News and notes on guns in America

Share Your Story: Have You Been Threatened With a Gun By an Intimate Partner?

One million American women have survived a gunshot wound or been shot at, according to a 2016 review. But a gun doesn’t have to go off to cause harm in an abusive relationship. The same study estimated that 4.5 million women in the United States have been bullied or coerced with a firearm by an intimate partner. 

“If the gun is simply displayed in a hostile way, it can create an ongoing environment of threat and intimidation,” the study’s lead author told us. “It can facilitate chronic, ongoing, physical — as well as sexual and psychological — abuse.”

The problem of “coercive control” includes any behavior that seeks to make an intimate partner feel it’s too dangerous to leave the relationship. Guns, because they are so lethal, can be a darkly effective means to that end. Their mere presence has the potential to elicit a victim’s compliance. 

For an upcoming article, The Trace is reporting on this often-overlooked aspect of domestic violence. Have you ever been threatened with a gun in an intimate relationship? We are interested in hearing your story. Please fill out the short survey below.

If you are comfortable speaking with a reporter, you can let us know that when answering the final question. Please know that  your answers will remain confidential unless you choose to give your permission to share them with readers.

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Santa Fe High School freshman Caitlyn Girouard, center, hugs her friend outside the Alamo Gym where students and parents wait to reunite following a shooting at Santa Fe High School Friday, May 18, 2018, in Santa Fe, Texas. (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle)

Texas High School Shooting: At Least 10 Killed in Santa Fe

On the second-to-last Friday before summer break, a gunman entered his Texas high school armed with a shotgun and a revolver, unleashing a torrent of bullets that would leave 10 people dead and as many wounded. The victims included students and staff.

Around 8:00 a.m., the sound of shotgun blasts filled the halls of Santa Fe High School. The fire alarm rang, sending students and faculty streaming into the hallways and stairwells. Once in the parking lot, they formed a single-file line, hands above their heads. Some crowded together outside the building, panicked and tearful.

The gunman surrendered after he was confronted by law enforcement. Officials said the 17-year-old student suspected of carrying out the shooting also planted several explosive devices inside the school and in nearby areas.

The shooting is the deadliest act of gun violence in the United States since a man killed 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, just three months ago. Like Parkland, Santa Fe — a small city about 45 minutes south of Houston — never had a reputation for violence. According to Gun Violence Archive, the last fatal shooting there was in 2014.

“I can’t believe this happened in my hometown,” one student said.

Others weren’t as surprised.

“It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too,” one student told local ABC affiliate KTRK.

Here’s what we know, and don’t know, about the shooting.

The suspected gunman is a student

The Associated Press and several other news outlets, quoting law enforcement sources, have identified the suspected gunman as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

An Instagram account that appeared to belong to Pagourtzis followed several gun-focused feeds, and made at least one post referring to firearms.  

In late April, a Facebook account that appears to be associated with Pagourtzis posted a picture of a T-shirt printed with the phrase, “BORN TO KILL,” and another of a jacket festooned with pins of symbols from Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, WWII-era Japan, and the dark, horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.

The shooter was reportedly armed with at least 2 guns

In a news conference, Governor Greg Abbott said the gunman was armed with a shotgun and 38-caliber revolver. (An earlier report by the Houston Chronicle erroneously stated that the shooter was also armed with an AR-15 style rifle.)

Abbott said the weapons were owned by the suspect’s father, and that he did not yet know whether the father knew the guns were in his son’s possession.

While federal law prohibits licensed dealers from selling a long gun to anyone under the age of 18 or a handgun to anyone under the age of 21, there is no minimum age to possess a firearm. Further, Texas law allows transfers of guns to people under the age of 18 who have the written permission of a parent or guardian, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Texas holds gun owners criminally responsible if a child younger than 17 gains access to their unsecured, loaded weapons. The penalties are more severe if the child actually fires the gun.

A growing body of survey data finds that a majority of gun owners do not store guns locked and unloaded.

Police have recovered explosive devices inside the school and in the surrounding area

Following the shooting, investigators discovered multiple explosive devices inside the high school. They also found devices, including molotov cocktails, inside a car and a nearby home.

Abbott said it appeared the shooter had built the explosives himself.

At least 10 people are wounded, including a school resource officer

The governor said that a school resource officer, retired Houston Police Officer John Barnes, was wounded while engaging the gunman. Barnes was shot in the arm and arrived at a local hospital in critical condition. 

Additional victims include students and staff.

  • Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, a level II trauma center in Webster, said it had received seven patients.
  • Mainland Medical Center in Texas City said it had received two patients.
  • The John Sealey Hospital, part of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston said it had received three patients.

“I have never been more afraid in my life”

On Twitter and to journalists at the scene, Santa Fe High students described how a routine Friday morning transformed into chaos. “I watched some girl shot dead right in front of me,” wrote one student.

Candi Thurman, another student, recounted hiding under her teacher’s desk. “I have never been more afraid in my life.”

Speaking to a local news station, a student said her friend had been shot in the leg.

Parkland survivors respond: “I am so sorry this epidemic touched your town”

Survivors of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took to Twitter to react to the events in Santa Fe.

“I should be celebrating my last day of high school,” Delaney Tarr, 17, tweeted, “but instead my heart is broken to hear of the tragedy at Santa Fe.”

“I am so sorry this epidemic touched your town,” Jaclyn Corin, 17, tweeted. “Parkland will stand with you now and forever.”

Fred Guttenberg, who has been advocating for gun reform since his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, died in the Parkland shooting, tweeted, “This has been my fear since February 14th, that another mass casualty shooting would happen before we did anything. We do not need thoughts and prayers, we need action.”

