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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The National Transportation Safety Board laid partial blame for the 2015 sinking of the El Faro on the ship’s captain, Michael Davidson, the investigative agency announced Tuesday.

All 33 crew members, including the captain, perished when the 790-foot cargo ship sunk near the path of Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015.

"The captain had multiple opportunities to reroute the vessel to avoid the hurricane," but despite repeated warnings from his second and third mates, he refused to substantially alter course, said NTSB investigator Carrie Bell. "The captain endangered El Faro and its crew."

Davidson, who repeatedly reminded the crew that he’d endured storms in Alaska, likely felt “overconfident” in his ability to withstand foul weather and may have worried that selecting a new route would cost him time and fuel, Bell said.

The junior officers -- who repeatedly expressed concern about the ship’s route -- treated Davidson in a “deferential” manner, and appeared “reluctant” to question his judgment, according to Bell.

"Had the deck officers more assertively stated their concerns ... the captain's situational awareness might have been improved," NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt said. His suggestion riled some of the late crews' family members in the office.

"I took it as like, an attack against the officers, because, you know, they have to follow a chain of command," Claudia Shultz told ABC News through tears. Her husband, Steve, was chief mate. "My husband is not here to defend himself, and neither are the other officers."

And her feelings towards the late captain? "Poor choices were made," she said.

Based on audio captured from the ship’s voyage data recorder, Capt. Davidson seemed unaware that he was relying on weather data that was six hours old. (Though more current data was available onboard the ship, it was transmitted in a different format and required laborious manual charting, the NTSB found.)

Making matters worse, he also issued the command to abandon ship "too late" -- but even if the crew had been given more time to evacuate, the lifeboats likely wouldn't have provided adequate protection for crew, because they were "open," rather than enclosed, the NTSB said.

Though open lifeboats have been considered obsolete since the 1980s, almost half of the U.S. ocean-going fleet is still equipped with open lifeboats, the NTSB noted. Because it was built in the 1970s and its subsequent modifications hadn’t been classified as “major” conversions, Tote’s lifeboats hadn’t been updated.

Compounding the captain’s apparent mismanagement was the “weak safety culture” at El Faro’s owner Tote Maritime, which failed to monitor the ship’s position in relation to the hurricane or offer support as the storm barred down, Bell said. Tote also failed to provide adequate training and neglected to document its “dwindling confidence” in Davidson.

Tote spokesperson Darrell Wilson said in a statement to ABC News, "We as a company intend to learn everything possible from this accident and the resulting investigations to prevent anything similar from occurring in the future. Tote also remains focused, as we have from the start, on caring for the families of those we lost and working daily ashore and at sea to safeguard the lives of mariners."

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Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- The Skirball brush fire that caused residents of Los Angeles' affluent Bel-Air neighborhood to flee their multimillion-dollar mansions last week was sparked by an illegal cooking fire, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a press release Tuesday.

The fire broke out on Dec. 6 just before 5 a.m. at an encampment under Interstate 405 and Sepulveda Boulevard in Long Beach , the fire department said. The fire was then spread by arid landscapes and Santa Ana winds, which also fueled five other fires throughout the state last week.

No one was present when authorities arrived at the area of origin, and no arrests have been made in connection with the fire, officials said.

The Skirball fire burned more than 400 acres and destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others in Bel-Air, the fire department said. As of Tuesday, it was 85 percent contained, but dozens of firefighters continued to work to achieve 100 percent containment, according to fire officials.

Last week, the Skirball fire caused all Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and 17 schools on Los Angeles' Westside to shutter due to the poor air quality, officials said. All evacuations due to the Skirball fire have now been lifted.

About 90 percent of wildfires in the U.S. are human-caused, according to the National Park Service. The fires are often caused by campfires that are left unattended, the burning of debris, cigarettes that are discarded negligently, and intentional acts of arson, the National Park Service said. The remaining 10 percent of wildfires are caused by lightning or lava, according to the park service.

Five fires are still blazing through the Golden State.

The Thomas fire, threatening more than 18,000 structures in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, remains the main concern for firefighters at just 25 percent containment.

More than 6,000 fire personnel are still battling the Thomas fire, which has singed through more than 236,000 acres so far, growing by more than 50,000 acres on Sunday alone. The Thomas fire has destroyed nearly 800 structures and damaged at least 187, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Severe fire weather will continue to promote significant fire growth in Santa Barbara County, the Department of Fire said.

The remaining fires, the Lilac, Creek and Rye fires, were all at least 92 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

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ABCNews.com(SAN FRANCISCO) --  Authorities are investigating the death of a 23-year-old Google employee whose body was found in San Francisco Bay.

Last Thursday morning, a man riding his bicycle on the Bay Trail called 911 to report a naked body floating in the water of the bay, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety said.

The body -- later identified as 23-year-old Chu Chu Ma -- was found by authorities, floating face down in a drainage canal along the Bay Trail, the department of public safety said.

Ma's boyfriend filed a missing persons report Thursday with the police in Mountain View, which is a few miles away from Sunnyvale, the Mountain View Police Department said.

Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Captain Shawn Ahearn told ABC News that nothing has been ruled out in the investigation as police await the results of the autopsy report.

A Google spokesperson said that Ma "was an excellent software engineer in our developer product team."

"We are devastated to learn of her passing, and our deepest condolences are with her family and friends," the spokesperson said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  When officers made a routine probation visit to a Tennessee man, they found what they say were five pipe bombs and the materials to make more.

The probation officer and an accompanying Marion County Sheriff’s deputy paid Christopher Owens, who turned 32 that day, a visit at his Allen Lane home in Kimball at around 4:00 p.m. on Monday. When they searched his bedroom, they allegedly found the homemade bombs.

Owens, who was convicted of committing theft over $1,000, was home with his girlfriend and a child when the authorities performed the "home check," Kimball Police Chief Timothy Allison told ABC News.

The police chief said that the devices, which were filled with black powder, were not that potent.

“I don’t think they were powerful enough to hurt anyone else, but they were a danger to the people in that home,” he said.

Owens was charged with eight counts of reckless endangerment because there were eight people living in the home, Allison said.

In addition to reckless endangerment, Owens was charged with felony possession of a firearm, kidnapping, domestic assault, possession of explosive components and drug possession, according to Allison.

It was not immediately clear if Owens has retained a lawyer or if a court date had been set.

Owens has lived at the one-story ranch-style house where the nearest neighbor is around 100 yards away for two decades, Allison said.

When the devices and materials to manufacture more were discovered, he continued, police assembled the Chattanooga bomb squad and “the five pipe bombs were detonated right there.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) --  An Atlanta police officer shot and injured a man who appeared to be armed with a weapon and was attempting to access a middle and high school, officials said.

School officials contacted the Atlanta Public Schools Police Department when they saw the man enter school grounds and approach Forrest Hills Academy in Atlanta's Hammond Park neighborhood with the apparent weapon Tuesday morning, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Public Information Officer Nelly Miles said in a press conference Tuesday.

When officers arrived on campus, they observed the apparent weapon as the man was leaving the premises, and an officer fired one round at him, Miles said. It is unclear if the suspect pulled or pointed the apparent weapon at officers, but he did not fire it, she said.

Authorities later determined that the suspect was armed with a pellet gun, the GBI said in a press release.

The suspect, whose name was not released, was transported to Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital to be treated for his injuries, Miles said, adding that investigators were interviewing him at the hospital.

The Atlanta Public Schools Police Department has issued arrest warrants for the suspect for having a weapon on school property, Miles said. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was contacted because the case involves an officer-involved shooting, Miles said.

Authorities do not yet know if the suspect knew anyone at the school, Miles said.

No staff or students were injured during the incident, and classes resumed soon after, Miles said.

Atlanta Public Schools did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  ’Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith will spend his first Christmas away from his 3-year-old daughter this year, but he was not forgotten from his family’s Christmas card.

Smith, a nearly 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, was Photoshopped into a card with his wife, Andrea Smith, and their daughter, Charlotte.

The photo shows Andrew Smith in his military uniform stepping in to help as Charlotte stands atop toys in a Target grocery cart and Andrea Smith sits on the floor drinking a Starbucks.

"I know so many families are going through the same thing as us," Andrea Smith, 28, told ABC News. "If we can make awareness that families are still missing people serving away from home, it’s worth it."

