Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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President Donald Trump speaks at the 2017 NRA convention in Atlanta. [AP/Mike Stewart]

Daily Bulletin: El Paso Shooter Charged With Federal Hate Crimes

Good morning, Bulletin readers. A congressman probing tax-exempt violations by the NRA pointedly cited our 2019 investigation with The New Yorker in his renewed call for IRS action. That story and more in your end-of-week roundup. 

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: Gun wholesalers are going out of business, despite booming gun sales. In 2019, the FBI recorded a record high for gun background checks, seen as the strongest indicator of sales. At the same time, five major American firearm wholesalers were closing their doors. Champe Barton tracked down executives from several of the shuttered firms and found serious challenges facing gun distributors, which form a critical cog in the industry.

Democratic report demands IRS investigation of the NRA. Citing our April 2019 investigation with The New Yorker, U.S. Representative Brad Schneider of Illinois collated the numerous allegations of self-dealing and financial misconduct at the gun group and concluded that “American taxpayers are subsidizing the NRA’s scheme.” A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Schneider last year requested documents from the organization and its vendors as he sought more information on possible violations of its tax-exempt status. But he says the National Rifle Association has stonewalled his queries and blocked its former PR firm, Ackerman McQueen, from cooperating. Get caught up: Here’s a rundown of the 10 official inquiries the NRA is facing.

FBI director underscores threat posed by racially motivated extremism. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Christopher Wray said violent far-right extremists are a “national threat priority.” The designation allows the bureau to devote the kind of resources it does to international terror groups, Vice reports.

El Paso shooter charged with federal hate crimes. The 21-year-old suspect pled not guilty to capital murder last year and is already facing the death penalty for the mass shooting in August, which was allegedly motivated by hatred of Mexican immigrants. The attack left 22 people dead and two dozen more wounded. In an indictment filed Thursday, prosecutors charged him with an additional 90 counts under federal hate crime and firearms laws.

Virginia Democrats to debate an assault weapons ban. Amid the flurry of gun reforms advancing through the General Assembly, Democrats on the State Senate Judiciary Committee last month pulled a bill that would have banned assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines without a grandfather clause for owners of existing guns. Today, a House committee will take up a version of the ban that allows gun owners to keep their rifles after obtaining a special permit. Governor Ralph Northam supports a ban on assault-style weapons and the House version has a good chance to passing that chamber. But its prospects in the Senate are less rosy.

Another Virginia bill would ban guns for people convicted of some misdemeanor hate crimes. A House of Delegates subcommittee is weighing the measure, which would apply to “simple assault,” defined as the threatened use of force, in hate cases. (Convictions for the actual use of force against a protected class already trigger a gun ban in Virginia.) A federal bill that would prohibit gun sales for people with misdemeanor hate crime convictions has made little progress.

An ICE agent shot an unarmed man while detaining an undocumented immigrant in NYC. The arrest of a Brooklyn man slated for deportation sparked a brawl among his family members, and a federal agent shot the man’s 26-year-old stepson in the face. The victim is in critical condition. His brother told The New York Daily News that the ICE agent “didn’t even think twice. He just shot him.”

The Trace is a National Magazine Award finalist. We’re on the short list in one of the “general excellence” categories. The American Society of Magazine Editors, which administers the awards, also named special projects editor Miles Kohrman as one of the recipients of the ASME NEXT Awards, which honor journalists under 30. The awards will be handed out on March 12. Our readers make our work possible. Thank you, as always, for your support.

DATA POINT

One-third of boys (and nearly 10 percent of girls) between grade six and age 19 in rural American communities reported carrying a handgun at least once, according to a recent analysis of government survey data. — Journal of Adolescent Health