A New Gun Violence Report That Should Be Required Reading.

Our friends at The Urban Institute have just released a new report, ‘We Carry Guns to Stay Safe,’ which they say represents ‘perspectives on guns and gun violence from young adults living in Chicago’s West and South Sides.’ You can download the report from the Institute’s website, or from my website right here.  The report is a sobering account of the reasons behind the decision by many inner-city youths to carry guns in a city where gun violence in certain neighborhoods exceeds gun violence just about anywhere else.

urban             In 2017, Chicago experienced more homicides than New York City and Los Angeles combined; the Windy City’s population was 2.7 million; the total population of New York and LA  was five times as great. But the fatal violence doesn’t occur in equal amounts throughout ChiTown; neighborhoods on the West Side like West Garfield Park or Englewood on the South Side have a killing rate above 80 per 100K. That’s higher than the killing rate of any country in the entire world.

To understand the degree to which this problem appears to be simply uncontrollable, the research team at The Urban Institute interviewed 345 residents of these killing zones, of which almost all were African-Americans between the ages of 18 and 26, and slightly more than half were males. The research teams strikes a somewhat defensive tone in discussing their methodology because they seem to believe that the manner in which they recruited respondents may have biased the selection and therefore skewed the results. Let me break it to Jocelyn Fontaine and her colleagues: to the degree that they believe their findings should be taken with a small grain of salt in terms of overall validity, the value and importance of this work goes far beyond what has previously been produced in the entire field of gun violence research. In other words, this report should be required reading for anyone and everyone concerned about how and why 125,000+ Americans get injured every year with guns. Period.

Why am I willing to describe this effort in such grandiose terms? The best way to answer that question is to let the researchers explain why they did what they did: “The purpose of this research was to learn from young adults firsthand whether and why they decide to carry guns, how they acquire firearms, how they experience gun violence, and what they view as the best strategies to reduce gun carrying and promote safety in their communities.” So, for the very first time, we learn about gun violence from the individuals most at risk for committing gun violence which, if nothing else, should serve as a reality jolt for all the public policy aficionados promoting this gun-control law and that gun-control law without ever speaking to the people whose behavior, it is hoped, will be positively influenced by new regulations and laws.

I’m not going to go through all the report’s findings because I don’t want to save anyone the ‘trouble’ of reading the report. But one point deserve special mention: Of the one-third who said they carried a gun, albeit illegally in most cases, more than 90% claimed the gun was for self-protection.  Now it turns out that study after study confirms that guns increase, not decrease, the risk of injury. Yet every public opinion survey confirms that a majority of legal gun-owners Americans believe that their gun is a positive, self-protective device.  Guess what?  The illegal gun owners believe the same thing, if anything, to a much greater degree.

Advocates for gun control talk endlessly about imposing new regulations that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’  So here we have a survey in which virtually every respondent represents a pair of ‘wrong hands.’ Not only do they have no more trouble buying a gun than someone with ‘right hands,’  but the folks with the ‘wrong hands’ are becoming gun owners for the exact, same reason as the folks with the ‘right hands.’

Please read and think about this report, okay?

 

 

 

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Does Gun Violence Affect Urban Economic Trends? The Urban Institute Says ‘Yes.’

Over the years, the Urban Institute has published some significant research on gun violence, I’m thinking, for example, of the study they published in 2014 which examined the medical costs of gun injuries.  And now they have come out with a new report which attempts to analyze the cost of gun violence with reference to business and employment trends in three cities – Minneapolis, Oakland and Washington, D.C.

urban            Trying to figure out the effects of gun violence by counting the number of people killed or injured with guns is easy; understanding how gun violence affects neighborhood quality of life is a much more difficult task, primarily because socio-economic changes in any community are influenced by so many variables that it’s always risky to assign primary cause to one issue like gun violence or anything else. And the authors of this study are aware of this problem and also note the degree to which studies about the impact of gun violence on the quality of life in any community are few and far between.

Notwithstanding these caveats, however, this new study appears to validate the general idea that there is an inverse relationship between economic activity and gun activity; as the latter goes up, the former goes down, and vice-versa, at least in the three cities covered in this review.  The authors are also aware of the limitations imposed on cause-and-effect arguments when measured through the use of regression analysis, but here again they try to be sensitive to these limitations both at the level of analysis as well as discussing the validity of their results.