Santa Fe High School students last month held a walkout against gun violence

Students at the high school were among the thousands nationwide who walked out of class to protest gun violence on the ninth anniversary of the Columbine massacre on April 20.

“Santa Fe High School says #NeverAgain,” one sign read.

It was the second mass shooting in Texas in three days

On Wednesday, a man in the North Texas town of Ponder opened fire in his ex-wife’s home, wounding her and killing their three children and her boyfriend. The suspect then turned the gun on himself.

The mother, Amanda Simpson, said in a Facebook video from her hospital room that she had spoken with her ex-husband the day before to tell him she did not want to reconcile.

Elected officials offered condolences and a limited discussion of policy responses

Governor Abbott, a Republican, ordered all Texas state flags to be lowered to half-staff through Tuesday.

Senator Ted Cruz, also a Republican, released a statement saying that he and his wife, Heidi, “are keeping the students and faculty of Santa Fe High School in our fervent prayers.”

Republican Senator John Cornyn tweeted that he had spoken with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. Randy Potts, a Republican who represents the area in the House of Representatives, tweeted that he was “praying for Santa Fe.”

President Trump weighed in shortly after reports of multiple fatalities. “This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years, too many decades now,” he said. He added, “My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others.”

At an appearance with Abbott and Cruz, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick urged parents who own guns to lock up their weapons. He also said that schools have too many vulnerable entrances. “Had there been one single entrance possibly for every student, maybe he would have been stopped,” Patrick said.

Abbott said that his office would soon release a list of possible policies to reduce gun violence, including improved school mental health services, funds to improve physical security at schools, and ways to confiscate guns from dangerous people. Abbott also said he would convene roundtables with teachers and educators to come up with ways to prevent school shootings.

There have been at least 34 school shootings resulting in casualties so far this year

That’s according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks press and police reports of gun incidents. Only the February 14 shooting in Florida was deadlier than today’s attack.

The Santa Fe shooting was the third gun incident at a school in the past week. In Dixon, Illinois, a student who opened fire in a high school was injured by an officer who returned fire. In Palmdale, California, a student who brought a rifle into a high school bathroom injured a classmate after firing approximately 10 rounds.

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Daily Bulletin: Gunmaker Remington Emerges From Bankruptcy

Hello, readers. Today we bring you news of a project long in the works, one that for The Trace also marks a foray into a new medium for us.

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Introducing Aftermath, a new podcast from The Trace and the Cincinnati Enquirer 

More than 80,000 people each year survive a gunshot wound. That’s 80,000 stories. In a new podcast from The Trace and the Cincinnati Enquirer, nine survivors share theirs.

The interviews featured in the podcast were reported by The Trace’s Elizabeth Van Brocklin and the Enquirer‘s Amber Hunt. Every Tuesday, starting May 22, you’ll hear from someone whose life was fundamentally changed by a gunshot, including:

  • A man shot in the head at the age of 14 in a prayer circle at school who went on to become a lawyer
  • A young man in Oakland, California, who joined a gang for protection, and retaliation, after he was shot and paralyzed
  • A woman who unknowingly buzzed a gunman in to her office

Learn more about the podcast here. You can subscribe to Aftermath on Apple Podcasts and other podcast sites.


Remington emerges from bankruptcy. “It is morning in Remington country,” the company’s CEO said. The gunmaker announced Thursday that its restructuring had converted more than $775 million of debt into equity. Remington announced in February that it would enter Chapter 11 after accumulating nearly a billion dollars in debt.

Americans generally agree on gun policy, whether or not they own guns themselves.  That’s the takeaway from new survey data from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Researchers measured support for 24 gun policies, including temporary gun violence restraining orders and universal background checks, and found that the majority of respondents supported gun restrictions. Related: We asked current and former National Rifle Association members about the policies they can get behind.

Police released new documents about the Las Vegas shooting. The records describe the panic and compassion among survivors during and immediately following the shooting. They also offer a glimpse into the ideologies that may have influenced the gunman.

A Colorado city that passed an assault weapons ban on Tuesday is already facing a legal challenge. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, a local gun group claims the ban is unconstitutional and names virtually the entire municipal government of Boulder, Colorado, as defendants.

At least 10 transgender people have been killed this year. Nino Forston, 36, was fatally shot in Atlanta on Sunday during an argument. Police are still searching for a suspect. In 2017, at least 28 transgender and non-binary people were murdered. More than half of those deaths were the result of gun violence.

“After that day, I never messed with him again.” In a three-hour interview with the Miami Herald, the brother of the Parkland gunman described how Nikolas Cruz once pointed a loaded gun at him and threatened to shoot.

A 7-year-old unintentionally shot himself with a gun he found in an open box. Keyaris Samuels, of Plymouth, Minnesota, died on Wednesday afternoon of a gunshot to the head after accidentally firing a weapon he found in a bedroom, officials say. Police are still investigating the source of the weapon.

A gun dealer in Atlanta who sold weapons to people with felony convictions was sentenced for making false entries in sales records. From June to December of 2016, a gun seller in Atlanta, Georgia, made weapons available to at least three people with felonies by selling the guns to their “female companions,” a statement from the Department of Justices notes. Women commonly serve as straw purchasers, a 2015 report found. The analysis detailed four factors that drive women to buy guns for prohibited persons.


Mass shootings tend to fade quickly from the news. Data shows Parkland was different. The school shooting that claimed 17 lives at a high school in Parkland, Florida,  in February has been called a turning point in the national gun debate. It sparked a student-led movement for tighter gun restrictions and led to a measurable change in public sentiment. Compared to other mass shootings, it also generated substantially more media coverage over a longer period of time, an analysis by The Trace’s Daniel Nass found.

