Good morning, Bulletin readers. Two new articles from The Trace lead this morning’s briefing: First, a criminologist warns that the premeditated killing of 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue last Saturday could herald a new era of hate crimes — one more likely to involve guns. Plus, in collaboration with PublicSource, a look at the Pittsburgh City Council members who are vowing to go beyond “thoughts and prayers,” regardless of the political cost.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
NEW from The Trace: Experts fear hate crime shootings could become more common. Alex Yablon spoke to a criminologist who believes this weekend’s shooting by an avowed anti-Semite could be a sign of a nascent trend. Jack McDeavitt, the director of Northeastern University’s Institute for Race and Justice, says toxic online speech could be a driving factor for more white supremacist gun rampages. “We have more people drawn to white supremacist rhetoric who see themselves as on a mission to change the world,” he said. “That’s going to change the character of hate crimes in America.”
The Trace + PublicSource: Pittsburgh leaders confront state curbs on local gun measures. City leaders promise to pass new gun control legislation in response to the Tree of Life shooting. But they’re limited by the threat of lawsuits and backlash from Republicans and the National Rifle Association. “We will get sued,” said one teary-eyed city councilman three days after the attack. But, he added, “Our community is here to fight.”
The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter owned his guns legally. Federal authorities confirmed that the man accused of killing 11 Jewish congregants over the weekend owned a total of 10 legally purchased firearms, and also had a concealed handgun license. Four of his weapons, including an AR-15, were recovered from the scene of the rampage. While he made many anti-Semitic comments online, he did not fall into any category barred from gun ownership. Pennsylvania does not have a red flag law. A bill to create one foundered this summer in the face of NRA opposition.
Americans are split on whether stronger gun laws would prevent mass shootings. According to a survey conducted after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, 46 percent of Americans said they believe stricter gun laws would prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. Forty-three percent said the opposite. The numbers show a slight shift toward tougher gun restrictions: After the Las Vegas shooting last year, 43 percent of respondents said stronger gun laws would prevent mass shootings, while 46 percent said they would not.
Most Americans don’t grasp the extent of the suicide epidemic. A study published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine examining public perceptions of gun violence found that most people underestimate the number of lives lost to suicide each year. In every state, suicide is more common than homicide, but most people surveyed believe the opposite is true. Researchers noted that the knowledge gap may be contributing to a public health crisis. “Knowing that the presence of a firearm increases the risk for suicide, and that firearm suicide is substantially more common than firearm homicide, may lead people to think twice about firearm ownership and their storage practices,” one of the researchers said. From The Trace archives: In 2016, we prepared this fact guide to illuminate the links between guns and suicide, and identify some solutions that could save lives.
The race for Florida agriculture commissioner has become a referendum on guns. In Florida, the holder of that office heads the department that grants concealed gun permits, an agency that’s come under fire for not running background checks on permit holders for over a year, as well as its allegiance to the NRA.
A poll finds gun violence concerns are highest in Miami. Eight months after the Parkland shooting, the region is still reeling, a YouGov poll published Tuesday suggests. Fifty-four percent of Miami residents polled said that gun violence is a problem in their city — higher than Chicago, Houston, or New York.
Researchers in New Orleans will study whether public greening can reduce gun violence. With $2.3 million from the National Institutes of Health, a Tulane University researcher will study whether cleaning up 600 empty lots and blighted houses in New Orleans over five years can put a dent on the city’s gun violence epidemic. The research follows similar studies which have shown that greening junky lots was correlated with an almost 10 percent reduction in shootings.
The city of Toledo, Ohio, created new restrictions for gun company contracts. The city’s mayor announced Tuesday that Toledo will no longer enter into contracts with gun companies that manufacture or sell assault-style weapons for civilian use. “It is not a stretch to say that what happened in Pittsburgh over the weekend could happen in Toledo,” he said.
The gun used by a North Carolina teen to kill his classmate Monday was stolen from a car. Police say the 16-year-old took the pistol from a vehicle. Last year, police in Charlotte, North Carolina, reported finding 1,553 stolen guns, most of which were taken from cars. Related: Brian Freskos reported in 2017 that stolen guns — particularly those taken from vehicles — are fueling violent crime across the country.
Two political canvassers were shot while handing out voter guides in Detroit. One of them died. The victims were volunteering with a nonprofit that works “to build a fair economy and a more just society through organizing low-income Detroiters.” Police believe the shooting stemmed from a personal beef.
ONE LAST THING
A gun owner was arrested after threatening to shoot a family “back to Mexico.” A 27-year-old Salt Lake City man was arrested Tuesday after he reportedly confronted a Hispanic family on their front porch and yelled slurs at them while pointing a rifle. Witnesses say the man yelled a derogatory term at the family before pulling out his rifle and threatening to kill them.
The incident is the latest example of real-world violence inspired by hate-filled rhetoric, some of which has been spewed by the gun lobby for over a decade. The NRA’s media outlet, NRATV, has relentlessly pushed conspiracy theories about the migrant caravan, similar to those embraced by the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman. But even before the 2016 election, the group and its leaders were stoking fear of newcomers to push its pro-gun, fear-driven agenda.