Andrea Smith chose to take the photo at Target because it is Charlotte’s favorite store. Sitting on the floor drinking coffee was meant to be a fun way to show all Andrea Smith does as a single, stay-at-home mom while her husband serves the country.

"People think of the guys that are deployed but it’s hard on everybody," she said. "I truly just want everybody to know we’re thinking of other families."

Andrew Smith, 29, has been stationed with his family at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for the past three years. Andrea Smith was not able to disclose his length of deployment or location.

"His first reaction was, 'This is fantastic,'" Andrea Smith said of the first time her husband saw the Christmas card. “He was completely blown away."

Andrea Smith said the photo of her entire family together took her breath away.

"When I saw us all together, I thought, 'This is perfect,'" she said. "There was not another word for it."

"It took my breath away because we were all able to be in the same card even though we’re miles and miles away."

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(NEW YORK) --  The explosive device detonated in the New York City subway system Monday morning did not fully shatter but had the ability to impose more injuries, according to a law enforcement source.

Authorities called the homemade device -- allegedly made by 27-year-old Akayed Ullah -- an "improvised low-tech explosive."

Ullah "had strapped to his body an I.E.D., a pipe bomb that he had made using a metal pipe filled with ... screws held together under his jacket with wires and zip ties," Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference Tuesday.

The bomb was built from a 12-inch-long pipe, black powder and rigged with a 9-volt battery and a wire that came from a Christmas light, a law enforcement source told ABC News.

“He did follow some of the instructions that you can find readily online, unfortunately, to create such a device,” New York Police Department counterterrorism chief James Waters told ABC News. “A Christmas light bulb is one of those components.” Ullah allegedly aimed to "murder as many innocent human beings as he could and to blow himself up in the process -- all in support of a vicious terrorist cause," Kim said.

But the pipe failed to fully shatter and a 6-inch piece was discovered completely intact.

“This could have been worse,” the law enforcement source said.   Ullah is charged with five federal counts, including use of a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use.

The charging document said law enforcement personnel found a 9-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket, wires connected to the battery running under his jacket and fragments of metal pipe. There was also a remnant of what appeared to be a Christmas tree light bulb attached to the wires.

Kim said a search Monday "of his apartment in Brooklyn revealed metal pipes, pieces of wires and metal screws, consistent with the bomb materials recovered at the scene."

The FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, and the NYPD bomb squad are analyzing components of the explosive.

The Monday morning explosion occurred in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, sending commuters scrambling to evacuate a major transit hub just blocks from Times Square.

Despite the rush-hour crowds, officials said, only five people suffered minor injuries.

Ullah, originally from Bangladesh, made statements to police indicating he “was inspired by ISIS to carry out” the attack and said, “I did it for the Islamic State,” according to the charging document.

Some of the material he viewed included instructions to attack at home if unable to travel overseas to join ISIS on the battlefield, the document alleges.

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(NEW YORK) --  The man accused of detonating an explosive in the New York City subway system wrote on Facebook the morning of his alleged attack, “Trump you failed to protect your nation," according to the federal complaint against him.

Akayed Ullah, 27, an immigrant from Bangladesh, is accused of setting off the homemade bomb in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal Monday morning, sending commuters scrambling to evacuate the major transit hub just blocks from Times Square. He allegedly selected the location and time to maximize human casualties, according to officials.

Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference Tuesday that Ullah allegedly aimed to "murder as many innocent human beings as he could and to blow himself up in the process -- all in support of a vicious terrorist cause."

Despite the rush-hour crowds, however, only five people suffered minor injuries, officials said. Ullah was badly injured. Ullah made statements to police indicating he “was inspired by ISIS to carry out” the attack and said, “I did it for the Islamic State,” according to the charging document.

Ullah's radicalization began in at least 2014 when he began viewing pro-ISIS material online, the document stated.

Some of the material he viewed included instructions to attack in homelands if unable to travel overseas to join ISIS on the battlefield, the document alleged.

Inside Ullah's passport was a handwritten notation: "O America die in your rage," the document said.

There is no evidence he received funding or specific direction from any overseas group, according to police sources.

Ullah is charged with five federal counts, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use. Ullah could face life in prison. The death penalty is not a possibility in this case because there were no deaths resulting from his alleged crimes.  Ullah began researching how to build improvised explosive devices a year ago, the charging document said.

