Fifty years ago this week, the Kerner Commission released their landmark report on racial inequality in the US, documenting vast and pervasive inequities in housing, access to public goods and services, employment, and opportunity. The Commission's sole surviving member, former Senator Fred Harris, co-authored an op-ed in today's New York Times examining the "unmet promise of equality," reflected in segregation of neighborhoods and schools, which has increased in recent years, rather than declining, mass incarceration, widening income inequality, and a social safety net riddled with holes. Harris and Curtis write, “We’re living with the human costs of these failed approaches. The Kerner ethos — “Everyone does better when everyone does better” — has been, for many decades, supplanted by its opposite: “You’re on your own.”” This week, the Economic Policy Institute issued a follow-up report, tracking developments over the last 50 years, including a higher unemployment rate among African Americans in 2017 vs. 1968, a “virtually unchanged” homeownership rate, the wealth gap between African Americans and whites more than tripled (today, white families have a median net worth 10 times that of African-American families), and the fact that levels of incarceration for African Americans have tripled and African Americans are even more likely in 2017 to be jailed or imprisoned than whites than was the case in 1968. While the poverty rate for African-American households has dropped (from one-third in 1968 to one-fifth today), African Americans are still more than 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty than their white peers.
USA Today’s Jayne O’Donnell interviewed domestic violence prevention advocates, including our Lisa Fujie Parks, on the potential for tighter gun-safety restrictions for those with a history of domestic violence: Increased activism on the part of young people affected by school shootings is coming at a critical time in the gun safety movement, says Prevention Institute associate program manager Lisa Fujie Parks. "What gives me a lot of hope is that never before have we had such a strong research base to know what kinds of policies will be effective," says Parks. "And we’re reaching that tipping point when it comes to both policy changes and norms change."
According to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the annual NRA conventions between 2007 and 2015 coincided with a 20% reduction in gun injuries. Vox reports, “More precisely, on convention dates, the national gun injury rate was 1.2 per 100,000 — compared to 1.5 per 100,000 during the control dates. In the states hosting the conventions, the drop was even more dramatic — from 1.9 to 0.7 per 100,000… The lead author of the study, Harvard Medical School professor Anupam Jena, told Vox in an email that the tumbling gun injury rate during the NRA convention is the result of “a brief period of abstinence in gun use.” Gun owners are away at the convention, and venues where guns are commonly used — like ranges or hunting grounds — are also temporarily closed while staff are at the convention. “The implication of the study is that even among presumably experienced gun users there are safety risks associated with gun use,” he added in an email. “Guns don’t become safe simply through training and experience alone, as gun enthusiasts often argue.””
A bipartisan group of eight senators laid out a plan for some of the $6 billion included in the recent budget deal to address the opioid epidemic, STAT reports. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery (CARA) 2.0 bill includes provisions to impose a three-day limit on opioid prescriptions for all but a few health conditions, remove barriers to prescribing medications to treat opioid misuse, and increase first responders’ training for and access to naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses.
The RAND Corporation reviewed existing studies on the effects of various gun policies, including strengthening and loosening various restrictions. Vox summarizes their findings: “The answers we do have point in one direction. On the gun control front, there’s moderate evidence that background checks reduce suicide and violent crime, limited evidence that prohibitions associated with mental illness reduce suicide, moderate evidence that those prohibitions reduce violent crime, and supportive evidence that child-access prevention laws reduce suicides and unintentional injuries and deaths. Meanwhile, there’s limited evidence that concealed carry laws increase violent crime and unintentional injuries and deaths. And there’s moderate evidence that “stand your ground” laws — NRA-backed measures that expand when someone can use a gun or other weapons to defend himself — increase violent crime. If you put this all together, it suggests that restrictive laws seem to lead to fewer gun deaths, while the permissive laws seem to lead to more gun deaths.” Other studies surveyed include a Boston University School of Public Health study that found that for every 1 percent increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate rose by 0.9 percent.
The Los Angeles Times highlights Step-Up on Second, a supportive housing complex in Santa Monica that makes it possible for people with mental health conditions to thrive in communities. The complex enables residents to live independently and also have ready access to counseling and other supports. It’s a too-rare example of the realization of the vision introduced decades ago as part of the movement to reduce forced hospitalization and involuntary medication of people with mental health conditions, the Times writes in an editorial in its Without a Home series. Providing effective medications and supportive housing situations has proved more complicated than anticipated, in part because of neighbors’ unwillingness to allow to supportive housing and day clinics on their blocks, the editorial says. The results have been an institutionalization of another kind: “The largest psychiatric institutions in the United States are the Los Angeles County jails, the Cook County jail in Chicago and Rikers Island in New York.”
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Jeff Flake introduced a new bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21. Meanwhile, boycotts and pressure from activists helped push Dick’s Sporting Goods to stop selling assault weapons and Walmart to announce this week that they will raise the purchasing age for guns and ammunition to 21 years of age.
A new study released by the Anti-Defamation League finds that anti-Semitic hate speech and violence surged by 57% in 2017, documenting 1,986 incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assaults.
A Supreme Court ruling this week denied immigrants who are held in detention access to periodic bond hearings, opening the door for indefinite detention of immigrants, including immigrants with protected legal status.
A new report released by the Education Trust finds that “highest poverty school districts receive about $1,000, or 7 percent, less per student in state and local funding than the lowest poverty school districts. The gap widens when comparing districts serving high populations of students of color and those serving fewer students of color — the former receive about $1,800, or 13 percent, less per student than the latter.”