Good morning, Bulletin readers. Last week, the FBI arrested three members of a white supremacist group who allegedly discussed going to Monday’s gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia. Court documents from the case reveal the men had amassed an extensive, homemade gun arsenal. We’ve got the story below.
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NEW from THE TRACE: They planned to start a race war, and armed themselves with ghost guns. Federal prosecutors allege that members of the white supremacist group The Base had violent plans for the January 20 gun rally in Richmond, Virginia. To arm themselves, they turned to the ghost gun parts and other DIY firearm accessories readily available online. FBI surveillance caught the men using one of the rifles they assembled at a gun range, where the weapon was firing fully automatic. Alain Stephens reports on a case that shows it’s more than hobbyists interested in firearm components and kits that allow buyers to avoid background checks and assemble untraceable guns.
A former NRA lobbyist who went to work at the Interior Department allowed the gun group to shape agency policy. Emails obtained by The Guardian reveal that Benjamin Cassidy, who became senior deputy director for external and intergovernmental affairs at Interior in 2017, helped an NRA official join an advisory body that shapes international recreational hunting policy and asked NRA officials to weigh in on policy decisions involving opening federal lands to target shooters. Cassidy stopped interacting with gun group officials in 2018 over ethics concerns and stepped down from his post last year. The Interior Department’s inspector general has been probing his contacts with his former colleagues.
More than a third of mass shooters had a history of domestic violence but still obtained guns. Researchers at Michigan State University looked at 89 mass shooters between 2014 and 2017. (Their work focused on incidents where four or more people were killed, excluding the gunman.) They found that 28 had histories of domestic violence, either anecdotally or known to law enforcement. But only six of them were barred from owning firearms. The study recommends that domestic violence gun bans could help prevent mass shootings if more domestic violence cases “move through the justice system to conviction,” and if bans included abusive dating partners and not just co-parents, spouses, and cohabitants.
Mayors again called on federal lawmakers to strengthen gun laws. Gun violence was one of the chief concerns for many of the nearly 300 city leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., this week for the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “We are seeing no movement out of the capital, and our communities are begging for this change,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Many city executives raised particular concerns about the proliferation of ghost guns.
Advocates say a Pennsylvania bill to establish mandatory minimums for gun possession might not curb gun violence. A Republican-backed bill in the state House would impose a five-year prison sentence for illegal gun possession. But with mandatory minimums, “you throw a really wide net and you catch a lot of folks you aren’t intending to catch,” a professor of criminal justice told The Appeal. “We have decades of research showing that mandatory minimum sentences are ineffective and counterproductive responses to gun violence,” added the state policy director at Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
Philadelphia plans to sue Pennsylvania for the right to enact its own gun laws. The City Council introduced a measure that would allow the city to file a court challenge against the state’s pre-emption law, which prohibits local governments from enacting gun regulations stricter than those passed by the state legislature. Forty-five states have similar laws.
An Ohio state lawmaker says he’s received death threats for his support of tighter gun laws. Representative Casey Weinstein, a Democrat, said he returned home last week to find a stack of printed memes, including one that read, “On this day in 1775, the British demanded we surrender our weapons. We shot them.” Weinstein tweeted that he was undeterred by the missives.
A West Virginia lawmaker invited the NRA to move its headquarters there. On the same day gun rights activists rallied in Richmond, Virginia, GOP state Senator Randy Smith sent a letter to the Fairfax, Virginia-based gun rights group touting his home state’s lack of gun restrictions, as well as tax incentives, and inviting it to relocate its headquarters there.
On-duty police officers across the country have fatally shot nearly 1,000 people a year since 2015. —The Washington Post