Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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[Photo illustration by Joel Arbaje]

Daily Bulletin: Senators Asked the Federal Government to Regulate Imitation Guns After Our Reporting

Good morning, Bulletin readers. One new survey sheds light on obstacles for sellers of smart guns. Another shows how far to the left Democratic primary voters have moved on gun reform. The privately funded gun violence research boomlet continues. And our reporting on look-alike firearms gets results. Those stories and more, below. 

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: Gun owners say they support the sale of smart guns — but few want to buy them. That’s the top line from a new survey of more than 1,500 gun owners from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The survey found that 79 percent of respondents supported firearm retailers stocking smart guns in addition to conventional weapons. But they expressed significant concerns over the devices’ cost and perceived reliability issues. Alex Yablon delves into the findings.

Senators asked the federal government to regulate imitation guns following our reporting. In a letter on Monday, Democratic Senators Robert Menendez, Edward Markey, and Richard Blumenthal called on the Department of Commerce and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require that real guns, toy guns, and BB guns look different enough that police officers can more easily tell them apart. Alain Stephens reported last month that since 2015, police across the country have killed more than 150 people who were holding look-alike weapons. Gun manufacturers collect revenues by licensing their designs to toy companies that make replicas of their products.

The Supreme Court declines to take a case on gun silencers. SCOTUS passed on appeals from two Kansas men who were convicted of possessing unregistered silencers in 2014. As The Trace reported in 2016, the men believed they were protected by a 2013 state law, the “Second Amendment Protection Act,” which declared that federal laws and regulations do not apply to any gun manufactured in the state.

Banning assault-style rifles emerges as a Democratic litmus test in the Iowa caucuses. A CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll found that six in 10 likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants regard support for restoring the federal ban on military-style semiautomatic rifles as a “must have” when choosing which candidate to back. The issue ranks third highest on respondents list of make-or-break positions, behind protecting abortion rights and fighting climate change.

A Massachusetts hospital is opening a center for gun violence prevention. On Monday, Massachusetts General Hospital announced the launch of the Mass General Center for Gun Violence Prevention, founded by two doctors whose lives have been impacted by gun violence. The privately funded center will produce research into gun violence to fill the void left by a dearth of federal funding.

A gun distributor filed for bankruptcy, citing the “Trump slump.” United Sporting Companies, which supplies 20,000 retailers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday. The South Carolina-based distributor said it was stuck with excess inventory after President Donald Trump won the 2016 election, and said hurricanes that hit the southeastern United States also reduced demand for its products.

Delaware is getting a safe-storage law. On Thursday, Democrat John Carney signed a bill that makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally leave a loaded gun within access of a child or a prohibited possessor of firearms.

California gun buyers are stockpiling ammunition ahead of a new law. Gun shops throughout the state are reporting a surge of bullet-buying ahead of the July 1 implementation of background checks for ammunition purchases. The law was one of a half-dozen gun reform bills approved in the state in 2016. The National Rifle Association has gone to court to try to get the new requirement struck down.

Baltimore is “greening” vacant lots to try to reduce gun violence. The city announced it would convert 47 vacant lots into green spaces that will be tended to by residents. Studies have shown that people in Philadelphia and Youngstown, Ohio, who lived near converted lots in low-income neighborhoods reported reduced shootings.

ONE LAST THING

“We live in a country where revelers cannot even celebrate a group, cause, or artist without the fear of a mass shooting.” An angry man with a BB gun set off a panic at Washington, D.C.’s gay pride parade on Saturday. New York Times columnist Charles Blow witnessed some of the aftermath while staying at a nearby hotel. Four young women began pounding on the door to his room, reporting that shots had been fired. “They threw themselves down, on the bed, on the floor, anywhere they could find to discharge the stress of running in fear of their lives,” Blow wrote. Despite their considerable distress, Blow recounts, the women apologized profusely for disturbing him. “It seemed to me that it was I who should have been apologizing to them, or more precisely, it was my generation that should be apologizing to theirs.”