Week in Review

WEEK IN REVIEW
July 16 – July 20, 2018

 

SPOTLIGHT

The NRA and Russia

This week news broke that the U.S. Justice Department charged a Russian National, Maria Butina, with conspiracy to act as a foreign agent and influence American politics on behalf of the Russian government. According to media reports, Butina has sought out ties with leaders of the National Rifle Association.

Here’s what Giffords Executive Peter Ambler had to say about these revelations:

“Today is yet another example of how the National Rifle Association’s quest for power has made the organization increasingly out of touch with the American gun owners they claim to represent. It’s time for NRA executives to provide some answers. The arrest of an NRA-linked Russian gun-rights activist alleged to be illegally working as an agent of the Putin government raises serious questions about whose interests the gun lobby is advancing in our democracy. Congress must get to the bottom of whether the NRA used Russian money in its record-breaking 2016 election spending to advance its priorities. As a criminal investigation continues to produce indictments that show Russia meddled in our democracy, the NRA owes their members a detailed explanation on who they helped and what they did.”

LEADING THE NEWS

In Big Reversal, Supporters of Regulating Bump Stocks Now Outnumber Opponents 3 to 1 in Comments to ATF | The Trace | Daniel Nass

One big advantage the gun lobby used to claim was the willingness of its fervent base to take direct action to support the cause. Guns become central to the political affiliations of many firearm owners, who have been more likely than reform advocates to give money or contact politicians to try to influence policy. Now, we have some of the first, tangible evidence of how the youth-led movement that has sprung from the Parkland shooting has increased the grassroots muscle of the anti-gun violence side. It’s found in the comments that Americans have filed with the federal government to express their views of the Department of Justice’s proposed restrictions on bump stocks, the aftermarket devices that allow common semiautomatic rifles to fire more than 500 times per minute.

‘Downloadable Gun’ Clears a Legal Obstacle, and Activists Are Alarmed | New York Times | Tiffany Hsu and Alan Feuer

By Learning to make a so-called ghost gun — an untraceable, unregistered firearm without a serial number — could soon become much easier. The United States last month agreed to allow a Texas man to distribute online instruction manuals for a pistol that could be made by anyone with access to a 3-D printer. The man, Cody Wilson, had sued the government in 2015 after the State Department forced him to take down the instructions because they violated export laws…The administration “capitulated in a case it had won at every step of the way,” said J. Adam Skaggs, the chief counsel for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “This isn’t a case where the underlying facts of the law changed. The only thing that changed was the administration.”

Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’ | Washington Post | Deanna Paul

During the summer of 2012, Cody Wilson hung around J&J, a car-repair shop run by two “goofy” guys in their late 20s. The Austin warehouse was crowded with engine blocks, car parts and Pelican boxes that never seemed to have been opened, but the 24-year-old came as he pleased, with access to shop machinery. He had spent the larger part of his second year at the University of Texas Law School learning how to operate a 3-D printer. Familiar with the robust gun culture of the South from his Boy Scout years in Arkansas, he soon began to wonder whether he could create the first fully 3-D-printed, functional firearm. Wilson was not confident it was feasible. The technology was new, and printable materials were brittle and plastic. But Wilson was motivated by curiosity, hypothesizing that he could design a printable weapon and build a platform for users to download gun blueprints without government regulation.

The Mystery Firm That Has Become the NRA’s Top Election Consultant | The Trace | Mike Spies

Heading into the 2014 midterm elections, polls showed the Republican Party had an opportunity to retake control of the Senate. Such a change would severely limit President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda during his final two years in office, an outcome that was especially attractive to the National Rifle Association. In the wake of devastating events like the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the president had become an aggressive promoter of new gun regulations. To get its message out, the NRA turned to an unknown consulting firm, Starboard Strategic Inc., paying it $19 million. More than a third of that money was invested in must-win Senate seats in Colorado, North Carolina, and Arkansas — three of the most expensive in the country — paying for a host of television, radio, and internet ads.

Lawsuits claim MGM has no liability to Las Vegas shooting victims | Las Vegas Review-Journal | Rachel Crosby

MGM Resorts International has filed federal lawsuits against more than 1,000 Las Vegas mass shooting victims in an effort to avoid liability. The company, which owns Mandalay Bay and the Route 91 Harvest festival venue, argues that it cannot be held liable for Oct. 1 deaths, injuries or other damages, adding that any claims against MGM parties “must be dismissed,” according to complaints filed Friday in Nevada and California. “Plaintiffs have no liability of any kind to defendants,” the complaints argue.

Sacha Baron Cohen mulls arming toddlers with guns in inaugural episode | The Hill | Judy Kurtz

An array of current and former Republican lawmakers — including Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), Joe Wilson (S.C.) and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) — are seen endorsing a fake program that would arm toddlers with guns in the inaugural episode of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Showtime series, “Who is America?” “You want me to say on television that I support 3- and 4-year-olds with firearms? Is that what you’re asking me to do?” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asks a gun-loving, Israeli anti-terror expert played by Cohen in Sunday’s premiere episode.

Under the Radar

A Surprising Bid for Remington, and an Unsurprising Rejection | New York Times | Andrew Ross Sorkin
This spring, I wrote a column suggesting someone should try to buy Remington, one of the country’s oldest and largest firearms makers, and transform the company into a model for advanced and responsible gun manufacturing. A surprising investor made a bid to do just that. Perhaps not surprisingly, Remington’s management rejected the offer. The proposal came from the Navajo Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes in the country with more than 350,000 members and land holdings of more than 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The Navajo Nation — which controls a $3.3 billion investment trust — sent a letter to Remington in May offering to buy the company for $475 million to $525 million, according to a draft of the letter reviewed by The New York Times. The tribe planned to pay for the purchase in cash.

MIT dropout developing smart gun only its owner can fire | Boston Herald | Jordan Graham

Kai Kloepfer has a box he really wants to open. Inside, he hopes, is a device that will save countless lives. But Kloepfer is keeping it inside the box as he walks through a Boston co-working space, not because it is a secret — because it is a gun. Rather, it is a nonworking early prototype of a gun outfitted with a fingerprint sensor that he hopes will be the first widely accepted smart gun to hit the market.

Vic Mensa: “I Am a Gun Owner, and I Vehemently Support Gun Control” | Rolling Stone

My heart sank into my gut as the voice on the other side of the phone fed me words I could hardly stomach. “Are they talking about Cam?” I asked, referring to the barrage of R.I.P. tweets flooding my timeline as I sat in a sweaty recording studio on Chicago’s near West Side. “Yes,” she answered, her voice devoid of emotion. “He got shot.” He got shot. He got shot. These words have reverberated through my eardrums too many times in my 25 years. Too many blissful summers have been stained with the blood of men cut down in a vicious cycle of ultra-violence that rips through my city like a cyclone, tearing apart families and leaving broken homes and broken men on street corners adorned with makeshift memorials for the dead. Later that day, I got a call from Cam’s best friend, Brian, as I bent the corner to the ramp from Lake Shore Drive to I-94. He sounded as if he had spoken these words one too many times, imparting a grim message I have held on to, and passed down to younger generations of loved ones: “You are of that age now where you will start losing people you love, and there’s nothing you can do to control it.”

STATE UPDATES

Illinois: Guns can be removed from those deemed dangerous under law signed by Rauner; he also extends ‘cooling off’ period to assault-style weapons

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law Monday a measure allowing police to take away guns from those judged in court to pose a threat. He also extended the 72-hour gun-purchase waiting period to all firearms but said he would veto a measure adding more oversight to gun stores. Rauner said at a news conference that he was “proud” to sign the firearms order of protection measure, noting that it was supported by law enforcement and calling it “a very important step forward to increase safety for the people of our state.”

Florida: Court to consider NRA appeal of Florida gun buyer age restriction

A federal appeals court Monday cleared the way for considering a dispute about whether two teens can remain anonymous in a challenge to a new Florida law that raised the minimum age to buy rifles and other long guns. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a two-page document that said it “appears that this court has jurisdiction to consider this appeal,” though it said a final determination on that jurisdiction will be made later by a panel of judges who will hear the anonymity issue. The appeal stems from a ruling in May by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that a 19-year-old Alachua County woman, identified as “Jane Doe,” could not remain anonymous as a plaintiff in a National Rifle Association challenge to the gun law. The NRA also sought to add to the case a 19-year-old man, identified as “John Doe,” who could be affected by the law.

Maryland: Hogan tells Great Mills students he would reject an NRA endorsement

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday told a group of students from Great Mills High School, where a 16-year- old girl was killed earlier this year, that he would support toughening a law that holds parents responsible when their children gain access to their guns. The Republican governor, who is seeking a second term and faces a challenge from Democrat Ben Jealous, also told the teenagers that he would reject an election endorsement from the National Rifle Association if the organization offered one. “He told them he wasn’t expecting it and didn’t want it,” Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said of an NRA endorsement. “He doesn’t think the NRA are big fans of his at the moment.”

Minnesota: After pressure, Swanson supports gun control measures

In the midst of a heated DFL primary for governor, candidate and Attorney General Lori Swanson said Monday that she supports several gun control measures, including “enhanced” background checks and banning the devices known as bump stocks. Swanson’s campaign issued a press release stating her position on several proposals after receiving pressure from a group supporting tougher gun laws to sign a campaign pledge. She has said she will not sign pledges in her campaign. In the release, Swanson didn’t specify what types of enhancements she would support regarding background checks for purchasing a firearm.

Arizona: March for Our Lives taking push for gun-law reforms, voter registration on the road

March for Our Lives, the student-led movement for sensible gun-law reforms, hosted a “Breakfast for Our Lives” on Thursday and announced a summer bus tour to educate and register young voters. This summer, March for Our Lives launched a 20-state bus tour, but because it does not include Arizona, local activists started their own. The breakfast also served as a fundraiser to pay for bus rentals and drivers. Students are using the tour as an opportunity to promote voter outreach and start new chapters across the state. The idea is to elect representatives who support public demands for effective gun laws.

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