Daniel collaborated with Quid, a firm that specializes in text analysis, to examine millions of news articles. Among his findings: In the three months after the shooting, gun control-related terms showed up 2.5 times more often than after previous high-profile gun rampages. Dig deeper into the data in the full post.

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[AP/Gerald Herbert]

Daily Bulletin: America Witnesses Its 100th Mass Shooting of the Year

Hello, readers. In today’s briefing: Gun violence in 2018 reaches a grim milestone. A gun-trafficking scheme facilitated through social media exposes the dangers of background check loopholes. And a new report from Senate Democrats returns the spotlight to Russia’s NRA ties.

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New from The Trace: How Armslist and Facebook enabled a Chicago gun-trafficking scheme. A man prohibited from legally purchasing firearms because of  a felony conviction used Armslist to evade background checks and acquire weapons for a gun-selling ring, according to a federal indictment. Posts to Facebook helped the ring find buyers, despite the fact that the social network officially bars use of its platform for gun sales. Alex Yablon has the details. 

America had its 100th mass shooting of the year on Wednesday morning. Police say a gunman fatally shot four people and injured one at a home in rural Texas before taking his own life. The incident is the fourth mass shooting in Texas since February. The tallies here come from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as any incident in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunfire.

Senate Democrats say they still have unanswered questions about the relationship between the NRA and Russia. A preliminary report compiles details about the link between the National Rifle Association and powerful Russian interests that have trickled in since President Trump’s election and notes that Maria Butina, a figure at the center of the intrigue, has not cooperated with the panel’s investigation. We’ve collected everything we know about the NRA’s Russia ties in this timeline.

Boulder, Colorado, passed an assault weapons ban. Its City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to pass an ordinance banning the sale and possession of military-style rifles, bump stocks, and high-capacity ammunition magazines. A gun group vowed to challenge the new policies.

Ten more Florida cities joined a lawsuit against the state’s gun laws. Orlando is among the plaintiffs that this week joined 10 others in a challenge to the constitutionality of a 2011 NRA-backed pre-emption statute, which prevents the creation of local gun regulations and penalizes lawmakers who try to enact them.

A former student who fired his weapon at an Illinois high school on Wednesday was shot by a school resource officer. Police say the 19-year-old suspect fired several shots into a crowded gymnasium where students were gathered for graduation practice. When approached, he shot at the officer, who returned fire. The suspect is in custody with what officials describe as non-life threatening injuries.

A Louisiana bill would allow guns near schools, but not in them. On Tuesday, the  Senate Judiciary Committee voted to clarify that guns should be allowed within 1,000 feet of schools and universities. The proposal is a substitute for a bill that would have allowed guns on school property. The original measure passed the House but faced opposition from universities and other groups. It now goes back to the House.

The Maryland man who shot and killed three people last week once had his guns confiscated. When the man’s cache of weapons was temporarily seized after a domestic violence incident in 2014, he sent a series of emails to a police officer, who said he was “obsessed” with getting the guns back. The firearms were eventually returned, and the man fatally shot three neighbors who were protecting his estranged wife.


Laws requiring domestic abusers to surrender their guns are not being enforced. In 2013, Colorado passed a law mandating that people convicted of domestic abuse relinquish their firearms. But it’s not working as intended, an investigation by 9News Denver found. 

Since the law went into effect, Colorado judges have issued nearly 70,000 gun-relinquishment requests. Only 165 people subject to those orders have been charged with illegal gun possession. The local station evaluated a random sampling of high-profile violent crimes and found that in several cases, the suspects had been under a relinquishment order. “There is not a way to track compliance,” said one judge.

A similar law went into effect in Kansas earlier this month, and it appears the state may face the same problem. One district attorney says it will be up to domestic abusers themselves to comply with the law.

In December, The Trace’s Alex Yablon looked at how other states have addressed compliance:

  • A county in Washington State funded a program that serves domestic abusers with search warrants to find their guns.
  • California allocated $24 million to a task force that confiscates firearms still possessed by people prohibited from owning them.
  • Seattle hired a dedicated prosecutor and court coordinator to review records and alert court officers to the possibility that an abuser may still have weapons.
  • A state attorney in Florida asked judges to make the relinquishment of guns a condition of bail release.

Chicago Felons Busted for Gun Trafficking Bought Weapons Via Armslist and Facebook

John Philips’s alleged aspirations as a gun runner were complicated by the fact that he himself was banned from owning firearms, and therefore had no way to legally acquire the weapons he planned to traffic onto the streets of Chicago. According to a federal indictment, Philips and two fellow defendants followed the lead of untold other felons and found a solution online, buying and selling 90 guns through the unregulated gun markets on Armslist and Facebook.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Illinois, three men were accused of buying guns through private sales near Louisville, Kentucky, and reselling them in Chicago, where the weapons were linked to violent crimes. Along with Philips, Christopher Henderson and Jaiqail Wright were charged with dealing firearms without a federal license. Philips was also charged with possession of weapons as a felon.

The case is the latest instance in which mainstream digital platforms have been used to facilitate illegal gun sales.

Illinois forbids private sales to anyone without a Firearm Owners ID card, a credential that demonstrates the buyer is legally allowed to own a weapon. But just south of the Ohio River, individual gun owners can legally sell to others without performing any kind of background check or verification.

That means it’s perfectly legal for a Kentucky gun owner to post a classified ad for a weapon on Armslist, a website that connects gun buyers and sellers, and sell it to someone else without any kind of due diligence to make sure the buyer isn’t legally prohibited from owning a firearm.

