What To Know Today
NEW from THE TRACE: What does a tweak to the background check system mean for states that run their own? Currently, federal law does not require the Department of Justice to notify state and local authorities of failed checks run through the FBI, making it nearly impossible for state authorities to investigate or prosecute people who lie on their background check form in an attempt to get a gun, an illegal practice known as “lie and try.” But the recent VAWA reauthorization bill includes a new NICS Denial Notification Act, which will require the DOJ to notify the relevant local law enforcement authority within 24 hours when someone fails a federal background check while trying to purchase a gun. It’s been praised as a win for states trying to crack down on prohibited purchasers — but what does it mean for the 13 states that run their own background check systems? Chip Brownlee investigates in response to a question from a reader in one of those states.
New research finds evidence for the violence-reducing potential of street lights. For years, experts have explored how projects like greening public spaces or restoring properties might affect crime and safety in the surrounding areas, a practice known as place-based community intervention. Last year, a team of researchers began looking into the use of street lights as one such intervention, and found that bright street lights installed in New York City public housing areas in 2016 led to a 36-percent reduction in serious crime at night over the following six months. In a new follow-up to that study, four researchers — including two from the original study — found that the positive effects held steady for three intervening years. They observed that outdoor nighttime crimes decreased by 45 percent and outdoor daytime crimes by 39 percent. Crucially, they found that the drop in crime was not associated with a higher number of arrests, and that the impact was greater on serious crimes like murder, robbery, and assault. The researchers also saw no evidence that crime had simply shifted to other areas, rather than decreasing entirely. “Some people may see lighting as a substitute for policing but the reality is these two interventions are probably complimentary in a number of important ways,” co-author Aaron Chalfin added on Twitter.
San Jose’s gun insurance mandate has a new legal challenge. It’s not from a gun rights group. Last month, the city approved a first-of-its-kind ordinance requiring gun owners to carry liability insurance and pay an annual fee to support a forthcoming violence reduction nonprofit. City leaders say the policies, set to go into effect in August, will work like auto insurance by incentivizing safe behavior through lower premiums for responsible gun owners, and that the insurance and fee will offset the cost of the city’s gun violence to taxpayers. Almost immediately, the National Association for Gun Rights filed a lawsuit in opposition, claiming the law was unconstitutional. Now, a coalition of groups opposing tax increases are objecting to the annual fee. They’ve filed a lawsuit this week in Santa Clara County Superior Court arguing that the fee is actually a tax — and thus subject to a state law requiring voter approval — and that it violates free speech rights, since the money goes to a non-government entity. Related from The Trace: Earlier this month, Jennifer Mascia pored over the bill and spoke with insurance experts and found that the plan may not be as effective as proponents have advertised.
U.S. judge upholds constitutionality of Illinois rules requiring safe storage of guns in daycares and foster homes. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois ruled against a lawsuit from three gun rights groups and a state couple who argued that the requirements were unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The decision held that Illinois’ rules are justified because they serve the state’s interest in protecting children, especially given that gun violence is a leading cause of death for children and evidence shows that safe storage decreases that risk.
$127.5 million — the fee that the U.S. government has now agreed to pay to settle 40 civil cases related to the 2018 Parkland school shooting, which hinged on the FBI’s failure to respond to a tip that a shooting was imminent. Though the DOJ agreed to the settlement, it said in a statement that it does not admit fault as part of the payout. [The Department of Justice]