Over the weekend, I received a message from our good friend, Shannon Watts, asking me to donate to an organization, Advance Peace, which is working to reduce gun violence. My only regret is that I couldn’t send more money because right now I am scraping together all my dough to give to the DNC for 2022.

              I’m not such a po’ boy that I won’t give Shannon another donation when she asks again, because I always do what Shannon asks me to do.

              Be that as it may, I wanted to spend a bit of time talking about the efforts of Advance Peace and other organizations which refer to themselves as conducting ‘deterrence’ programs to identify people most at risk of being involved with gun violence and offering them pathways that will deter the violence before it occurs.

              Getting down to the street level and working with individuals who are prone to get involved in the endless and continuous cycle of inner-city gun violence has been a strategy led by various groups since the 1990’s, chief among them being Ceasefire, a program that first started in Boston in 1996, and Cure Violence, which came out of Chicago in 2000. Both programs operate in cities across the United States.

              What makes Advance Peace unique in this workspace is the focus not on group deterrence, particularly working with members of gangs, but identifying the most vulnerable individuals, and dealing with them on an intensive, individual level. The targets of this effort are given eighteen-month Peacemaker Fellowships which hopefully will guide these Fellows into productive and non-violent lives.

              The program run by Advance Peace in Sacramento went from July 2018 through December of the following year. For all of 2019, Sacramento registered a 21% decline in gun homicides and gun assaults. As someone who spends part of every day looking at gun-violence data, I can tell you that a 21% decrease in a city the size of Sacramento is a very, very big deal.

              But what about the bottom line? How much are we paying to see this evident reduction in gun violence? The ROI (costs versus benefits) is often cited as a reason such programs are pie-in-the-sky responses which can never be sustained. True or not true?

              You can find a very detailed financial analysis of the Advance Peace Sacramento program on their website. The analysis was done by faculty at Berkeley’s Institute of Urban and Regional Development (IURD), so this report is a no-bullshit deal. And here’s what it says:

  • The Fellows were 98% male, average age of 23 years, 96% African-American, 65% with prior arrest or incarceration, 84% unemployed and 84% victims of a prior gun injury.
  •  By the end of 2019, 64% completed the program, 90% had no new gun charges, 44% had no new arrests, 25% achieved positive life-changing milestones, and 20% were employed.

What did these numbers mean in terms of ROI? By dividing the financial benefits of the program by its costs, for every dollar that was spent on the program, the city of Sacramento did not lose between $18 and $41 in costs that would have occurred had gun violence in the city remained at its pre-program level. These costs included policing, incarceration, medical and unemployment expenses.

So, both in terms of the human and financial results of this effort, we have to say that the Advance Peace program scored well. And let’s not forget that this was one of th4e first two such programs that ran in 2019, the other being a program in Richmond, CA which had comparable results.

Interested in reducing urban violence in a community where you live? You can connect with Advance Peace and begin the process of bringing them to your city right here.

Because I’m Mike the Gun Guy™ and Mike the Gun Guy™ always has to say something a little critical about efforts to reduce gun violence even when he likes a particular effort very much, as is the case with Advance Peace. So here goes.

According to the IURD report, the program staff interrupted and therefore prevented 58 gun assaults by mediating at least 58 conflicts where someone was carrying a gun. In other words, without the presence of Advance Peace in these high-violence neighborhoods, perhaps 58 or more individuals would have been injured or killed. Fine.

But – and it’s a very important but – after these mediations took place, what happened to the gun? The report is silent on that point.

Is it realistic to talk about permanently lowering the violence level in any community or neighborhood when the number of guns floating around in that area stays the same? Cn we realistically pin our hopes for the reduction of community violence if the means of committing that violence doesn’t change?

Don’t get me wrong. The work being done by Advance Peace is important and really does deserve all our support. You can and should send them some dough right here.

Let’s just not forget the other side of the coin which is that gun violence wouldn’t be tearing up inner-city community life without all those guns.