Gun Control Advocates Focus on Voter Registration

Mimicking a key tactic of the National Rifle Association,supporters of gun regulations are seeking to mobilize young voters in this year’s midterm elections.

Gun control advocates are hosting voter drives at high schools and colleges, including during widespread school walkouts last Friday, the anniversary of the 1999 massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School. They are setting up voter-registration tables at gun control marches and are working to galvanize the nation’s youngest voters around a single issue, the Washington Post reports. The push started after the Parkland, Fl., shooting and was evident at last month’s March for Our Lives rallies, where volunteers at numerous events, including one in New York, roamed around with clipboards asking people to register to vote. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 53 percent of respondents say students across the country holding rallies to call for stricter gun laws represent a lasting movement.

“Who here is going to vote in the 2018 election?” David Hogg, a Parkland survivor, asked at last month’s rally in Washington, D.C. “We are going to make this a voting issue. We’re going to take this to every election, to every state, to every city.” NextGen America, a liberal advocacy group founded by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, and gun-control advocacy groups Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety have announced an initiative aimed at getting 50,000 teenagers registered to vote ahead of the midterm elections in November. The drive will focus on young voters in 10 swing states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Each state has candidates who are supported by the National Rifle Association on the ballot. The gun-control advocacy groups are trying to catch up with the NRA, which puts tremendous effort into elections. The group and its Institute for Legislative Action spend millions of dollars on campaign contributions, lobbying, political spending and getting its membership to vote.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Domestic Violence Role in Mass Shootings Overlooked

Domestic violence accounts for about half of the number of people killed each year in mass shootings, the vast majority of them women. Between 2006 and 2017, domestic abusers accounted for 597 mass shooting deaths, compared to 517 deaths in public places like schools in Newtown, Ct., and Parkland, Fl.

Nearly half the number of women killed in homicides each year are fatally shot by their intimate partners. As many as ten percent more women are shot and killed by other family members. By comparison, intimate partners or other family members account for only 2 percent of men killed by guns. Domestic violence advocates say that in the #MeToo era, when thousands of women have raised their voices to tell stories of abuse and harassment in workplaces, those being abused behind closed doors still face a culture that makes it difficult to speak up, the Christian Science Monitor reports. If a partner has a gun, there is a 500 percent greater likelihood that a woman can be shot and killed, says a study in the American Journal of Public Health. When it comes to mass shootings, the news media and others focus on motives of terror, mental illness, or random nihilism.

In fact, domestic violence accounts for about half of the number of people killed each year in mass shootings, the vast majority of them women. Between 2006 and 2017, domestic abusers accounted for 597 mass shooting deaths, compared to 517 deaths in public places like schools in Newtown, Ct., and Parkland, Fl. Domestic-violence experts say the lack of attention to the motives of domestic mass shooters reflects cultural values that surround gun violence in intimate settings. “Because domestic violence is so insidious and based on a pattern of power and control…you’re not going to know …right off the bat” that a mass shooting incident was an act of domestic violence, says Ruth Glenn of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Experts say the scant attention paid to these type of mass shootings, and the millions more women who are threatened with guns, reflects the public’s lack of education on domestic violence and the pervasiveness of victim blaming.

from https://thecrimereport.org

NIH Gives $5M for Research on Child Firearm Injuries

The award is the largest NIH funding commitment in two decades aimed at reducing gun deaths, the second leading cause of fatalities in children.

A $5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health is bringing together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from across the U.S. to develop ways to prevent and reduce firearm injuries and deaths in children, The Trace reports. The award is the largest NIH funding commitment in two decades aimed at reducing gun deaths, the second leading cause of fatalities in children. The Firearm-safety Among Children & Teens Consortium (FACTS) will be comprised of more than 20 researchers at 12 universities and health systems. It will be run at the University of Michigan. “Reducing firearm-related deaths requires an injury-prevention science,” said Rebecca Cunningham, a professor at the University of Michigan who is one of three principal investigators. “If we apply that science the same way we have for car crash preventions and deaths over the years, we can likely reduce the deaths caused by gun violence.”

