Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Noah Pozner's sister at his grave in Newtown, Connecticut. [Lenny Pozner ]

Daily Bulletin: Sandy Hook Families Sue Alex Jones, Activists Squeeze Gun Investors, a Bump Stock Maker Will Halt Sales

Hello, readers. We’ve got a business-heavy briefing for you today, as new fronts open up in the push to get financial firms to set safety standards for their gun clients, and the inventor of the bump stock announces he’s shutting down his company. Let’s get to it.

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WHAT TO KNOW NOW

Sandy Hook parents are suing Alex Jones for defamation. Two families have filed lawsuits against the conspiracist talk show host for portraying the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut as a government plot. One of the plaintiffs, Lenny Pozner, talked to The Trace in 2015 about his battle to prevent his son’s memory from being tarnished by mass shooting hoaxers.

The top bump stock manufacturer is shutting down. Slide Fire Solutions will stop taking orders next month. The closure follows sustained scrutiny of bump stocks after their use in the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. The Justice Department is taking steps to outlaw the devices, which allow semi-automatic weapons to approximate automatic fire.

The American Federation of Teachers pressures asset managers to set gun safety standards. A release touting a new report prepared by the labor union claims that the teachers group has convinced five top investment firms — including Fidelity and Vanguard — to join the list of major Wall Street players who have or are reassessing the terms they set for gunmakers. The report also names a list of financial institutions and public pension funds who have declined to take action to address what the AFT characterizes as the “risk exposure” of holding stakes in gun companies.

Parkland activist: #BoycottVanguard #BoycottBlackRock. The latter has created a new fund free of gun company holdings, as CNBC notes. But it appears that does not go far enough for student reform leader David Hogg, who took to Twitter yesterday to ask his followers to let the index firms know that they disagree with their inclusion of firearms stocks.

The City of Chicago also wants the banks it does businesses with to impose curbs on gun sellers. The banking lobby is pushing back. Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed the “Safe Guns Policy” late last month. It would require financial firms serving the city to affirm that none of their retail clients sell bump stocks, high capacity magazines, persons under 21, or buyers whose background checks are still pending. The City Council’s Finance Committee delayed a final vote on the ordinance after the banking industry argued that the measure was overly broad and would be impossible to enforce in its current form. Meanwhile: New York’s top financial services regulator sent letters to banks and insurers advising them to cut ties to the gun industry. The letters warn of the “reputational risk” of doing business with the NRA.

Shootings in Chicago are down 32 percent over last year. Approximately 600 people have been shot in Chicago so far this year, compared to 901 people at this point in 2017. Police credit the installation of high-tech centers that use real-time data to deploy officers to hot spots, an effort that got a $10 million boost from a hedge-fund billionaire last week.

The Trump administration is expected to make it easier for U.S. gun companies to export firearms. The rule change would remove some firearms, including AR-15s, from a munitions list controlled by the State Department and transfer their export regulations to the more “business-friendly” Commerce Department, McClatchy reports. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group, has spent millions lobbying for the change, which has been considered off-and-on since 2010. Arms-control experts worry that it could lead to American guns falling into the hands of foreign militants and organized crime syndicates.

Suicides left more first responders dead last year than all line-of-duty deaths combined. The report from the Ruderman Family Foundation suggests that PTSD and depression are going untreated among this population.

NEW ON THE TRACE

Nationwide vigils for the forgotten victims of violent crime. On Saturday, “Survivors Speak” events were held in 22 cities around the country, from San Diego to Detroit to Miami. The gatherings honored people whose lives have been irrevocably impacted by violence, and provided a forum where they could share their stories:

  • “Ever since I was in eighth grade, there’s been killings in my community. … There’s trauma everywhere around us, and we’re not healing. We don’t have any healing avenues. We don’t have any healing resources.” — Monifa Akosua, who attended a Richmond, California, vigil
  • “There is no way God put me in this world to be used and abused. It has to translate into something.” — Tarana Burke, at the Survivors Speak conference, Sacramento, California 
  • “The connection that crime survivors feel is very unique, and we wanted to be able to facilitate a way to bring that connection around the country. … Much of the trauma that lingers from being a victim of a crime is isolation and shame, and we’re letting that shame go, collectively.” — Shakyra Diaz, Cleveland, Ohio, on the impetus for the events

Read more about the vigils in this post from contributor Kerry Shaw.