Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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[Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

Daily Bulletin: Militias Self-Deploy Against Migrant Caravan, To Dismay of Actual Military

Good morning, Bulletin readers. As Americans prepare to vote tomorrow, the weekend papers brought a fresh round of reports on how gun politics are playing out in the 2018 midterms. Plus: details on Friday’s yoga studio rampage in Florida, and concerns about militias who’ve appointed themselves guardians against the migrant caravan.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Gun issues taking center stage in the final stretch of the 2018 campaign. 

  • Over the weekend, National Rifle Association president Oliver North campaigned for Josh Hawley, the Republican running against incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri, the site of the NRA’s highest federal campaign spending this cycle. 
  • Donald Trump told a crowd that Democrat Stacy Abrams would “get rid of” the Second Amendment if she is elected governor of Georgia.
  • Multiple Democratic congressional candidates continue to emphasize their plans to tighten gun laws if elected, including Jason Crow, a Democrat and military veteran who supports a ban on assault-style rifles and is hoping to flip Colorado’s sixth district. 
  • An NRA mailer uses Jewish billionaires Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and Tom Steyer to scare up votes against Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. (Bloomberg is a founder of Everytown for Gun Safety, whose nonpolitical arm is among The Trace’s funders.) 

Armed militia groups are headed to the Texas border to guard against the supposed threat posed by the migrant caravan. About 100 members of the Texas Minutemen are self-deploying to the Rio Grande, making preparations to stop the migrants from crossing the border. Leaked Pentagon briefings show the military is concerned that the militia members may interfere with the efforts of Customs and Border Protection and steal government supplies. Texans have mixed reactions to the situation: “I will not let militia on my land,” one property owner told The Washington Post. “They’re civilians stepping into a situation where the Border Patrol is supposed to be in control and make decisions … I would guess they would be trigger-happy.” Meanwhile, experts on extremism caution against overhyping the threat of an unsanctioned show of force by unregulated groups. “Lots of press this week about armed militants gathering on the border. Reporters should keep in mind that militia members talk tough online but rarely actually show up,” one extremism scholar tweeted.

A man who killed two and wounded five at a Tallahassee yoga studio on Friday had a history of assaulting women. The 40-year-old suspect had been arrested twice for grabbing women; both times the charges were dropped. He also posted a slew of offensive videos online, describing himself as a misogynist. The videos were taken down after the attack, in which he posed as a yoga patron before opening fire on the class. Killed in the shooting were Maura Binkley, a 21-year-old Florida State University student, and Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, an internist and FSU faculty member.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says his agency is “poised” to conduct gun violence research — as soon as Congress provides funding. “Basically, what we need to do is get a funding mechanism for Congress to instruct us to do that research,” Robert Redfield told CBS News last week. After Parkland, congressional Republicans clarified that federal studies of gun violence are permissible despite the Dickey Amendment, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has indicated that he would instruct the agency to research the problem. But without an appropriation, federal gun violence research will remain largely hypothetical.

An 11-year-old fatally shot his grandmother and then himself after they got in a fight about cleaning his room. After the Arizona boy’s grandparents sat down to watch TV on Saturday evening, the boy came up behind them and shot his grandmother in the back of the head, using a handgun that belonged to his grandfather.

ONE LAST THING

The CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods is open to selling smart guns in his big-box stores. Ed Stack told Reuters last week that the high-tech weapons, which are designed to only be fired by their owners, are “a good thing.” Pro-gun hardliners oppose smart guns, due in large part to a New Jersey law that would trigger a mandate on the technology for all guns sold in the state. (Despite efforts from Democratic state lawmakers to enact a narrower requirement, the law has yet to be repealed or amended.) Dick’s stopped selling assault-style weapons in February, after the Parkland shooting. Since then, the retailer has faced a slight decline in profits. But Stack doesn’t seem too worried, telling investors that the decrease wasn’t anything the company hadn’t expected.