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NEW from THE TRACE: The struggle to fight two plagues at once. Across America, shootings have been the exception to the crime drop during the pandemic. At the same time, the virus has disrupted community outreach programs that have seen success in reducing gun violence. This work mostly depends on a cadre of trustworthy messengers, often formerly incarcerated people, to defuse conflicts through careful, intimate conversations in community centers or hospital rooms. Now the public health crisis and its attendant economic strain are squeezing those programs in neighborhoods where gun violence continues to rage. In a new feature in partnership with Slate, we look at what violence prevention work looks like across several cities in the time of coronavirus.
A majority of Americans oppose gun stores being open during the pandemic. That’s according to a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll that gauged attitudes on the intensifying debate over lifting restrictions on commerce imposed to try to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. While just four states are currently shuttering firearms dealers as a part of state lockdowns, 71 percent of national respondents said their states shouldn’t allow gun shops to be open at all right now. A slim majority (51 percent) of Republican-leaning voters held that view.
Meanwhile, one state that closed gun shops is feeling the legal heat. In the latest hearing in a challenge against lockdown order in Massachusetts, a U.S. District Judge repeatedly questioned lawyers for Republican Governor Charlie Baker about why liquor stores and other retailers have been allowed to remain open, but not gun stores. Disputing notions that the order violates the Second Amendment, the state’s counsel argued that residents can still acquire guns through private sales and at Walmart, which remains open. The judge directed the governor to draft a plan to safely reopen gun shops pending his ruling.
Michigan considers a ban on guns in the Capitol building. A panel of state lawmakers and gubernatorial appointees could decide on a prohibition as soon as Monday. Last week, demonstrators — some carrying assault-style rifles — entered the Capitol and angrily confronted lawmakers in the Senate gallery to protest the governor’s lockdown order. The Republican vice chairman of the panel said, “We do not like seeing guns brought into the building — loaded guns — and I’m a Second Amendment advocate.”
He said the NRA wouldn’t stop calling. So now he’s taking the group to court. Maine resident Travis McEwen argues that a direct marketing firm working on behalf of the National Rifle Association tried to get him to purchase a membership several times a week beginning in 2018, even though he placed his number on the national Do Not Call Registry and had expressed no interest in joining. In a federal suit, he accuses the NRA of violating the federal law that “gives consumers the right to be left alone by telemarketers unless they get permission first,” his attorney said.
Biden’s plan for African-American communities reaffirms $900 million on preventing shootings. The presumptive Democratic nominee’s plan for funding proven interventions in 40 cities with the most homicides draws heavily from the research of Thomas Abt, whose recent book was excerpted in The Trace last summer. Abt estimates that such investment could save 12,000 lives. The pledge was already an element of Biden’s gun policy platform, but the campaign has now packaged it with its “Lift Every Voice” plan for African-American economic development.
Boston’s progressive DA evokes prison coronavirus outbreaks in a warning to illegal gun carriers. Following a triple shooting, prosecutor Rachael Rollins signaled her frustration at persistent gun violence during the state’s stay-at-home order and issued a warning to illegal gun carriers: “You are going to be sent to a place where, unfortunately, you have a higher risk of potentially contracting COVID-19. And nobody wants you harmed there, but you will not be able to remain outside in the community.” The message, delivered alongside the police chief, was all the starker given Rollins’s desire to release some inmates in order to mitigate infection risks that have led to at least 14,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases in jails and prisons nationwide.
Georgia DA vows to bring charges against white men in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black jogger. Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was fatally shot while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, in February, after a father-and-son duo chased him down to question him about a string of break-ins in the area. The gunman, 25, whose father is a former investigator in the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, invoked the state’s citizen arrest statute and hasn’t been charged. On Tuesday, the same day video emerged of the incident that appears to show Arbery trying to avoid the shooter, Glynn County District Attorney Thomas Durden said he would present the case to a grand jury as soon as the courts reopened, possibly in June. Two previous DAs recused themselves because of a conflict of interest.
Black men are 14 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than white men, according to an analysis of CDC data. — Annals of Internal Medicine