What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Bipartisan deal over Violence Against Women Act targets people who lie on background checks. Last week, an across-the-aisle Senate agreement to reauthorize the lapsed legislation drew attention for dropping a measure that would have closed the so-called boyfriend loophole. What got less notice is a provision that aims to strengthen the federal background check system by alerting state and local police when someone fails a background check while attempting to buy a gun. Proponents say such notifications could help prevent violence by giving law enforcement agencies time to intervene before someone tries to harm themselves or others. It’s also likely to be the only gun reform measure that makes it to President Joe Biden’s desk before the midterm elections. Chip Brownlee has more on that here.

More data questions the link between bail reform and higher violence. As a part of his new public safety strategy, New York Mayor Eric Adams urged state officials to reconsider aspects of a January 2020 bail reform law, arguing — as have the city’s police leaders — that it played a role in the shooting surge that began that year and stretched into 2021. That link has previously been challenged by the NYPD’s own data, with a 2020 analysis by the New York Post finding that of the 11,000 inmates released from Rikers Island that year before July, just one person was subsequently charged in a shooting. John Pfaff, a criminologist at Fordham University, crunched data from the New York City Criminal Justice Agency’s pretrial release figures and found a similar trend now. Since the start of the early pandemic bail reform era through nearly the end of last year, about 1 percent of people who were on pretrial release for a violent crime were rearrested for another violent crime, while those on pretrial release for all crimes were rearrested for a violent crime in 0.6 percent of cases. Those numbers represent “almost no change” relative to pre-reform rates, Pfaff said. He added that although the total number of individuals rearrested for violence rose, the numbers suggest the city would need to keep about 100 people in jail to prevent a single rearrest for violence, “with all the human cost that entails.”

The Oath Keepers leader sees himself as a revolutionary. Ex-allies say they know a much darker — and more selfish — figure. This week, the far-right militia group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, faced a bail hearing in his trial on seditious conspiracy charges related to the January 6 insurrection. (A U.S. District Judge is still weighing whether to grant Rhodes conditional release pending trial). Rhodes spent much of his adult life obsessed with his place in securing his vision of liberty in America. But a USA TODAY deep-dive into his personal and business history also reveals an estranged wife and former colleagues who believe he is paranoid, violent, obsessed with guns, and primarily interested in his own legacy and financial well-being. “He used a lot of us to get his foot in the door in the law enforcement community because he couldn’t get in there any other way,” said an-ex police captain who was a vice president of the group. Other former Oath Keepers board members said he used the organization to stockpile expensive weapons and other luxuries, while his estranged wife said she regularly worried he would shoot and kill her.

Extremist murders increased slightly last year in the U.S., but are below recent averages. Domestic extremists killed at least 29 people in 2021 in 19 separate incidents, according to an annual report released by the Anti-Defamation League. That was a slight uptick from 23 in 2020. In the five years before that, the number ranged between 45 and 78. The lower tolls in the last two years, the ADL points out, were a result of no high-profile, hate-motivated mass shootings like the 2019 massacre at a Walmart in El Paso where the perpetrator fatally shot 23 people. Last year, 83 percent of extremist-related killings were committed with guns, roughly in line with the 75 percent averaged in the last decade. Twenty-six of 29 murders were committed by right-wing extremists last year, while the rest were committed by Black nationalists (2) and an Islamist extremist (1). The deadliest single event was the December shooting by a far-right ideologue active in the so-called Manosphere who fatally shot five people in Denver.

Police fatally shot another person holding a toy gun. On Tuesday evening, a police officer in Billings, Montana, responded to a report of a man who was waving a gun. When the officer arrived at the scene, the man allegedly pointed his gun at the officer, who then shot him. The police chief said only later did the officer realize the gun had been a nonlethal weapon that looked like a Glock 17 semiautomatic pistol. “It looks like the real thing,” the police chief said. Since 2015, police have fatally shot at least 256 people — including 30 last year — while they were in possession of a toy or pellet gun, according to The Washington Post’s police shooting database.

Data Point

10  — the number of days a Texas sheriff’s deputy, Patrick Divers, of Bexar County, spent on administrative paid leave after authorities investigated his use of a Taser on an unarmed refugee child at a shelter for migrants in 2020. Law enforcement ultimately declined to punish Divers. [Reveal]