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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: Maria Butina Pitched a Putin-Themed Show for a U.S. Audience

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Emails reveal that alleged National Rifle Association infiltrator Maria Butina worked with an Outdoor Channel exec in 2016 to launch a show starring Vladimir Putin that would serve as a preview of “the kind of relationship Russia could have with America … and with President Trump.” A left-leaning think tank says the NRA’s reputation isn’t rebounding after Parkland. And it’s time to vote on the gun violence questions you’d like us to answer. 

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Maria Butina was working with the Outdoor Channel to develop a TV show featuring Vladimir Putin. Emails obtained by ABC News reveal that the accused Russian agent, who prosecutors say infiltrated the NRA to access Republican lawmakers, emailed with a senior executive from the network in 2016 and said she had “contacts directly within [Putin’s] office” who were “VERY happy” about the project. In another email, she claimed she’d arranged for cabinet ministers from the Kremlin to come to the United States and observe the 2016 election. The email also said that Russian officials had told Putin to do the show “as an example of the kind of relationship Russia could have with America … and with President Trump.” The channel’s CEO, Jim Liberatore, confirmed that Butina had been paid $20,000 for consulting work. Meanwhile, a federal judge denied Butina’s request for bail — and imposed a gag order that forbids prosecutors and defense attorneys from discussing the case publicly.

The NRA has suffered “lasting damage” since Parkland. According to a new report from the progressive think tank Navigator Research, polling data suggests that more than half of Americans view the NRA unfavorably. While the group’s favorability usually takes a dip after a major mass shooting, this marks the first time that it hasn’t quickly rebounded, the firm noted.

Meanwhile, the NRA is endorsing a Texas official who can’t even legally buy a gun. Last week, the gun group threw its support behind the re-election campaign of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who “has been a champion for law-abiding gun owners,” Chris W. Cox, the head of the group’s lobbying arm, wrote in an email. But Paxton, who has an A+ rating from the group, can’t own guns himself, as he’s been under felony indictment since 2015 for alleged securities law violations.

His gun comments cost him a post in the Trump administration—but the reaction spurred him to take an active role in gun reform. During his confirmation hearing last November, retired Air Force Colonel Dean Winslow, who was up for a Defense Department post, said it was “insane” that civilians can buy AR-15s. His nomination was put on hold, and he withdrew his name from contention. Since then, he’s launched Scrubs Addressing the Firearms Epidemic, or SAFE, for health care professionals working to address gun violence. “We really feel that our country can do better in terms of reducing the terrible toll,” Winslow said.

A Dallas police officer was charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting her neighbor in his own apartment. Amber Guyger, 30, was arrested on Sunday, three days after she allegedly returned to her apartment building after a shift, got off on the wrong floor, entered the apartment of Botham Jean, 26, and opened fire, killing him. Guyger says she thought the apartment, which was reportedly unlocked, belonged to her.

A small-town North Carolina mayor and his wife were shot to death. Last Thursday, Gary Skelton, 70, the mayor of Leggett, population 55, was found shot to death along with his wife, Jackie Skelton, 66, on their property. Police did not disclose a motive.

A former California cop will plead guilty to selling more than 100 guns without a license. Vasken Gourdikian, a former police lieutenant in Pasadena, faces 30 months in prison for selling 108 guns without a federal firearms license between 2014 and 2017. At least one of the guns was seized at a crime scene.

A Louisiana woman killed her husband in front of their kids in a Walmart parking lot. Kayla Jean Giles has been charged with second-degree murder after police say she confronted her estranged husband, Thomas Coutee Jr., 30, during a custody exchange in a shopping center parking lot in Alexandria and shot him in the chest.

ONE LAST THING

Readers of our weekly newsletter, The Canon, know that we’ve moved into a new phase of our project to answer your questions about gun violence, Ask The Trace. We’d like you to help us identify the questions that feel most urgent, so that we can move them to the top of our list.

Please click here to vote for one of the following:

  • Are there any rules about selling guns to people who are obviously drunk?
  • Do firearms need to be registered? I read about people arrested for “firearms violations” or “on weapons charges.” What does this mean?
  • How many military-style assault rifles are in the hands of civilians?

Once we have a clear top pick, our reporters will chase down the answer, and we’ll report back on TheTrace.org.