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News and notes on guns in America

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[AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton]

Daily Bulletin: Gunman in Ahmaud Arbery Case Used Racist Slur, Investigator Says

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Ahmaud Arbery’s killer used a racist slur, agent testifies. During a preliminary hearing, an agent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation revealed that the man who filmed the incident said he heard murder suspect Travis McMichael say “f*****g n****r” while the 25-year-old lay dying. The reported slur could factor into a decision to bring federal hate crime charges, the AP notes. The agent added that McMichael, his father Gregory, and their friend William “Roddy” Bryan used their trucks to trap Arbery as he frantically tried to flee. Also yesterday: Georgia Democrats announced a push to repeal the state’s citizen’s arrest and “stand your ground” laws when the Legislature reconvenes to complete its coronavirus-interrupted session on June 15. Last month, The Trace’s J. Brian Charles reported that Arbery’s killing had prompted a Black-led gun violence prevention group to try to reverse self-defense laws that critics have decried as a “low-cost license to kill.”

Families are seeking accountability for past police shootings. In Colorado, the estate of De’Von Bailey filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over his shooting death in August 2019 , which led to days of protests. Officers in Colorado Springs shot Bailey, 19, four times in the back after he fled an attempt to detain him. In Indiana, the family of Dreasjon Reed is demanding an independent investigation into his May shooting death. Reed, 21, was killed by Indianapolis Police following a police chase, part of which he live-streamed. His death also sparked local protests.

Initial reports said a man killed by police outside a looted drug store had shot at officers. He was holding a hammer. Sean Monterrosa, 22, was shot early Tuesday in Vallejo, California, by an officer who fired five times from inside a police vehicle. Last year, six Vallejo Police officers killed a 20-year-old Black man who had been sleeping in his car outside a Taco Bell, firing their weapons 55 times.

Police budgets have risen even as violent crime plummeted. From 1977 to 2017, law enforcement spending ballooned from $42 billion to $115 billion. During the first half of that period, violent crime nearly doubled — but even after crime rates began to recede in the 1990s, police continued to receive roughly $1 of every $20 spent by state and local governments. The figures come from an Urban Institute analysis conducted for Bloomberg News.

Gun industry trade group reports surge in first-time buyers. The numbers aren’t official — the government doesn’t collect information on gun purchasers — but come from a survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Gun dealers told the group that new owners comprised 40 percent of their sales between January and April as coronavirus fears fueled a run on firearms and some stores defied state orders to temporarily shut down. The rate was up from the self-reported annual average of 24 percent. Gun sellers said they believed at least 40 percent of those first-time buyers were women.

A Texas college student reportedly has brain damage after police shot him with “less-lethal” munition. Justin Howell, 20, was wounded during a police brutality protest in Austin on Sunday. His family says officers shot him with beanbag rounds, fracturing his skull. ICYMI: Brian Freskos reported this week how experts decry the use of the rubber bullets that police are using against protesters, which can maim and even kill.

Facebook ran an ad from a congressional candidate warning of “looting hordes” while holding an assault-style rife. “Whether it’s looting hordes from Atlanta, or a tyrannical government from Washington, there are few better liberty machines than an AR-15,” Republican Paul Broun says in the spot. Broun, a former Tea Party congressman running for a new term, has claimed that the Atlanta reference is not racial. His campaign posted the ad during the height of the pandemic in April but it continued to run on Facebook and Instagram until June 3, after the editor of the Popular Information newsletter flagged it.

DATA POINT

While many Americans were under stay-at-home orders, gun deaths increased 16 percent in April and 15 percent in May compared to the same months in 2019, according to Gun Violence Archive. NBC News