News and notes on guns in America

Placeholder Image

[Left, center: Gage Skidmore. Right: U.S. Senate]

Daily Bulletin: Democrats to Trump: Imagine the Photo Op If You Expand Gun Background Checks

Good morning, Bulletin readers. As America awaits the White House’s plan for preventing mass shootings, Democrats are pushing a new message on President Trump. 

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


Democratic leaders try appealing to President Trump’s ego on gun background checks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement on Sunday that if the president endorses the universal background check bill passed by the House in February, “We would both join him for a historic signing ceremony at the Rose Garden.” The White House will reportedly declare its intentions on any new gun legislation as soon as this week, but the contents of its package remain “a mystery.”

One new idea Trump is enamored with: A phone app for conducting background checks on private sales. The theoretical app would be connected to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), say senators who’ve spoken with the president. Feasibility is a concern, as The Washington Post notes: “Lawmakers and congressional aides have pointed out to the White House potential flaws in the proposal, such as security issues with the app and how it would affect how law enforcement officials access records on gun ownership.”

Beto O’Rourke defended his aggressive position on assault weapons. The 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate grabbed headlines with his call for a mandatory federal buyback of assault-style weapons at last week’s debate. At a campaign stop this weekend, he dismissed critics who say his proposal plays into the hands of Republicans who depict Democrats as hell-bent on taking guns away from their owners, arguing that more moderate proposals have not worked. “Every single time that we put our best foot forward and move forward in the spirit of consensus and compromise and start in that middle position, we lose it.” O’Rourke added, “If we start in a timid, fearful, apologetic way, we’re going to get the same result that we got in the last 30 years, which is literally, absolutely nothing.”

Child gun deaths are surging in Denver. Fifteen people under 18 have been fatally shot in the Colorado city since January 2018. Police and public and health officials blame the changing structure of gangs, easy access to guns, and socioeconomic and racial inequality. A report last week by Denver Public Health urged city officials to distribute gun locks and safes. “Access to firearms is the most important factor influencing youth suicide and homicide,” they wrote. “Approximately 90% of youth who complete suicide use a gun found in the home.”

Three kids were shot, one fatally, with unsecured guns in Texas on Sunday. Truth Albright, 4, was fatally shot by his brother in Fort Worth on Sunday morning, police said. Later that day, two children were shot in separate incidents in Arlington: A 6-year-old was shot in the head with a rifle by his 10-year-old brother, and an 8-year-old was shot in the buttocks with an Uzi or Mac-10-style weapon.

Our Since Parkland project won an Online Journalism Award. Since Parkland enlisted student journalists to profile 1,200 kids and teens who were shot and killed in the United States in the 12 months after the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This weekend, the package won the Pro-Am Student Award from the Online News Association at its annual convention in New Orleans. The project was published in partnership with McClatchy and the Miami Herald. You can revisit the series here.


A pamphlet on surviving an active shooter was spotted in a Michigan synagogue. New York Times culture reporter Katherine Rosman tweeted a photo a friend posted on Facebook. The flyer directs worshippers at an unnamed Ann Arbor synagogue to stop their prayers and “run, hide, fight, and call 911” in the event of an active shooter. “It took my breath away,” Rosman wrote.

Placeholder Image

[ABC News]

Daily Bulletin: Democrats Engage in a Fiery Debate on Guns

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Beto O’Rourke’s unabashed endorsement of removing assault-style rifles from civilian ownership at last night’s Democratic debate is getting many of the headlines this morning. But there’s more to parse in the candidates’ exchanges. Our takeaways are below. 

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


The 2020 Democratic field remains united it its support for an expansive gun violence prevention agenda. But important distinctions and themes emerged during last night’s debate.  

On an assault weapons buyback:  

  • Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke has been calling for a mandatory buyback since this summer’s spate of mass shootings hit his hometown of El Paso. “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he proclaimed, adding that he had spoken to gun owners who agreed. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has pitched herself to voters as a more moderate option, said a buyback should be voluntary.

On executive action: 

  • Senator Kamala Harris defended her call for executive actions to address gun violence, saying that “the idea that we would wait for this Congress, which has just done nothing, to act …  is overlooking the fact that every day in America, our babies are going to school to have drills.” But Vice President Joe Biden countered that a unilateral move by the White House might not hold up in court, and insisted that the National Rifle Association can be beaten on Capitol Hill, saying that after the defeat of gun legislation following Sandy Hook, gun reform “went from a cause to a movement.”

On the importance of focusing on all gun violence:  

  • Senator Cory Booker repeated his proposal for a federal license for gun ownership and cited his experience working in inner-city Newark and seeing firsthand the devastation wrought by community gun violence. He attributed the failure to solve the problem to a national “crisis of empathy.” Senator Elizabeth Warren also noted that gun violence extends beyond mass shootings. She blamed “a Congress that is beholden to the gun industry” for not addressing the issue, and blasted the filibuster for blocking reforms supported by broad majorities of Americans.

You can find a full debate transcript here. And you can read about what the candidates have said about assault weapons buybacks in our 2020 candidates’ guide.

NEW from THE TRACE: How would an assault weapons buyback actually work? Commentators have noted the political significance of Democratic candidates’ embrace of removing military-style semiautomatic rifles from circulation by having the federal government compensate owners for turning them in. We wanted to understand how much such an initiative might actually cost, and the other logistical challenges it would have to surmount. Only two nations, Australia and New Zealand, have undertaken a mandatory gun buyback. The United States has 10 times as many people as Australia and New Zealand combined, and more guns than adults. Champe Barton ran the numbers.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott stopped short of endorsing mandatory background checks. Among the recommendations in the Republican governor’s Texas Safety Action Report is a directive to the Legislature to “consider ways to make it easy, affordable, and beneficial for a private seller of firearms to voluntarily use background checks when selling firearms to strangers.” Abbott also suggested penalizing prohibited gun buyers who fail background checks and cracking down on straw purchases.

Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio reiterates call for red flag laws. In a New York Times op-ed on Thursday, Rubio said that laws to disarm individuals deemed to be a social threat are “the most effective step Congress can take right now” to disarm dangerous people “without infringing on other Americans’ rights.”

The El Paso Walmart gunman was indicted on capital murder charges. If found guilty, the 21-year-old faces the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole for the August 3 shooting, which left 22 people dead and 25 others wounded.

An NRA reformer says he got kicked out of a meeting of members ahead of the gun group’s board meeting. Rob Pincus, who has criticized the gun group and serves as the spokesperson of the “Save the Second” campaign, posted about the incident on social media on Thursday. The board meeting was relocated from Alaska to Washington, D.C., as lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate new gun measures. As Newsweek has reported, cost and optics may also have influenced the move.

A Pennsylvania court made it easier to sue to overturn local gun ordinances. In a victory for gun rights groups, the Commonwealth Court ruled Thursday that someone does not need to have violated a city’s firearm ordinance in order to try to get it rescinded, overruling a prior court decision.

The deputy city attorney in Los Angeles perpetrated a murder-suicide. Eric Lertzman, 60, fatally shot his wife and 19-year-old son on Wednesday before killing himself. His boss, City Attorney Mike Feuer, co-founded Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, and has aggressively penalized parents whose children obtain guns.


Democrats in Congress appear to be backing away from an assault weapons ban. With 211 sponsors, a bill to restore a federal ban on assault weapons appears seven votes shy of what it needs to pass, and The New York Times reports that some Democrats from districts that went for President Trump are leery of alienating voters by pushing the measure through. The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the policy next month. “Let’s be honest,” said Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a sponsor of the current assault weapons ban. “Every other bill that we’ve done tries to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. This is the one piece of legislation that keeps a particular weapon out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. A lot of people have enormous objections to that.”

Placeholder Image

[AP Photo/Patrick Semansky]

Daily Bulletin: Decision Day for Trump on Guns?

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


Senators say President Trump could be close to a decision on gun package. Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Joe Manchin had a 40-minute call with the president on Wednesday in which they made their case for expanding gun background checks. Trump was “very engaged, personally asking thoughtful questions, asking reasonable questions,” Toomey said, but added that the president did not make any specific commitments on any bill. “I’m still less than 50/50 [on whether the president will support expanded background checks] because I know the president has a lot of people calling the opposite direction from us,” Murphy told reporters later. Trump reportedly will receive a briefing from White House staff today on his options, and suggested to the three senators that he could make a decision before the weekend. NEW from THE TRACE:  Our all-in-one primer on the federal gun background check system — and the loopholes new laws might close.

145 corporate leaders press for Senate action. In a joint letter, leaders from companies including Yelp, Twitter, Gap, Levi Strauss, and Pinterest urged the passage of bills extending background checks to cover all gun sales and federal incentives for state red flag laws allowing courts to disarm individuals deemed a threat. “Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable,” they wrote. New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin has a smart analysis of the companies that signed on, or didn’t, and why. Related: Publix became the latest retailer to ask customers to stop openly carrying guns in its stores, joining ALDI, Meijer, Albertsons, Kroger, Walgreens, Walmart, and Wegmans.

A new study examined the outcomes of mass shootings by gunmen seeking infamy. In the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, two criminal justice researchers examined more than 300 rampage gunmen since 1966 and identified 45 who expressly sought notoriety before they opened fire. Among those, 96 percent were mentioned at least once in The New York Times, compared to about 74 percent of their non-fame-seeking counterparts. Notoriety-seekers also incurred higher victim counts; tended to be young, white students; and often had mental illness and suicidal ideations. To our colleagues in the media: We’re convening a working group to set ethical standards for mass shooting coverage. Join us here.

Another NRA vendor is suing the gun group. Under Wild Skies Inc. launched the legal action in circuit court in Fairfax, Virginia, on Wednesday, saying it is owed $17.1 million for breach of contract. The production company alleged that top National Rifle Association officials, including Wayne LaPierre and his wife, were treated to several free hunting safaris in Africa and South America. Tony Makris, the host of the Under Wild Skies hunting show, is also a top executive at Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s erstwhile marketing firm, with which it is engaged in an ongoing legal fight.

One of the White House advisers who may influence Trump’s position on guns is a former gun lobbyist. Sources told the Daily Beast that aide Michael B. Williams has played a big role on gun policy in the administration and used to lobby lawmakers to loosen regulations on silencers for the American Suppressor Association. He also was once a law clerk at the NRA.

Gun policy is the top debate issue for Democratic voters, a new poll found. Seventy-three percent of Democrats said it was “very important” for the candidates to discuss gun reform during tonight’s face-off in Houston, an 11 percentage point increase from the first debates in June, according to a survey from Morning Consult.

States with high gun ownership rates and relaxed gun laws have the nation’s highest suicide rates. An analysis of 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by the left-leaning Violence Policy Center found that Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, New Mexico, and Idaho have the highest suicide rates. California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, where gun laws are much stricter, have the lowest.


A survivor of a mass shooting still has over 300 shotgun pellets in her body — and they’re poisoning her. Carolyn Tuft was one of nine people shot at Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City in 2007, five of whom died — including Tuft’s 15-year-old daughter. Doctors said trying to remove all the pellets could be fatal, so they remain in her body. “I feel them, and they hurt,” she told “Inside Edition.” They’re also giving her lead poisoning. “Now it’s affecting my memory, my cognitive abilities,” she said. Tuft used to be an avid cyclist and runner, but now she has trouble getting dressed in the morning. “For many like my friend Carolyn, it’s a life sentence of pain,” her friend told KUTV.

