Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

Placeholder Image

[AP/Robert F. Bukaty]

Daily Bulletin: A Bill in Congress Would Let Medical Marijuana Users Buy Guns

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Your Tuesday morning briefing begins with three Trace originals. Alex Yablon takes a look at how local police are using extreme risk protection orders. Maryland prosecutors tell us they will retry the murder case at the center of our investigation with BuzzFeed News. And an ex-NRA fundraiser describes the organization’s financial excesses on an episode of “The New Yorker Radio Hour” featuring The Trace’s own Mike Spies.

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

NEW FROM THE TRACE

A flurry of red flag laws has passed since Parkland, but implementation varies. More officially known as extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), they allow for the temporary removal of legally purchased guns from people deemed an immediate threat to themselves or others. A big variable in the effectiveness of red flag laws is how (and how often) they’re used by local police. A national leader, so far, is Maryland. Alex Yablon has the details.

A murder case examined in our investigation into unsolved shootings will be retried. Devon Little, a 28-year-old West Baltimore man, is serving a life sentence for a 2016 shooting he maintains he did not commit. His conviction was overturned in February, the month after we profiled the case as part of our investigation with BuzzFeed News. Now, the Baltimore City State Attorney’s Office confirms to The Trace’s Sarah Ryley that they will move forward with a new trial. Read the investigation: In at least 22 major cities, the odds that police will solve a shooting are abysmally low and dropping — particularly if the victims are people of color.

A former NRA fundraiser describes the group’s financial excesses. A committed supporter of gun rights since his youth, Aaron Davis landed a job on the National Rifle Association’s fundraising team in 2005. But he eventually became disillusioned with the organization because of “an inherent conflict of interest” between the NRA and its lavishly paid, for-profit vendors. Davis shared his experiences with Mike Spies for our investigation of the NRA’s spending; in the latest episode of “The New Yorker Radio Hour,” you can hear Davis tell his story in his own voice.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY

Giffords launches a new gun reform group for firearm owners. Minnesota Gun Owners for Safety is the second of its kind supported by the gun reform group headed by former congresswoman and mass shooting survivor Gabby Giffords. Colorado Gun Owners for Gun Safety formed in January. The new organizations are made up entirely of gun owners and will lobby for policies like universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders. “We’ve found that many gun owners are frustrated that the gun lobby claims to be speaking for them,” Giffords said in an interview with The New York Times. 

A bill in Congress would let medical marijuana users buy guns. A provision of the Second Amendment Protection Act, introduced earlier this month by Republican Alexander Mooney of West Virginia, would create a federal exemption allowing people with medical marijuana licenses to buy and possess guns in states where the drug is legal.

A bill headed to the Indiana governor’s desk would protect self-defense shooters from civil lawsuits. The measure, which extends the state’s existing “Stand Your Ground Law,” was inspired in part by the fatal 2017 shooting of a man who had pulled a gun on a state conservation officer. Prosecutors declined to press criminal charges against the armed bystander who shot him, but she is facing a civil suit from the family of the deceased man. The bill, which passed the state Senate on Monday, also eliminates fees for gun licenses.

There were at least three multiple casualty shootings over the weekend. Early Saturday morning in Corpus Christi, Texas, four men were sent to the hospital after a shooting in a west side neighborhood. Police are still searching for a suspect. On Saturday night, seven people were shot, including a 16-year-old boy, in Memphis, Tennessee. A 26-year-old woman was arrested and charged. And on Easter Sunday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a quadruple shooting left two men and two teenage girls injured. All of them are expected to survive. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are injured or killed with a gun.

ONE LAST THING

How a D.C. school is using music to help students cope with violence. “I was just confused; all I could do is write,” 16-year-old Christian Carpenter, who lost his father and two friends to gun violence in the span of a year, told The Washington Post. After their deaths, Carpenter immersed himself into his boyhood dreams of becoming a rapper. His Washington, D.C., high school, which draws from some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, recently opened a recording studio, where a social worker helps students use music to work through pain and loss. The social worker who runs it says the use of music helps students to open up more quickly than in traditional talk therapy. “There’s a permission structure to talk about anything you want in rap,” he said.

Listen to an Ex-NRA Fundraiser Describe the Organization’s Financial Excesses

Working for the National Rifle Association was like a dream for Aaron Davis.

A committed supporter of gun rights since his youth, Davis landed a job on the NRA’s fundraising team in 2005. But as he told The Trace’s Mike Spies in a recent broadcast of The New Yorker Radio Hour, he eventually became disillusioned with the organization due to “an inherent conflict of interest” in how the NRA conducted its finances. He quit in 2015.

In an investigation published in partnership with The New Yorker, Spies documented how the NRA’s leadership, contractors, and vendors have extracted millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget. Ackerman McQueen, the PR firm the NRA paid more than $40 million in 2017, was central to that financial siphoning.

