Hello, readers. In today’s briefing: Gun reform groups are scrambling to stop a 3-D printed gun company from ushering in an era of downloadable firearms. Maria Butina’s lawyers faced off against federal prosecutors in court. Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill that would help to prevent the most common form of gun violence. Those stories and more, below.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
Gun reform groups unite in an attempt to curb the distribution of 3-D printed guns. In a letter to a federal judge in Texas, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence seek an injunction to block a company from publishing blueprints online. (Through its 501c3, Everytown provides grant funding to The Trace.) From The Trace archives: Why any “ghost gun” is a nightmare for law enforcement.
Unless the government intervenes, schematics for 3-D guns will be available starting next week. After a successful legal challenge against the U.S. State Department, which had previously claimed that his company violated firearms export laws, “ghost gun” creator Cody Wilson relaunched his website. Starting August 1, Wilson’s repository of 3-D printed gun models will be available for anyone to download. “What’s about to happen is a Cambrian explosion of the digital content related to firearms,” Wilson told Wired earlier this month.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commits to review new policy on downloadable, DIY firearms. During a Wednesday Senate hearing on foreign relations, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey asked Pompeo, “Why on earth would the Trump administration make it easier for terrorists and gunmen to produce undetectable, plastic guns?” Pompeo told the committee that he’d “take a look at” the new policy.
A Missouri Senate candidate is giving away a device to print 3-D weapons. Austin Petersen’s campaign announced on Tuesday that it will raffle off the device as a show of the candidate’s support of the Second Amendment. “This technology has the potential to send gun control into the ash heap of history,” Petersen said. “The government’s ability to control or ban guns will be obsolete.”
Accused Russian agent Maria Butina was not subtle about her patriotism. According to the Washington Post, some people at American University were so struck by Butina’s zealous support for her homeland that they alerted university officials about her behavior.
The Tennessee attorney who introduced Butina’s handler to the NRA is a Confederate enthusiast and birther. The Daily Beast dug into the past and online trail of G. Kline Preston IV, who introduced David Keene and Alexander Torshin in 2011. “As long as U.S. is electing foreign-born presidents,” Preston tweeted in 2013, “I propose Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”
Butina’s lawyer is asking prosecutors to turn over evidence. On Wednesday, the defense attorney demanded evidence to back up prosecutors’ claims, as well as any evidence that may prove her innocence, as required by law. Prosecutors, meanwhile, are asking for Butina’s attorney to stop talking to the press, arguing that it hurts “the integrity of potential ongoing investigations.”
An “NRA associate” brokered an invitation for Maria Butina to speak at a 2016 fund-raiser. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that the accused Russian spy was introduced as the leader of the “Russian NRA” during a 2016 event honoring American veterans in Louisville, Kentucky. The event was held the same week as the National Rifle Association’s 2016 convention in Louisville.
The gun used in this week’s mass shooting in Toronto came from the U.S., Canadian police say. Police confirmed that the gun used by a 29-year-old man to kill two people and injure 13 others in the city’s Greek community was not legally owned and said they are working to trace exactly where in the United States it came from.
Parents of a Sandy Hook victim wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg. In the letter, Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose son Noah was killed in the 2012 attack, criticize Facebook for not taking steps to protect the family from online harassment and threats. “After our son’s death, online abuse claiming the attack was a hoax drove us into hiding,” the letter reads. “Yet Facebook refuses to take meaningful action.” Related: For years, Pozner has been battling conspiracy theorists who insist the shooting was staged by the government.
Gun violence intervention has shown promise in reducing crime in Savannah, Georgia, police statistics show. According to police officials, the city’s End Gun Violence Program, which identifies community members most at risk of committing violence and offers resources to turn their lives around, has resulted in a 35 percent decrease in homicides and a 41 percent decrease in non-fatal shootings so far this year, compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, in Jackson, Mississippi, a new study sets the stage for reducing shootings. The Jackson City Council recently voted to approve a partnership between Jackson State University and the city’s police department. The study will examine the root causes of violence in the community and its impact on quality of life. It will also identify the community’s “at-risk population” in order to curb violent crime.
A shooting victim’s family is suing Cabela’s. In 2016, Keshall “KeKe” Anderson, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting by a man who was prohibited from gun ownership. The lawsuit alleges that Cabela’s, the store where a woman purchased the weapon before transferring it to the shooter, is responsible for her death because the store “knew or should have known that a straw purchase was underway.” From The Trace archives: Male criminals often leverage relationships with women who have clean criminal records to get ahold of guns.
ONE LAST THING
The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan measure to simplify the national suicide prevention hotline. The bill would evaluate the possibility of creating a three-digit number that would connect people in crisis with free and confidential support. Federal lawmakers passed the measure on Monday by an overwhelming 379-1.
Last month, we reported on a recent Centers for Disease Control study showing that America’s suicide rate surged by nearly a third since the turn of the millennium. And calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline doubled between 2014 and 2017, USA Today reported last week. Firearm suicide is of particular concern for public health experts. In each of the past five years, approximately half of all suicide deaths were carried out with guns.