Gun control is the least effective means of reducing firearm-related violence in metropolitan areas. Its ineffectiveness stems from the fact that, as Democrat and gun owner Jeremey Wang pointed out in a recent editorial, attempting to restrict access to guns fails to address the root causes of inner-city violence.
But new programs that focus on identifying potential shooters and intervening before they commit a crime have proven to be remarkably effective. The programs take advantage of the fact that an extremely small percentage of a city’s population is responsible for much of the firearm-related violence.
One of the best examples comes from Richmond, California, where the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) has managed since 2007 to reduce firearm-related homicides by 76 percent and firearm-related assaults by 66 percent.
In Richmond, police found that just 28 people committed 70 percent of gun-related assaults or homicides in 2009. The Office of Neighborhood Safety reached out to these individuals and offered them the opportunity of a lifetime: join the ONS fellowship program and receive help with education, career development, anger management, parenting, medical health, and spirituality.
Participants would be visited several times a day by outreach workers, develop a “life map,” connect with social services, take trips around California, get connected with community role models, and have the opportunity to apply for internships.
The fellowship lasts 18-24 months. If participants stay in the program the first six months they also receive a $1,000-per-month stipend for the next nine months.
Ultimately, the program is about giving its participants a vision for their lives. “We’re trying to get them to dream, to hope, to go from a place of ‘I don’t give a fuck’ to a place where ‘Maybe I do,’” DeVone Boggan, director of the ONS, told FastCoexist.com. “Because the moment you start to give a damn, you start to make decisions that are healthier about how you handle the conflicts you’re negotiating every day.”
Other cities including Washington, D.C., San Jose, Oakland, and Toledo, Ohio, have adopted Boggan’s model. Baltimore and Gary, Indiana, have plans to do the same.
But the ONS’s rewards-based program isn’t the only model that has proven to be effective. New Orleans recently adopted the Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS), which uses “a data-driven approach to identify key offenders who are responsible for a disproportionate share of serious violence in New Orleans.”
Once police identify these individuals, they take two actions. First, police notify key offenders that they will be subjected to intensified enforcement and prosecution if they continue engaging in violence. Second, like the ONS, police connect these individuals to social services.
The program lowered the citywide firearm-related homicide rate by 17.3 percent since its adoption in 2012, a significant decrease in a city the size of New Orleans. In 2012, group members were involved in 114 murders, 59 percent of the city’s total murders. In 2016, that number was down to 11.
Here’s the bottom line: gun control doesn’t address the root causes of firearm-related violence, so it will never effectively reduce it. These two programs focus on the men and women who commit the crime rather than the tool they use to commit it. If local and state officials really want to reduce firearm-related violence, they’ll start implementing programs that solve the real problems plaguing our nation’s cities.