“They’re a for-profit organization, trying to make money, trying to do things that would bring more money to them,” Davis said of Ackerman McQueen. “So they have completely different intentions than a nonprofit should have, which is for the common good; for the better good. So those lines were just so blurry.”

Davis described how the more Ackerman McQueen became involved in his department, the more the costs increased. “I only saw my budget, but overall, I did not know where all the money went,” he said.

Davis said one of the reasons he was willing to speak publicly about his former employer was that “it just doesn’t seem like NRA leadership is all that concerned about this.”

After a decade at the organization, Davis finally quit in 2015, in part because he felt he was “drinking the Kool-Aid” of an organizational leadership for whom “it’s all about politics and winning.”

“I just feel like there is a sickness of the heart within NRA leadership,” he said.

Placeholder Image

S. Carey street, the location where Levon Stokes was allegedly shot by Devon Little.

Prosecutor to Retry Murder Case Examined by The Trace/BuzzFeed News

The Baltimore City State Attorney’s Office will retry a murder case that was featured in our January investigation, co-published with BuzzFeed News, about the frequent failure to solve shootings.

Devon Little, a 28-year-old man from West Baltimore, was the victim in two unsolved shootings, and is currently serving life in prison for the September 2016 murder of Levon Stokes. He maintains his innocence, claiming the victim’s family framed him and that the police and prosecutors concealed problems with the investigation.

In February, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed Little’s conviction on technical grounds, ruling that the trial judge had erred in allowing a detective to explain away an inconsistency in witness testimony.

The Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City had the option to appeal the reversal, retry the case, or drop it and let Little go. Melba Saunders, a spokesperson for the office, confirmed to The Trace that the state will move forward with a new trial. She declined to comment further because the case is an “an open and pending matter.”

Placeholder Image

President Donald Trump stands with the NRA's Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox at the gun group's annual convention in 2018. [AP/Evan Vucc]

Daily Bulletin: Signs of Discord Within NRA as Group Prepares for Its Convention This Week

Good morning, Bulletin readers. As controversy swirls, the NRA kicks off its annual convention this week. We’ve got a rundown below, plus updates on other stories we’ve been tracking for you.

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

NRA CONVENTION PREVIEW

The NRA kicks off its annual convention this week in Indianapolis. Members of the National Rifle Association, whose dues provide its largest source of revenue, will gather as the organization faces increased scrutiny of its business practices. The gathering comes amid multiple controversies for the organization. Last week, we published a major investigation into how a group of NRA leaders and vendors have extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the NRA’s coffers. And since its convention last year, Democrats in Congress have launched a total of six investigations into the NRA’s potentially unlawful campaign finance tactics and ties to Russia.

A sign of tensions within the NRA’s board? Per a respected gun rights blog, legendary NRA lobbyist and past president Marion Hammer, “who hasn’t attended a Board of Directors meeting since hell froze over,” is traveling to Indy to be there when the board meets during the convention: “It’s that bad.” Hammer has emerged as an outspoken critic of some of the NRA’s spending on its longtime PR firm, Ackerman McQueen, which is at the center of many of the shady business arrangements our article documents. One gun rights activist has called for members of the NRA’s audit, finance, and executive committees to resign: Firearms Coalition head Jeff Knox is the son of a former NRA director who lost his board seat amid an internal dispute over Ackerman’s contracts in the 1980s. “Had the Board not recently made recalls of directors and officers virtually impossible,” Knox writes in an op-ed for Ammoland, “I would start a recall drive against many of them.”

President Trump will address the convention for the third year in a row. In accordance with Secret Service rules, weapons will not be allowed in the audience during convention speeches. At other convention venues, attendees with Indiana state gun licenses will be allowed to carry their weapons in convention venues.

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

The FBI arrested a militia leader whose armed group illegally detained migrants near the Mexican border. Last week, video circulated online showing members of the United Constitutional Patriots, including its leader Larry Mitchell Hopkins, corralling asylum seekers in New Mexico. Hopkins, whose group also spreads conspiracy theories via its radio show, was arrested on Saturday for illegally possessing guns and ammunition despite a past felony conviction. Federal officials say they will release more details on the charges after Hopkins appears in court this morning.

Prosecutors are seeking an 18-month sentence for the Russian woman who infiltrated the NRA and other conservative circles. Maria Butina started a gun rights group in Russia and used that issue to forge connections with many high-profile Republican operatives, including senior NRA officials. She was arrested for her activities as an “undeclared agent” in July 2018 and pleaded guilty in December. In a Friday court filing, prosecutors wrote that the sentence accounts for a six-month reduction for cooperating in a plea deal. Meanwhile, Butina’s lawyers say she should serve no further jail time and instead be deported back to Russia after her sentencing hearing, which is set for Friday.

