U.S. police forces experiment with cameras mounted on guns

KING CITY, Calif. (Reuters) – Amid demands for more police transparency after the killing of George Floyd, U.S. police departments are experimenting with a new way of capturing potentially deadly moments: putting small cameras on their guns.

The police department in King City, California last month became the state’s first force to mandate cameras on all its officers’ handguns.

“With (the) public’s responses to officer-involved shootings, I really felt it was important to have that perspective of what the officer most likely can see and the best point of view to see that from is the barrel of the handgun,” said Robert Masterson, King City police chief.

The cameras, about the size of a thumb, are mounted along a rail on the bottom of a firearm’s barrel and automatically record when the gun is drawn from the holster.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2016, almost half of U.S. law enforcement agencies had acquired body-worn cameras. The use of gun-mounted cameras, however, is far less common and the numbers less known.

Minnesota-based Viridian Weapon Technologies, said more than 500 agencies across 47 states are in various stages of trialing or implementing its gun-camera system, which is aimed at supplementing images from police body cameras.

The gun camera was used in a case in Texas earlier this year to prosecute a suspect who became involved in a shootout with an officer in April 2019. Video from the body camera showed the officer’s arms in front holding the gun, whereas video from the gun camera showed the pistol’s point-of-view.

The gun camera would not be useful in cases of alleged police brutality where a gun is not drawn, and Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, warned that there were limitations to the technology,

“Even when a gun is drawn, they’re not going to capture the context of events leading up to the point where the officer draws their gun and often that is the most crucial part in evaluating an officer’s action and whether that was abusive or professional,” he said.

(Reporting by Nathan Frandino; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Death toll from Egypt gun battle rises to 52 killed: sources

CAIRO (Reuters) – At least 52 Egyptian police and conscripts were killed and six more wounded in a gun battle on Friday during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in the western desert, three security sources said.

Sources had said late on Friday at least 30 police were killed. Egypt is battling an Islamist insurgency concentrated in the Sinai peninsula from two main groups, including an Islamic State affiliate, that has killed hundreds of security forces since 2013.

The interior ministry released a statement on the operation on Friday but has so far not given any details on casualties. At least 23 police officers were killed and the other victims were conscripts, the sources said.

Security sources on Friday said authorities were following a lead to a militant camp in the desert where eight suspected members of Hasm Movement were believed to be hiding. The group has claimed attacks around Cairo targeting judges and police.

A convoy of four SUVs and one interior ministry vehicle was ambushed from higher ground by militants firing rocket-propelled grenades and detonating explosive devices, one senior security source said.

Militants are mostly fighting in remote northern Sinai where the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. Attacks mostly hit police and armed forces, but militants have also targeted Egypt’s Christians and tourists.

(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; writing by Patrick Markey/Jeremy Gaunt)

Appeals court blocks D.C. law restricting gun rights

FILE PHOTO: Various automatic handguns are shown in the weapons vault during a media open house at the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) National Laboratory Center in Beltsville, Maryland June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday blocked a gun regulation in Washington, D.C., that limited the right to carry a handgun in public to those with a special need for self-defense, handing a victory to gun rights advocates.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s 2-1 ruling struck down the local government’s third major attempt in 40 years to limit handgun rights, citing what it said was scant but clear guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court on the right to bear arms.

The District of Columbia may appeal the three-judge panel’s ruling to the full appeals court, potentially a more favorable audience as seven of its 11 members were appointed by Democratic presidents. All three of the panel members involved in Tuesday’s ruling are Republican appointees.

Judge Thomas Griffith, writing the majority opinion, said constitutional challenges to gun laws “create peculiar puzzles for the courts,” noting that the U.S. Supreme Court’s first in-depth review “is younger than the first iPhone.”

That 2008 ruling in a landmark case called District of Columbia v. Heller struck down a D.C. law that banned all handgun possession in the city. It was a major victory for supporters of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects gun ownership rights.

The city council tried again to ban carrying weapons, a law that was also struck down by the courts, and now is trying a third time to restrict the right to carry handguns in the city.

Griffith wrote that the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling made it clear that “the Second Amendment erects some absolute barriers that no gun law may breach.”

