Hello, readers. In today’s briefing: Trace reporter Alex Yablon gets the inside story from the Republican sponsor of a Pennsylvania gun bill facing opposition from the National Rifle Association, even though the NRA’s fingerprints are all over it. You’ll find that news and more, below.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
A legal settlement opens the door for 3D-printed, unregulated guns. The Second Amendment Foundation announced this week that they had reached a settlement in a 2015 federal lawsuit in which the gun rights group claimed that regulating digital gun blueprints violated the free speech of Cody Wilson, the founder of a 3-D printed gun company. The decision opens the door to the specs for 3-D printed “ghost guns” to be distributed online with virtually no regulation. “What’s about to happen is a Cambrian explosion of the digital content related to firearms,” Wilson told Wired.
Gun groups are pushing for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In a press release, Gun Owners of America writes that they are “optimistic that Judge Brett Kavanaugh will be a huge improvement over retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy” on the Second Amendment. They also write that they’ve used his dissent in Heller II, in which he argued against a Washington, D.C., handgun ban, as a model to follow in their legal briefs. Meanwhile: The NRA released an ad depicting those who oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation as “deranged” and “unhinged.”
Texas professors want to revive a “campus carry” challenge. The University of Texas professors behind a 2015 lawsuit alleging that laws that allow guns on campus inhibit free speech have asked a federal appeals court to put the case up for reconsideration. Last year, a federal judge dismissed the suit for insufficient evidence. In September, six professors in Georgia, another “campus carry” state, launched a similar lawsuit.
The American Medical Association wants to “restart the science of firearm injury prevention.” On Wednesday, the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) announced its partnership with the doctors’ group in a new gun research effort. Last month, AMA delegates voted to endorse a slate of gun reform policy recommendations, including expanding background checks; increasing the legal age to purchase firearms and ammunition to 21; and banning bump stocks, assault weapons, and high-capacity magazines. From The Trace archives: Meet Dr. Megan Ranney, the emergency physician and researcher heading up the new effort.
A giant armored vehicle casts a shadow on the Parkland activists’ rallies. The co-owner of a Utah-based online gun marketplace is following the Florida shooting survivors on their voter registration bus tour and staging counter-protests. His mode of transportation: a giant military-style vehicle described by The Salt Lake Tribune as “a rolling armored billboard” for the company. “It’s not very tasteful to bring a tank to a march for peace,” one of the students told a Tribune reporter.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are suing Broward County. The 15 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed Wednesday, include Parkland students and their families, who are seeking compensation for psychological trauma. They allege that law enforcement and school employees failed to keep them safe.
New York City invests millions in gun violence prevention. On Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence announced $34 million in new initiatives to reduce gun violence, including four new crisis management centers that will offer social services like job training and conflict mediation.
Arkansas lawmakers consider arming teachers. State legislators heard from advocates on both sides of the issue during a committee meeting this week. One of those arguing in favor of arming teachers was John Lott, a controversial researcher whose work has been celebrated by the National Rifle Association. Armed teachers, he said, are preferable to school resource officers, who have “an amazingly boring job” with high turnover and uniforms that make them easy targets. Background: Lott’s work has come under scrutiny from respected academics, including conservative researchers, and his arguments have largely been debunked.
Some Arizona police are mounting AR-15s on their motorcycles. The sheriff for Tempe says the move is the result of an arms race with criminals. “There are people that may be scared to see it,” the sheriff said. “However when we explain to them the reason why we have it I think it puts them a little bit more at ease.”
A 15-year-old in Iowa was arrested on terrorism charges for a Snapchat threat. The teenager admitted to posting a photo of eight long guns with the message “Ready for school 7 can join me.” Police searched his home and recovered the weapons.
A 5-year-old in Virginia shot himself with his mother’s gun. Police say the boy pulled the weapon from his mom’s purse while she was driving him to a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. As his mother talked on the phone, he started playing with the gun and unintentionally shot himself in the wrist. Meanwhile, in Texas, a 3-year-old unintentionally shot himself in the abdomen on Wednesday with a gun he found on his mom’s bed.
ONE LAST THING
To appease the NRA, a state lawmaker watered down his red flag bill. The NRA came out against it anyway, Alex Yablon reports. After Todd Stephens, a Republican state representative from Pennsylvania, introduced an extreme risk protection order bill earlier this year, he consulted with an NRA lobbyist, who pushed him to relax some of the bill’s provisions. But despite Stephens’ efforts to placate the NRA, the group turned on him. The day after Stephens filed a bill incorporating the NRA’s suggestions, the group sent its Pennsylvania members an alert, urging them to ask their representatives not to pass the proposal.
Although Stephens says he’s “disappointed with the NRA’s final position,” he’s not giving up on his bill, which he notes could save lives by allowing law enforcement to take weapons from people in crisis. “There’s some good data supporting these laws.”