleged shooter, 23-year-old Kenneth Gleason, who is white, to shell casings at the two homicide scenes. Gleason was also charged on Tuesday morning with attempted murder for opening fire on a third person’s home.

Sgt. L’Jean McNeely, a spokesperson for the Baton Rouge Police, said over the weekend that investigators were looking at the killings as a bias attack, telling the Associated Press, “There is a strong possibility that it could be racially motivated.” At a press briefing on Tuesday, McNeely offered no new details on whether race played a factor in the killings, saying only, “We’re not completely closed to that. We’re looking at all possibilities at this time.”

The first victim, 59-year-old Bruce Cofield, was shot at around 11 p.m. last Tuesday night near Baton Rouge General Medical Center, just east of downtown, by an assailant who opened fire from a car. The driver got out and fired several more times, leaving Cofield to die in the street.

Maria Johnson, who lives nearby, said she heard 12 gunshots. She told the Advocate that Cofield was known around the area as “Mr. Bruce” and “didn’t bother anyone. It’s senseless.”

Two nights later, Donald Smart, 49, was gunned down while walking to Louie’s Cafe near the campus of Louisiana State University, where he was about to start the night shift as a dishwasher. Police said Smart was shot a total of 10 times, first from a car, then at close range.

Donald Smart [via The Advocate]

Smart was a married father of three and worked at the cafe alongside two of his cousins. Co-workers remembered him as a tireless worker who somehow managed to keep his white T-shirt and Nikes spotless.

“I’ve seen 26 years of folks washing dishes in a busy diner, and this guy is untouchable,” Smart’s manager said. “This isn’t, like, just some dude. I will love that man until they day I die.”

Gleason was also booked on charges of attempted murder for firing three times into a neighbor’s home on September 11, the day before Cofield’s murder. No one was injured in that shooting.

Working from a description of Gleason’s car, police detained him for questioning on Saturday. After cops found marijuana and human-growth hormone in his home, he was arrested and charged with drug possession, then released the following night after posting a $3,500 bond. On Monday, Gleason was back in a holding cell, this time for stealing a book from a bookstore. He made bond again on Tuesday morning — just before police arrested him on the murder charges.

As Gleason cycled in and out of jail, analysts at the Louisiana State Police crime lab worked around the clock to process the DNA from the shell casings that allegedly linked him to the crime scenes, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said at Tuesday’s press conference.

Gleason’s 9mm was legally purchased in Baton Rouge last November. This July, he went to another gun dealer to make a different acquisition, filling out the paperwork for a gun suppressor, or silencer.

A bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives would remove many of the stiff restrictions currently imposed on silencer sales. Under the existing regulations, people must go through a lengthy vetting before a silencer purchase is given the green light by the federal government.

At the time of his arrest, Gleason was still waiting for his silencer to come through.

“It was on order,” Moore said. “It takes several months for that to come in. It did not come in, thankfully.”

To Reduce Suicides, Wisconsin Bill Would Let People Ban Themselves From Buying Guns

Legislation set to be introduced in Wisconsin would let residents ban themselves from purchasing new guns for up to two decades. The aim of the voluntary “no-buy list” would be to cut firearm suicides, which remain stubbornly high in rural states.

Under the measure, anyone who wants to prohibit him- or herself from legally owning a handgun would apply to the Wisconsin Department of Justice to be placed on a no-guns list for a period of one, five, or 20 years. Participants who wish to restore their rights would re-apply to the state DOJ with the help of a mental health professional.

The idea for the bill — formally filed as LRB-3529, or the Firearm Self-Exclusion Program — comes from programs in Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan that allow gambling addicts to bar themselves from casinos. Last year, researchers at the University of Alabama surveyed 200 psychiatric patients at high risk of suicide and found that nearly half of them would put themselves on a roster of prohibited gun buyers.

Fredrick Vars is the Alabama law professor who led that study. “I’d frame it as simple self-preservation,” he told The Trace. “People seeking psychiatric care, like the rest of us, would rather live than die. Psychiatric patients recognize that they are at elevated risk of suicide. Restricting your own access to guns makes it more likely that you’ll survive a suicidal crisis.”

