Illegal Immigrants and Crime

From Just Facts Daily, we get:

Illegal Immigrants Are Far More Likely to Commit Serious Crimes Than the U.S. Public

… the Associated Press published a “fact check“ claiming that illegal immigrants are more law-abiding than the general public. Various media outlets, such as the New York Times, Yahoo!, and a number of NBC affiliates published this article. The Washington Post ran a similar story, and other media outlets and so-called fact checkers have made similar claims in the past.

The truth, however, is that comprehensive, straightforward facts from primary sources—namely the Obama administration Census Bureau and Department of Justice—prove that illegal immigrants are far more likely to commit serious crimes than the U.S. population. Studies that claim otherwise typically suffer from fallacies condemned by academic publications about how to accurately analyze data.

The Most Concrete Facts

Data on illegal immigration and crime is often clouded, precisely because these are unlawful activities where perpetrators seek to hide their actions. Also, governments sometimes fail to record or release information that could be or has been obtained. The Obama administration, in particular, refused to release the names of convicted immigrant sex offenders and hid other details about crimes committed by immigrants.

Nonetheless, a combination of three material facts sheds enough light on this issue to draw some firm conclusions.

First, U.S. Census data from 2011 to 2015 shows that noncitizens are 7% more likely than the U.S. population to be incarcerated in adult correctional facilities. This alone debunks the common media narrative, but it only scratches the surface of serious criminality by illegal immigrants.

Second, Department of Justice data reveals that in the decade ending in 2015, the U.S. deported at least 1.5 million noncitizens who were convicted of committing crimes in the U.S. (Table 41). This amounts to 10 times the number of noncitizens in U.S. adult correctional facilities during 2015.

Third, Department of Justice data shows that convicts released from prison have an average of 3.9 prior convictions, not including convictions that led to their imprisonment (Table 5). This means that people in prison are often repeat offenders—but as shown by the previous fact, masses of convicted criminals have been deported, making it hard for them to reoffend and end up in a U.S. prison.

In other words, even after deporting 10 times more noncitizens convicted of crimes than are in U.S. prisons and jails, they are still 7% more likely to be incarcerated than the general public. This indicates a level of criminality that is multiplicatively higher than the U.S. population.

Furthermore, roughly half of noncitizens are in the U.S. legally, and legal immigrants rarely commit crimes. This is because U.S. immigration laws are designed to keep criminals out. Thus, the vast majority of incarcerated noncitizens are doubtlessly illegal immigrants. If legal immigrants were removed from the equation, the incarceration rate of illegal immigrants would probably be about twice as high as for all noncitizens.

On the other hand, there is uncertainty about the exact number of noncitizens in the U.S., and Census figures are almost surely low. Hence, the incarceration rate of illegal immigrants is likely not twice as high as the U.S. population. Nevertheless, this is only the tip of the iceberg, because the U.S. continually deports massive numbers of illegal immigrant convicts.

 

School Discipline Racial Bias: Unfounded Charge | National Review

Source: School Discipline Racial Bias: Unfounded Charge | National Review

n April 4th headline in the New York Times was eye-catching: “Government Watchdog Finds Racial Bias in School Discipline.” Eye-catching, but highly misleading. The Government Accountability Office report, which was commissioned by congressmen Bobby Scott (D., Va.) and Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.), found only what we’ve known for a long time — that African-American students are disciplined at higher rates than white students. Buried in a footnote, the GAO report concedes that disparities by themselves “should not be used to make conclusions about the presence or absence of unlawful discrimination.”

The fact that concession was relegated to a footnote is not the only reason to doubt the GAO’s good faith. Education secretary Betsy DeVos is currently considering whether to withdraw the Obama administration’s controversial “Dear Colleague” letter on school discipline. That letter told schools that their federal funding can be cut off if they discipline African-American students at higher rates than white students, even if the difference is the result of the evenhanded administration of their disciplinary code. The GAO report was released to great fanfare on the same day that DeVos met with interested parties on both sides of the issue. The timing suggests GAO officials may have been all too happy to upstage DeVos.

