What To Know Today

The attorney general is making it hard to access information and asking for studies to be terminated, researchers say. Veteran gun violence researcher Garen Wintemute in 2017 became the founding director of the Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California, Davis, the first state-funded entity of its kind. But as he tells The Sacramento Bee, the state’s Department of Justice under Attorney General Xavier Becerra has made it increasingly difficult to access state gun violence data on privacy grounds — despite a legal mandate to do so and an already rigorous process to keep data secure. The DOJ challenged one of Wintemute’s requests for the first time in 2017 — about data he was seeking on the state’s red flag law — only to relent, leading to a study finding that the law may have prevented nearly two dozen mass shootings. Since then, Wintemute says the agency has blocked a data request for an update to a study on the state’s system to remove guns from prohibited gun owners and asked his team to end the research and delete their data. Further, a new state DOJ policy to deny data requests with certain identifiers, like names, means several other ongoing studies would also be impossible. The AG’s office is “effectively, knowledgeably, shutting down research on some of the most important policies in California,” Wintemute told the paper. “I believe that science saves lives. Lives are in the balance here.”

NEW from THE TRACE: Introducing ‘Up the Block’: Our new project, led by Philadelphia-based community outreach editor Sabrina Iglesias, will use journalism to provide a resource hub for Philadelphians confronting gun violence. You can read a detailed introduction to the initiative here. But here’s the gist: The first phase of the project, produced in collaboration with Billy Penn at WHYY, builds on their indispensable list of resources for healing and rebuilding after shootings. Early this summer, we’ll launch a simple website that makes such vital info — including where to find financial help for the funeral of a gun violence victim, bilingual services for shooting survivors, and much more — radically accessible. As Up the Block gets rolling, we’ll add information on safe havens and opportunities for young people threatened by gun violence and how they can make sure their voices are heard by leaders as the city considers new approaches to violence prevention. 

If you’re reading the above as a Philadelphian: Let’s talk. Do you have questions about recovering from, avoiding, or preventing gun violence in your city? Are you a journalist, storyteller, or media organization interested in working together? Please email us at [email protected], follow us on Instagram at @uptheblockphl, or sign up for email updates using this form.

Guns, COVID, and root causes: diagnosing New York City’s violence surge. In a must-read conversation, Greg Berman of the Henry Frank Guggenheim Foundation interviews Jeffrey A. Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in light of the city’s huge spike in shootings last year, how the pandemic fuels violence, and what Butts suggests as the path forward for solutions. On the social roots of violence: “I think social disruptions, like a pandemic, don’t make who we are, they reveal who we are. What it’s revealed for me is that we have a lot of young people who have no reason to believe in the social structure and civic behavior. They don’t benefit from it. They know they’re never going to be a part of it. This whole idea of, ‘Go to school, get a job, buy a house, have kids’ — they don’t see that in their future. Protecting themselves and their friends in the short term with violence seems acceptable to them. I think the pandemic just revealed the extent to which that’s always been there. It’s been kept slightly under control by people being busier.”

Senate Democrats reintroduce bill to end the so-called Charleston loophole. Currently, federal law allows federally licensed dealers to proceed with a gun sale if a background check takes more than three business days to complete, even if the purchaser would have been otherwise barred from buying a gun. The Background Check Completion Act, signed by more than two dozen Democratic senators, would require a check to be completed before a sale. Earlier this week, Representative Jim Clyburn reintroduced a similar bill in the House. 

Capitol Police request a 60-day extension for D.C.-based National Guard members. If granted by the Department of Defense, the request would mean some of the 5,200 troops stationed in the nation’s capital since the insurrection would remain past their current mission end date of March 12.

Data Point

75 percent — the year-over-year rise in shooting incidents in New York City in February, according to the police. The number of incidents went from 44 in 2020 to 77 in 2021. Gun violence continues to be an outlier to the broader crime declines seen in the city. [AMNY]