Placeholder Image


Daily Bulletin: Another Poll Finds a Majority of Americans Want Tighter Gun Laws

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


The House Judiciary Committee quickly advanced three gun reform bills. The full House will now vote on a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, incentives for states that pass red flaw laws, and a measure to block people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from obtaining guns. NEW from THE TRACE: The third measure, called the Disarm Hate Act, would be the first new prohibiting factor for gun sales since 1997. Supporters are pitching it as response to mass shootings like those in El Paso and Pittsburgh, which targeted people on the basis of ethnicity or religion.

Trump, White House officials met with GOP leaders over gun policy. Per the The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday’s meetings at the Capitol and White House were the first in Washington since Congress returned from recess. But it’s still not clear when the White House might lay out what President Trump is willing to sign. Without Trump’s go-ahead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated that he won’t move first. “I’m going to wait and assess the proposal that actually could become law,” he said.

Another poll finds a majority of Americans want tighter gun laws. A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey found strong support for universal background checks (83%), red flag laws (72%), and a ban on high-capacity magazines (61%). “You’d be hard-pressed to find something where the gap between public sentiment and legislative action or inaction is wider,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the group that conducted the poll. Notable data point: 72% percent of respondents support mandatory gun licensing. The policy is backed by compelling research. But it’s not among the ideas Congress is now actively considering.

New Jersey will stop doing business with gun makers and vendors that fail to embrace the state’s gun safety standards. Under an executive order signed by Democratic Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday, the state will stop buying law enforcement guns from companies that don’t “prevent, detect, and screen for the transfer of firearms to straw purchasers or firearm traffickers” and “protect against the theft of firearms and ammunition.” The order further directs the state Treasury Department to cut ties with financial institutions that fail to adopt “principles related to gun safety or responsible sales of firearms.” The action would also prohibit the sale and marketing of insurance products that “encourage the improper use of firearms” — a nod to Carry Guard, the National Rifle Association’s self-defense shooting insurance. Last week, New Jersey regulators fined the insurer Lockton Affinity $1 million for its role in administering the program.

Two more retailers asked customers to stop openly carrying guns in their stores. ALDI and Meijer join Albertsons, Kroger, Walgreens, Walmart, and Wegmans. CVS recently asked customers to not carry guns at all. Retailers could ban guns outright if they wanted to, legal experts told The New York Timesbut many are instead requesting that shoppers refrain from carrying guns as a way to take a stand while striking a middle ground.

The Republican mayor of Fort Worth adds to a chorus of Texas officials calling for gun reform. Betsy Price joined a gathering of mayors and police officials on Capitol Hill advocating for background checks and red flag laws, echoing Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s break with the NRA last week.

Meanwhile, Fort Worth police say they averted a mass shooting. Police in Texas say a 27-year-old man with mental health issues who said he was inspired by the Odessa shooting tried to buy a gun in a private sale after failing several background checks. The suspect told police he wanted to “kill as many” people as he could. His father tipped off authorities.

The NRA hired a former video game executive to helm its lobbying arm. Wade Callender will replace David Lehman as deputy executive director and top lawyer for the Institute for Legislative Action. A source told CNN that some NRA staffers are baffled by the optics of hiring a man with no political experience, especially after NRA leadership has blamed mass shootings on violent video games.

California lawmakers expanded the state’s red flag law. The bill sent to Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday adds co-workers to the people who can petition a judge to temporarily remove guns from owners deemed a danger to themselves or others. Currently only police officers, family members, and roommates can do so. Newsom’s Democratic predecessor twice vetoed the change.

A Texas county unveiled a new temporary gun surrender program. Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, launched six gun safety initiatives, including a program allowing residents to turn in guns for safekeeping or disposal. The other measures include active shooter threat assessment for police and educators, distribution of gun locks, and prohibitions for people arrested for domestic violence.


The 14 seconds that may determine Trump’s gun control position. Sources close to President Trump tell The Washington Post that he is hesitant to embrace the gun restrictions and reforms being discussed on Capitol Hill because of a rousing ovation he received at a campaign rally in New Hampshire last month. After Trump told the crowd he would “always uphold the Second Amendment,” the audience responded with rapturous applause that went on for nearly a quarter of a minute, a reminder that Trump’s base and gun absolutists appear to overlap considerably. An unidentified senior administration said, “His base is loyal to him and won’t vote against him, but there could be some dealbreakers that cause them to stay home altogether.”

Placeholder Image

Daily Bulletin: House Democrats Move a New Slate of Gun Safety Bills

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


House Democrats move a new slate of gun safety bills. The legislation that the House Judiciary Committee will take up today includes a ban on ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds, a measure to block people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from obtaining firearms, and incentives for states that pass red flaw laws allowing for the temporary disarming of gun owners who present acute risks. Only the red flag proposal is considered to have a chance in the Republican-controlled Senate. The goal is to further distinguish the Democrats from the GOP, whose Congressional leaders are still waiting for President Trump to spell out what proposals he’d sign.

NEW from THE TRACE: Gun violence researchers find their field at a crossroads. An infusion of private dollars, coupled with allocations from state governments, is enabling the kinds of intensive and cross-disciplinary studies that can improve understanding of the problem. But scientists say that they can’t close the huge knowledge gap until Congress appropriates federal money for gun violence research. The House has authorized $50 million; all eyes are now on the Senate, which must include the spending in its own budget package. Contributor Erin Schumaker has the story.

Gun violence incidents rose slightly between 2017 and 2018, according to a DOJ survey. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an annual poll of people 12 and older conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, gun-related crimes increased 2.3 percent between 2017 and 2018. One notable finding: 310,310 gun crime victims reported the incidents to police in 2018, a 21.7 percent increase from 2017.

A majority of Florida public school districts have opted against arming teachers. A Wall Street Journal survey found that just seven of the state’s 67 districts said they have either approved or are considering approving the state’s armed guardian program, which allows for the arming of select school personnel. Earlier this year, the policy was expanded to include teachers.

