The Virginia Crime Commission continues its meeting in Richmond today, with public testimony expected to last through much of the afternoon. While most of the media coverage has focused on Ralph Northam sending lawmakers a letter pushing his gun control plans, there was a remarkable session during the first day of hearings that is worth highlighting.
David Kennedy, professor of criminal justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the director of the National Network of Safe Communities, joined lawmakers to discuss group violence intervention. This is a fairly antiseptic way of describing a tactic that identifies the small number of super-violent offenders in any given community and treats them as the nexus for violent crime throughout their community. Through targeted enforcement and opportunities to change their ways, this intervention can lead to dramatic reductions in violent crime, without putting a single new gun control law on the books.
Kennedy began his presentation by reminding lawmakers of just how rare homicides of any kind really are in this country. That doesn’t mean we should ignore the problem. It means we can actually address it effectively.
As Kennedy pointed out, “There are hundreds of millions of guns in this country, statistically very few of which will ever be used to kill another human being.” The same holds true, Kennedy noted, for the millions of gun owners, gamers, and prolific consumers of television news. The vast vast majority of us will never go on to commit a violent crime. Even in the most violent neighborhoods, it’s only a small fraction of the population that will be perpetrators of violence.
Gun control efforts are broad and diffuse, as Kennedy put it, while the drivers of violence are “narrow and particular.” Visit a high crime neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia and residents could tell you who the main instigators are. Police in the area could tell you as well. And as it turns out, actually dealing with those individuals works a heckuva lot better to reduce violent crime than slapping another gun control law on the books.
Kennedy’s testimony provided an introduction for Del. Todd Gilbert’s legislation that would empower cities to put programs in place that would utilize these tactics and focus efforts on these most violent offenders. The fact that a long-haired liberal professor and a conservative rural lawmaker like Gilbert can both recognize that this is an effective, practical, and constitutional way of actually addressing violent crime shouldn’t be ignored. Rather than divisive laws that would criminalize untold numbers of currently legal gun owners in the hopes of somehow impacting the few individuals responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime, deal with those few individuals from the get-go.
You can find Kennedy’s full testimony in the “new recordings” section of the Virginia House of Delegates videos, under the “Virginia State Crime Commission.” Kennedy’s testimony begins at approximately 3:38 at and it lasts about an hour. If you’re interested in not just defending the right to keep and bear arms, but in finding truly effective ways to tackle violent crime, it’s well worth watching. I can only hope that Governor Ralph Northam was able to stop his investigation into how a photo of a guy in blackface and a guy in a Klan outfit appeared on his college yearbook page long enough to listen to what Kennedy had to say.
If he missed it, he can always catch Del. Gilbert’s presentation of HR 4032 this afternoon (you can watch the proceedings as well at the link above). If the governor is interested in being effective, not divisive, this bill would be a great place to start.