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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: On School Shootings, ‘I Don’t Think at the Federal Level There’s Much That We Can Do,’ Mitch McConnell Says

Hello, readers. We’ve got a lot of news to catch up on after yesterday’s holiday break, including a new red flag law, additional details on safety breakdowns in Florida’s background check process, and the latest on the Capital Gazette shooting. Let’s get to it.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Problems with Florida’s gun permit background check process go back at least a decade. An internal investigation obtained by the Associated Press reveals that as of 2012, nearly 50 staffers of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services were known to have cumulatively made thousands of mistakes while reviewing applications for concealed gun permits. The revelation follows the discovery that for more than 12 months in 2016 and 2017, the office approved permits without running background checks at all. The sloppiness has become an issue for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who’s led the department since 2010 and is now running for governor. Context: In nearly every state, law enforcement agencies issue concealed gun permits. But in Florida, that duty was shifted to elected officials at the Department of Agriculture in 2002 after lobbying by the National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer, who has “single-handedly” crafted the state’s gun laws for decades.

Mitch McConnell said there’s little the federal government can do to stop school shootings. At a meeting with community leaders in Kentucky on Tuesday, the Senate majority leader said that school security, not gun legislation, was the best way to prevent future tragedies. “It’s a darn shame that’s where we are but this epidemic is something that’s got all of our attention,” McConnell said. Since the Parkland shooting, student activists have been pushing for changes to gun laws at the federal level, including universal background checks and bans on bump stocks and semi-automatic weapons.

A construction worker shot two of his co-workers outside a Kansas elementary school. The gunfire reportedly stemmed from an argument at the school playground where the men were working. No students were injured in the Tuesday morning gunfire, but the two wounded men were taken to the hospital in critical condition.

When children are exposed to gun violence, it affects their classmates, too. That’s according to a study released last month from Johns Hopkins University, which looked at test results from Chicago Public Schools over time. Researchers found that in classrooms with more students from violent neighborhoods, academic performance dropped across the board, not just among those exposed to violence firsthand.

Parkland victims will begin receiving crowdsourced donations this month. The families of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting will each receive $400,000 from the official GoFundMe campaign, which raised $10.5 million. The 18 people injured in the shooting will split $1.63 million.

The Capital Gazette gunman sent letters of warning on the day of the attack. Police say that the man charged with murdering five journalists in Annapolis last week sent letters to three people threatening to kill “every person present” in the newsroom that day. The shooter had a long history of animosity toward the paper, which reported on his harassment case against a woman in 2011. After initially turning down the request, the White House flew flags at half-staff to honor the Capital Gazette victims. President Trump issued the proclamation on Tuesday. Last week, Mayor Gavin Buckley of Annapolis said his request for that tribute had been declined.

A safe-storage initiative in Washington state is moving forward, but faces resistance. A local gun safety group says it has gathered 360,000 signatures to get its proposal on the November ballot. The measure would require gun owners to secure their firearms and also raise the legal age to purchase semiautomatic weapons and expand background checks and training requirements. On Friday, a local gun rights group launched a legal challenge, saying the proposal is in violation of state law.

The Republican governor of Massachusetts signed a red flag bill into law. When the new law takes effect, family members and others can petition a judge to temporarily remove a firearm from someone who poses an immediate threat to themselves or others. Massachusetts is the seventh state to enact similar legislation since the Parkland shooting in February. At least six other states are currently considering such bills.

Lawmakers in Maine and New Hampshire are asking a local sporting goods store to change its gun sale policies. At the company’s town hall this week, nine Democratic lawmakers from the two states urged Kittery Trading Post to follow the lead of Dick’s Sporting Goods and other retailers who stopped selling assault-style weapons and eliminated gun sales to people under 21 after Parkland. “When the issues surrounding gun violence in the aftermath of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida erupted, and students were asking for action so they could feel safe, we naturally assumed that a business such as the Kittery Trading Post (KTP) would respond,” the New Hampshire legislators wrote in a letter to the company earlier this week.

A man was charged after a fatal shooting involving special needs youth. At a pit stop on the way to a camping trip, a 21-year-old found a gun belonging to the chaperone under a seat and fired it, fatally wounding a 17-year-old and hitting a 63-year-old bystander. The chaperone, who was in a camping store at the time of the shooting, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Police say the 21-year-old will not be charged: “He has most likely no clue what he did.”

ONE LAST THING

Five years after 7-year-old Brendon Mackey was killed by celebratory gunfire, police are still searching for answers. The rising third-grader was struck by a falling bullet while walking with his father to watch the fireworks at a park in suburban Richmond, Virginia, in 2013.“A bullet has somewhere it has to land and there’s nothing more tragic about where this one did,” said one detective who has been working on the case.

Local police departments are increasingly warning residents not to shoot their weapons into the air to mark holidays. The available data suggests that wounds caused by falling bullets are several times more likely to be fatal than other gunshot wounds. Here’s what else we found when we examined the deadly physics of celebratory gunfire.