The number of shootings by concealed carriers in Illinois has risen every year since the practice became legal. The Chicago Tribune calculated that at least 62 holders of concealed carry licenses have shot someone since 2014. More than a third of those shootings have occurred in the past year. In 2012, a federal court said the state’s prohibition of concealed carry permits violated the Second Amendment.

The Republican lieutenant governor of Texas doubled down on his support for expanded background checks. Despite criticism from gun rights activists and the National Rifle Association, Republican Dan Patrick reiterated his surprising call last week for extending background checks on private sales in the wake of the El Paso and Odessa shootings. “The National Rifle Association is just wrong on this,” he said in an email to his supporters on Sunday.

A Chicago woman lost her third grandchild to gun violence. Treja Kelly, 18, a straight-A student who planned to attend college, was killed in the street by an unidentified man on Sunday. Her grandmother, Judy Fields, told CBS Chicago: “My grandchildren are very dear to me, and I’m losing them. You just have to pray about it and ask God to give you strength.”

The NRA is suing San Francisco. The announcement comes less then a week after the city’s Board of Supervisors declared the gun group a “terrorist organization” and called for the city to cut ties with entities that do business with it. The NRA says the city violated its First Amendment rights in creating a “blacklist”; the city official who introduced the measure said its nonbinding nature makes it legal, adding, “This is a desperate move by a desperate organization.”

The Trace welcomed two new reporters. Will Van Sant starts this week as a reporter covering the gun lobby, and contributor Alain Stephens has joined as a full-time team member. Read more about them here.


A historian’s view of the gun debate. The maneuvering in Washington over new federal gun laws is playing out in the shadow of the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, which reversed centuries of precedent in establishing an individual right to bear arms. In a commentary piece for The Washington Post, Wesleyan University professor Jennifer Tucker sketches how the ruling rests on a false reading of the past. “History was an integral weapon in advancing this narrative,” writes Tucker. “Through the NRA’s magazines, supported scholarship, sponsored films and a private museum network, the group tried to impose a unilateral reading of American history: what might be called gunsplaining’ for the masses. It convinced many people — including law professors and judges — that the individualist interpretation was the standard model’ of American gun history.”

More recent scholarship, Tucker argues, supports a different conclusion. Lawmakers do have the authority to restrict gun ownership and carry, as Heller itself conceded. “The state’s duty to protect the peace and promote public safety is an enduring principle of common law that informed the framing of the Constitution. In light of this history — and in line with what the architects of the Second Amendment would have endorsed — the courts must allow lawmakers to make reasonable efforts to regulate the use of firearms.”

The Trace Adds Two Reporters to Its Ranks

The Trace is eager to announce the newest member of its reporting team: Will Van Sant starts this week as a reporter covering the gun lobby.

“I’m thrilled to be joining The Trace, which is home to so many talented journalists and has done such outstanding and necessary work,” says Will. 

Will comes to The Trace from Newsday, where he spent several years on the investigative team. During his time there, he focused on Long Island government and New York State agencies, uncovering buried secrets and generating impact. He was on a team named a finalist for the Pulitzer for Public Service in 2014 and in 2015 he received a “Salute to Excellence” Award from the National Association of Black Journalists for a project that unearthed law enforcement’s failure to protect a victim of domestic violence. 

We’re also thrilled to announce that Alain Stephens is joining the full-time staff as a reporter. A military veteran and gun owner, Alain brings personal and professional experience with firearms to the newsroom. Before joining The Trace, Alain did tours at inewssource and the Texas Standard, where his investigations led to important public safety, civil rights, and criminal justice reforms. 

“I’ve been sleuthing around the world of guns for some time,” says Alain. “I’m excited to join The Trace where I can home in on some of the more tough-to-crack areas surrounding guns in America; the industry, the money surrounding it, and the criminal underworld of arms traffickers.”

“We’re so fortunate to have Will and Alain rounding out our team of reporters,” says deputy editor Tali Woodward. “I’m eager to see Will train his formidable investigative skill on the forces that influence the national debate over guns. And Alain will no doubt help us understand the many contours of arms trafficking, firearms technology, and the gun industry.” 

About the Trace
The Trace is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization, and the only media outlet dedicated to full-time and in-depth reporting on America’s gun violence crisis. Since our launch in June 2015, we have partnered with more than 110 national and local media organizations, including The New Yorker, BuzzFeed News, the Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Sun-Times, and Teen Vogue. Our stories increase the public’s knowledge and understanding of the issue and spur action by policymakers, researchers, and law enforcement.


Placeholder Image

In this May 12, 2017 photo, Beth Roth, director of the Safe Tennessee Project, a grassroots organization that addresses gun violence in Tennessee. [AP Photo/Mark Humphrey]

Daily Bulletin: Women Are Driving Public Support for Stronger Gun Laws

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Congress reconvenes today. Here’s everything you need to get caught up on where things stand with the gun safety measures lawmakers may consider.

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


Women are driving support for stronger gun laws. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds a striking gender gap on gun safety measures, with women 20 percentage points more likely than men to say they are confident that stronger restrictions on firearms would reduce mass shootings. Women also trust Democrats in Congress more than President Trump to handle the issue. Consistent with other surveys, solid majorities of respondents support specific proposals like universal background checks, red flag laws, and assault weapon bans. But on those questions, too, support was strongest among women, whose votes will be critical to the outcomes of 2020 races.

Pressure grows on Trump to spell out the gun safety measures he would sign. Over the weekend, Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri reiterated the position of the Senate’s GOP leadership: We won’t bring up any bills Trump hasn’t backed. (Blunt added that Trump needs to “step up.”) Top Democrats sent the president a letter saying he has a “historic opportunity to save lives” and urged him to defy the National Rifle Association and give his blessing to a universal background check bill passed by the House. And today, a bipartisan group of mayors will be in Washington to meet with lawmakers and White House officials to press for action on gun violence.

Here’s what’s on the table as Congress reconvenes. The final package is TBD. But as a guide to the coming debate, we put together this rundown of the most significant measures in the mix, and the political actors who will shape their fate.

Another retailer asked customers to stop openly carrying guns in its stores. Supermarket chain Albertsons joined Kroger, Walmart, Walgreens, and Wegmans in asking shoppers to refrain from the practice in states where it’s legal. Last week, CVS asked customers not to bring guns into its stores, whether openly carried or concealed.

A top NRA lobbyist got illegal loans from the nonprofit she runs. That’s according to the politics news site Florida Bulldog, which reported Friday that the gun group’s longtime Florida lobbyist, Marion Hammer, obtained several loans over the years from Unified Sportsmen of Florida, the nonprofit she founded and runs. The arrangement is a violation of state law. The most recent loan was for $200,000 in 2017; according to the group’s regulatory filings, Hammer used it to “refinance and purchase” real estate.

An absolutist opponent of gun regulation created a 3D-printed 30-round magazine. Deterrence Dispensed posted a video on Friday announcing the device, and directed users to Keybase, the encrypted chat app the company uses to communicate.

A Florida man was arrested after threatening to shoot Jewish people. A friend of the 25-year-old suspect contacted the FBI after receiving text messages containing violent threats. Among the texts: “I bought a gun with my first paycheck,” and “I told you how much I hate Jews, right? There’s a chabad near me.” The suspect was arrested at his job on August 27.

The Justice Department wants Apple and Google to disclose users of a gun scope app. The DOJ applied for a court order last Thursday to compel the tech companies to hand over the personal data of users of Obsidian 4, which allows users to calibrate their gun scopes from their phones, Forbes reported. The request is part of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation into violations of weapons export regulations. Agents hope to track illegal shipments of the scopes by narrowing down who has used the app.

Placeholder Image

Daily Bulletin: Authorities Investigate Private Seller Linked to Odessa Shooting

Good morning, Bulletin readers. President Donald Trump touted gun reforms after the Odessa shooting, then ran Facebook ads falsely accusing Democrats of trying to repeal the Second Amendment. That story and more in your end-of-week roundup.

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


Law enforcement officials are investigating a man who they suspect made and sold the gun used by the Odessa gunman. Authorities identified a man in Lubbock, Texas, who they believe sold the AR-style rifle used in the August 31 spree shooting, The Wall Street Journal reported. Officials suggested that the private seller may have made the gun himself from parts he procured, potentially resulting in an untraceable weapon with no serial number.

President Trump ran Facebook ads falsely accusing Democrats of working to repeal the Second Amendment. The ads, which debuted Monday, were a sharp contrast to his comments from just one day earlier, touting a package of reforms. “The messaging [of the ads] is straight from the NRA playbook,” gun researcher Robert Spitzer told The Washington Post.

The Department of Justice sent a package of gun reforms to Trump two weeks ago. That’s per a Fox News report, which says it’s not clear what’s in the package. But several outlets reported earlier this week that the DOJ has prepared a measure that would expedite the death penalty for mass shooters.

Three more big retailers asked customers not to carry guns in their stores. Days after Walmart and Kroger asked shoppers to stop openly carrying guns in their stores, CVS, Walgreens, and Wegmans followed suit. The requests do not constitute an outright ban on the practice. All but three states allow some form of open carry, though many impose restrictions on who can carry firearms in public and where they can be carried.

The gun industry’s trade group announced a $250K ad buy. The National Shooting Sports Foundation spent the money on digital, print, and radio ads aimed at Capitol Hill lawmakers returning from summer recess. The purpose of the ad buy, the group told The Daily Beast, is to ensure that gunmakers have a seat at the table amid the intensifying debate over expanding background checks.

Texas’s Republican governor issued eight executive orders in response to recent mass shootings. Most of the directives crafted by Governor Greg Abbott in response to the El Paso and Odessa shootings aim to close gaps in the state’s Suspicious Activity Reporting Network, which solicits tips from the public. None of the executive orders address guns. Abbott said he’s releasing additional recommendations next week from a commission he formed after the El Paso shooting.

The NRA is putting big money behind the GOP leader of the Virginia House. The National Rifle Association gave $200,000 to the political action fund of House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, who in July adjourned a special legislative session after only 90 minutes that was convened after May’s mass shooting in Virginia Beach.

Nearly 350 children unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else every year. That’s from a new report on safe gun storage by Everytown For Gun Safety. The report also found that 590 children under 18 die by gun suicide each year, most often with firearms belonging to a family member. (Everytown provides grants to The Trace through its nonpolitical arm. Here’s our list of major donors and our policy on editorial independence.)

Police used Florida’s red flag law to disarm a diagnosed schizophrenic who threatened to “kill everyone around him” at an Orlando hotel. The man told police that voices in his head were telling him to shoot people, and that he carried a handgun and 115 bullets for protection. He was committed to a mental health facility.

A sergeant with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections was gunned down in an act of road rage. Tracey Smith, 46, was giving her teenage son a driving lesson in Milwaukee when her car was hit by another motorist. When she got out, he shot her in the chest. The suspect fled the scene and was later arrested. Smith was a 23-year veteran of the department.


Two former educators in Florida launched a mass shooting prep business for teachers. Julie Johnson started teaching in 1999, the year of the Columbine High School massacre. “The horror struck me — ‘what would I do?’” she recalled. In 2017, one of her students threatened to shoot up her classroom, but was intercepted by a school resource officer. Johnson quit her teaching job the next year and joined forces with a fellow educator and a martial arts instructor to launch Teachers Not Targets. The business helps educators prepare for and survive a mass shooting, providing training on everything from self-defense tactics and trauma counseling in the aftermath of an event. She’s now fielding offers from out-of-state school districts who want to prepare for the worst. “When stuff goes down at a school, law enforcement isn’t there yet, so then what do you do?” one of her business partners told the Panama City News Herald.

