Valentine’s Day marked one year since a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people, most of them students. This week, gun-safety activists and Parkland survivors submitted the first batch of petitions to add a statewide ballot measure that would ban the sale of military-grade weapons to the 2020 ballot. Supporters will need to gather 776,200 signed and certified petitions before the end of 2019, and the Florida Supreme Court will need to review the amendment before it can be added to the ballot.
The House Judiciary Committee approved a measure that would require background checks for all gun sales in the US, part of House Democrats’ pledge to prioritize gun safety. The measure will head to the House floor for a vote. Representatives and senators separately introduced legislation to ban high-capacity magazines. In an interview with the New Yorker, newly-elected Representative Lucy McBath, whose son Jordan was shot and killed in 2012, spoke about her advocacy for gun-safety measures, including her co-sponsorship of the universal background check legislation moving through the House. She also highlighted the need for a culture change around guns: “Until we can eradicate this extremist culture, still, justice is not served.”
CityLab interviewed Lawrence Brown of Morgan State University on his case for reparations in Baltimore, detailing a plan for $290 million per year to the most severely redlined neighborhoods in Baltimore and a $3 billion racial equity social impact bond. Brown says, “The New York Times article says in 1910 when the first racial segregation law was put into place in Baltimore that it was ‘radical’ and ‘far-reaching’… So I say, OK, well if the imposition of racial segregation is radical, then the solutions have to be radical as well…. I imagine at least 30 to 40 years, if not more, of Baltimore neighborhood reparations in places administered through democratically elected community councils. They will decide where the funding needs to go, because the people who are living in a community best know its needs. And then there’s what I call a $3 billion racial-equity social impact bond, where about half of that should go towards getting lead poisoning out of the environment, but then the other half is a combination of addressing housing, violence, substance abuse, and other critical issues that we have in our city… The Baltimore reparations package would function as actually changing our city budget, because right now, we spend more on city police than we do on health, housing, arts, parks, community development, workforce development, and civil rights combined. That’s changing from an apartheid budget to a freedom budget. And I use the language “freedom budget” because that’s what Dr. King and the SCLC were promoting on the national level back in the 1960s. I think it should be applied for local governments as well.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to tear down the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles and replace it with a mental health treatment facility. According to the LA Times, “the new plan modifies a $2.2-billion proposal that would have created the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility, which was slated to house 3,885 “inmate patients” in a rehabilitation-focused center in the footprint of the Central Jail, which was built in 1963. Under a key provision approved Tuesday, the Department of Health Services would oversee the new facility, rather than the Sheriff’s Department, which currently manages all jail operations… The county would also consider building a series of smaller mental health centers instead of a single, large hospital. The plan marks a signature shift in philosophy in housing inmates and a recognition of the changing nature of the jail population: Inmates who are medically or mentally ill now make up an estimated 70% of people held in the county jail system.”
On Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency to fund a border wall, after Congress approved a spending package that fell short of his demands for border wall funding. Legal challenges on the constitutionality of this move are expected.
New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association strengthens the links between ultra-processed foods and chronic disease, cancer, and premature death. “After adjusting for other health factors, including smoking, there was a 14% higher risk of early death for each 10% increase in the proportion of highly processed foods people ate. Over the course of the two-year period, 602 of the study participants died. Put simply: The more junk food people ate, the greater risk they had of dying earlier than those who kept their ultra-processed intake to a minimum.