Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Protesters and counter-protesters face off in Georgia in August. [Jenni Girtman/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP]

Daily Bulletin: The Risks of Dueling Ideological Violence

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: Far-right gun festival boosts election conspiracy theories. In early October, more than 5,000 gun enthusiasts filed into the small town of Greeley, Pennsylvania, for the second annual Rod of Iron Freedom Festival, a gathering of far-right ideologues and Second Amendment activists. Attendees were treated to a smorgasbord of fringe conspiracies trotted out by politicians, right-wing icons, military veterans, and religious leaders. Stephen Bannon, the former White House senior counselor, made a special virtual appearance, and encouraged supporters to watch polling places to protect against a Democratic conspiracy to rob President Donald Trump of the election through voter fraud. “We need tough people,” he said. As The Trace has reported, election officials across the country have worried that fear mongering about voter fraud — which has been repeatedly debunked — might lead to instances of voter intimidation. You can read Champe Barton’s full story here.

Where the risk of militia activity is heightened before and after the election. The threat is most pronounced in five states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Wisconsin — according to a report from MilitaWatch and ACLED. It defined militia activity as anything ranging from organizing to violence. Zooming out, across the ideological divide: A new analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that while far-right extremists were connected to the majority of domestic terrorism plots in 2020 (67 percent), leftist attacks more than doubled to 20 percent. (So-called boogaloo believers were classified as “other,” but most researchers view their anti-government views as more right-wing). The report noted the “deeply intertwined” nature of far-left and far-right violence in 2020, particularly at protests: “Since it is difficult to distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons, armed individuals from various sides reacted to each other during protests and riots, and each side’s efforts to protect itself and acquire weapons generally threatened others.”

Maryland has used its red flag law more than almost any other state. That’s from a Baltimore Sun analysis of usage of the legal tool that allows for the removal of guns from people deemed at high risk of committing violence. Since 2016, when the majority of states passed their laws, only Florida has used its law more often than Maryland on a per-capita basis. Police and red flag advocates attributed Maryland’s high usage rate to the Montgomery County sheriff, who has led a statewide training program. As we’ve reported, individual government officials have been instrumental in getting states to use their red flag laws.

Chicago’s mayor proposes adopting co-responder model. The idea — which exists in other cities like Tucson, Arizona — entails sending a mental health expert with an armed officer when responding to people in crisis. Evidence suggests that a less aggressive response to emergency calls can reduce police shootings. In her 2021 budget address, Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed the reform and the elimination of several hundred police vacancies, but continued to resist activist calls to meaningfully reduce the police department’s budget.

Brothers behind an extreme gun rights network run into Wyoming election laws. The secretary of state ruled that the Wyoming Gun Owners were not properly registered when running a series of attack ads against state GOP candidates this year. The group has until November 4 to register and disclose its donors or face a small fine. The organization’s executive director, Aaron Dorr, is one of several brothers involved in a multi-state network that instigated some of the earliest protests against COVID-19 shutdowns.

DATA POINT

More than 200 — the number of far-right channels that include militias and white supremacist organizations operating on the walkie-talkie social media app Zello, per an On The Media investigation. All accounts appeared to violate the company’s terms of service, but Zello says it will not seek to police such content. [On The Media/WNYC Studios]