When it comes to gun control, Congress still seems confused about whether more regulation equals better regulation. I don’t think it necessarily does. Particularly when a law is passed that only will make a difference if it is rigorously enforced at the level of the neighborhood and the street. And anyone who thinks that guns aren’t a neighborhood and street-level issue doesn’t know much about neighborhoods or guns, for that matter. Which is why I wasn’t terribly concerned when Manchin-Toomey went down to defeat, because I knew that it would force people who are trying to do something about gun violence to stop looking to Uncle Sam for a quick solution that probably wouldn’t change things at all.
One organization that really seems to understand gun violence where the violence actually occurs is the Center for Crime Prevention and Control, located at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The Director of the Center, David Kennedy, has been a researcher, policy expert and program director for more than thirty years, and prior to coming to John Jay, he directed the Safe Guns project in Boston which created a successful model for dealing with gun violence by uniting law enforcement, social service agencies and community groups.
By moving to New York, Kennedy has been able to take his experiences and widen his vision beyond one city to embrace the country as a whole. The Center offers planning and technical assistance to help cities and towns build safer communities, and is currently engaged in ongoing projects in Chicago, Detroit, Newark, the State of Connecticut, and several Native American reservations. The Center recently received a million-dollar grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to “develop and sustain its highly-successful crime-reduction strategies” which, BJA noted, are in “high demand” from communities that want to implement such programs.
There are two things about the Center’s approach that I find exceptional. The first, as I mentioned earlier, is the focus on prevention not through legislation, but with hands-on, street-level programs that actually work. And the reason they work is that the Center combines theory with practice through diligent research into the effectiveness of what they are doing and an awareness that not two situations, two neighborhoods, two cities, are exactly alike. This was proven, for example, in the different approaches to gun violence in New York and Boston; the latter created a tapestry of law enforcement, social service and community groups to deal with the problem while the former sent ‘stop-and-frisk’ police teams into high-crime zones. Both programs worked at first but results tailed off earlier in Boston, then later in New York. The Center’s success in its more recent programs shows that they learned from both.
It’s great to see efforts like David Kennedy’s Center for Crime Prevention and Control getting some nice, big funding support from the folks in DC. But why doesn’t the NRA kick in some dough as well? After all, the NRA keeps reminding us that they represent law-abiding gun owners who believe that 2nd Amendment guarantees should not stand in the way of getting criminal guns off the street. Which is exactly what Kennedy and his colleagues are all about. Want to build a real alliance between gun owners and non-gun owners over the issue of gun control? Here’s the place to start.