What To Know Today

Data throws (more) cold water on police claims about the causes of last year’s historic homicide spike. Writing for The Intercept, data journalist Rob Arthur and crime analyst Jeff Asher crunch data that echoes previous accountings (including our own) of the unprecedented increase in homicides recorded in 2020. The authors stress that the upswing defies simple explanations, while marshaling other numbers to question two popular theories floated by police and their supporters.

  • It likely wasn’t due to fewer arrests for low-level crimes. Yes, the duo note, drug arrests did plummet in New York City as shootings skyrocketed last summer. But a longer view shows that drug arrests by the NYPD have been trending downward for a decade, with no affect on the frequency of gun violence. 
  • It likely wasn’t because protests consumed police departments’ resources and attention. Tapping data on the number of racial justice demonstrations in a given city, Arthur and Asher found no link between the volume of protests and changes in homicide rates. 
  • But lower trust in police overall may be an important driver. “Ultimately that means fewer violent disputes being solved through the formal criminal justice system, and more of them dealt with informally through retaliation, causing homicides and other violent crimes to increase,” crime expert Thomas Abt tells the authors. 

Watch this space: Tomorrow, we’ll parse the analysts’ findings about the jump in crimes committed using guns and the possible links between soaring gun sales and the homicide surge. 

“We do not yet have equal justice.” Merrick Garland pledges to fight domestic terrorism, discrimination as attorney general. In prepared remarks ahead of this morning’s confirmation hearing, the judge highlighted his role in prosecuting the Oklahoma City bombing and his plan to focus the Department of Justice on the root causes of civil inequality: “Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system; and bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution, and climate change.” The AG and gun policy. With oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other federal law enforcement agencies, the Justice Department already has wide latitude on regulating firearms and prosecuting qualifying gun crimes, making Garland a key player in implementing the administration’s gun violence prevention agenda outside of any congressional legislation. During the 2020 campaign, Biden said he would direct his attorney general to recommend ways for restructuring the ATF and other DOJ agencies to more effectively enforce gun laws.

Five people were shot, three fatally, at a Louisiana gun store. The mass shooting occurred at a combo gun firearm retailer and range on Saturday afternoon in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie. Police were still investigating what led to the confrontation, but indicated that a man fatally shot two people in the store before drawing fire from customers. The suspect was then killed in a gunfight in the parking lot that left two more injured. 

Six more Oath Keepers charged with conspiracy in Capitol plot. They joined three others already indicted on conspiracy charges for allegedly planning in advance to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6. In an interactive, The New York Times breaks down the prominent roles that Oath Keepers members, along with Three Percenter militia members and far-right Proud Boys, played in the deadly attempt to overthrow the results of the presidential election. 

Philadelphia mayor pledges more public updates, accountability on gun violence. In our weekly newsletter (you can subscribe here), Jennifer Mascia wrote about the fight over a council push to declare gun violence a city emergency — a move the mayor has opposed, citing existing violence reduction policies. In a new statement, a spokesperson said Mayor Jim Kenney believes “the public deserves more frequent public updates and accountability regarding the gun violence epidemic we’re facing” and indicated there would be more developments soon.

Data Point

At least 13 — the number of states that lack metal detectors at the entrance of their capitol buildings. The list includes Montana and Utah, which have both recently eased restrictions on guns in their capitols. [The Associated Press