HOUSTON — Tony Earls hung his head before a row of television cameras, staring down, his life upended. Days before, Mr. Earls had pulled out his handgun and opened fire, hoping to strike a man who had just robbed him and his wife at an A.T.M. in Houston.
Instead, he struck Arlene Alvarez, a 9-year-old girl seated in a passing pickup, killing her.
“Is Mr. Earls licensed to carry?” a reporter asked during the February news conference, in which his lawyer spoke for him.
He didn’t need one, the lawyer replied. “Everything about that situation, we believe and contend, was justified under Texas law.” A grand jury later agreed, declining to indict Mr. Earls for any crime.
The shooting was part of what many sheriffs, police leaders and district attorneys in urban areas of Texas say has been an increase in people carrying weapons and in spur-of-the-moment gunfire in the year since the state began allowing most adults 21 or over to carry a handgun without a license.
from Maine to Arizona, will not require a license to carry a handgun.
The state-by-state legislative push has coincided with a federal judiciary that has increasingly ruled in favor of carrying guns and against state efforts to regulate them.
But Texas is the most populous state to do away with handgun permit requirements. Five of the nation’s 15 biggest cities are in Texas, making the permitless approach to handguns a new fact of life in urban areas to an extent not seen in other states.
national debate over crime. Researchers have long argued over the effect of allowing more people to legally own and carry guns. But a series of recent studies has found a link between laws that make it easier to carry a handgun and increases in crime, and some have raised the possibility that more guns in circulation lead to more thefts of weapons and to more shootings by the police.
“The weight of the evidence has shifted in the direction that more guns equals more crime,” said John J. Donohue III, a Stanford Law School professor and the author of several recent studies looking at gun regulations and crime.
Much of the research has been around the effects of making handgun licenses easier to obtain, part of what are known as right-to-carry laws, and Mr. Donohue cautioned that only limited data is available on laws that in most cases require no licenses at all.
“I think most people are reasoning by analogy: If you thought that right-to-carry was harmful, this will be worse,” he said.
But John R. Lott Jr., a longtime researcher whose 1998 book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” has been influential among proponents of gun rights, said the newer studies did not take into account differences between state handgun regulations that might account for increases in crime. He also pointed to some recent crime declines in Texas cities after the permitless carry law went into effect, and to what he saw as the importance of increasing lawful gun ownership in high-crime areas.
because of the benefits it affords, including the ability to carry a concealed handgun into a government meeting. But it is no longer necessary.
“Somebody could go into Academy Sporting Goods here in El Paso and purchase a handgun and walk out with it after their background check,” said Ryan Urrutia, a commander at the El Paso Sheriff’s office. “It really puts law enforcement at a disadvantage because it puts more guns on the street that can be used against us.”
The law still bars carrying a handgun for those convicted of a felony, who are intoxicated or committing another crime. In Harris County, criminal cases involving illegal weapons possession have sharply increased since the new law went into effect: 3,500 so far this year, as of the middle of October, versus 2,300 in all of 2021 and an average of about 1,000 cases in prior years going back to 2012.
“It’s shocking,” said Kim Ogg, the Harris County district attorney. “We’ve seen more carrying weapons, which by itself would be legal. But people are carrying the weapons while committing other crimes, and I’m not talking just about violent crimes. I’m talking about intoxication crimes or driving crimes or property crimes, carrying weapons on school property or in another prohibited place,” including bars and school grounds.
Her office provided a sampling of arrests in the last few weeks: a 21-year-old man carrying a pistol and a second magazine while walking through the grounds of an elementary school during school hours; a man jumping from his car and opening fire at the driver of Tesla in a fit of road rage; a woman, while helping her little brother into a car, turning to shoot at another woman after an argument over a social media video.
In the case of Mr. Earls, the man accused of fatally shooting 9-year-old Arlene Alvarez while shooting at a fleeing robber, Ms. Ogg’s office presented evidence to a grand jury of charges ranging from negligent homicide to murder. The grand jury rejected those charges.
