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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: Former NRA Exec Breaks Ranks With Tell-All

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A former NRA executive has written an exposé about the gun group, calling it “rife with fraud and corruption.” Josh Powell, once chief of staff to Wayne LaPierre, will publish Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America in September, The New York Times reports. Among his claims: After the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, the group sought to “excite the most extreme faction of our membership” by “fuel[ing] the toxicity of the gun debate,” adding, “We only knew one speed and one direction: Sell the fear.” An National Rifle Association spokesperson said Powell was “peddling fiction.” In a statement to the Times, Powell said, “Wayne La Pierre oversees his evil circus at the expense of all those Americans who are lawful gun owners and dues-paying NRA members.” Powell himself is a controversial figure: He is one of the four current and former NRA executives accused by the New York attorney general of using the group as a “personal piggy bank” to enrich themselves and their families (yesterday we published a guide to the key allegations in the AG’s lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the NRA). Our 2018 investigation detailed Powell’s troubled history before joining the NRA, which included a trail of defaulted debts and lawsuits from vendors over unpaid bills. Powell, who parted ways with the group this past winter, was also the subject of two sexual harassment allegations, we reported with ProPublica last year.

Meanwhile, a Senate panel says the NRA’s stonewalling complicated its investigation into Russian election interference. The GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee’s 952-page report on Russian efforts to sway the 2016 presidential race contains a newsworthy footnote: Lawmakers looking into Maria Butina, the Russian gun rights activist who used the NRA to infiltrate conservative networks, were “substantially constrained” by the NRA’s “sporadic” sharing of documents between October 2018 and February 2020. “It is not clear to the Committee why the NRA’s production [of documents] was delayed so significantly,” the footnote says. The report also details interactions between Butina, her handler, Alexander Torshin, a Kremlin official, and top NRA executives with the ultimate goal of “influenc[ing] the U.S. Government’s policy towards Russia.”

Amid concern over increased violence in New York City, Governor Cuomo highlights racial disparities among victims. “Over 90 percent of victims [of NYC murders in 2020] are Black and Brown,” Cuomo said in his daily address. “You want to talk about social justice? You want to talk about civil rights? You want to talk about social equity? How do you explain that?” Cuomo added that he believes a lack of trust in police has “distorted the public safety function in many communities” in the five boroughs, where homicides are up 29 percent compared to the same period last year. He said he’s reaching out to 500 law enforcement agencies across the state to comply with his June executive order directing them to review their practices and ferret out racial bias.

Virginia lawmakers return for a special session that will address police reform. State legislators convened in Richmond to consider a slate of bills that includes measures to prohibit police chokeholds and firing into moving vehicles; limit officers to using deadly force only to prevent serious injury or death and only after exhausting other alternatives; and make it easier to share misconduct records among police departments.

Wisconsin girl who prayed for end to gun violence dies in shooting. In 2016, then-7-year-old Madison resident Anisa Scott returned from a trip to Chicago upset about the persistent shootings there. Her half-sister’s father, local filmmaker Rafael Ragland, recorded her praying about the matter — “I just want to go outside and play, like a 7-year-old is supposed to do” — and included it in a clip calling attention to the city’s struggles. Last week, Anisa was shot in her hometown when someone fired into a car she was riding in. She was removed from life support the next day. The fact that she lost her life to the gun violence “just devastates me,” Ragland told The Wisconsin State Journal.

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