Joining Cunningham at the University of Michigan are Marc Zimmerman, a professor of public health, and Patrick Carter, an assistant professor of emergency medicine. Co-investigators are Frederick Rivara, a professor at the University of Washington, and David Hemenway Harvard University. The consortium will begin its work by publishing a research agenda this fall. Researchers will create an archive of child firearms-injury data and will train new researchers. Cunningham said the grant will “jump-start the field of pediatric firearm injury prevention,” noting the need for more researchers, trainees, and junior faculty in the research area. In March, amid public outcry after the school shooting in Parkland, Fl, Congress inserted a brief passage into the federal spending bill clarifying that the Centers for Disease Control is permitted to research gun violence. However, the budget bill included no specific funding for research involving firearms, leaving experts skeptical that the status quo would change. “There’s no funding. There’s no agreement to provide funding. There isn’t even encouragement,” Dr. Garen Wintemute, an expert on gun violence and professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, Davis, told NPR.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump to Propose Easing Gun Export Curbs

The administration will propose a streamlined process for exporting handguns and rifles, a move long advocated by U.S. firearms manufacturers.

U.S. gunmakers are on the verge of getting something they’ve long wanted: a streamlined process for exporting their handguns and rifles, including AR-15 assault-style weapons that have been the focus of national debate, McClatchy Newspapers reports. The Trump administration is expected to propose that a large number of commercially available rifles and handguns would move off a munitions list controlled by the State Department and onto a different one at the business-friendly Commerce Department. Iconic U.S. brands like Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger and the eventual owners of privately held Remington Outdoor are expected to benefit from any new policy.

Opponents of relaxing the export rules argue that decision could come back to haunt the U.S. if the weapons end up in the wrong hands. Gun manufacturers counter that the changes don’t eliminate regulation, but would let them conduct business overseas more easily. U.S. manufacturers are hamstrung by overly restrictive license requirements, said Michael Bazinet of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a lobbying and trade association for gun makers, based in Newtown, Ct. “Lengthy delays in the licensing process, and certain cases requiring congressional notification, cause U.S. firearm and ammunition exporters to lose business.” Gunmakers are hurting from slumping domestic gun sales since President Trump took office. The foundation hopes foreign sales — to sportsmen, collectors and police agencies — could grow by as much as 20 percent under less cumbersome rules, which it has aggressively lobbied for over almost a decade.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why The ‘Smart Gun’ Movement Has Stalled

After the 2012 Connecticut school shooting, many advocates pushed for guns that could be fired only by their owners. More than five years later, Silicon Valley investors have shied away from the idea for political reasons.

After the deaths of 20 children in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, Silicon Valley set out to make safer, technologically advanced weapons that could be fired only by their owners. Venture-capital luminary Ron Conway, known for his investments in Google and PayPal, led the charge, raising millions for grants aimed at jump-starting the smart-gun industry. Five years later, the smart gun has stalled in Silicon Valley, the Wall Street Journal reports. No smart gun has been brought to the market and most of the handful of startups are struggling. The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, founded by Conway to give grants, brought national attention to the issue, but is now having trouble raising money.

The Florida high school shooting that left 17 people dead in February has led to a renewed interest in finding ways to cut gun violence. Smart-gun evangelists hope to capitalize on the movement. The firearms industry and Silicon Valley investors have shied away from smart guns for political reasons. “The gun industry is not fond of [the smart gun] because it’s change, and Silicon Valley isn’t fond of it because it’s guns,” said Jonathan Mossberg, former executive at shotgun maker O.F. Mossberg & Sons, whose effort to produce a smart gun has stalled. For decades, firearms companies have refused to sell smart guns because of glitches in some early models, as well as a backlash from conservative gun-rights activists, who fear the technology will prompt states to mandate it broadly. The activists say their fears were confirmed by a 2002 New Jersey law requiring all handguns for sale in the state to have smart-gun technology once it became available.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Gun Support Declines Among Businesses, Democratic Candidates

Democratic candidates in midterm elections are disparaging the National Rifle Association, while the Bank of America will stop lending to business clients that manufacture military-style weapons for civilian use.

After the Parkland, Fl. massacre galvanized gun politics in the U.S., gun support has been on a steady decline.

A striking number of Democratic candidates in midterm elections, from congressional contests in the Rocky Mountains to governor’s races in the Deep South, are disparaging the National Rifle Association, a group with deep pockets, a loyal membership and a record of Election Day score-settling, the New York Times reports. 

Those Democrats, and a few Republicans, believe that after Parkland, many voters have been turned off by the NRA’s hard line, its belligerence and its demands for lock-step loyalty from elected officials. 

John Heenan, a Democrat running for Montana’s sole seat in the House of Representatives, said that, “all Montanans, especially gun owners, just want people who are going to be responsive to them and bring common sense to the table.”

Democrats say they feel emboldened by the groundswell of outrage over gun violence after the Feb. 14 attack in Florida, which left 17 people dead.

