House Plans Votes on Two Firearms Measures

In the first congressional votes on gun issues since President Trump took office, a bill easing regulations on the purchases of gun silencers could reach the House floor as early as next week. Another measure allowing concealed carry permit holders to take their weapons to other states is expected to move through the House Judiciary Committee soon.

House Republican leaders are moving forward with plans to vote on two gun-related measures in the coming weeks. It will be the first time Congress has taken up the controversial issue since Donald Trump became president, Politico reports. A bill easing regulations on the purchases of gun silencers, which are also known as suppressors, could reach the House floor as early as next week. Another measure allowing concealed carry permit holders to take their weapons to other states is expected to move through the House Judiciary Committee and onto the floor possibly next month. Both proposals are almost certain to pass the House, despite opposition from gun-control groups. In the Senate, Democrats will likely block them. Trump would almost certainly sign the bills.

Narly five years after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., left 20 children dead and prompted an impassioned debate over expanding background checks for gun sales, the GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration are moving in the opposite direction. Republican congressional leaders and Trump administration officials — at the urging of the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups — are looking to roll back restrictions on guns imposed during the Obama era.Gu n-control groups  claim that the NRA and its allies on Capitol Hill and inside the Trump administration are looking to help the gun industry, which has seen its sales slump since President Obama left office.

from https://thecrimereport.org

27 States Curb Guns for Domestic Violence Offenders

Rhode Island has become the seventh state this year to pass a law restricting access to guns for people convicted of domestic violence offenses. Gun control advocates argue that federal laws are not strong enough and additional protections must be passed on the state level, in part because state laws are easier for local authorities to enforce.

Rhode Island has become the seventh state this year to pass a law restricting access to guns for people convicted of domestic violence offenses. The state will prohibit the possession of guns by people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and court-issued final protective orders, and it also will require such people to turn in any guns they already own, reports the Washington Post. Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge or who is subject to a domestic violence protective order from possessing a firearm. Gun control advocates argue that federal laws are not strong enough and additional protections must be passed on the state level, in part because state laws are easier for local authorities to enforce.
The biggest issue, they say, is that the federal statute doesn’t provide a mechanism for those convicted of abuse charges to turn in the guns they already own.

“You’re prohibited from buying firearms, but you can go home and access the firearms you already have,” said Sarah Tofte of Everytown for Gun Safety. Of the seven states that passed laws curtailing the ability of those convicted of domestic violence to obtain firearms, at least three — New Jersey, North Dakota and Rhode Island — require those who are convicted to turn their guns over to police. Nationwide, 27 states have passed laws curtailing access to guns by people convicted of domestic violence offenses or subject to protective orders. Of those, 17 states have laws in place requiring them to relinquish their guns. Michael Siegel, a Boston University professor of community health sciences, published a study this week showing that states that require people with restraining orders to relinquish the firearms they already own have a 14 percent lower rate of intimate-partner gun-related homicides than states that don’t. Siegel said there are about 1,800 intimate-partner homicides in the U.S. each year; about half of those homicides involve guns.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Stand Your Ground’ Rises in States with GOP Gains

Since 2005, 22 states have passed laws authorizing residents to use lethal means to protect themselves in certain situations. The trend had stalled until Republicans became the majority in more legislatures. Florida is poised to strengthen its law in favor of shooters.

For the eleventh year in a row, Iowa legislators this year took up a “stand your ground” proposal, authorizing residents to use lethal means to protect themselves in certain situations. In other states, such laws have disproportionately justified the fatal shootings of African-Americans. What was different now, in 2017, was the measure’s likely passage, reports The Trace. In November, Republicans, who overwhelmingly support the policy, won a majority in the Iowa State Senate, giving the party control of both the legislature and the governorship for the first time since 1998.

“Stand your ground” passed, and Gov. Terry Branstad signed it. For four years, between 2012 and 2016, every state that tried to enact “stand your ground” legislation failed. Now the policy is again finding its way into law. Last year, Missouri became the first state to break the logjam, followed by Iowa. Florida is poised to strengthen its law in favor of shooters, shifting the burden of proof in pre-trial hearings to prosecutors, who would have to convince a judge that someone claiming “stand your ground” shouldn’t be immune from prosecution. “The states that passed ‘stand your ground’ early on were low-hanging fruit,” said Christopher Mooney of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. “As Republicans gain strength in states like Missouri and Iowa, the odds of it passing go up.” Twenty-two states have passed versions of the law since 2005. Stand your ground” removes a person’s duty to retreat in the face of grave danger, granting the legal right to use deadly force if the perception of a threat is “reasonable.” (Critics refer to the statutes as “shoot first” laws.)

from https://thecrimereport.org

Liberal Gun Club Sees Growth Spurt, Including NRA Defectors

The national club, founded in 2009, says it has now grown to about 5,000 members–still a small fraction of the NRA’s reported 5 million.

The Trace profiles The Liberal Gun Club, a loose community of gun owners put off by the extreme pro-gun rhetoric they often encounter at gun stores, shooting ranges, and in gun forums. Spokeswoman Lara Smith said the club has seen substantial growth in the last year, driven in part by people who have defected from the NRA. The group has nine chapters and boasts about 5,000 members in all 50 states. (The NRA claims 5 million members.) As members gathered recently at the Livermore Rod and Gun Club, east of San Francisco, one non-member at the range cracked, “A liberal gun club. Isn’t that some kind of oxymoron?”

Members of the group, which formed in 2009, are accustomed to snarky remarks from other shooters. “When those people who weren’t fitting the stereotypical role would discuss firearms they’d get lambasted for their views,” said Smith. “The club was started by people who said, ‘Hey, look. There’s this whole other group of people out there who shoot.’” Member Jim Ridgeway, a Navy veteran who owns a wide array of firearms, said, “I don’t feel like the NRA represents me at all, and I don’t feel like they represent their members at all.” Club members tend to support universal background checks and other restrictions intended to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Children Beset by Gun Violence; This One Survived

Four-year-old Carter Hill survived when he was caught in the crossfire of a road-rage shooting in Cleveland last month. On average, one child is shot every hour in the U.S., a world leader in the number of kids killed by gunfire.

The Washington Post examines shootings of American children by telling the story of Carter Hill, a 4-year-old Cleveland boy who survived a serious gunshot to the head during a road-rage shooting in August. On average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015–about one per hour.  About 8,400 children were hit, and 1,458 died. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade. Many of the shootings never become public because they happen in small towns, the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy, or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.

Ted Miller, an economist who has studied the topic for nearly 30 years, estimated that the medical and mental health costs for just the 2015 child victims will exceed $290 million. Denise Dowd, an emergency room doctor at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, has treated at least 500 pediatric gunshot victims in a four-decade medical career that began as a nurse in Detroit. She’s written extensively for the American Academy of Pediatrics and several national medical journals, both about how to prevent children from falling victim to gun violence and, when they do, how it affects them, emotionally and physically. Dowd can rattle off number after number to illustrate the country’s crisis, but few are more jarring than a study of 2010 World Health Organization data published in the American Journal of Medicine last year: Among high-income nations, 91 percent of children younger than 15 who were killed by gunfire lived in the United States.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Police Warn of Assault Weapon Danger at Rallies

Domestic extremists, ranging from white supremacists to rival “antifa” anarchists, are exploiting loose gun control laws to appear at emotionally charged rallies with assault rifles and other high-powered weapons, increasing the likelihood of an explosive clash, law enforcement officials tell Politico.

Domestic extremists, ranging from white supremacists to rival “antifa” anarchists, are exploiting loose gun control laws to appear at emotionally charged rallies with assault rifles and other high-powered weapons, increasing the likelihood of an explosive clash, law enforcement officials tell Politico. Open carry laws in many states allow civilians to display virtually any gun in public that they want, often with no permit, training or background check required, say federal and state law enforcement officials who monitor extremist groups. “Why would you let someone bring an AR-15 to a hate rally?” asked former FBI agent James Gagliano. “It’s absolute insanity.” In Charlottesville, Va., and other recent protest events, hundreds of people showed up heavily armed and primed for a fight. More than 1,500 people attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, with a Baltimore man suspected of membership in the Ku Klux Klan arrested for firing his gun at a crowd of protesters.

In Texas, swarms of gun-toting antifa members and white nationalists assaulted each other at several events near the Austin statehouse over the past year. In Pikeville, Ky., more than 150 heavily armed neo-Nazis and white supremacists engaged in a tense standoff with 100 anti-fascists in April. They were separated by police and dozens of militia members before violence ensued. “The next incident is right around the corner,” said Capt. Michael Rinaldi, counterterrorism chief of the New Jersey State Police. “Someone will run someone over, or someone will get shot and there will be a melee and it will gain momentum. There is definitely concern for what you saw in Charlottesville, that you’ll get a group and then counterprotesters and then you’ll have casualties.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

How ATF Agents Managed a Secret Account

Newly unsealed records reveal an unorthodox merger of an undercover law enforcement operation and a legitimate business. What began as a way to catch black-market cigarette dealers transformed into a nearly untraceable ATF slush fund that agents could tap, the New York Times reports.

For seven years, agents at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives followed an unwritten policy: If you needed to buy something for one of your cases, talk to agents in Bristol, Va., who controlled a multimillion-dollar account unrestricted by Congress or the bureaucracy, the New York Times reports. When the Times revealed the existence of the secret account in February, it seemed like the work of a few agents run amok. Newly unsealed records reveal an unorthodox merger of an undercover law enforcement operation and a legitimate business. What began as a way to catch black-market cigarette dealers transformed into a nearly untraceable ATF slush fund that agents could tap.