I want to raise two issues with this report that in no way detract from its value or importance but nevertheless deserve to be discussed.  First, beginning the data collection in 2009 and running it through 2012 creates a significant problem because these years, particularly 2009 and 2010, marked the worst economic trough experienced by the American economy in the previous fifty years.  The fact that employment in all three cities began to expand in 2011 must reflect as much the beginnings of economic recovery from the Great Recession as from anything else.  I would have felt somewhat more confident in tying economic trends to gun violence had the report compared employment, business openings and so forth to levels in these communities prior to 2007-2008, if only because such a comparison would have at least given some perspective on whether what happened after 2010 was a real shift in economic activity or just a return to economic levels experienced prior to 2008.

The second issue that I want to raise goes beyond this report itself to the whole question of how gun violence is measured and, for that matter, defined. The authors define gun violence only with reference to gun homicides which, they admit, is the least typical form of violence caused by guns. What would have made this report more conclusive would have been a comparison of economic trends to general violent crime trends, in particular, other violent but non-fatal crimes committed with guns.

In this regard, an analysis of economic trends might have been more nuanced had the authors looked at hiring and sales figures versus armed robbery, if only because so much of the economic activity in census tracts with high crime rates tends to be street-level, retail services and sales.  These are not neighborhoods which support large numbers of skilled, white-collar jobs, and decisions to open small, retail or service establishments will bear much more heavily on quality-of-life considerations as they are experienced at the entrance to the store. In Minneapolis, for example, homicide rates remained fairly steady between 2010 and 2012, but robberies increased by 15%.

This is a good, serious and detailed report.  Support for this effort came from Everytown, you know, the Bloomberg bunch that wants to take all the guns away.  Do you believe that any small business owner who ever looked down the barrel of a gun would mind?

 

Don’t Miss This Important Report On Gun Violence.

A serious and substantial report on gun violence and minority communities has just been issued by the Joyce Foundation, the Urban Institute and The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, accompanied by a national survey conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group. Is there any crossover between the fact that Joel Benenson happens to be a leading consultant for Hillary who just happens to have made gun violence a central plank of her Presidential campaign?

conference-program-pic           This effort largely reflects meetings held with more than 100 members of minority communities in Stockton, CA, Milwaukee, WI and Richmond, VA, in an attempt to create a new strategy to deal with gun violence which, as the report points out, is the first and second leading cause of death respectively for Black and Hispanic males, ages 15-34.

Much of the discussions held with community representatives, along with a majority of the report’s content, deals with relations between minority residents and the police.  And this should hardly surprise, given the fact that the types of gun violence examined in this report all happen to be crimes.  Of the report’s four categories of recommendations, only one category – Improve Relations Between Police and Communities of Color – yielded more than two basic recommendations because, as the report says, “police must be viewed as a legitimate authority in the communities they serve.”

The Benenson survey casts some doubt on whether minorities believe that cops riding down their streets represent any legitimacy at all.  Benenson found that a majority of Blacks and a third of Hispanics reported having a ‘negative interaction’ with law enforcement, although there still was overwhelming support for the idea that, on the whole, most cops were professionals with a few ‘rotten apples’ giving police a bad name.

In tandem with its publication was a public event at the National Press Club featuring an analysis of the survey by Joel Benenson, along with a roundtable discussion involving researchers and activists who contributed to the report.  What I found most interesting about this discussion was the conviction on the part of all participants that successful implementation of the recommendations for reducing gun violence would require giving ‘everyone’ a seat at the table whenever new policies or programs would be discussed.

Which got me thinking: How come there was nobody at the National Press Club representing the folks who always have the most to say about gun violence, namely, the folks who represent the sector that is wholly and completely responsible for all gun violence, namely, the folks who make the guns?  Because the truth is there would be no gun violence, not one, single, solitary gun injury if the gun industry hadn’t convinced Congress and the Supreme Court that guns were legal commerce and should be allowed in every home.  And by the way, the Benenson survey discovered once again that even in minority neighborhoods that are racked by gun violence, a majority of residents believe they would be safer if they owned a gun.

Now just wait until the NRA-ILA gets its hands on that one! I can see the headline now: Hillary’s pollster admits that minorities need to own guns. What if this report had been authored, say, by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, funded by the Scaife Foundation which supports every cockamamie right-wing policy idea?  The report would have denied the existence of gun violence, would have chastised minority communities for not keeping their kids under control, would have trotted out Detroit’s Police Chief who believes the most effective way to deal with gun violence is to make sure that every citizen is armed.