In September 2016, the criminal complaint alleges, an unnamed individual residing in Louisville sold a 9mm Glock pistol to Henderson and Phillips after connecting on Armslist. At the time of the deal, Phillips had a record of multiple felony convictions, including aggravated battery and illegal possession of a firearm. Because Armslist doesn’t ask for any kind of information about buyers’ criminal histories, the seller never knew that Phillips was prohibited from buying a gun.

In several past cases, Armslist has allowed individuals who are legally prohibited from buying guns get their hands on weapons. In 2012, a Milwaukee man subject to a restraining order arranged a gun purchase via the website and used the weapon to kill his estranged wife.

Yet attempts to hold Armslist accountable for connecting dangerous people with weapons have failed: a lawsuit brought by the family of an Illinois woman murdered by a man who had illegally purchased a gun on the website was dismissed, the judge ruling that the company was not responsible for the conduct of its users.

Back in Chicago, Phillips posted pictures on Facebook of guns he and Henderson had bought during various trips to Kentucky. He then exchanged private messages with Wright, who knew interested buyers. The postings were dated from September 2016 through August 2017.

Facebook officially banned private gun sales in January 2016, but its attempts to enforce the rule have been haphazard. The social media platform relies entirely on user reports to identify gun sales, and does not proactively monitor profiles or private messages for evidence that the rules have been broken.

“Our Community Standards make it clear that buying, selling or trading firearms, ammunition and explosives between private individuals is not allowed on Facebook. Anytime we become aware of activity that facilitates firearm sales, we remove it immediately and have worked to minimize the opportunity for these activities to take place on our platform,” a Facebook spokesman said in an emailed comment. “Further, we routinely respond to law enforcement requests for information in compliance with applicable law and our terms, including those related to activity like the illegal sale of firearms. We promptly responded to law enforcement’s requests in this case.”

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Daily Bulletin: Safety Courses Don’t Protect Kids From Gun Injury, Study Finds

Hello, readers. In today’s briefing: Trump takes a step toward a long-awaited rule change for American gun exports. Plus, what Florida can expect as it begins the process of updating its mental health records for background checks.

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New from The Trace: President Trump wants to make it easier for American gun companies to export firearms, Alex Yablon reports. On Monday, the Trump administration took the first step in a long-gestating plan to transfer oversight of small arms exports from the State Department to the Department of Commerce. Officials say the change will help American gun businesses to compete globally. Critics are concerned that it may harm diplomatic efforts or make it easier for American-made weapons to fall into the wrong hands.

Columbus, Ohio, passes four measures to reduce gun violence. The ordinances include a ban on bump stocks, a ban on the sale of imitation guns to minors, and an expanded definition of domestic violence. Eighty percent of the city’s 143 homicides last year were gun-related, the City Council president said. Just last week, Cincinnati became the first city in Ohio with a bump stock ban. Local gun groups are already eyeing legal action, pointing to a 2007 law that prevents cities from enforcing their own gun regulations.

The family of a Waffle House shooting victim is suing the suspect’s father. The lawsuit filed Monday alleges that the gunman’s dad is partially responsible for the attack. In 2017, police confiscated the suspect’s guns, giving them to his father. Later, his father returned the weapons to him, including the AR-15 used to kill 20-year-old Joe Perez and three others.

The Supreme Court rejects an appeal from California gun-rights advocates. On Monday, the Court left intact a federal appeals court decision that said the Second Amendment doesn’t cover would-be gun sellers. The case was brought by three men who were denied a permit to open a gun store in California.

Two Parkland parents are running for office. Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty both lost children in the attack, and on Tuesday, they announced they’re running together for seats on the Broward County School Board. They say they want to make sure Florida’s new gun safety and school security measures are implemented. “I felt an obligation to work on this legislation to honor my daughter and make sure this never happens again,” said Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina was killed in the shooting. Related: In Lindenhurst, New York, an 18-year-old who received a detention slip after participating in her school’s walkout against gun violence in March is running for a seat on her town’s school board.

Gun safety courses are ineffective at protecting children from unintentional gun injury, according to a Rutgers University review. Even those children who initially followed recommended gun safety measures forgot them after a few weeks, the report from the Rutgers School of Nurses foundThe study reaffirmed the findings of earlier, similar reviews. A 2017 report that examined four studies between 1996 and 2016 concluded that behavioral skills training “did not instill consistent safe firearm habits in children.” What should parents do instead? Researchers found that restricting access to guns is the best way to keep kids safe. They suggest safely locking up guns or keeping them out of the home altogether.
From The Trace archives: Here’s Mike Spies’s look into how the NRA blocked a state bill that would have imposed penalties on grownups whose negligent gun storage allows children to access their weapons. It was championed by a Tennessee mother whose 8-year-old daughter was fatally shot by an 11-year-old neighbor, using his father’s gun. Also, read our coverage of Eddie Eagle, the NRA’s gun safety program for children. A 20/20 investigation found that kids have a hard time keeping their hands off of guns, even after they’ve received Eddie Eagle training. The NRA has pointed to the program as an alternative to laws mandating safe storage, but an education professor who was hired by the NRA to develop an Eddie Eagle curriculum told Mike Spies that the program should not be touted as a replacement for gun safety regulations.


The governor of Florida wants a million dollars to help add more mental health records to the state’s gun background check database. The state already had plans to request $94,880 from the Justice Department for a pilot program in Miami-Dade County to improve submissions of mental health records to the database. Now, Governor Rick Scott wants to ask for more. He says the decision came after a Politico report last week about a gap in the background check process that allows people with disqualifying mental health issues to buy weapons in the state. The money would go toward a dozen pilot programs and personnel to process mental health records.

