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News and notes on guns in America

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[Barbara J. Perenic/AP]

Daily Bulletin: 24 Hours Into 2020, Three More Mass Shootings

Good morning, Bulletin readers, and welcome back from what we hope was a restful holiday. Your first briefing of 2020 is below.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

24 hours into 2020, America has had at least three more mass shootings. On Wednesday, seven people were shot during a dispute at a hookah bar in West Virginia. Four people were shot at a party at a Cleveland club. And four people were shot, three fatally, at a St. Louis intersection. The incidents were recorded by Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings across the United States.

Bullets fired into the air to celebrate the new year again struck victims on the ground. In Houston, Philippa Ashford, 61, a psychiatric nurse, was watching a fireworks display from her driveway when she was stuck and killed by a bullet that investigators believe was fired by a reveler; across town, a man was struck in the wrist by what police said was also celebratory gunfire. In Cleveland, a 31-year-old woman was fatally struck by a bullet fired by her boyfriend during New Year’s celebrations there. In Delray Beach, Florida, a woman was hit in the leg by celebratory gunfire. In Chicago, the first shooting victim of 2020 was a woman struck in the shoulder around 12:15 a.m. on New Year’s Day as some people fired shots into the air outside.

2019 had the most mass killings on record, and most of them were shootings. According to a database maintained by the Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University, there were 41 incidents in which four or more people were killed, excluding the perpetrator, last year. Thirty-three of those attacks were carried out with guns. The previous high was set in 2006, when the U.S. had 38 mass killings.

Several gun laws took effect on January 1:
• California raised the minimum age to buy semi-automatic center-fire rifles; implemented a 10-year gun ban for firearm owners whose unsecured weapons are handled by children or prohibited purchasers; and limited the number of transactions a gun seller can make without a federal license to six per year, encompassing no more than 50 guns. Other new gun laws passed by the state Legislature last year will kick in later in 2020.
• ColoradoHawaii, and Nevada became the 15th, 16th, and 17th states to enact red flag laws that authorize the temporarily removal of firearms from gun owners presenting clear threats. Another new Nevada law also now requires background checks on private gun sales.
• A new Tennessee law exempts concealed-carry handgun permit applicants from live-fire training, requiring instead a 90-minute online course.
• Texas now requires public school districts to stock gunshot wound kits that include tourniquets and other first-aid supplies that can be used in the event of a school shooting.

Texas church shooting revives debate over guns, self-defense, and public safety. On Sunday, a man with an extensive arrest history and an involuntary hospitalization for psychiatric treatment opened fire with a shotgun at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, killing two members of the volunteer security team before he was shot by another security guard, a firearms instructor and former reserve deputy sheriff. Video footage shows a half-dozen congregants also drawing their personal handguns during the incident, which was over in six seconds. (A state law enacted in response to the 2017 Sutherland Springs church massacre allows licensed concealed carriers to bring guns into houses of worship.) Pro-gun politicians joined the National Rifle Association in arguing that the presence of guns in the church limited the body count. Gun reform advocates countered that Texas, which has some of the loosest gun laws in the country, records more than 3,000 firearm fatalities per year.

Alex Jones was fined $100,000 for not cooperating with a defamation case. A judge in Travis County, Texas, sanctioned the far-right radio host for not providing documents and producing witnesses in a lawsuit filed by Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son died at Sandy Hook. Heslin alleges that Jones defamed him when he insisted that he and other grieving parents are “crisis actors” and that the 2012 gun rampage never happened.

A pair of bills in Kansas would prohibit the enforcement of emergency risk protection orders issued by other states. The “Anti-Red Flag Act,” pre-filed in the state House and Senate, would ban enforcement of a court order “for which the primary purpose is to reduce the risk of firearm-related death or injury” via disarmament.

DATA POINT

In Florida, someone between the ages of 10 and 19 takes their life with a gun roughly once a week. Sun-Sentinel