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News and notes on guns in America

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[Daniel Nass]

Daily Bulletin: The Homicide Hotspots Where Murders Dropped in 2019

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Major cities and their local news outlets are releasing homicide totals for 2019, giving us a glimpse into the trajectory of community gun violence as a new year begins.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Multiple homicide hotspots recorded declines in murders last year. Several large American cities among those with the 20 highest murder rates in 2018 ended 2019 with lower homicide totals, our preliminary analysis found. According to local police data and media reports, these were some of the cities achieving the sharpest drops in their raw homicide counts: 

  • Fort Wayne, Indiana — 29 homicides, down from 45 in 2018
  • Pittsburgh — 37 homicides, down from 52 in 2018 (and a 20-year low)
  • Newark — 51 homicides (through 12/29), down from 69 in 2018
  • New Orleans — 119 homicides, down from 146 in 2018
  • Chicago — 492 homicides, down from 561 in 2018. It’s the first time since 2015 that the city’s total landed below 500.

But elsewhere, the trendlines remain pointed in the wrong direction. St. Louis, which had the country’s highest urban homicide rate in 2018, recorded 194 homicides in 2019, eight more than the year before. Our calculations show that Oakland, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Baltimore each saw their homicide totals rise by double-digit rates.

Police say a 3D-printed gun was used in a Rhode Island killing. Cheryl Smith, 54, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in Pawtucket on New Year’s Day. Police arrested an 18-year-old woman and her 23-year-old boyfriend in connection with the crime. The weapon appears to have been partially made with a 3D-printer, thus eluding laws governing gun manufacturing, sales, and purchasing. “It’s the first one I’ve seen used,” a local detective said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a plan to regulate ghost guns. Cuomo’s proposal would ban “obtaining major components of a firearm, rifle or shotgun online,” and would instead require residents to have gun parts shipped to a federally licensed dealer where the purchaser would go through a background check. The measure, part of the 2020 agenda Cuomo will lay out in his State of the State address next week, would create misdemeanor and felony penalties for offenders.

The start of recreational marijuana sales in Illinois could bring a funding boost for Chicago gun violence prevention. As the new law went into effect on January 1, dispensaries around Illinois racked up almost $3.2 million in sales, one of the strongest starts reported by any state to legalize pot. As Brian Freskos reported in June, a portion of the double-digit taxes levied on pot purchases have been earmarked for anti-violence efforts in underprivileged neighborhoods. “This could have a huge effect on violent crime rates,” Monique K. Shelton, a program manager with the Centers for New Horizons, said at the time.

Marine MPs can now carry guns on base while off-duty. Lt. Gen. George Smith Jr, the three-star general who announced the shift, said Corps leaders would consider further changes to allow other Marines to carry personally owned firearms on base. Smith cited fatal shootings on U.S. Navy installations in Hawaii and Florida last month as reasons to “accelerate existing efforts to develop concealed carry policies.”

The man behind iconic tributes to gunshot victims is putting down his tools. Illinois resident Greg Zanis has constructed roughly 27,000 wooden crosses for gun violence victims across the country since he started Crosses for Losses in 1996. He told The Daily World on Thursday that the work had taken a toll on him and his family. For Zanis, the El Paso Walmart shooting was “a breaking point,” but he stuck with his mission until last month, when he cut short a trip to Pensacola, Florida, to honor victims of the naval base shooting there. Zanis is trying to persuade a Lutheran charity to continue his work. From The Trace archives: In 2016, Zanis took us behind the scenes as he labored to construct a cross for the more than 750 people fatally shot in Chicago that year.

DATA POINT

The city of Boston, with a population of nearly 700,000 people, had just 38 homicides in 2019, according to a preliminary count.Associated Press