To paraphrase Cliven Bundy, let me tell you about your United States.  In your United States, we love to create and publish reports. We do reports on everything: income, employment, education, production, sickness, health – everything. We even do reports on violence, such as the report issued last week by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ), which you can download right here.

              By the time I read through the first two or three pages of this report, I thought I was reading a report produced by another group of concerned social scientists, activists and community leaders and issued in 2017, which you can download right here.

              What’s the difference between the two reports? The latter report focuses on New York City, the former on all large cities that are struggling to deal with violence today.

              Beyond that, the two reports basically say the same thing: reduce the central role played by cops in their ‘fight’ against crime and put emphasis on social and behavioral programs led by community groups.

              How many times does the phrase ‘gun violence’ appear in the CCJ report? Exactly once. How many times does the phrase ‘gun violence’ appear in the 2017 report? Exactly once. 

              You would think from these two reports that guns and violence are two very separate things, existing independently of one another. You would also think that if an approach to violence which focuses on behavior modification and community cohesion were to be organized in a particularly violent community, that all the guns in that community would somehow just magically disappear, right?

              Several years ago, our friends at The Trace published a listing of more than 9,000 guns connected to criminal activity and picked up by the cops in various jurisdictions throughout the United States. I analyzed this data, and you can download my SSRN paper here.

              One of the more interesting discoveries I made in looking at this information was the fact that many of guns which were ultimately used in crimes had been floating around the civilian arsenal for more than thirty years. Do you own one, single consumer item that came into your possession before 1990?

              The point is that guns don’t wear out and they don’t break. So, the idea that we will reduce gun violence by somehow making the kids and adults who otherwise indulge in such behavior become less violent but meanwhile allow the guns they use to be kept around is a really stupid joke.

              Meanwhile, neither of the reports on reducing inner-city violence mentions this issue at all. In 2019, there were 19,141 homicides reported in the United States. Of that total, 75 percent, or 14,414 were committed with guns.  We have a fatal, violent crime rate that is 7 to 20 times higher than any other OECD nation-state.

              Know what would happen if those guys (and kids) who shoot other people couldn’t get their hands on guns? Our fatal violence rate would be as low or lower than most of the other advanced nation-states.

               One of the report’s authors told me that the supply of guns is a national issue that has to be handled by the ATF. That’s simply not true. If schools teach kids public health behaviors like eating healthy foods and staying away from drugs, these same kids can’t be taught about the risks of guns?

One of these days my friends who do gun research at various universities around the United States need to sit down and ask themselves what role they should be doing in the current gun debate.  Are they scholars or are they advocates? 

It seems to me they try to be both. And I’m sorry but as far as I’m concerned, advocacy has no place in the scholarly debate.  Want to advocate for an end to gun violence?  Go right ahead. Join one of the gun -control groups, send them some bucks, go to their meetings, all fine and well.

But don’t publish an ‘evidence-based’ paper that raises some issues but leaves equally-important issues out. The role of the scholar is to question current beliefs, not come up with a new paradigm which you hope everyone will believe.