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Gun background checks double in Colorado amid coronavirus crisis, officials say

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somboon kaeoboonsong/iStock(DENVER) — The number of firearms background checks in Colorado has doubled compared with the same time last year, perhaps a sign of the unease Americans feel amid the coronavirus crisis.

More than 14,000 background checks for firearms transfers have been received in the last week, compared to about 7,000 checks conducted in the same timeframe last year, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said in a statement on Tuesday.

The current queue for background checks is at about 5,000, with a wait time of about two days, according to the release. Prior to the surge, the wait time for firearms background checks for Federal Firearms Licensees and their customers ranged between five and eight minutes.

The CBI is expanding operations to meet the demand.

While CBI officials would not speculate as to the reason for the spike in requests, Colorado gun dealers who spoke to ABC News confirmed the bureau’s statistics and said the reason was clear: coronavirus.

Christopher, the manager of a Colorado Springs gun shop who asked that his last name not be used, said the surge is due to “mass hysteria over guarding toilet paper,” adding that it’s not just gun enthusiasts stocking up on firearms but also “preppers, housewives and ranchers.”

“They’re worried about home invasions because they’re afraid people will steal their supplies,” he said.

The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado gun rights organization, posted a photo in jest of the panic buying of toilet paper occurring all over the globe.

However, gun control advocates warned against letting alarm and anxiety override the need for safety.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told ABC News that gun groups and stores use fear to drive up sales.

“We’ve seen that time and again after natural disasters,” Watts said.

Sandy Phillips, the founder of Survivors Empowered whose daughter, Jessi Ghawi, died in the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012, told ABC News that “buying more guns is a reckless response to the virus.”

“You can’t shoot a virus, so what are you going to do, shoot your fellow citizens because they have toilet paper when you don’t?” Phillips said.

Phillips also hypothesized that there may be an increase in suicides, domestic violence shootings and accidental shootings “because children are home from school and they always know where the guns are kept.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Police implement sweeping policy changes to prepare for coronavirus spread

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iStock/MattGush(NEW YORK) — Local law enforcement officials across the country are rapidly making major operational changes in preparation for the continued spread of coronavirus, as they face potential strains in resources and staffing without precedent in modern American history.

While policing is a public service centered around direct interactions with members of the public, several departments have already sought to limit responses to certain incidents and prioritize arrests of serious and violent offenses over some misdemeanor crimes.

Steve Casstevens, the head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) told ABC News Wednesday that “consistently” across the country, departments are changing the way they respond to calls in cases where an officer is not needed on scene.

“We’re looking at essential calls for service,” Casstevens, who is also the police chief of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, said in an interview. Situations like losing a license, getting into a fender bender “don’t require an emergency response or a sworn officer to respond to.”

In Chicago, the police department has told officers “that certain crimes can be handled via citation and misdemeanor summons as opposed to physical arrest,” spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told ABC News.

The measures, officials explained, are intended to protect not just the police and sheriffs who come into contact with citizens — but limit crowding in jails that could lead to rapid spread of the virus among vulnerable populations.

Sheriffs around the country are also raising alarm about the potential crisis of the virus entering local jails, the majority of which do not have in-house medical care, according to Sheriff David Mahoney, the incoming president of the National Sheriffs Association.

“We’re working with all of our law enforcement partners, local, state and federal, to decrease the number of people who are physically arrested and brought to jail,” Mahoney, the sheriff of Dane County, Wisconsin told ABC News in a phone interview. “In my county what we have asked our chiefs of police in our 10 cities, our village police departments, our state law enforcement and our federal partners is to look for alternatives to incarcerating people in jail, look for opportunities to cite with a ticket or order in and give a court date to appear.”

Additionally, Mahoney said he’s working with probation and parole officials in his own jurisdiction to avoid incarcerating probation violators who don’t pose a public risk, and to release individuals currently in jail for minor probation violations.

The policy shifts echo a series of recommendations made by at least 30 district and county prosecutors in a letter this week that urged officials to “adopt cite and release policies” for offenses that pose no immediate physical threat to the broader public, including simple drug possession.

The prospect of departments announcing that certain crimes will not lead to arrest has caused alarm among some in the law enforcement community, however.

“It sends a message out to criminals that you’ve got a free pass right now while all this is going on, which is the wrong message to send,” said Don Mihalek, executive director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and an ABC News contributor. “Of course all of this concerns over exposure and I think you’re seeing law enforcement agencies trying to address exposure issues, which is tough for them because law enforcement’s job is to interact with people, particularly suspects, and be out on the streets.”

In Philadelphia, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw expressed concern on Wednesday after reports emerged that officers had been instructed to stop making arrests for certain non-violent crimes until next month.

Outlaw said that the department “is not turning a blind eye to crime.”

“Persons who commit certain non-violent offenses will be arrested at the scene,” Outlaw said. “Once their identity has been confirmed, they will be released and processed via arrest warrant.”

Agencies such as the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and the Rhode Island State Police expressed confidence about their ability to handle the crisis and said they remain fully operational and not paring down operations, department spokespeople told ABC News.

An additional burden facing officers will be enforcing the orders from governors and local officials seeking to limit the amount of people allowed to gather in certain places in order to stop the spread of the virus, with some threatening criminal penalties for those who refuse to comply.

In Maryland, where Gov. Larry Hogan issued an order banning the gathering of more than 50 people, police told ABC News that if the situation warrants, they will take the “the appropriate action” to control crowds.

“Maryland State Police response to a complaint will be prompt and appropriate,” Col. Woodrow Jones III, the agency’s superintendent, said in a statement. “Depending on the call and location, we will first make contact with the owner or manager of the establishment. If voluntary compliance does not occur, we will take enforcement action, in cooperation with the local state’s attorney. That could result in the issuance of a criminal summons or warrant, or it could result in immediate arrest, depending on the circumstances in the particular situation,.”

Jones said that a violation of the governor’s executive order could be punishable by one year in jail or a $5,000 fine.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Will 'American Idol' continue in the wake of coronavirus concerns?

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ABC/Gavin BondAmerican Idol is currently airing pre-taped episodes, but the live performance shows are set to begin in April…or are they? 

Many TV shows have completely shut down production due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and right now, American Idol is attempting to adjust to the new reality.  A production source tells ABC Audio that the show is currently “rolling out additional precautions” across production: Remote working has been in effect since last week, and any remaining filming has been suspended so that contestants are able to go home to their families.

However, things are still being looked at on “a week-to-week basis,” says the source.  More information will be available in the coming weeks.

The live shows normally require judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan to be in a theater full of fans and contestants.  But since Lionel is nearly 71 years old, and Katy is pregnant, it’s certainly understandable if they don’t want to put themselves in that situation.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Georgia volunteers help get supplies for endangered seniors

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Courtesy Southern Grace Hospice(ATLANTA) — Right when they’re needed most, volunteers and nonprofit organizations are doing their part to help as many Americans take extra precautions to limit the elderly’s potential exposure to COVID-19.

Southern Grace Hospice, located just outside Atlanta, has seen a surge in community members offering up their time and goodwill to get seniors the supplies they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want to make sure all our seniors are food secure for at least two weeks,” said Yasna Grainger, community liaison for Southern Grace Hospice. “It’s dangerous for them to leave their homes so we’re relying on help from the community.”

Help is coming in the form of parents, teachers and teens stopping by to drop off food, water and disinfecting supplies — hoping to keep some of the most vulnerable people in their neighborhood safe from COVID-19.

Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 100 people in the U.S., most of whom were over 60 and many lived in nursing facilities.

“Our patients really appreciate the community stepping up,” Grainger said. “Please keep the donations coming.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

With coronavirus shuttering theaters, Sony releasing 'Bloodshot' on digital March 24

No Comments Entertainment News

GRAHAM BARTHOLOMEW/Sony Pictures(NEW YORK) — Although the film just opened in theaters — many of which are now closed over concerns related to the COVID-19 coronavirus — Sony Pictures is releasing its Vin Diesel movie Bloodshot digitally on March 24. 

The comic adaptation, in which the actor plays a super-soldier out for vengeance, is just the latest movie to be shuttled to home video release early, in light of the pandemic that is leading to theater closures worldwide. 

Tom Rothman, Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group said in a statement, “This is a unique and exceedingly rare circumstance where theaters have been required to close nationwide for the greater good and Bloodshot is abruptly unavailable in any medium.”

He added, “Audiences will now have the chance to own Bloodshot right away and see it at home, where we are all spending more time.”

Bloodshot will retail for $19.99. 

Warner Bros. recently announced its Birds of Prey, starring Margot Robbie, was coming to digital download on March 24. 

Universal, too, decided that its film Trolls World Tour, which wasn’t set to open until April 10, as well as the studio’s recently released pictures The HuntThe Invisible Man and Emma, will each be released for purchase via on-demand services for $19.99.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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