A 1-year-old was killed in a probable accidental shooting in Cleveland on Saturday. Medics were called to a house around 6 p.m. Another child and at least one adult were in the house at the time. In Indiana, an accidental shooting sent a child and his grandfather to the hospital on Friday. The juvenile, whose age hasn’t been confirmed, allegedly went into his grandparents’ bedroom and loaded the empty gun, which went off when his grandfather tried to take it away from him. The bullet traveled through the man’s hand and wounded the boy’s leg.

Churchgoers tackled a woman waving a gun who interrupted an Easter service yesterday. The 31-year-old woman somehow gained access to Church TsidKenu in San Diego around noon, holding a baby in one arm and a gun in the other, and threatened to blow the church up. Congregants subdued the woman and confiscated her gun, which turned out to be unloaded. The woman is expected to face charges of making criminal threats and displaying a handgun in a threatening manner.

ONE LAST THING

Security footage captured a smash-and-grab gun theft in Georgia. Thieves drove a stolen car through the window of X3 Firearms in Loganville, outside of Atlanta, around 5 a.m. on Friday. Moments later a second car pulled up, into which they loaded several handguns. The whole operation took less than a minute. When police showed up, the stolen car was still running in the middle of the trashed gun shop.

Since 2013, thefts from gun stores have steadily increased. As The Trace’s Brian Freskos has reported, there are no federal standards for gun dealer security, despite the role of stolen guns in fueling violent crime.

Placeholder Image

[Google Maps]

Daily Bulletin: Families of Mass Shooting Victims Win a $2 Million Court Battle

Good morning, Bulletin readers. We’ve broken down our massive investigation into the NRA’s lavish spending, shady deals, and conflicts of interest, so that you can share the key findings with your friends. Please find that link, and today’s news of note, in your end-of-week wrap-up.

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

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

A Kansas pawn shop agreed to pay $2 million to families of victims of a 2016 mass shooting. The plaintiffs argued that the shop should have known that a straw purchaser was acquiring weapons for the gunman, who was legally barred from buying them himself. As The Trace has documented, gun retailers are almost never held to account because of a 2005 federal law that shields them from most liability.

Here’s how you can help spread the word of our investigation into the NRA’s shady finances. Our story, published in partnership with The New Yorker, reveals a web of business arrangements that have steered hundreds of millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association’s budget to its executives, contractors, and favored vendors. We collected the top-line findings in this guide. Please share it widely with your networks!

An Illinois county passed a resolution banning Firearm Owner’s Identification cards. The Monday vote in Effingham County to ignore the state-issued licenses that are required to purchase a gun opens a new front in the “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement, in which pro-gun local authorities have refused to enforce firearm regulations they disagree with.

Meanwhile, a gun control group wants to know whether the NRA is involved in the gun sanctuary movement. The gun reform group is seeking emails and communications from commissioners in several counties in Nevada, one of several states where it believes national gun rights groups may be behind sheriffs’ decisions to flout state gun laws.

A 2-year-old girl was killed in a domestic shooting in Georgia. Ja’Ziah Pollard, 2, was shot in the head when her mother’s boyfriend opened fire during an argument in Augusta on Tuesday. The suspect, who was arrested, is a convicted felon who was prohibited from possessing a gun. Ja’Ziah was the fifth child under 13 to die by gunfire in the United States in the last seven days, according to Gun Violence Archive.

A school safety bill in Florida includes a provision that would allow armed teachers. State senators on Wednesday debated a bill that would allow any teacher to be a part of Florida’s armed guardian program, which was created in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. Currently, armed guardians are required to have a role outside the classroom, like a coach.

ONE LAST THING

A teenager with a Columbine obsession caused widespread lockdowns and a massive manhunt. Here’s why she should never have been allowed to buy her gun. Sol Pais, 18, traveled from Miami to Colorado on Monday and bought a shotgun from a federally licensed dealer near Columbine High School. A spokesperson fo the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the sale was legal, but the bureau may need to bone up on the federal firearms laws it’s responsible for enforcing. As gun reform groups quickly noted, the ATF’s own website explains that a federally licensed firearms dealer can only sell a long gun (a category that includes shotguns and rifles) to an out-of-state resident if the sale is legal in that person’s home state. A Florida law passed after the Parkland shooting raised the minimum age for buying long guns there to 21, so the store should have declined the sale. Pais was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Wednesday.

Placeholder Image

[Andrew Spear for The Trace]

Daily Bulletin: The Generational Divide on Arming Teachers

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, a new poll reveals that the majority of Americans feel schools have gotten less safe, and that the availability of guns is partly to blame. Separate research finds no evidence that increased security measures in schools are making them any safer.

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

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Twenty years on from Columbine, two-thirds of Americans say schools have become less safe. That’s according to a new poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Eighty-eight percent surveyed said extensive bullying played a role in gun rampages in schools, while 68 percent placed some blame on the availability of guns. The survey also revealed a generational split over whether arming teachers would make schools safer: 60 percent of adults over 30 say it would, compared to 44 percent of adults under 30. More results can be found hereBear in mind: Statistically, school shootings remain “extraordinarily” rare.