Here’s what the GAO didn’t disclose: The major reason for the disparity is clear, and it isn’t bias. As painful as it may be to admit, African-American students, on average, misbehave more than their white counterparts. Teachers (including African-American teachers) aren’t making this up, and it isn’t doing African-American students any favors to suggest otherwise.

Just recently, the National Center for Education Statistics released a report showing that African-American students self-report being in physical fights on school property at a rate more than twice that of white students. Similarly, California’s former attorney general (and current senator) Kamala Harris reported in 2014 that African-American fifth-graders are almost five times more likely than whites to be chronically truant. In addition, as the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald has reported, African-American male teenagers from ages 14-17 commit homicide at nearly ten times the rate of their white male counterparts. Why should anyone assume that rates of misbehavior in school would magically come out equal?

Too many of our leaders like to preen themselves, claiming that they can’t imagine why teachers would disproportionately discipline African-American students unless the reason is racial discrimination. But denying the facts doesn’t help African-American students. The primary victims of the Obama administration’s effort to federalize school-discipline policy are African-American students attending majority-minority schools who are struggling to learn amid increasing classroom disorder.

Why causes these differences in behavior? The short answer is that nobody can explain it perfectly. But common sense suggests, and reams of research show, that children from fatherless households as well as children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to get in trouble than other students. That’s at least a large part of the explanation.

The GAO tries to cast doubt on that by arguing that even in schools in prosperous neighborhoods, African-American students are disciplined at higher rates than whites. But the fact that a school is in a relatively prosperous locality doesn’t mean that the African-American students attending it are as well-off as their fellow students.

Everybody’s Lying About the Link Between Gun Ownership and Homicide

Source: Everybody’s Lying About the Link Between Gun Ownership and Homicide

There is no clear correlation whatsoever between gun ownership rate and gun homicide rate. Not within the USA. Not regionally. Not internationally. Not among peaceful societies. Not among violent ones. Gun ownership doesn’t make us safer. It doesn’t make us less safe. The correlation simply isn’t there. It is blatantly not-there. It is so tremendously not-there that the “not-there-ness” of it alone should be a huge news story.

And anyone with access to the internet and a basic knowledge of Microsoft Excel can check for themselves. Here’s how you do it.

First, go to the Wikipedia page on firearm death rates in the United States. If you don’t like referencing Wikipedia, then instead go to this study from the journal Injury Prevention, which was widely sourced by media on both the left and right after it came out, based on a survey of 4000 respondents. Then go to this table published by the FBI, detailing overall homicide rates, as well as gun homicide rates, by state. Copy and paste the data into Excel, and plot one versus the other on a scatter diagram. Alternately, do the whole thing on the back of a napkin. It’s not hard. Here’s what you get:

This looks less like data and more like someone shot a piece of graph paper with #8 birdshot.

If the data were correlated, we should be able to develop a best fit relationship to some mathematical trend function, and calculate an “R^2 Value,” which is a mathematical way of describing how well a trendline predicts a set of data. R^2 Values vary between 0 and 1, with 1 being a perfect fit to the data, and 0 being no fit. The R^2 Value for the linear trendline on this plot is 0.0031. Total garbage. No other function fits it either.

I embellished a little with the plot, coloring the data points to correspond with whether a state is “red,” “blue,” or “swing,” according to the Romney-Obama era in which political demarcations were a little more even and a little more sensical. That should give the reader a vague sense of what the gun laws in each state are like. As you can see, there is not only no correlation whatsoever with gun ownership rate, there’s also no correlation whatsoever with state level politics.

But hey, we are a relatively unique situation on the planet, given our high ownership rates and high number of guns owned per capita, so surely there’s some supporting data linking gun ownership with gun homicide elsewhere, right?

