Hello, readers. Today’s briefing kicks off with a scoop from The Trace’s Ann Givens, who dug up meeting minutes from an FBI advisory board showing that the bureau is working to give gun background check examiners access to records that can help them resolve tricky cases and block more prohibited persons from getting guns. Plus, Alex Yablon analyzes the public comments on a proposal to ease gun export rules, and March for Our Lives organizers are practicing diplomacy with armed counter-protesters. Those stories and more, below.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
New from The Trace: The Federal Bureau of Investigation is planning a major addition to the gun background check system. In a shift, background check examiners will soon be allowed to query a massive database of criminal records called the National Data Exchange, or N-DEx, Ann Givens reports for The Trace in partnership with the Post and Courier. The change comes after an FBI review found that access to N-DEx would likely have stopped the white supremacist who killed nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015 from legally buying his gun. A pilot study flagged two dozen buyers who would have otherwise slipped through. The new protocols will take up to two more years to fully roll out.
Pro-gun conservatives react to Trump’s SCOTUS pick. Law professor and Second Amendment advocate Dave Kopel digs into Brett Kavanaugh’s record in the gun cases he has considered on the bench and comes to this conclusion: “Judge Kavanaugh’s text, history, and tradition methodology for Second Amendment cases will not please people who believe that all gun control is impermissible, nor will it please advocates who want to make the Second Amendment a second-class right.” The NRA’s take on Kavanaugh: A big thumbs up. The Daily Caller’s giddy prediction: The nominee’s judicial record “shows SCOTUS could start deciding more gun cases” after a decade of largely declining to grant cert to disputes over firearms laws.
An official at the Interior Department was a gun lobbyist for seven years. President Donald Trump’s ethics pledge prohibits members of the executive branch from taking action on issues they lobbied on in the two years before they were appointed. Less than a year ago, Benjamin Cassidy was lobbying Congress on hunting and conservation issues for the National Rifle Association. HuffPost reports that as a government official, Cassidy has participated in at least two briefings on trophy hunting and national monuments.
On their Texas tour, Parkland activists are being met with armed counter-protests. A gun rights group called Open Carry Texas plans to set up shop at every stop of the March for Our Lives “Road to Change” tour in the state. In response, Parkland students are engaging with the pro-gun activists in hopes of finding common ground. Parkland alumnus and organizer Matt Deitsch described one exchange via a Twitter thread. He says he embraced the counterprotestor, who told him, “This is the most American thing I’ve ever done… Thank you so much for helping us understand.”
Federal agents busted a “ghost gun” ring in Hollywood. The ATF says it bought dozens of homemade, untraceable “ghost guns” from the syndicate. Ten suspects have been arrested on 47 felony charges, police say. “Criminals are making their own weapons because they aren’t able to buy them legally,” one official said.
Gun owners who fail to secure their guns could be fined $10,000 under a new Seattle ordinance. The City Council unanimously passed its tough new safe-storage mandate yesterday.
An Alabama man brandished a gun at a church pulpit on Sunday. The 34-year-old man pulled the weapon as he spoke in front of a congregation, which included his estranged wife, about his pending divorce. The man was taken to a local hospital for a mental health evaluation before he was sent to the county jail on the charge of making a terrorist threat. On Monday, his wife filed a protection order against him, asking the courts to order him “to surrender and to have no possession of any firearms and to not acquire same.”
ONE LAST THING
Thousands make their voices heard on a proposal that would ease gun export rules. On Monday, the public comment period ended on a rule change to turn oversight of firearms exports from the State Department to the Commerce Department. Initiated by the Trump administration in May, the move would mean gun export policy will be driven by a largely by business concerns, rather than foreign policy, law enforcement, or human rights considerations. The change was first proposed in the fall of 2012 by the Obama administration but shelved months later.
As of this writing, members of the public have submitted more than 5,600 comments to State and Commerce, some from gun-violence prevention groups including Giffords and the Violence Policy Center, but also from human rights advocacy organizations like Amnesty International. The NRA also asked its members to weigh in on the proposal.
On balance, the comments have been overwhelmingly negative. One man wrote that the change “is a transparent and cynical effort to boost gun sales during a down market. Making a profit based on the spilling of blood of others is truly immoral and despicable.” The handful of NRA members who heeded their organization’s call, by contrast, were in favor of the rule. One self-proclaimed life member of the gun group wrote that the change was necessary to “make the US economy improve by being more competitive internationally.”
For their part, arms control experts are worried about the consequences of the change, especially in troubled nearby countries like Mexico and Honduras. “The world of firearms exports is full of questionable, dubious characters,” Colby Goodman of the Center for International Policy told me in May. Those characters could have an easier time getting American guns if this rule change goes through. — Alex Yablon