Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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On the left, Trump administration official Michael Caputo. [AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite]

Daily Bulletin: A Trump Official’s Ominous — And Unfounded — Election Warning

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Top Trump aide says without evidence that armed, left-wing hit squads are preparing for post-election insurrection. During a live Q&A on his Facebook page, Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, warned that armed leftists would carry out an insurrection should President Donald Trump be re-elected to the White House. “The shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing. If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.” The rant came after he accused scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of “sedition” amid reports that Caputo himself had interfered with the agency’s pandemic reports.

Fact-check: How serious is the left-wing threat? Not nearly as critical as Caputo suggests. New research from the Network Contagion Institute found that there has been a steady increase in violent left-wing memes — with some evidence linking online chatter to rioting and property destruction at protests. But the reality is still a far cry from the rhetoric of the Trump administration, which according to former officials and a recent whistleblower has played up the menace from the left while minimizing the threat from the right. The Network Contagion Institute itself notes that far more violence has emanated from right in recent months, and several extremism experts who discussed the research with The Washington Post said armed violence was a bigger right-wing threat.

Elected officials pushed disinformation that led to armed checkpoints in Oregon. Yesterday, we highlighted news reports about rumors of ideologically motivated arsonists that led residents to set up armed checkpoints and delay fire evacuations. The Guardian offers new reporting to flesh out the picture by showing how some local officials used private Facebook groups to encourage the now-discredited conspiracy theories. “You think no one is lighting fires and trying to burn down towns and hurt people, wake up,” said one county commissioner who had previously blamed the fires on antifa groups.

A fatal police shooting in Pennsylvania leads to community anger — and calls for better mental health responses. On Sunday, police in Lancaster fatally shot Ricardo Munoz, 27, after responding to his sister’s 911 call about his behavior at home. Footage of the shooting, captured on body cam, shows Munoz emerging from a house after the police arrive. He proceeds to run after the officer while holding what appears to be a knife. As the officer retreats, he turns around and shoots Munoz within seconds. Protests erupted around the city, with the police using tear gas to disperse crowds. Mayor Danene Sorace said the shooting demonstrated an urgent need for better de-escalation tactics by law enforcement, as well as increased state funding for mental health care and other services that have been hampered by state budget cuts. “It’s clear beyond a doubt that we lack the tools, the resources, the expertise and the capacity to do this on our own here in the City of Lancaster,” she said. The City Council president echoed her calls and said the county must overhaul “how we do 911 dispatch.”

Demonstrators who walked by gun-toting St. Louis couple receive trespassing citations. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department cited nine people for protesting in an upscale, gated neighborhood in July. The city counselor’s office is reviewing the charges. Last month, the city attorney brought felony charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey for unlawful use of a weapon. Since making news, the couple has become a cause celebre of the right and appeared at this year’s Republican National Convention.

DATA POINT

45 — how many people were shot in Baltimore last week, 11 of them fatally. The Washington Post notes that, while the city saw a decline in shootings deaths during the pandemic, violence has surged since Labor Day. [The Washington Post]