What To Know Today

NEW from The TRACE: A discredited researcher’s new DOJ post raises alarm among scholars. Academics who study gun violence are concerned that John Lott could use his new post at the agency’s Office of Justice Programs to shape the federal crime data made available to the public. “This is someone who’s body of research has been studied, critiqued, and most people would say thoroughly debunked by a large number of respected scholars in the field,” Dr. Garen Wintemute, the director of the Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California, Davis, told my colleague Jennifer Mascia. “What can he do in this lame-duck phase that could be harmful?” You can read her full piece here.

How news coverage reinforces an inaccurate picture of mass shootings. A team of researchers at Northeastern University examined media coverage of mass shootings over the last two decades. They found that incidents with the following characteristics received increased attention:

  • High death toll
  • Occurred in a public space, like a school or house of worship
  • Involved victims who are white or unknown to the shooter
  • Carried out by a younger assailant with signs of mental illness
  • The assailant was apprehended instead of killed
  • The incident appeared to be motivated by terrorism or hate

As the authors point out, the media’s amplification of these incidents doesn’t represent reality. “The kinds of cases that are promoted the most are not necessarily the typical,” James Alan Fox, the lead author of the study and a professor of criminology at Northeastern, told me. “The kinds of cases that are covered instill fear as well as a misunderstood nature of this crime.” As we have reported, the majority of mass shootings involve interpersonal disputes, and disproportionately affect Black communities. —Chip Brownlee, investigative fellow

A gun rights case looks poised to reach SCOTUS — and Justice Barrett could tilt the scale. In 2011, Lisa Folajtar was convicted of felony tax fraud and as a result was prohibited from possessing a firearm. Last week, a three-judge panel ruled against her suit in Folajtar v. Barr to regain her gun rights. The dissenting judge in the case argued that a person’s dangerousness should determine whether they can possess guns, not felony status, and cited Amy Coney Barrett’s only major Second Amendment ruling before she became a Supreme Court justice. As a lower court judge, Barrett argued there was no historical precedent for banning guns solely because of felony status. The New York Times’s Adam Liptak writes that if Folajtar appeals the case to the high court, she’s likely to find a sympathetic ear. Related: We previewed Barrett’s approach to the Second Amendment here

Chicago trauma center linked to shorter ambulance times in areas with high rates of shootings. Response times to several neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side dropped by as much as half after the University of Chicago opened a trauma center there in 2018, according to an analysis published in JAMA Surgery. While the study didn’t sort by injury type, lead researcher Ali Abbasi told The Chicago Sun-Times that in areas “with such high incidents of gun violence you need Level I trauma care… so, for those people specifically, that time period can make a huge difference.” Abbasi said that he and his colleagues were also looking to see what the effect of the trauma care had been on mortality rates. Related: Last year, we mapped over 12,000 shootings in New York and found that a victim was more likely to die the farther they were from a trauma center.

Police arrest an Oregon man for the fatal shooting of Black teenager over an argument about loud music. The suspect, a 47-year-old white man, allegedly walked up to the vehicle of 19-year-old Aidan Ellison on the morning of November 23 and opened fire. It was the town of Ashland’s first homicide in 2020. The circumstances closely resemble the 2012 shooting of teenager Jordan Davis in Florida.

Data Point

250 percent — the increase in attacks by far-right perpetrators since 2014 in North American, Western Europe, and Oceania, leading to a seven-fold increase in deaths related to such acts. [Institute for Economics and Peace]