A lawyer for Mr. Earls declined to make him available to comment. The man who robbed Mr. Earls and his wife remains unidentified, Ms. Ogg said.
In May, a committee of the Texas House heard testimony from gun rights advocates who praised the passage of permitless carry and argued that it may be time to go further.
Rachel Malone, of Gun Owners of America, outlined some of her group’s priorities for the next legislative session.
“I think it would be appropriate to move the age for permitless carry to 18,” she told the committee. “There’s really no reason why a legal adult should not be able to defend themselves.”
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Some of the kidney center’s patients might have chosen to ride out the storm regardless of official warnings. Mr. Condore said he had just had his roof redone, and thought he would be fine.
In downtown Cape Coral, a city crisscrossed by canals, the kidney center “went through hell” trying to account for patients’ whereabouts after the storm hit, said Dr. Ankush Gulati, a nephrologist at the center. Some had fled or been rescued from rising waters. Phone lines were severed across the region.
Robert Hensley, a registered nurse, hunkered down in the center with another employee, using it as a “home base” during the harrowing hours when Ian came ashore. The building used to be a bank, so it felt safe enough, he said. Mr. Hensley and his co-worker advised patients to download walkie-talkie apps on their phones or to use radios to keep in contact.
After the storm moved on, Mr. Hensley found himself picking up patients off fishing boats at makeshift docks and driving them to dialysis. Even with those efforts, though some went too long without treatment, and had to be hospitalized, Dr. Gulati said. None of the patients from Cape Coral died, he said, but some remained in hospitals for up to two weeks after the storm.
At the same time, the center struggled with restricted water supplies, because the electric power needed to keep the water flowing was out across much of Lee County, and key water lines had been severed. Because of the large volume needed for dialysis equipment and the treatment process, it takes “swimming pools’ worth” of water for a center to function, Dr. Gulati said. So the Cape Coral clinic had to rely on water tanks brought in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency from as far away as Texas.
Other dialysis centers also felt the loss of water, power and accessible roads. DaVita Dialysis, a national provider, shut down 35 of its centers for various periods of time during and after the storm, a spokeswoman said; the company advised the affected patients to begin a three-day emergency diet that reduces the need for dialysis. Within five days of landfall, all of DaVita’s patients had received their treatments, the company said.
Fresenius, another national dialysis provider, had emergency generators, water, fuel and food available at its centers in the storm’s path, a spokesman said.
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New York City’s Open Streets program grew out of a clamor for more outdoor space early in the coronavirus pandemic.
But the traffic-free zones also became a vital lifeline for struggling restaurants and bars that embraced curbside dining.
Now, the economic impact of the initiative is being measured for the first time in a new city report that finds that restaurants and bars on the most successful Open Streets reported stronger sales than those on similar commercial streets with car traffic — and in some cases, did better than they did before the pandemic.
Some Open Streets even attracted new restaurants and bars during the first 18 months of Covid-19, when many businesses remained closed or limited their operations.
releasing the report on Tuesday as city officials seek to make outdoor dining permanent through an initiative known as Open Restaurants, which has enrolled more than 12,000 restaurants and bars. That initiative grew out of the Open Streets program, which was made permanent in 2021, though its efforts have been scaled back in some neighborhoods.
Critics of outdoor dining have complained that it has increased noise, trash and rats, as well as blocked sidewalks, taken away parking spots and worsened congestion, and they say it is no longer necessary as the city continues to recover from the pandemic.
State Assemblyman David I. Weprin, a Queens Democrat, said that there are both benefits and drawbacks to outdoor dining, and that each site should be assessed individually to determine whether an outdoor option is still necessary. “It shouldn’t just be an automatic OK like we did during the pandemic,” Mr. Weprin said. “I think there is less of a need now.”
six-block Open Street on Vanderbilt Avenue in 2020 to aid struggling restaurants and bars. Now, 24 establishments offer outdoor dining there and help pay for its operation, including seven that opened during the pandemic. Three more restaurants are coming soon.
