What To Know Today

The connection between gun violence and food insecurity. An analysis of last year’s 271 homicides in St. Louis found that nearly 70 percent occurred in low-income census tracts with no grocery store or supermarket for at least half a mile. Fifty-two killings were concentrated in eight census tracts with no grocery store for a mile. Urban areas that lack such access to grocers and produce are often referred to as food deserts, but as The Kansas City Star reports, many Black activists and farmers refer to the disparity as “food apartheid,” emphasizing the systemic racial inequities. A focus on food access: As public health researchers and community activists seek to combat the root causes of violence, Black urban farmers in St. Louis are working to ensure that their communities — especially the children among them — get the access to the nutrients they need. Hunger and the lack of a complex nutritional diet can make it harder for people to handle conflicts with peers and authority, and to deal with extreme stress, experts tell The Star. “I’ve seen the difference in kids when they get a meal and when they don’t get a meal, how they behave and how they focus in school,” Tyrean “Heru” Lewis, a teacher-turned-urban farmer, tells the newspaper. “So I truly believe that’s all connected.”

Oakland’s new budget gives millions to community-led violence reduction but falls way short of “defund” promises. Following a year of debate, Oakland’s City Council voted on its two-year budget that keeps police spending at historic levels despite a pledge last year to cut up to 50 percent (or $150 million). The previous two-year budget (2019 – 2021) for Oakland’s police passed at $665 million, whereas the new cycle includes $674 million. The budget does secure an additional $18.5 million for the city’s Department of Violence Prevention for an array of community-focused violence intervention programs. But The Oaklandside notes the money was taken from the mayor’s proposed $27 million funding increase for police hiring, not an across-the-board police defunding as some local news outlets suggested last week. The smaller police-funding increase freezes about 50 positions for officers that respond to 911 calls and reduces the number of police academies from six to four. 

Inside the NRA’s first board meeting since its bankruptcy loss. Stephen Gutowski of The Reload writes about the National Rifle Association’s board’s special session over the weekend, where he says directors never discussed the New York attorney general’s dissolution suit or the failed attempt to file for bankruptcy in Texas. Instead, board members focused on topics like President Joe Biden and his push for tighter gun restrictions. Among other things, the NRA’s top lobbyist updated the group about the $2.5 million legislative effort to prevent the Senate confirmation of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Gun seller can’t be sued over weapon used in Texas’ deadliest mass shooting, state Supreme Court rules. Justices dismissed four separate lawsuits from victims of the families stemming from the 2017 shooting at a Sutherland Springs church where a gunman killed 26 people and wounded 20 more. The suits argued that Academy Sports + Outdoors improperly sold the Ruger AR-556 semiautomatic rifle with a 30-round magazine the gunman used. But justices agreed with the company’s defense that it was protected by the U.S. Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that shields gun dealers when their products are used to commit a crime. Several other lawsuits against Academy are still pending, including in federal court. 

ICYMI: Police reform still stalled in Congress as negotiators reach agreement on a “framework.” Just before a two-week Senate recess, Representative Karen Bass and Senator Cory Booker, both Democrats, and Republican Senator Tim Scott released a joint statement about their halting progress after four months of discussions: “We have reached an agreement on a framework addressing the major issues for bipartisan police reform.” The bill, which has already passed the House, has been stuck in the Senate on issues like qualified immunity for officers. Lawmakers will continue working over the next few weeks to try to finalize a deal.

Data Point

55 percent — the share of American adults who describe violent crime as a “very big problem,” compared to concern for the pandemic (36 percent), race relations (39 percent), and the economy (41 percent). Research has shown that Americans tend to view crime rates as higher than they actually are. [Yahoo News/YouGov poll]