What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Black people formed one of the largest militias in the U.S. Now its leader is in prosecutors’ crosshairs. In late July 2020, a phalanx of hundreds of men and women, all clad in black, marched through downtown Louisville, Kentucky. “It was the biggest public display by an armed militia I have ever seen,” one expert said of the Not F—ing Around Coalition, an armed group that says it’s dedicated to protecting Black lives from police brutality. A year later, the group’s presence at protests has dwindled. Our Alain Stephens and USA TODAY’s Will Carless report on the group, its charismatic leader Grandmaster Jay who is facing charges for allegedly brandishing a gun at officers, and the fraught history of Black gun ownership. Read that story here.

The 2020 murder surge affected nearly every kind of victim. In a chat about crime with FiveThirtyEight, Princeton criminologist Jacob Kaplan parsed the FBI data on 2020 crime to show how the rise in violent crime took many forms and affected many types of victims. His takeaway: Despite a common narrative about gang violence spurring the increased murders, there was actually an uptick in most categories of victim-to-killer relationship, as demonstrated by his graphic below. Some caveats: Across both years, the relationship between victims and perpetrators is unknown a majority of the time. Secondly, small increases in absolute numbers — such as a change from 58 husbands killed by wives in 2019 to 79 in 2020 — can make percentage changes (in the case of husbands, 36 percent) seem disproportionately large. And finally, the percentage increases don’t reflect the overall share each victim group represents of all murders. The throughline? The increase in murders isn’t as simple as people staying home during the pandemic and killing their partners, or turning to crime because they couldn’t work; many different types of people turned to many different crimes against people with whom they had many different kinds of relationships. Whichever factors drove the surge seem to have had a widespread impact that will take time to fully untangle.

Jacob Kaplan / FiveThirty/Eight Jacob Kaplain / 538

In Kansas City, Missouri, food inaccessibility closely matches gun violence prevalence. Eight out of the 10 census tracts with the highest gun violence rates in the city were low-income areas lacking access to a grocery store or supermarket for a half-mile or more, according to an analysis by The Kansas City Star. The reporting echoes a similar analysis the same paper did of St. Louis earlier this year, which found that 70 percent of that city’s homicides last year were in low-income areas with a similar lack of food access. 

A look at the kinds of things federal gun violence research funds. READI Chicago is a four-year-old violence reduction program that offers paid transitional employment, training, and cognitive behavioral therapy to men at the highest risk of being victims and perpetrators of the city’s gun violence. The program has shown results in reducing shootings, but its staff has also been hit hard by the pandemic, uncertain funding, and a surge in shootings. Under a new $400,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, academics at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago will work to help front-line staff to receive trauma support and reduce burnout. The money comes from the millions in funding the federal government started giving to gun violence research in 2020 after a yearslong embargo.

A Chicago-based poet turns one of our articles into a poem. Kemi Alabi used Lakeidra Chavis’s reporting about the steep rise in suicides among Black people in the Chicago area to create a poem by blacking out words from the article. The piece, part of a series called “Against Heaven,” was published recently in The Chicago Reader.

Job alert: WHYY in Philadelphia is hiring a full-time gun violence journalist. The city’s NPR and PBS station wants a solutions-focused reporter: “We’re looking for someone who can effectively humanize and contextualize the crisis through compelling profiles and solutions-oriented, data-driven reporting from a public health perspective laser focused on coverage that makes an impact.” More details here.

Data Point

More than $5 million — the size of a potential arms deal being brokered by the U.S. government in which Sig Sauer would distribute assault rifles and suppressors to a Mexican Navy unit that has been accused of murder and kidnapping. Sig Sauer is also one of the gun manufacturers named in a recent suit brought by the Mexican government against U.S. gun companies concerning firearms trafficking. [The Intercept]