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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
NEW from THE TRACE: The pandemic’s impact on racial inequity and violence can’t be ignored. In a commentary piece, Fatimah Loren Muhammed, the executive director of the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention, argues that policymakers must craft a response to the coronavirus that recognizes its devastating impact on communities of color that have already been plagued by gun violence and decades of inequality. “As the pandemic spurs national, regional, and local responses, states and the federal government have an opportunity to leverage a workforce of frontline violence intervention workers, many of whom hail from communities affected by violence and have direct contact with those at a heightened risk of both COVID-19 and violence,” she writes. ICYMI: Fatal shootings have increased nationally during stay-at-home orders, and prevention groups need more resources to keep up.
In Maryland, the governor says the state just can’t afford to fund street-level gun violence prevention right now. Republican Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a bill requiring the state to spend at least $3 million each year on the Maryland Violence Intervention and Prevention Program Fund, which provides financial support for evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies. “The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund any new programs,” the governor said. Hogan also vetoed a bill that would have expanded background checks to the private transfer of long guns.
Firearms add violence and volatility to quarantine tensions. This week brought a flurry of incidents in which pandemic closures or social distancing strictures have led to shootings, threats, and intimidation. Among them:
- In Oklahoma City, two 16-year-old McDonald’s employees were shot and wounded after telling a customer the dining area was closed.
- A Kentucky man who posted on Facebook that the governor should be killed over his coronavirus response was slapped with federal gun charges after police found a dozen firearms and 50 hand grenades.
- In Pennsylvania, a parade saluting first responders was interrupted by a motorist waving a gun and threatening to open fire.
- In Texas, the police arrested a group of rifle-wielding men standing guard outside a bar that was violating the state’s shutdown order. “This was not a protest of their Second Amendment rights. It was a show of force,” the local sheriff said.
- In Boston, a man pointed a gun at someone in an ATM line after an argument over social distancing.
Charges were brought in the Ahmaud Arbery shooting. A white man and his adult son were arrested in Georgia just two days after graphic video footage emerged of one of them fatally shooting the 25-year old jogger. The charges, which include aggravated assault, come more than two months after the men chased Arbery with guns to question him about a string of break-ins near Brunswick, Georgia, leading to the fatal altercation. Two previous prosecutors recused themselves. The current prosecutor was brought in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which announced the charges.
Federal judge says Massachusetts must reopen gun stores. The ruling holds that classifying gun shops as “non-essential businesses” infringes on residents’ Second Amendment rights. Attorneys for the governor, who may appeal the ruling, had argued that residents could still get guns through private sales and at essential retailers like Walmart. The judge said gun stores could reopen this Saturday by appointment only. Massachusetts was one of four states still requiring gun stores to close amid lockdown orders.
Indianapolis residents protest, mourn after fatal police shooting. Dreasjon Reed, 21, was killed following a police chase on Wednesday night, part of which he had filmed on Facebook Live. Police said Reed, who was black, later exchanged gunfire with an officer, also black; casings from two weapons were found at the scene, authorities said. About 100 people gathered at the scene after the incident, and hundreds of protesters later assembled downtown and elsewhere in the city on Thursday. Reed’s death was one of three officer-involved fatal shootings in the city in an eight-hour span.
Trump’s bump stock ban withstands legal challenge. A federal appeals court rejected a gun advocate’s lawsuit seeking a temporary lift on the policy that prohibits the devices, which enable semiautomatic rifles to mimic machine guns. The ban was enacted in the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, in which a gunman used military-style rifles equipped with bump stocks to shoot more than 450 people. Two months ago, the Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to the prohibition.
Gunmaker Sturm Ruger reported a 37 percent spike in sales in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago. — MarketWatch