Good morning, Bulletin readers. Today, Virginia opens a new legislative session that could bring an unusually fierce battle over gun safety legislation. Below, you’ll find a refresher on Democrats’ main proposals, as well as our watchdog update on a social media giant’s problem with unregulated firearm sales.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
The governor of Virginia is set to formally kick off his gun reform push. As Democrats take full control of the General Assembly today for first time in more than two decades, Governor Ralph Northam and party leaders are unveiling their “Virginia 2020 Plan” of legislative priorities. Stronger gun laws, a big motivator for state voters in November, figure heavily in their platform. Northam is calling for universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and a ban on assault-style weapons. He also wants to restore the state’s limit on handgun purchases to one per month. More details about the legislation are expected later today. Separately, a bipartisan measure would establish a state commission into the Virginia Beach shooting. Two previous investigations by the city and the Police Department could not identify a motive for the gunman who killed 12 people at a municipal center in May. The delegates who filed the bill say the victims’ families support the state probe.
NEW from THE TRACE: Facebook users continue to flout the platform’s ban on gun sales. Here’s how the scheme works: Because listing guns or gun parts for sale would violate Facebook policy, sellers on Facebook’s Marketplace instead advertise gun cases or boxes at prices that signal there may be more to the listing. Contacted by prospective buyers via the platform’s private messenger, the sellers then offer complete firearms. The practice was first revealed in an August Wall Street Journal investigation, but as The Trace discovered, the problem persists: Investigative fellow Champe Barton contacted three dozen sellers around the country who posted listings for gun cases or packaging; in private messages, 20 of the sellers readily offered a variety of firearms, including pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
Denver hired a gun investigator to help enforce a state domestic violence law. The staffer with the District’s Attorney’s Office interviews victims and family members and combs through police reports and social media profiles to determine whether suspected abusers have guns. A 2013 state law bans gun possession for most domestic violence offenders. “The problem was we didn’t have an effective way of enforcing it,” a deputy DA told the Denver Post. “We can’t require people to admit that they have firearms.” The unidentified investigator, the only staffer in the state doing such work, has seized more than 40 guns since being hired in October.
Kansas City, Missouri, is suing gun manufacturers and sellers for failing to stop firearm traffickers. The federal suit claims Nevada-based gunmaker Jimenez Arms and several local dealers were culpable for selling guns to a former fire captain who illegally sold them without a federal firearms license. The city’s action, joined by Everytown Law, argues that the failure to stop the straw purchases violated public nuisance laws. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas noted that it’s the first such city lawsuit against a gun company in a decade. (Everytown Law is the legal arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, which provides grants to The Trace through its nonpolitical arm. Here’s our list of major donors and our policy on editorial independence.)
An NRA board member was revealed to have authored a trove of extremist tweets. The Informant unearthed the posts from Anthony Colandro, a firearms trainer from New Jersey who’s running for a second term on the National Rifle Association’s board of directors. In them, he decries Muslims, uses homophobic language, rails against multiculturalism, and embraces conspiracy theories. Colandro appeared to distance himself from some the tweets, including a 2017 post in which he called Islam “a parasitic cult,” but defended most of the messages.
Two kids in Milwaukee were shot after throwing a snowball at a passing motorist. A 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy were wounded Sunday when a man opened fire on a group of kids hurling snowballs. Authorities are looking for the driver. A nearby resident who heard the gunfire said: “Over a snowball you’re going to kill somebody? It’s ridiculous.”
A series of shootings on Florida highways has motorists rattled. Police say four cars were shot at on Interstate 4 early Monday. Last week, 15 cars came under fire on I-4 and Interstate 95. No one was injured in any of those incidents. But on Saturday, a 22-year-old woman was fatally shot while driving along I-95. Police are trying to determine if the incidents are related.
On the macro-level, school shootings remain relatively rare. Of the 374 violent incidents occurring on K-12 school property during the 2018-2019 academic year, 6 percent involved an active shooter, and an additional 4.5 percent involved reports of shots fired, according to an analysis by a nonprofit school safety group. — The Educator’s School Safety Network