Jul 5, 2022 - Podcasts

A holiday weekend marred by gun violence

Yesterday in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, a gunman opened fire from a rooftop during a 4th of July parade. At least six people were killed. Body camera footage was also released this weekend in the police shooting of 25-year-old Black man Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio.

Guests: Jennifer Mascia, news writer and a founding staffer at The Trace, a nonpartisan nonprofit newsroom that reports exclusively on gun violence

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Erica Pandey, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Editor's note: This story was updated after publishing to correct the spelling of Jayland Walker's name.

Go deeper: The Trace


Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today.

It’s Tuesday, July 5th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today, a holiday weekend marred by gun violence and its aftermath. That’s our One Big Thing.

NIALA: Yesterday in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, a gunman opened fire from a rooftop during a 4th of July parade, at least six people were killed.

NANCY ROTERING: On a day that we came together to celebrate community and freedom we're instead mourning the loss, the tragic loss of life and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us.

NIALA: That was Highland Park's mayor yesterday. Body camera footage was also released this weekend in the police shooting of a 25-year-old unarmed black man Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio Walker had at least 60 bullet wounds on his body when he was killed just over a week ago. Police say he was fleeing a traffic stop. Here's Walker's mother speaking with a local NBC news affiliate.

JAYLAND WALKER’S MOTHER: I'm sick as a mother that it came to that. If they would've spent five minutes with him, it would never have ended that way.

NIALA: Both of these are sadly just two of the many news stories about gun violence from this weekend. And as we get more into the summer, we know there's a seasonal increase in gun violence. For the latest and some context this Tuesday morning, we have Jennifer Mascia with us, a news writer and founding staffer at The Trace. The Trace is a nonpartisan nonprofit newsroom that reports exclusively on gun violence. Jennifer, thanks for being with us.

JENNIFER MASCIA: Thank you for having me.

NIALA: Let's start with the case in Ohio. 90 shots were apparently fired by eight police officers at Jayland Walker. You’ve covered gun violence for a long time – What stands out about this particular case?

JENNIFER: The reason this is really disturbing to the community is because you have eight officers firing. It looks like a firing squad, just unleashing round after round when the body cam footage revealed that he collapsed within the first few shots officers kept firing for six whole seconds. If you've ever sat there for six seconds, it's actually not a short time. And, as you said, he had 60 gunshot wounds at least. So the community is very disturbed at the extreme use of force here. Now, police released a narrated video of the body cam footage of the shooting, and they claim that it shows a muzzle flash or that he fired at officers, but the attorneys for the Walker family, um, say that it's actually not clear and from the video. They say that police also say he reached for his waistband, but when he, at the scene when he exited the car, he did not have a gun on him. Police did see one on the passenger seat, but he was not armed. Police admitted he was not armed when he got out of that car. We don't know if he legally owned the gun. We don't know any of that. What we do know is black men who are legal gun owners are killed in this country by police all of the time. They don't understand why he drove away from the police stop, but the community's argument is that driving away from a police stop is not an executable offense. And their, you know, 4th of July parade was canceled over this. This has roiled the community. And the only reason the body cam footage was released so quickly is because of a new city ordinance that requires it to be released within seven days of a police use of force incident. So that is the result of some of these police transparency laws that we've seen in the wake of the George Floyd shooting.

NIALA: Yesterday during a 4th of July parade in a Chicago suburb north of the city in Highland Park, there was a mass shooting. What do we know about that?

JENNIFER: Police say that a man, around 18 to 20 perhaps, uh, was on a rooftop, observing the parade and started opening fire. And people scattered. It was absolute chaos. Police couldn't stop him, but when they spotted him, he ran away and he left a rifle behind. And I write a lot about the good guy with a gun argument, how the gun lobby and gun rights advocates say you need to be armed to protect yourself against gun violence. So this is going to generate a lot of debate in the coming days, if there's any way a good guy with a gun could have possibly stopped a rooftop sniper if police couldn't even stop him.

NIALA: How does this compare to past summers? Does this tell us anything about what we can expect this summer? As we know, there's unfortunately a seasonal pattern to gun violence.

JENNIFER: So far, you know, the summer is shaping up to be not unlike past summers, but mass shootings in general have doubled in the last 10 years. We’ve had just over 300 so far this year and in 2014 which is when the Nonprofit Gun Violence Archive started tracking shootings in real time and they’re the only outlet that tracks shootings there were only 272 that whole year. Mass shootings are the most public facet of America's gun violence problem, but they are far from the most common. The most common shootings are interpersonal shootings that happen every day. Mass shootings are only 2% of American gun violence, but they are the most visible. And the randomness is what terrifies America. And going out into public spaces is seen as a perilous endeavor now. I mean, when I first started reporting on this, I couldn't have imagined 600 mass shootings in a single year. And it looks like we're going to surpass that this year.

NIALA: We're gonna take a very quick break, but we'll be back in a moment with how cities are preparing for more violence this summer.

Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Jennifer Mascia of The Trace is with me talking about summer gun violence in America. Jennifer, how are states and cities dealing with this and preparing for more? There's been some reporting that the Department of Justice is getting involved in helping municipalities?

JENNIFER: Yeah. The Biden administration has devoted and earmarked an unprecedented amount of money for on the ground response. So one of the most effective ways of reducing violence in communities is violence interruption programs, which, you know, give resources and job training to people who are thought to be most at risk of being victimized by violence or participating in gun violence and it's effective community by community, but it depends on which communities really make it a priority, which is why the Department of Justice is extending these grants to cities. And they've used American Rescue Plan funds as well. And that's been really successful.

NIALA: Jennifer, I think it's safe to say no matter your politics, this is a really tumultuous and difficult moment in this country. Do you think the tone of the conversation around gun violence is changing in the US?

JENNIFER: The tone around the gun violence debate is changing because people are getting fed up. More people are armed than ever. We have more guns in this country than ever. We have 400 million guns in civilian hands, but shootings are going up. Homicides are going up. The shooting I see are happening all over the country. We had 10 mass shootings this weekend. The Highland Park shooting was the 10th, there were 9 others. And they happened in Kansas City, North Carolina, Texas, New York. These are red states, blue states, democrat run states and cities, republican run states and cities. When I first started on this a decade ago, it was a political statement to say that gun violence was a problem in the United States. But now I see republicans, I see a lot of military veterans. I see people you normally wouldn’t hear arguing for stronger gun laws, saying what we’re doing is not working. And I think with each one of these incidents, America's patience is just wearing thinner and thinner.

NIALA: Jennifer Mascia is a news writer and founding staffer at the nonpartisan independent news organization The Trace. Thanks so much, Jennifer.

JENNIFER: Thanks for having me.

One last thing before we go: thanks to Erica Pandey for filling in for me while I was out. It’s good to be back with you all. I know there’s a lot going on right now and today’s show is no exception. The news is really heavy. So I am really grateful for the vacation I had in the UK, the time I had with family and friends and to go to Wimbledon and the theater. And I hope you have the opportunity for some joy and self care this summer. And as always you can be in touch with me. You can text me at (202) 918-4893 to share your thoughts.

That’s it for us today.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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