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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: Three People Were Shot, Two Fatally, at Texas A&M University-Commerce

Good morning, Bulletin readers. For the second time in 100 days, a north Texas university was rocked by a gun rampage. 

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Three people were shot, two fatally, at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Someone opened fire in a freshman dorm on campus before noon on Monday, leaving two women dead and a 2-year-old child wounded. Police have not identified a suspect. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and students impacted by today’s tragic event,” the university president said in a Monday night statementIt’s the second shooting to scar the Texas A&M-Commerce community this academic year: In October, 14 people were shot, two fatally, at an off-campus Halloween and homecoming party.

Six people were shot, one fatally, on a Greyhound bus in California. The vehicle was traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco early Monday when a passenger opened fire. The driver reportedly persuaded the gunman to disembark, and police picked him up on the side of the road north of Los Angeles. “We’re grateful that the bus driver acted quickly,” said a spokesperson from the California Highway Patrol. Also on Monday: Four people were shot, three fatally, in a string of shootings at three homes in neighboring towns in eastern Maine. State authorities said the 63-year-old shooter, who was taken into custody, knew all of the victims.

UPDATE: Top official out at the NRA. In yesterday’s newsletter, we relayed reporting by The Washington Post that the National Rifle Association’s chief of staff, Josh Powell, once seen as a possible successor to chief executive Wayne LaPierre, had been put on leave “pending an investigation by NRA counsel.” The story has taken another turn: Powell is now no longer employed by the gun group, according to an internal email obtained by Newsweek. It’s not clear if Powell was fired or he resigned. His departure caps a rocky tenure at the organization. In August, The Trace and ProPublica reported that Powell was the subject of two sexual harassment allegations, one of which the NRA paid to settle. NRA accountants had also flagged Powell for possible conflicts of interest. A 2018 investigation by The Trace detailed Powell’s track record as a businessman before joining the NRA, which included a trail of defaulted debts and 20 lawsuits from vendors alleging more than $400,000 in unpaid bills.

Gun-related political ads have increased eightfold over the past four election cycles. Johns Hopkins University researchers analyzed TV ads by candidates for president, Congress, governor, and state legislature and concluded that 8 percent of all ads mentioned guns in the 2018 cycle, up from 1 percent in the 2012 election cycle. “Our study indicates that a real shift has occurred in political discourse over the role of guns in our society,” said the lead authors. The findings were published in the journal Health Affairs.

School shooter tip lines are being used to confront teen suicides. At least 10 states now run tip lines to alert authorities to potential school threats. But in four states — Oregon, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming — they have more often been used to flag suicide threats than planned school attacks, NBC News reports. “School violence is not our only concern,” David Lillenstein, president of the Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania, told the network.

Florida’s assault weapons ban won’t be on the 2020 ballot. A ballot initiative to ban semiautomatic rifles and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds collected 145,000 signatures by the February 1 deadline — more than 600,000 short of what was needed. The group that mounted the effort, Ban Assault Weapons Now, says it will try again in 2022.

Capital Gazette widow to attend tonight’s State of the Union address. Andrea Chamblee, whose husband, John McNamara, was one of five journalists killed in the Annapolis newsroom shooting in 2018, will be a guest of Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who said he hopes Chamblee’s presence will draw attention to the need for “federal laws to reduce gun violence.” Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado will be taking Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel died in the 1999 Columbine shooting, and who first attended the State of the Union in 2000.

DATA POINT

Pennsylvania’s anonymous school safety tip line took in 2,529 reports related to self-harm and 2,184 related to suicidal thoughts in its first six months. In the same period, it recorded 607 school threats. — NBC News