What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: A record-breaking surge in gun violence compounds the traumas of 2020. In over a dozen cities, homicides rose by 50 percent or more this year. In their data-driven feature, Champe Barton, Brian Freskos, and Daniel Nass assess the scope of the surge and the reasons behind it. While a true consensus may never emerge about what drove 2020’s violence, studies have linked elevated rates of homicides to income inequality, housing insecurity, hunger, and unemployment — all of which were exacerbated by the pandemic. “When people’s needs are met, they are safer,” a researcher told us. Read on for the whole story.

Nonfatal shootings surged this year, too. We didn’t include nonfatal shootings in our analysis because the available data is so limited. But as this report from Oregon Public Broadcasting illustrates, there are cities reporting significant increases in gun assaults. Portland, for example, has seen a 200 percent increase in people injured by gunfire. Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a plan to assign more detectives to investigate shootings and deploy hospital-based violence intervention workers to the bedsides of gunshot victims. But police officials say it’s not enough and blame the disbanding of the department’s gun violence reduction team.

Armed demonstrators tried to force their way into the Oregon Capitol. Several hundred right-wing protesters, including members of the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, gathered Monday morning in Salem and began breaking glass doors and pulling down fences after being shut out of a closed special legislative session dealing with pandemic-related business closures. A standoff ensued between demonstrators and troopers in riot gear, and police expelled individual protesters as they found alternate entrances to the building. At one point a protester declared the area a “patriot autonomous zone,” saying “if Antifa can do it so can we.” Police made at least four arrests during the six-hour rally, and are seeking a man who allegedly attacked two reporters.

New Jersey orders police to use deadly force only as a last resort. The new guidelines announced by the state attorney general represent the first amendment to New Jersey’s use-of-force policy in decades. Beginning at the end of next year, police departments will be required to review every incident in which force was used and prohibit officers from using force to accelerate arrests. “The process of rewriting the policy was announced a year ago and included input from law enforcement groups, police unions, civil rights and religious organizations and more than a thousand comments from the public,” NJ Advance Media reported.

The ATF is moving to regulate a popular gun accessory. A pistol brace is an attachment affixed to certain types of AR-15 pistols and shotguns that helps the user keep their arm stable and allows them to fire the gun with one hand. There are an estimated three to four million in circulation in the U.S. Under a proposed rule published Friday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will evaluate whether to classify the devices as “firearms” and require owners to register them in accordance with the National Firearms Act of 1934. The move has enraged gun-rights advocates and industry leaders, who say the proposal is a “thinly veiled blueprint” for confiscation. Pistol braces attracted some attention last year after the mass shooter in Dayton, Ohio, used one. But because they’re gun accessories, and aren’t tracked as a distinct type of firearm, it’s unclear how often they’re used in crimes. The public has until January 4, 2021, to comment. The Trump administration is mum on the move. ICYMI: The gun blog Ammoland reported last month that acting ATF Director Regina Lombardo told Biden’s transition team that regulating pistol braces is among her top priorities.

The gun-toting GOP lawmaker calling for martial law. Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase has marched alongside armed militia groups and hired QAnon-linked extremists as bodyguards — two of whom were arrested with guns while on the way to a vote-counting venue in Philadelphia last month, The Daily Beast reports. Chase defends the men as “peace-loving people who love their country and always carry [guns].” (Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner characterized the incident as a “mass shooting that was narrowly averted.”) Now Chase is looking to succeed Democrat Ralph Northam as governor in 2021.

Data Point

113 — the number of people under 20 who have been fatally shot in Minneapolis this year. Sixty of the victims were under 18. [Fox 9]