Vars contends that the Wisconsin bill “will definitely save lives.”

Nearly half of Wisconsin’s suicides are committed with a gun, according to the state Department of Health Services. Nationwide, guns result in more deaths than every other method combined, because of their lethal efficiency. While other means of suicide are tried more frequently, attempts with guns are more often fatal – 87 percent lead to death, compared to just 3 percent of drug-overdose suicide attempts.

Other research suggests that recent handgun buyers may be at elevated risk of suicide: A California study found that people who had purchased a handgun in the past year had a suicide rate 57 times higher than the general population.

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[NYU Tandon School of Engineering ]

This Million-Dollar Smart-Gun Idea Isn’t a Gun At All

Brooklyn’s Smart Gun Design Competition has a winner — and it’s not a smart gun.

Autonomous Ballistics, a team from New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, received a $1 million prize on Monday for its design of a smart holster, engineered to release a firearm only to an authenticated user using one of three methods: a fingerprint reader, a radio-frequency identification chip (RFID), or voice recognition.

The contest, funded by Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams was announced last August. Judges, including officials from the New York Police Department, reviewed dozens of designs before settling on five finalists from local colleges and universities.

That the winning design is an accessory, not a firearm, could help it overcome the years of stigma associated with smart guns. Since their development in the 1990s, smart guns have been widely criticized for a perceived lack of reliability and a vulnerability to hacking.

Devices that keep normally functioning guns secure, and use biometric technology like fingerprint readers, have been around for years. Biometric gun safes are commonplace in gun companies’ marketing materials. Biometric gun locks are also widely available. The National Rifle Association even licenses its name and logo to one such company.

What makes Autonomous Ballistics’ design different is that it is a biometrically triggered safe that can be worn while carrying in public, not just used to store a gun in a home or car. The holster’s three unlocking mechanisms mean the gun owner has a backup if the fingerprint reader is dirty or the firing hand gloved, the RFID key out of range, or the ambient noise is too loud — or the self-defense scenario too risky — for voice recognition.

Syd Cohen, a member of Autonomous Ballistics, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that his team’s design should also appeal to firearms enthusiasts because “[you] don’t have to change your gun at all” to secure it in the holster.

Just as crucially, the holster would not qualify as a smart gun under an infamous New Jersey law that sparked a backlash which has kept many dealers from stocking the weapons.

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[AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane]

How Gun Recalls Keep Firearms Owners in the Dark

The German-American gunmaker Sig Sauer has issued its second notice in as many months advising customers of a potentially dangerous malfunction in one of its firearms. In a notice released Friday, the company said it was undertaking a mandatory recall of three of its Predator assault-style rifles. Hammers on the weapons had been improperly heat-treated, which Sig said could lead to “a significant safety hazard.”

The news comes shortly after the company said it would offer a “voluntary upgrade” for its P320 pistol, which police departments and firearms retailers found could fire if dropped onto the rear of the gun’s slide.

There are many ways guns may chronically malfunction. Defective hammers, for instance, could cause a gun to fail to consistently fire, or lead to accidental discharges. But in its recall announcement, Sig provided only the barest details about the nature of the problem, or the safety risks it might pose.

More is known about the problems with the P320 handgun. Sig only announced that upgrade after the pistol’s defect was well documented in slow-motion videos made by members of the public. Even then, Sig just said the pistol could go off when dropped. The company didn’t explain how or why.

Compare the info Sig has shared to another high-profile recall, that of car airbags made by the Japanese company Takata. While the only gun-safety standards are voluntary and set by the industry, the airbag recall is being overseen by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The highway agency has issued a graphic describing just what can go wrong with the airbags (along with their own slick video explaining the mechanical basis for the defect):

Countless other recalls catalogued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission are similarly detailed. Incidentally, the CPSC does not have authority over firearms, only most other consumer products.

Here’s a CPSC breakdown of just what went wrong with a brand of yard lights, a defect not yet linked to any injuries.

In every case, from garden lights to dressers to patio chairs, the commission says not only that a product poses a risk to consumers but how the defect is manifested, how many reports of harm have been documented, and where the product was sold. The same can’t be said for dangerous defects in guns.