Too often the political process ignores effective policies because they don’t fit partisan agendas.
The current gun control debate is being driven by mass shootings. There are differing opinions on what constitutes a mass shooting, but using even the broadest definition they accounted for only 1.5 percent of gun deaths in 2013. Excluding suicides, mass shootings represented 4.5 percent of gun deaths.
About half of gun homicides involve the murder of black men — even though they comprise only 6 percent of the population.
“Black Americans are over 7 times more likely than white Americans to be victimized by gun violence.”
A recent article published in the New Republic profiled Michael McBride, a 37-year-old pastor from Berkeley, California who has been raising awareness for a program called Operation Ceasefire.
Ceasefire is an initiative that was implemented in Boston in the late 1990s. Community leaders partnered with police to target young black men at risk of dying as a result of gun violence.
They found that less than 0.5 percent of people in a city are responsible for more than half of that city’s gun violence.
Police and community leaders confronted that 0.5 percent and made them aware of the risks they faced while offering counseling, employment or even relocation. They also informed them that there would be no tolerance for future infractions.
It decreased the number of homicides involving youths in Boston by 63 percent over two years. Other cities implemented the program with decreases ranging from 34 to 44 percent.
Boston’s program fell apart for political reasons and other cities have failed to obtain funding.
Unlike the current policies du jour — an assault rifle ban that’s likely to prove ineffective and a common-sense-but-politically-impractical overhauling of our background check and registration system — this could be imposed without changing gun laws and angering the National Rifle Association (an aggravating but unavoidable political reality).
Gun control opponents claim the problem we need to address is mental health, but that needs to extend beyond the schizophrenia of many mass shooters. Ceasefire addresses the post traumatic stress disorder experienced by children growing up in Baltimore and East St. Louis.
Yet when McBride was trying to obtain $500 million to fund the program across the country, a White House staffer reportedly told him the political will to confront inner-city violence didn’t exist.
To put that number in perspective, the University of Chicago crime lab estimated that shootings cost the city $2.5 billion annually.
Maybe people focus on mass shootings because they could potentially happen in their own communities, while urban violence is contained to areas the majority of Americans don’t frequent. Maybe it’s because people don’t think black lives matter. These are two ways of saying the same thing.
But if reducing the level of gun violence in America is your aim, this is a means of achieving that. Funding ceasefire would have a greater effect on the problem than even accomplishing the impossible task of eliminating mass shootings.
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