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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Baltimore is piloting a software program developed by Everytown for Gun Safety that will enable it for the first time to identify patterns of gun trafficking and illegal sales.

Why it matters: If successful, this crime-fighting software — which draws data from multiple systems and connects the dots — could be used to crack down in many cities where gun violence is a big problem.

Driving the news: Everytown, the gun control advocacy group, worked in-house and with an outside software developer to create the tool — described first to Axios — and partnered with Baltimore to tailor it to the city's needs.

  • The system — dubbed "Gun Trafficking Intelligence Platform" — looks at weapons involved in crimes and works to identify patterns.
  • It can pinpoint gun shows and individual dealers who serve as major suppliers, plus the names of repeat "straw purchasers," who buy firearms on behalf of prohibited buyers. 
  • "By aggregating data, you are not solving one crime at a time, but you’re actually seeing patterns that allow you to unlock trafficking enterprises," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, tells Axios.
  • "Cities have been operating largely in the dark, and this tool is really a flashlight."

Where it stands: Baltimore has suffered from high rates of gun violence for years. While it has strong gun control laws — as does Maryland — it sits on the I-95 corridor, where guns flow in from states with weaker laws.

  • Of the 2,543 weapons seized in Baltimore in 2020, 63% came from outside the state, and 82% from outside the city, Mayor Brandon M. Scott tells Axios.
  • "We are a city that’s been dealing with this epidemic of gun violence as long as I’ve been alive," Scott says.

Between the lines: Feinblatt of Everytown says weak federal laws thwart the ability of law enforcement to see the type of patterns illuminated by the software tool.

  • "We have federal laws that have been put into place largely through the advocacy of the N.R.A. that suppress this type of information," he says.
  • "It makes it difficult to actually see who are the worst gun dealers in the country" as well as " those gun dealers that consistently pop up" as the source of weapons involved in crimes.

The bottom line: Gun violence takes a disproportionate toll on cities and communities of color, and this tool could potentially help make people safer.

  • "Baltimore is a great test case, and, if successful there, I think that we will move it to other cities," Feinblatt says.

Go deeper

Air quality alerts issued as California fires threaten more sequoias

The Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest, near California Hot Springs, on Tuesday. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires were threatening California's sequoia trees over overnight — hours after authorities issued fresh evacuation orders and warnings, along with air quality alerts.

The big picture: Air quality alerts were issued Wednesday for the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley as smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires resulted in hazy, "ash-filled" skies from Fresno to Tulare, the Los Angeles Times notes.

Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September news conference in Viera, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday an emergency order allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they're exposed to COVID-19, provided they're asymptomatic.

Why it matters: People infected with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus starting from two days before they display symptoms, according to the CDC. Quarantine helps prevent the virus' spread.

Federal judge: Florida ban on sanctuary cities racially motivated

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down parts of a Florida law aimed at banning local governments from establishing sanctuary city policies, arguing in part that the law is racially motivated and that it has the support of hate groups.

Why it matters: In a 110-page ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom said the law — signed and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it was adopted with discriminatory motives.