Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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[AP/Susan Walsh]

Daily Bulletin: IRS Reportedly Investigating NRA Chief for Potential Tax Fraud

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NRA head Wayne LaPierre is said to be the subject of an IRS criminal tax fraud probe. Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports that the investigation comes as the result of a referral from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. In a civil suit, her office is seeking the dissolution of the National Rifle Association for rampant financial malfeasance and targeted LaPierre for, among other things, receiving millions in undisclosed payments. The Journal’s context: “If the IRS believes a taxpayer has underreported income, the agency often pursues the matter through a civil audit, claiming the taxpayer owes back taxes and penalties. To show criminal behavior, tax specialists said, the IRS would have to demonstrate that a taxpayer willfully underreported income, typically over multiple years. It couldn’t be determined how far along the investigation is, and such probes can end with no charges filed.”

Community policing may improve perceptions of police — but can it save lives? “The idea behind community policing is that when you integrate officers into the community, they form relationships, and they’re better able to serve the citizens,” Daniel J. Lytle, an assistant professor of criminal justice at North Carolina Central University, told us. Indeed, the approach is often cited as a way to reduce police abuses and crime. Joe Biden is pledging $300 million in funding for community-oriented policing programs as part of his 2020 platform (and made a plug for them during a town hall event last night). But according to a new study co-authored by Lytle, departments that implemented two key community policing strategies — at least eight hours of community policing training and a high proportion of officers assigned to permanent beats — didn’t see a decline in fatal police shootings. “If your problem is that you need to reduce crime, or in this case, reduce officer-involved shootings, it doesn’t appear to be the solution,” he said. The paper’s conclusion adds to a growing body of work that there is little evidence the strategy works as a solution to excessive force, according to criminologist Michael Sierra-Arévalo. Community-oriented policing strategies may improve trust in and public perceptions of police, he said, but accomplish little more than that, “It’s perfectly possible for you to be polite and respectful while still violating someone’s rights.” He added: “Treating people with respect and using the community as partners instead of as adversaries is an incredibly low bar. It should just be done. If that’s reform to do those basic things, then we’re looking at a much deeper problem within the occupation of policing.” — Chip Brownlee, investigative fellow.

Texas police officer charged with murder for killing 31-year old Black man. The incident happened over the weekend, when residents say Jonathan Price was trying to break up a fight at a gas station in the small North Texas town of Wolfe City. But responding officer Shaun Lucas ended up tasing and then shooting Price, authorities said. Price was a city employee, personal trainer, and “pillar of the community,” according to one local resident. “We all love him and think so highly of him and just the nicest guy you could ever meet.” The Texas Rangers arrested Lucas on Monday and charged him with murder. 

SCOTUS watch: Court declines two Second Amendment cases. At the beginning of its first term of the post-RBG era, the court issued a slew of decisions on which cases to take. One of the gun cases it declined concerned a state’s ability to restrict gun rights for juveniles; the other challenged part of a federal law that lengthens sentences for repeat felons who commit crimes with firearms. The court still has an opportunity to weigh in on the Second Amendment, however: Four gun cases remain possibilities. “With its first order list of the new term, the Supreme Court doesn’t show any signs of wanting to rush back into the Second Amendment,” writes Jake Charles of the Duke Center for Firearms Law. Related: See our look ahead of what the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett could mean for expanding gun rights on the high court.

ICYMI: University of California launches website to teach medical and mental health care providers about gun injury prevention. Established with funding from the state of California, the Bullet Points Project was created — and is administered — by the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center. The site aims to “provide clinicians with the knowledge and tools they need to discuss the risks of firearm access with their patients and to intervene when someone is at increased risk.”

The Chicago Reporter, an investigative news site and Trace publication partner, halts publication. Operations at the five-decades-old outlet were put on hiatus after its editor and publisher was removed without notice last month, according to former staffers. The Trace has previously partnered with the Reporter, including a feature last year looking at the use of neighborhood beautification as a gun violence reduction strategy.

Los Angeles ordered to pay over $100,000 over anti-NRA ordinance. A federal judge said a rule aimed at requiring contractors to disclose any business ties with the gun group violated the NRA’s First Amendment rights and ordered the city to pay. A judge blocked the law last December after the NRA sued.

DATA POINT

1.92 million— the number of guns purchased in the U.S. in September, according to our updated analysis of FBI data. This seasonally adjusted figure includes about 1.21 million handguns and 720,000 long guns. [The Trace]