What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Will requiring gun owners to buy insurance improve gun safety? Last month, San Jose approved a first-of-its-kind ordinance requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance and pay an annual $25 fee to support a violence reduction nonprofit. City leaders say the gun policies will work like auto insurance by incentivizing safe behavior through lower premiums for responsible gun owners. They also claim that requiring insurance will offset the cost of the city’s gun violence to taxpayers, which was recently estimated at nearly $40 million a year. But as we pored over the particulars of San Jose’s ordinance and interviewed insurance experts, we found that the plan may end up not being as effective as proponents have advertised: It will only cover shootings that occur under a narrow set of circumstances, providing little incentive for insurers to offer discounts or for gun owners to adopt safer practices. In our latest edition of Ask The Trace, Jennifer Mascia breaks down the basics of this novel policy and examines how this new ordinance might work in practice.

ShotSpotter comes under more scrutiny — this time as legal evidence. The gunshot detection technology company operates systems in more than 100 U.S. municipalities but, as we’ve reported, has come under fire over concerns about accuracy and its effects on overpolicing in largely Black neighborhoods. A new Associated Press investigation adds more evidence of ShotSpotter’s potential flaws, including questioning its reliability as evidence to help prosecutors make cases. (It has been admitted in close to 200 court cases.) The AP investigation also found that the system can miss real live gunfire or misclassify other sounds as gunfire, and that judges have thrown out evidence based on ShotSpotter’s algorithm in several cases. The investigation also points to the human cost for Chicago resident Michael Williams, whom police arrested and charged last year for a 2020 murder based largely on ShotSpotter data. “I kept trying to figure out, how can they get away with using the technology like that against me?” said Williams, who spoke publicly about the incident for the first time. “That’s not fair.” A judge later dismissed Williams’s case. 

Colorado researchers unveil voluntary resource to assist aging gun owners. The Firearm Life Plan website empowers gun owners and their families to anonymously decide what happens to their guns as they get older. “We knew from prior research and our own experiences with patients and families that adjusting to aging-related changes can require hard decisions that affect autonomy, identity and social connections. Guidelines and resources are available for thinking about when it’s time to ‘hang up the keys’ to the car. But when we talked with families about firearm decisions, we heard from them that there aren’t great resources available to guide planning,” Dr. Emmy Betz, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine involved with the project, said in a press release.

The controversial gun lobbyist who wrote Ohio GOP lawmakers’ pro-permitless carry speech. Last April, state House Republicans Tom Brinkman and Kris Jordan spoke about the bill they introduced that would remove licensing requirements for being able to carry a concealed gun in public. Only they didn’t write the speech, according to the Ohio Capital Journal: a gun lobbyist did. While that may not be unusual as far as politics goes, the apparent author, Chris Dorr, is a particularly controversial figure. As we reported with The Daily Beast in 2020, Dorr and his brothers are behind a gun-rights network in several states and honed a brand of Second Amendment activism that has been extremely lucrative, but which several Republicans have decried as a scam. “I have no idea who writes my testimony,” Brinkman told the Capital Journal. “That’s what staff is for.” Last week, the Ohio Legislature sent a Senate-version of the Brinkman-Jordan bill to the desk of Governor Mike DeWine. He is expected to sign it.

Data Point

420 — the number of concealed carry licenses that were revoked last year in Ohio because of felony convictions and mental health issues, according to a state attorney general report. Another 2,668 applicants were denied, while a total of 202,920 were issued, including just over 94,000 renewals. The overall number of state licenses issued was up from 169,232 in 2020. [Office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost]