What To Know Today

Parsing the polls: Do violence reduction policies need to go beyond gun restrictions to sustain popular support? That’s one possible implication of the latest editions of a pair of Gallup surveys — the first showing majority support for stricter gun laws at its lowest level in four years (a trend in part fueled by record-low Republican backing) and the second finding that just 41 percent of Americans want the justice system to be tougher on crime, less than half the share who felt that way in 1992. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the latter poll favored addressing social and economic problems over law enforcement-driven approaches.

  • What’s driving the trendlines? “I would guess both numbers are about fear. Fear of crime has fallen with the declining rate of serious crime, while the public has learned more about the harm that can result from excessive punishment,” said Jeffrey A. Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Similarly, the NRA and other gun merchants have been using fear of government to sell firearms and impede reforms.”
  • And what could they mean for gun violence prevention? Brian Malte, executive director of the Hope and Heal Fund, told us he thinks the data indicates an increased understanding of the limits of punitive policies. “You can’t just arrest your way out of the problem,” he said. Malte suggested that a primary goal of violence prevention going forward should be to “really start to connect that second poll back to the first one.”

Federal agents arrested an armed man alleged to be part of anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement. Authorities say the 47-year-old was apprehended at a Boston train station while carrying a loaded pistol, three ammunition magazines, and a bullet-proof vest. He was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. An FBI affidavit claims the man had purchased numerous gun accessories and materials used for the production of explosives. Know more: Extremism expert JJ MacNab has an informative Twitter thread on the case and the suspect’s  identification with the “sovereign citizen” movement, whose members reject laws and government authority and in some instances have carried out attacks and standoffs with law enforcement. 

A Black Friday shooting at a California mall killed teen brothers. Nineteen-year-old Dewayne James Jr. and 17-year-old Sa’Quan Reed-James were struck when gunfire erupted among shoppers at Sacramento’s Arden Fair mall. The victims were with two other brothers — ages 19 and 13 — who escaped unharmed. At a vigil, community leaders and family members called for an end to violence and memorialized the victims who had left Louisiana in 2018 seeking a safer community.

The mother of a Florida teen killed by police was shot during her son’s funeral. The incident happened on Saturday during the service for Sincere Pierce, 18, who died along with 16-year-old Angelo Crooms after a Brevard County deputy fired on their car at least eight times in a residential neighborhood earlier this month. The funeral was wrapping up when a single gunshot hit 39-year-old Quasheda Pierce. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office says it believes the round was unintentionally fired by a 16-year-old who accidentally discharged a gun he was carrying at the funeral.

ICYMI: NRA posts another deficit while admitting to improper payments. In last Wednesday’s newsletter, my colleague Will Van Sant shared an exclusive first look at the gun group’s most recent 990 tax filings. He now has an expanded analysis of the documents that you can read here. A key takeaway: According to the 990, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre — who is being investigated for tax fraud and collected $1.9 million in compensation last year — repaid the NRA $300,000 in travel expenses charged to the group from 2015 to 2019 that were found to be an excess benefit under the tax code. The disclosure “appears to be a response to the legal positions taken against them,” said an accounting expert.

Data Point

There have been at least two confirmed accidental shootings by children in the last week — one by a 3-year boy in Alabama on Friday who was in stable condition, another a 14-year-old boy in Georgia on Sunday. An advocacy group’s tracker counts nearly 2,000 accidental shootings by children under 18 since 2015. [WRDW]