What To Know Today

The pandemic brought a surge in gun violence — but as case numbers drop, shootings may not. Cities like Los Angeles saw a startling increase in gun violence as the pandemic exploded across the country in 2020. As cases and hospitalizations begin to subside, thanks in part to expanded vaccine availability, and life begins to return to something more like normal, experts hoped violence, too, would decline. But according to reporting by The Los Angeles Times, police have recorded 465 shootings in 2021 as of May 1 — a near 67 percent year-over-year increase. Meanwhile, homicides are up more than 26 percent. The persistently high rates of violence are not unique to Los Angeles, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. As of May 3, the number of gun deaths, gun injuries, and mass shootings nationwide are higher this year compared to the same period in 2020. Glimmers of improvement in LA? Though totals are still higher than this time last year, homicides slightly declined from March to April. Community anti-violence leaders hope the return to normalcy will help, but warn it could take time. “It’s not going to be just a sudden drop,” one anti-violence worker told the Times. “These children have been psychologically traumatized; they’ve gone through a lot.” — Chip Brownlee

Merrick Garland testifies on the need for violence prevention funding. Speaking in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee about the White House’s proposed budget, the U.S. attorney general reiterated the Justice Department’s request for a $232 million funding increase for gun violence prevention that would in part go to community intervention programs. “Gun deaths continue to occur at a staggering rate in our country,” Garland said. “There is more that we can do to make our communities safer. This is both a law enforcement and a public health issue.” He also emphasized the agency’s $33 million request for civil rights enforcement and $85 million related to domestic terrorism investigations. Action looming on ghost guns: Garland noted that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would soon begin the rule-making process for regulating ghost guns. The Reload obtained a leaked copy of the ATF’s draft plan on the unserialized, DIY firearms two weeks ago. The DOJ has until May 8 to publish the proposed rule change.

Pennsylvania drug raid turns up cache of ghost guns, Nazi paraphernalia. State authorities on Friday announced the raid some 70 miles north of Philadelphia. It turned up “six fully assembled ghost guns, three 80 percent receivers used to make ghost guns, four assault rifles, three handguns, and various ghost gun parts, along with drug and Nazi paraphernalia,” according to a statement from the state Attorney General’s Office. The collision of white supremacy and DIY weapons: The Trace’s Alain Stephens has reported on the far-right ideologues using easy access to ghost guns to further their violent beliefs. New law enforcement power? Last week, a top Justice Department official said the agency was considering seeking new domestic terrorism laws.

A fourth service member is charged in connection to the Capitol insurrection. Abram Markofski, a member of the Wisconsin National Guard, was arrested and charged with four counts related to the insurrection, including violent entry, according to a DOJ filing. The Washington Post notes that Markofski and the other three men charged all serve part time.

Questions linger over a 2019 fatal police shooting when the cameras weren’t on. Ariane McCree died after police fired on him 24 times in the parking lot of a South Carolina Walmart in November 2019. He was handcuffed and in possession of a gun when he died. But what occurred in between police handcuffing him and his death is unclear, in part because officers didn’t activate their body cameras until after the shooting. A broader picture on body cameras: A NBC News analysis looked at 28 large police departments across the U.S. and found that just 45 percent instructed officers when to start recording. Just 34 percent explicitly stated penalties for not turning cameras on.

Lakeidra Chavis is a Livingston Award finalist! The Trace’s Chicago reporter was selected in the category of local reporting for her story chronicling the rise of Black suicides in Cook County, Illinois, as well as follow-up reporting in the series. The finalists were chosen from more than 500 entries for the awards honoring the best storytelling by young journalists. Winners will be announced at a virtual ceremony on June 10.

Data Point

1.5x — the rate at which police in the Mountain West use fatal force compared to the national average. KUNC reports on the recent, if halting, progress of police reform in the region. [Boise State Public Radio]