I believe there should be a seat at the table for everyone who needs to be present in a discussion about gun violence.  But just understand that several of the chairs won’t be filled no matter how many invitations go out. And I’m still waiting for the report that explains how we are going to deal with that bunch.

 

 

 

Chronic Violence Can Be Reduced If We Understand That It’s Chronic

If you are interested in gun violence, then sooner or later you have to pay some attention to the issue of violence in general, if only because you really can’t have one without the other.  In that respect, it’s worthwhile to read a new article on violence that is based on a two-year study of ER-admitted patients between the ages of 14 and 24 in Flint, Michigan – that’s right – the same Flint made famous by Michael Moore in his Roger and Me 1989 documentary that made both the filmmaker and the city famous.  When Moore made his film the city was in the throes of a virtual collapse given the closing of its GM plant and the collapse of related industries; now the city’s poverty rate is 40% so you can’t say that things have improved very much, right?

On the other hand, what comes out in this study is that poverty and related social ills does not, in and of itself, necessarily account for recurring, violent injuries in the group selected for this study.  In fact, what seems to be the overwhelming factor in promoting recurring violence is the outbreak of violence in the first place.  And this finding is demonstrated brilliantly in this study because the researchers had the good sense to not only look closely at 349 subjects who sought ED medical care for violent injury over a two-year period, but to compare this population to 250 persons in the same age cohort who came in initially for non-violent injury during the same two-year period.

violence                Guess what?  Both groups had a fairly similar public assistance profile (78% and 70%), a very similar racial profile (African-Americans were 63% and 56% respectively),the exact same marijuana use (nearly 100% in both groups) and virtually identical criminal records (13%-12%.)  In other words, being underprivileged, prone to using drugs and having contact with criminal justice doesn’t necessarily lead to violent behavior, at least not of the type that results in continuous visits to an ER for serious injuries, up to and including death.

I should mention one brief corrective, namely, the authors’ comments about the cost of such behavior.  They quote a study published by the Urban Institute in 2013 which found that firearm injuries alone cost $630 million, most of which has to absorbed by the publicly-funded medical system.  On the other hand, Jarone Lee and others recently published an article in Surgery which might place those costs much higher, although they defined the problem in a somewhat different context than what was used by the authors who wrote for the urban Institute.  But this is a minor squabble and shouldn’t take away from the remarkable study on recurrent injury that needs to be read and circulated for the following reason.

What the researchers on recurrent violence found was not only that multiple ER visits for violent injury was segmented between the two groups whereas both groups shared demographic and social conditions in common, but the most frequent rate of recurrence was in the first six months following discharge from the initial visit for violent injury.  This clearly indicates that recurring violence is, as the research team says, a chronic disease and should be treated as such.  But, in contrast to other chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, there is no management plan for recurring violence that could be used to cut ED costs, never mind reduce the social impact of the disease on its victims.

If a consensus ever emerged on how to deal with tis chronic illness called recurring violence, it would have to include a sub-plan for dealing with guns.  The FBI tells us that more than 80% of all homicides involve people who knew each other before the murder took place.  Take a chronic perpetrator or victim of violent injury, put a gun in his hand and it will go off.  This study strongly suggests that immediate, post-discharge intervention might cut down the rate of violent injury.  Which means that such interventions must include keeping this population away from guns.

Where Do All The Shooting Victims Go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Urban Institute just published an important report on the costs of gun violence.  Titled, “The Hospital Costs of Firearm Assaults,” it attempts to calculate the costs associated with hospitalizations due to shootings based on reports from hospital admitting units and emergency rooms.  Not surprisingly, the report found that more than 50% of gun-shot victims either had no insurance or were covered by public plans supported by taxpayer revenues. Since the total cost for all gunshot admissions was slightly short of $630 million, this means that Uncle Sam Taxpayer got stuck with at least half the bill.

Unfortunately, there’s only one problem with this report.  The data covers one year – 2010.  During that year, roughly 50,000 people were admitted to hospital in-patient and emergency units with gun shot wounds.  But according to the Department of Justice and the CDC, there were over 100,000 gun shootings that resulted in death or injuries in 2010.  So where did the other 50,000 go?  Maybe we can eliminate most of the 19,000 suicides that resulted from using guns because most of those folks went to the morgue.  But if that’s true, it still leaves another 30,000 men, women and children who got shot but found some other way to deal with their wounds besides going to the hospital. Maybe they went to a local clinic, or maybe there’s some over-the-counter remedy now available that takes care of the common gun shot the way that Ibuprofen takes care of the common cold.

Or maybe someone ought to get their data straight.

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