What To Know Today

2020’s final crime stats are in. Guns drove a 29 percent increase in murders. The surge was the biggest single-year homicide rise since the government began keeping data in 1960, according to the FBI’s annual crime statistics, which were published ahead of an expected Monday release and covered by crime analyst Jeff Asher in The Upshot. The sharp rise translates to an additional nearly 5,000 lives lost last year. The growing role of guns: The total share of murders committed with a gun in 2020 was 77 percent — the highest percentage ever recorded and up 33 percent from the year before. By comparison, homicides with all other weapons increased by 11 percent. The surge in murders was observed in every part of the country and seen in municipalities of all sizes, with murder rate rises ranging from 25 percent to 40 percent depending on population. Louisiana had the highest murder rate in the nation for the 32nd straight year. Context to the data: The FBI’s 2020 numbers closely echo estimates from the Council on Criminal Justice released last year as well as our own reporting about shootings and homicides being the exception to the pandemic crime decline. Moreover, while the 2020 surge was historic, the national murder rate is still well below the high-water mark of the early 1990s. Finally, the 2020 numbers were the last before the FBI switched over to a new system for police agencies to report their crime data. As we noted last week, the growing pains associated with the change means there will likely be major gaps in the FBI’s final picture of crime for 2021 — though early signs suggest the murder rate increase is slowly declining.

NEW from THE TRACE: A photographer’s portrait of gun violence in Brooklyn. Over the last decade, Amnon Gutman has documented grassroots efforts to prevent violence across Brooklyn. We’re pleased to present a portion of his ongoing project, “United We Thrive, Divided We Die.” Much of the series focuses on individuals associated with community violence intervention groups like the God Squad, Save Our Streets, and ManUp. Read more from Gutman about the ongoing project, and see more of the work, here.

Federal appeals court vacates its own ruling on gun bans for people under 21. In July, a divided 2-1 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that rules preventing federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns to 18- to 20-year-olds was unconstitutional. But on Wednesday, a panel of the same court overturned the decision because the 20-year-old woman who brought the case turned 21 before the ruling became official. “A divided panel of this court found those laws violated the text, structure, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment,” wrote Judge Julius Richardson, who wrote the opinion striking down the federal age limit. “Once she turned 21, nothing prohibited her from buying the handgun she desired from a dealer of her choice. So her original claims are now moot.”

Department of Veterans Affairs focuses on gun safety to curb suicides among veterans. In testimony before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the executive director of the VA’s Suicide Prevention Program previewed upcoming campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of unsecured guns for veterans with suicidal ideation. “We are not gearing any campaign or messaging towards restriction,” said Dr. Matthew Miller. “We are gearing our messaging and campaign towards safety, time and space between a person, a firearm and ammunition.” Among the new policies Miller previewed is more training for agency staff and more PSAs focused on safe storage and mental health.

Data Point

50 percent — the increase in victim relocation requests in Philadelphia this year amid an ongoing shooting surge, according to District Attorney Larry Krasner. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]