“It’s really become a gathering place,” said Megan Robinson, the co-chairwoman of a volunteer committee that runs Vanderbilt. “I think people want to support their local businesses and this makes it easy for them.”
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U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading, according to an authoritative national exam released on Monday, offering the most definitive indictment yet of the pandemic’s impact on millions of schoolchildren.
In math, the results were especially devastating, representing the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card, which tests a broad sampling of fourth and eighth graders and dates to the early 1990s.
In the test’s first results since the pandemic began, math scores for eighth graders fell in nearly every state. A meager 26 percent of eighth graders were proficient, down from 34 percent in 2019.
Fourth graders fared only slightly better, with declines in 41 states. Just 36 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math, down from 41 percent.
a downward trend that had begun even before the pandemic. No state showed sizable improvement in reading. And only about one in three students met proficiency standards, a designation that means students have demonstrated competency and are on track for future success.
billions more dollars and several years for students to properly recover.
The test results could be seized as political fodder — just before the midterms — to re-litigate the debate over how long schools should have stayed closed, an issue that galvanized many parents and teachers.
The bleak results underscored how closing schools hurt students, but researchers cautioned against drawing fast conclusions about whether states where schools stayed remote for longer had significantly worse results.
Decisions about how long to keep schools closed often varied even within states, depending on the local school district and virus transmission rates. And other factors, such as poverty levels and a state’s specific education policies, may also influence results.
The picture was mixed, and performance varied by grade level and subject matter in ways that were not always clear cut.
reading scores had also declined in many states.
stayed remote for longer than wealthier schools did during the pandemic, deepening divides.
The impact was especially stark for struggling students. In a survey included in the test, only half of fourth graders who were low performing in math said they had access to a computer at all times during the 2020-21 school year, compared with 80 percent of high-performing students.
Similarly, 70 percent said they had a quiet place to work at least some of the time, compared with 90 percent for high performers.
In one bright spot, most big city school districts, including New York City, Dallas and Miami-Dade, held steady in reading.
are more likely to drop out of high school, or not graduate on time. And ninth grade — where eighth graders who took the test in the spring are now — is considered a critical year for setting students up to graduate high school and attend college.
“We need to be doing something to target our resources better at those students who have been just historically underserved,” said Denise Forte, the interim chief executive at the Education Trust, which focuses on closing gaps for disadvantaged students.
Frequent small-group tutoring and doubling up on math classes are among the strategies that have shown promise.
Kevin Huffman, a former education commissioner in Tennessee who is now the chief executive of Accelerate, a nonprofit focused on tutoring, urged leaders to set aside finger pointing about what went wrong during the pandemic, and instead make a “moral commitment” to helping students recover.
“We cannot, as a country, declare that 2019 was the pinnacle of American education,” he said.
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Courts have at times referenced the amendment in denying prisoners the same rights as other workers, but they have more often relied on other laws and justifications to do so.
A group of federal lawmakers has proposed a bill to remove the clause, but the lawmakers have not won enough support to pass it.
Sharon Dolovich, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that even if the 13th Amendment was not the primary justification for allowing mandatory prison labor, its existence in the Constitution most likely weighs on the mind of judges who evaluate prisoners’ claims.
“The 13th Amendment, as it’s currently written, and the state’s analogues to the amendment, form a backdrop that infuses the legal regime governing incarcerated people,” said Ms. Dolovich, who leads the Prison Law and Policy Program at U.C.L.A. “It forms the moral atmosphere around which we treat incarcerated workers.”
Other states have already removed exceptions to their slavery bans. What happened there?
Many states’ constitutions do not mention slavery at all, relying on the protections — and exception — of the U.S. Constitution. But three states with constitutions that ban slavery have in recent years voted to remove the clause that created an exception for those convicted of crimes.
Colorado did so in 2018, followed by Nebraska and Utah in 2020.
After Colorado’s decision, a prisoner sued the state, claiming that it was violating its new, absolute ban on slavery and involuntary servitude, but a state appellate court ruled in August that voters had not meant to abolish prison labor. The judges also ruled that the prisoner’s complaint did not support a claim that the prison work program was involuntary servitude.
But in Nebraska, the change has led at least one jail that had never paid its inmates for work to begin paying them $20 to $30 a week, The Lincoln Journal Star reported.
More legal challenges are expected in those states, as well as any that pass similar measures next month.
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NAPLES, Fla. — Rose Marie Santangelo had weathered many hurricanes in her decades living near the water outside Naples, Fla. She thought she was prepared for Hurricane Ian, too.
But like so many other Floridians, Ms. Santangelo, 73, a beloved aunt who had retired from a career in radiation oncology, underestimated this storm.
“She really thought that it wouldn’t hit here,” Phyllis Santangelo, a niece, said. “And then when it did take a turn, I think she knew it was going to be bad.”
Ian caused more deaths in Florida — at least 114 — than any hurricane in almost 90 years. Five other people died from the storm in North Carolina, as well as one in Virginia. Like Ms. Santangelo, residents became trapped in floodwaters inside their homes. Others stopped breathing when power outages left oxygen machines inoperable. Or they perished in cars as the storm surge rose.
size, relatively slow movement and massive storm surge multiplied its threat.
As residents sort through the wreckage in Florida, a look at who died and where revealed how an aging population on the coast proved especially vulnerable to Ian. In many cases, the people who died had pre-existing medical problems, waited too long to evacuate and were trapped by floodwaters. In some of the hardest-hit areas, evacuation orders that were delayed amid a shifting storm track added to the confusion.
Many victims had significant medical problems.
As Hurricane Ian neared southwest Florida, Peggy Collson, 67, became increasingly worried about her ability to survive. She lived alone on the island community of Matlacha, in a modest one-story house along the water that had withstood previous hurricanes. But Ms. Collson, who received daily care from nurse’s aides and could not walk without assistance, knew she would be at risk.
A few days before the hurricane, she tried to make arrangements to leave the island, said her brother Jim Collson, who lives in New York. But she ultimately decided to stay. The morning of the storm, Sept. 28, her fears magnified.
The Aftermath of Hurricane Ian
“She was so nervous she was sick to her stomach,” he said.
Ms. Collson drowned. She was found floating in a canal a few blocks from her home.
Evacuating was especially challenging for many older Floridians with health problems, leaving them with limited options.
And there was Ms. Santangelo, who had a years-old back injury and often used a walker around her pink two-bedroom home.
As the hurricane approached, Ms. Santangelo was in touch with family members in her home state of Ohio. But by the afternoon of Sept. 28, she had stopped responding to their calls and text messages. When a neighbor stopped by to check on her the next day, a sheriff’s incident report said, he found her dead on the kitchen floor. She had drowned.
Five of Ms. Santangelo’s nieces and nephews came from Ohio to clear out the house. Ten days after the storm, they stood around her candlelit kitchen island, drinking their aunt’s favorite Pinot Grigio. They planned to spread her ashes around her palm trees.
“She was loved so much,” Phyllis Santangelo said. “She never had children; we were her kids.”
Long waits for rescue were sometimes too long.
Alice F. Argo called law enforcement 10 times over nearly 12 hours as floodwaters rose in her home in New Smyrna Beach, on Florida’s Atlantic coast, where Ian dumped heavy rain after making landfall across the state.
Around midday Sept. 29, Ms. Argo told dispatchers the water was up to her knees. Later, she told them her husband, Jerry W. Argo, 67, had fallen and hit his head. She kept calling. They told her they had a backlog of rescue calls and were waiting on specialized equipment to travel through the flood.
Lisa Mitchell, Ms. Argo’s daughter, said Mr. Argo had fallen off a bar stool into the water. Ms. Argo tried propping his head up to keep him above the water. It wasn’t enough.
By the time the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office responded late that night, Mr. Argo was dead from drowning. He was one of several Floridians whom emergency crews were not able to reach in time.
The sheriff’s office in Volusia County said it was looking into whether it needed to acquire more vehicles capable of traveling in high waters.
Ms. Mitchell said she wished she could have helped, but she was also trapped: “My whole yard was flooded.”
Ian’s death toll was historic, but exact data can be fuzzy.
On Oct. 1, in the immediate aftermath of Ian’s brutal impact on southwest Florida, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said in an email that “we currently have 23 deaths that are directly or indirectly related to the storm.” She added that the local medical examiner would later determine official causes of death. Two days later, she said the death toll in Charlotte County had risen to 24.
But as of this week, the medical examiner there had linked only eight of those deaths to Hurricane Ian, deciding that most of the rest were not caused by the storm after all.
The difference in the numbers in Charlotte County underscores the subjective science of determining which deaths that occurred during the storm were caused by it, at least in part.
Some findings are obvious, like when a person drowns after their house floods during a hurricane. But some are less clear.
In other Florida counties, medical examiners added four suicides, a homicide, car crashes and several heart attacks to the state’s official hurricane death toll, determining that circumstances caused by the storm contributed to the deaths.
The data in this article is based on official state totals, which are based on the judgment of local medical examiners. In articles published before the medical examiner in Charlotte County confirmed that the other deaths were not related to the storm, The New York Times relied on the Charlotte County data provided by the sheriff’s office. Because of the time it can take for medical examiners to conduct autopsies and report their findings, news agencies often rely on preliminary reports from law enforcement to determine the toll of a hurricane.
It is relatively common for death counts to change: In Lee County, the medical examiner decided that six deaths reported by the sheriff were not connected to Ian. Some Florida counties continued to add deaths this week, meaning the current count may not be final.
Far from the coasts, Ian still claimed victims.
Not long after Ian made landfall, Craig Steven Markgraff Jr., who went by CJ, called his brother for help.
“I explained to him that I was already in the thick of it,” said the brother, Brett Markgraff, who was hunkered down in another town with his son.
CJ, his father and a friend tried to ride out the storm near Zolfo Springs, a small town nearly an hour’s drive from the Gulf Coast. But being inland was no defense from the huge amounts of rain and flooding the storm brought.
As conditions improved on the morning of Sept. 29, Brett Markgraff set out for his brother’s home, but the road where his brother lived was underwater. CJ had stopped responding to messages, so Brett Markgraff tried to take a canoe to the house. He was stopped by state officials who had blocked off the area.
Later, rescue crews saved CJ’s father and friend, who were found clinging to trees. But there was no sign of CJ, who was last seen struggling to stay above water as a current swept him away. He was one of many Floridians who died far from the coast.
Brett Markgraff said rescuers told him they looked for CJ, 35, but after about an hour, they needed to move on.
“I was left dumbfounded and helpless,” Mr. Markgraff said.
A few days later, a detective called their father and said that CJ’s body had been found and identified by his tattoos.
Some left home, then became trapped.
Ian Conway, 61, a retired pilot, lived in a tan one-bedroom house in a mobile home community in Estero, on the banks of the Estero River. Living in a flood-prone area, he had always assured Margot Conway, one of his two daughters, that he would go to a shelter if a serious hurricane came through.
The morning that Hurricane Ian hit, he sent an email to his siblings saying that he was headed to a shelter, Ms. Conway said. But he never made it there.
Just before 7 a.m. the following morning, a neighbor called Ms. Conway in Washington State. Her father had been found dead from drowning, draped over a bench at the shuffleboard court across the street from his home.
Mr. Conway’s death was one of several in which people left home, either to seek shelter, make final preparations or assess damage, only to wind up becoming victims.
This past summer, Mr. Conway’s health had worsened. Ms. Conway, an emergency room nurse, had urged her father to go into assisted living, but he wanted to live on his own.
Ten days after the hurricane, Ms. Conway spent a quiet moment at the funeral home with her father’s remains, playing his favorite song by the Smiths.
“I got to say goodbye,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to.”
Alex Lemonides and Campbell Robertson contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy and Kitty Bennett contributed research.
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