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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: A Surprising Finding on Gun Injuries and Rural Kids

Hello, Bulletin readers. For the past month, our podcast collaboration with the Cincinnati Enquirer has brought you the stories of people whose lives were changed by the path of a bullet. Today, we release the eighth and final episode, in which a school shooting survivor describes his decades-long journey. You’ll find a link to the full series, after today’s news.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Kids between the ages of 5 and 14 in rural areas are hospitalized for gunshot wounds at higher rates than their city-dwelling peers, according to a study published Monday in Pediatrics. Most of the injuries result from unintentional shootings. Among teens aged 15 to 19, hospitalization rates for gun injuries are higher in urban areas, and most of those victims are hurt in assaults.

Investigators examining the NRA’s ties to Russia may have accessed the gun group’s tax returns. As recently as last week, the National Rifle Association said it hadn’t heard from any federal law enforcement agencies, despite reports that Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators are probing the gun group as part of the inquiry into Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election. Now McClatchy DC reports one possible explanation: Federal prosecutors can ask judges to grant access to tax records without notifying the target of an investigation. The NRA’s IRS returns should show its “dark money” donors, which the group can shield from the general public.

Tennessee’s new mental health reporting law went into effect this weekend. The law requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to alert law enforcement when someone who has been declared mentally ill attempts to buy a gun. The law relies on data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). That system is only as strong as the records it contains, a new report from gun reform advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety reminds. Everytown found that state laws requiring mental health records be submitted to NICS have significantly improved the system’s ability to identify when a person prohibited on those grounds tries to purchase a firearm. According to the report, mental health-related denials increased 11-fold between 2008 and 2017. In that decade, 35 states, including Tennessee, passed laws requiring the submission of mental health records to NICS. (Through its 501c3, Everytown provides grant funding to The Trace.)

More Puerto Ricans are turning to guns for self-defense. In the nine months after Hurricane Maria, there were 60 percent more firearm-possession applications from the island than in the same period last year. Experts say that rising crime — there were 78 homicides in January, up 35 percent from 2017 — and a dwindling police presence have left many Puerto Ricans feeling unprotected. Nationwide, gun background checks are declining. The numbers were down last month for the third consecutive month since the post-Parkland spike in March.

Cure Violence expands to Nashville. The intervention program founded by epidemiologist Gary Slutkin in the early 2000s treats violent crime as an infectious disease and attempts to reduce it by employing former gang members to help change norms in their communities. Over the past two decades, the program has spread to six cities across the country. Now, a nonprofit called Gideon’s Army wants to replicate the model by launching in Nashville. From The Trace archives: In 2017, Ann Givens reported on Chicago’s implementation of the Cure Violence model, which despite initial success has struggled to maintain a stable source of funding.

One of the journalists who was killed in last week’s Capital Gazette shooting had just interviewed a teenager about March for Our Lives. Sofia Biondi, 18, was the subject of a “Teen of the Week” profile that Wendi Winters was writing for The Capital. Less than an hour after Biondi left the newspaper offices, a man with a shotgun entered and killed five people, including Winters.

NRA members plan to march in a Fourth of July parade in a St. Louis suburb. The decision has sparked controversy among community members, some of whom question the group’s intentions. Organizers have requested that no one openly carry guns at the event. St. Louis has the highest homicide rate of any American city.

Between Saturday and Monday, there were at least four murder-suicides, a devastatingly common form of gun violence. In Arizona on Saturday, a woman who had been planning to flee with her 4-year-old daughter killed her abusive boyfriend in self-defense, family members say, then took her own life. Her parents found the bodies, along with the young child sleeping on the couch. The next day, a man in Alabama killed his ex-wife, her new husband, and a roommate. The gunman, a 43-year-old man, later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to court documents, his ex-wife had filed a protection order against him in March, but it was denied by a judge. A Maryland man killed his 3-year-old daughter and himself in his truck on Sunday. And early Monday, a murder-suicide in a New Jersey hotel room stemmed from a domestic kidnapping, police say. The incident is still under investigation. 

A Wisconsin man was cleaning his gun when he accidentally shot through his apartment wall. His 21-year-old neighbor was not home when the bullet entered his apartment Sunday afternoon, but later found the hole in the wall that it left behind. After he reported it to police, authorities confiscated the weapon from the man who admitted to accidentally firing it. Different state, same headline: A Texas man was cleaning his gun last Friday when he accidentally shot a man. The bullet exited the gun owner’s home and hit a 71-year-old man who was sitting in his car. The victim was taken to the hospital with what police say are minor injuries.

A man was arrested for trying to enter a prison with a gun stolen from police. The man attempted to enter a Columbia, South Carolina, correctional facility with a loaded handgun in the waistband of his pants, investigators say. When officials checked the gun’s serial number, they found that it matched a weapon stolen from a local police department.

AFTERMATH FINALE 

“I am not okay,” Hollan Holm admitted decades after surviving a bullet to the head. When he was 14 years old, Holm was shot by a classmate just after a prayer meeting at his Kentucky high school. For the next 20 years, he didn’t talk much about the shooting. When he did, he veiled his pain with dark humor.

But when he heard the news about another school shooting a few miles from his hometown in January, Holm decided it was time to speak out. “I can’t sit still and wallow in this tragedy anymore,” he wrote in an op-ed. “I have to act.”

Hear his story on today’s episode of Aftermath, the final installment of our podcast collaboration with the Cincinnati Enquirer. You can catch up on all eight episodes here.