Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

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[Scott Olson/Getty Images]

Daily Bulletin: The National Murder Rate Fell Between 2017 and 2018

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas, which remains the deadliest in modern American history. My colleague Ann Givens spent time with the city’s coroner and death investigators, who faced the daunting task of processing the scene — then healing themselves.

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: “Everything that you’re feeling is okay.” On October 1, 2017, a gunman killed 58 people and injured 422 others at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip. As soon as the shooting stopped, investigators from the Clark County Coroner’s Office set out to examine the dead. They swiftly found themselves overwhelmed: by grieving family members, conspiracy theorists who called them liars, and their own trauma. When Coroner John Fudenberg realized that his colleagues needed help processing their grief, he ignored the stigma around first responders and mental health care and got them support. Ann Givens explores how the team is healing two years on, in a feature story published in partnership with GQ.

The national murder rate fell 6.2 percentage points between 2017 and 2018. That’s the big takeaway from the FBI’s annual crime statistics report, which came out yesterday. Jeff Asher, the New Orleans-based crime statistician, broke down the report on Twitter. Some highlights: 

  • For the 30th consecutive year, Louisiana remained the state with the highest murder rate.
  • St. Louis recorded the highest murder rate of any big city.
  • The percentage of murders committed with firearms held steady at 72.7 percent.
  • The murder clearance rate ticked up slightly to 62.3 percent.

(Caveat: The FBI cautions that crime statistics are reported by local law enforcement agencies on a voluntary basis, and annual crime reports do not represent an exact accounting.)

Gun owners with DUI convictions are at an increased risk for violence. A new longitudinal study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, tracked more than 79,000 handgun buyers in California for 13 years. Nine percent of the gun owners with prior convictions for driving under the influence were later arrested for murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. The research, conducted by the state-funded Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, echoes the findings of a 2017 study. Based on the results, the researchers write, policymakers may want to explore adding DUIs to the list of offenses that trigger a ban on gun ownership.

A Colorado man who fatally shot his 10-year-old son was ordered to surrender his guns in 2015. The 48-year-old man did not turn over his firearms, and no law enforcement agency followed up with him, a lawyer for the gunman’s ex-wife said. The murder weapon was among the guns the man owned at the time.

A Georgia judge rejected a former police officer’s “stand your ground” defense. Zechariah Presley is standing trial for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man at a traffic stop last year. Presley’s attorneys asked for immunity from prosecution because he claims he feared for his life, but body camera footage shown in court last week revealed the victim fleeing before Presley opened fire.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is endorsing an NRA-backed congressman over his progressive challenger. Pelosi’s support of Texas Representative Henry Cuellar over 26-year-old immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros is seen as a response to insurrectionist candidates like New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Cuellar, who is one of the only National Rifle Association-backed Democrats in Congress, has resisted calls to return $7,000 that he received from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund during his re-election campaign last year.

A majority of Latinx in Texas fear race-motivated gun violence. According to a new online survey of 1,022 registered voters, 81 percent of respondents said they fear hate-fueled shootings like the one in El Paso in August. Nearly the same percentage said they support stronger gun laws and blame President Trump for an increase in anti-Latinx and anti-immigrant rhetoric. The poll was sponsored by the gun reform group Giffords and the nonprofit Latino Victory Project.

An Ohio school district installed panic buttons on computers. Northeastern Local School District in Springfield installed software on 50 computers throughout the district that alerts nearby police cruisers of an emergency with the press of a button. The district superintendent refers to the program as “The Cavalry,” as in, “We want ‘the Cavalry’ coming.”

An NYPD officer gunned down in the line of duty was killed by friendly fire. Brian Mulkeen was accidentally killed by fellow officers aiming for a man who allegedly reached for Mulkeen’s gun at a Bronx housing project early Sunday. It is the department’s second officer death from friendly fire in seven months.

DATA POINT

There have been at least four shootings during or just after school athletic events across the United States since the 2019-2020 academic year began. [Education Week]