Some ambiguity exists due to the first 13 words of the Second Amendment, which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The D.C. law that is being challenged directs the police chief to create rules limiting those who can carry handguns to people showing good reason to need one.

Writing a dissenting opinion, Judge Karen Henderson cited case law finding that the “core” right to bear arms is for self-defense inside the home.

“Regulations restricting public carrying are all the more compelling in a geographically small but heavily populated urban area like the District,” Henderson said.

The National Rifle Association and the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had no immediate comment.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Tom Brown)

Iowa poised for major overhaul to gun regulations

By Timothy Mclaughlin

(Reuters) – Iowa lawmakers approved on Thursday amended legislation that would enact sweeping changes to the state’s gun regulations, including a “stand your ground” provision, and sent it to the governor for final approval.

The bill, backed by the National Rifle Association, says a law-abiding person does not have to retreat before using deadly force.

A similar measure in Florida was thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 after the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder after the law was included in jury instructions.

At least 24 other states have similar measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Iowa bill allows for children under the age of 14 to use handguns while under the supervision of an adult who is 21 or older. It also says gun owners with permits can bring concealed handguns into capitol buildings.

Republican state Representative Matt Windschitl said on the House floor on Thursday the bill was, “the most monumental piece of Second Amendment legislation this state has ever seen.”

The bill also would make gun permits valid for five years, with a background check required when the permit is issued. Under the current law, permits are valid for one year with an annual background check.

The bill passed the state Senate on Tuesday and the House last month. The House voted on it again on Thursday to approve changes made in the Senate before advancing it to the desk of Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

A spokesman for Branstad said in an email that the governor will review the bill.

The bill has been criticized by gun control advocates, who say it could increase gun violence.

“We have had very good gun laws,” the Reverend Cheryl Thomas of Iowans for Gun Safety said by telephone. “With the passage of this law, we are going to lose that status.”

Iowans for Gun Safety wants Branstad to veto the measure.

Previous attempts to change the state’s gun regulations have been blocked by Democrats, who held a majority in the Senate until November.

Following the election, Republican lawmakers control the Senate, House and governor’s office for the first time in nearly two decades.

Republicans have used their majority to push through a number of bills during this legislative session, including drastic changes to the state’s collective bargaining laws.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Bill Trott and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Arkansas legislature approves measure to expand concealed gun carry

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Steve Barnes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) – Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Arkansas legislature sent a measure to the governor on Wednesday that expands the number of places where permit holders can carry concealed weapons in the state, including the Capitol building.

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has said he will sign the bill that has been backed by national gun-rights groups.

The measure authorizes anyone with a state-issued gun permit who obtains a few hours of additional firearms training to carry a concealed handgun on commercial premises, sporting events and in government buildings, where the weapons were previously banned.

Courtrooms and prisons are exempt, as are public schools. Churches and bars can choose to prohibit guns, but must post a notice to that effect on their doors.

The bill started out in the legislature as a measure that would have allowed the carrying of handguns onto state college campuses under certain conditions, with backers saying armed and trained civilians could help prevent a mass shooting on campus.

The bill was met with near unanimous opposition by college administrators and campus police departments, who said it endangered student safety.

The bill was altered and became the bill sent to the governor.

Eight other states allow concealed weapons on campus, and a ninth, Tennessee, permits licensed faculty to do so, according to the National Rifle Association.

The minimum age to obtain a concealed weapons permit in Arkansas is 21 unless the applicant is a member of the armed services. Almost 220,000 of Arkansas’s approximately 3 million residents have active concealed carry permits.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Investigators search for clues in South Carolina school shooting

Police officers investigate the scene of the shooting in the South Carolina Elementary school

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Investigators were searching on Thursday for the motive behind a shooting spree by a South Carolina teenager who killed his father and wounded two school students and a teacher before being pinned down by a volunteer fireman.

The incident was the latest in a series of shootings at U.S. schools that has fueled debate about access to guns in America.

The 14-year-old boy, whose name has not been released, shot and killed his father, Jeffrey DeWitt Osborne, 47, on Wednesday afternoon.

