What To Know Today

Prominent Senate Democrat may reintroduce an assault weapons ban. California’s Dianne Feinstein pledged to revive the legislation last week in a press release touting her support for a universal background check bill. From 1994 to 2004, the U.S. barred new production of assault-style rifles; since Congress allowed the ban to lapse, criminal use of semiautomatic weapons equipped with large detachable magazines, though still comparatively rare, appears to have increased in cities and states that have dug into the data. Absent filibuster reform, the odds of either a background check expansion or an assault weapons ban passing are slim. From The Trace archives: What would it look like for the federal government to not only outlaw new assault-style rifles, but to buy back the millions already in circulation? We crunched the numbers

A dozen states seek to nullify new federal gun laws. In anticipation of Democrats’ gun reform agenda getting a hearing in Congress, Republican lawmakers in several states, including Alabama, Missouri, and South Carolina, are introducing laws that would authorize local police to refuse to enforce new federal gun restrictions — and in some cases make it a crime to do so. The push marks the latest front in the gun law nullification movement, which has seen hundreds of cities and towns pass resolutions rejecting new state or federal gun laws. Courts may take a dim view of the measures state legislators are now considering: Kansas enacted a similar law in 2013, but it failed to protect two men who tried to use it as a defense.

Police fatally shot a New York teenager with an airsoft gun. Officers in the upstate town of Jamesville were summoned to conduct a mental health check on a 17-year-old boy on Thursday. Several opened fire after the teen brandished what appeared to be a handgun, but was actually a replica. The officers had reportedly been warned that the teen owned an airsoft gun and had previously threatened “suicide by cop.” As The Trace has reported, police killed more than 150 people who were holding look-alike weapons, including airsoft guns, between 2015 and 2019. Gunmakers continue to strike lucrative licensing deals with toy companies allowing their products to be reproduced.

Ohio bill would expand eligibility for crime victim compensation. Currently, victims with felony convictions within the last decade and those who test positive for illicit substances are unable to receive financial redress from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. A Republican-sponsored bill in the state Senate would change that, and also widen the pool of recipients to include family members of crime victims who witnessed the incident or its aftermath and people grappling with psychological trauma stemming from sexual assault, gun violence, murder, domestic violence, or kidnapping. Go deeper: The majority of state and federal funds earmarked for violent crime survivors have gone unspent in recent years. This Trace feature details the reasons why, including a daunting application process, slow processing times, restrictive eligibility criteria, and a lack of awareness about the resources. 

Philadelphia City Council approves hotline for gun violence resources. Local lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution last week to establish the Philadelphia Anti-Violence Resource Network, a “one-stop clearinghouse” connecting residents to city services. The plan is for the hotline to be open 24/7 and staffed by people with firsthand knowledge of neighborhoods most impacted by violence, though the council’s appropriations committee must still work out the fundingICYMI: Our plans to provide an information hub to Philadelphians impacted by gun violence. For-profit media outlets are often quick to report on shootings, but have little to offer people confronting the violence up close. The Trace is taking a step toward closing that gap with a new project called Up the Block. Led by Philadelphia-based community outreach editor Sabrina Iglesias, the initiative will use journalism to create resource guides for folks struggling through issues relating to gun violence on a neighborhood level. Are you in Philly? Please email Sabrina with feedback or questions at [email protected], follow the project on Instagram at @uptheblockphl, or sign up for email updates using this form.

Data Point

Since the police killing of George Floyd, city councils across the U.S. have cut a total of $840 million from police departments and directed at least $160 million to community services. [The Guardian]