Ron Bischof: A solution to gun violence

By Signal Contributor

Last update: Friday, November 17th, 2017

With a single exception, I’ve been disconcerted by the recent series of hyperbolic, inaccurate, politicized and shockingly rude columns written in emotional responses to horrific mass murders. No doubt others in our community share this reaction as well.

Rather than rebut those less-than-intellectually-rigorous polemics in this column, I’ll address what isn’t being discussed, i.e., solutions to reduce gun violence that have proven efficacy.

In early 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice launched Project Safe Neighborhoods, a comprehensive multipoint project designed to reduce gun violence at the local level via a targeted combination of federal, state and local law enforcement action (www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/226686.pdf).

The program was based on the Boston Ceasefire Project and Richmond’s Project Exile, utilizing a data driven approach to reduce root causation of gun violence.

“At the core of the strategy was the increased federal prosecution of illegal gun use and illegal gun possession by prohibited persons,” reads an excerpt from the executive summary. “Increased federal prosecution was intended to incapacitate chronic violent offenders as well as to communicate a credible deterrent threat to potential gun offenders.

“However, it was also recognized that exclusive reliance on increased federal prosecution was of limited utility given the reality that most gun crime is prosecuted in state and local courts. Further, there was recognition of the large variability across communities in the U.S. in terms of the level and nature of gun crime, and therefore the program would need flexibility to adapt to local context.

“To address these issues, PSN was framed on five key components: 1) partnerships; 2) strategic planning and research integration; 3) training; 4) outreach; and 5) accountability. The intent was that these components would maximize the investment of federal resources through a focus on the contexts driving gun crime in particular jurisdictions. Research would assist in focusing resources and local and state partners would bring understanding of local conditions as well as resources to the interventions. The goal was to significantly reduce gun crime.”

Was Project Safe Neighborhoods successful? According to the study report, these initial results were achieved:

“The next stage in the analysis compared PSN target cities with non-target cities by the level of federal prosecution (as a specific type of dosage). The findings revealed that PSN target cities in high federal prosecution districts experienced a 13.1 percent decline in violent crime. In stark contrast, non-target cities in low federal prosecution districts experienced an increase of 7.8 percent in violent crime.”

Unfortunately, despite promising outcomes and implementation of crime data analytics in a few major metropolitan police agencies, the methodology hasn’t been consistently applied as a national priority.

Recently, as part of a major DOJ initiative to address a spike in urban violence since 2014, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a “reinvigoration” of Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Note that the focus of PSN is the proven effectiveness of prosecuting prohibited persons who illegally possess or utilize firearms in the commission of crimes.

In stark contrast, what hasn’t worked are attempts to regulate types of firearms, magazines and ammunition owned by law-abiding citizens. Despite assertions by gun control advocates, there’s been no proven correlation between the statistics of lawful firearm ownership and gun homicides.

I recommend readers review the referenced Project Safe Neighborhoods report with an open mind and come together as a community to “do something” in support of a proven methodology to reduce gun violence.

Ron Bischof is a Santa Clarita Valley resident.

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Ron Bischof: A solution to gun violence

With a single exception, I’ve been disconcerted by the recent series of hyperbolic, inaccurate, politicized and shockingly rude columns written in emotional responses to horrific mass murders. No doubt others in our community share this reaction as well.

Rather than rebut those less-than-intellectually-rigorous polemics in this column, I’ll address what isn’t being discussed, i.e., solutions to reduce gun violence that have proven efficacy.

In early 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice launched Project Safe Neighborhoods, a comprehensive multipoint project designed to reduce gun violence at the local level via a targeted combination of federal, state and local law enforcement action (www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/226686.pdf).

The program was based on the Boston Ceasefire Project and Richmond’s Project Exile, utilizing a data driven approach to reduce root causation of gun violence.

“At the core of the strategy was the increased federal prosecution of illegal gun use and illegal gun possession by prohibited persons,” reads an excerpt from the executive summary. “Increased federal prosecution was intended to incapacitate chronic violent offenders as well as to communicate a credible deterrent threat to potential gun offenders.

“However, it was also recognized that exclusive reliance on increased federal prosecution was of limited utility given the reality that most gun crime is prosecuted in state and local courts. Further, there was recognition of the large variability across communities in the U.S. in terms of the level and nature of gun crime, and therefore the program would need flexibility to adapt to local context.

