Daily Bulletin: SCOTUS Defends Strict Criteria for Excessive Force Suits – The Trace

daily-bulletin:-scotus-defends-strict-criteria-for-excessive-force-suits-–-the-trace

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What To Know Today

NEW from THE TRACE: Ask The Trace: How many guns fall out of circulation each year in the U.S.? That’s the gist of a question posed by Trace reader Dru Stevenson, a law professor in Texas. There’s no official government count of how many guns Americans own, but one of the best estimates puts the number at 393 million civilian guns (legally obtained and not) in circulation, with an additional ~6 million held by the police and military. Jennifer Mascia crunches the numbers on firearms that leave circulation as a result of theft, breakage, loss, or intentional destruction. As she finds, the available numbers are incredibly difficult to track and verify, and the data that does exist is too incomplete to get a precise accounting. If we were to hazard a guess, it would be less than 500,000 a year.

Supreme Court unanimously reinstates “qualified immunity” for officers facing excessive force suits in two states. The legal doctrine established by the high court in the 1960s shields police from civil rights lawsuits for actions on the job unless victims can point to “clearly established” precedent for why their rights were violated — a catch-22 that can require plaintiffs to reference precedent, but not to set it for future claims. Lower courts said plaintiffs should be allowed to sue officers in two cases in California and Oklahoma, the latter of which led to a fatal police shooting. But the justices disagreed in two unanimous unsigned orders this week. One legal expert told The Washington Post that the “two decisions taken together send a message that the Supreme Court is not interested in participating in the regulation of police” — and that broader reform is more viable at the legislative level. 

Parkland victims’ families reach $25 million settlement with school district. The long-running lawsuit accused the school district of negligence for the 2018 shooting. Fifty-two families are part of the settlement, with those related to the 17 people who died set to receive the largest shares. Nineteen people who suffered extensive trauma and 16 of the 17 wounded will also receive money. Family members of a remaining injured former student are pursuing their own lawsuit. Later this morning, the perpetrator of the Parkland shooting is expected to plead guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

Florida police shoot and kill teen who allegedly pointed an airsoft gun at cars, officers. Police in Tarpon Springs, Florida, responded to reports of a man pointing a rifle at cars Saturday night. Responding officers found a 17-year-old with what appeared to be a rifle, and fired 12 shots, killing him, after he pointed the weapon at them. After clearing the scene, officers discovered that the supposed “AK-style rifle” was in fact a replica toy pellet gun. Since 2015, police have fatally shot 245 people who had been holding toy guns, according to a Washington Post database. The Trace has reported on the lucrative deals that gunmakers have with toy companies to produce replicas nearly identical to their firearms.

Data Point

29.9 percent — the decline in active police officers working for the Minneapolis Police Department since 2019, from 853 to 598, according to the city’s police chief. He is seeking $27 million in new funding. [CBS affiliate WCCO]

Tom Kutsch is The Trace’s newsletter editor.

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