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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: Virginia Democrats, Undeterred, Continue to Advance Gun Bills

Good morning, Bulletin readers. A rush hour shooting capped a violent day in downtown Seattle. That story and more, below.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

One dead, seven injured in downtown Seattle mass shooting. Gunfire erupted shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday outside a McDonald’s following a dispute at the restaurant, according to authorities. A 9-year-old boy was among the wounded. Police have not announced any arrests. “There were a lot of people outside, guns came out, and people started running,” the city’s police chief said at a news conference. It was the third shooting in the downtown area in just 24 hours, according to The Seattle Times.

The Virginia Senate advanced a bill to create extreme risk protection orders. The bill passed on a party-line vote amid a rancorous debate. Such laws provide a legal remedy for removing guns from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others and have provoked particular ire among hardline gun rights supporters. One stridently pro-gun rights GOP lawmaker in Virginia said that anyone voting in favor of the legislation was “a traitor to Virginia, a traitor to the Second Amendment and a traitor to our constitutional freedoms.” The bill — along with measures to allow localities to ban guns during public events, limit handgun purchases to one per month, and require background checks on private gun sales — must still pass the Democrat-led House of Delegates. Governor Ralph Northam supports the measures.

Virginia is one of a dozen states now weighing so-called red flag bills in their current legislative sessions. Overall, 17 states have already enacted such laws, which gained popularity in the wake of the Parkland shooting. We’ve updated our red flag law tracker to show the state of play.

Rhode Island to divest from assault-weapon makers. The state’s $8.7 billion public pension fund will no longer invest in companies that make assault-style rifles for the civilian market, as well as companies that operate for-profit prisons. “We don’t want to be associated with businesses that we think are fundamentally immoral,” the state treasurer declared. Rhode Island will reinvest the $250,000 it held in both industries. Connecticut announced a similar plan last month.

Homicides in San Francisco dropped to a 59-year low. Murders fell 11 percent between 2018 and 2019, leaving the city with 41 killings last year. Mayor London Breed touted the decline, calling it “absolutely incredible.” She credited a shift to community-oriented policing, which relies on building trust in neighborhoods.

Missouri authorities had previously dropped a weapons charge against Sunday’s suspected mass shooter. The 29-year-old who is suspected of shooting 16 people, one fatally, outside a Kansas City nightclub was charged with a concealed weapons violation in 2016 that might have triggered a gun ban. But a county prosecutor told the AP that the charge was dropped after Republicans passed a law in September 2016 that allowed most residents to carry guns without a permit.

The researcher behind a federally funded AI-based tool says it could identify illegal gun transactions online. The Department of Health and Human Services is investing in technology that tracks illegal opioid peddlers by examining social media and publicly available data. The University of California-San Diego professor contracted by the government to create the tool told Recode he thinks it could also be used to track illicit online gun sales. Last week, The Trace and The Verge documented how one major online gun bazaar — Armslist — may be allowing users to steadily peddle guns without obtaining the required federal license or vetting their buyers.

Maryland’s capital county declared suicide a public health crisis. The resolution approved unanimously by the Anne Arundel County Council was proposed by a Republican councilman who sits on the county’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He said he was motivated by a task force report that found 67 percent of gun deaths in his county were suicides.

DATA POINT

An online ammo retailer said the number of Virginia residents accessing its website during the first three weeks of 2020 increased by 137 percent year-over-year. The company credited the increase to the potential of new gun laws passing the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. WSET