“To address these issues, PSN was framed on five key components: 1) partnerships; 2) strategic planning and research integration; 3) training; 4) outreach; and 5) accountability. The intent was that these components would maximize the investment of federal resources through a focus on the contexts driving gun crime in particular jurisdictions. Research would assist in focusing resources and local and state partners would bring understanding of local conditions as well as resources to the interventions. The goal was to significantly reduce gun crime.”

Was Project Safe Neighborhoods successful? According to the study report, these initial results were achieved:

“The next stage in the analysis compared PSN target cities with non-target cities by the level of federal prosecution (as a specific type of dosage). The findings revealed that PSN target cities in high federal prosecution districts experienced a 13.1 percent decline in violent crime. In stark contrast, non-target cities in low federal prosecution districts experienced an increase of 7.8 percent in violent crime.”

Unfortunately, despite promising outcomes and implementation of crime data analytics in a few major metropolitan police agencies, the methodology hasn’t been consistently applied as a national priority.

Recently, as part of a major DOJ initiative to address a spike in urban violence since 2014, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a “reinvigoration” of Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Note that the focus of PSN is the proven effectiveness of prosecuting prohibited persons who illegally possess or utilize firearms in the commission of crimes.

In stark contrast, what hasn’t worked are attempts to regulate types of firearms, magazines and ammunition owned by law-abiding citizens. Despite assertions by gun control advocates, there’s been no proven correlation between the statistics of lawful firearm ownership and gun homicides.

I recommend readers review the referenced Project Safe Neighborhoods report with an open mind and come together as a community to “do something” in support of a proven methodology to reduce gun violence.

Ron Bischof is a Santa Clarita Valley resident.

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Signal Contributor

Signal Contributor

  • Gary Bierend

    So, basically, if we enforce the laws we already have we can make a real impact on gun violence? Who knew?!

    • Ron Bischof

      The Texas church and NorCal shooters were prohibited persons under existing laws, Gary.

      Government failed to protect citizens in both instances, its primary duty.

      The State of Texas did deny the concealed weapons permit for the Texas shooter because he had an animal cruelty conviction.

      These high profile attacks are not were the majority of firearm homicides occur, however. For example, Chicago has these events every week and the murders are perpetrated by criminal gangs over drug turf.

      What’s needed is a focus on effective means to curb gun violence by criminals. Further legislation that only affects law abiding citizens isn’t the answer.

      Project Safe Neighborhoods is effective because it addresses root causation, i.e., criminal activity.

  • Brian Baker

    Terrific column, Ron. Well done.

    A couple of decades ago I went over to the Dark Side for a couple of years and worked as an in-house investigator for a
    criminal defense law firm. Even back then there were laws on the books, at both the state and federal level, that addressed buyer restrictions, as well as penalty enhancements for using a gun in a crime.

    The sad fact is that those laws are only rarely prosecuted. The feds can’t be bothered with prosecuting unless a violent crime is notably egregious; they’re more interested in “terror”, organized crime, drugs, and major white collar crimes. In most cases they kick other prosecutions back to the state. They prosecute gun purchase violations only VERY rarely.

    At the state level, the penalty enhancement for using a gun in a crime is typically dropped as part of the plea deal, which is actually the way most criminal prosecutions are resolved. Even in those few cases where purchase laws have been violated and then prosecuted, I can’t even remember one that actually went all the way to trial, with a plea bargain (again) being the method of resolution, and any actual penalty being basically a slap on the wrist.

    Frankly, until the laws already on the books are prosecuted more vigorously, they’re pretty much a waste of time and just won’t be effective at all. Which, of course, leaves the door wide open for bleating leftists to wail and moan for ever more restrictive – and ultimately ineffective – regulation.

    Their end goal, of course, is to ultimately ban private gun ownership.

    • Ron Bischof

      Thanks, Brian.

      No doubt you’ve ascertained your column on this topic was the exception I noted.

      Statistics on recidivism reveal it’s a subset of criminals that commit the majority of armed homicides, assault, etc. Focusing on this hard core group and using firearm sentencing enhancements are a way to keep them locked up to increase public safety.

      Plea bargaining these enhancements away predictably has the opposite effect.

      If the net effect of gun legislation is infringement of the Constitutionally recognized rights of law-abiding citizens, then banning is the desired end state.