Ross Loder is someone with an idea of what that work may look like behind the scenes. As the administrator responsible for weapons permits at the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Loder personally oversaw the review of 125,000 mental health cases to strengthen his state’s background check system. In April, he told The Trace’s Ann Givens about the grueling process that led to the addition of about 29,000 mental health records to the federal gun background check database. “It was a difficult time,” he told her, “but it was part of what needed to be done.”

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(AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane)

Trump Administration Advances Plan to Relax Gun-Export Rules

The Trump administration on Monday advanced a long-sought-after plan to relax export rules for American small arms, including semiautomatic rifles, handguns, and sniper rifles.

In a private briefing with members of Congress, State Department officials outlined a proposed rule change that would transfer oversight of gun exports to the Department of Commerce. The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register later this week, where it will be subject to public comment for 45 days. While it is unlikely, Congress could block the change using powers under the Congressional Review Act.

The shift, which was first proposed by the Obama administration in 2012, is championed by gunmakers who say it will make them more competitive in the international market. Critics argue an export policy that favors commercial interests could put the national security of the United States at risk or harm diplomatic efforts.

“Weakened Congressional oversight of international small arms and munitions sales is extremely hazardous to global security,” said Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat who serves on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in an emailed statement. “This decision is also politically tone-deaf as our nation reckons with a gun violence epidemic.”

A State Department spokesman said that the change would ease the regulatory burden on American gun makers and allow them to compete better globally.

Currently, the Department of State monitors exports of nearly all weapons through the U.S. Munitions List. Since 2002, the department has been required to notify Congress of overseas sales of firearms worth more than $1 million.

In 2016, the State Department alerted the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to a proposed sale of more than 26,000 rifles to the Philippines. Cardin at the time objected to arming the regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had inaugurated a wave of thousands of extrajudicial killings as part of a crackdown on drugs. The weapons deal was canceled as a result.

The proposed rule change would transfer control over the sale of small arms to the Commerce Control List, and Congress would no longer be notified of large purchases.  

Some arms control experts say reduced oversight could provide criminals, terrorists, or hostile states an opportunity to purchase American weapons.

Under Department of Commerce weapon-export rules, “companies aren’t required to provide as much information about brokers or shipping” as they must under State Department supervision, said Colby Goodman, who examines American weapons exports as director of the Security Assistance Monitor program at the Center for International Policy in Washington. “The world of firearms exports is full of questionable, dubious characters.”

The rule change has been long in the making. It was first proposed in 2012 by the Obama administration, but abandoned shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. At the time, the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security criticized the change because it could make it easier for transnational criminal organizations or terrorists to get American-made guns.

In September, Reuters reported that the Trump administration was interested in reviving the rule change to encourage more international arms sales. With the formal commencement of the public comment period, the preparation has become a policy reality.

In April, the Trump administration said it would now consider economic factors in addition to security when it comes to selling American weapons overseas.

The Trump administration has argued that the change would aid the domestic gun industry by cutting down on export regulation. American consumer sales of firearms have suffered since the 2016 election. After years of elevated sales in anticipation of possible new gun-control measures imposed by Democratic lawmakers, domestic demand subsided as Republicans took full control of the federal government.

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Daily Bulletin: Red Flag Laws, As Viewed by People Who’ve Had Their Guns Seized

Hello, readers. Illinois lawmakers passed a waiting period for military-style guns. Governor Bruce Rauner sent it back with some revisions, one of which is sure to spark conflict. Plus, what do people who’ve received extreme-risk protection orders think of the laws that allowed their guns to be taken away? Those stories and more, below. 

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The governor of Illinois rewrote a gun bill, adding a provision reinstating the death penalty for certain offenses. The legislation on the desk of Republican Bruce Rauner would have imposed a 72-hour waiting period on buyers of assault-style weapons. Rauner used an amendatory veto to make that apply to all gun purchases and added several other provisions, including a bump stock ban and the creation of a gun-violence restraining order. Another measure reinstates the state’s death penalty “for mass murderers and for those who kill law enforcement officers.” Lawmakers now have 15 days to either pass the reworked bill or override the changes.

The National Rifle Association is opposing a red flag bill in Massachusetts. post by the gun group’s lobbying arm urges members to take action against an extreme-risk protection bill in Massachusetts that it argues would allow gun seizures without due process. The NRA has been fighting similar bills in other states, despite the professed support of its top lobbyist, Chris Cox, for laws that enable law enforcement to disarm people deemed at risk of harming themselves or others.

Gun permit requests in Sutherland Springs, Texas, spiked after last November’s church massacre. Data obtained by the San Antonio Express-News shows a 167 percent increase in Wilson County, which includes Sutherland Springs, compared to the same period the previous year.

A Florida judge ruled that the NRA cannot add anonymous teens to its lawsuit against the state’s new age requirement for assault-style weapons. The organization argued that the anonymity was necessary to avoid potential online harassment. On Sunday, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker reluctantly ruled that the 19-year-olds’ views on the Second Amendment did not meet the exceptional circumstances required to allow anonymous parties in lawsuits.

Baltimore Ceasefire organizers celebrated their fourth homicide-free weekend this year. As part of an organized anti-violence effort, the city recorded no homicides from Friday to Sunday, following an especially violent April. The streak ended on Monday when a man was fatally shot.

A new gun bill in Kansas mandates that domestic abusers relinquish their guns, but does not specify how. It will be up to domestic abusers themselves to follow the law, according to one district attorney, who says he does not plan to proactively file any charges.

Police in Honolulu seized a cache of weapons in a raid prompted by online threats. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Honolulu police raided the hotel room of a 38-year-old man who wrote on social media that he was a federal agent hunting terrorist cells. They found an AR-15, a shotgun, two handguns, more than 800 rounds of ammunition, 18 military-style knives, and body armour. The man was a legal gun owner, but police temporarily seized his weapons after finding psychiatric medication in his room.

A child in Kansas City, Missouri, shot himself on Sunday with a gun left unattended and unlocked in his home. Police say the boy, who is under the age of 6, was rushed to the hospital for treatment.


Red flag laws, as viewed by people who’ve had their guns temporarily seized. After a man’s guns were taken under Florida’s new red flag law, he told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that the concept of extreme-risk protection orders “makes sense” to him. “If someone is in that position where they feel like they are going to take their own life or take someone else’s they probably shouldn’t have any weapons,” said the man, whose weapons were temporarily taken by police after he physically abused his girlfriend and threatened to kill himself.

In March, The Trace’s Alex Yablon talked to a California man who was forced to relinquish his firearms in 2016 under the state’s red flag law. A self-described “gun nut,” Ben Bertiger also said that he was glad the police intervened. “There were definitely things that were destructive about my behavior with guns,” he said. “Maybe it’s good to step back. I want to keep my head down, complete probation, and find other hobbies.”

Daily Bulletin: Why Wasn’t the Congressional Baseball Shooting a Much Bigger Deal?

Hello, readers. Fact-checkers call out Jeff Sessions for another misleading claim about Chicago gun violence. Remarks by Apple’s CEO tacitly add to the corporate endorsement of gun reform. Those stories and more, below.

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BuzzFeed details how last summer’s Congressional baseball shooting could have been worse — and how little changed because of it. The report provides a striking tick-tock account of the shooting at a morning practice of the Republican baseball team, walking readers through the factors that limited casualties and hearing from GOP lawmakers frustrated that the FBI did not assign a political motive to the gunman. Key line: “Two dozen members of Congress were nearly killed one morning last year, and the country didn’t change very much at all.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook praised the youth movement for gun reform in a college commencement speech. Reporters have noted the unabashedly political nature of some of Cook’s remarks to graduates of Duke University on Sunday. “It’s in those truly trying moments that the fearless inspire us. Fearless, like the students of Parkland, Florida, who refused to be silent about the epidemic of gun violence and have rallied millions to their cause,” Cook said, in a speech that also embraced #MeToo and immigrant rights activism. A video of the speech is available here.

The National Rifle Association is suing Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and the state’s financial services agency for alleged First Amendment violations. The lawsuit addresses two points of contention: New York’s regulatory actions against self-defense insurance offered by the NRA, and its suggestion to banks to reconsider their relationships with the gun group. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, is one prong of the NRA’s legal counteroffensive over its Carry Guard program. Regular Bulletin readers will recall that the NRA is also suing its insurance administrator Lockton for dropping the NRA amid a probe that resulted in a $7 million fine for the firm.

The Washington Post’s factchecker gave Jeff Sessions three Pinocchios for a claim about Chicago homicide rates. In 2015, as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, the city began requiring police officers to undergo training and record data on stop-and-frisk encounters; in 2016, the murder rate in Chicago jumped 60 percent. Two University of Utah professors concluded, in unpublished research, that the new stop-and-frisk protocols caused the spike in deaths, a conclusion that Attorney General Jeff Sessions echoed in a speech last week. As the Post’s factchecker noted, however, other cities decreased stop-and-frisk without recording subsequent rises in violent crime, including New York, Seattle, and Newark, and experts suggest that Chicago’experience may be an anomaly.

Weekend gun violence in Chicago returned to ongoing rates following a deadly spike. Two people were killed, and at least 16 more were wounded on Saturday and Sunday, which squares with the trend of lower rates of gun violence in the city so far this year. The first week of May, when nine people were killed and 76 were wounded, was the city’s deadliest in 2018. Until then, Chicago had been averaging about 42 shootings a week.

Oklahoma’s Republican governor vetoed a permitless-carry bill. The measure would also have eliminated the training requirement that gun owners must currently fulfill before carrying a gun in public. By rejecting the bill, Mary Fallin bucked a trend that has seen at least 10 states strip away permitting requirements over the past decade.


The man who wrestled a rifle away from the Waffle House gunman met with Parkland survivors over the weekend. James Shaw Jr. sustained burns to his hands while disarming the gunman who fatally shot four people in Tennessee last month. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and one of the most prominent organizers of the March for Our Lives, had tweeted that Shaw is her hero. After the two connected on Saturday, Shaw showed the feeling was mutual, tweeting that he “met one of my heroes today.” Since the Waffle House shooting on April 22, Shaw has raised nearly $250,000 for the victims.

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A memorial for victims of the Las Vegas shooting. [AP Photo/John Locher]

New FBI Data Shows Active Shooters Caused Nearly 750 Casualties in 2017

More Americans were killed or wounded by active shooters in 2017 than in any year since the Federal Bureau of Investigation began keeping track.

All told, nearly 750 people were shot in 30 incidents, according to a newly released FBI report. The shooters were of different ages, from different places, and motivated by different grievances. But all were men, and all acted alone.

Casualties jumped dramatically from 2016 to 2017, though the entirety of that increase can be attributed to the Las Vegas strip massacre, which alone had more than 500 victims. Even subtracting the toll of that one event, 2017 was among the deadliest years on record.

Between 2010 and 2016, an average of 127 Americans were shot in active shootings each year, setting the United States apart from the rest of the world.

“The U.S. is off the charts,” said Frederic Lemieux, a criminologist with Georgetown University who has been researching mass shootings from a global perspective since 2012. “In sheer number, nothing reaches what the U.S. has in victims and number of incidents.”