So off we go to Wikipedia again, to their page listing countries by firearm related death rates. If Wikipedia gives you the willies, you’re going to have a harder time compiling this table on your own, because every line in it is linked to a different source. Many of them, however, come from http://www.gunpolicy.org. Their research is supported by UNSCAR, the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation, so it is probably pretty reasonable data. They unfortunately do not have gun ownership rates, but do have “guns owned per 100 inhabitants,” which is a similar set we can compare against. And we drop that into Excel, or use the back of our napkin again, and now we are surely going to see how gun ownership drives gun homicide.

Well that’s disappointing.

Remember we are looking for an R^2 value close to 1, or hopefully at least up around 0.7. The value on this one is 0.0107. Garbage.

….

So let’s briefly recap. Gun Murder Rate is not correlated with firearm ownership rate in the United States, on a state by state basis. Firearm Homicide Rate is not correlated with guns per capita globally. It’s not correlated with guns per capita among peaceful countries, nor among violent countries, nor among European countries. So what in the heck is going on in the media, where we are constantly berated with signaling indicating that “more guns = more murder?”

One: They’re sneaking suicide in with the data, and then obfuscating that inclusion with rhetoric.
This is the biggest trick I see in the media, and very few people seem to pick up on it. Suicide, numerically speaking, is around twice the problem homicide is, both in overall rate and in rate by gun. Two thirds of gun deaths are suicides in the USA. And suicide rates are correlated with gun ownership rates in the USA, because suicide is much easier, and much more final, when done with a gun. If you’re going to kill yourself anyway, and you happen to have a gun in the house, then you choose that method out of convenience. Beyond that, there’s some correlation between overall suicide and gun ownership, owing to the fact that a failed suicide doesn’t show up as a suicide in the numbers, and suicides with guns rarely fail.

….

Two: They’re cooking the homicide data.
The most comprehensive example of this is probably this study from the American Journal of Public Health. It’s widely cited, and was very comprehensive in its analytical approach, and was built by people I admire and whom I admit are smarter than me. But to understand how they ended up with their conclusions, and whether those conclusions actually mean what the pundits say they mean, we have to look at what they actually did and what they actually concluded.

First off, they didn’t use actual gun ownership rates. They used fractional suicide-by-gun rates as a proxy for gun ownership. This is apparently a very common technique by gun policy researchers, but the results of that analysis ended up being very different from the ownership data in the Injury Prevention journal in my first graph of the article. The AJPH study had Hawaii at 25.8% gun ownership rate, compared to 45% in IP, and had Mississippi at 76.8% gun ownership rate, compared to 42.8% in IP. Could it be that suicidal people in Hawaii prefer different suicide methods than in Mississippi, and that might impact their proxy? I don’t know, but it would seem to me that the very use of a proxy at all puts the study on a very sketchy foundation. If we can’t know the ownership rate directly, then how can we check that the ratio of gun suicides properly maps over to the ownership rate? Further, the fact that the rates are so different in the two studies makes me curious about the sample size and sampling methods of the IP study. We can be absolutely certain that at least one of these studies, if not both of them, are wrong on the ownership rate data set. We know this purely because the data sets differ. They can’t both be right. They might both be wrong.

 

Series roundup:

In the second article, we unpack “gun death” statistics and look carefully at suicide.

In the third article, we debunk the “gun homicide epidemic” myth.

In the fourth article, we expand upon why there is no link between gun ownership and gun homicide rate, and why gun buybacks and other gun ownership reduction strategies cannot work.

In the fifth article, we discuss why everyone should basically just ignore school shootings.

The sixth article presents a solution free of culture wars, and the finale isn’t about guns at all.

Stop and Frisk vs Crime Rates

Paul Cassell co-authored an article showing how the reduction in “stop and frisk” activity in Chicago corresponded with a significant increase in homicides. Needless to say, this article provoked comment. It seems some people are uncomfortable with the notion that it might have actually worked, even if minorities were being targeted.

This addresses comments by John Pfaff and the ACLU.

The 2016 Chicago Homicide Spike – Further Explained

The Volokh Conspiracy by Paul Cassell

On Monday, I discussed Professor Fowles and my article about what caused the 2016 Chicago homicide spike. Our paper argued that the causal mechanism was likely an ACLU consent decree with the Chicago Police Department, which led to a sharp decline in stop and frisks—and, we believe, a consequent sharp increase in homicides (and other shooting crimes). Since our paper was announced in The Chicago Tribune, distinguished law professor John Pfaff has tweeted a series of comments about our article, and the ACLU has commented as well. I wanted to briefly respond.

Turning first to Professor Pfaff’s tweets, it is useful to start with several points of agreement. Professor Pfaff notes that the causal mechanism we propose—an ACLU agreement leads to fewer stops, fewer stops leads to more crime—is “wholly plausible.” So far, so good.

But then Pfaff moves on to criticize us because our model “has only a handful of variables, almost all of them official criminal justice statistics, no social-economic statistics, and all at the city level (despite the intense concentration of violence in Chicago).” Let’s address these concerns specifically.

First, as to the explanatory variables in our equations: In our most extensive model, we employ twenty variables—specifically stop and frisks (of course); temperature (since crime tends to spike in warm weather months); 911 calls (as a measure of police-citizen cooperation); homicides in Illinois excluding Chicago (as a measure of trends in Illinois); arrests for property crimes, violent crimes, homicides, gun crimes, shooting crimes, and drug crimes; homicides in St. Louis, Columbus, Louisville, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Gary, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit; and a time trend variable. All of these variables were based on monthly data, since we were attempting to explain homicide data reported on monthly basis. Interestingly, Professor Pfaff does not suggest any other readily-available monthly data that we could have included. Nor is it clear what sort of “socio-economic” statistics would have been relevant to explaining the homicide spike, which developed over a short period of time. It is true that our variables are not collected at the neighborhood level, but the city-wide level. But since our goal was to explain the Chicago homicide spike, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with looking at Chicago data.

The one specific variable that Professor Pfaff argues we failed to include was the “defunding of Cure Violence [a violence prevention program], which happened at the same time” as the spike. But it is curious that Professor Pfaff would take us to task for failing to look at this issue when, at the same time, he argues that the “best analysis” of the homicide spike was done by the University of Chicago Urban Lab. That (ultimately inconclusive) report specifically stated that “earlier in 2015, state funding for Cure Violence, a violence prevention organization operating in Chicago, was suspended, although the timing of that funding reduction does not seem to fit well as a candidate explanation for the increase in gun violence since the latter occurred at the end of 2015.”

Professor Pfaff also mentions that our regression equations simply include (in one model) homicides rates in other cities, without developing difference-in-difference variables or synthetic controls. But there are advantages to parsimonious construction. We doubt whether such controls would have made any difference to our conclusions. Moreover, we relied on Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) as, at least, a partial response to such concerns. We would be interested to learn what Pfaff thinks of our BMA findings—which compellingly demonstrate our findings’ robustness within the included variables.

Professor Pfaff also raises a question about whether we have measured an “ACLU effect” or a “stop and frisk” effect. It is true, of course, that our regression equations explain homicides (and shooting crimes) by using stop and frisk as an explanatory variable. A linkage between stop-and-frisk tactics and homicides is an important finding in and of itself—a finding with which we hope Professor Pfaff might, to some degree, agree. But the logical next question is why did stop and frisks fall in Chicago at the end of 2015? This question is not as well suited to quantitative analysis as other questions, since it appears to be policy-driven. In any event, as Professor Pfaff even-handedly notes, we provide a qualitative defense of our position that the ACLU agreement caused the reduction in stop and frisks. Among other things, this is what the ACLU itself said—at least before the reduction became controversial.

