What To Know Today
NEW from THE TRACE: Biden’s options for presidential action on gun violence. With control of the Senate hinging on the double-feature runoff in Georgia and Democrats positioned for a slim majority at best, party officials and advocates — as well as a collection of 85 gun reform organizations — are pressing the incoming Biden-Harris administration to take swift executive branch actions to curb gun violence. As my colleague Chip Brownlee breaks down, Biden, as president, would have significant power to direct agencies, launch rule-making processes, and appoint leadership around the agenda of strengthening gun restrictions and increasing resources for reducing shootings. Among the possibilities: cracking down on untraceable “ghost guns,” creating an interagency task force, banning the importation of assault weapons, and restructuring the ATF to enforce existing gun laws. You can read Chip’s explainer — which doubles as a scorecard for tracking Biden’s campaign promises on guns — here.
Pandemic gun purchasers are more likely to have had suicidal thoughts. Researchers at Rutgers found that 69 percent of people who bought firearms amid this year’s historic gun sales surge had thought about ending their life, compared to 38 percent for non-gun owners and 37 percent for gun owners who didn’t purchase during the coronavirus crisis. “People who were motivated to purchase firearms during COVID-19 might have been driven by anxiety that leaves them vulnerable to suicidal ideation,” said Mike Anestis, the director of the university’s New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center. The findings appear in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Related: The New York Times is the latest to report on how some gun rights organizations and public health experts have set aside other differences to work together on suicide prevention, an alliance we’ve covered here and here. “We’re not going to crack this nut if we isolate gun owners from the conversation,” one gun reform advocate and military veteran told the paper. Prevalence and patterns: The majority of gun deaths in the United States — about 60 percent — are suicides, and gun suicide rates are highest in states with the largest percentage of firearm ownership. [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.]
Missouri parents who lost their son to gun violence won $4 million in damages. Alvino and Beverly Crawford secured the judgment against James Samuels, a former Kansas City firefighter who pleaded guilty to trafficking the handgun used to kill the couple’s 29-year-old son, Dwight, in 2016. The parents also sued the handgun’s manufacturer, Jimenez Arms, alleging it illegally supplied Samuels with dozens of weapons, shipping some directly to his house even though he lacked a license to deal in firearms. The action against Jimenez Arms is on hold because the company has filed for bankruptcy, staying pending legal claims against it. In August, in partnership with The Daily Beast, The Trace found that Jimenez Arms was the latest in a long string of cheap handgun manufacturers to use bankruptcy and other legal maneuvers to duck litigation and regulatory scrutiny. — Brian Freskos, staff writer
“A mass shooting that was narrowly averted.” In a court filing, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner argued against bail relief for one of two Virginia men arrested last week on gun charges outside a vote-counting facility in the city. A judge agreed, and is set to hear a motion for the other man’s bail request this Friday. Online evidence suggests the two were influenced by the QAnon conspiracy theory and held other far-right views. Prosecutors allege that the men intended to violently stop the counting of mail ballots that favored president-elect Biden. Lawyers for the accused say they were unfairly targeted for their political views.
How one city is solving more non-fatal shootings. In 2019, Denver police solved just 39 percent of shootings in which the victim survived. So early this year, the department spun off a specialized detective unit that exclusively works nonfatal shootings. Police say the results are promising: After seven months, the new unit has solved 65 percent of cases. “I was hoping for some modest improvement, I just didn’t expect it to be as effective as it’s shown so far,” Police Chief Paul Pazen told The Denver Post. The bigger picture: When law enforcement does not provide justice to shooting victims and their families, it can fuel cycles of retaliatory violence. But in recent years, police departments across the country have increasingly failed to solve both gun homicides and nonfatal shootings, especially when the victim is Black or Hispanic.
$8 million — the settlement Baltimore is expected to pay to two men who served time in federal prison after members of a Gun Trace Task Force were found to have planted drugs on them in 2010. It’s one of the largest payouts in city history — eclipsing that paid to the family of Freddie Gray in 2015 — and is in addition to the $7 million paid out in 18 different cases related to the infamous gun unit. [The Washington Post]