Related: A new study found no evidence that “hardening” schools makes them safer. Researchers at the University of Toledo and Ball State University reviewed 18 years of reports on increased school security measures — including metal detectors, security cameras, and resource officers — and found a dearth of evidence that they actually reduce gun violence on K-12 campuses. What they do create, according to the authors: “A false sense of security.”

Little is being done to mitigate the risks posed to older Americans by unsafe gun storage. A University of Washington survey found that nearly 40 percent of state residents over 65 said they had firearms in the home, and roughly a quarter of them don’t lock up loaded guns. Depression and memory loss were among the compounding risk factors for aging gun owners. “We need to be much more active about promoting firearms safety,” one of the authors said.

An Arizona man accused of killing four people previously had his guns seized by police — who returned them to him a week later. Police say Austin Smith shot and killed four people, including his girlfriend and the couple’s 5- and 7-year-old daughters, in Phoenix on April 11. Authorities took away Smith’s firearms in November, after he waved a gun around and said that people were trying to kill him. Officers sent him to a psychiatric care center, but a week later, Smith went to the police property bureau and got his guns back. “You arrested this person, put them in the psych unit, so there’s no question that there’s a mental problem,” said a mother of one Smith’s shooting victims. “So why would you give him back his guns?”

A Wisconsin teen who fatally shot his grandparents told police he planned to cause harm at his high school. Alexander Kraus, 17, who confessed to killing Letha Kraus, 73, and Dennis Kraus, 74, in Grand Chute on Sunday, told authorities he planned to enact violence at Neenah High School, where he is a junior. School officials did not provide any details.

A golden eagle in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park died after consuming bullet fragments. The 5-year-old bird, outfitted with a GPS tracker as part of a research project, swallowed the toxic metal while scavenging the remains of an animal shot by a hunter, park officials determined. Wildlife advocates have urged hunters to switch to copper bullets, but so far only one state — California — has banned lead bullets. From The Trace archives: The first act of President Donald Trump’s former interior secretary was to reverse an Obama-era ban on the use of lead ammunition in national wildlife refuges.

A teacher in Massachusetts had his concealed carry license suspended after bullets fell out of his pocket during a pre-K class. Another teacher heard bullets hit the floor; the 22-year-old sub told police they were from target practice the day before. The man was subsequently fired, and the local police chief suspended his concealed carry license and seized 18 guns from his home.

ONE LAST THING

The Pulitzer Prizes honored reporting on gun violence. Journalism’s most prestigious awards were announced Monday. Three papers won Pulitzers for their coverage of mass shootings, while four others were finalists for other exemplary gun violence-related reporting.

Florida’s Sun Sentinel claimed the Public Service award for “exposing failings by school and law enforcement officials before and after” the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The paper was also a finalist in the Breaking News category for its “exhaustive and lucid multi-platform coverage” of the February 2018 rampage. (During the announcement, the Prizes’ administrator gave a shoutout to the staff of The Eagle Eye, Stoneman Douglas’s student newspaper, for the obituaries they wrote for their fallen classmates.) The Breaking News winner was The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for its coverage of the October 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue, which left 11 people dead.

The staff of The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland received a special citation for their courageous response to the newsroom rampage last summer that that saw five of their colleagues fatally shot. The publication was also a finalist in Editorial Writing “for deeply personal editorials that reflected on gun violence, loss and recovery.” The Washington Post was a finalist in the Explanatory Reporting category for its investigative series on unsolved homicides, and National Geographic was a Feature Photography finalist for its photo essay about a young face transplant recipient who survived an attempted gun suicide.

Placeholder Image

[Sue Ogrocki/AP]

Daily Bulletin: The NRA Is Suing Its Longtime Advertising Partner

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of Columbine, the school’s former principal reflects on healing after violence. The NRA’s financial crunch has now led to a public spat with its biggest outside partner. And new statistics show the risk domestic shootings pose to teen girls.

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

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: He was the principal at Columbine High School. Helping communities heal became his life’s work. Frank DeAngelis heads up a national support network for other principals who’ve experienced shootings. Ahead of the Columbine shooting’s 20th anniversary, DeAngelis spoke with The Trace’s Elizabeth Van Brocklin about helping others find their footing after experiencing the worst. “If you had asked me 20 years ago if we would still be talking about Columbine, I’d say no way,” he said. “But we also represent hope and endurance.”

The NRA is suing its longterm advertising partner. Ackerman McQueen racked up $42.6 million in billings to the gun group in 2017, according to tax filings. In a highly unusual move, the National Rifle Association is now taking the firm to court to demand documents supporting those charges. Ackerman calls the suit “frivolous” and says it turned over “every single thing” requested by the NRA’s auditors. The Wall Street Journal has the story, which provides the latest evidence that the NRA’s financial troubles are sowing divisions within its leadership. From The Trace archives: The high-priced attorney handling the NRA’s lawsuit is the son-in-law of one of Ackerman McQueen’s founders.

Nearly 7 percent of murdered teens were killed by a current or former dating partner. That’s according to a new study in JAMA Pediatrics analyzing domestic partner violence among teens in 32 states between 2013 and 2016. Researchers found that the victims were largely women and girls, that guns were the most common weapon used, and that the murders were often spurred by breakups or jealousy.

The long-term health consequences of mass shootings are under-researched. In a commentary piece, public health researchers cited the suicides of two Parkland survivors and a Sandy Hook parent as evidence of the long-term psychological and emotional toll caused by gun violence. The authors cite several promising strategies that they say deserve more in-depth study, including population-based health care models that anticipate the needs of a community and proactively offering services to survivors.

Rival gangs came together in Denver amid rising city homicides. People who had shot each other were among hundreds gathered at a public park on Sunday for a “Heal the Hood” barbecue hosted by a local community center. Last year, Denver saw the highest number of murders in over a decade. “If we all come together,” said the event’s organizer, “then we will be able to solve some of the problems, be able to stop some of the gang violence, be able to stop some of the senseless killings.”

A Pennsylvania mayor faces charges for allegedly pointing a gun at a group of teens. Mayor Kevin M. Gross of the town of Derry, 45 miles east of Pittsburgh, reportedly drew his weapon at a local park on Sunday night and aimed it at a group of young people between the ages of 12 and 15. Police said the incident happened after a fight between two of the teens and the mayor’s son.

Young children across the United States were victims of gun violence over the weekend. In Arizona, on Thursday night, a man killed his wife and two of his children, ages 5 and 7. Police found his 3-year-old daughter hiding under the bed, with no physical injuries. The next day, a 7-year-old girl was watching television when someone opened fire on her Georgia home, hitting her. Her foster mother says she is fighting for her life. In Alabama, a baby girl was injured and her father was killed on Saturday after the man unintentionally fired a gun during a diaper change outside a Chuck E. Cheese. And on Sunday night in New Hampshire, a 2-year-old girl was injured while sleeping when a bullet flew through the ceiling of the downstairs apartment. The man who fired the shot is facing felony charges. Gun violence has a devastating impact on American children. Our Since Parkland project profiled 1,200 young people killed by guns in the year following the Parkland shooting, not including suicides.

ONE LAST THING

The gun industry has failed to embrace smart guns despite signs of consumer interest. Why? Nearly half of gun owners in the United States would consider buying a gun equipped with technology that prevents it from being fired by an unauthorized user, according to a Johns Hopkins University study. But as Bloomberg Businessweek documents in a new feature, the potentially life-saving technology has run into significant headwinds. In January, The Trace’s Brian Freskos reported on a new generation of entrepreneurs who are turning out smart guns and accessories that address nagging reliability concerns, but still face obstacles to getting their products onto shelves. “The consistent statement from manufacturers has been, ‘We think it’s good, we like it, but we don’t want to be first,’” the co-founder of a Nevada-based smart-gun start-up said. “They don’t know how the market is going to cast this, and that fear, uncertainty, and doubt is a big barrier.”

Placeholder Image

[AP Photo/Patrick Semansky]

Daily Bulletin: NYC Tweaks Gun Law, Hoping to Fend Off SCOTUS

Good morning, Bulletin readers. New York City hopes a tweak to its gun law will convince the Supreme Court to back off. At least six Democrats vying for the party’s presidential nomination own guns. And while doctors lose patience over the continued lack of federally funded gun violence research, some hospitals are stepping up to partially fill the void. 

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

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

New York officials are tweaking the city’s gun law in the hope that the Supreme Court won’t overturn it. Under the amended policy, licensed gun owners will be able to transport their guns to their business or second home. Firearms will still have to be locked up and separated from ammo while in transit. The city announced the changes to the law on Friday, the same day it filed a letter with SCOTUS, asking it suspend the deadline for filing merit briefs (which is currently May 7) as New York City’s rule-making process continues. A 30-day comment period on the proposed rule change begins this week; it will then take effect in mid-May.

With federal gun violence research still virtually nonexistent, some hospitals are doing what they can to fill the void. More than 30 violence intervention and prevention programs are in place at health facilities across the country, Modern Healthcare reports. At the forefront is a $2 million research initiative underway at Kaiser Permanente hospitals. But a year after Congress clarified that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can study gun violence, it hasn’t appropriated any money for such studies. “I cannot overstate the impact of lack of funding from Congress,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, chief research officer at the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine. “Our whole country has been waiting for too long. We need to get going now.”

Kamala Harris owns a handgun “for personal safety” reasons. “I own a gun for probably the reason a lot of people do — for personal safety. I was a career prosecutor,” the California senator and 2020 candidate told reporters in Iowa last week, after meeting with gun reform activists at a campaign house party. Harris, like every mainstream candidate for the Democratic nomination, has called for stricter gun laws. A staffer told CNN that she purchased the gun years ago and keeps it locked up. Harris is one of at least six Democrats running for president who owns a gun. The rest are: former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas; former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; U.S. Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio; former Maryland U.S. Representative John Delaney of Maryland; and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

One person was killed and three others were injured near the funeral procession route for slain rapper Nipsey Hussle. A 55-year-old man was fatally shot and two other men and a woman were injured when a car pulled up to them and someone inside opened fire. Police say they don’t believe the shooting was connected to the funeral. These casualties come after two women were shot and wounded at a vigil for Nipsey Hussle on April 1, the day after he was killed. Officials originally did not confirm the vigil shooting, saying it was part of their ongoing investigation.

Only in America: For the second time in eight days, a shooting broke out at a baby shower. As the celebration was wrapping up at a home in San Bernardino County, California, on Saturday, three men were injured, and one died, after a fight broke out and shots were fired. All three casualties were men between 20 and 22. On April 6, six people who were shot and wounded at a baby shower in Chicago, including two children.

ONE LAST THING

The Denver Post is republishing its Columbine coverage as the 20th anniversary of the shooting approaches. The newspaper has already posted its original article on the memorial service that was held the day after the April 20, 1999, shooting. Then-Vice President Al Gore attended the gathering, along with dozens of other elected officials. Among the other archival stories that the paper is reposting is a detailed account of how the shooters planned the attack, a story that takes on a different light today, as many news outlets reconsider how to best cover shooters without glorifying them. The archive dive began yesterday and will continue through next weekend.

Placeholder Image

[Finlay Mackay]

Daily Bulletin: Philadelphia Trauma Surgeons Say ‘Everyday Mass Shootings’ Are Routine in Their ERs

Good morning, Bulletin readers. A gang database once touted by the Chicago Police Department gets slammed by an internal watchdog. A one-week respite from California’s high-capacity magazine sales ban sparked a flurry of sales. And a toddler in Georgia killed his sister with an unsecured gun. Your end-of-week wrap-up starts below.

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

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

The Chicago Police Department’s gang database is too flawed to provide an effective tool for fighting gun violence. That’s according to a stinging 160-page audit released yesterday by Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General. The OIG concluded that the methods by which people are labelled gang members “raise significant data quality concerns,” and noted that there’s no procedure in place for people on the list to contest their inclusion. The lack of transparency around the database, which has grown to more than 134,000 names, is eroding community trust. The OIG’s report includes numerous recommendations for fixing the problems.

Philadelphia doctors released a study of the city’s “everyday mass shootings.” City hospitals recorded 54 “clustered arrivals” of gunshot patients, in which four or more people came to the emergency room within 15 minutes, between 2005 and 2015, according to a study by Temple University Hospital trauma surgeons. For hospitals, simultaneously treating several gunshot victims creates acute stress and challenges regardless of whether one or multiple culprits caused the harm. The surgeons hope their research brings greater media coverage and public outcry to community gun violence.

Twelve percent of adults in Florida have concealed gun permits. As of March 31, a total of 1,971,997 people were licensed to carry concealed weapons in Florida, which already has the highest number of permits in the country. That number grows by about 17,500 per month, according to the state. If the rate holds, permits will hit two million by the end of May.

Hundreds of thousands of high-capacity magazines may have been sold in California after a judge temporarily halted a state ban. Gun industry sources reported a run on ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds between March 29, when a federal judge ruled that the 18-year-old ban on sales of the devices violated the Second Amendment, and April 5, when that decision was stayed pending an appeal. The California Rifle and Pistol Association trumpeted the window as “freedom week.”

The Texas Senate passed a bill that would remove a cap on the number of armed employees in schools. Under current law, schools can designate either one marshal for every 200 students or one marshal per building. Meeting for their first legislative session since 10 people were killed at Santa Fe High School, the state Senate moved to eliminate that limit in a party-line vote. The ex-lawmaker who drafted the current policy expressed concern that having too many armed employees in a school could confuse police, who might “lose track of the good guys versus the bad guys.” The legislation now moves to the state House.

A 4-year-old Georgia boy fatally shot his 6-year-old sister. On Monday, Millie Drew Kelly was unintentionally shot by her brother, who found a gun in the center console of a car parked in their family’s driveway. Police said no charges would be filed against her mother, who’d gotten out of the car right before the gun went off.

ONE LAST THING

Teen gun reformers are advocating for better mental health care in schools. Two leaders of March For Our Lives Arizona write in The Nation that they worked with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to craft a bill that would require school districts to outline a plan for how to respond to students in mental-health crises. The legislation — “written by students, for students” — also calls on schools to develop partnerships with outside agencies where students can be sent when campus counselors are unable to provide long-term care. The authors, high-school seniors Jordan Harb and Emma Rowland, point out that Arizona has the worst student-to-counselor ratio in the country — 900 to 1, far higher than the national recommendation of 250 to 1. “We are tired of overworked counselors too busy to meet with students; we are tired of not being listened to,” they write.

