Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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[Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times]

Daily Bulletin: Chicago Recorded Its Deadliest Weekend of 2019

Good morning, Bulletin readers. In the wake of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, attention has turned to the high-capacity ammunition magazines the gunman carried. Republican legislators in the Old Dominion have blocked efforts to restrict the accessories, but data suggests that a federal ban limited their use in crimes. We’ve got that story, and more, below.

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NEW FROM THE TRACE

Virginia has no ban on high-capacity magazines, but data suggests a federal version was effective. The gunman who killed 12 people in Virginia Beach was armed with two handguns and several high-capacity magazines. The federal assault weapons ban in place from 1994 to 2004 prohibited the purchase and sale of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. An analysis of Virginia State Police records by The Washington Post found that seizures of high-capacity magazines steadily declined when the federal law was in effect, indicating that the ban limited the possession of the devices by people committing crimes. Alex Yablon has the numbers.

An Illinois bill to overhaul the state’s gun licensing program failed to advance after a marathon session over the weekendBrian Freskos reports. The legislation, brought up in the aftermath of February’s Aurora shooting, would have raised the fee for the license needed to purchase firearms in the state, funded a new State Police task force, and required fingerprinting for prospective gun buyers. Democratic lawmakers couldn’t muster the votes in the state Senate to send it to the Democratic governor’s desk. They plan to bring up the package again in November.

The Trace is honored for its investigative reporting. Staff writer Mike Spies received the New York Press Club’s continuing coverage award on Monday for his exhaustive investigation into the National Rifle Association’s lobbying and spending.

WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

The NRA rebuffed a document request from Democratic Senators about financial improprieties. In a letter from the National Rifle Association released Monday by Senators Ron Wyden, Robert Menendez, and Sheldon Whitehouse, the gun group said much of the information related to accusations of financial mismanagement was already “publicly available.” The NRA added that it was “refraining from commenting upon unproven allegations and anonymous sources.” The senators had requested the documentation following revelations of self-dealing and lavish expenses first reported by The Trace in partnership with The New Yorker.

President Trump expressed opposition to gun silencers. A reporter asked the president whether he believed suppressors, like the type the Virginia gunman used, should be restricted. Trump replied: “I don’t like them at all.” The off-the-cuff position puts Trump at odds with his allies at the NRA, who have pressed for silencers to be deregulated.

Meanwhile, Trump’s acting White House chief of staff said “laws are not going to fix everything.” On NBC’c “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Mick Mulvaney would not say whether Trump would support stricter gun laws after the Virginia Beach shooting, but said it was “too soon” to “get too deep into politics.”

Chicago recorded its deadliest weekend of 2019. At least 52 people were wounded, eight of them fatally, in shootings between 5 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Monday. After a spasm of violence left 31 wounded on Friday, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson ordered patrols in violent areas, an operation which resulted in the seizure of 81 illegal firearms and the arrest of 19 people on gun charges.

A former Homeland Security secretary under Obama said mass gun violence is a major national security threat. Speaking on “Axios on HBO” on Sunday, Janet Napolitano underscored the danger posed by armed domestic terrorists. The government needs to “identify individuals who are susceptible to such self-radicalization and almost treat it like a public health issue,” she said.

Washington, D.C.’s Department of Forensic Sciences marched against gun violence. Staffers from the city’s crime lab joined the District’s fourth annual “Peace Rally” on Friday, which brought together concerned residents and gun reform advocates. “It has been a violent time,” the agency’s director, Jennifer Smith, told a local news station. “We’ve been involved in over 583 violent crime scenes this year, and collected over 1,283 guns.”

Baltimore’s mayor suggests boxing matches as a way to reduce gun violence. “We can have them down at the civic center, put a boxing ring up and let them go and box it out” rather than turn to guns to settle disputes, said Mayor Bernard C. Young, who lost his nephew to gun violence in 2015.

ONE LAST THING

Police officials in Virginia Beach went out of their way to deprive a mass shooter of notoriety. Hours after Friday’s rampage, Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera said that when he was ready to disclose the name of the shooter, “We’re going to mention his name once. And he will be forever referred to as ‘the suspect.’” Cervera’s policy is in line with a movement among law enforcement and media in recent years to use mass shooters’ names as infrequently as possible in order to avoid inspiring copycats. “The goal is to interrupt the cycle of new mass shooters citing previous ones, and the new mass shooters who are becoming role models for even more attackers,” Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama who has studied the influence of publicity on rampage gunmen, told the AP.