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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
How COVID-19 could affect the Supreme Court’s current gun case. The petitioners in New York State Pistol and Rifle Association v. City of New York argue that a city restriction on gun owners taking their firearms outside the five boroughs violated the Second Amendment. The city later repealed the law in question, but a broader ruling on the right to bear arms is still very possible. Jake Charles, the executive director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law, surmises that the current coronavirus pandemic could have three potential effects on the case:
- “In the first basket, a majority might see what’s happening with closure orders and decide they need to send a message that the Second Amendment is protected outside the home as much as inside and that citizens don’t need government permission to exercise their right.”
- “In the second basket, a majority might see the slew of controversial opinions it may have to issue, at a time of worldwide uncertainty and on the eve of a presidential election, and think it best to hold its powder for when it can’t avoid such questions.”
- “Finally, in the third basket, the pandemic might have no formal effect.”
Charles is betting on the second and then third options as most likely. Read his full piece here. Go deeper: In November, Trace contributor Olivia Li interviewed the legal scholar Joseph Blocher, one of Charles’s colleagues, about the implications of the case.
A message on gun violence from Chicago’s departing top cop: “If there is a lesson to be learned from COVID-19, it is that Chicago needs to unite behind the cause of ending gun violence in the same way it has united to flatten the curve,” Charlie Beck, the city’s interim police superintendent, writes in The Chicago Tribune. After five months at the helm of the department, Beck is set to be replaced by former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. In his swan song, Beck reserved special praise for the city’s efforts to support community gun violence prevention groups, violence interrupters, and street outreach workers, saying, “We both [police and outreach workers] want a city free from the violent crime that has taken its toll on poor and minority communities.”
Elsewhere, outreach workers continue to take on dual roles as public health ambassadors. The City reports on Street Corner Resources, a nonprofit group that works to curb gun violence in Harlem and is now asking kids to take social distancing precautions. Said Iesha Sekou, the group’s founder: “It’s just like, I know if I’m on the corner with 20 kids, there’s a gun somewhere. I assume that. It’s the same way. It’s like the gun is the disease. Somebody in that crowd is a carrier.” Don’t miss: The Trace reported on similar efforts in Chicago and Baltimore, and in a new commentary this week, leaders of two national grassroots anti-violence groups praised such workers as “more essential than ever.”
A court again sides with Los Angeles over gun store closures. A state judge denied a request from California gun rights groups and firearms dealers objecting to the city’s decision to shutter gun stores under a statewide stay-at-home order. Last week, a federal judge dismissed a similar challenge lodged by the National Rifle Association. “I’m very pleased that once again our office has successfully defended the mayor’s Safer at Home Order against a push to open gun stores during this public health emergency,” said City Attorney Mike Feuer. Related: Governor Gavin Newsom is letting local officials decide whether the state’s stay-at-home order should cover gun shops. A Democratic state legislator from Los Angeles wants him to go further by restricting gun and ammunition sales during the shutdown altogether.
Preventing the deadly mix of suicide and guns. A new report from the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence recommends four solutions to stem what it describes as a heightened risk during the pandemic: Safe gun storage; professionals asking about firearms; having gun dealers be a resource for suicide prevention; and states that have red flag laws providing guidance and public awareness on how they can temporarily disarm a gun owner deemed to be a threat to themselves. (If you or someone you know is in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day: 1-800-273-8255.)
Florida man arrested for pandemic-related mass shooting threat. The 62-year-old was booked on felony charges after police say he threatened a mass shooting because “not enough people” were wearing masks at grocery stores. “We realize these are stressful times, but there is no excuse for making threats like this,” the Highland County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook.
32 — the number of lives lost at the Virginia Tech mass shooting, which happened 13 years ago today. Because of the pandemic, the school has cancelled its annual public memorial service. Instead, a ceremonial candle will burn for 24 hours. — Virginia Tech