Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Call on Congress to Adopt Gun Reforms

Hello, readers. A die-in on the Capitol lawn today will mark the two-year anniversary of the Pulse massacre, which arrives as Orlando is waking up to a new gun tragedy that has left four children slain. That news and more in today’s report.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

In the fifth episode of our Aftermath podcast partnership, a mass shooting victim grapples with survivor’s guilt. When Layla Bush nabbed her first real office job at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, she felt she was on the right path. But a summer afternoon in 2006 altered the course of her life forever. That’s when Bush, then 23, was shot along with five of her co-workers, one of whom died. She woke up a few weeks later in the hospital missing part of her pancreas, part of her liver, and all of her spleen. A dozen years later, she’s still in physical pain, and wracked by anguish: she was the one who’d buzzed in the gunman. Bush replays the attack over and over in her head, wondering what she could have done differently. “I had a gun in my face,” she says, “and I just kind of froze.” Listen to her story here.

Four children were fatally shot in Orlando on the eve of the Pulse anniversary. The killer had taken the children hostage during a standoff with law enforcement, which ended late Monday night with him dying by suicide. The gunman is a convicted felon suspected of shooting a police officer responding to a domestic violence call over the weekend. Police have not released the names of the young victims, ages 1, 6, 10 and 11. On the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured, Trace contributor Kerry Shaw heard from two best-friend paramedics credited with saving multiple lives that night. Amid their heroism, first responders can be scarred by what they witness at the scenes of mass shootings. A new feature from WFME, Orlando’s NPR station, profiles five first responders coping with PTSD.  “I’ll never be the same,” one of them said. “It’s just learning how to live with it and function with it.”

A coalition of the nation’s police chiefs and sheriffs called on Congress to adopt a series of federal gun reforms. The Major Cities Chiefs Association recommended the adoption of new firearm policies that include universal background checks, red flag laws, adding people with violent mental health histories to the list of prohibited buyers, and allowing court orders to bar domestic abusers from buying guns. The group, whose members represent the 69 largest law enforcement agencies in the United States, incorporated input from Parkland survivors, who attended its summer conference on May 29.

A frustrated newspaper columnist staged a gathering of young gun reform advocates at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. #FillTheSteps was launched by Philadelphia Daily News columnist Helen Ubiñas shortly after the 2016 Pulse massacre to highlight the daily gun violence toll in her city. At this year’s demonstration, which was attended by local politicians and anti-violence advocates, students from a local high school sang and spoke about how gun violence has affected their lives. Philly.com recapped the event on Twitter.

The NRA is standing by its man in Florida. After news broke that Florida’s Department of Agriculture didn’t run federal background checks on concealed carry applicants for 13 months in 2016 and 2017, the National Rifle Association’s lobbyist in the state, Marion Hammer, criticized the snafu. But after Adam Putnam, who heads the agriculture department — and has the gun group’s backing for governor — said that every applicant’s criminal background was still investigated, and that the 365 applications that escaped “further review” were later vetted, Hammer turned on his critics, saying, “The facts don’t fit the narrative being pushed by [his] anti-gun political opponents.”

YouTube briefly pulled a big gun retailer’s channel over the weekend. Brownells’ channel was restored on Monday, two days after the Iowa-based firearms retailer directed supporters to complain to Google, which owns YouTube. The company says it didn’t get an official explanation, but a spokesperson said the channel didn’t appear to violate YouTube’s new restrictions on gun-related content. Brownells’ CEO, Pete Brownell, served as NRA president from 2017 until last month.

Social media has radically altered gang culture in Chicago over the last decade, according to new law enforcement data provided to the Associated Press. Posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are increasingly igniting real-world attacks and fueling retaliation. A violence interrupter says that when he wants to trace the origin of a particular street skirmish, “I Google it. I look on YouTube and Facebook. Today, that’s how you follow the trail of a conflict.”

ONE LAST THING 

Intuit clarifies its policy for gun transactions. In yesterday’s newsletter, we told you about the dispute brewing between several gun businesses and the merchant services provider Intuit, which had frozen the accounts of a training center and a pistol maker, among other companies.

The businesses accused Intuit of not understanding how gun sales worked. A representative for Gunsite Academy, an Arizona-based marksmanship training program, told the New York Post that Intuit, which processes credit card transactions, believed gun businesses were shipping weapons directly to customers after accepting payment on a website, rather than sending them to a local licensed firearm dealer for a background check.

In an emailed statement to The Trace, Intuit spelled out its position. Spokesperson Heather McLellan said the company’s policy is to not work with businesses that accept online credit card payments for guns, even if the gun is first delivered to a third party who conducts a background check. “To comply with the requirement of our bank partner, these transactions must occur face-to-face, so we require them to be what is known as a ‘card present’ transaction,” McLellan said. Otherwise, “Intuit cannot verify the customer was present.”

It has long been Intuit’s policy not to work with businesses that sell guns online or over the phone, she said, even if they also offer other kinds of products like accessories or apparel. That’s because the company can’t tell which transactions involve firearms.

Gunsite now no longer allows customers to purchase firearms directly through its website. They must call or email the training academy to make other arrangements. — Alex Yablon, reporter