Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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[Godofredo A. Vasquez / Houston Chronicle]

Daily Bulletin: State Report Adds Momentum for Using an Available Tool to Catch More Shooters

Good morning, Bulletin readers. In today’s briefing: Mike Spies and John Cook comb over the NRA’s latest tax filings, staffers at the group’s media arm report layoffs, and a state report adds to the calls for better use of a crime-solving technology.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: The National Rifle Association has been paying out generous executive benefits amid a growing cash crunch. The gun group paid $102,000 in personal expenses last year for Josh Powell, the same executive who’s now leading an austerity campaign within the organization, its 2017 tax filings show. A spokesperson for the group says the charges cover “corporate living arrangements” for Powell, whose family resides in Michigan. There’s a lot more of note in the NRA’s new 990:

  • A former executive received nearly $1 million from the group’s former insurance partner over two years while also drawing a healthy salary from the NRA.
  • Payments to the NRA’s fire-breathing ad firm, Ackerman McQueen, and the firm’s affiliates were twice as high in 2017 than what the NRA reported in previous tax returns.
  • The filings also include new details on the NRA’s conflict-of-interest policy.

Read the full breakdown from Mike Spies and John Cook.

Meanwhile: NRATV has cut staff, one ex-employee says. Longtime NRATV producer and correspondent Cameron Gray tweeted Wednesday that he and “several colleagues” had been terminated this morning. The NRA’s video streaming operation has become a powerful messaging machine, churning out controversial screeds against the media and the “violent left” while American gunmakers bankroll some of its content. Alex Yablon has the news.

The family of a school shooting victim is suing the gunman’s parents. The parents of Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student who was one of 10 victims killed in the Santa Fe, Texas, high school shooting in May, have filed a lawsuit alleging that the shooter’s parents failed to responsibly store their firearms, despite clear warning signs exhibited by the 17-year-old gunman.

A bill in Connecticut would close a loophole in the state’s safe-storage law. The legislation, named “Ethan’s Law” in honor of a teenager who unintentionally killed himself with a friend’s gun last year, would amend the state’s safe-storage law to make it easier to prosecute people whose guns are used in violent crimes.

Washington, D.C., could get a red flag law. The chairman of the D.C. city council says the votes are in place to pass a measure that would allow officers to remove guns from people who are believed to be a danger to themselves or others. If passed, the district would join 13 states with similar laws, eight of which passed red flag measures after the Parkland shooting.

Guns put people with dementia at risk, researchers say. And red flag laws could be one solution. In The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, a group of health researchers recommends implementing laws that would help remove guns from older adults with dementia or psychiatric illness. In the meantime, the journal article recommends that doctors discuss gun safety with caregivers to prevent people with dementia from harming themselves or others.

The FBI plans to upgrade its public tip line after mishandling a pair of warnings about Parkland. The bureau says it plans to overhaul its Public Access Line, which fields thousands of calls from citizens daily. The changes will include hiring additional staff to screen calls and using a keyword list to better identify potential leads.

A Montana firearms safety instructor was charged with unintentionally killing a doctor. In addition to negligent homicide, the 62-year-old is also charged with tampering with evidence in connection with the shooting death of a local doctor in October. Police say the doctor, 48-year-old Eugene “Buzz” Walton II, died after he was hit by a bullet discharged from a hunting rifle in a Kmart parking lot.

ONE LAST THING

A state report adds momentum for using an available tool to catch more shooters. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s auditor general issued a report calling for a “community approach” to reducing gun violence. The report includes 12 recommendations, one of of which is increasing the state’s participation in the national ballistics database, or NIBIN. As The Trace’s Ann Givens reported earlier this year, if every police department collected as many shell casings as it could and uploaded them into the ATF’s ballistics database, that information could connect more crimes across state lines, and potentially lead to the apprehension of more shooters.