Placeholder Image

[CSPAN]

Daily Bulletin: Congress Grilled a Bank CEO Over Lending to Gunmakers

Good morning, Bulletin readers. In today’s roundup: A $20 million lawsuit from the bump stock company that surrendered its inventory for destruction last month. Fresh scrutiny over the relationship between banks and the gun industry. And a leaked document showing Instagram’s struggle to enforce its ban on unlicensed gun sellers.

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

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: A major bump stock seller wants the federal government to compensate it for the devices it was legally required to destroy. RW Arms turned over more than 70,000 bump stocks for destruction as the federal government’s ban on the devices went into effect last month. Now the retailer is suing the government for $20 million, claiming the destruction of the devices was a violation of the Fifth Amendment protection against the seizure of private property without compensation. Alex Yablon has the story 

At a Congressional hearing, a bank CEO was grilled over lending to gunmakers. Under questioning from Democrat Carolyn Maloney of New York, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told the House Financial Services Committee that the bank’s $273 million in loans for manufacturers of assault-style weapons were carefully vetted, but said that he would “consider” taking a stricter policy against the industry. During the same session, banks that imposed restrictions on gun businesses following the Parkland shooting also faced sharp inquiries from Republicans on the committee. ICYMI: Last week, the activist group Guns Down America issued a report card ranking 15 financial institutions on their track records with the gun industry. The group gave Chase an F for not having a policy against lending to gunmakers, and for its large donations to the industry and its political supporters.

Some Instagram users are subverting the platform’s ban on gun sales. leaked document from Facebook, which owns Instagram, shows that individual Instagram users are advertising guns on the platform and directing their followers to secure chat apps to carry out transactions. Facebook and Instagram have prohibited gun sales between individuals since 2016, but the document suggests that the company has continued to struggled to enforce the rule.

Parkland families are suing the school district for deadly negligence. In 22 separate legal actions, families and survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School allege that the school district, sheriff’s office, and others failed to protect students. Lawyers representing the families say they hope the lawsuits — several of which were filed yesterday — will help push through school safety changes that might prevent future tragedies.

Shooting survivors in Illinois want more services to address their trauma. A group of survivor-advocates will be at the state Capitol today to lobby for more trauma recovery centers that offer therapy, relocation support, and legal assistance. Right now, Illinois has two such centers, but advocates say they’re inaccessible to survivors in smaller, more remote cities.

The NYPD has busted a Brooklyn-based gun trafficking ring. Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced yesterday that three men were indicted after an undercover sting operation revealed that they were trafficking weapons along the “iron pipeline” that runs up the East Coast’s I-95. Gonzalez said the dozens of guns they recovered were “exactly the types of weapons used to commit violence in our communities.”

Alabama’s “Stand Your Ground” law won’t protect a woman who shot her alleged rapist. Brittany Smith was indicted last year on murder charges for shooting a man who she says was beating her brother and had brutally raped her earlier that night. She now faces life in prison despite the fact that Alabama’s self-defense law allows for the use of fatal force in cases where a person fears for their life, or if the attacker has kidnapped or raped someone.

ONE LAST THING

Pro-gun Republicans want to regulate journalists. In recent years, proposals for journalist registries have popped up in states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Indiana, some of them in response to coverage of gun issues that Republican lawmakers deem critical of the Second Amendment. Indiana state Representative Jim Lucas explained that his 2017 bill, which would require journalists to be licensed by state police, was intended to stir a debate. “If you’re OK licensing my 2nd Amendment right, what’s wrong with licensing your 1st Amendment right?” he said.

Major Bump Stock Retailer Sues Feds Over Destroyed Devices

RW Arms, a Texas-based gun accessory company, is suing the government for $20 million in compensation after surrendering its inventory of bump stocks for destruction in compliance with federal regulations.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. Court of Federal Claims on March 28, the company argues that the destruction of more than 70,000 bump stocks violated the Fifth Amendment’s protection against the seizure of private property for a public purpose without just compensation.

Fort Worth-based RW Arms launched in April 2017, just weeks after leading bump stock manufacturer Slide Fire shuttered. Slide Fire’s closure was prompted by immense public scrutiny following the Las Vegas mass shooting, in which a gunman used multiple bump stocks to kill 59 people and injure hundreds more. The Trace was the first to report last year that RW Arms was illegally selling completed AR-style rifles equipped with bump stocks, without a federal firearms license.

In the aftermath of the massacre, a number of states passed their own bans on bump stocks. Then in late December 2018, the Department of Justice instituted a federal rule to ban the stocks, making their possession illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

RW Arms continued to sell bump stocks up until March 26, when the rule came into effect. At that point, the company let federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives destroy 72,400 of its rapid-fire products at a Dallas metal recycling business. In an interview on Monday with The Dallas Morning News, RW’s founders said the destroyed stocks were worth more than $20 million.