They are encouraged by polls showing that measures like universal background checks and age restrictions for gun buyers are widely popular. 

Meanwhile, a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General showed record-keeping deficiencies, storage shortcomings and just plain sloppiness with guns at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The Inspector General’s office determined that the ATF, responsible for tracking stolen weapons, had “26 instances of lost, stolen, or missing firearms” between fiscal 2014 and 2017.

That is not much, compared with the organization’s more than 35,500 firearms, stun guns and silencers, but it is disturbing, because one of the stolen guns was later used in a crime. 

“Our findings are particularly concerning,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz said last week, “because prior audits identified similar issues and recommended corrective action.”

ATF firearms have vanished under embarrassing circumstances.

The report said that ten firearms, including one rifle, were stolen from government vehicles in separate incidents. The agents received four- or five-day suspensions.

Amid declining political support for guns, businesses have started to withdraw their affiliations with gun-related corporations as well.

Bank of America will stop lending to business clients that manufacture military-style weapons for civilian use, becoming the latest U.S. financial institution to break ties with gunmakers following the mass shooting in Parkland, FL. 

“We want to contribute in any way we can to reduce these mass shootings,” Anne Finucane, vice chairman of the Charlotte, N.C.-based banking giant, said during a Bloomberg TV interview on Tuesday.

Amalgamated Bank announced similar restrictions last week, saying it would not invest any of its own assets “in companies that manufacture or distribute firearms, weaponry or ammunition.” The bank also said it would work with industry peers to seek “responsible practices” from gun manufacturers and distributors.

This summary was prepared by Megan Hadley, a TCR staff reporter.

from https://thecrimereport.org

More Democratic Candidates Oppose NRA Views

After the Parkland, Fl., school massacre, what the New York Times calls a “striking number of Democratic candidates” this year believe that many voters have been turned off by the NRA’s hard line, its belligerence and its demands for lock-step loyalty from elected officials.

After the Parkland, Fl. massacre galvanized gun politics in the U.S., a striking number of Democratic candidates in midterm elections, from congressional contests in the Rocky Mountains to governor’s races in the Deep South, are disparaging the National Rifle Association, a group with deep pockets, a loyal membership and a record of Election Day score-settling, the New York Times reports. Those Democrats, and a few Republicans, believe that after Parkland, many voters have been turned off by the NRA’s hard line, its belligerence and its demands for lock-step loyalty from elected officials. John Heenan, a Democrat running for Montana’s sole seat in the House of Representatives, said that, “all Montanans, especially gun owners, just want people who are going to be responsive to them and bring common sense to the table.”

Attacking the NRA, which claims a membership of nearly 5 million, is a political gamble. Democrats say they feel emboldened by the groundswell of outrage over gun violence after the Feb. 14 attack in Florida, which left 17 people dead. They are encouraged by polls showing that measures like universal background checks and age restrictions for gun buyers are widely popular. Many Democrats airing misgivings about the NRA views are competing in primaries where they are playing to an audience of fellow Democrats and not yet the entire electorate. Their hostility to the NRA in the spring could certainly fade by the fall. Still, many Democrats have grown wary of an organization that they believe has effectively evolved into an extension of the Republican Party, and they have begun to wonder whether they would be better off putting some distance between themselves and the NRA.

from https://thecrimereport.org

ATF Still Losing Guns, Inspector General Reports

A Justice Department inspector general’s report says that at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ten firearms, including one rifle, were stolen from government vehicles in separate incidents. The agents received four- or five-day suspensions. A neighbor found an ATF gun on top of a vehicle. The agent was suspended for four days. Agents twice lost pistols at restaurants.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “generally has strong physical controls,” but a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General found record-keeping deficiencies, storage shortcomings and just plain sloppiness with guns, the Washington Post reports.  The IG’s office l determined that the ATF, responsible for tracking stolen weapons, had “26 instances of lost, stolen, or missing firearms” between fiscal 2014 and 2017. That is not much compared with the organization’s more than 35,500 firearms, stun guns and silencers, but it is disturbing, because one of the stolen guns was later used in a crime. “Our findings are particularly concerning,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz said last week, “because prior audits identified similar issues and recommended corrective action.”

