What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: How climate change could worsen gun violence. Daniel Semenza, a criminologist at Rutgers University–Camden, has spent years studying the connection between public health disparities and violence. So when he recently read the United Nations’ dire new report on the worsening climate crisis, he thought about how that could exacerbate existing social inequities that correlate with violent crime. In a Q&A, Jennifer Mascia spoke with Semenza about the link between a warming planet and crime. “If extreme weather happens more often, damaging people’s homes or affecting their livelihood, you’re increasing what criminologists call strain, or stressors,” he said. “And the more stressors and strains you put on people and on communities, you tend to see increases in crime.” 

The NRA cancelled its upcoming annual convention in Houston due to COVID. The announcement went out to the National Rifle Association’s board of directors about the event that was slated for early September. “We make this difficult decision after analyzing relevant data regarding COVID-19 in Harris County, Texas,” the gun group said in a statement. “We also consulted with medical professionals, local officials, major sponsors and exhibitors, and many NRA members before arriving at this decision.” This year’s convention would have also marked the NRA’s 150th anniversary. Speculation about the cancellation has been rife after The Daily Beast reported last week that major gun industry companies and vendors had begun pulling out of the event — or pushing the NRA to cancel altogether. 

Biden DOJ defends the constitutionality of PLCAA in court. The president has vowed to sign a legislative repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, the 16-year old federal law that shields gunmakers from most civil suits when their products are used to commit a crime. But government lawyers defended the law’s legality in oral arguments in the case Gustafon v. Springfield Armory. The suit was brought against the Illinois-based gunmakers by the family of a Pennsylvania teenager killed with one of its guns. They argued in court last year that their son’s death fit one of PLCAA’s six exceptions having to do with injuries caused by product defects. They also argued that the federal law was unconstitutional. A three-judge panel for the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals agreed with the second argument, ruling last September. But the full Court of Appeals later agreed to rehear the case, which led to renewed oral arguments on Tuesday. Outside of defending the legality of PLCAA, the Department of Justice took no position on whether the family’s suit against Springfield Armory has merits. (H/T to Rob Romano, who live-tweeted the hearing.)

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin easily wins reelection. In an election dominated by concerns over gun violence, he fended off a slate of challengers, most of whom promised to be tougher on crime. Last year was Birmingham’s deadliest since 1995, and the progressive mayor’s opponents zeroed in on his handling of the elevated rates of violence. In the final days of the campaign, Woodfin touted his efforts to remove illegal guns from the streets and his investments in education and neighborhood revitalization. In addition to fending off challengers to his right on issues of policing and public safety, Woodfin withstood a loss in support among activists to his left, who were a key component of his first campaign in 2017. Many argued that he’d become too close to the police and had not done enough to address the root causes of gun violence. — Chip Brownee, fellow

Oath Keeper released from jail after his lawyer says he’s no longer radicalized. Joseph Hackett is one of several members of the far-right militia group to be charged over the Capitol insurrection and stands accused of conspiracy, among other charges. Prosecutors said that Hackett coordinated with the Oath Keepers’ founder ahead of the insurrection to bring guns to a Virginia hotel with plans to ferry them into Washington, D.C. A federal judge agreed to release Hackett to home confinement pending trial. Several other Oath Keepers have been charged as part of that conspiracy plot. On the flip side: A federal judge refused to release a South Carolina man charged in the insurrection, citing the man’s belief in conspiracy theories, his large collection of guns, and his alleged assault of officers on January 6 at the Capitol.

Data Point

1,700 — the number of vases of flowers on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall as part of a new memorial marking the number of gun violence deaths in the state over the past year. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]