Good morning, Bulletin readers. As one state moves to address safe gun storage law, this weekend brought two painful examples of what can happen when kids access guns.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
Nearly 60 percent of Americans experience gun violence related trauma in their lifetimes. That’s according to a new report from Everytown for Gun Safety, which emphasizes that a shooting impacts not just a victim but their whole social network. The report defines gun violence in all its forms — suicides, homicides, accidental shootings, and threats of violence. (Everytown’s 501(c)(3) provides grants to The Trace. See here for our transparency policy and full list of institutional donors and here for our editorial independence policy.)
Chicago just had its least violent January in nine years. The city had 20 homicides last month, and overall shootings were down as well — the 100 incidents recorded made for the lowest total in five years. Law enforcement officials hope the drop marks a turning point against gun violence, and they continue to credit investments in neighborhood-based efforts and technological policing tools in crime hotspots for driving the decline.
A 4-year-old found a gun and accidentally shot his pregnant mother in the face. On Saturday evening in Washington State, the boy found the weapon under a mattress in his home. The gun accidentally fired, leaving his mother with life-threatening injuries. Police are questioning his mother’s boyfriend, who had borrowed the weapon from a family member months ago but never secured it inside the house. A gun storage law included in the ballot initiative voters passed last year penalizes owners who fail to keep their weapons away from children. It takes effect in July.
A 12-year-old boy in California was fatally shot by a friend while playing with a gun. Authorities say the boys were playing with the weapon when it accidentally discharged and hit the young boy in the chest early Sunday afternoon. Under California’s storage law, the gun owner could face charges if an investigation determines the weapon was not properly secured.
New York will follow a slate of new gun reform laws with a safe storage measure. After passing a series of gun safety bills last week, the Democratic leaders of the state Assembly and state Senate are co-sponsoring a proposal that would criminalize leaving guns unsecured where children are present. With Democrats’ controlling both houses and the governor’s mansion, the bill is expected to become law.
A federal court threw out a lawsuit against New Jersey’s ban on 3D-printed guns. The decision rested on technical grounds: The company, Defense Distributed, filed suit in Texas, where a judge ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction to rule on a New Jersey law, and invited the company to pursue legal action elsewhere. Meanwhile, Democrats in several other states are considering banning the weapons: Lawmakers in Connecticut, Georgia, and Maryland have filed bills to make 3D-printed guns illegal in their states.
Rogue sheriffs are refusing to enforce new age minimums for rifle purchases in Washington State. An initiative passed by voters in November includes raising the age requirement from 18 to 21, but county sheriffs in the conservative eastern part of the state have said they won’t enforce it. Yakima Sheriff Bob Udell is the latest to join their ranks. He and his counterparts are counting on a lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association days after the initiative passed to void the new laws before they even go into effect.
ONE LAST THING
The share of Americans who believe crime is a serious problem has dropped to 42 percent. That’s according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, which put the number of Americans who believed crime was a serious problem at 53 percent in 2016. Though the decrease is felt across all political identities, it’s most pronounced among Democrats, the share of whom believe crime is a very serious problem is down by 19 percentage points. Paradoxically, more than half of Americans still believe crime has increased nationally over the past decade — though data show that it hasn’t. The more pressing concern, as our reporting has shown, is the murder inequality that mires some neighborhoods in violent crime rates exponentially higher than the national average.