The spending was not limited to investigative expenses. Two informants made $6 million each. One agent steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate, electronics and to his church and his children’s sports teams. Federal law prohibits mixing government and private money. The ATF can point to no legal justification for the scheme. Agency supervisors encouraged it by steering agents around the U.S. to Bristol. No one was ever prosecuted, and the Justice Department tried for years to keep the records secret. The Times intervened in an ongoing fraud lawsuit over the activity and successfully argued that a judge should unseal them. The documents tell a bizarre story of how federal agents set up shop inside a southern Virginia tobacco business, and treated its bank account as their own. The account was closed in 2013.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Wilmington, De., Leads Nation in Teen Shootings

Of the 10 cities with the highest teen shooting rates, most had populations of less than 250,000, according to an analysis by the Associated Press and USA Today Network of Gun Violence Archive data.

Wilmington, Delaware, a city of 72,000 known as the birthplace of chemical giant DuPont and as a cozy home for big banks and Fortune 500 firms, leads the U.S. in its rate of shootings among people under 18, according to an analysis by the Associated Press and USA Today Network of Gun Violence Archive data from media reports and police press releases.

The analysis covers a 3½ year period through June of this year.

“It’s nonstop, just nonstop,” said William Rollins V, whose stepson was shot. “Around every turn, they’re taking our kids.”

Of the 10 cities with the highest teen shooting rates, most had populations of less than 250,000. Among them were Savannah, Ga.; Trenton, N.J.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Fort Myers, Fl.; and Richmond, Va. Chicago was the only large-population city high on the list. Poverty and a sense of hopelessness in the most violent neighborhoods is a common thread.

Syracuse has a poverty rate of 35 percent. Other cities, like Savannah, are deeply divided. While its antebellum mansions, gnarled live oaks and marble monuments to war heroes drew more than 13 million visitors last year, the scenery there quickly shifts to decaying neighborhoods, abject poverty and deadly violence.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Sessions Oversells Federal Gun Prosecutions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to steer more gun-crime cases to federal court,. The St. Louis U.S. Attorney’s office has done that but the city’s rates of homicides and serious crimes remain among the nation’s worst.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to steer more gun-crime cases to federal court, where offenders face an average of six years in prison, compared with the lighter punishments that can result from state convictions. In Missouri, gun offenders charged under state laws generally get probation. Sessions instructed U.S. attorneys to step up their gun-case loads. In the second quarter of this year, federal firearms prosecutions jumped 23 percent over the same period in 2016, The Trace and Politico Magazine report. In a St. Louis speech, Sessions praised the local U.S. attorney for an aggressive pursuit of gun-law violators, saying, “The more of them we put in jail, the fewer murders we will have.”

Sessions is dramatically overselling the effectiveness of his prosecution-heavy policy, those who study gun violence say. Researchers say the long prison sentences and elevated incarceration rates that result from increasing federal prosecutions have scant influence on violent crime rates. No other city has tried harder to do what Sessions wants than St. Louis. Since the 1990s, the Eastern District of Missouri has been in the top 10 federal court districts for gun prosecution rates, says Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The St. Louis office has increased its intake of gun cases, leading the nation in 2016. At the same time, the city’s rates of homicide and serious crimes are the nation’s worst and have been stuck at or near the top of the list for 20 years. The city had 188 homicides in each of the past two years—a two-decade high. Nonfatal shootings were up 22 percent. What is a more effective role for federal authorities in reducing violent crime? It starts with recognizing that no two cities’ crime problems are alike. The next step is to create a menu of interventions tailored to meet local needs—and support them with reliable funding. “At the end of the day, you need a balanced, evidence-informed strategy that is not just about a program or two,” says Thomas Abt of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “It’s about how multiple programs interact to produce a cumulative effect.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Fearing Looters, Houstonians Stock Up on Ammo

Some residents worry that overworked police will not have time to keep the peace. “What people want is ammo,” said a gun store owner. “People want to arm up and protect themselves from the looters.”

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Houston gun shops are seeing a spike in ammunition sales as some residents worry about the ability of strained law enforcement to keep the peace, reports The Trace. “Our phones are blowing off the hook,” said James Hillin, the owner of Full Armor Firearms, off busy I-10 in Houston. “What people want is ammo. People want to arm up and protect themselves from the looters.” There have been reports of looting in Houston, and the mayor has instituted a curfew. More than 40 people have been arrested, the Houston Chronicle reported. So far, there doesn’t appear to be evidence that looting is widespread.

Gun owners worried that their weapons might be stolen have also called Hillin to ask a favor. “All these people who got their houses flooded are calling me to put their guns in my store’s vault,” he said. “It’s bone dry.” A spokesperson for the ATF in Houston said gun stores in the area were burglarized during the storm but could not provide details. Hillen said employees armed with AR-15 rifles were keeping watch at his store, which was not damaged by the storm.

from https://thecrimereport.org