Audits going back 16 years identified ATF “control weaknesses over its ammunition inventories.” Although the ATF’s monthly loss rate for firearms has decreased 55 percent since 2008, it remains slightly higher than in 2002. ATF firearms have vanished under embarrassing circumstances. The report said that ten firearms, including one rifle, were stolen from government vehicles in separate incidents. The agents received four- or five-day suspensions. A neighbor found an ATF gun on top of a vehicle. The responsible agent was suspended for four days. Agents twice lost pistols at restaurants. One officer received a letter of reprimand; the other was suspended for eight days. Ammunition tracking records were understated by almost 31,000 rounds at the 13 sites audited. Given that ATF has over 275 offices, the number of unaccounted ammunition rounds is likely much higher, the report said. Does the ATF know how much ammunition is missing? If all 275 offices have unaccounted materiel at the rate of the 13 audited sites, that would equal more than 650,000 rounds. That’s a lot of bullets.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Studying Gang Tweets Could Reduce Gun Violence, Researchers Say

A Columbia University study argues that studying aggressive tweets among gang members, particularly after a loss, could cut short the cycle of gang-revenge killings if grief counselors and other mental health services intervene in time.

Could studying gang members’ social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook, reduce gun violence?

Authors of a study published this month in NPJ Digital Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal, found that aggressive tweets among gang members usually come two days days after they tweet about loss.

This two-day grace period can—and should—be utilized by grief counselors and other mental health services to reduce the likelihood of gang violence, the authors from Columbia University argued.

“They are using Twitter to talk about their exposure to violence and they are using the (social media) platforms to cope,” the study’s lead author, Desmond Patton, told The Chicago Tribune.

“The way this is spun in the media is there are all these violent comments happening. What I am seeing is people who initially are grieving and over time those comments became aggressive,” he continued. 

Two days after a loss tweet, the study found a 21 percent increase in the expected number of aggressive tweets.

However, loss tweets did not appear predictive of aggressive tweets three or more days out—demonstrating the short span of time counselors and mental health personal would have to intervene.

Researchers looked at over 2,256 tweets from self-identified gang members and 230 unique Twitter accounts.

Patton, an assistant professor in Columbia’s School of Social Work, used the story of Gakirah Barnes as a basis for the study. 

Four years ago, Gakirah Barnes, a Chicago gang member, learning a friend had been slain, posted a praying hands emoji on her Twitter account lamenting the death.

Barnes’ grief quickly turned to anger. Within minutes she again took to social media, vowing revenge on her rivals — even if they weren’t the ones responsible for killing her friend.

Four days later, Barnes, just 17, was dead.  She was shot as she stood with friends on a street in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

The online corridors where gang members taunt and threaten rivals has become an increasing area of study, and judges in the criminal justice system have taken note.

Last week, when it came time to sentence a teen convicted in a Chicago armed robbery, a Cook County juvenile court judge told the young man to wipe his Facebook feed and any other social media accounts clean of references to “gangs, guns and drugs” and refrain from posting on those topics while on probation. 

See also: Judge’s Edict: Wipe Gang Images From Facebook

While the work of Columbia researchers studying social media and gang violence is not yet finished, they conclude they already have found at least one important trend in the tweets — the aggressive posts that draw so much attention are often preceded by something more like a cry for help, which should be met with an immediate response by trained professionals.

The study can be found here.

Megan Hadley is a reporter for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Kaiser Permanente To Spend $2M on Gun Research

The giant health care system is jump-starting its effort because of the huge effect of gun violence on its patients. The health system has more than 12 million member patients, and between 2016 and 2017, its doctors treated more than 11,000 gunshot wounds.

Kaiser Permanente will begin studying gun violence by investing $2 million in research that will involve doctors and other professionals across its hospitals and centers nationwide, the Washington Post reports. Officials at the giant health system said they hope the move will encourage other systems to enter this field of research, which has had lack of funding and data in the more than two decades since the federal government virtually abandoned such studies. “The problem now is we really don’t have evidence to know what’s effective and what works” to prevent gun-related injury, said David Grossman, a doctor and senior researcher who will help lead the new task force.

Kaiser Permanente decided to jump-start its effort because of the huge effect of gun violence on its patients. The health system has more than 12 million member patients, and between 2016 and 2017, its doctors treated more than 11,000 gunshot wounds. “This is something that affects us and our patients directly,” said Bechara Choucair, the system’s chief community health officer and a doctor. “We should be thinking about this problem and studying interventions for it in the same way we study heart disease or diabetes or any other leading cause of death.” The announcement coincides with a resurgence of gun-control activism — led by the student survivors of the February mass shooting in Parkland, Fl. — as well as with new actions by retailers to limit sales of military-style rifles and high-capacity guns and increased research interest from private foundations and state governments.

from https://thecrimereport.org