In a separate lawsuit launched in December, a coalition of pro-gun activists used a similar argument in suing the government to reverse the bump stock ban altogether. So far, judges have not been persuaded: None have issued an injunction stopping the rule from coming into effect, and the Supreme Court effectively sided with the government in declining to hear an appeal to initial rulings. Courts have regularly found that when property is seized because it creates a public nuisance, the government does not owe compensation even if the property was legally owned in the first place.

RW Arms did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Placeholder Image

[Shutterstock]

Daily Bulletin: Domestic Homicides Are Rising, Threatening Long-term Gains

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Democratic lawmakers in Illinois moved to close a gap in the background check system that allowed the perpetrator of a shooting spree to buy a weapon despite having a felony record. The Trace has the inside story, a partnership with  The Chicago Sun-Times, below, along with the rest of your Wednesday briefing.

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

NEW FROM THE TRACE

A package of bills in Illinois would require fingerprints as part of gun background checks. After state Democrats introduced the legislation, The Trace checked in with our Midwest correspondent, Brian Freskos, about how it all came about:

When the Illinois State Police released a statement revealing how the gunman who killed five people at an Aurora manufacturing facility in February acquired the murder weapon, one detail caught my attention: An initial background check based on the gunman’s name and birthdate didn’t turn up anything that would have precluded him from gun ownership. It was only later, when the police ran the gunman’s fingerprints for a concealed carry permit, that they discovered his out-of-state felony conviction for a violent assault.

What’s the difference between a background check based on biographical info versus one based on fingerprints? Quite a lot, it turns out.

As my story published yesterday in partnership with The Chicago Sun-Times shows, background checks based on biographical information are so vulnerable to inaccuracy that Congress banned their use in certain occupational licensing and employment contexts. Even though gun buyers are vetted through the same federal criminal history system, they were exempted from that prohibition. Now, Illinois lawmakers are trying to close that gap and have introduced legislation that extends fingerprinting to prospective gun owners in the state.

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Domestic homicides are on the rise, flouting a longterm trend. After analyzing FBI data from 1976 and 2017, Northeastern University researchers observed an uptick in intimate partner homicides between 2015 and 2017 — after decades of decline. Firearm deaths accounted for most of the increase. The researchers called for stronger federal gun regulations to help prevent rates from escalating further. Get the whole picture: Here’s our fact guide on the deadly combination of domestic abuse and firearms.

In the face of litigation, the maker of the gun used at Sandy Hook is appealing to the Supreme Court. Families of the victims are suing Remington over its marketing of the military-style rifle used to kill 26 people at an elementary school in 2012. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled last month that the wrongful death lawsuit could move forward. Now, the company plans to ask the nation’s highest court to stop the suit.

The newest 2020 contender is making gun reform a focus of his presidential campaign. U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell of California announced his entry into the crowded Democratic field Monday with a platform focused on gun violence prevention. He’s calling for a ban on assault-style weapons and a federal buyback program to get the existing ones out of civilian hands. Swalwell is a longshot candidate, but his embrace of the issue illustrates how much Democrats believe the political tide has shifted on guns.

Starting today, known domestic abusers in Pennsylvania will need to turn in their guns within 24 hours. The law passed in October requires people convicted of domestic abuse or subject to a final protection-from-abuse order to relinquish their weapons to a law enforcement agency, a licensed firearms dealer, or an attorney.

More than a dozen mayors are gathering to discuss gun safety. They’re in Toledo, Ohio, for a two-day conference on gun violence prevention. Together with law enforcement and policy officials, the local leaders are trading notes on strategies for promoting responsible gun ownership and using technology to reduce gun deaths. Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz will also be looking for backers for his more confrontational campaign: He’s hoping to get cities to refuse to do business with gun companies that don’t adhere to certain standards.

Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh signed an expansive gun reform package yesterday. The legislation introduced after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting restricts the use of assault-style weapons within city limits, bans armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines, and allows for the temporary removal of guns from people whom authorities deem a threat to themselves or others. Gun rights groups immediately filed suit to block it from taking effect.

A man was killed while handing out $20 bills at a Florida Waffle House. Police said Craig Brewer, 41, was fatally shot while giving out money and paying for meals at a Gainesville, Florida, restaurant over the weekend. According to witnesses, the suspect became angry after a friend of his did not receive any money and began shooting at Brewer, who died.

ONE LAST THING

A Baltimore teacher describes the pain of losing a student to violence. In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, health teacher Shannon Furdak writes about the ripple effects that violent deaths have had on her public school community. Her teenage students, she notes, have had more of their peers die than she has lost loved ones in her entire life. Some have suffered the acute trauma of having witnessed a murder. “Setting long-term goals is really hard for many of my students because they don’t see a future,” she wrote. “It is hard to see a future when the only thing you are trying to do is survive.”