What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Introducing “Aftershocks,” a series about surviving gun violence in Chicago. For the roughly 83 percent of people who have survived the city’s 30,000+ shootings in the past decade — most of them Black or Latinx — the trauma can last a lifetime. And the aftereffects are never just one person’s mental or physical recovery, but a quickly expanding ripple that extends to the people around them, including first responders, witnesses, and family members. Those communities are often left to try to recover on their own, however, as The Trace found over months of analyzing police and homicide data, and speaking with residents directly affected by gun violence. Lakeidra Chavis produced this series for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2020 Data Fellowship, alongside data and graphics support from Daniel Nass. Stories will be co-published with a coalition of Chicago-based partners that includes The Chicago Sun-Times, Block Club Chicago, and La Raza, where a Spanish-language version will soon be released, as well. Watch this space: Tomorrow and Friday, we’ll be publishing stories in the series about grief and perseverance in a community on Chicago’s South Side, and the shortcomings of Illinois’ Crime Victim Compensation Program.

New York declares a state of emergency for gun violence. The executive order designation, officially called a “disaster emergency,” means Governor Andrew Cuomo can, among other things, increase law enforcement presence in communities facing rising violence and require major police departments to share data on gun violence. Cuomo also announced that New York will form a gun violence prevention office as part of the state’s health department and establish a council on reducing gun violence. The announcement is part of a new public health-oriented strategy that includes a $138.7 million investment in intervention and prevention programs, including summer activities and job programs for youth. “If you look at the recent numbers, more people are now dying from gun violence and crime than COVID — this is a national problem but someone has to step up and address this problem because our future depends on it,” the governor said. Related: Cuomo also signed a bill that would sidestep gun companies’ federal immunity against most lawsuits and allow them to be subject to civil litigation under a state public nuisance law.

An advocacy group is piloting direct cash grants to help crime victims. Despite the existence of government victim compensation funds in California and elsewhere, factors like bureaucratic red tape and a lack of public awareness mean only a small share of crime victims often report receiving support. So Californians for Safety and Justice, a criminal justice reform group, announced that it will use $100,000 from its own budget to provide money to eight survivor-focused nonprofits. Tinisch Hollins, the group’s executive director, told Fast Company she hopes the cash will directly benefit at-risk community members and help build the case for non-law-enforcement-based, community-led violence reduction. “A big outcome we’re hoping [to see] is to continue building the case for these counties to step up and provide additional funds for this resource to continue,” she said.

Tucson will ignore Arizona’s Second Amendment sanctuary law. The state is one of a handful with GOP-controlled legislatures — including Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas — that have enacted laws this year blocking state or local resources from being used to enforce federal gun laws. But the Democratic mayor and City Council in Tucson, which has long tried to implement stricter firearms than the state, unanimously voted to reject the state’s sanctuary law. The move echoes blowback to similar laws from cities and counties in other states. 

Congresswoman, policing expert advocate for non-police options for responding to mental health crises. In a New York Times op-ed, Democratic Representative Katie Porter, who introduced the Mental Health Justice Act in the House in February, and Philip Atiba Goff, co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity, make the case for Porter’s bill to create federal grants to localities for local mental health providers to act as emergency response teams for mental health emergency calls. Almost one in 4 people killed by the police since 2015 have had confirmed signs of mental illness, and municipalities across the country have started implementing reforms to remove police from some emergency response. “The Mental Health Justice Act is based on the uncontroversial idea that having a mental health crisis is not a crime, and badges and guns are not treatment solutions,” they write.

Data Point

~4x greater — the relative comparison of post-9/11 veterans who have died by suicide (30,177) to those who died while deployed in the “Global War on Terror” wars (7,057). Past research has shown that veterans experience higher rates of gun suicide than the general population. [The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute]