The Kansas City Star
For many years, violent crime in Columbia was low — in 2002 and 2004, no gun homicides were recorded. By 2013, that number had ticked up to four and Columbia’s leaders formed a task force to address the rising level of community violence. But since the city’s initial action, little has been done. The consequences have been deadly. Forty-eight people were fatally shot in homicides from 2016 to 2021, with totals reaching 12 in both 2019 and 2020. Community members say the city, which has a higher poverty rate than the rest of the state, needs to treat gun violence more as a public health issue, create a violence prevention program and invest more in social services.
Over the past two decades, Missouri lawmakers have carried out a long-term dismantling of virtually all of the state’s significant gun restrictions. That has left the state in the bottom five for the weakest gun laws in the country. That has meant repealing permit and safety training requirements to buy guns and carry them concealed, and expanding legal safeguards for using deadly force in self-defense. Researchers point to the 2007 General Assembly session specifically for its repeal of the requirement to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun. That one piece of legislation led to anywhere from 49 to 68 additional firearms deaths each year in Missouri over the following decade.
Both St. Louis and Kansas City are blighted with acres of abandoned property, owned publicly and privately. Gun violence follows the vacancy from neighborhood to neighborhood virtually without fail, data shows. Public health researchers have shown that the built environment of a community — including negative features like vacant lots and abandoned buildings — has an impact on the risk of gun violence. It is part of an overall picture of well-being in a neighborhood that includes factors such as income, housing, food insecurity and education. Studies show cleaning up and maintaining neighborhoods can reduce gun crimes.
For years, young veterans in Missouri like Johnson have been dying by firearm suicide at exceptionally high rates — more than older veterans and more than their peers in other states, both across the Midwest and nationally. Missouri outpaces other states in firearm suicides overall, and with veterans of all ages, but the number of younger veterans taking their own lives with guns stands apart. One of the major reasons why, experts say, is higher rates of gun ownership among veterans. In Missouri, even more than elsewhere in the U.S., guns are used in most suicides, and that’s even more true for veterans.
Riley Garrigus, a 16-year-old girl from Sedalia, died by suicide with her father’s handgun in 2017. Her death both divided her town and sparked conversations about bullying, suicide and mental health among teens. As much as her death shocked her family, Riley was the the second student at Sedalia’s Smith-Cotton High School to die by firearm suicide in 16 months. A third student’s death by suicide did not involve a firearm. The students’ firearm suicides were among seven in the county during the two years surrounding Riley’s death, most of them young. Riley’s death gave greater urgency to the efforts of local suicide prevention advocates working to raise awareness and dispel myths about the issue.
Kids Under Twenty One (KUTO) runs a 24/7 hotline for teenagers dealing with a suicidal ideation or struggling with their mental health. The hotline, one of the first in the nation, is rare in that teens are the ones picking up the calls to help people their own age. It’s the only teen-staffed crisis line in the Midwest and one of a select few in the country. Firearms are the most lethal and the most common means of suicide. In Missouri, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24, behind accidents of all kinds. Ninety-eight Missourians ages 24 and under died from firearm suicides in 2019.
A Kansas City photographer who proudly documented first steps and graduations. A St. Louis high school freshman who loved to dance. A police officer killed while responding to a mass shooting at a Springfield gas station. They were among 689 people shot and killed in Missouri in 2020, a year that will likely be recorded as the state’s deadliest ever for gun violence. The historic level of homicides was driven by the state’s two largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City. Springfield, the state’s third-largest city, saw its fatal shootings more than double. By the end of the year, Missouri had the third highest per-capita rate of gun deaths in the country, behind Louisiana and Mississippi.
In Springfield, domestic violence plays an outsized role in the fatal shootings of women, accounting for 80 percent of them. Across Missouri, domestic violence was responsible for just a third of the nearly 400 women shot and killed during the same five years. With nearly 2,800 crimes of domestic violence reported in 2018, the city consistently has the highest rate in the state. And nationally, Missouri is second only to Alaska for its per-capita rate of men killing women.
Efforts to thwart the spread of the novel coronavirus, including school closures, social distancing efforts and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent shelter-in-place mandate, have made life complicated, especially for Tulare County’s most vulnerable populations. Access to food has been even more difficult for some, such as students who rely on meals from school, people who depend on food pantries and older people who can’t leave their homes as they are more likely to become seriously ill or die from contracting COVID-19.
In California’s robust wine regions, a growing number of people are leaving their vineyard jobs for the higher pay and better working conditions many cannabis growers offer. The result is increasing tensions between these relative newcomers and the state’s long-established wine producers — also adding pressure to an ongoing labor shortage that shows no sign of easing anytime soon.
(Photo credit: Flora California)
Maintaining a small Californian vineyard has never been as romantic as it appears to the patrons of winery tours. But for thousands of other growers throughout California’s famed wine regions, times keep getting tougher. Aside from the precipitous drop in labor impacting the entire agriculture industry, wine grape growers are dealing with a stagnant demand for wine, an oversupply of grapes, threats of tariffs and stigma surrounding mechanization.
Lali Moheno has spent her life fighting for the people who break their backs working in the fields, keeping the agriculture industry alive. Moheno grew up on ranches in south Texas and fought for labor rights in L.A. beside legendary advocate César Chávez. For the last 20 years, she has been the brains behind a Valley-wide conference focused on female farm worker wellness and empowerment.
Tulare County produces food for dinner plates worldwide and is the third largest ag-producing county in California. Despite that, the county has the highest food stamp participation rate in state at 25.5%, which is leagues ahead of the state’s 10.6%. Tulare County is also one of only four counties in California with a food stamp participation rate above 20 percent and three are in the San Joaquin Valley.
The Center for Responsive Politics
Charles and David Koch maintain an extensive, powerful network of nonprofit organizations to further their libertarian and conservative ideological values. Four of the Koch brothers-funded nonprofits made hundreds of millions of dollars in 2017, money raised entirely from unknown donors.
Since 2010, super PACs have rapidly become financially powerful aspects of U.S. elections with little regulation or oversight. And by following a few simple steps, basically, anyone can be the proud owner of a super PAC — including 14-year-olds and prisoners.
The National Rifle Association is traditionally one of the most powerful and financially intimidating interest groups in Washington. But a new third-party audit of the group’s finances obtained by OpenSecrets raises questions about its long-term fiscal health.
“Guardian angel” political action committees are one of many ways major political donors can flex their financial influence in an election. During the 2018 Midterms, a handful of powerful donors chose to contribute to a handful of guardian angel super PACs, which are a breed of committees that receive 40 to 100 percent of their funds from a single wealthy individual.
‘Diagnosis of dying’: How one man’s tumor exposes deep flaws in safety net for Oregon’s most vulnerable
Derrick Dahl’s dangerous tumor diagnosis highlights holes in a state safety net meant to protect vulnerable Oregonians who cannot advocate for themselves. It provides a cautionary tale for any family that lacks legal guardianship of a loved one who, because of a developmental disability, cannot make medical decisions.
After Oregon legalized cannabis, the Oregon State Police crime lab experienced a backlog of urine samples that could delay toxicology results in the state by more than a year. Many in the public safety and legal community are fed up with the state’s system for determining if drivers are impaired by drugs.
On the three-year anniversary of Oregon legalizing recreational cannabis, there were some noteworthy trends on adult and teen marijuana use, elevated numbers of cannabis-related poison center calls, emergency room visits and impaired driving incidents. Black market sales, concerns about potency and worries about big companies edging out local producers were also universal for supporters and critics of the industry.
The Columbia Missourian
The Morning Call