City using research to undermine violence before it happens

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I’ve long been an advocate for looking at non-gun control methods for undermining violence in our communities.

While some think gun control will somehow make the problems go away, the truth is that the issue has always been about people. If you focus your attention there, you might have a far more meaningful impact, not just on gun violence but all violent crime.


It seems that the city of Knoxville has come to a realization along those lines. Gun control isn’t likely in Tennessee, despite the special session. If the city wants to reduce violent crime, they have to do something else.

So, they’re doing something else.

The men work for Turn Up Knox, a year-old program that mentors kids and defuses situations that could escalate into violence. It’s a centerpiece of the Tennessee city’s attempt to follow a science-based playbook in fighting a surge in shootings.

Research reviews have begun to conclude there’s enough evidence to say which public health interventions prevent shootings, which don’t, and which need more study. Knoxville is one of a growing number of cities teaming with researchers to develop an evidence-based plan to stop the bleeding.

Knoxville’s program includes policing changes and other efforts. However, it does not count on new gun restrictions. That was important, since Tennessee has repeatedly moved to loosen gun laws.

“I wanted to have answers,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said.

Knoxville became the first city to sign up with Abt’s program at the Center for the Study and Practice of Violence Reduction at the University of Maryland, which teamed with an outside researcher to analyze the city’s violent crime.

There were a few surprises, said Knoxville Deputy Police Chief Tony Willis.

The average age of shooting suspects was 28 and for victims, 29, — an unexpectedly large proportion “much older than I expected,” he said.

Only 12% of homicides were solely gang-related, much lower than anticipated, Willis said, That suggests gun violence was often a personal dispute that could be mediated or averted before shots are fired.


Now, let’s understand that these aren’t our people. They found a non-gun control approach to violence not because they think gun control doesn’t work, but because they just knew we wouldn’t budge on the issue.

Yet, if it works, it works.

And I sincerely hope that it does, because violent crime really is a problem and I can be dealt with by means other than restricting people’s rights. We’ve seen the violent crime rate drop before without gun control actually accomplishing anything along those lines. The record homicide rates of the 1990s started dropping before the assault weapon ban was passed and continued well after it sunset, as one example.

That was likely because of a lot of anti-gang initiatives as gangs were behind much of that era’s murders.

If it’s not the case now, then so be it.

But the truth is that violence can and should be attacked with something that doesn’t disarm potential victims. Good people get killed when they can’t have firearms of their own, and gun control will always have an impact on good people being armed.


I hope Knoxville has success with the effort. I truly do.

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