What To Know Today

Veteran gun violence researcher: American democracy careening toward calamity. “Interrelated upward trends in firearm purchasing, violence, and political extremism are converging to put the USA at risk for disaster in the months ahead,” writes Garen Wintemute, head of the California Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California, Davis, in the journal Injury Epidemiology. Wintemute’s concerns center on the unprecedented surge in gun ownership, particularly among first-time buyers, rising national violence (including homicides, domestic incidents, and hate crimes), and increased political polarization with rising popular support for violence. If we don’t act urgently to address the drivers of gun violence, he says, harm “will almost surely follow.” The case for hope: Despite his dire warning, Wintemute says he’s buoyed in part by the rise of community-focused violence prevention as a viable nationwide model: “The country has a broader and deeper awareness of the structural causes of violence than at any time in the past 50 years, if not longer.”

Do more police make for less gun violence? Most experts say there’s not a clear link. Evidence suggests that while additional officers have the potential to help, their actual impact depends vitally on what additional officers are tasked with doing, the level of community trust in the police, and adoption of non-law-enforcement crime prevention measures — from community-led solutions to economic policies that raise neighborhoods out of poverty. “Crime goes up and down for a million reasons that are completely independent of the police,” one criminologist told The New York Times, adding that about half of the cases he studied had coincided with homicide declines. Others who spoke with the paper said targeted, non-police investments like youth jobs programs are “where you really get the bang for the buck.”

Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand as his lawyers ask for a mistrial. The 18-year-old testified yesterday that he fatally shot two protesters and injured a third in self-defense during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August. The day then took an unusual and dramatic turn as Rittenhouse’s lawyers asked for a mistrial with no possibility of a retrial over what they argued was out-of-bounds questioning by the prosecutors. The judge, though clearly angry at the prosecutors, did not rule on the request and later told jurors to expect closing arguments next week.

Pennsylvania Legislature advances largely symbolic preemption, permitless carry laws. The GOP-controlled state Senate on Tuesday approved a measure that would eliminate license requirements for concealed carry, and overturn a policy prohibiting open carry in Philadelphia. A second measure would strengthen enforcement of the state’s preemption law by expanding plaintiffs’ standing to sue municipalities and collect damages over firearms ordinances. Both bills are expected to be advanced by the House, which is also led by Republicans, though Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is nearly certain to veto them.

Extremism and guns watch. A self-described “sovereign citizen” was allegedly the perpetrator of the fatal shooting of a police officer in Georgia this week. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the sovereign citizens movement as a group of people unified by a broad rejection of federal and state legal authority. Meanwhile in Utah, a member of the state National Guard and ex-sheriff’s deputy whose name appeared on the membership rolls of the far-right Oath Keepers was charged with domestic assault and heard on tape discussing violence against left-wing activists and President Joe Biden.

Data Point

Less than 13 percent — the share of women police officers in the United States. Last year, we wrote about Marilyn Thompson, a Black officer in Arkansas who believes policing would be more compassionate — and more effective — if police departments better reflected their communities. [Stateline]