What To Know Today

People lost sleep over rising violence in their neighborhoods during the pandemic. Past research has documented how neighborhood poverty and other factors can adversely affect people’s sleep. Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio wanted to know if rising violence during the pandemic had a similarly demonstrable effect. Using data from a 2021 national survey, they observed that as reports of violence in a particular neighborhood increased, sleep quality among residents decreased. The inverse correlation held up for neighborhoods perceived as becoming safer in the pandemic, as their residents reported better sleep in the survey. A secondary hypothesis: While it may seem obvious that feeling like your neighborhood is getting more dangerous could make it harder to sleep, the researchers wanted to know if the effect could be attributed to any other factors, such as increased cigarette or alcohol use as a coping mechanism. Neither of those vices proved notable, but researchers did find evidence that poorer dietary habits could help explain the effects on sleep. Public safety = public health: “Our findings suggest that community policies geared toward making neighborhoods safer and enhancing the subjective experience of safety may contribute to public health by improving sleep quality,” the authors write. They pointed to expanding community-based violence intervention, removing blight and beautifying neighborhood spaces, and deepening trauma-informed care for residents directly and indirectly exposed to violence as possible paths forward. 

The Justice Department sued Missouri over its controversial state gun law. The state’s Second Amendment Preservation Act essentially prohibits Missouri police from enforcing federal gun restrictions and allows police agencies to be fined up to $50,000 if their officers violate the statute. Local and federal law enforcement officers say the law has already hindered state-federal investigations. St. Louis and Kansas City previously sued the state, a case which is currently before the state Supreme Court. Now, after threatening to do so for months, the Biden DOJ sued Missouri, saying its law violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits state statutes from trumping federal law. “A state cannot simply declare federal laws invalid,” said Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

The strange path from rising activist to attempted shooter. On Monday, police charged Quintez Brown with attempted murder for allegedly opening fire in the offices of Louisville mayoral, Kentucky, candidate Craig Greenberg; no one was injured, but a bullet reportedly grazed Greenberg’s clothing. Brown had previously worked for the Louisville Courier-Journal as an editorial columnist, writing about social justice issues including gun reform. The Daily Beast and Courier-Journal help flesh out the picture of the 21-year-old, who had won plaudits from local and national political leaders and was routinely feted by the media and national luminaries. “The young man I knew then was working to end violence in our city, not carry it out,” said Kentucky Senate candidate Charles Booker, who had invited Brown to an event during his previous campaign. “The fact that he has now been charged with such violent acts is absolutely crushing.” Brown briefly went missing in 2021, after which his family said they were focusing on his “physical, mental, and spiritual needs.” After having increasingly expressed dissatisfaction with mainstream politics, Brown allegedly met last week with the leader of an armed Black nationalist group, though its leader disavowed this week’s shooting. Meanwhile, Brown’s lawyer noted: “This is not a hate crime. It is a mental health case.” 

Beto O’Rourke tries to move on from past gun comments without retracting them. Last week, the Texas gubernatorial candidate appeared to soften his tone on guns, cognizant that his 2020 remarks during the Democratic presidential primaries — “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47” — was unlikely to play well in deep-red Texas. During a campaign stop last week, he said: “I’m not interested in taking anything from anyone. What I want to make sure that we do is defend the Second Amendment.” But on Wednesday, he told The New York Times that he didn’t think “we should have AR-15s and AK-47s on the streets of this state,” adding, “I haven’t changed a thing about that. I’m just telling you I’m going to focus on what I can actually do as governor and where the common ground is.”

Alabama advances permitless carry bill. On Wednesday, a House committee approved a bill that would remove permit requirements for carrying handguns in public. Advancing the bill has largely fallen on party lines, while many law enforcement groups in the state have opposed the effort. The legislation next moves to the full House chamber. Similar bills passed in six states last year, and several other legislatures are considering them again this year.

Data Point

$17.6 million — the first batch of funding that Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced of a planned $50 million outlay for community-focused violence prevention. The initial recipients include Roca and Baltimore Ceasefire, two groups we’ve previously written about. [Office of Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott]