What To Know Today
Congressional inquiry into Jan. 6 insurrection brings scrutiny to secretive Capitol Police Board. The four-member panel, formed in 1867, oversees the Capitol Police and consists of the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, the Capitol Police chief, and the architect of the Capitol. House lawmakers probing insurrection-related security failures last week questioned the board’s effectiveness after it dismissed the Capitol Police’s request for National Guard troops to be on hand during the electoral vote certification, and failed to immediately declare an emergency as rioters breached the building. Now, House Democrats are calling for its restructuring or elimination. Context: The Capitol Police Board is the only entity capable of banning guns on the Hill. Representative Jared Huffman of California told The Trace in January that he’s been lobbying the board to prohibit lawmakers from packing heat at work since 2018.
House expected to vote on background check expansion on Wednesday. The bill, which would make it illegal for anyone but a federally licensed gun dealer to transfer a firearm without a background check, was taken up by the House Rules Committee yesterday and is expected to go before the full House tomorrow. A similar measure passed the House in 2019, but was never taken up by the GOP-dominated Senate. The current iteration exempts relatives and transfers for the purposes of hunting, target shooting, and self-defense. Lawmakers will also consider a bill that extends the gun background check investigation period to 10 days from three, closing the so-called Charleston loophole that allows gun dealers to transfer a firearm before a check is completed.
Cities designate CARES Act funding for gun violence reduction. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome earmarked $2.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to hire violence interrupters and provide youth mentorship opportunities. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids, Michigan, will spend CARES Act funds on police expenses related to the uptick in violence during the pandemic. The city originally planned to spend $500,000 on the ShotSpotter gunshot-detection system, but since cities usually sign multiyear contracts to use the technology, the expenditure ran up against the Dec. 30 deadline for using CARES Act funds. Looking forward: President Joe Biden’s COVID relief package will allow states and cities to spend a portion of relief money on gun violence reduction. “Biden should champion such efforts, helping to ensure programs are scaled throughout the country and sending a signal that stemming the spike in gun violence is a public safety priority, a racial justice priority and a public health priority,” a trio of gun violence researchers and advocates opine in Scientific American.
Philadelphia anti-violence advocate renews hunger strike. Marine veteran Jamal Johnson, 63, sat outside City Hall for 26 days earlier this year in a bid to get Mayor Jim Kenney to adopt a City Council-approved resolution that calls for gun violence to be declared a citywide emergency. Such a declaration would direct the Police Department and city agencies to implement a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan, free up funding to do so, and require weekly public briefings on their efforts — similar to the city’s pandemic response. Johnson ended his fast after Kenney met with him on Feb. 12 and pledged to prioritize gun violence reduction, but the mayor stopped short of enacting the emergency declaration. Since then, more than 100 people have been shot in the city, 16 fatally, and Johnson says he’s fed up. “The mayor needs to use all the tools available to him to bring us to safety and give us a sense of safety in our communities,” he told a local news outlet.
Gun-makers are having a hard time getting bank loans in Arizona. Firearm lobbyists made the disclosure in recent testimony before the state’s House Judiciary Committee. State Republicans have teed up an National Rifle Association-backed bill that would allow financial institutions to be sued if they refuse to extend loans to gun companies. The proposed legislation comes a year after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the owners of a Phoenix calligraphy firm can refuse to provide custom wedding invitations to same-sex couples. National context: In January, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency halted a last-gasp Trump administration rule that would have forced banks to provide loans to gun companies.
A teen-staffed hotline in St. Louis aims to combat rising gun suicides among young people. Kids Under Twenty One, an anti-violence group in Missouri, runs a 24/7 hotline for adolescents experiencing mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. Unlike most suicide hotlines, it’s staffed by teenagers, who are thought to be better able to relate to their peers than adults. Missouri’s youth suicide rate is among the nation’s highest, and the most at-risk group is currently Black men and boys. As a Washington University professor told the Missouri Gun Violence Project, “Suicide among Black Americans is a male thing and it’s a gun thing.” [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.]
Ohio columnist points out disparity in gun violence coverage. A shooting at a mall last week in which no one was injured dominated local news coverage, but rising shootings and homicides in Black and Brown communities rarely do, Columbus Dispatch columnist Theodore Decker writes. The reason, he asserts, is race. “For the most part, the country doesn’t really care what happens to Black and Brown people,” criminologist David Kennedy told him. Meanwhile, community anti-violence groups in Columbus are collaborating with one another to raise awareness of a pandemic-related spike in gun violence among the city’s youth.
Three times higher — the likelihood of Black adolescents ages 15-19 being fatally shot compared to their white counterparts after Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law took effect, according to a study. Before the law was passed, the rate for the Black teens was two times higher than their white counterparts. [Coalition to Stop Gun Violence]