[Daniel Nass/The Trace]

The FBI defines active shooters as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” This definition encompasses shootings that happen in schools, workplaces, and other public spaces. A shooting can be categorized as an active shooter incident even if no one is killed or wounded.

Accidental shootings, suicides, and drug- and gang-related gun violence are excluded from the FBI’s methodology, which was developed with researchers from Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center. The center partnered with the FBI to produce the report, using data collected from police department reports, FBI resources, and media articles. Some active shooting incidents may have gone unrecorded in the early 2000s, researchers said, but they captured most of them.

M. Hunter Martaindale, director of research at the ALERRT Center, said it isn’t clear yet whether the recent surge in incidents and deaths means active shootings will continue to go up.

“If it stays this way, it goes from anomaly to more of a trend,” he said. Prior to last year, he noted, the number of yearly incidents appeared to be leveling off after increasing steadily since the start of the 2000s.

The FBI’s first active shooter study started out as Martaindale’s master thesis. After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, the FBI teamed up with Texas State University to begin tracking and analyzing active shooter events.

The relative rarity of active-shooter incidents makes analyzing trends in the data difficult, Martaindale said. But certain patterns are clear: 96 percent of the shooters since 2000 were male, and nearly two-thirds of all incidents happened in businesses and schools.

Active shooter incidents by location

Location Incident
Percent of
Commerce 105 42.0%
Education 52 20.8%
Open space 35 13.0%
Government 25 10.0%
Residence 12 4.8%
House of worship 10 4.0%
Healthcare 10 4.0%
Other 1 0.4%

Source: FBI

Of the 27 documented school shootings that were carried out by minors (younger than age 18), more than half were halted by unarmed teachers, students, or other school staff. In several cases, school authorities ended the violence by merely ordering the shooters to put down their guns. One school shooting was prevented by an armed adult who wasn’t a police officer.

More than half of active shootings were resolved in some way before police arrived on the scene. Of these, a quarter of the shooters committed suicide. Another 12 percent fled the scene. Four percent of shooters were stopped by armed citizens, including security guards. Twelve percent were stopped by unarmed citizens.

“What a civilian does has a very large impact on how these events unfold and how they end,” said Martaindale. “When the civilians get involved and fight back, they can end pretty quick.”

However, the FBI and ALERRT say that people in an active shooting situation should run away if possible, find a safe place to hide and barricade themselves if escaping the scene isn’t an option, and confront the shooter as a last resort.

In nearly 15 percent of the incidents tracked by researchers, police officers were either wounded or killed.

“It’s the most dangerous call a law enforcement officer can go on,” Martaindale said.

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Daily Bulletin: Hunters for Gun Control

Hello, readers. More financial pressure on the firearms industry as a California pension fund considers a major divestment from assault weapons manufacturers and Bank of America reaffirms its commitment not to lend to companies that make such guns. Meanwhile, another gun manufacturer punishes Dick’s Sporting Goods for the restrictions the retail chain enacted after Parkland. Those stories and more, below.

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A $225 billion teachers’ pension fund in California may divest from sellers of assault-style weapons. On Wednesday, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System voted to push retailers to drop their remaining stock of assault-style weapons and potentially divest from those who don’t. In March, another pension fund in the state rejected a similar plan. The teachers’ group has put pressure on the gun industry before. In April 2013, four months after Newtown, CalSTRS approved a plan to pull its $3 million from the firearm manufacturing consortium now operating under the Remington name, a decision that contributed to that company’s current financial straits.

Bank of America reaffirms its pledge to stop financing military-style rifles. On Sunday, Reuters reported that Bank of America would follow through on an existing loan agreement with the bankrupt gunmaker Remington, sparking criticism from gun safety activists who believed the move went against the bank’s new policy. In a letter on Thursday, Bank of America restated its commitment, saying that it will govern the bank’s relationship with the firearm company going forward. “Remington is aware of the policy that we subsequently announced, and that policy will dictate our future actions after the bankruptcy proceedings conclude.”

Another firearms manufacturer cuts ties with Dick’s Sporting Goods. On Wednesday, Mossberg & Sons, Inc., announced it would stop selling products to Dick’s and its Field & Stream subsidiary. The decision was in response to the retailer’s hiring of gun reform lobbyists in April. Since then, two other major gun manufacturers and the nation’s largest gun trade organization have also cut ties with Dick’s.

Hunters release a 10-point plan on gun safety. A group of eight hunters penned a HuffPost op-ed on Thursday in support of gun reform measures, including a ban on assault-style weapons and universal background checks. They also distanced themselves from the gun industry, writing: “We don’t buy a lot of guns. We usually have a few favorites, often passed down to us by fathers or grandfathers. The gun industry figured that out decades ago, and switched to creating guns for a different market.” Related: At the National Rifle Association’s convention last week, tactical gear was on full display. Hunting weapons, less so.

A New York lawmaker introduced a bill that would outlaw all high school shooting-sports programs in the state. “Schools should not be supporting the spread of gun culture in society,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Elizabeth Rosentahl. “If parents want their children to have shooting instruction, there are opportunities that have nothing to do with the school.” She introduced the bill after learning that the Parkland gunman honed his marksmanship skills on an NRA-funded rifle team.

Oliver North’s plan to increase NRA membership: recruit from the military. In his first interview since being appointed NRA president, North said he plans to draw from his connections in the armed forces to help reach his goal of one million new members. He also doubled down on the NRA’s “School Shield” security program, which includes armed school staff, as a solution to mass shootings.


