Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, arrives to a State of the Union address. [Leah Millis/Pool via AP]

Daily Bulletin: Why the Supreme Court Is Staying Away From Guns

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

A behind-the-scenes peek at Chief Justice John Roberts — and why he could prove a roadblock for gun rights activists. Last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear 10 challenges to state gun laws. A new CNN profile of the chief justice offers a theory as to why: The court’s conservative members are worried that Roberts might be the deciding vote on a gun case, and end up upholding regulations. “Roberts sent enough signals during internal deliberations on firearms restrictions, sources said, to convince fellow conservatives he would not provide a critical fifth vote anytime soon to overturn gun control regulations,” the story reads.

An expert weighs in: “Assuming this reporting accurately conveys Chief Justice Roberts’s views and is not, say, merely strategic leaking meant to pressure or shame him, I think it makes a big Second Amendment case in the near term very unlikely,” Jake Charles, the executive director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law, tells The Trace. “The court doesn’t seem poised to issue a broad ruling that settles the open questions in the field.”

Minneapolis residents experiment with alternatives to policing. A new report in The Wall Street Journal spotlights a group of Black gun owners who are providing security at community events in the city. The group assembled last month in response to looting in several Minneapolis neighborhoods and patrolled the streets to deter illegal activity. While the police approve of the patrols, one local lawmaker worries that “you could very easily create the same things we rally against.” Last week, the Minneapolis City Council, which is trying to balance a desire for wholesale police reform with reducing persistent gun violence, approved a $10 million cut to the Police Department’s $193 million annual budget.

Could a shift away from policing work in the long term? One criminologist thinks so. In an op-ed in The Hill, David Weisburd, a professor at George Mason University, argues that communities can reduce gun violence by increasing trust among neighbors in the hotspots where most violence occurs. Most cities rely on police to address violent disputes, but Weisburg argues that the work could be better served by professionals like social workers, community organizers, and community psychologists. “When residents themselves are able to intervene and prevent minor problems from escalating, the need for policing likely can be reduced,” he writes.

Chicago’s mayor responds to our reporting on an increase in Black suicides. This past weekend, Lakeidra Chavis revealed a steep rise in the number of Black Cook County residents who have taken their own lives through the first half of the year. In a press conference on Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was aware of the “grim” statistics highlighted by our coverage. “This is a very difficult time in our city,” she continued. “There were many, many people before COVID, but certainly since, that are suffering from trauma.” She added that the city’s Public Health Department is doing community outreach with the goal of making Chicago “one of the most trauma-informed cities.”

How many murders have ‘antifa’ members committed in the last 25 years? Zero. That’s according to a new database of politically motivated attacks across the U.S. between 1994 and 2019 compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a centrist foreign policy think tank. Despite the Trump administration’s rhetoric about a far-left antifa menace, CSIS identified only one deadly attack involving an anti-fascist — and the perpetrator was the only casualty after police shot him. However, over the same period, attacks staged by right-wing activists killed at least 329 people. Broadly defined left-wing attacks claimed 21 lives.

NYC mayor: “Huge backlog” in court system contributing to more gun violence. Bill de Blasio called on the courts to fully reopen, saying that only half of active gun charges over the last two years — about 2,100 cases — have reached the indictment stage. The mayor sent a letter to the city’s chief judge and five district attorneys urging them to work together to expedite the reopening. According to the NYPD, there’s been a 73 percent increase in shootings in the city through July 26 compared to the same period last year. Eight people, including two teens, were fatally shot on Sunday.

Three of our stories are finalists for Deadline Club awards. The New York City chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honored our investigation with The New Yorker into self-dealing at the NRA; another partnership with The New Yorker that called attention to thefts from gun stores; and our data-driven feature with BuzzFeed News about the failure of police departments to solve shootings. The winners will be announced on September 14.

DATA POINT

10 percent: The share of use-of-force complaints filed against NYPD officers between 1985 and 2020 that involved a firearm, as listed in a new database. [ProPublica]