Good morning, Bulletin readers. As controversy swirls, the NRA kicks off its annual convention this week. We’ve got a rundown below, plus updates on other stories we’ve been tracking for you.
Receive this daily news briefing by email every morning. Sign up here.
NRA CONVENTION PREVIEW
The NRA kicks off its annual convention this week in Indianapolis. Members of the National Rifle Association, whose dues provide its largest source of revenue, will gather as the organization faces increased scrutiny of its business practices. The gathering comes amid multiple controversies for the organization. Last week, we published a major investigation into how a group of NRA leaders and vendors have extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the NRA’s coffers. And since its convention last year, Democrats in Congress have launched a total of six investigations into the NRA’s potentially unlawful campaign finance tactics and ties to Russia.
A sign of tensions within the NRA’s board? Per a respected gun rights blog, legendary NRA lobbyist and past president Marion Hammer, “who hasn’t attended a Board of Directors meeting since hell froze over,” is traveling to Indy to be there when the board meets during the convention: “It’s that bad.” Hammer has emerged as an outspoken critic of some of the NRA’s spending on its longtime PR firm, Ackerman McQueen, which is at the center of many of the shady business arrangements our article documents. One gun rights activist has called for members of the NRA’s audit, finance, and executive committees to resign: Firearms Coalition head Jeff Knox is the son of a former NRA director who lost his board seat amid an internal dispute over Ackerman’s contracts in the 1980s. “Had the Board not recently made recalls of directors and officers virtually impossible,” Knox writes in an op-ed for Ammoland, “I would start a recall drive against many of them.”
President Trump will address the convention for the third year in a row. In accordance with Secret Service rules, weapons will not be allowed in the audience during convention speeches. At other convention venues, attendees with Indiana state gun licenses will be allowed to carry their weapons in convention venues.
WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
The FBI arrested a militia leader whose armed group illegally detained migrants near the Mexican border. Last week, video circulated online showing members of the United Constitutional Patriots, including its leader Larry Mitchell Hopkins, corralling asylum seekers in New Mexico. Hopkins, whose group also spreads conspiracy theories via its radio show, was arrested on Saturday for illegally possessing guns and ammunition despite a past felony conviction. Federal officials say they will release more details on the charges after Hopkins appears in court this morning.
Prosecutors are seeking an 18-month sentence for the Russian woman who infiltrated the NRA and other conservative circles. Maria Butina started a gun rights group in Russia and used that issue to forge connections with many high-profile Republican operatives, including senior NRA officials. She was arrested for her activities as an “undeclared agent” in July 2018 and pleaded guilty in December. In a Friday court filing, prosecutors wrote that the sentence accounts for a six-month reduction for cooperating in a plea deal. Meanwhile, Butina’s lawyers say she should serve no further jail time and instead be deported back to Russia after her sentencing hearing, which is set for Friday.
A 1-year-old was killed in a probable accidental shooting in Cleveland on Saturday. Medics were called to a house around 6 p.m. Another child and at least one adult were in the house at the time. In Indiana, an accidental shooting sent a child and his grandfather to the hospital on Friday. The juvenile, whose age hasn’t been confirmed, allegedly went into his grandparents’ bedroom and loaded the empty gun, which went off when his grandfather tried to take it away from him. The bullet traveled through the man’s hand and wounded the boy’s leg.
Churchgoers tackled a woman waving a gun who interrupted an Easter service yesterday. The 31-year-old woman somehow gained access to Church TsidKenu in San Diego around noon, holding a baby in one arm and a gun in the other, and threatened to blow the church up. Congregants subdued the woman and confiscated her gun, which turned out to be unloaded. The woman is expected to face charges of making criminal threats and displaying a handgun in a threatening manner.
ONE LAST THING
Security footage captured a smash-and-grab gun theft in Georgia. Thieves drove a stolen car through the window of X3 Firearms in Loganville, outside of Atlanta, around 5 a.m. on Friday. Moments later a second car pulled up, into which they loaded several handguns. The whole operation took less than a minute. When police showed up, the stolen car was still running in the middle of the trashed gun shop.
Since 2013, thefts from gun stores have steadily increased. As The Trace’s Brian Freskos has reported, there are no federal standards for gun dealer security, despite the role of stolen guns in fueling violent crime.