What To Know Today

How the pandemic drove gun violence: A case study in Philadelphia. Temple University researchers found that the beginning of the city’s lockdown policies had a strong association with an increase in gun violence last year. According to a research letter published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the average number of people shot per week in the city nearly doubled — from 25 to 46 — in the immediate period after COVID-19 “containment” policies were instituted. “The pandemic and its associated policies have also exacerbated issues that were already present, including unemployment, poverty, structural racism and place-based economic disinvestment, which are empirically tied to firearm violence in Philadelphia,” said Dr. Jessica H. Beard, who led the study. The findings echo the arguments of some criminologists, who say the pandemic and its after-effects — not policing decisions or nationwide protests against racial violence — were the chief drivers of 2020’s national gun violence surge

In Chicago, an effort to beautify vacant lots — and reduce gun violence — lags behind. Numerous studies have linked urban blight to community violence and research suggests that revitalization of public spaces can reduce shootings. In 2019, Brian Freskos reported on a plan in Chicago to renovate 50 vacant city lots in three neighborhoods where shootings were likely to occur by employing local residents. The Chicago Sun-Times checked in on the progress, and found that only 35 lots have been identified for renovation — and only two have been fully renovated. Of the 35 that have been identified, 28 showed no signs of work being done, the Sun-Times reported. Leaders behind the plan cited the pandemic, spiking violence, and lower-than-promised city funding as reasons for the slow pace.

Former NRA PR firm files a motion to dismiss the gun group’s bankruptcy case. In a filing in a federal Texas court, Ackerman McQueen called the National Rifle Association’s decision to seek Chapter 11 protection bogus, saying it “did not file this bankruptcy for a legitimate goal of reorganization.” Bankruptcy experts told my colleague Will Van Sant last month that the NRA’s move could be a bad-faith attempt to try to escape scrutiny related to ongoing litigation. Ackerman also rejected the NRA’s claims that it needed bankruptcy to consolidate its numerous legal cases and cited our November piece on outside NRA counsel Bill Brewer in arguing that the gun group chose to pursue a costly, litigation-heavy strategy. Last week, a federal trustee announced Ackerman as one of the four members of an unsecured creditors committee in the bankruptcy case.

D.C.’s new director of gun violence prevention on how she will approach rising shootings. Last month, the city appointed Linda Harllee Harper as its inaugural head of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, a position created as part of the city council’s decision last year to divert $15 million from the Police Department to alternative community safety efforts. In a Q&A with DCist, Harllee Harper discussed her plans and how a primary focus would be to encourage existing community violence prevention programs and better direct city services: “I’m excited about offering services and supports and opportunities to some of the most high-risk individuals in our communities and offering an opportunity for different decisions to be made.”

After a violent 2020, Texas lawmakers continue to push gun reform. Democratic state Senator Cesar J. Blanco, a military veteran whose district includes El Paso, introduced a measure to declare gun violence a public health crisis. Last week, one of Blanco’s colleagues introduced another bill that would create a state Office of Community Violence Intervention and Prevention. Last year, several Texas cities saw huge spikes in gun violence.

Data Point

One-third — the share of mass shootings between 1966 and 2018 that were motivated by anti-woman grievances, according to a new study from a researcher at William Paterson University. [Violence Against Women]