Good morning, Bulletin readers. In today’s briefing: The federal bump stock ban is imminent, an eye-opening chart on the National Rifle Association’s long-term spending habits, and the federal school safety commission that was formed in response to a school shooting has managed to barely address guns.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
The Justice Department issues its bump stock ban. Owners of the devices will be required to destroy them or turn them in to the federal government within 90 days from when the ban takes effect, which will likely be December 21, DOJ officials said. The rule reclassifies bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic rifles to fire more quickly, as “machine guns” to be regulated under the National Firearms Act. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates that as many as 520,000 bump stocks are in circulation. A Texas company is still selling them. RW Arms, which stepped in to sell remaining inventory after the top bump stock manufacturer shut down, still had the rapid-fire devices available on its online store as of December 18.
The federal school safety commission issued its final recommendations. In a report released Tuesday, the federal commission formed by President Trump after Parkland endorsed arming teachers and other school staff to stop mass shootings. It also calls on states to pass “red flag” laws, restricting potentially dangerous people from possessing or buying guns. The commission is against raising the gun-buying age, on the logic that school shooters often get their guns from home — but it didn’t recommend laws mandating safe storage as an alternative, and barely addressed the role of guns in school violence at all.
A federal judge tossed a lawsuit brought by 15 Parkland students. The judge rejected the students’ claim that the sheriff and the school failed to keep them safe, saying the blame falls squarely on the gunman alone. Another Parkland family is suing the school resource officer who stood outside the school after he heard gunshots. Last week, a Broward County judge rejected the officer’s argument that he had “no legal duty” to protect the students and faculty.
The Pittsburgh City Council will consider new gun laws. The measures introduced December 19, less than two months after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, include a red flag bill and a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons. The council is likely to get pushback from gun rights advocates under the state’s pre-emption law, which says that local municipalities can’t pass their own gun regulations. But some council members say they don’t care. In the week after the attack, one of the new legislation’s authors said it’s time for Pittsburgh to take bold action on guns, even if it means drawing the ire of the gun lobby and attracting lawsuits.
Baltimore police pulled six officers from an ATF task force. The recall of those officers brings the total number of investigators on the task force to just eight. Despite a consent decree mandating transparency, the Police Department hasn’t explained its decision.
A proposed bill in South Dakota would allow concealed weapons in the state Capitol. A Republican lawmaker says he plans to introduce a measure that would allow people with special permits to bring handguns into the Capitol building after pre-registering them with security. A similar bill was vetoed in 2017 by the state’s outgoing Republican governor. The trend: Skirmishes over guns in government buildings have been playing out in state capitols across the country.
As their children slept, two mothers were shot by their boyfriends in separate incidents. In Maine, a man killed his girlfriend before killing himself. Their bodies were found by the woman’s 11-year-old son when he awoke on the morning of December 15, having slept through the gunfire. That same night in Pennsylvania, a 24-year-old woman was shot in the head while her 5-day-old daughter slept in a crib nearby. Police arrested her boyfriend.
A 6-year-old was fatally shot by her 12-year-old brother in Missouri. Police say the children’s teenage sister was babysitting on December 14 when the boy found a gun in his parents’ dresser drawer and unintentionally fired it, hitting his younger sister in the head. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died.
ONE LAST THING
The NRA’s financial woes could get worse instead of better, says nonprofit expert Brian Mittendorf, who has been tracking the gun group’s financial disclosures for years. In an analysis for The Conversation, co-published by The Trace, Mittendorf noted that deficits are not a new development for the NRA, which has ended seven of the last 11 years with its net unrestricted assets in the red.
Spending so far beyond its means so often sets the NRA apart from two other nonprofits that are major political forces, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Association of Retired Person (AARP), both of which reported significant surpluses in their most recent filings. It also makes the NRA an outlier among all American nonprofits, fewer than 7 percent of which ended 2017 with a negative net balance. “Though the NRA’s financial situation does not strike me as immediately dire,” Mittendorf concludes, “it is far from healthy.”