Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Trays of firearms transactions records wait to be processed at ATF's National Trace Center in West Virginia.

Daily Bulletin: Is Good Data the First Step to a Solution for Gun Violence?

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Our picture of gun usage is woefully incomplete. A national commission is proposing new and streamlined data collection. Nearly a year ago, the research organization NORC at the University of Chicago convened 14 academics, criminal justice experts, and data specialists to identify shortcomings with firearms data and to propose a new blueprint for a better system. Their final report offers a slew of recommendations for federal, state, and local governments, including:

  • Create a “valid and reliable” system for tracking gunshot injuries. The federal government either doesn’t track such incidents or has faulty data. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s gun injury estimates aren’t reliable, as we found out in an investigation with FiveThirtyEight. The report specifically recommends additional investments in the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System — which collects details on crime — and hospital discharge data.
  • Make data on guns more available and useful. The report recommends measures to improve the timeliness and documentation of existing federal data (including FBI crime statistics which are often delayed and out-of-date), improving information sharing among federal and state agencies, and integrating law enforcement and public health data.
  • Conduct a semiannual survey of firearms ownership: Information about who owns guns, why, and how they are stored is scarce. The estimates we do have — while accurate — are often compiled by academics and can go years without being updated. The report recommends funding existing private studies to make them semiannual or adding a new federal government survey.

Why it matters: “If we don’t have the data, we can’t recognize our successes and we can’t avoid our failures. We can’t develop policies to reduce gun violence, and we can’t even identify how big of a problem it is,” John K. Roman, a senior fellow at NORC who prepared the report, said in a news release. He added on Twitter, “There are solutions and better data is the first step.” (Arnold Ventures, which commissioned the report, provides funding to The Trace. Here’s our policy on editorial independence.)

Fixing gun laws felt increasingly hopeless. Then a tragedy pulled her back into the fight. After spending years campaigning for gun reforms, Kelli Dunaway had started to feel powerless about her ability to make change. But as my colleague Ann Givens writes in a new profile, the fatal shooting of her cousin by an abusive boyfriend renewed her resolve. Last year, she won a seat on the St. Louis County Council and was part of an all-female voting bloc that prohibited convicted abusers from carrying concealed weapons in the county. Local law enforcement has yet to cite anyone under the law and critics say it amounts to little more than a traffic ticket, but Dunaway thinks it’s an important first step in a long process. “Whether it was symbolic or not, we took a stand and said no more to gun violence,” she said. Read the story here.

Kenosha gunman won’t face separate charges in Illinois. The 17-year-old is charged with killing two protesters and injuring a third during racial justice demonstrations in August. He is currently being held in Lake County, Illinois — where he’s from and where he fled after the shooting — and is awaiting a ruling on whether he’ll be extradited to Wisconsin to face criminal charges that include first-degree murder. But an Illinois prosecutor said the AR-15 the teen allegedly used was “purchased, stored and used in Wisconsin” and that he broke no gun laws in Illinois.

SCOTUS hears oral arguments in case about police use of force. Torres v. Madrid centers around a woman who is suing the cops who shot her in 2014. Roxanne Torres, who was unarmed, accuses the two officers with the New Mexico State Police of using excessive force in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights after they shot at her 13 times, hitting her twice. The officers said they feared Torres, who was in a car, would run them over. The amendment bars unreasonable search and seizures, and courts have long considered excessive force by police as a form of seizure. But the Torres case hinges on whether the plaintiff can make such a legal claim since the police who shot her never actually seized her.

DATA POINT

~18,000 — the number of local law enforcement agencies that use separate systems for reporting data related to firearm usage. [John Roman]