Police in Austin, Texas, can no longer sell used guns to the public. The City Council passed the resolution yesterday. Law enforcement in Texas offloaded more than 10,000 weapons in the past decade, an analysis by the Texas Standard and Center for Investigative Reporting found. Some of the guns sold by police ended up back in the hands of criminals.

The Austin Police Department now faces the question of what to do with its surplus of seized weapons. One solution pursued elsewhere: melting them down. That’s what Honolulu’s Police Department did with 2,300 of its retired service weapons in 2015. As The Trace reported then, the department’s decision to destroy its cache of pistols was motivated by the fear of those weapons later being used in crimes. The department issued a statement explaining that the mayor and the department “would not allow the guns to be sold to the general public and end up on the streets of Honolulu.”

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Daily Bulletin: Why 90 Percent of Gun Owners Aren’t NRA Members

Hello, readers. Alex Yablon has the big news from Sturm Ruger’s annual meeting, where shareholders passed a contested proposal to study the business risks associated with gun violence. Also in today’s briefing: gun reform developments at the municipal, state, and national level.

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NEW from THE TRACE: Sturm Ruger shareholders passed a resolution requiring the company to produce a report on gun safety. By February, the gunmaker will have to assess the business risks of gun violence and disclose its approach to producing safer products. The report will be a first for the gun industry, experts believe. The proposal, introduced by a small group of faith-based investors, passed at the company’s annual meeting yesterday, despite objections from Ruger and its board. Asset manager BlackRock, which has said that “responsible policies and practices are critical to [the] long-term prospects” of gun companies, reportedly voted for the resolution. As Ruger’s largest shareholder, BlackRock’s vote held great sway. Reporter Alex Yablon has our report here. Meanwhile: Sturm Ruger’s sales were down 22 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

Members of Congress introduce bipartisan red flag bill. The legislation would provide financial incentives — $50 million a year — to states that enact laws that allow law enforcement to seize guns from potentially dangerous people. Nine states currently have red flag laws in place. A dozen others have proposals under consideration. Yesterday, we updated our “red flag law” tracker to reflect the status of these bills on the state level.

A British insurance company is cutting ties to the National Rifle Association. On Wednesday, Lloyd’s of London said it would terminate all insurance made available through the gun group. Last week, New York financial regulators announced that the NRA’s Carry Guard insurance program violated state law. Chubb and Lockton, two of companies that helped facilitate the program, were hit with hefty fines.

Lawmakers in Orange County, Florida, voted to close the so-called gun show loophole. The ordinance, which received unanimous support, would allow authorities to conduct background checks for weapons purchased at gun shows. It also restores a three-day waiting period on such sales, which was repealed seven years ago as part of an NRA-backed state law.

A bump stock ban is headed to the governor’s desk in Connecticut. The measure, which bans devices that allow semiautomatic firearms to fire at a rate similar to fully automatic weapons, passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support. Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, proposed the legislation earlier this year and said he plans to sign it into law. The city of Cincinnati, Ohio, also banned the devices. On Wednesday, the Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance outlawing bump stocks within city limits. Violating the ban is a misdemeanor offense.

Baltimore hit 100 homicides on Tuesday as anti-violence activists plan a “cease-fire weekend.” The city is on pace to surpass 300 homicides for the fourth year in a row. Last year was Baltimore’s deadliest year ever, with a per-capita record of 343 homicides. To reverse the trend, local organizers are calling for three days of peace. This Mother’s Day weekend, Baltimore Ceasefire will call for its third violence-free weekend this year. The last effort, which was held in February, led to a record-breaking 21-day streak without a homicide in the city.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has hired lobbyists to take on banks that impose restrictions on gun clients. The gun trade group says it tapped the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm Hollier & Associates in response to “discriminatory banking actions against [the] firearms industry.” Last week, NSSF cut ties with Dick’s Sporting Goods after the retailer retained its own lobbyists for gun reform.

Doctors should be talking to patients with dementia about firearms, researchers recommend. Pediatricians aren’t the only physicians with reason to ask about gun habits. A new study addresses the benefits of discussing the risks with older patients, as well. The report highlights the increased risk of suicide for people with progressive cognitive impairment. Data shows that firearms make suicide attempts far more lethal.

A Texas man was arrested for making his gun available to his 4-year-old son, who shot himself. The boy was rushed to the hospital on April 21 with a gunshot wound to the leg. He had shot himself with his father’s revolver after finding it on a nightstand in a  bedroom. In Texas, police are required to wait at least seven days before making an arrest when a child is injured with an unsecured weapon. The father was arrested on Tuesday.

At least three other children have unintentionally shot themselves in the past week. On Friday night, a 3-year-old fatally shot himself with a gun he found in the living room of a trailer in Walterboro, South Carolina. Monday evening, a 4-year-old boy in Henrico County, Virginia, died in the hospital after he shot himself with his mother’s gun, which he found in her closet. And on Tuesday: a 3-year-old in Detroit shot himself in the stomach after getting hold of his father’s gun. His father was arrested.


Why the majority of gun owners don’t join the NRA. poll conducted by HuffPost and YouGov found that 90 percent of gun owners aren’t NRA members. One in four non-NRA gun owners polled said they didn’t join because they disagreed with the group’s politics. Others said they felt the group did not represent them or that the membership was simply too expensive.

As part of our NRA and Me project, Trace contributor Kerry Shaw spoke with more than a dozen current and former NRA members about their relationships to the group. Their experiences reinforce what the statistical findings of the HuffPost/YouGov poll make clear: gun owners are not a monolithic group.

Even dedicated NRA members hold more multi-faceted views than the media portrays. Read their stories and learn about the gun regulations they support in our series.