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How polarization in the U.S. thwarts state-level efforts to toughen red flag laws

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HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — Not even some of the most stringent gun control and red flag laws in the U.S. are able to guarantee that high-powered assault weapons don’t end up in the wrong hands in the state of Illinois.

The problem — part of it, at least — surrounds the state in virtually every direction.

Wisconsin up north, Iowa and Missouri to the west, Kentucky in the southeast and Indiana right next door, sharing not only the Lake Michigan shoreline but a decent chunk of America’s third-largest metro area, Chicago.

The advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety rates Illinois sixth in the country for the strength of its gun laws, while every one of the five states that border it receive failing grades.

The political and cultural patchwork of the United States is just one small part of what makes America’s gun problem so vexing.

Seven people were killed and 38 people were injured Monday in Highland Park, a leafy suburb north of Chicago, when a lone gunman, perched on a roof of a sportswear store and disguised in women’s clothing, used an AR-15-style rifle to open fire on parade spectators, unleashing more than 80 rounds on the defenceless crowd.

“Illinois has fairly strict laws,” said E.J. Fagan, a political-science professor at the University of Illinois Chicago. 

“The problem is Highland Park is, what, 10 miles south of Wisconsin? So even if Illinois has very strict laws, Wisconsin is largely controlled by the Republican party.”

Chicago — a city famous for its gun violence — suffers mightily from its proximity to Indiana, which ranks 25th on Everytown’s report card thanks to lax restrictions and a gun-violence rate that has soared 57 per cent in the last 10 years.

Neighbouring states, of course, are far from the only problem in Illinois.

The alleged gunman — Robert Crimo, 21, who police say admitted to the shooting and now faces seven counts of first-degree murder — obtained his weapons in Illinois after his father co-signed his application.

That’s despite the fact that police had twice before encountered Crimo: once in April 2019 in response to an attempted suicide, then again in September, when a family member reported that Crimo had a collection of knives and that he was threatening to “kill everyone.” No charges or complaints were filed.

Under the red flag law, gun purchases can be denied to people with felony convictions, drug problems or if they are deemed capable of harming themselves or others — but only with court approval. That can only come if someone petitions the court in the first place. In Crimo’s case, no one did.

In a brief phone interview aired Thursday with ABC News, Crimo’s father, Robert Jr., insisted that the police encounters were minor and defended his decision to sponsor his son’s gun permit application.

“That’s all it was … a consent form to allow my son to go through the process,” he said. “They do background checks. Whatever that entails, I’m not exactly sure. And either you’re approved or denied.”

Which, of course, raises a different question: What good are the rigid gun control measures and red flag laws in Illinois if they couldn’t prevent the Fourth of July massacre in the first place?

Even in red-flag states, authorities can only do so much when a responsible adult vouchsafes for their child, said Alexandra Filindra, a UIC politics professor who specializes in gun laws.

“It’s very easy, apparently, for cases like this to fall through the cracks, and we’ll see this happening more and more,” Filindra said.

“With 400 million firearms in civilian hands, there is only so much that the limited gun control laws that we have can do.”

At the federal level, political gridlock in Congress and the sway the gun lobby holds over Republicans has made meaningful progress all but impossible since 1994, when soaring crime rates spurred both sides to impose a 10-year ban on assault weapons that expired 10 years later.

But after two deadly shootings earlier in May — the first in a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket that killed 10, then two weeks later in Uvalde, Tex., where 19 children and two teachers were gunned down — a bipartisan core of U.S. lawmakers came together to pass what some observers have called the most significant gun legislation in a generation.

It included $750 million for states to operate crisis intervention programs, including those that function under red flag laws, as well as for courts that deal specifically with veterans and mental health and drug issues.

It closed the infamous “boyfriend loophole,” which excluded intimate partners living in a different domicile from restrictions designed to deny weapons to anyone convicted of domestic violence.

The new law, signed by President Joe Biden last month, also encourages states to start including juvenile records in the federal system for criminal background checks.

Even the bill’s advocates have acknowledged it doesn’t go far enough — particularly those calling for higher age limits and a restoration of the now-expired assault weapons ban from the Bill Clinton era.

But it’s not nothing, Fagan said.

“It seems like there’s some consensus developing that states should have more resources to get guns out of the hands of people who obviously shouldn’t have them,” he said.

“I actually think we should be encouraged by that. It is the most significant bipartisan legislation, essentially, in the modern era of gun laws.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2022.

 

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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Wolf found dead by roadside, another still missing after ‘suspicious’ B.C. zoo escape

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ALDERGROVE — One of the wolves that escaped its enclosure at the Greater Vancouver Zoo this week has been found dead on a roadside, and a second wolf is still missing, the zoo’s deputy general manager said Thursday.

Menita Prasad said both the zoo’s perimeter fence and the grey wolf enclosure were deliberately “compromised” early Tuesday, allowing the zoo’s nine adult wolves to escape while five cubs stayed inside the enclosure.

All but two of the adults were contained within the zoo’s property, she said.

The zoo in Aldergrove, B.C., has been shut for three days as workers and conservation officers searched for the wolves, while Langley RCMP investigate the incident as a suspected case of unlawful entry and vandalism.

The fences had been cut, Prasad said. An earlier statement from the zoo said the escape was “suspicious, and believed to be due to malicious intent.”

