Can't wait to hear what you think about it!OK, here's my comment:
Let me explain. Here are the opening paragraphs of the piece:
In the roll call room of Baltimore's Northwestern District Police Headquarters, a squat building in a neighborhood of liquor stores and crumbling row houses, photos of the city's most wanted suspects flash on a new, flat-screen TV.This would be one of the areas of the country with the strictest gun controls outside of Chicago, in a state where former Attorney General J. Joseph Curran published his 1999 manifesto A Farewell to Arms: The Solution to Gun Violence in America (PDF). Curran's "solution"?
They are not necessarily drug kingpins or murderers or even dealers. But to Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, they are top priority in this city with one of the highest homicide rates in the country; a city that residents occasionally, grimly, refer to as Bodymore, Murderland.
We are overrun with guns. Despite waiting periods, one-gun-a-month laws, and other faltering attempts to stem the flow, we are hemorrhaging guns into our streets, schools and homes. In a country of about 270 million people, there are over 200 million guns - 65-70 million of which are handguns - and these numbers are climbing. Forty-four million Americans - or 25% of all adults and 38% of American households - possess at least one gun.(My emphasis.)
Thus, there are two critical questions we must ask ourselves. First, what do we pay to indulge the minority among us who accumulate firearms? In other words, what is the cost of gun ownership in America? The answer lies in our daily headlines, in the quiet mourning for lives lost, and in the economic toll of these recurring tragedies. The costs are at once incalculable and astronomical.
As this tragedy has unfolded, how has the gun industry responded? It has refused to make guns safer. It has failed to market and distribute its products in a way calculated to keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals. It has reacted to a saturated market by creating new products with greater killing power and by attempting to expand its market to women and children.
The time is now. We must get serious - no more band-aids, no more excuses. The moral fiber of our society will be measured by our response. The problem is not just guns in the wrong hands or a failure to enforce laws already on the books. Yes, we should use all the tools at our disposal to prevent crime. Yet this is about more than crime. It is a public health crisis - an epidemic of violent yet preventable death. Modest measures that keep guns away from criminals, together with all the punishment a civilized society can impose, will never stop all the dying.
For me, therefore, the answer is easy. I have added up the costs, and they outweigh the benefits. As a grandfather, I am ready to say enough children have died. In short, I believe that we should no longer allow unrestricted handgun ownership. More effective laws and vigilant enforcement can reduce criminal firearm injury. Increased safety and child-proofing features on handguns can prevent unintentional shootings. Personalized guns can prevent teen suicides and injury from stolen guns. Yet even all these measures would still leave untouched thousands of preventable handgun injuries and deaths every year. We would still be left mourning the multitude of deaths and disabling injury which result from the adult suicide attempts and domestic assaults which occur in homes across
America every day.
Thus, our public policy goal should be to restrict the sale and possession of all handguns to those who can demonstrate a legitimate law enforcement purpose or can guarantee that the use of such guns will be limited to participation in a regulated sporting activity. Handgun ownership that advances reasonable law enforcement purposes must be permitted. Individuals with a professional need to have a licensed gun - law enforcement officers, gun collectors, some business owners and certain other professional groups - will continue to keep handguns on business premises or for use on the job. The rest of us, however, must give them up.
THAT is "Targeting Guns," and it's hardly a new idea. It's been the unstated focus of Handgun Control/Brady Center and most all of the rest of the gun
No, what the cops in Baltimore are doing now is what the NRA has been advocating for decades - enforcing the laws on the books, and in spite of the title of the CSM article they're not "targeting guns," they're targeting criminals:
"If you start boiling down the violence in Baltimore – the homicides and the nonfatal shootings – you find that 50 percent of all the people we charge with those offenses have one thing in common: They have gun offenses in their backgrounds," Mr. Bealefeld says. "And we know that when bad guys get out, they get guns again. They don't work for IBM. They don't hand out Bibles. They stand outside with guns waiting to perpetrate another crime."(My emphasis.) Those guys, not "those guns."
And so, Bealefeld says, he has made it clear whom his officers should be targeting.
"I don't aim to make [it] all that complicated," he says. "Find out all we can about gun offenders and focus on those guys."
"For a long time, many police departments in this country really focused on the war against drugs – they believed that drug trade sparked violence…. [Now] we're seeing a shifting of that focus to gun trafficking and getting guns off the street."Not according to this story. They're getting "those guys" off the street. There are plenty of guns and always will be.
Baltimore, under the guidance of Bealefeld, shows one of the clearest breaks with old police strategy.Tracks bad guys - not bad guns.
The commissioner has encouraged his officers to focus their efforts on gun crime, even if that means letting some drug arrests slide. The "bad guy" with the gun, he says, is the focus.
"When my cops pull up to a corner, what I want them to do is look for that guy first," Bealefeld says, pointing to a face on the flat-screen. "The 15-year-old with three bags of weed? He's going to drop the weed and run and lead them on a four-block foot chase. The guy with the gun, with the baggy pants and no belt? With the Glock jammed down there? He's going to saunter off very quietly. He's been arrested before; he knows what cops do.… I want my cop to get out of my car and say, 'Run, Forrest, run. But you sit down. I'm talking to you."
