Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

Daily Bulletin: Ohio Resident Arrested for Planning Synagogue Massacre

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Nearly 40,000 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2017, bringing the country’s gun death rate to its highest level in more than two decades. Maria Butina, the Russian national accused of befriending top National Rifle Association officials in an effort to push the Kremlin’s agenda in the U.S., is reportedly set to plead guilty today. And two Ohio residents were arrested for planning gun massacres.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: The U.S. gun death rate hit a 20-year high in 2017. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER public health database, 39,773 people died from gunshot wounds last year. That works out to a gun death rate of 12.0 per 100,000 people — higher than the rate of death from car accidents, once the leading cause of fatal injury. The last time the gun death rate reached similar heights was in 1996, according to another CDC database that tracks injuries. Last year’s increase was driven by a steady rise in firearm suicides. Alex Yablon and Daniel Nass have more here.

Maria Butina is going to enter a guilty plea today, court filings suggest. The Russian gun rights activist, who is accused of infiltrating the NRA and other conservative American organizations, is planning to rescind the not-guilty plea she entered upon her arrest in July, according to news reports. It is not yet clear what charges she will plead guilty to.

The FBI says two Ohio residents were planning mass shooting rampages. Authorities say Damon Joseph, 21, spent months plotting a mass shooting at a Toledo-area synagogue on behalf of ISIS. He was arrested on Friday after receiving two AR-15s from an undercover agent. Elizabeth Lecron, 23, was arrested on Monday after the FBI said she bought bomb-making materials. Lecron apparently also told undercover agents she planned to shoot up a Toledo bar, and her social media posts reveal that she idolized the Columbine and Charleston church gunmen.

A prominent NRATV personality lost his show amid downsizing at the digital network. Sources told the Daily Beast that Dan Bongino’s “We Stand,” which launched just last year, won’t be on the schedule in 2019. Bongino, a former Secret Service agent whose divisive program was a favorite of President Trump’s, says the decision not to renew was his, not the network’s. Last month we reported that several staffers at NRATV were laid off following reports of cost-cutting within the organization.

The attorney general of Washington State is angry that a task force omitted firearm restrictions from its list of school safety recommendations. Bob Ferguson said he agreed with the 25 recommendations, which include expanding student mental health services. But he said he’s frustrated that the task force failed to embrace a restriction on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, which “make dangerous individuals more dangerous,” he wrote in a dissent. From The Trace Archives: Experts explain why a ban on high-capacity magazines may be the most effective way to lessen the carnage in mass shootings.

A campaign volunteer was shot in the leg while canvassing for a local politician in Chicago. Maxwell Omowale Justice, 32, was handing out flyers and trying to get signatures in support of a candidate for alderman in the city’s West Englewood neighborhood on Sunday when gunfire erupted. He was livestreaming to Facebook at the time.

Parents are demanding answers after an unannounced active shooter drill sparked panic at a Florida high school. On Thursday morning, an intercom announcement and a phone alert indicated that there was an active shooter on the campus of Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, a suburb of Orlando. Thirty minutes later, teachers were told it was just a drill, but panicked students were in such a rush to flee the campus that some of them were trampled, and worried parents flocked to the school demanding to know if their children were safe.

A Boston woman lost three sons to gun violence in the space of six months. Niva Scott, a mother of five, lost her youngest son, 28, in a drug-related shooting in November. Another son, 34, flew in for his brother’s funeral, only to be fatally shot during a home invasion. Scott’s oldest son, 38, was killed by a stray bullet in March. “If these children really knew, I mean it’s so quick to pull the trigger, and they destroy whole family,” Scott told a local news outlet.

ONE LAST THING

Our profile of a powerful NRA lobbyist is featured among the year’s best nonprofit reporting. The Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), which is comprised of nearly 200 nonprofit newsrooms, released its annual list of “rigorous public service journalism that elevates diverse voices, informs communities, and holds the powerful accountable.” Mike Spies’s February profile of Marion Hammer, one of the 10 stories in the gun violence and criminal justice category, was singled out for its impact: “Days after the story was co-published with the New Yorker, more than 60 Florida Republicans broke with the NRA to pass an unprecedented gun safety package,” INN noted.