Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam gestures as he addresses an anti-gun violence rally at the Capitol in Richmond. [AP Photo/Steve Helber]

Daily Bulletin: Kidnapping Plotters Discussed ‘Taking’ a Second Governor

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Alleged Michigan plotters also discussed targeting Virginia’s governor. An FBI agent testified that during a June meeting with militia members from several states, men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also considered abducting Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia. “…They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governors of Michigan and Virginia, based upon the lockdown orders,” the agent revealed during a court hearing. No one has been charged for threats against Northam, who’s also drawn intense criticism from conservatives and far-right groups for signing a package of  gun reforms.

  • Enough to give militias a bad name: “That’s not something that we condone at all. That’s not anything that the militia is about,” said the head of Michigan Home Guard, which bills itself as the state’s largest militia. The group said it previously kicked out one of the alleged conspirators.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett says she’ll prioritize “original meaning” in gun cases. The approach to the Second Amendment — which she spelled out during the second day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings — prioritizes “history and tradition” over public safety concerns in determining the constitutionality of gun restrictions. Legal experts say it’s a standard many gun safety laws may not survive. As we’ve covered here, Barrett’s only major gun case as a federal judge was Kanter v. Barr, in which she wrote a dissent arguing that there is no historical precedent for gun bans based solely on felony status. During yesterday’s hearing, Barrett said that the government can restrict guns from people it reasonably deems dangerous. In another exchange, she revealed that her family owns a firearm. Barrett said that wouldn’t affect how she rules on Second Amendment matters.

Barrett also deflected a question about voter intimidation. Citing reports of a private security company recruiting former military personnel to guard polling places in Minnesota, Senator Amy Klobuchar asked Barrett whether it’s illegal to intimidate voters at the polls. It is, but Barrett said she “can’t apply the law to a hypothetical set of facts.”

New witness accounts: Feds didn’t identify themselves before killing Oregon shooting suspect. Michael Forest Reinoehl, wanted for the fatal shooting of a right-wing protester in Portland, was shot and killed during a September raid. ProPublica and Oregon Public Broadcasting have a deep dive on Reinoehl’s death that draws on witnesses who said they hear no warnings before the agents opened fire. From the story: “It might never be possible to determine exactly what happened in the estimated 15 seconds of gunfire that left Reinoehl dead, because the men who shot him were not wearing body cameras, the surrounding buildings lacked security cameras, and three people who witnessed critical segments of the shooting have not been interviewed by police. That uncertainty matters.”

Philadelphia Police Department explores better responses to people in crises. A new city program pairs mental health specialists with emergency operators to flag potential behavioral health crises so that officers with specialized training can respond. A top police adviser told WHYY that the program will eventually entail sending behavioral health specialists alongside responding officers. Go deeper: Here’s our report on the growing movement to send counselors alongside or in place of armed officers for some calls.

Reports of armed vigilantes on Wisconsin’s streets rattled residents. Weeks after a 17-year-old was charged with killing two protesters in Kenosha, The Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel spoke with people in Kenosha and Milwaukee who have complained about non-uniformed, armed men patrolling neighborhoods amid ongoing racial justice protests. “We’ve seen it across the county… civilians who take it upon themselves to provide security to businesses and communities,” an extremism expert told the paper. “The problem is there is no way to vet who shows up and there is no guarantee that they are trained to handle guns.”

DATA POINT

54 percent of likely New York voters support removing armed officers from traffic enforcement, according to polling by the left-leaning Data for Progress. Thirty-four percent of respondents were opposed. Such a shift would address advocates’ calls for removing officers from situations that have historically preceded police use of force. [Data for Progress]