What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Promising crime solutions are being undermined by flawed federal ratings, researchers say. CrimeSolutions, a program of the National Institute of Justice, launched in 2011 as part of a broader push by former President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice to integrate evidence into policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels. The site detailed a rigorous procedure for selecting programs to assess and for reviewing academic literature about their efficacy at reducing crime. But researchers tell Champe Barton that the rating system is too rigid to accommodate the level of nuance that policymakers and practitioners need to make informed decisions. You can read his new story here.

Updates on the shootings in Georgia. Three days on, here’s some of what we’ve learned about the three incidents that left eight people dead:

  • The 21-year-old who confessed to the killings purchased the gun he allegedly used at a store in Cherokee County, Georgia, on the day of the shootings. He was charged yesterday with eight counts of murder. 
  • Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker, under fire for saying the suspect “had a really bad day,” was removed as a spokesperson for the case. 
  • Yesterday, Congress held a hearing on anti-Asian violence for the first time in 30 years. Later today, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are headed to Atlanta to meet with Asian-American leaders.
  • The names of four of the victims in the Cherokee County shooting have been released: Delaina Ashley Yaun; Paul Andre Michels; Xiaojie Tan; and Daoyou Feng. You can read about their lives here. The four victims in the two Atlanta shootings haven’t been officially identified yet.  
  • Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, a 30-year-old man who was injured outside one of the spas, remains in critical condition, his doctors said.

Community violence prevention groups press for relief using existing federal funds. Yesterday, we covered the launch of Fund Peace, a coalition of violence prevention groups calling for $5.3 billion in funding over the next eight years. That’s a fraction of the $2 trillion it will take to treat gun violence over the same period, coalition leaders said during a follow-up call yesterday. In addition to Medicaid and Victims of Crime Act funds, other potential sources for the funding include the recently passed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, they said. “We need not wait for any further legislation from the federal level,” said pastor Michael McBride, director of Faith In Action’s Urban Strategies & LIVE FREE Campaign. Using those relief funds on gun violence is appropriate, added founder Erica Ford of LIFE Camp, because the economic instability and social disruptions wrought by the pandemic have fed violence in cities: “This is interconnected in the deepest kind of way.” The coalition will keep pressing state and local leaders to invest all available dollars into gun violence prevention and community public safety programs — not more policing. — Jennifer Mascia, news writer

Xavier Becerra becomes HHS secretary. With a narrow Senate confirmation yesterday, Becerra’s remit as the head of the Health and Human Services Department extends far and wide. That includes gun policy, as the CDC and NIH play leading roles in providing data and research about firearm violence. While gun reform groups have largely hailed Becerra’s bona fides for defending tight gun laws, his time as California attorney general also drew criticism. Garen Wintemute, head of the publicly funded Firearm Violence Research Center, recently said Becerra’s office had been withholding important vital data from gun violence researchers, using privacy concerns as a shield. “I think there is real grounds for concern that this sort of unethical approach to science is about to move to the head of Health and Human Services,” Wintemute said last week. Separately: Becerra’s office in California just settled in federal court with gun rights groups over a faulty state gun registration system that launched in 2018. His office admitted that many assault weapons owners were unable to comply with the terms of a 2016 law and agreed to stop “all pending investigations and prosecutions” related to failure to register. 

Racially motivated extremists, militia affiliates pose “most lethal” domestic threat. That’s according to an unclassified summary of a report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that warns of a heightened domestic security threat in 2021. The report also cautioned that individuals or small cells are more likely to commit violence than organized extremist groups.

Data Point

0 — the number of Black members of the Chicago police union’s 28-person board. [WBEZ]