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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: Congressional Democrats Will Begin Push for Universal Gun Background Checks Tomorrow

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Police have made an arrest in the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes. The outcome doesn’t fit the racial overtones through which the case was viewed, but the deep-seated anxieties which drove that focus remain. 

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The new Democratic House majority will begin its push for universal gun background checks tomorrow. The Washington Post has the details on the timing of the rollout, which will coincide with the anniversary of the mass shooting that nearly claimed the life of former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords eight years ago. Giffords, who now leads an eponymous gun reform group, will make an appearance as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the bill’s sponsors introduce the measure, which has at least one GOP co-sponsor.

Meanwhile, pro-gun Republicans continue a symbolic drive for the NRA’s top federal legislative priorities. South Carolina’s Jeff Duncan and North Carolina’s Richard Hudson have re-introduced bills deregulating gun silencers and compelling states to accept others’ concealed-carry permits. Neither passed into law while Republicans enjoyed complete control in Washington during the last Congress; neither are expected to advance now that Democrats control the House.

Seven people were shot, three fatally, at a California bowling alley. After a fight broke out close to midnight on Friday, someone opened fire, according to video recorded by witnesses. Police in the city of Torrance had not yet identified a suspect. The victims were Robert Meekins and Astin Edwards, both 28, who were best friends, and Michael Radford, 20.

Police have arrested a man in connection with the shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes in Houston. The December 30 incident made headlines for its apparent racial overtones: Witnesses identified the suspect who fired on a car occupied by a black mother and her children as a white man in his 30s or 40s driving a pickup truck, raising fears of a possible hate crime. But a tip led police to a suspect who did not match the sketch artist’s profile: Eric Black, a 20-year-old black man who confessed to driving the car from which the shots were fired and told investigators that the weapon used in the barrage was stashed at his house. Prosecutors have also identified a second suspect. Police believe the shooting that killed Barnes was meant for another target, and say the white man in the pickup truck was a bystander. “We live in a time where somebody could do something like this based purely on hate or race,” said racial justice activist Shaun King, who directed attention to the slaying and provided police with the tip that led to the arrests. “That it turned out to not be the case, I don’t think changes the devastating conclusion that people had thought something like that was possible.”

Democratic lawmakers in Virginia re-introduced a slate of gun-reform bills. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced the push on Friday, after his party made gains in both legislative chambers during the November elections. The package includes a red flag bill, universal background checks, reviving the state’s one-handgun-per-month rule, and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons.

A Florida man was arrested for threatening a gun rampage at his former high school. The 20-year-old posted to an anonymous chat site that he would “shoot up” his high school on January 15. A concerned citizen sent the threat to the FBI’s tip line, who referred it to local police. He was charged with a second-degree felony. It was at least the second thwarted potential mass shooting over the past seven days.

Three people are dead after a standoff with police in Idaho. A man and woman in their 40s were shot after someone they knew entered their home and a fight ensued. A 13-year-old managed to escape to a neighbor’s at the time of the shooting, but a 10- and 11-year-old remained inside. After police arrived, they were able to negotiate the children’s release. Shortly thereafter, the shooter killed himself.