DAYBREAK DAILY: Gun issues move into Virginia spotlight

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OF GUNS AND MINDS: A hard look at both, per the Virginian-Pilot, “President Barack Obama has put mental health services high on his list, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has appointed a task force to look at the state’s mental health system, along with public safety and education. Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Services Bill Hazel said the mental health work group has met twice to consider what he calls the “low-hanging fruit” to propose for this session of the General Assembly by the end of the month. The group will also look at longer-term fixes, such as more consistent funding across the state for crisis stabilization, emergency services and housing, for future sessions.”

MEANWHILE: Virginia sees drop in bullet deaths, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Gun-related homicides and serious injuries from gun assaults in Virginia have been trending downward for at least six years, and a new survey suggests the state’s booming gun sales have not triggered an increase in the proportion of people slain by a gun or who use a firearm to commit suicide. Figures from Virginia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner show firearm-related homicides declined in four of the seven years from 2005 through 2011 — the latest reporting year available — from 357 killings to 242, for an overall decrease of 32 percent.”

AND YET: A sobering reminder, per the Roanoke Times, “A hearing before three Virginia Supreme Court justices to consider appeals in the wrongful death case of two women slain at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, will be heard next month. The hearing, set for Feb.12 in Richmond, is the first step back to court for the case, which was filed in 2009 and came to trial last year. The three justices will hear oral arguments and vote on whether the full court will take the case. The case was brought against the state by the parents of the late Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson.”

AND THEN THERE’S THIS: A Sunday cover story, per the New York Times, “Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.”

THIS ONE’S INTRIGUING: On any number of levels, per the Washington Post, “Amid fierce partisan debates over how, when and in which districts Virginians can vote, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II is working to assemble a rare bipartisan coalition to decide who gets on the ballot. . . Cuccinelli said he is hoping he can get lawmakers to set aside ongoing squabbles over redistricting and electoral college legislation to change Virginia’s laws for ballot access, the subject of wide criticism in recent elections. The critics have included former Virginia Democratic Party chairman Paul Goldman, who has teamed up with Cuccinelli for the effort.”

POLITICO PLAY: “A powerful group of senators from both parties has reached a deal on the outlines of a comprehensive immigration overhaul, a development that will drive an emotional debate on a hot-button issue unseen in Washington for more than half a decade. The group is expected to unveil the basics of its proposal at a Monday news conference on Capitol Hill, essentially laying down a marker on the issue one day before President Barack Obama heads to Las Vegas to unveil more details about his own immigration proposal.”

SHOW ME THE RESEARCH: But first, some money, per the Baltimore Sun, “New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is donating $350 million to the Johns Hopkins University for student financial aid and research addressing "complex global challenges," one of the largest-ever gifts to a university, bringing Bloomberg's support of the Baltimore institution to more than $1.1 billion. . . Bloomberg's history of philanthropy to the university dates back 48 years to 1965, when he donated $5 a year after graduating with a bachelor's degree in engineering.”

DAMAGE CONTROL: In a way, but not quite, per the Washington Examiner, “The report last week from Human Rights Watch on the Metropolitan Police Department's handling of sexual assaults was damning. . . But Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, who took over the D.C. Council's judiciary committee earlier this month and has pledged to probe Human Rights Watch's findings, says he's ready.”

COMING SOON TO D.C.: In a word, uncertainty, per the Huffington Post, “. . .In November, voters in Washington and Colorado approved initiatives legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Recent polls show majority support for legalization of pot for any adult, sick or not. At a recent congressional hearing, DEA head Michele Leonhart was nearly laughed out of the room for refusing to say that marijuana was less dangerous than heroin. A new HuffPost/YouGov poll found just one in five people thought the drug war has been worth it. Having lost the public, where does the Justice Department go from here? Where will Obama let it go?”

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: Just the facts, per the Cavalier Daily, “The Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia’s independent student newspaper (has settled on) a comprehensive plan to shift focus from the traditional daily newspaper to a digital-first newsroom. Starting in August 2013 the organization will replace its daily newspaper with a revamped biweekly newsmagazine and expand online and mobile content offerings.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps beat Buffalo 3-2.

SPEAKING OF SPORTS: Or not, or something, per DCist, “A cartoonish, mascot version of William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, made his debut to Washington Nationals fans packed inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (this past weekend). Taft was introduced as the fifth competitor in the Nationals' fourth-inning Presidents Races, joining representations of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and the no-longer-long-suffering Theodore Roosevelt.”

PENDING: And pondering, per City Paper, “(Here’s) an update about J.W. Lanum, the procurement boss for the Department of General Services, who police say was found passed-out drunk in a running car outside the Reeves Center during the middle of a workday. Lanum's case went to trial (Friday) and was dismissed because the Office of the Attorney General was "not ready to proceed in this matter," according to court records. Lanum did not return a call seeking comment. . . OAG spokesman Ted Gest says that the city plans to re-file its case against Lanum early next week.”

HE BEGS TO DIFFER: Or at least his spokemen do, per BethesdaNow, “County Executive Isiah Leggett’s office says Leggett (D) is committed to the Bethesda Metro South Entrance project despite a proposed funding delay and recent assertions that he is trying to defund the project to instead fund new roads.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is Maryland Sen. Brian Frosh, who will be asked about Gov. O’Malley’s efforts to repeal the death penalty, transportation funding and gun control.

--Skip Wood

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