WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
Experts say the destabilizing effects of the pandemic are behind the rise in homicides. Criminologists and residents in cities across the country tell The New York Times that the destabilizing fallout from COVID-19 — which includes job losses, interruptions to youth violence intervention programs, and diminished community policing — has fueled a rise in homicides. Law enforcement officials also point to the surge in gun sales over the last six months and to the trafficking of firearms from states with lax laws into places like California, where laws are more strict. Oakland’s interim police chief says illegal gun seizures are up by more than a third from last year, and include high-capacity magazines. “The story is not just who’s getting killed and who’s getting shot, it’s the amount of amazing gunfire out there.”
In Milwaukee, homicides and gun recoveries are skyrocketing. With 156 killings through October 25, the city is seven shy of its all-time high set in 1991. Officials and activists attribute the violence to the social and economic devastation wrought by the pandemic. Another contributing factor may be the prevalence of guns. The Milwaukee Police Department confirmed to The Trace that it has recovered 22 percent more guns this year compared to last. — Champe Barton, reporter
A new study reveals the characteristics of pandemic gun buyers. The study, from researchers at New Mexico State University and the University of Toledo, surveyed over 1,400 people about whether or not they had purchased guns between March and May. Eighteen percent of respondents said they had bought a gun during the pandemic, and about 10 percent were first-time buyers. They also found that more women and minorities bought firearms during this period. Lead author Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani said the data provides essential information about this new crop of gun owners, which can help public health officials track upticks in suicides, homicides, and accidental shootings. Go deeper: Demand for firearms spikes after events like mass shootings and elections, but no increase compares to the pandemic-related gun-buying surge that began in March. —C.B.
Cops accused of excessive force are invoking a crime victims’ privacy law to shield their identities. ProPublica reveals that law enforcement officers in Florida and the Dakotas are using Marsy’s Law, which is intended to protect victims’ families from harassment by perpetrators, to redact their own names in use-of-force reports. It has been adopted by 12 states, but only in Florida, North Dakota, and South Dakota are police officers permitted to invoke it. They’ve used it for shooting incidents, and even for cases involving minor injuries like scrapes and sprains. The former head of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation said it’s “mind-boggling” that the law could be used this way, as it can keep the public from knowing whether an officer has a history of using excessive force.
The Minneapolis families linked by a common tragedy: police violence. At least 195 people have been shot and killed by law enforcement officers in Minnesota over the last two decades, according to the Star Tribune. Relatives of about 20 of these victims, known simply as “the families,” have connected at least once a week since the killing of George Floyd to support each other. The group regularly meets with lawmakers to lobby for reforms, and their efforts have already borne fruit: They won a ban on warrior-style police training and the development of a new advisory board to investigate police killings.
11 — the number of school-age children in Kansas City, Kansas, who have been fatally shot so far this year. Six of the victims went to the same high school. [Fox4]