Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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A member of militia attends a rally in Michigan, on September 17, 2020. [Photo by Adam J. Dewey/NurPhoto via AP]

Daily Bulletin: ‘The Chosen Social Media Platform of the Militia Movement’

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: Missing from 2020 ballots: Proposals to expand gun restrictions. During the prior three election cycles, ballot initiatives provided reformers with an end-run around Republican-dominated statehouses that blocked tighter gun regulations — part of a broader trend of left-leaning activists and groups using direct democracy to increase the minimum wage, legalize medical marijuana, restore voting rights for felons, and expand Medicare. But this year, COVID-19 has thwarted the gathering of signatures that is an essential step to putting measures before voters, stymying state proposals to expand background checks in Ohio, repeal permitless carry in Oklahoma, and ban high-capacity magazines in Oregon. “The most important thing is getting this pandemic under control. But the problem of gun violence has not gone away,” one organizer told Jennifer Mascia. You can read her story here.

Security guard fatally shoots man following opposing rallies in Denver. The incident occurred Saturday afternoon as a right-wing “Patriot Rally” and a “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive” counter-demonstration were wrapping up in the city’s downtown. The victim was at least the fourth person shot at a Colorado protest in 2020. What happened: A man whose relatives said had attended the demonstrations to express his pro-police views got into an altercation with a security guard working for local 9News, which escalated into the man dispensing mace and the security guard firing a handgun. The security guard, who did not have the required city license, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. False narrative: After initial reporting by The Denver Post mistakenly ID’ed the shooter as a left-wing activist, some right-wing social media accounts seized on the shooting to amplify inflated fears of antifa violence.

The alleged Michigan plotters organized on Facebook. They’re hardly alone. The Guardian’s Lois Beckett has a must-read on how the social media giant became a one-stop shop for extremist groups to coordinate and amplify their messages. Stung by criticism that it’s done little to hateful ideologies, incitements to violence, and misinformation, Facebook over the summer took more concerted action against accounts linked with the “boogaloo” or militia groups, including the Wolverine Watchmen faction implicated in the kidnapping plot against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. But extremism researchers note how much damage has already been done. “From 2008 to 2020, Facebook was sort of the chosen social media platform of the militia movement,” said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. Related: What explains the depth of militia activity in Michigan? Far-right movement expert Amy Cooter has a helpful primer.

Research shows limited community-wide effects of focused deterrence in Detroit. As we reported last year, a study on the city’s Ceasefire program — which targets people most at risk of involvement in violent conflicts with interventions and social services — had found positive effects at the individual level: At-risk men who attended interventions were less likely to commit a violent crime than those who had not attended one. But the same team of researchers just found that the benefits did not extend to the community level. Giovanni Circo, a criminologist at the University of New Haven who led the study, said that successful Ceasefire programs not only deter individuals from crime, but also send a deterrent message through participants’ social networks, the latter of which can have “the more profound effect,” Circo said. — Champe Barton, reporter.

A 3-year old in Oregon died after accidentally shooting himself. The boy had found an unsecured handgun in his family’s home in Aloha, Oregon, the local sheriff’s office said. “If you ask any first responder, the death of a child is the absolute worst call that we go to,” a deputy told local station KATU. “I know some of the responders on scene last night have children.” According to a 2018 study, an estimated 4.6 million American children live in homes where at least one gun is kept unlocked and loaded. Policy context: Laws aimed at preventing child access to guns are among the most effective gun policies, according to an exhaustive review released by the RAND Corporation in April.

DATA POINT

A budget survey conducted by the city of Chicago found that 87 percent of respondents supported shifting resources away from the police and toward community services. [Chicago Office of Budget and Management]