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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: A New York City Employee Is Accused of Selling “Ghost Guns” to Criminals

Good morning, Bulletin readers. In your news roundup this morning: A veteran Chicago journalist reflects on how gun violence in the city has and hasn’t changed in the past 30 years. A New York City employee was arrested for selling “ghost guns” to criminals. And a lawsuit against a gun store gets moving.

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NEW from THE TRACE: Ann Givens talked to veteran Chicago journalist Alex Kotlowitz about how the city’s gun violence has changed. Kotlowitz’s landmark book There Are No Children Here focused on life in Chicago’s most underinvested neighborhoods. He returns to some of those same communities for his new book, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago. The one thing that I get really agitated about is how little things have changed in many of these neighborhoods, he says. We are a deeply segregated city, not by accident, and most of the violence occurs in deeply impoverished places … It seems to me the most fundamental and most urgent thing we can do is try to find a way to rebuild and fortify these communities. Read their conversation here.

An environmental protection officer in New York City was arrested for selling dozens of “ghost guns.” The Department of Environmental Protection Police sergeant is accused of selling untraceable handguns and rifles, including at least one fully automatic assault-style rifle. His customers included members of a self-styled “outlaw” motorcycle gang and others with criminal convictions. According to state authorities, the accused officer often made deliveries from his marked police car.

A judged delayed Maria Butina’s sentencing hearing last week. The professed Russian spy, who ingratiated herself with the National Rifle Association and high-powered GOP figures, has been in custody since July. A federal judge said that her plea agreement requires her to continue cooperating with the government, and pushed back her sentencing hearing to the end of March.

Families of victims who died in the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, are suing the store that sold the weapon used in the massacre. Seeking $1 million per family, they argue that Academy Sports & Outdoors illegally sold the assault-style rifle and ammunition to Devin Kelley, who showed a Colorado ID when buying the weapon. High-capacity guns are banned in Colorado. Last month, a judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed on these grounds.

A murder-suicide left three people dead in a Northern Virginia home on Saturday. Reports indicate that up to 10 people, including a 2-year-old, were in the house in Springfield when Santos Vladimir Ralda, 45, got into an argument with his wife Floridalma Youlanda Perez Diaz, 40, and 20-year-old Nathanael Owen Cooper and fatally shot both of them and then himself. No one else in the house appears to have been hurt.

ONE LAST THING

Survivors of shootings and other violent crime want perpetrators held accountable — but not necessarily incarcerated. New York Times writer Michelle Alexander devoted her Sunday column to exploring the concept of restorative justice, an alternative to the traditional prison system. In her column, Alexander zeroes in on a theme we’ve explored a lot at The Trace: That violence is often driven by retribution for unsolved shootings and/or after exposure to other violence. Last month, we published an investigation that showed how a city’s systemic failure to solve gun crimes fuels ever-growing cycles of violence, leaves shooters free to strike again, and drives some victims to seek their own justice.