Combating Gun Violence Without Gun Control

From left: Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; actress Melissa Joan Hart; Lucy McBath, whose son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in November 2012; and Barbara Parker, whose daughter, Alison Parker, was fatally shot in August 2015, march across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City to demand an end to gun violence, on May 7. MICHELE GORMAN FOR NEWSWEEK

Despite the constant prattling by gun control advocates, the key part of the phrase “gun violence” isn’t the word “gun” but the word “violence.” Without the violence, there would be no issue to exploit. Yet time and again, the anti-gun left maintains a laser-like focus on the guns rather than address anything else.


Now, the National Review offered up a handful of thoughts has on combatting gun violence without interfering with anyone’s constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

Essentially, data can tell us with a reasonable degree of precision not only where crime is likelier to happen but who is likelier to be involved. There are violence-reduction strategies that follow from these findings and have been tested empirically. American police departments are not ignoring those strategies completely, but there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to funding and executing them.

One simple strategy is to police the hot spots. This has been tried and evaluated extensively, with some studies employing the scientific gold standard of randomly assigning different participating areas to be policed in different ways. (Other studies are “observational,” meaning that researchers look at crime trends in areas where certain methods are used but do not assign the methods at random. This leaves open the possibility that cities that introduce these methods also tend to make other changes that affect crime trends.) In a recent literature review, Harvard’s Thomas Abt and Christopher Winship suggested that hot-spot policing has reduced violence by up to a third in places where it’s been tried. Importantly, hot-spot policing does not appear merely to displace crime, as nearby areas do not experience crime increases.

The character of policing matters too. “Broken windows” methods — based on the concept of creating order by policing minor infractions — are effective, but they work best when the community cooperates with the police to set standards of acceptable behavior. It’s less effective for police to become an occupying force, imposing order by cracking down on every tiny violation of the law with “zero tolerance.”

Technology can help keep an eye on hot spots as well. Many cities have worked with a company called ShotSpotter to install sensors on rooftops and other elevated structures; these devices detect gunshots and notify the police of their locations. This makes the police aware of incidents that might not have been reported otherwise and allows them to analyze data on shootings.


These are just a handful, and they make some excellent points on things that really need to be considered. Absolutely none of these suggestions is anyone losing their God-given rights because someone else isn’t comfortable, which should be a big win for everyone. It’s not, though. Not by a long shot.

Supposedly anti-gun violence groups like Everytown For Gun Safety should have been clamoring for things like this for years, but instead, they’ve focused more attention on bringing back the assault weapon ban. The Brady Campaign should have been all over this, but they’ve been pushing for universal background checks instead.

The fact is that even if you could remove all of the guns from these violent hot spots won’t end violence. It’ll simply shift it. The killers will use knives, bats, cars, or whatever else they could get their hands on. That’s assuming none were technically savvy enough or lacked the tooling to make their own firearms, which is far from a sure thing.

If you work and undermine the root of the violence, if you take away the motivation for violent acts, you have a much more productive effort that will actually reduce violence, not just transform it to some other kind of violence.

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