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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: Armed Protesters Join Rally to Overturn Stay-at-Home Order

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Armed demonstrators (and lawsuits) seek to overturn Michigan’s stay-at-home order. Protesters clogged Lansing’s streets earlier this week to call for an end to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s quarantine guidelines. Most stayed in their vehicles, but the subset that massed on the Capitol steps in defiance of social distancing rules included a group armed with rifles, including self-identified members of the Michigan Liberty Militia. “We know that this demonstration is going to come at a cost to people’s health,” Whitmer said later. Separately, residents filed a federal lawsuit against Michigan’s stay-at-home order, which categorizes gun shops as nonessential businesses. Similar suits have targeted three other states that have halted gun sales under lockdown orders.

NEW from THE TRACE: Top NRA lawyer billed the group $54 million, former ad firm claims. The whopping sum was alleged in a new court filing by attorneys for marketing firm Ackerman McQueen, which is locked in a legal battle sparked by its breakup with the gun group. Several National Rifle Association officials and former employees have told The Trace that the torrent of fees paid to the firm of William A. Brewer III have contributed to the cash crunch that recently led to layoffs at the organization. In the brief, Ackerman argues that Brewer should be barred from representing the NRA because of his “multi-decade, animus-filled family relationship” with Ackerman’s owners. Brewer is married to the daughter of the late Angus McQueen, who led Ackerman for decades and helped forge the NRA’s public image. Will Van Sant has the story.

Violence interrupters in California are providing groceries for at-risk kids they mentor. “It was a no-brainer for us, [to] make sure that our young people aren’t enduring any more unnecessary stress,” said one of the leaders of Advance Peace in Sacramento. The violence intervention program has chapters in several northern California cities. Don’t miss: On Wednesday, DeVone Boggan, the group’s executive director, co-authored a Trace commentary highlighting how the work of violence interrupters has evolved during the pandemic.

How do people banned from guns get them anyway? From wayward gun stores, study finds. Researchers with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health surveyed paroled men in Baltimore to better understand the barriers encountered by people seeking guns they aren’t legally allowed to own. Over half of respondents who wanted to get a gun said they had been unable. Those who succeeded turned to federally licensed dealers that failed to consistently enforce background check requirements, allowed off-the-books transfers, or condoned straw purchases. Others stole their firearms from gun shops with lax security. (The study was partially funded by Everytown for Gun Safety, whose nonpolitical Support Fund provides grants to The Trace. Here’s our list of major donors and our policy on editorial independence.)

Las Vegas families’ suit against gunmakers clears a hurdle. A federal judge in Nevada said relatives of a Las Vegas massacre victim can continue with their suit against 11 gun manufacturers and dealers. The plaintiffs accuse the companies of intentionally producing or selling AR-15 rifles that can be easily modified to fire like automatic weapons. The judge held that the 2005 federal law shielding gunmakers and sellers from most lawsuits stemming from the misuse of their products does not apply to the case.

A militia group illegally detained immigrants. Now its leader is going to jail on gun charges. Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who heads the United Constitutional Patriots, was ordered to serve 21 months in federal prison for felony firearm possession. He was arrested last year after he was captured on video wielding a semiautomatic rifle while corralling migrants on the New Mexico side of the Mexican border. He had previous felony gun convictions and was barred from possessing firearms.

DATA POINT

At least 34 people were shot in Cincinnati during the two and a half weeks after Ohio issued its stay-at-home order last month. “It’s a tragic day that we’re dealing with a pandemic situation and we’re also dealing with an inordinate amount of gun violence,” said the city’s assistant police chief. — Cincinnati Enquirer