Ullah built the bomb in his Brooklyn home a week before his alleged attack and began compiling materials a few weeks earlier, according to the complaint.

"He had strapped to his body an IED [improvised explosive device], a pipe bomb that he had made using a metal pipe filled with … screws held together under his jacket with wires and zip ties," Kim said.

The charging document said law enforcement personnel found a 9-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket, wires connected to the battery running under his jacket and fragments of metal pipe. There was also a remnant of what appeared to be a Christmas tree light bulb attached to the wires.

The FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, and the NYPD bomb squad are analyzing components of the explosive.  

Ullah’s family members in Bangladesh, including his wife and her parents, were taken in for questioning by counterterrorism police in Dhaka, the capital, according to Bangladeshi government officials.

The Embassy of Bangladesh in Washington said in a statement Monday, "Government of Bangladesh is committed to its declared policy of 'Zero Tolerance' against terrorism, and condemns terrorism and violent extremism in all forms or manifestations anywhere in the world, including Monday morning's incident in New York City."

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has a message for would-be terrorists: "We're not afraid."

Johnson spoke with ABC News at the scene of Monday's terror attack in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal just blocks from Times Square. Five people suffered minor injuries in the attack. The bombing suspect, Akayed Ullah, 27, was badly injured from the explosion and has been charged with five federal counts, including use of a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use.

Tuesday, Johnson, who served as DHS secretary under President Obama, confirmed that the Port Authority passageway was part of his daily commute. When the pipe bomb partially exploded Monday, Johnson said he happened to be walking above ground in a break with his normal routine.

"Today, I wanted to make a point of coming through this subway at this specific passage, at this time to demonstrate what a lot of New Yorkers are demonstrating -- which is that events like this happen, but we're strong, resilient," Johnson said. "We're not afraid. It's important to show that terrorism cannot prevail."

According to the charging document, Ullah made statements to police that indicated he “was inspired by ISIS to carry out” the attack and said, “I did it for the Islamic State.”

Ullah allegedly detonated a homemade pipe bomb during morning rush hour around 7:30 a.m. The charging document said law enforcement personnel found a 9-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket, wires connected to the battery running under his jacket and fragments of metal pipe. There was also a remnant of what appeared to be a Christmas tree light bulb attached to the wires.

Johnson went on to say that the incident underscores the need for public vigilance.

"Terrorism can strike at any moment," Johnson said. "Yesterday's event reflected the current threat environment: so-called terror-inspired attacks by lone actors," he said. "'If you see something, say something' is more than a slogan."

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iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) --  A man was killed on Monday night after he was carjacked and run over by his own vehicle in Los Angeles, police said.

The carjacking occurred inside a parking structure in the 600 block of South Carondelet Street at about 6:25 p.m., police said.

The victim -- whose name or age was not released by authorities -- was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

The suspect -- whose only description is that he is an adult male -- fled in the victim's car, police said.

No arrests have been made, police said, adding that the case is being actively investigated.

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iStock/Thinkstock(DES MOINES) -- An Iowa school bus became engulfed in flames this morning, killing the driver and a student who were on board, according to authorities.

The bus began its route about 7 a.m. in the farm town of Oakland before backing out of one home's driveway and landing in a ditch where it caught fire, Pottawattamie County officials said.

“[The bus] was backing out of the driveway, and ended up in the opposite side ditch and a fire ensued; and the driver and one student was unable to get off the bus,” Sheriff’s Office Lt. Rob Ambrose told reporters at the scene.

The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office identified the driver as Donald Hendricks, 74, and the student as Megan Klindt, 16.

They were the only people on board, authorities said.

The Riverside Community School District did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Twenty-four hours after a homemade explosive was detonated in a New York City subway passageway, New Yorkers are back to their daily routines -- including walking through that same tunnel on their way to work.

The Monday morning explosion occurred in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, sending commuters scrambling to evacuate a major transit hub just blocks from Times Square. Five people suffered minor injuries.

Commuter Robin Danzy told ABC News she "was about to come down into the train station" at the time.

"I just missed it," she added.

Today, as Danzy walked along the same passageway, she said, "You would never know that anything happened yesterday from the people going back and forth."

But Danzy said she's "nervous."

"It's really, really scary," Danzy said. "But you can't stop living. You can't stop going to work. There's really nothing you can do except hope that police who are trained in anti-terrorism are able to spot whatever's going on. You just keep moving. And you hopefully have a strong belief in the man upstairs. What else can you do?"

With 6 million riders a day, NYPD Counterterrorism Chief James Waters told ABC News the subway system is safe and he vowed it would stay that way.

The bombing suspect, Akayed Ullah, 27, is "intending to cause death and destruction and fear in New York City, and he’s just not going to accomplish that," Waters said.

Ullah, who was badly injured from the explosion, made statements to police indicating he “was inspired by ISIS to carry out” the attack and said, “I did it for the Islamic State,” according to the charging document.

There is no evidence he received funding or specific direction from any overseas group, police sources say.

Ullah is charged with five federal counts, including use of a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use.

Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference today that Ullah allegedly aimed to "murder as many innocent human beings as he could and to blow himself up in the process -- all in support of a vicious terrorist cause."

The event comes less than two months after a man plowed a truck into a crowd on a lower Manhattan bike path, killing eight people.

The man accused of carrying out that attack, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, was allegedly "inspired" to commit it after watching ISIS videos on his cellphone and he "wanted to kill as many people as he could," according to a federal criminal complaint filed by prosecutors.

Kim said New York City "consistently remains" a prime target for terrorism.

"We are targeted by those whose poisoned minds think that killing innocent Americans here in this city will somehow advance their twisted ideology," he said.

There are no credible and specific threats against New York City at this time, officials said Monday.

Hours after Monday's explosion, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted, "Let’s get back to our daily business. We will never allow them to disrupt us. That’s exactly what they want."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's press secretary even tweeted a photo of the mayor riding the subway Monday afternoon, writing, "New Yorkers won’t be deterred."

 Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson walked through the tunnel under Port Authority this morning as part of his daily commute 24 hours after the attack.

"My daily commute is frequently through this bus station on the way to work," Johnson said. "Yesterday at this time I walked above ground between 8th and 7th Avenue on 42nd Street ... at the time of the attack."

Johnson told ABC News, "Today I wanted to make a point of coming through this subway, this specific passage at this exact time, to really demonstrate what a lot of New Yorkers are demonstrating -- which is that events like this happen, but we're strong, we're resilient, we go on and we are not afraid."

"It's important in the face of an event like this," he said, "to show that terrorism cannot prevail if people refuse to be terrorized."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  To get on a plane, passengers have to go through TSA checks, but rail and bus stations have little security presence, leaving travelers more vulnerable.

To address the issue without creating long lines and elaborate checkpoints, The Department of Homeland Security is trying to employ technology.

Inside a secure lab outside Washington D.C., DHS and researchers at Johns Hopkins University are developing a centimeter wave sensor system.

The system would work inside panels incorporated in to the walls of subway and bus stations. Using radio waves from WiFi, the system would look specifically for particular items like metal or liquid objects.

The sensor system is "taking advantage of signals that are very low to give us indicators of what you have in your bag, what you may be carrying under jacket," Don Roberts, the science and technology program manager at the Department of Homeland Security, told ABC News.

DHS is also working on what could be a massive leap forward in how videos cameras are used across surface transportation, developing something called FOVEA, or Forensic Video Exploitation and Analysis. This computer program would monitor video feeds that mass transportation systems already have in place to determine if a bag has been left unattended in a station or someone poses a threat. Operators would be able to rewind tape, highlight persons of interest and search other cameras to locate possible perpetrators.

These systems are still in development by DHS, but could be implemented across the country in the next three to five years, according to DHS.

“We look at this technology as a force multiplier, we look at this as being eyes that can’t necessarily be in every place," Roberts said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- Shannon Watts, a mother of five who became a gun control activist in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, thought her advocacy work was going to be over shortly after it began.

On December 15, 2012, the day after 20 students and six educators were killed by a shooter in Newtown, Conn., Watts started a Facebook group that would eventually become Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“I have never been impacted by gun violence personally," Watts, who lives in Colorado, told ABC News. "I was just incredibly angry after the Sandy Hook shooting because I was seeing pundits on television saying the solution to the horrific tragedy there was arming teachers. And just as an American and as a mom, I knew that wasn’t right."