Then he drove to Townville Elementary School, where he shot two boys and a woman teacher with a handgun, before being subdued by the volunteer firefighter, police said.

Authorities said they were checking if there was a connection between the gunman and the school victims, but had ruled out terrorism and ethnicity as motivating factors.

The suspect was in custody and interviewed by investigators on Wednesday night, Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper told a news conference.

“We are in the process of taking him through the legal process,” he added.

Authorities said the suspect was home-schooled and called his grandmother, who went to his home and found his father.

“She could not make out what he was saying because he was crying and upset, and so they went to the house, and that’s when she discovered her son and called 911,” coroner Greg Shore told the news conference.

Next, the boy drove a pickup truck about 2 miles (3.2 km) to the school, and crashed into a fence around the playground before shooting the other three victims, police said.

One boy, Jacob Hall, 6, was shot in the leg, police said. He is in critical condition, Greenville Health System spokeswoman Sandy Dees said.

The other boy, also 6, according to media reports, was shot in the foot and the teacher was shot in the shoulder, authorities said.

Both were treated and released from hospital, said Ross Norton, a spokesman for AnMed Health Medical Center.

Volunteer firefighter Jamie Brock pinned down the teenager after he began shooting, as staff led children to safety, Taylor Jones, the emergency services director for Anderson County, told a news conference.

Brock, a 30-year veteran of the Townville Volunteer Fire Department, was hailed on social media as a hero and credited with preventing another school massacre.

Police arrived within minutes of a 911 call to take the suspect into custody. He never entered the school building, said Chief Deputy Keith Smith.

About 280 students attend the school in Anderson County, near the Georgia state line about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Atlanta. It will stay shut on Thursday and Friday as authorities investigate.

U.S. schools have beefed up security precautions since 2012, when a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Immediately after the shooting, armed officers guarded the students as they traveled by bus from the school to a nearby church, media said. Television images showed police swarming the school, with some officers on the roof.

Wednesday’s events follow a Texas incident this month in which a 14-year-old girl shot and wounded a fellow student before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

(Additional reporting Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Missouri lawmakers override gun, voter ID vetoes

Handguns for sale

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) – Missouri lawmakers pushed through bills on Wednesday eliminating the need for permits to carry concealed weapons and requiring voters to show a photo identification before casting a ballot, overriding Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s vetoes of the bills.

Both votes by the Republican-controlled state House and Senate reached the two-thirds majority required to enact legislation over the governor’s veto.

The weapons bill abolished a state law requiring a permit, training and background checks for people who want to carry a concealed weapon in the state.

The House voted 112-41 to override Nixon’s veto and the Senate voted 24-6.

Supporters of the bill said it will make the state safer by allowing more residents to carry firearms in self-defense, while still banning certain criminals and mentally incompetent people from having a gun.

In vetoing the bill in July, Nixon said the measure struck an extreme blow to sensible safeguards against gun violence.

Earlier on Wednesday, the state Senate voted 24-7 and the House 115-41 to override Nixon’s veto of a bill requiring voters to produce a government-issued ID instead of less official identification such as a utility bill or bank check.

The bill would not take effect until 2017, after this year’s presidential election, and only if voters in November pass a state constitutional amendment in support of the new law. That is necessary because the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 10 years ago that such a statute violated the existing state constitution.

Courts in recent months have blocked voter ID laws passed in several states by Republican-led legislatures after civil rights groups argued the measures were discriminatory against poor and minority voters.

In Missouri, voters without a photo ID can still vote if they sign an affidavit swearing that they lack any type of identification. However, election officials can take their picture, and steps must be taken to get a photo ID for later use, with the state covering the cost.

Supporters of the bill said it will help prevent voter fraud.

“Why not have more certainty in the election process?” Republican Representative Justin Alferman, the bill’s main sponsor, said in a statement before the vote.

Opponents had argued that the ID requirement places an undue burden on young, minority and low-income voters who tend to support Democratic candidates.

“Putting additional and unwanted barriers between citizens and their ability to vote is wrong and detrimental to our system of government as a whole,” Nixon said in explaining his veto.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Simon Cameron-Moore)