What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Birmingham’s young mayor promised to radically rethink criminal justice. Then shootings spiked. Birmingham, Alabama, like many cities, has seen calls for police reform alongside skyrocketing gun violence over the last few years. Many of the city’s staunchest progressive activists have effectively abandoned Mayor Randall Woodfin over what they call his pro-police attitudes, while he faces a reelection challenge from candidates who have positioned themselves as even more supportive of police. “People want to box me in and make me choose between reform and accountability measures, and policing and keeping the city safe,” Woodfin said in a June interview with The Trace’s Chip Brownlee. “No, I reject your ultimatum, I can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can do both.” The upcoming municipal election — and the broader focus on gun violence — show that the lines often drawn in national debates over policing are not always so clear on the local level. The alliances are often messy. In partnership with Slate, Chip — who grew up in Alabama — shares the perspectives of locals on all sides of the debate, and shows what the August 24 election could mean for the city.

Finding — and funding — solutions to the problem of police shooting Black people with mental illness. Emergency calls for mental health and substance abuse issues account for approximately one in five dispatches to police. For Black people, these interactions are especially deadly — demonstrated most recently in the fatal July shooting of Ryan LeRoux in Maryland. He was one of approximately 20 percent of Black people — out of nearly 300 people total — with a known mental illness fatally shot by police since the pandemic began. Thaddeus and Natasha Johnson, who teach criminology and criminal justice at Georgia State University, wrote in a USA Today op-ed that solutions exist, including deescalation and mental health training for officers or involving mental health professionals in emergency response. But many of these programs are not adequately funded — if they exist at all. “A broader community-centered approach must ensure that culturally responsive crisis interventions are especially sensitive to the unique stresses and fears plaguing Black communities,” they write.

States put Suicide Prevention Lifeline on student ID cards. South Carolina, Illinois, and Arizona are among the states taking the action; South Carolina’s law requires it for 7th through 12th graders as well as college students. California made a similar step in 2019. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm suicides accounted for nearly half of all suicides recorded in 2019, the latest data available. South Carolina’s law passed last month, and one mom in the state who lost a daughter to suicide nine years ago said, “We have to have those resources readily available. I think it should be plastered all over the schools.” [If you are having thoughts of suicide, help is available 24 hours a day: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.]

A new Baltimore mural calls for an end to gun violence. The painting features Baltimore Ravens player Lamar Jackson, his hand held up in a peace sign. Next to him, “Stop Gun Violence,” inside a red stop sign. The artist, Kyle Holbrook, is doing a multicity anti-violence project, which began in Chicago before the pandemic. He told The Baltimore Sun (where you can see the image) that these paintings have helped him grieve dozens of people he’s lost to gun violence. “I’ve been seeing in every city I’ve been going, there’s just been a shooting,” Holbrook said. Related from The Trace: A violent summer and political headwinds are testing Baltimore’s young mayor, Brandon Scott. 

Amid mask mandate, Indiana gun store owner to host private school inside shop. When an Indiana school board voted to require masks in schools this week, the owner of Top Guns in Terre Haute said he would offer space to a local school to teach kids in the district so they won’t have to follow the mask mandate. The store owner, whose children will take part in the program, said he wasn’t solely motivated by the mask mandate, but that it accelerated his plans. “Our school board isn’t listening to the people who have voted them in,” he told the Tribune-Star.

Data Viz Point

3,000+ — the number of shootings in America’s 99 largest cities in May. That number has topped 1,500 per month since February. [H/T Professor Justin Nix, from data compiled by Patrick Sharkey’s AmericanViolence.org]

Credit: Professor Justin Nix.