Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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An armed protester gathers around the capitol in Olympia, Washington, on April 19, 2020. [Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images]

Daily Bulletin: Armed and Raging Against Quarantines

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

The role of extreme gun rights activists in the anti-stay-at-home protests. Polling indicates that a sizable majority of Americans are concerned that restrictions put into place to slow the spread of the coronavirus will be relaxed too early, putting lives at risk. But on the fringes, a protest movement is working to foment a Tea Party-style backlash to business and park closures and social-distancing policies. Protests have now occurred in a quarter of states, with another round set to kick off today. And while their organizers and attendees span anti-government causes, hardline pro-gun activists and openly carried firearms are emerging as defining elements of the demonstrations. 

  • Gun rights agitators are using their online networks to promote shutdown protests and enlist new recruits. Brothers Aaron, Ben, and Christopher Dorr run a network of state gun groups that were behind a Friday rally in Minnesota and have been stirring opposition in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, The Washington Post reports. Another gun rights activist who appears affiliated with the network was among the organizers of a demonstration at the Idaho State Capitol. 
  • Assault-style rifles added a layer of intimidation at some of the demonstrations. A speaker at the Idaho rally addressed the crowd with one slung across his back. Photos and videos showed at least a handful of openly carried guns at the rallies in Washington State and Minnesota. Armed militia members turned out for a protest against Michigan’s stay-at-home directives. The bigger picture: When the right to bear arms morphs into “the power to silence others,” in the words of one constitutional scholar. And why local officials can’t bar guns at protests in three dozen states

Meanwhile: President Trump linked stay-at-home orders to gun laws as examples of Democratic overreach. After tweeting encouragement to the protesters on Friday, Trump upped the ante, tweeting, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” During a briefing later that day, he elaborated: “What they’ve done in Virginia is just incredible. They want to take their guns away.” A lawyer who has studied how states can regulate armed paramilitary groups found Trump’s bombast gravely serious, writing in a Washington Post op-ed that his tweets were “irresponsible and dangerous” and a potential violation of laws that prohibit inciting insurrection.

Five Texas police officers were shot in the span of 24 hours. Officer Justin Putnam, 31, was killed and two other officers were injured while responding to a domestic assault call in San Marcos on Saturday. The 45-year-old gunman, who was wearing body armor, then killed himself. “He was prepared, ready for them to come in and started shooting immediately, and there was nothing they could do to escape the gunfire,” the city’s interim police chief said. On Sunday in the Dallas suburb of Garland, a transit cop and a police officer were wounded by a domestic murder suspect who hijacked a municipal bus and sparked a police chase down a highway. The suspect died in a shootout with officers.

Violence interrupters in another American city are doubling as coronavirus-prevention ambassadors. Members of No More Red Dots continue to patrol Louisville, Kentucky, to diffuse conflicts that have not abated despite a stay-at-home order. The volunteers are also educating residents about ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Courier-Journal reports. (The Trace has documented similar efforts in Baltimore and Chicago.) And healthcare workers are still attempting hospital-based violence intervention with shooting victims and their families — even if that means talking with loved ones in the parking lot instead of someone’s bedside because of strict no-visitors policies.

A mass shooting in Canada was the deadliest in its history. At least 18 people, including a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, were killed in a roving gun rampage that began at a home in Nova Scotia on Saturday night. The gunman was disguised as a police officer and led authorities on a 12-hour manhunt before he was shot dead.

DATA POINT

At least 32 people were shot over the weekend in Chicago, four of them fatally,  The Chicago Sun-Times reports. Illinois has been under a stay-at-home order for a month; in that time, 239 people have been shot in the city, 50 of them fatally, according to Gun Violence Archive.