Good morning, Bulletin readers. A string of mass shootings was followed this weekend by bouts of the everyday gun violence that often gets less attention. But while it’s important to recognize the full scale of the problem, one journalist who has covered this beat alongside us for years makes a convincing case that the public and policymakers also need a better understanding of the available solutions. Please read on for more.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
NEW from THE TRACE: A family violence researcher argues that we need to take seriously the harm guns can do even if they’re never fired. Susan Sorenson’s most recent research addresses the toll inflicted when abusers flaunt guns around their victims: Because of the lethality of firearms, a victim’s fear was three times greater if they were threatened with a gun versus another type of weapon. At least one observer told her those scares “didn’t count,” since the victims sustained no physical injuries. But, Sorenson writes, “Survivors often say that bruises and broken bones heal much faster than the psychological wounds of abuse.” Read her column here.
Pittsburgh’s mayor wants to challenge his state’s pre-emption law. After the Tree of Life shooting two weeks ago, Mayor Bill Peduto wants to regulate powerful weapons in his city, but Pennsylvania law prohibits municipalities from enacting their own gun laws. “If [state legislators are] unwilling to address those issues, then they need to be able to answer the reason why,” Peduto said.
Meanwhile, with a new majority in the House, Democrats vow to force a debate on gun reform. Nancy Pelosi, the chamber’s likely next Speaker, indicates that universal background check legislation will be the party’s first move. “It doesn’t cover everything, but it will save many lives,” she said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called any such bill passing through his GOP-held chamber “highly unlikely”; Democrats know that, but want their Republican counterparts to go on record against policies favored by solid majorities of voters nationwide.
Gun violence reporter: “I am sick of media outlets making a case for hopelessness and stalemate after the latest mass shooting.” In a Twitter thread, The Guardian’s Lois Beckett wrote that the gunman in the Thousand Oaks shooting was a “textbook case” of someone whose guns could have been confiscated under California’s red flag law. But the tool remains underutilized, in part because a lack of public and official awareness. “What’s depressing is not the lack of solutions,” Beckett added, “but the fact that options to help exist, and people DON’T KNOW ABOUT THEM.”
As high-profile shootings dominated the headlines this weekend, the daily drumbeat of gun violence continued. On Saturday alone:
- Two young men were killed, and four people were injured, after a gambling argument at a Memphis home.
- A teenager was fatally shot, and two more were injured, including a 19-year-old suspected of firing the fatal shot, at a home in Blue Springs, Missouri.
- Two men were found dead outside a bar in Gwinnett County, Georgia, including one of the bar’s co-owners, in the early hours of the morning.
- A South Carolina man shot and killed his wife and then himself in their yard.
ONE LAST THING
The details that come with each new mass shooting are uniquely painful, but what comes next has begun to feel eerily predictable, according to the NPR reporters who are tasked with covering each shooting. In this segment, they identify the pattern of events: There’s the press conference at which law enforcement officers seek to calm the community; the scrambling families looking for loved ones who might have fallen victim; the memorial vigils; the troubling feeling that the next gun rampage is inevitable.
Along with this familiar script are the images that accompany it. As Alice Gregory wrote for The Trace in the aftermath of the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, these incidents have spawned now-familiar photographic sub-genres: the candlelight vigil; the sobbing, solitary onlooker; the press conference; the phalanx of first responders.
The Trace’s James Burnett and Elizabeth Van Brocklin also wrote about the phenomena in a Washington Post column shortly after the Parkland shooting, noting that the student-led movement that arose from that tragedy owes its power in part to its refusal to accept the usual run of play. Their demands to break the cycle echoed through the midterms, raising the cost for politicians who choose inaction.