Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: The NRA’s Latest Spending Scandal Involves Wayne LaPierre’s Private Travel Agent

Good morning, Bulletin readers. More details emerge about potential governance lapses at the NRA. That story leads your Tuesday roundup.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Top NRA officials’ travel was arranged by an unregistered travel agent accused of fraud. The National Rifle Association has a travel agency that most employees use to book work trips. But chief executive Wayne LaPierre and some other top officials make their arrangements through a California woman named Gayle Stanford, who while working for the NRA once settled claims that she was involved in an alleged scheme to defraud small businesses. The Wall Street Journal digs into the “unorthodox” arrangement: NRA accountants were instructed to pay bills from Stanford’s company — which reached about $2 million one recent year, according to a source — without requiring full documentation. Stanford also received a separate retainer from former NRA ad firm Ackerman McQueen, which the NRA reimbursed. The NRA has justified expensive charter travel for executives for security reasons. But a nonprofit attorney told the Journal: “If I’m on a board spending substantial amounts of money on private jet travel for our CEO because of security concerns, yet we’re working with alleged fraudsters, it doesn’t add up.”

The perpetrator of a deadly mass shooting on Halloween is still at large. Five people were killed at a party at an Airbnb in Orinda, California, outside San Francisco. Police have not announced any suspects. Airbnb said Monday that it was cracking down on unauthorized parties at its rentals. One hundred people were reportedly crammed into a space that fit only 13. “Everybody started running, scrambling,” a witness told the AP. “People were just collapsing.”

A private security company employed people barred from owning guns. G4S, the world’s largest private security company, has hired or retained at least 300 people with criminal convictions and other prohibiting factors, including domestic violence and commitment to a psychiatric facility, a USA Today/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found. Former G4S managers said staffing shortages prompted the company to loosen background screening standards. Most infamously, the perpetrator of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre worked for the company.

St. Louis’s Board of Aldermen passed a “lie-and-try” law. The measure requires federally licensed gun dealers to alert police whenever someone fails a gun background check. St. Louis is believed to be the first city in the country to enact such a rule, which some states have used to arrest people who are prohibited from owning firearms but have sought to acquire them.

Some parents are protesting NRA gun auctions held in schools. “What if a gun they raffled off at the school ended up in the hands of one of their students and they committed a terrible act?” the mother of a Kentucky school shooting victim told The Washington Post. The NRA Foundation generated $33 million last year from its gun auction program.

Maria Butina says the idea that she infiltrated the NRA to influence GOP politics is “nonsense.” In a “60 Minutes” interview, the self-styled Russian gun rights activist claimed her efforts to “establish friendship” between Russia and the U.S. “would be called social networking,” if not for her ethnicity. Butina was deported to Russia last week after serving 15 months in prison for acting as a foreign agent. One of the federal prosecutors who successfully tried Butina for being an unauthorized Russian agent called the interview “a masterpiece of disinformation.”

Despite consumer divestment push, mutual funds still have large gun assets. The WSJ reports that investment companies still own nearly a third of the combined stock in the country’s two publicly traded gun companies, American Outdoor Brands and Sturm Ruger. Investments in funds that screen out weapons have risen markedly since 2016, as investors increasingly seek that option.

Colorado school safety proposals don’t address gun access. Lawmakers on the Legislature’s School Safety Committee submitted five bills, including a proposal to expand mental health care. “Unfortunately, firearms is an exceptionally partisan issue,” the committee’s Democratic chairperson told the Colorado Sun.

DATA POINT

In the last five years, at least 130 U.S. school districts have spent a total of more than $2.5 million on Social Sentinel, an automated monitoring system that scans social media for potential school shooters. BuzzFeed News