What To Know Today
NEW from THE TRACE: A small-town cop’s efforts to keep domestic abusers away from guns are inspiring others to adopt her blueprint. Most communities lack both the will and the means to enforce the federal law banning people with domestic violence convictions from possessing guns. Valerie Martinez and her boss, the sheriff in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, changed that in their corner of the bayou. Since my colleague Ann Givens reported on their novel efforts in February, Martinez says she and her department have been inundated with thankful messages from domestic violence survivors — and inquiries from law enforcement groups across the country asking how to replicate their success. “I hope it’s the beginning of a positive change,” she told Ann in a follow-up.
Research raises questions about the credentials of forensic experts in gun trials. In 2009, a court convicted a pair of Brooklyn men after hearing testimony from an expert witness who asserted a near mathematical certainty that shell casings matched a firearm found in the defendants’ car. One of the jurors in the case has co-authored an article for Slate and the Range Report newsletter on a recent study digging into the fraught scientific credentials of some expert witnesses on firearms and fingerprints: When forensics investigators identify evidence as inconclusive, it doesn’t count against their accuracy, which means the low error rates used to establish their authority as expert witnesses should often come with an asterisk.
Eighteen states, 11 cities file amicus briefs in support of ghost gun litigation. In August, Chicago, San Jose, Syracuse, New York, and Columbia, South Carolina, sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives accusing it of refusing to properly regulate DIY firearms and the kits used to assemble them. In the new filings, a coalition of states, cities, and big-city prosecutors argue that a lack of federal regulation had meant a rise in crimes using ghost guns. Homemade, untraceable firearms have increasingly turned up at crime scenes, as The Trace’s Alain Stephens was first to report. (The plaintiffs in the ATF suit were joined by Everytown Law, a division of Everytown for Gun Safety, whose nonpolitical Support Fund provides grants to The Trace. Here’s our list of major donors and our policy on editorial independence.)
House Democrats push leadership to ban lawmakers from going armed at the Capitol. “A firearm that is not secured could easily end up in the wrong hands,” wrote 21 House lawmakers in a letter to Democratic and Republican leadership. The issue came up last month when the office of incoming Representative Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican and gun-rights activist, reached out to Capitol Police about her carrying on the job after she’s sworn in. Related: State lawmakers have told us about their own efforts to restrict firearms at their workplace following the aggressive and intimidating actions of armed right-wing demonstrators.
Chicago watchdog: A majority of credible police misconduct cases were improperly dismissed. The city’s inspector general looked at more than 8,000 complaints filed against the Chicago Police Department in 2017 and 2018. Of almost 4,000 that reached a final investigative stage, 62 percent were closed because a complaint lacked sworn testimony — even though the department’s own policy says compelling evidence can override an affidavit. Accusers with domestic abuse or excessive force complaints against the police most commonly requested to forgo sworn testimony, the IG’s report found.
39 percent — the share of 600 ghost guns recovered in Los Angeles last year that were used in violent crimes, according to the city’s Police Department. The ATF estimates that 10,000 ghost guns were recovered nationwide in 2019. [Prosecutors Against Gun Violence]