Professor Pfaff also wonders why we do not attempt to quantify the costs of aggressive policing. Our paper explicitly addressed this point, agreeing that proactive policing has costs. But as anyone who has read the stop and frisk literature is well aware, many previous articles have articulated those costs. Our (perhaps already too-lengthy) paper focused on the other side of the cost-benefit equation, hoping to spark a discussion about how to strike a balance among competing concerns.

This issue of balancing competing concerns leads Professor Pfaff to raise a cautionary note about whether our findings are simply, as he puts it, a “Constitutional Effect” rather than an “ACLU Effect.” If things were so starkly simple as saying that all the additional stop and frisks that CPD conducted in 2015 compared to 2016 were unconstitutional, Pfaff might have an argument. But, again, our paper was more limited. The ACLU has justified its efforts to reduce stop and frisks, in part, by making the policy argument that there is “no discernible link between the rate of invasive street stops and searches by police and the level of violence . . . There simply is not any evidence of this so-called [ACLU] effect.” We believe it is fair to respond specifically to ACLU’s claim as part of what must necessarily be a much broader discussion about what are “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

We are encouraged by the fact that Professor Pfaff, based in New York City, is concerned about a common argument advanced about the efficacy of stop and frisk in fighting gun violence—that New York’s experience proves that no such linkage exists. We explained at length in our paper differences between New York and Chicago:

In 2016, New York’s homicide rate was only 3.9 per 100,000 population, while Chicago’s was 27.8—a rate more than 600% higher. But the relevant differences between the two cities may be even higher than this already staggering difference suggests. Looking at homicides committed by firearms, in 2016 New York’s rate was 2.3 compared to Chicago’s rate of 25.1—a rate more than 1000% higher. This is important because, as discussed earlier, gun crimes may be particularly sensitive to stop and frisk policies. In addition, because New York has such a small number of guns and gun crimes (relative to Chicago and many other cities), it can concentrate resources on preventing gun crimes in a way that other cities cannot….

Another problem in equating New York’s circumstances with Chicago’s is that the level of police power is different. Famously, New York has high levels of law enforcement. . . New York had about 153 law enforcement employees for every homicide committed in the city, while Chicago had only about 17 employees for every homicide committed—about a 800% difference. The difference is even greater if one combines both the gun homicide and police force numbers. Per gun homicide, New York has roughly 260 employees, while Chicago has only 19—well over a 1000% difference. To this point it might be objected that a homicide is a homicide, so it makes no sense to break out gun homicides separately. But homicides are not all alike. To the contrary, in general, homicides committed by firearms are more difficult to solve than other kinds of homicides, only adding to the relative difficulties for the Chicago Police Department. Moreover, in 2016, about 23% of New York’s homicides were gang-related, while roughly 67% (or more) of Chicago’s homicides and shootings appear to have been gang-related. Here again, gang-related homicides may be more difficult to solve than are other homicides, particularly in Chicago.

Professor Pfaff notes that our arguments distinguishing Chicago from New York “deserve attention.”

In several concluding tweets, Professor Pfaff wonders about whether homicides “spiked” in Chicago? Or did they rise steadily? Here we have a section of our paper that quantitatively analyzes this point in detail. After seasonally adjusting the data, we are able to perform a standard structural break analysis on our four dependent variables: homicides, fatal shootings, non-fatal shootings, and total shootings. We are able to find structural breaks in all four data series in and around November 2015.

In responding to each of Professor Pfaff’s questions to us, it may be fair to pose a single question back to him. Based on our review of on-the-street reports from Chicago, regression analysis of the available data, qualitative analysis of possible “omitted variables,” and relevant criminology literature, we believe that the best explanation for the 2016 Chicago homicide spike a was reduction in stop and frisks triggered by the ACLU consent decree. If this isn’t the best explanation, is there a better one?

The ACLU of Illinois has also commented on our paper. Some of the arguments that the ACLU raises are surprising, because the ACLU does not acknowledge that we addressed them at length in our paper.

(snip)

How to lie with gun statistics

Failure to disaggregate appropriately…

Justifiable Homicides are Counted as Murder under the Felony Murder Rule

The Felony Murder Rule is a law where a person who is involved in a felony can be charged with murder if someone dies as a result of the felony.

….

The felony murder rule is often applied when an armed victim kills one of the criminal suspects attempting to victimize them. If there is a surviving accomplice, the accomplice may be charged under the felony murder rule.

….

If someone is charged with murder under the felony murder rule, the homicide will be coded as a murder in the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, not as a justified homicide. Examples of this practice are easily found online.

….

The effect of this is to aggregate homicides committed in self-defense with murders. This under-estimates the number of justifiable homicides recorded to about a fifth of its real value, which dilutes the number of cases where a lawful gun owner stopped a crime.

Aliens

There is some debate over whether immigration enforcement has an effect on crime. Sites like Reason.com argue that immigrants are not any more likely to be criminals than citizens are. Others point out that advocates like the writers at Reason pull a fast one by conflating legal and illegal immigrants.

The US Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have released a report with some hard numbers.

Summary of Findings

A total of 58,766 known or suspected aliens were in in DOJ custody at the end of FY 2017, including 39,455 persons in BOP custody and 19,311 in USMS custody.

Of this total, 37,557 people had been confirmed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be aliens (i.e., non-citizens and non-nationals), while 21,209 foreign-born people were still under investigation by ICE to determine alienage.

Among the 37,557 confirmed aliens, 35,334 people (94 percent) were unlawfully present. These numbers include a 92 percent unlawful rate among 24,476 confirmed aliens in BOP custody and a 97 percent unlawful rate among 13,081 confirmed aliens in USMS custody.

This report does not include data on the foreign-born or alien populations in state prisons and local jails because state and local facilities do not routinely provide DHS or DOJ with comprehensive information about their inmates and detainees. This limitation is noteworthy because state and local facilities account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population. DHS and DOJ are working to develop a reliable methodology for estimating the status of state and local incarcerated populations in future reports.

Let’s run some back-of-the-envelope calculations, why don’t we?

So, 58,766 in custody are known or suspected to be aliens. Some 64% of these have been confirmed to be aliens. Of this number, 94% are here illegally. This is thought to represent 10% of the foreign-born population. If the percentages of foreign-born, aliens, and illegal aliens are similar in state and local prisons (not sure why they wouldn’t be), then it would seem to follow that around 13% of prisoners in the country are illegal aliens.

One of the memes floating around claims that 1% of the population of the US is in prison, which would work out to roughly 3.3 million people. That would mean some 430,000 prisoners in the US are illegal aliens. If we divide that into the 20 million estimated illegal aliens, that’s a bit over 2%. This would mean an illegal immigrant is twice as likely to be in prison as a lawful resident.

People are welcome to bring in bigger envelopes if they like.

“Tax Cuts for the Rich”

Thomas Sowell pops out of retirement long enough to address this, once again.

The hardest of these hard facts is that the revenues collected from federal income taxes during every year of the Reagan administration were higher than the revenues collected from federal income taxes during any year of any previous administration.

How can that be? Because tax RATES and tax REVENUES are two different things. Tax rates and tax revenues can move in either the same direction or in opposite directions, depending on how the economy responds.

But why should you take my word for it that federal income tax revenues were higher than before during the Reagan administration? Check it out.

Official statistics are available in many places. The easiest way to find those statistics is to go look at a copy of the annual “Economic Report of the President.” It doesn’t have to be the latest Report under President Trump. It can be a Report from any administration, from the Obama administration all the way back to the administration of the elder George Bush.

Each annual “Economic Report of the President” has the history of federal revenues and expenditures, going back for decades. And that is just one of the places where you can get this data. The truth is readily available, if you want it. But, if you are satisfied with political rhetoric, so be it.

The true secret of the NRA’s success | New York Post

Source: The true secret of the NRA’s success | New York Post

<blockquote>In the wake of the horror in Las Vegas this week, countless politicians, journalists and commentators are insisting that the National Rifle Association has a “stranglehold” on the Republican Party. Hillary Clinton claimed that the GOP-controlled Congress simply does “whatever they are told to do” by the NRA and the gun lobby.

{….}

The New York Times listed total NRA donations to certain GOP politicians alongside their statements offering condolences and prayers for the victims in Las Vegas. And the op-ed pages have been suffused with claims that the NRA has bought Republicans with blood money, stifling the popular will and thwarting democracy in the process.

There’s just one problem: It’s not true.

Oh, it’s certainly the case that the NRA and related groups have given a good amount of money to Republican politicians (and quite a few Democrats) over the years. But in the grubby bazaar of politician-buying, the NRA is a bit player.

Consider that $3.5 million in donations over nearly 20 years the Washington Post made such a fuss about. According to Opensecrets.org, the legal profession contributed $207 million to politicians in 2016 alone. Fahr LLC, the outfit that oversees the political and philanthropic efforts of billionaire anti-global-warming activist Ton Steyer, gave $90 million (all to Democrats) in 2016.

{….}

Some people, even when they know these numbers, still can’t let go of the idea that opposition to gun control is bought and paid for.

Tim Mullaney, a writer for Marketwatch, wrote a richly detailed essay in which he chronicled just how minuscule the NRA’s financial support is — and how small the entire gun industry is — and yet he still concluded it has to be about the money. He writes that “it’s shocking when you realize that it costs only $2,500 per each of the 22,000 or so gun-murder victims of the last election cycle to make Congress cower and refuse to tighten gun rules.”

Part of the problem, I think, is that people who hate guns and gun rights cannot believe that people disagree with them in good faith. There must be evil motives, chiefly greed, that explain everything.

The simple reality is that the NRA doesn’t need to spend a lot of money convincing politicians to protect gun rights. All it needs to do is spend a little money clarifying that a great many of those politicians’ constituents care deeply about gun rights.

{….}

Politicians may be craven (it’s often the safest assumption), but their priority is winning elections. Money-grubbing is a means to that end. And so is vote-grubbing. Maybe some politicians secretly favor stricter controls on guns. But what keeps them from pursuing such restrictions isn’t cash from the NRA; it’s votes from their passionate constituents.

In other words, don’t follow the money, follow the votes.</blockquote>

 

I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise. – The Washington Post

Source: I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise. – The Washington Post

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.

When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.

As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.

As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides. Almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them. I couldn’t even answer my most desperate question: If I had a friend who had guns in his home and a history of suicide attempts, was there anything I could do that would help?

However, the next-largest set of gun deaths — 1 in 5 — were young men aged 15 to 34, killed in homicides. These men were most likely to die at the hands of other young men, often related to gang loyalties or other street violence. And the last notable group of similar deaths was the 1,700 women murdered per year, usually as the result of domestic violence. Far more people were killed in these ways than in mass-shooting incidents, but few of the popularly floated policies were tailored to serve them.

By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.

Instead, I found the most hope in more narrowly tailored interventions. Potential suicide victims, women menaced by their abusive partners and kids swept up in street vendettas are all in danger from guns, but they each require different protections.

Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.

Even the most data-driven practices, such as New Orleans’ plan to identify gang members for intervention based on previous arrests and weapons seizures, wind up more personal than most policies floated. The young men at risk can be identified by an algorithm, but they have to be disarmed one by one, personally — not en masse as though they were all interchangeable. A reduction in gun deaths is most likely to come from finding smaller chances for victories and expanding those solutions as much as possible. We save lives by focusing on a range of tactics to protect the different kinds of potential victims and reforming potential killers, not from sweeping bans focused on the guns themselves.