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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: In Chicago, Trump Comes Armed With Insults

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Speaking at a police conference, President Trump derided Chicago for its violent crime. We offer some context.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

President Trump used Chicago violence as a punchline. The city hosted this year’s conference of the International Association of Police Chiefs, where Trump used his speech to direct special animus toward Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who pointedly skipped the president’s appearance because “it just doesn’t line up with our city’s core values.” Trump slammed Johnson, saying he wasn’t doing his job, and made light of the city’s gun violence: “Afghanistan is a safe place in comparison,” he said, eliciting laughs from some of the 4,000 police chiefs in attendance. The facts about Chicago gun violence: More than a dozen cities have higher homicide rates, according to FBI statistics.

At the conference, Trump signed an executive order commissioning a study on the root causes of crime. The directive calls for a commission to examine to what extent mental illness, homelessness, and drug abuse impact crime rates, as well as best practices for recruiting, training, and supporting law enforcement officers. Some crime experts expressed skepticism toward the move.

NEW from THE TRACE: American-made .50-caliber rifles have helped to fuel Mexican violence. The weapons are not legally sold to civilians in Mexico, where police were outgunned by cartels in two high-profile incidents this month. Instead, they end up in the country as a result of weapons trafficking (civilian sales of high-caliber sniper rifles are unregulated in all but three U.S. states) or American arms exports to the Mexican government. Data from the Mexican military shows that hundreds of high-caliber weapons — many of them American-made — have turned up at crime scenes throughout the past decade. Alex Yablon has the story.

Pediatricians are more likely to ask about smoke alarms than gun safety. A new study used a questionnaire with the two topics listed back-to-back, indicating that doctors who skipped the gun query did so consciously. “Physicians may have limited training in communication about a sensitive topic such as guns,” the study’s lead author said. Another finding from the research, which focused on a clinic in Utah: The rate at which pediatricians asked about firearms in the home dropped after mass shootings.

NRA criticizes “distasteful and racist” NRATV in legal filing. The claim comes from the National Rifle Association’s ongoing litigation with its former longtime PR firm Ackerman McQueen, which produced the streaming content at the gun group’s behest. The filing repeats the assertion, first reported by The New York Times in March, that some NRA executives were displeased by the direction of the NRATV’s programming, particularly a segment in which Thomas the Tank Engine wore a Ku Klux Klan hood.

Monthly contributions to the gun group’s political arm surged last month. The NRA Political Victory Fund received over $1.3 million in net contributions in September as this summer’s outbreak of mass shootings briefly sparked talk of new gun laws in Washington. The Federal Election Commission filings were flagged by the Washington Free Beacon.

Two academics analyzed the screeds of mass shooters, looking for red flags. A criminologist and a psychologist analyzed 185,000 words posted online by rampage gunmen and 50,000 words published by people who expressed violent intent online but hadn’t acted on it when they were intercepted by law enforcement. The pair shared their findings with The Conversation: They found that people who later became violent were more likely to use specifically targeted language and less likely to use words describing the wider world.

A second Washington city wants to adopt a gun tax. Forty-five states ban cities and towns from making their own gun laws. But Seattle’s tax on guns and ammunition survived a 2017 state Supreme Court challenge, and now Tacoma also wants to adopt one. Officials say there will vote on a tax that would earmark $25 per gun sale for violence prevention programs. The bill’s sponsor says the city could net between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, but the The Wall Street Journal noted it could be less if gun stores leave town, as some did after Seattle’s tax was enacted.

DATA POINT

Compared to 2016, Chicago Police are making 40 percent more felony arrests each month for unlawful use of a weapon — a charge that includes possession of a gun without a permit. [The Pudding]