What To Know Today

As researchers try to crack Philadelphia’s homicide spike, a family’s quest for safety ends in heartbreak. Philadelphia has featured heavily in discussions on criminal justice reform following the 2017 election of District Attorney Larry Krasner, who ran on a progressive platform and has seen mixed success as the city’s violence ebbs and flows. But gun violence in Philly had begun to wane as far back as the 1990s. A new investigation from ProPublica in partnership with Vox follows the quest of a Black mother named Nakisha Billa to find safety from gun violence. As she moved from neighborhood to neighborhood seeking a better life, criminologists studied the city and debated why its crime rate was changing — first, a steady decline, and then a record-high homicide count this year, mirroring a nationwide shooting spike amid the pandemic. There have been many theories: more sophisticated policing, less lead exposure among youth, the end of the crack era, more violence-interruption programs, or maybe a combination of factors. But for Billa, who lost her son to gun violence last year, “the city is not a laboratory,” the piece reads. “It is her home.” Related: The reasons some Black men and teens in Philly arm themselves can range from showing off to protecting themselves from rising gun deaths in their neighborhoods.

How vacant houses attract gun violence in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri — and what to do about it. For years, law enforcement, researchers studying gun violence, and everyday residents have called vacant lots and abandoned buildings crime magnets. An investigation from The Kansas City Star analyzed vacant, blighted properties in two of Missouri’s major cities. In St. Louis, four neighborhoods had the highest rates of both shootings and vacant homes. Of the 10 Kansas City neighborhoods with the highest vacancy rates, nine had higher-than-average shooting rates. Both cities estimate that repairing the systemic disinvestment fueled by systemic racism would cost hundreds of millions of dollars — perhaps even $1 billion. “And when I tell funders that they get real nervous, they’ll say, but we’ve put a few million dollars into this,” a Kansas City housing official said. “But a few million dollars isn’t going to change a neighborhood that has had years of lack of intention and investment.” 

The woman shot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 has become a far-right martyr. Trump’s leading the campaign. Since the former president has been deplatformed from social media, some of his recent efforts to memorialize a woman shot and killed defending a lie he began about his bid for re-election have been more siloed. In July, he called Ashli Babbit’s mother, expressing his condolences for the 35-year-old Air Force veteran’s death, The Washington Post reports. Babbitt, sporting a Trump flag over her backpack, was shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to jump through a broken pane of the glass-paneled doors leading to the area of the Capitol where lawmakers had been certifying the 2020 election. As members of Congress launch committees to analyze the full extent of what took place on that day, Trump has been working on a counter-campaign to rewrite what happened, including to Babbitt. In a statement to the Post, Trump said, “I want to know why is the person who shot Ashli Babbitt getting away with murder?”

2020 set new police shooting record amid protests, calls for reform. The Washington Post has been tracking the number of people shot and killed by police since 2015, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri. On average, police fatally shoot three people every day, averaging about 1,000 related deaths per year. However, in 2020, the outlet’s tracker recorded a new high: 1,021 fatal shootings. The database shows that 58 percent of people shot and killed by police since the tracker launched six years ago were armed with guns, and 15 percent had knives.

Data Point

23,941 — the number of firearm suicides counted in the United States in 2019. [CDC]