Searchers were “heartbroken” to find a three-year-old female wolf, Chia, dead by the side of 264 Street in Aldergrove on Thursday morning, Prasad told a press conference through tears.

It’s presumed Chia was hit by a car, she said.

A one-year-old female wolf named Tempest is still missing and believed to be in the vicinity of the zoo, Prasad said, adding that the animal, which was born at the facility, has a slim chance of surviving in the wild.

Prasad described Tempest as a “shy wolf” who poses no threat to public safety, though she said she could not say what the wolf might do if a person approached her. She urged anyone who sees the animal not to approach her and instead call authorities to report the location.

The wolf’s prime motivation would be to get back to her family, she said.

“As a result of this senseless act, our wolf pack has lost two family members,” Prasad said. “We watched these wolves grow up. We consider the animals at the zoo a part of our family.”

She said the “search and rescue operation” would continue and is asking for the public’s help “to reunite Tempest with her family.”

“She is a small wolf with grey brown puppy fur and white markings on her muzzle and her brow,” Prasad said.

Anyone who spots Tempest is asked contact the Greater Vancouver Zoo, Langley RCMP or the BC Conservation Officer Service by calling 1-877-952-7277.

The zoo, which is about 55 kilometres outside Vancouver, is set to reopen on Saturday, Prasad said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Canada stable, but higher than past summers – Global News

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COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths and confirmed case counts across Canada are relatively stable after an early summer wave, but they remain far higher than past years, data shows.

As of Wednesday, Canada is seeing an average of 3,475 lab-confirmed cases and 44 deaths per day, according to provincial and territorial data compiled by Global News. Currently, 5,158 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 305 patients who are in intensive care.

While those numbers are down slightly from the brief wave of infections in June and July, they remain far higher than the rates seen during the summers of 2020 and 2021.

In past years, there was an average of roughly 350 patients in hospital per day during the summer months. Even as hospitalizations climbed in August 2021 and into September of that year, they peaked at half the current rate.

The current death rate has also vastly eclipsed past summers, when the average number of deaths per day was in the single digits.

Previous evidence pointed to the summer months as predictable lulls in the pandemic, as people spend more time in outdoor spaces where there is less transmission of the virus.

But the more infectious Omicron variant upended that thinking, and further mutations — including the current BA.5 subvariant and its predecessor, BA.2 — have led to more waves of infections this year than in the past.

Read more:

‘We cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week’: WHO warns on rise in COVID fatalities

The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that BA.5’s dominance has led to a 35 per cent increase in reported COVID-10-related deaths globally over the past four weeks.

In the last week alone, 15,000 people died from COVID-19 worldwide, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“There is a lot of talk about learning to live with this virus, but we cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week. We cannot live with mounting hospitalizations and deaths,” he said at a press conference.

“We cannot live with inequitable access to vaccines and other tools. Learning to live with COVID-19 does not mean we pretend it’s not there. It means we use the tools we have to protect ourselves and protect others.”


Click to play video: 'COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well'



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COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well


COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has said the country is in a period of pandemic transition that will likely lead to further waves this year, warning back in June that COVID-19 “has not left the stage.”

Public health officials have shifted their focus toward a potential serious wave in the fall and winter. Planning is underway to provide vaccine booster doses to all adults that request one, while ensuring vulnerable populations receive an extra dose.

Experts say the boosters are important, as current vaccines do not sufficiently protect against Omicron and its subvariants, allowing for “breakthrough cases” and even reinfections among vaccinated people.

“However, there is evidence that if you have the vaccine, more than likely you don’t end up in the hospital,” said Dr. Horacio Bach, an infectious disease researcher and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.

“People (infected with COVID-19) will say, ‘It’s just kind of a flu, that’s okay, I’ll stay home.’ That is the result of the vaccines.”


Click to play video: 'Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter'



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Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter


Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter

The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that between June 6 and July 3 of this year, unvaccinated cases were three times more likely to be hospitalized and four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated cases.

Tedros urged everyone who has access to a booster dose to get one, and to continue to wear masks when it is impossible to keep distance from others.

As of Monday, 86.1 per cent of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, while 82.4 per cent have received at least two doses. Yet just under half — 49.7 per cent — have gotten at least one more booster dose.

Despite hospitalizations nationally remaining relatively stable, signs are emerging that more patients are being admitted with symptoms.

Hospitalizations are on the rise in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, according to the most recent updates. Most provinces besides Quebec have shifted to reporting data weekly, while Saskatchewan is due to release its first monthly report on Thursday.

To date, provinces and territories have confirmed more than 4,125,000 cases of COVID-19 including 43,471 deaths.

— With files from Rachel Gilmore

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Commercial bankruptcies rising in Canada, says business lobby group – CBC News

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A small business lobby group says commercial bankruptcies are rising in Canada and even more small businesses are at risk of closure.

Statistics Canada data shows small business insolvencies have been on an upward trend since May 2021.

But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says its own survey data indicates only 10 per cent of Canada’s small business owners would file for bankruptcy if their business was no longer solvent.

It says 46 per cent of business owners say they would simply stop operating rather than go through the bankruptcy process.

The CFIB also says more than one in six Canadian small business owners say they are currently considering going out of business.

The lobby group wants government support to help Canada’s small business sector get through the next few months and deal with challenges like pandemic-related debt and supply chain issues.

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