What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Advocates say Biden is ignoring a major gun violence prevention opportunity. Shortly after the 2020 election, 85 groups that advocate for gun reform and violence prevention called on the incoming administration to create an office in the executive branch focused solely on gun violence. The office and its director would be responsible for coordinating a governmentwide response to the worsening crisis. While creating such an office could be done by executive order, the administration has thus far sought to achieve its gun violence prevention goals through existing structures and personnel. That, some advocates say, is a missed opportunity to streamline and bolster the administration’s goals. Chip Brownlee has more here.

More in-depth data shows a pandemic-fueled shooting spike that mostly hit poor, nonwhite communities. Four Boston-based public health researchers compared the prevalence of nonfatal shootings during the first year of the pandemic at Boston Medical Center, the busiest hospital in New England, with the previous five years. They found that gun injuries surged from April to October 2020, right after the first lockdown orders took effect, and that unemployed young Black and Hispanic men were far more likely to be shooting victims during the pandemic than in previous years. “Our results highlight the disproportionate consequences for vulnerable populations, such as Black and Hispanic communities as well as those with lower socioeconomic status, and the ongoing need for policies and procedures aimed at mitigating violence as a part of all-hazard preparedness,” the authors write. The importance of, and opportunity for, targeted solutions: One of the authors, Dr. Jonathan Jay, pointed out that the majority of gunshot survivors in Boston from April through October 2020 came in through the same hospital from the study. That provides a critical opportunity, he said, for the intervention program run through that facility. Related from The Trace: A growing movement is pushing states to use Medicaid to fund hospital-based violence intervention programs that aim to reach shooting victims before they leave hospital care in hopes of preventing retaliatory violence.

Senators reach deal on VAWA reauthorization by dropping provision to close the boyfriend loophole. Last year, the House of Representatives voted to renew the lapsed Violence Against Women Act legislation that created sweeping protections for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. At the time, Jennifer Mascia parsed the bill’s proposed gun restrictions, which engendered fierce opposition among congressional Republicans. In December, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, Lisa Murkowski, and Joni Ernst said they had reached an agreement in principle on a Senate version that would have closed the loophole in federal law that allows non-spousal dating partners with misdemeanor abuse convictions to keep their guns. But yesterday, the same senators announced a final deal that scrapped that component in order to secure enough Republican votes for final passage. Said Senate Majority Whip Durbin: “It needs 60 votes and in order to get anywhere near 60 votes that [boyfriend loophole] provision became controversial and we had to measure the remainder of the bill against that.”

Courts put law licenses for gun-toting St. Louis couple on probation. The state’s chief disciplinary counsel had originally sought to bar Mark and Patricia McCloskey from practicing law for a year, but the Missouri Supreme Court delayed that suspension, returning a yearlong probation instead. Under the ruling, the McCloskeys will be able to continue practicing so long as they file a series of reports and perform pro bono legal services. In a year, the suspension will lift. The couple pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges after pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in the summer of 2020, but were later pardoned by the Republican governor. After the incident, they became conservative darlings, and Mark McCloskey is currently running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Roy Blunt.

Data Point

3 percent — the small share of 493 eligible empirical gun violence studies released last year that were classified as evaluating how various gun-related policies affect violence rates. [Giffords’ Analysis of Gun Violence Publication Trends in 2021]