Bealefeld's strategy is multipronged: He has created a gun-trace task force, coordinated more closely with parole officers, and has worked with city and court officials to develop a gun offender registry – one of the first in the country – that tracks his "bad guys" much the way sex offender registries do.
For example, on Dec. 17, police got a tip that a man named Marcus Ellis was involved in a narcotics deal. After checking with parole and probation officers, the police realized that not only was Ellis on probation for recent drug offenses, but he also had a history of handgun violations.YES! And felon-in-possession is a FEDERAL FELONY with a mandatory FIVE YEAR SENTENCE. But the Feds tend not to prosecute most of these cases - they would "clog the courts" as Janet Reno once said.
They quickly got a search warrant, and found that Ellis was carrying a semiautomatic 9mm handgun. These sorts of arrests happen regularly, Bealefeld says.
But why target these specific criminals?
Though national rates of robbery, murder, and rape have fallen since the 1990s, gun violence in inner cities has persisted or increased. Criminologists at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., for instance, released a study in early 2009 showing that the number of young black men and teenagers who either killed or were killed in gun crimes has increased 40 percent since 2000.Gun crime, particularly homicide and attempted homicide, is concentrated in a very small, very identifiable group - young urban black males. It is even more concentrated than that - an easily identifiable subset of that group - young urban black males with firearm and violent offenses on their records. In 2006, according to the CDC, there were 416 homicides by firearm in Maryland out of a total population of 5,602,000. Young black men 34 and younger made up only 7.7% of that population, but they were 63.7% of the victims. Nationwide in 2006 there were 38,595 non-fatal gun injuries due to assault among the 73 million males under the age of 35. Of those, 20,472 were young black males. That group represented only 15% of that population, but were 53% of the victims. Again, the overwhelming majority of those homicides were concentrated in the "inner cities" like "Bodymore Murderland." We don't really have a "gun crime" problem. We have an "inner city" crime problem.
Perhaps we ought to do something to address that, eh?
Eric S. Raymond in his essay The Myth of Man the Killer makes a convincing argument that "Individual human beings, outside of a tiny minority of sociopaths and psychopaths, are simply not natural killers." This is backed up by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's study of men in combat, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to kill in War and Society. It takes time and conditioning to bring someone to the point where they can and will deliberately try to kill another person. People thus conditioned are a very small portion of the public, but that conditioning can come from living a criminal lifestyle. Criminal records illustrate this. Per Don Kates et. al:
Looking only to official criminal records, data over the past thirty years consistently show that the mythology of murderers as ordinary citizens does not hold true. Studies have found that approximately 75% of murderers have adult criminal records, and that murderers average a prior adult criminal career of six years, including four major adult felony arrests. These studies also found that when the murder occurred "[a]bout 11% of murder arrestees [were] actually on pre-trial release"--that is, they were awaiting trial for another offense.Most of the rest of the article talks about other efforts at reducing gun violence - gunshot-detection cameras, California's new restrictions on ammunition sales, gun "buybacks," the "gun show loophole" that isn't, even handgun bans like D.C.'s and Chicago's (boy, those really worked, didn't they?) It even mentions Mayors Against Illegal Guns without, of course, noting the number of members who have had to drop out due to criminal activities of their own, nor the recent release of MAIG's 40 point plan to make it harder for the law-abiding to get firearms (without, of course, affecting the illegal traffic in arms at all). All of those have been tried before, but targeting known offenders seems to be working:
The fact that only 75% of murderers have adult crime records should not be misunderstood as implying that the remaining 25% of murderers are non-criminals. The reason over half of those 25% of murderers don't have adult records is that they are juveniles. Thus, by definition they cannot have an adult criminal record. Juvenile criminal records might well show these murderers to have extensive serious criminal records. "The research literature on characteristics of those who murder yields a profile of offenders that indicates that many have histories of committing personal violence in childhood, against other children, siblings, and small animals." Though juvenile criminal records are not generally available, they occasionally become known in connection with some high-profile cases. In one recent case which generated nationwide publicity, a five-year-old boy was thrown from a fourteenth story window by two other boys because he had refused to steal candy for them. Police revealed that both killers, ages ten and eleven, had prior arrests for theft, aggravated battery, and unlawful use of a weapon. At the time of the murder, one of the perpetrators was supposed to be confined to his home on a weapons conviction.
Since Bealefeld took the commissioner job two years ago, with the explicit goal of targeting gun crimes, homicide numbers in the city have dropped to record lows. The 234 murders in the city in 2008 was the lowest annual total in two decades; by Dec. 29, 2009, the city had 235, indicating a sustained trend rather than – as usually happens in Baltimore – a one-year dip.The story implies this improvement is due to getting "illegal guns" off the street, even going so far as to imply that "10 percent of the guns sold legally in Maryland" were seized from criminals. Why?
Nonfatal shooting numbers have also dropped. In the early 2000s there were close to 1,000 nonfatal shootings in Baltimore annually; by Dec. 29 of 2009 there were 447 – down 23 percent from last year.
Violent crime is down nationwide, despite the fact that gun sales in 2009 were the greatest ever recorded, but it would appear that Baltimore has had better than average improvement. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is because they're concentrating on the criminals instead of the guns.
UPDATE: The original JS-Kit/Echo comment thread for this post is available here, thanks to the efforts of reader John Hardin.