Many, like Watts, thought the killing of children and teachers would be a turning point in the fight for gun control. But months later, two major pieces of legislation -- the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 and the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, which would have required universal background checks for firearm sales -- both failed to pass the Senate.

“I can remember thinking, ‘Our work here is done, we tried really hard and we weren’t able to pass this law,’” Watts said of the Manchin-Toomey amendment’s failure.

But rather than quit the fight, Watts said her group and “all of these brilliant, type-A women” who were motivated to change laws after the shooting instead “started pivoting to the states.”

Taking it to the states

The state level is where the majority of the action on gun legislation has happened in the past five years. All told, since Sandy Hook, there have been 210 new gun laws enacted to strengthen gun safety, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

That includes new background check laws in four states that didn’t have them before and expansions of existing background check laws in seven others, bringing the total to 18 states and the District of Columbia with background checks in place, according to the center.

 “Now 49 percent of Americans live in states with expanded background check laws,” Avery Gardiner, the co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told ABC News.

“In some states, people are considerably safer than they were five years ago from gun violence but that’s not true at the federal level. Overall as a nation, people are dying at far too great a rate,” Gardiner added.

Watts is far from alone in being motivated to act after Sandy Hook. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., had just been elected to move up from the House of Representatives to the Senate five weeks before the shooting. He said he was standing on a train platform on his way to Manhattan to take his young children to see the Rockettes when he learned what had happened.

“My life changed in December 2012. It’s not that I wasn’t emotionally connected to the issues I worked on prior to Sandy Hook, but there’s something different when 20 schoolkids are murdered in your backyard,” Murphy told ABC News.

“My kids were just a little bit younger than the kids that were killed, so this was personal,” he added.

Over the course of the past five years, Murphy has been outspoken in his calls for gun safety. In the past 12 months alone, he has sponsored one piece of federal legislation and co-sponsored nine other bills related to guns.

But federal legislation is not the path where gun control advocates have seen the most success. Murphy pointed to state-level laws, electing politicians that support tightened gun laws, and ballot referendums as meaningful ways that change has been enacted.

“We've found that referendums are a very potent tool,” Murphy said.

Referendums and ballot initiatives were what led to major changes in certain states, with all but one gun regulation-related law passing.

Background checks were passed in both Washington and Nevada, although the Nevada law has yet to be enacted. A referendum in California led to a number of regulation expansions, including background checks on certain ammunition purchases and requirements for reporting of lost or stolen firearms. The one referendum that failed was a background check measure in Maine.

“Change is going to be very hard in Washington and I think it’s likely that we're going to continue to look at referendums as a way to make change,” Murphy said.

Wins for Second Amendment advocates

The 2013 failures of the Assault Weapons Ban and the Manchin-Toomey Amendment stand out as the two biggest blows to federal gun control legislation, but gun rights advocates have celebrated other legislative wins since the Sandy Hook shooting as well.

The NRA spokesperson added that while the group and its members felt that they were playing defense during the Obama administration, they now can switch to offense with the current Republican majorities in the House and Senate and with Trump in the White House. Trump has made his support of the NRA clear too, becoming the first president since Ronald Reagan to address the group as president.

Most recently, the House of Representatives passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, allowing people who have a concealed carry permit from one state to use it in all other states. The National Rifle Association hailed it as a victory on Dec. 6.

"This vote marks a watershed moment for Second Amendment rights," Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.

 He went on to call the act's passage in the House "the culmination of a 30-year movement recognizing the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves, and their loved ones, including when they cross state lines."

Aside from the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, an NRA spokesperson told ABC News that the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke were all victories for Second Amendment supporters.

Gorsuch's appointment is seen as a win in upholding the court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 case where the Supreme Court ruled that the handgun ban in Washington, D.C. that stipulated that guns to be kept unloaded and disassembled violated the residents' rights to bear arms in their own homes for self-defense. Gun rights advocates worried that if Hillary Clinton were elected, she would appoint a justice to help overturn it, but Gorsuch has called the decision "the law of the land."

Both Zinke and Sessions have lessened gun regulations in their respective departments as well.

Zinke signed an order in September allowing expanded hunting and fishing on federal lands, which involved the expansion of the types of ammunition allowed on those lands. The order was met with praise from gun rights groups.

