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What To Know Today
Between 2019 and 2021, 17 million Americans — including 5 million children — were newly exposed to guns in homes. The estimate comes from a new firearms survey by Northeastern University professor Matthew Miller and two colleagues. They estimate that 7.5 million U.S. adults — 2.9 percent of the total adult population — became new gun owners in the 28-month span between January 2019 and April 2021, including more than 5 million who made their first firearms purchases after January 2020. Of the new owners since 2019, 5.4 million brought guns into homes that had previously not had them. Overall, of the 17 million people the researchers estimate to be newly exposed to a gun in the home, 9.3 million (3 million children and 6 million adults, including the gun owner) joined the count in 2020. About half of new gun owners in the study were women, while a little under half were Black and Hispanic, a distribution that was roughly consistent before and after the pandemic. The research was published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
The NRA’s latest culture war pitch: Vaccine requirements → violent crime. The gun group released a promotional video in which a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent warns that a COVID vaccination requirement for federal employees may lead to “illegal immigrants committing violent crimes” across America. In the video, the agent says President Joe Biden is making him choose between vaccination and giving up his livelihood, and alludes to a crisis of immigrants crossing the border near his home in the Rio Grande Valley. The video also includes the agent’s wife, who says the entire family armed themselves after “illegal immigrants” broke into their home and she had only a samurai sword and chihuahua for defense. Such perils await homeowners nationwide, the video suggests, if Biden terminates agents for not getting vaccinated and the border is left unsecured. The agent asks Biden to visit the border and meet, but says that he “lost faith in our politicians long ago” and does not expect the president to accept his invitation. “That’s why I am proud to stand with an organization like the NRA,” the agent says, “who is actually fighting for our safety when the government has failed to do so.” A broader view: Though border agents could ultimately lose their jobs for defying the vaccine requirement, no mass firing is imminent. In November, the White House said that nearly 98 percent of Custom and Border Protection employees were in compliance. Research has found that the crime rate for undocumented immigrants is substantially lower than for native citizens and legal immigrants. — Will Van Sant, staff writer
Pentagon releases guidelines targeting extremism in the military ranks. Defense Department officials, worried about what they think is a small but growing threat, released a new policy that details banned activities for service members. It includes more explicit restrictions against advocating for terrorism, supporting the overthrow of the government, posting extremist content on social media, or fundraising for extremist groups. In order to enforce the guidelines, the rules specify that commanders must both determine that someone engaged in extremist activity and that they “actively” participated in a prohibited action. The Associated Press reports that DOD officials believe fewer than 100 military members were involved in extremist activity in the past year, but are worried the number will grow given a broader spike in domestic violent extremism that has included ex-military members.
Watch: Debating gun rights with a man who changed sides. On The Reload podcast, host Stephen Gutowski chats with Ryan Busse, a former rising star in the firearms industry who later became a gun reform activist. From The Trace: In October, Ann Givens profiled Busse in advance of his memoir about his ideological transformation.
$1.6 billion — the total amount of new Justice Department investments in a wide range of public safety programs, including victims compensations and support, reentry services, community-focused violence intervention, and policing. [Department of Justice]
Tom Kutsch is The Trace’s newsletter editor.
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