NEW from THE TRACE: Fearing COVID chaos, her abuser got a gun. Now she’s the one who is terrified. For years, Michelle Jankowski was in an abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Charles Dickson. Fearing unrest during the pandemic, he got a gun from a friend. In June, Charles threatened to kill Michelle at gunpoint. He was arrested, but he’s been charged only with misdemeanors, and Michelle lives in fear that authorities will release him. “However long he’s in jail is the length I have left to live,” she said. In the meantime, Michelle is struggling to make her children feel safe when she doesn’t feel safe herself. You can read Ann Givens’ harrowing and important profile here.

Homicides are sharply up this year, but crime declined in 2019 and remains near record lows. Yesterday, we highlighted preliminary figures from the FBI showing an uptick in homicides so far this year, while most other crimes dropped. A separate look at crime trends through last year broadens the picture. Unlike FBI figures, the annual National Crime Victimization Survey includes crimes that weren’t reported to police. According to the survey, the rate of violent victimization between 2018-2019:

  • Declined by 15 percent, reversing a four-year increase
  • Declined by 20 percent in urban areas; 27 percent among women; 29 percent among Black Americans; and 22 percent among white Americans
  • Overall, the rate of people reporting violent crimes is about two-thirds lower than it was in 1993.

Gun Violence Archive just recorded the 450th mass shooting of 2020. A shooting in Baker, Louisiana, that left four people wounded held the undesirable distinction and keeps this year’s mass shootings total far above the same point last year. As my colleagues reported recently: 2020 is on pace to have the highest total of mass shootings since GVA started keeping track seven years ago. And, as they showed, while some mass shootings grab big headlines and media attention, the majority happen in relative obscurity and disproportionately affect majority-Black neighborhoods.

After a long road, Fresno, California, secures funding for an innovative anti-violence program. Advance Peace provides resources — like education, job training, and counseling — to young men most at risk of being a perpetrator or victim of gun violence. It also has a unique and controversial element: Participants receive a monthly stipend for staying with the program — and out of trouble.  As The Trace’s J. Brian Charles documented last December, Fresno City Council members authorized funding for the program in July 2019, only to have Republican Mayor Lee Brand veto the proposal, citing a lack of evidence that it works. Activists continued their lobbying, buoyed by fresh research showing the model’s effectiveness. This summer, Brand relented and the city announced its support. With the announcement of a new state grant, advocates are targeting an early 2021 launch date.

A white Nebraska bar owner said he fatally shot a Black protester in self-defense. A grand jury just charged him. Jake Gardner, 38, fatally shot James Scurlock, 22, in early June amid protests in Omaha in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. Scurlock’s death further galvanized local demonstrations. A county DA declined to bring charges in the case but supported the creation of the grand jury that has now charged Gardner with four felonies, including manslaughter. Prosecutors say an exhaustive review of the bar owner’s texts and emails contradicted his self-defense claim.


More than 220,000 — the number of American handgun exports between March and July this year, close to three times the number during the same period last year. The firearms were valued at more than $90 million. [Global arms trade expert John Lindsay Poland]