What To Know This Week

A criminologist warns that higher rates of gun violence could be “the new normal.” Last summer, John Roman, a senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, suggested that 2020’s “explosion” of violence could be attributed to the myriad ways the pandemic severed young men in underserved neighborhoods from work, school, and other positive institutions. The resulting conflicts, he notes, erased the significant progress toward greater community safety that many cities were making through evidence-based interventions. In a sobering follow-up, Roman argues that whatever the causes of last year’s historic increase in gun violence, a combination of effects makes it likely the trend will continue: 

  • Without an infusion of financial and political support, the resource-strapped institutions that support young people in marginalized communities are likely to be among the last to recover from the pandemic’s disruptions.
  • Victims of past violence are at risk of becoming tomorrow’s perpetrators — the idea that “hurt people hurt people.” The higher violent crime of 2020 will fuel cycles of retaliation going forward.
  • Community perceptions of police legitimacy have worsened. As we’ve reported, years of research indicate that police abuse — the kind that engendered nationwide protests in 2020 — contribute to conditions that make stopping gun violence harder.
  • There are more guns out there. The historic year for sales means more firearms spilling into illicit markets, where some will turn “fistfights into gunfights.”
  • Worsening violence further community disinvestment, sustaining a downward spiral. 

Roman’s coda: “A COVID vaccine is no magic wand for violence in America. It is likely that violence in the United States, particularly in cities, has been reset at a new, higher equilibrium.” 

DOJ moved resources to fight antifa while far-right threat rose. Current and former officials told The New York Times the shift came as President Trump sought to stoke animosity toward leftwing protesters during his re-election campaign. Among the consequences The Times uncovered: federal resources were diverted from investigations into violent white supremacists; officials felt pressured to prioritize left-wing conspiracies that didn’t materialize; and homeland security brass rejected a request for more analysts to monitor social media for signs of violent plots, like those that preceded the attempt to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.  

NRA treasurer and CFO resigns, citing health problems. CEO Wayne LaPierre announced Craig Spray’s departure from the bankrupt gun group on Friday in an internal letter first obtained by journalist Asher Stockler. Spray’s predecessor, Woody Phillips, joins LaPierre among the four current or former executives individually named in the civil suit that New York’s attorney general is pursuing over the web of self-dealing and other financial violations by National Rifle Association insiders. 

ICYMI: Funds from marijuana legalization begin flowing to gun violence prevention groups in Illinois. Under last year’s Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, one quarter of the marijuana tax revenue the state is now collecting goes toward the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew grant program, which was set up to serve areas disproportionately affected by systemic injustices. “By awarding this first round of R3 grants, we are taking another important step toward undoing the harms of the past,” said Governor J.B. Pritzker in a statement. In our weekly newsletter (which you can add to your subscription here), my colleague Lakeidra Chavis spoke with the program director of the Chicago Youth Boxing Club, one of 80 recipients of the first round of grants, which totaled more than $30 million: “Now there’s a want to shorten that gap in equity, and look at ways to give back to the community and let the community decide what to do — instead of having others coming in and deciding what is better.”

FBI: Woman arrested for participating in Capitol riot said she wanted to shoot Nancy Pelosi. “We were looking for [House Speaker] Nancy [Pelosi] to shoot her in the friggin’ brain, but we didn’t find her,” Dawn Bancroft allegedly declared in a video she sent to her children, according to the bureau, which has brought federal charges against her and a second Pennsylvania woman. Related: The arrests come as two members of the far-right Proud Boys were indicted on conspiracy charges over their role in the Capitol attack. 

Marjorie Taylor Greene endorsed political violence in a pre-election video appearance with gun rights activist. Late last October, the now Republican member of Congress from Georgia was interviewed at a Pennsylvania gun store by Chris Dorr, who along with his brothers runs a network of extreme gun groups that we investigated last summer. During the segment, which was unearthed by Mother Jones, Greene warned viewers that a Democratic victory would lead to firearm confiscation. “Once it’s gone, freedom doesn’t come back by itself,” she said at one point. “The only way you get your freedoms back is it’s earned with the price of blood.”

Data Point

At least 70 percent — the share firearms recovered in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas over the last decade that came from the United States. Last weekend, 19 Guatemalan migrants were fatally shot near the Texas border. [John Lindsay Poland, Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico]