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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

It's been another terrible week in America for mass shootings with six killed at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., Tuesday night and then five killed on Saturday in a nightclub in Colorado Springs. In Colorado, some are asking why police hadn't used the state's red flag law to disarm the suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, who reportedly had an encounter with police over an alleged bomb threat last year. Here to talk about the record of red flag laws, we're joined by NPR's law enforcement correspondent Martin Kaste.

Martin, first off, a quick reminder - red flag laws. What are they?

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Well, the official name in a lot of states is extreme risk protection order, or ERPO. The idea there is if a family member or a police officer is worried about someone's state of mind and they see an extreme risk of some violence, they can ask a judge to temporarily take that person's guns away. And this idea has caught on in some places. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now have versions of the law.

MARTÍNEZ: Including Colorado, which passed its red flag law in 2019. So do we know why it was not used to disarm Anderson Lee Aldrich?

KASTE: We don't because we don't know important details about that incident last year. The court records are sealed. Colorado generally uses red flag laws less often than other states, possibly because of politics there and the fact that some county-level elected officials in Colorado have opposed the law. They see it as a violation of the Second Amendment. But on Monday, the Colorado Springs police chief, Adrian Vasquez, said he did believe in using the law.

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ADRIAN VASQUEZ: We have to have credible information to be able to do that. So if we do, then, of course, we should act on it.

MARTÍNEZ: So does it just pretty much come down to gun rights politics in the place you happen to live?

KASTE: Not necessarily. I was talking to Veronica Pear about this. She's a social epidemiologist with UC Davis. She researches police attitudes toward red flag laws. And she says in a survey they did, some of the officers did just say, we don't like the laws because of gun rights. But she says there was a far more important factor at work.

VERONICA PEAR: What we found was that law enforcement officers who had some sort of either personal experience with ERPOs, like serving them, or had some training, those law enforcement officers were much more likely to say that they would use an ERPO in a range of different case scenarios that we presented to them.

MARTÍNEZ: So it sounds like being familiar with red flag laws maybe makes police more willing to use them?

KASTE: Well, that's what her research is showing. And this may explain why, for example, Florida uses red flag laws the most. Their law was passed in response to the Parkland school massacre. And it got a lot of publicity because that's - a lot of people are aware of it. But there's also the practical matter that cops are more likely to use a law when they know how it works. Take a listen here to Kim Wyatt. She's with the prosecutor's office in Seattle.

KIM WYATT: Laws do not implement themselves, so we really need education around, how do you file these? What court do you go to? What is that process? How long is that order in place for? And what does that order apply to?

KASTE: Wyatt is part of a group that I've been following for a couple of years. They're a staff of full-time red flag order specialists. They help the police departments in the region file the paperwork and see the judges. She figures that they consult on at least one case a day now in her region. And the numbers go up during the holidays or after a high-profile act of violence. Just last week, she helped get emergency temporary orders removing guns in cases involving threats to schools. And she says they could act that fast because they know the routine. And this model of a specialized staff is now being tried in some other places around the country.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's law enforcement correspondent Martin Kaste.

Thanks a lot, Martin.

KASTE: You're welcome.

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MARTÍNEZ: Lots of families had some big conversations over the dinner table at Thanksgiving last night, some easy, some hard, some involving major life decisions, such as whether to run for a second term as president. We're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who is reporting on President Biden's deliberations about whether to run for reelection in 2024.

Good morning, Tam. All right, so what do we know about where President Biden is in his decision process?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: We know that Biden has said repeatedly that he does plan to run for reelection, but he has also said that he's a big believer in fate. And although he isn't explicit about this part, he did just turn 80 this past weekend, making him the first octogenarian president of the United States. Until Biden actually files the paperwork, the decision to run isn't really final. He said recently that he would be talking to his family about it.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And my guess is it'd be early next year we make that judgment.

KEITH: Anita Dunn, who is a longtime adviser to Biden and is also a top White House official, was asked about it at an event recently put on by the publication Axios.

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ANITA DUNN: His decision to run in 2020 came after a family meeting that was actually, as he tells it, called by his grandchildren. Pop's got to have this conversation. The family is going to be deeply involved in whatever decision he reaches because that's who he is.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, we know the family's gathered this week. Are they in Nantucket making the decision as we speak?

KEITH: We have no idea. As Biden's press secretary said repeatedly this week, these are private conversations. And even if a decision is made this week - or maybe it'll be over Christmas - it's not like a formal announcement would come immediately. I think back to when then-President Obama made his announcement for the 2012 election. He didn't announce his reelection until around April of 2011. And that was even though there was really no question about whether he would run. In that Axios interview, Dunn said preparations are already underway, though.