Placeholder Image

The Colt booth displays M4 rifles during the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January. 19, 2016. [Ethan Miller/Getty]

Daily Bulletin: Mass Shooting Deaths Up 347% Since Assault Weapons Ban Expired

Good morning, Bulletin readers. In today’s edition: What happened after the federal assault weapons ban expired, what doesn’t cause mass shootings, and what the public thinks of business leaders who speak out on gun violence.

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


Survey indicates Americans feel more favorable toward companies and CEOs that publicly support gun safety laws. A poll conducted by global PR giant Edelman found that corporate reputations can receive a boost when companies and their leaders advocate for specific measures like universal background checks or mandatory licensing for gun owners. Most Americans also like it when retailers stop selling assault-style rifles. Ending all business with the gun industry polled less favorably. Axios flags the major takeaway: “Executives have the public’s permission to use their platforms to draw visibility to the issue and support gun safety laws.”

Mass shooting fatalities skyrocketed following the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban. In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Stanford law professor John Donahue looked at active shooting incidents before, during, and after the law’s 10-year term. According to his calculations, gun massacres dropped in frequency and deadliness while the ban was in place from 1994 to 2004. In the decade after it lapsed, he found, deaths from mass shootings that resulted in six or more deaths jumped 347 percent, “even as overall violent crime continued downwards.”

A congressional report found no link between mass shootings and violent video games or mental health. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont previewed a forthcoming report from the Congressional Research Service, which provides policy analysis to lawmakers. The study compared gun violence rates to video game revenue and the prevalence of mental disorders in seven peer nations. The upshot, per Leahy: The United States trails Japan in gaming revenue and trails Australia in mental illness rates, but leads in gun ownership and shootings. “All these other countries have video games, all these other countries have mental disorders, but they don’t have the incidence of gun violence that we do,” he said.

Maryland police use red flag law to disarm a man who talked about shooting his co-workers. The 54-year-old had reportedly been fired from his job at a machine shop last week after threatening to kill specific employees. Officers serving the extreme risk protection order at the man’s home on Tuesday found 146 guns.

Two survivors of the El Paso massacre are suing Walmart for failing to secure the store. The first lawsuit to arise from the August 3 shooting alleges Walmart should have had security guards patrolling the store. The firm representing Jessica and Guillermo Garcia, who were wounded, requested a restraining order to preserve what’s left of the crime scene and details about the retailer’s security practices. In a statement, Walmart said in part that “safety is a top priority.”

Philadelphia police launched a website to help solve cold cases. PhillyUnsolvedMurders presents biographical information about victims of unsolved murders over the last three years and invites readers to submit anonymous tips. In January, The Trace and BuzzFeed News reported that the clearance rate for murders committed with guns in 22 cities — including Philadelphia — has dropped by around 20 percentage points since the 1980s.

First responders in St. Louis had to dodge a barrage of gunfire. Emergency medical technicians in the city reported facing a burst of 30 shots while responding to a medical call on Monday night. “We’re just here trying to do our jobs and we don’t want to get caught in the middle of gunfights,” the city’s Fire Department captain said.

Officials in San Francisco designated the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization.” A resolution passed by the city’s Board of Supervisors holds that the National Rifle Association’s activities fall under the Justice Department’s definition of terrorist activity. The gun group wasted no time seizing on the move, calling it “a reckless assault on a law-abiding organization, its members, and the freedoms they all stand for.”


A string of mass shootings has put Texas’s Republican governor in a political bind. In his four years in office, Greg Abbott has overseen an expansion of gun rights. But after the second mass shooting in his state in the space of a month, he acknowledged this week that “the status quo is unacceptable” and is feeling increased pressure to embrace reform. “The governor’s in a tight spot,” one gun reform advocate told The Texas Tribune, “because the majority [Republican] legislative coalition doesn’t really give anyone on that side a chance to move on this.” Abbott voiced support for red flag laws after last year’s shooting at Santa Fe High School, but retreated after his stance exposed internal GOP divisions. On Tuesday, the Republican leaders of both legislative chambers announced the creation of bipartisan committees to recommend solutions ahead of the next session, which convenes in 2021. Democratic state lawmakers are pressuring Abbott to call a special session to consider more immediate action.

Placeholder Image

[Jennifer Mascia]

Daily Bulletin: Walmart Steps Back From the Gun Business

Good morning, Bulletin readers. With a possible debate over expanding gun background checks looming on Capitol Hill, the Odessa shooting has just provided an example of what can happen when people denied by licensed dealers turn to the unregulated market to buy guns. That story leads your mid-week roundup.

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


NEW from THE TRACE: The Odessa shooting is a textbook case of the risk of private gun sales. When the man who would go on to commit Saturday’s mass shooting went to a gun dealer and tried to buy a firearm in 2014, the system worked as designed: His gun background check indicated he was barred from gun ownership because of a serious mental health issue, and he was turned away. But Texas is among 29 states that don’t require any background checks for private sales, which account for roughly one in five gun transfers in the United States. And law enforcement officials say that’s how the gunman acquired the AR-15-style rifle he used in his rampage. Alain Stephens has the story.

The Senate will only consider gun bills that President Trump says he’ll sign. In an interview on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell singled out a universal background check bill advanced by the House in February, saying there would be no vote in the upper chamber if the measure has no chance of being signed into law. McConnell said that the administration is deciding which reforms to support: “I expect to get an answer to that next week.” Trump has a history of changing his positions on specific gun safety measures.

