Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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An image of Maria Butina presenting a plaque to Jim Porter, then the president of the NRA, at the gun group's 2014 convention. [Maria Butina/LiveJournal]

Daily Bulletin: The Latest Revelation About Alleged Russian Agent Maria Butina And Her Friends In The NRA

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Another trove of emails reveals a new connection between NRA officials and Maria Butina. More evidence emerges supporting the gun industry’s “Trump slump.” Plus the latest from The Trace, on the little-known laws that communities can evoke to keep right-wing extremists and militias at bay. Those stories and more in your Monday briefing. 

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

The latest revelation about alleged Russian agent Maria Butina and her friends in the NRA involves a failed seven-figure jet fuel deal. According to a report from The New York Times based on a trove of previously unreported emails, the wife of former National Rifle Association President David Keene recruited Butina and her boyfriend, longtime GOP operative Paul Erickson, to broker the sale of a large quantity of jet fuel. As the Times points out, the correspondence indicates that neither Butina nor Erickson had any expertise in the fuel industry, despite eagerly jumping at the opportunity. After a series of meetings set up by Mrs. Keene in the spring of 2017, no potential partners had panned out. Instead, some of those they’d met with reported Butina and Erickson to the FBI, which was already tracking Butina’s movements.

There were at least nine mass-casualty shootings over the long weekend, leaving at least six dead and 42 injured. The count is from Gun Violence Archive. The incidents included:

  • A firefight during a dice game at a San Bernardino, California, apartment complex on Sunday night that left eight injured, including a 17-year-old boy.
  • A shooting at a party hosted by a high school sorority in Birmingham, Alabama, where seven people were wounded, most of them in their teens.
  • A fight that turned violent at a nightclub in Cleveland. One woman was fatally shot in the head and seven men were injured.

One man was shot during Brooklyn’s annual J’Ouvert Festival, which has been marred by gun violence in recent years. The victim was struck in the busy Crown Heights neighborhood. He is expected to survive. In 2015, an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo was fatally shot in crossfire between gangs; the next year, two persons were killed by gunfire during the festivities.

The “Trump slump” in gun sales has hit the AR-15 market especially hard. So reported the Wall Street Journal just before the long holiday weekend. The parent company of Smith & Wesson blames the 50 percent drop in long gun sales it recorded during its most recent fiscal year on declining demand for the assault-style rifle platform. The article includes several candid comments from current and former gun company execs about their industry’s dependence on inflated fears of new gun restrictions (fears aggressively stoked by the NRA) to boost business, along with a remark by a former head of commercial sales who attributes the AR-15’s popularity to a “wanna-be factor”: “People want to be a special-forces guy.”

Several demonstrators were arrested in Chicago after they tried to shut down O’Hare Airport during an anti-gun violence protest yesterday. It was the third protest this summer in which protestors used road-closure tactics to draw attention to the city’s gun violence problem.

A student at a Georgia college was arrested after he said he wanted to shoot people, and police discovered a weapon in his backpack. The student’s mother had requested a welfare check on her son, a student at Kennesaw State University. Georgia passed a campus carry law last year, though the student was not licensed to carry. He is currently undergoing a mental health evaluation.

ONE LAST THING

How to keep armed militias from patrolling your city or town. While President Trump predicts violence if Democrats sweep the midterms, one paramilitary group says it’s already preparing to intimidate the Resistance into compliance — or put it down with lethal force, if necessary. The Oath Keepers’ new training camps are meant to bolster the group’s ranks for the express purpose of going head-to-head with antifa and other left-wing protestors.

Trying to minimize the threat of armed militias while still respecting open carry laws and preemption statutes that prevent municipal firearms regulations puts local governments in a bind. But as Alex Yablon reports, there are a handful of mostly forgotten laws that can prevent armed groups from claiming police powers for themselves. Experts he spoke with have found that some 28 states have laws that forbid drilling and parading in public with firearms; 25 have statutes that prohibit group training in firearms or explosives in furtherance of civil disturbance. Compelling local leaders to use those laws, however, may require a nudge from activists or concerned citizens. Read Alex’s full analysis here.