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For almost two decades, a group of legal scholars and advisers worked on a major revision to Washington, D.C.’s criminal code — a century-old document that included no legal definition of assault, Robert Samuels reports for The New Yorker, but which retained a common-law offense barring people from being a “common scold.” Penalties were often contradictory: Threatening to damage someone’s property, for example, carried a heftier maximum sentence than actually damaging it. The District wanted an update, and put experts on a Criminal Code Reform Commission to write one.

The D.C. Council passed the commission’s revision in November 2022. The code clarified how different crimes are defined and created sentencing guidelines to match the severity of an offense to its punishment, among other changes. But it was ill-fated: Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the bill, and though the Council voted to override it, her veto gave congressional Republicans fuel to turn it into a national issue. The GOP led an effort to repeal the crime bill, advancing rhetoric that the District’s lawmakers were “soft on crime,” and President Joe Biden signed their legislation into law in March. 

The controversy over the code revision came amid a rise in violent crime in D.C. The Washington Post reported last month that homicides were up 15 percent compared with 2022, and violent crimes overall increased 37 percent over the same period. In July, the D.C. Council passed an emergency bill to address public safety concerns, which included measures that would make it an offense to fire a gun in public and make it easier to hold people in pretrial detention for some crimes. According to DCist, many of the temporary provisions were based on an earlier proposal by Bowser “to address what she called gaps in the law.” Meanwhile, Samuels reports, the effort to fill the gaps in the code governing D.C.’s criminal legal system appears indefinitely stalled.

What to Know Today

Illinois will soon enact a law banning advertisements for guns that are meant to appeal to children, members of illegal militias, or straw purchasers, as well as ads that could produce a public safety threat. It will be the eighth state to pass legislation allowing such lawsuits against firearm manufacturers. [Associated Press/Illinois General Assembly] Context: The gun industry has a special legal immunity that protects companies from challenges in court. But there are two broad exceptions: One concerning defective products, and another concerning violations of state or federal law. 

Today is the deadline for the Supreme Court to decide whether the Biden administration can continue regulating ghost guns while a legal challenge plays out; Justice Samuel Alito temporarily reinstated the ATF’s authority to enforce the rules late last month. [Bloomberg/CBS] Context: At issue is a new rule that classifies “buy, build, shoot” kits as completed firearms under federal law.

The 1200 building on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s campus has remained largely untouched in the five years since 17 people were killed in a mass shooting there. That changed last week: After lawmakers toured classrooms full of bullet holes and bloodstains, the attack was reenacted with live ammunition, a simulation that victims’ families pushed for as part of a civil lawsuit against a school resource officer. [The Washington Post

Health care is one of America’s most dangerous industries, with high rates of workplace violence. A recent wave of shootings at hospitals and medical facilities illustrates how the field is struggling to adapt to growing threats. [Associated Press

Oklahoma City is now home to the state’s first community-based violence intervention program. LiveFree OKC hopes to reduce gun violence in Northeast Oklahoma City by 20 percent in its first year of operation. [KOSU

Philadelphia students shared concerns about the city’s gun violence and its effect on young people’s mental health at a roundtable with state leaders and school board members. Samaya Arthur, a rising freshman, said she’s not sure the crisis can be fixed: “Some things just can’t be solved,” she said. [Chalkbeat Philadelphia] Context: City officials and anti-violence activists say much of the violence among young Philadelphians is fueled by the same ills that drive most gun violence: poverty, rage, and easy access to guns. 

Gun rights lawyer Joshua Prince is fighting the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to obtain the names of donors to a long-defunct legal fund the city set up to defend itself against a 2015 lawsuit brought by the NRA. Prince’s attorney declined to say why he’s seeking the list now; in a court filing, the city accused Prince of trying to “compile an enemies list.” [LancasterOnline]


Parkland Generated Dramatically More News Coverage Than Most Mass Shootings: Survivors of the Florida massacre challenged the media to pay attention. Data shows how successful they were. (May 2018)