The Georgia State Patrol troopers who shot and killed an environmental activist protesting the construction of Cop City, a controversial police training facility in Atlanta forestland, will not be criminally charged in connection with the death, a state prosecutor said. The death of the activist, who used the name Tortuguita, became a flashpoint in the three-year struggle to prevent Cop City’s construction and inspired support for the protesters across the globe. [The New York Times/The Guardian]
Context: In December 2021, Atlanta was expected to invest $5 million in violence intervention programs. Organizers told The Trace in August that those commitments have fallen short, even as the city more than doubled its pledge to Cop City, rising to a staggering $67 million.
The Gun Machine
In the 19th century, American gun manufacturers faced a dilemma. The government had funded the country’s first firearms companies, but the nation was maturing, and to stay afloat the industry needed to build a firearms market for civilians. So gunmakers started advertising — and the persuasive marketing tactics they pioneered are the same ones companies rely on today.
The third episode of The Gun Machine, a podcast from WBUR and The Trace, focuses on the man who wrote the playbook for gun advertising: Samuel Colt. As host Alain Stephens and producer Grace Tatter explain, Colt helped create the myth of the “Wild West” — the cowboys with guns, the shootouts in saloons, and the villainous depictions of Native Americans — that’s often misremembered as fact today. Colt “didn’t just sell a gun,” Stephens says. “He sold the myth of what it meant to own one: Self-reliant. Tough. The good guy with a gun. And unapologetically… white.”
A transcript of this episode is available here.
What to Know Today
The number of guns seized in U.S. schools has increased dramatically, according to a review of news reports and a survey of large public school systems. Across 47 of the largest districts in the country, the number of guns found on campuses rose 79 percent between the 2018-2019 school year and the 2022-2023 school year. [The Washington Post]
More police officers are being charged with murder or manslaughter as a result of shooting and killing someone while on duty, per a tracker run by Bowling Green State University, rising from a low of one officer charged in 2011, to 21 charged in 2021. But the increase in charges has been accompanied by an increase in police killings: Two databases found that fatal police shootings reached a record high last year, with more than 1,000 people killed. [USA TODAY]
Data from the California Justice Department shows that the proportion of homicides and aggravated assaults in which a firearm was used has increased in the state in recent years. Though the rates dipped last year, the percentages of guns used in violent crimes is noticeably higher than pre-pandemic figures. [Los Angeles Times]
A Texas-based federal judge severely limited the Biden administration’s ability to enforce a ban on forced-reset triggers, devices that convert semiautomatic guns to near fully automatic fire. Though District Judge Reed O’Connor’s injunction does not block the ban altogether, it applies to all members of the National Association for Gun Rights, which claims to have 4.5 million members nationwide, as well as “downstream customers” of gun sellers belonging to that organization or to the pro-firearm group Texas Gun Rights. [Reuters]
Viola Fletcher is the oldest living survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, the riot in which a mob of white people, many of them armed with guns, destroyed the neighborhood known as “Black Wall Street” and killed scores of people. Fletcher has been waiting for redress for over a century — and today, she’s a key witness in the national movement for reparations. [The Washington Post]
For Two Decades, He Studied the Root Causes of Violence. Then He Was Caught in a Shootout: To make sense of his experience, Volkan Topalli reflected on years of conversations with the people most vulnerable to crime. (February 2023)