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News and notes on guns in America

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Daily Bulletin: Gun Violence Surges in NYC, Sharpening Debate Over Policing

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: Chicago graduates a new class of gun violence interrupters. For the past three years, the Metropolitan Peace Academy in Chicago has helped local street outreach workers broaden their toolset for mediating violent conflicts in the city. This month, amid a global pandemic and ongoing national protests against police violence, the academy graduated its fifth cohort — who will now continue helping city residents navigate multiple crises. Lakeidra Chavis has that story.

Gun violence surges in NYC, sharpening debate over policing. The nation’s largest city reported at least 125 shootings in the first three weeks of June, according to police data — a more than 100 percent increase over the same period last year. The increase has intensified an already contentious debate about policing after the killing of George Floyd, fueling claims from police unions and their supporters that cuts to the NYPD budget will usher a return to ‘80s-era crime levels. But researchers offered a different explanation for the violence. Christopher Herrmann, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The New York Times it’s more likely that a “combination of warmer weather, Covid cabin fever and the traditional gun violence that we see in June, July and August” was responsible.

Chicago school board votes 4-3 to keep police in schools. The decision preserves a $33 million contract between the school system and the Chicago Police Department, and will leave more than 200 officers spread across 70 schools. Alderpeople who opposed the decision cited the example of Dnigma Howard, a 16-year old who Chicago police officers pushed down a stairwell and tased in 2019, as evidence that the officers were a dangerous presence. Others on the board countered that schools need law enforcement presence to protect teachers and students.

Gun sales are not letting up — and store owners are crediting protests. Sales of firearms and ammunition were already at record levels earlier this year amid concerns of social unrest during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, widespread protests and calls to “defund the police” appear to have triggered another surge in panic buying, CNN reports. “You’re seeing a reaction to people’s concerns about being able to provide safety for themselves and the ones that they love,” said one store owner. “People are coming off the fences and the sidelines and they’re making decisions with their wallets about where they are in this debate about firearms ownership.”

Virginia’s universal background check law faces a court challenge. Gun rights groups filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the state’s background check measure from taking effect on July 1. The suit takes issue with a fee — “about $17,” according to The Washington Post — that gun buyers will be required to pay for a background check during a private sale. The background check law is one of seven major gun bills passed by the Virginia General Assembly this year. Another measure limiting a person’s ability to purchase handguns to one per month also faces a court challenge.

California bill would increase scrutiny of hunting licenses used to purchase guns. Producing a valid hunting license is the only way someone under 21 can legally buy a weapon in California, unless the buyer is in the military or law enforcement. However, last year, a 19-year-old man purchased a gun with a not-yet-valid hunting license and used the weapon to carry out a shooting at a synagogue in the city of Poway. The new bill, passed by the state Senate this week, would require gun stores and the California Department of Justice to confirm the validity of hunting licenses during a 10-day waiting period before a gun buyer can pick up their weapon. It now heads to the state Assembly for consideration.

“Catastrophic hardware failure” delays background checks in Maryland. State Police warned this week of delays for those purchasing firearms because of a hardware issue at the state’s Department of Public Safety, which is responsible for processing background checks on all handgun sales. Buying a gun in Maryland typically requires a seven-day waiting period, but the system failure is likely to extend application processing times beyond that window. Under state law, dealers can release guns to customers after eight days without a response from the state’s background check system. But: State Police are asking dealers not to proceed with firearm transfers until background checks have been completed.

DATA POINT

In Philadelphia, there has been a nearly 20 percent rise in shooting victims (779) vs. the same time last year. Fatal shootings (148) are also up by 11 percent. [Institute for Better Gun Violence Reporting]