What To Know Today

Washington braces for the prospect of violent far-right protests. Extremism experts tell The Washington Post that the assorted followers of President Trump, including white nationalists and militia members, who have converged on the nation’s capital to protest the election of Joe Biden are growing restless as the president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election run aground. Some of the demonstrators may be taking steps to arm themselves for the next round of clashes with counter-protestors: “In encrypted chat apps and online message boards, anonymous users have posted tips and strategies for smuggling firearms into D.C., where carrying without a permit is prohibited and guns are banned at protests.” The District is girding for a potential showdown on Wednesday, when a faction of Republican lawmakers is expected to vote against Congress’s formal certification of the election results. The Proud Boys “will turn out in record numbers” to mark the occasion, the group’s leader said on Parler.

The discredited gun researcher advising the DOJ has released a report on voter “fraud.” John Lott was hired as a senior advisor for research and statistics at the Office of Justice Programs in October, raising concerns among gun researchers that Lott might use his post to suppress or manipulate crime data. Now Lott has surfaced as a player in President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, publishing a report last week claiming to have found 289,000 “excess votes” across six decisive swing states because of “dead people voting, ineligible people voting, or even payments to legally registered people for their votes.” Trump tweeted Lott’s alleged findings, and White House adviser Peter Navarro used them to call for postponing tomorrow’s Georgia Senate runoffs. If at first you don’t succeed: Lott was a member of the short-lived “election integrity” commission that Trump convened in 2017. The panel found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, just as Trump’s team has been unable to produce proof of extensive irregularities during its assault on the 2020 outcome. 

The ATF reversed its decision to regulate a popular gun accessory. On December 18, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced its intention to evaluate whether to classify pistol braces as “firearms” and require owners to register them, a move that enraged gun-rights advocates and industry leaders and drew a complaint from 90 members of Congress. Just before Christmas, the ATF withdrew the rule “upon further consultation with the Department of Justice and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General.” 

Police departments in two cities have fired officers involved in fatal shootings. The interim police chief in Louisville, Kentucky, terminated the detective who killed EMT Breonna Taylor during a no-knock raid in March, as well as the officer who prepared the search warrant. (A third officer involved in the raid was fired in June and indicted on charges of wanton endangerment for firing into a neighbor’s apartment.) In Columbus, Ohio, police officer Adam Coy was fired less than a week after killing a Black man, Andre Hill, as Hill held up a cell phone. Bodycam footage indicated that Coy opened fire seconds after encountering Hill. Meanwhile, the federal probe of another high-profile police killing ended without charges. Citing a lack of evidence, the Justice Department ended its five-year investigation into the two Cleveland police officers who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice as he held a pellet gun at a local park in 2014. Last year, prosecutors in DOJ’s civil rights division tried to convene a grand jury to subpoena witnesses but were denied. 

A rampage at an Illinois bowling alley added to 2020’s dramatic increase in mass shootings. An active member of the U.S. Special Forces killed three people and injured three others in the December 27 attack. It was one of 612 mass shootings in 2020, a 47 percent increase over 2019, according to Gun Violence Archive

Several people were struck by celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. The holiday brought another reminder that bullets fired into the air can injure and kill bystanders:

  • In Texas, a 4-year-old boy and a 39-year-old woman were killed in separate incidents in Arlington, and an 8-year-old boy and a 24-year-old woman were wounded in Houston.
  • Police in St. Louis County, Missouri, suspect the death of a 41-year-old woman was the result of celebratory gunfire.
  • A woman was wounded by a bullet fired into the air in Fresno, California
  • Several people around the country said bullets missed them by inches

ICYMI: Our roundups of the best gun violence reporting of 2020. We compiled 15 shining examples of gun violence reporting from other outlets that inspired us last year, and 16 stories from The Trace that we don’t want you to miss.

Data Point

At least 50 percent — the increase in homicides in more than a dozen big cities in 2020.