Walmart will stop selling handgun ammunition and some semi-automatic rifle rounds. In a statement Tuesday, CEO Doug McMillon said the retailer will end “sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber,” which is also used in hunting rifles. In addition, Walmart will end handgun ammo sales in all its stores, and handgun sales in stores in Alaska, the last state where it still sells them. McMillion is “respectfully requesting” that gun owners refrain from the open carry of firearms in states where the practice is legal, citing several instances of open carriers coming to stores following the El Paso shooting. The National Rifle Association responded with a statement intended to deter similar corporate actions.

Shortly after Walmart’s announcement, the supermarket chain Kroger asked customers to refrain from openly carrying guns in its stores. A month after Parkland, Kroger said its Fred Meyer stores would stop selling guns and ammunition.

The Trump administration wants to fast-track executions of mass shooters. The Justice Department has drafted a bill, according to the chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence. President Trump requested the measure after the El Paso and Dayton shootings. History says the policy would have limited practical use: In the 22 deadliest mass shootings in modern American history, only seven of the killers survived the rampage.

The acting Homeland Security secretary called mass shootings a national security threat. “In our counterterrorism strategy and approach, domestic terrorism has taken a front line focus for us,” Kevin McAleenan said on “Meet the Press.” He added that a new office was created in April to tackle racially motivated extremist violence.

More than 40 people who threatened a mass shooting have been arrested in the past month. That’s according to a tally from HuffPost, which includes cases ranging from social media threats to people with developed plans who had access to weapons. Roughly a dozen of the suspects espoused far-right views.

The FBI used Oregon’s new red flag law to seize guns from an ex-Marine who said he’d “slaughter” anti-fascists. The licensed concealed carrier was also committed to a Veterans Administration hospital for 20 days. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force opened an investigation after he made the comments outside the Portland mayor’s house in July.

Three people were shot outside the Minnesota State Fair. The incident occurred in the waning hours of the annual festival on Labor Day. “It’s so shocking and brazen because we have so many officers on site,” a police spokesperson said.

A 14-year-old in Alabama fatally shot five members of his family. The teen called police in Elkmont on Monday night and confessed to killing his father, stepmother, and young siblings with an illegally owned 9mm handgun.

New York’s governor signed a law strengthening background checks for handgun licenses. Law enforcement will now be able to access applicants’ mental health records from other states when running a gun background check.

A high school teacher warned students that in the event of a mass shooting, “some of us might not make it out alive.” In an open letter to incoming freshmen, Stephen Lane, who’s been teaching social studies in the Boston area for 18 years, wrote “there’s no failsafe plan” to prevent school shootings. “Our administrators will tell you” that ‘our best hope is pre-emption and prevention,’” which “seems like a wish more than a plan.”


A D.C. youth football coach had 19 players on his championship team in 2001. Today, nearly half have been killed by guns. Steve Zanders has coached the Woodland Tigers youth football team in southeast Washington for the past 35 years. He says seven kids from his award-winning 2001 team have since died in shootings. This summer, Zanders’s assistant coach was killed in a drive-by shooting. Zanders, who works as a federal government employee when not volunteering as a coach, says he’s “tired” of going to funerals, and worries that lawmakers on nearby Capitol Hill aren’t considering communities like his when debating gun policy. “Gun violence is in their backyard, but not at their doorstep,” Zanders told ABC News.

Placeholder Image

A crime scene in Midland, Texas, nearby to where a gunman was killed after he shot multiple people on August 31, 2019, in two cities. [Cengiz Yar/Getty Images]

Daily Bulletin: The Odessa Gunman Did Not Pass a Background Check, Officials Say

Good morning, Bulletin readers. We begin today’s briefing with updates on Saturday’s mass shooting in West Texas, where a gunman driving through the neighboring cities of Odessa and Midland left seven people dead and 21 injured. As more details emerge, the debate over new gun laws is intensifying, from Washington, D.C, to Austin to the 2020 campaign trail.

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


The gunman once failed a gun background checkand didn’t go through a background check to purchase the weapon he used in his killing spree. Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted those revelations on Monday. State Representative Tom Craddick separately told the Midland Reporter-Telegram that the shooter had previously been blocked from purchasing a firearm. Abbott referred further questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has not disclosed specifics about where and how the gunman acquired the AR-style rifle he used. If confirmed, the fact that the assailant obtained his firearm through a loophole in the background check system could have significant ramifications in the debate over expanding vetting for gun buyers.

The gunman had a criminal record and a history of mental instability. He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and evading arrest in 2001, to which he pleaded guilty and received two years’ probation, and was also arrested for public intoxication in 2014. It’s not clear, however, which aspect of his history caused him to fail the gun background check. The New York Timesvia a family friend, also reports that the man had a history of mental problems and had made racist comments in the past: “The man should have never had a gun near his hand, ever.”

The motive for the rampage is unclear. Fifteen minutes before the gunman was pulled over by state troopers, he called Odessa police and an FBI tip line to complain about his employer, who’d just fired him. During the FBI call, he sounded as if he were in “great mental distress,” an FBI agent said, adding that he doesn’t think the firing sparked the rampage, “When he showed up to work he was already enraged.” His neighbors in west Odessa said he would fire guns on his property, and at least one reported his aggressive behavior to the police.

Governor Abbott called for solutions “fast.” At a news conference on Sunday, he said: “The status quo in Texas is unacceptable and action is needed … and we must do it fast,” adding that any action must also ensure “that we safeguard Second Amendment rights.” On Twitter on Monday, he reiterated, “We must keep guns out of criminals’ hands.”

What we know about the victims. A 17-month-old girl and three law enforcement officers are among the wounded. The fatalities include a 15-year-old girl who was shot while leaving a car dealership, a 29-year-old postal worker who was carjacked by the gunman, and a 40-year-old man gunned down in front of his children while driving.


Nine people were shot at a high school football game in Alabama. A 17-year-old was arrested in the incident outside Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile on Friday night. The victims range in age from 15 to 18.

Charleston church shooting victims can sue the government over background check errors. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled Friday that a lower court was wrong to conclude that the federal government was immune from the claims. Victims’ families and survivors are arguing that the background check investigator contacted the wrong police department for records pertaining to the gunman’s past drug use, which should have been enough to block the purchase.

A former security guard at the ATF’s West Virginia warehouse was sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing guns. Christopher Lee Yates stole and then sold off thousands of guns and gun parts, including several machine guns, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ weapons disposal unit. More than 4,600 pieces of the stolen firearms and parts have been recovered so far.

The undocumented immigrant who unintentionally killed a woman with a gun he found on a San Francisco pier was exonerated. On Friday, a California appeals court overturned  the only conviction stemming from the 2015 shooting of Kate Steinle, an illegal gun possession charge. Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, who’d been deported five times, was acquitted of murder in 2017. He still faces federal gun possession charges. The gun had been stolen from a federal agent’s car; Zarate maintains that he picked it up not knowing what it was.

A licensed concealed carrier in Nebraska was arrested for shooting a thief at a liquor store. The 38-year-old suspect was charged with assault for shooting a manas he fled with two bottles of stolen liquor in Lincoln earlier this month. The thief was unarmed.


Meet the young activists fighting Chicago’s gun violence, with lobbying and group hugs. GoodKids MadCity is an anti-gun violence group entirely led by black and brown youth from the South and West Sides of Chicago. Founded in the wake of the Parkland shooting, the group has grown to roughly 50 members. They have lost friends and family members to gun violence. Some are gunshot survivors themselves. Though no one asked them to lead, no one has stepped up with sufficient solutions, either. So they are working to provide support to young people affected by shootings while pushing for policies that address the drivers of violence. Contributor Kim Bellware profiled the group, in partnership with Teen Vogue.

Placeholder Image

Daily Bulletin: Divided Voters Agree That Congress Needs to Address Gun Violence

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Research suggests that requiring people to get a license from law enforcement before owning guns could have big public safety benefits. The idea has taken a backseat to expanding standard background checks, but a new poll finds growing support for it. That story leads your end-of-week round-up.

Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.


Eighty-two percent of registered voters support gun licensing. That’s according to a new Quinnipiac poll, and it’s a 5 percent increase from May. Ninety-five percent of Democrats support requiring licenses for gun purchases; a majority of GOP voters — 69 percent — do, too. Overall, 72 percent of respondents — 93 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Independents, and half of Republicans — say Congress must take action to reduce shootings. “In a country gripped by political polarization,” said Quinnipiac poll analyst Mary Snow, “American voters are united in their message to Congress: Do more to reduce gun violence.”

GOP Senators urge the Supreme Court not to be cowed by Democrats on a potentially major gun case. In a letter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his 52 Republican colleagues accused several Democratic senators of threatening to restructure the court and pack it with liberal justices if it doesn’t dismiss a challenge to a New York City gun regulation. Their missive was a response to an amicus brief filed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and four of his colleagues urging the court to drop the case after the city amended the regulation.

The National Rifle Association could spend as much as $100,000 to move its board meeting next month. The gun group announced earlier this week that it was relocating its next board meeting from Alaska to Washington, D.C., where federal lawmakers may consider several gun safety proposals after they return from their summer recess on September 9. Newsweek reported on Thursday that the NRA’s general counsel and secretary, John Frazer, cautioned in May that such a move could cost upwards of six figures.

Gun reform groups have outspent the NRA since the El Paso and Dayton shootings. Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety have spent a combined $1.75 million on ads urging GOP senators to pass bills expanding gun background checks and establish a federal red flag law, OpenSecrets reported. In that time, the NRA has spent $94,000 on Facebook ads urging users to join the gun group.

Illinois police have made halting progress in finding residents with revoked gun licenses. The state requires an ID card to possess or purchase a gun, but the Chicago Tribune reported in May that nearly 27,000 residents neglected to tell police whether they’d surrendered their guns after losing their licenses. The police said Wednesday they’ve since brought 256 cases into compliance. Tens of thousands likely remain. The killer of February’s Aurora workplace shooting kept his weapons despite losing his license.

A college student in North Carolina is being held on a $2 million bond after allegedly threatening to shoot his classmates. The 19-year-old reportedly bought a handgun and shotgun last week and had been studying videos about mass shootings, specifically the 2015 Charleston church rampage.

The mayor of St. Louis wants to require concealed carry permits. Lyda Krewson urged the Missouri Legislature to allow the city to mandate permits for carrying a hidden firearm in public, which the state stopped requiring in 2017. At least a dozen children have been killed by guns in the city this year. The GOP governor repeatedly said this week that he won’t convene a special legislative session to consider gun reform.

Ilhan Omar shared a note threatening gun violence against her. The Minnesota congresswoman, who is a frequent target of President Trump and GOP lawmakers, tweeted a note she received that said her “life will end” at the Minnesota State Fair at the hands of “a very capable person with a very big gun.”

Several new laws expanding firearm access are set to take effect in Texas. On September 1, less than a month after the El Paso shooting, new laws will allow guns in houses of worship, school parking lots, and foster homes, and open and concealed carry will be permitted without a license during natural disasters.


Undocumented mass shooting survivors could be eligible for a special residency visa. A so-called U visa was created by Congress in 2000 for crime victims who help law enforcement with a subsequent investigation. Only 10,000 are handed out annually, and the approval process can take several years. But those who secure one can work legally in the United States and are eligible for a green card down the road. So far, a few survivors of the Walmart massacre in El Paso have come forward to apply. At least 70 undocumented survivors of the 2017 Route 91 Harvest festival shooting in Las Vegas have already applied for a U visa, and several have received preliminary approval. Marta, one of at least 120 undocumented workers at the festival, was one of them. “I said to myself, ‘After all the bad things — after this tragedy — something good is going to happen to us,’” she told The Texas Tribune.