In October, Sessions' Justice Department narrowed the federal definition of fugitives to only apply to people who cross state lines, as opposed to fugitives who remained in their home state, according to a memo that has been verified by a DOJ official to ABC News.

A DOJ official told ABC News that since changing the definition, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems Division has issued further guidance to those who input fugitive data into the background check system, which is formally called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

“The Justice Department is committed to working with law enforcement partners across the country to help ensure that all those who can legally be determined to be prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm be included in federal criminal databases,” the official said.

Gun control advocates, like Gardiner at the Brady Campaign, are opposed to the change to the definition of a fugitive.

“Why would you make it easier for people who are fleeing police to buy guns?” Gardiner said.

Rate of change


Laura Cutilletta has worked at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence for 15 years. The group has since joined with former Rep. Gabby Giffords in the wake of Sandy Hook and is now known as the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Cutilletta said she has noticed a definite change in attitudes about guns the last five years.

“The public, even though they’ve always been in support of strengthening gun laws, it hasn’t always been obvious to the public just how bad our gun laws are," Cutilletta told ABC News. "So when Newtown happened, people couldn’t help but notice because it was such a horrific event and people became more educated, more aware, and became mobilized to do something about it."

That was the case for Watts, whose group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, now has 4 million members and chapters in each state.

And it was the case for Murphy.

“I’m embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t work on the issue of gun violence before Sandy Hook,” Murphy said, adding that it makes him want to “kick himself” for not acting on the issue sooner.

“My eyes were opened to the broader epidemic after Sandy Hook,” Murphy added.

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ABC News(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- A young Tennessee boy whose story gained national attention after his mother posted a heart-wrenching video of him addressing his bullies said he is amazed by all the support he's received on social media this week.

Eleven-year-old Keaton Jones said he “never imagined” his story would gain the attention of dozens of celebrities, including Donald Trump Jr., who offered him an invitation to his home.

“All this attention really just feels amazing,” Keaton said in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America. “[I’m] speechless, honestly. I did not ever imagine for any of this to happen.

“I think my message is being heard because, I mean, we’ve gone national. So many people are supporting us,” he added.

Keaton became an internet sensation this week after his mother, Kimberly Jones, posted a video on Facebook showing Keaton’s sobbing as he described how he was bullied by classmates, who poured milk over his head, stuffed ham in his clothes and threw bread at him.

“Why do they bully, what's the point of it?" Jones said in the video, which was first posted Friday. "Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them? It's not OK."

Keaton today said he made the video because he wanted to let people know that bullying is ”a serious thing.”

“I made the video to raise awareness for bullying, not for fame or fortune, it was not at all for that. It was to raise awareness to bullying,” he said. “[It’s] a serious thing that goes on in our society. People criticize other people for the way they look and act; it's not their fault.”

Musicians, actors, TV personalities and athletes have responded to Keaton’s video on social media using the trending hashtag #StandWithKeaton to show their support for the middle school student.

Keaton said the most exciting celebrity response he got was from actor Chris Evans, who urged him to “stay strong” and invited him to Los Angeles to see the premiere of the Marvel Studios-produced “Avengers: Infinity War” next year.

“The most exciting celebrity for me is Chris Evans. I love Captain America,” Keaton said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was little for Captain America to know who I am.

"Well, he knows who I am,” he added.

So does his Tennessee school district.

“To fulfill our mission of educating all children in Union County Public Schools, we must provide an academic environment that is safe, civil and supportive,” Union County Public Schools director James Carter said in a statement.

“We do not and will not tolerate bullying and have a policy in place that addresses conduct taking place on school grounds, at any school-sponsored activity, on school-provided transportation or at any official school bus stop.”

Meanwhile, Keaton’s mom made an effort to dispute claims that she was using their story to extract money from people. She approved one GoFundMe campaign to be set up in Keaton’s honor, but cautioned that others were fakes.

Jones also addressed allegations that she was racist after pictures surfaced on social media of her holding a Confederate flag.

“I feel like anybody who wants to take the time to ask anybody who I am or even troll through some other pictures, I mean I feel like we're not racist,” Jones said. “I mean, people that know us, know us.”

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WJTN Headlines for Tuesday Dec. 12, 2017

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