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DUNN: We are engaged in some planning for the simple reason that if we weren't engaged in planning in November of this year, we should be in the political malpractice hall of fame.

MARTÍNEZ: When Donald Trump announced that he was going to run in 2024, I think everyone did a collective look toward D.C. to see exactly what President Biden was planning on doing.

KEITH: Well, he has said that he doesn't feel any hurry one way or another, regardless of what Trump does. And Trump's announcement is very early by historical standards, if not by his own standards. And one factor that the White House must be weighing here - and Biden's advisers - is that there are a lot of polls that show Democrats are not that excited about him running again. When I was out interviewing voters last month, many of them brought up concerns about Biden's age. Unprompted, they said that they like him, that he doesn't get the credit he deserves.

And then I'd say, oh, well, then do you want him to run again? And there would often just be these painfully long pauses and a lot of ums and ahs. But I have to say, it doesn't look like there's another Democrat waiting in the wings ready to challenge him. Democrats did really well in the midterms, or at least it wasn't the red wave that many people were expecting. And that's boosted the White House's confidence about Biden's political fortunes. And since then, a long list of Democrats with thinly veiled political ambitions have come out and said that if Biden runs, they will support him. Now Biden just really has to answer the question of if he's going to run.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Tamara, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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MARTÍNEZ: It is officially the holiday shopping season. It's Black Friday. And this year, it has a bit of a shadow hanging over it because inflation is near record highs. So how does this bode for holiday gifts? Well, we have NPR's Alina Selyukh here for an update.

All right. Let's talk inflation. How is it changing up the way people shop?

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: It is by far the No. 1 issue people bring up. Retailers themselves actually, like Target and Kohl's, have said that they are seeing people pull back from discretionary shopping because they're spending so much on necessities like food and gas. And that means this year, people are hunting for discounts more than even before, intensely chasing sales and deals. I talked to Krish Thyagarajan at the analytics firm DataWeave. It tracks prices and he says, basically, stores and shoppers are kind of in this standoff where stores are lowering prices, trying to keep people shopping, while many shoppers are kind of waiting for even bigger discounts.

KRISH THYAGARAJAN: Consumers want better price, so they are sitting on the side. So it's going to really boil down to the consumer's blink first, or do the retailers blink first?

SELYUKH: So if retailers blink first, the discounts in December might bring some inflation relief because this year some people seem to only shop if they find something on sale.

MARTÍNEZ: So glad you mentioned that because I've had my eye on these sneakers, Alina, that I've held off...

SELYUKH: OK, OK.

MARTÍNEZ: I've held off on buying, but my resolve is weakening. So are these big sales happening anytime soon?

SELYUKH: You know, it always depends on the store. But here's what I learned from Vivek Pandya, who tracks online shopping at Adobe.

VIVEK PANDYA: Computers and electronics - they're going to have some of the strongest discounts on record. We're expecting down to around 32%. Other categories, like toys, apparel, home furniture, are seeing very good discounts.

SELYUKH: So not sure on the footwear front, but I just want to explain that for some of these things, like clothes and home goods, for example, there's been a big story of inventory glut. We had shoppers buying like crazy last year. That meant stores ordered more and more. And then shoppers decided they were over it just as many of these shipments were still arriving because of supply chain issues. So now, if stores have too much of the wrong stuff, a lot of it is likely to be on sale. Pandya says the big question is whether people will actually decide to spend their money on all these extra things.

MARTÍNEZ: So do we have an answer to that question?

SELYUKH: Well, people are definitely still shopping. Holiday spending is expected to increase. The National Retail Federation predicts about 6- to 8%. That's actually more than your average year, although if you account for inflation, it does mean we are buying less stuff while spending more money. And it really depends on who we're talking about when we talk about shoppers because there's this growing divergence between shoppers who are wealthier and those who are less so.

Many people are entering this holiday season with the lowest savings they've had in a while. They're shopping with credit cards. A government report this month found credit card balances have recently jumped the most in 20 years. Meanwhile, luxury goods, for example, have actually seen little change from inflation. Even Best Buy said that while shoppers with lower incomes are buying cheaper TVs, shoppers with higher incomes are upgrading electronics, getting fancier versions.

MARTÍNEZ: While you were talking, I was checking on the sneakers. They're still the same price. I'm not buying them.

SELYUKH: Still the same price.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Alina Selyukh, thanks a lot.

SELYUKH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.