A growing drumbeat around the country is that we must begin to ban certain kinds of firearms and accessories in order to reduce gun violence, even though 50 years ago, over 75% of murders were simply committed with knives, clubs and fists. While making another unconstitutional law will no doubt create the appearance of doing something, the reality is that this is almost certain to do little, if anything, to reduce the problem.
While the Newtown murders are as sensational as sensational gets, the harsh reality is that 6 times as many young children die every year due to gun deaths that are apparently less "sensational." All firearms by nature are deadly, so eliminating certain kinds of firearms doesn't directly address the issue in any meaningful way. Adam Lanza had sufficient time to load and reload as many times as needed with or without 30 round clips because there was no one who could stop him. Thus, Wayne LaPierre's suggestion of armed police officers in every school actually does have merit in the near term, yet has been attacked loudly by gun ban proponents. With this kind of polarized atmosphere, it's hard to imagine anything of import coming to pass.
However, there are many different ways to reduce all forms of violence right now, with meaningful impacts across the board, if state, local and federal government is willing to take a step back and be more introspective. One of the biggest unaddressed issues is that America has a culture that directly or indirectly leads to violence. Look around the globe and you will see almost no direct correlation between gun ownership and violence. Take away guns, and some cultures will simply murder with knives or homemade bombs. Further, take away legal guns and illegal guns become a dominating factor in many cultures as they have in Mexico.
So let's look at 10 methods of reducing violence that can have an impact right away.
1. End the drug war.
One of the biggest contributors to murder in the U.S. is the war on drugs. Approximately 1100 murders per year are directly attributed to the war on drugs and the resulting turf wars. Many more are indirectly attributable to the high cost, high concentration and inherently criminal atmosphere of illegal drugs. Marijuana, for example, sells for more than 1000 times its natural cost to market, making for black market profitability that defies any risk involved. Cocaine has famously become more and more potent, more and more dangerous the more it attacked by government. Methamphetimine and other synthesized drugs' popularity is a byproduct of government crackdowns on much safer, naturally occuring drugs.
No matter how you look at it, the drug war has had absolutely devastating effect in the U.S. and Mexico, with murders being a large component of the cost involved.
2. Longer minimum mandatory sentencing for repeat violent/invasive crimes.
It doesn't take much more than a quick perusal of murder stories to find that many, if not most, are committed by parolees or criminals with lengthy records, generally long enough to theoretically preclude them from being on the streets at all at the time of the murder. But with current mandatory minimums incorrectly targeted at nonviolent drug offenses, many dangerous criminals are released early instead. We clearly have our priorities in reverse. Two firefighters killed just a few days ago were killed by a convicted murderer with a long criminal record who served only 17 years for murder. And this would seem unpredictable if it weren't, in fact, so completely common — approximately half of victims and most murderers have criminal records or a documented history of violence.
3. Increased counseling/intervention.
A staggering number of killings, over 4000 per year, are triggered by a breakup, family dispute or work termination. Yet police routinely say there is little that can be done since they are trained to react to violence, not prevent it.
However, court-ordered counseling and restraining orders for suspected abusers and workers that have shown violent tendencies at work could spare hundreds, if not thousands, of lives per year by helping conflicts to calm and pass. If only it were as easy to get as a roving wire tap. Further, teaching children conflict resolution in schools at an early age could yield great benefits in the near future.
4. Community-based policing and conflict resolution.
While community-based policing is something of a buzzword, the reality is that it simply isn't implemented to any great degree in the U.S., certainly not with the intensity that existed 100 years ago, when people knew the local officers by name. Who are my local police officers? I have no idea. But such a mythical group of community police officers would have known the Lanza family and his neighbors and might have had an inkling that something was about to go very wrong.
Beyond community policing, community-based resolution of problems (restorative justice), with local "elders" and judges could prevent thousands of escalation based murders in the U.S. by having a more accessible, more interactive method of dealing with local conflicts. This is especially beneficial for vulnerable youth that are barely handled at all by the current legal system.
5. More NRA involvement.
A complete failure by politicians is that they immediately demonize the group most interested in gun safety in America, the NRA. Rather than demonizing a group that has done more to promote gun safety than any other entity, the NRA should be called forth to assist in every way possible with recommendations and its Eddie Eagle coursework should be fully funded and implemented at every school nationwide. While pure politics will obviously prevent this, if government were serious, the NRA is in a greater position to assist with programs and ideas that work to prevent crime, rather than simply disarm law abiding citizens or make frivolous laws.
6. Legalize suicide.
Tens of thousands of Americans kill themselves every year, the majority with the use of a firearm. While it seems counterintuitive, making assisted suicide legal may well be the very best way of decreasing these numbers. Over 1 million Americans attempt suicide every year and over 30,000 actually succeed but by far, most of these are simply a cry for help or a passing thought that can be addressed with proper attention.
By legalizing suicide, reducing the stigma and creating a mechanism to achieve it legally, we can get people the attention they need and actually prevent suicide. Few suicidal people actually wish to die, they simply want their lives to improve.
7. End military conflict.
Aside from the rather obvious idea that avoiding war saves lives, avoiding war also helps prevent troop suicide. Historically, military men and women commit suicide at a lower rate than the general population. But with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, this is no longer the case, with Army suicides approaching a rate 50% greater than the population at large.
8. Officers in every school.
LaPierre's suggestion deserves repeating for several reasons. First, it can be done instantly at the local level with little or no cost, despite dire predictions of billions in cost. Primarily, these officers could simply be reassigned from traffic duty, and immediately address the possibility of copycat crimes in a way no gun law can. In Pittsburgh, you will see uniformed officers at nearly every nightclub and violence is rare simply because of the deterrent effect. But there are added benefits.
Being in the schools means having a point man in each school for even low level infractions and having eyes and ears on the ground where the seeds of much crime is planted. This would allow police to identify probably offenders at an earlier age, as well as being available to stop deadly incidents. Having a police officer in contact with Adama Lanza could have alerted police to the possibility of his dangerous behavior, possibly even triggering court action to eliminate guns from his home. A final benefit could be to actually have coursework taught by police including criminology and gun safety courses.
9. Eliminate dropping out.
Every year, millions of kids drop out of school, multiplying their chances of being arrested by 3.5 and their chances of going to jail by 8. It is not, therefore, surprising that many of the nation's killers come from the ranks of high school drop outs. Putting in place more incentives for graduation and even having local districts strictly mandate graduation from a technical school (at least until one is 18) as a minimum could avert as many as 3000 murders per year. Lowering dropout rates have roughly coincided with decreases in crime even over the last two decades.
10. Decrease government.
While some of the above concepts arguably increase government, at least in some areas, they are minor compared to the ~$6T size of total government in America. The federal government alone spends at least 5 or 6 times what is necessary to fulfill its constitutional duties.
Further, government attempts at improving the housing market accidentally put the entire world deep into a recession, inflating suicide deaths and directly leading to the suicide death of a high school friend and college roommate. Lowering tax rates and aggressive regulation would create more economic opportunity and success in the private sector. But beyond this, one of the biggest drivers of gun sales is...government. Gun sales typically skyrocket in response to unconstitutional efforts by government to subvert the Second Amendment, creating the very problem gun bans attempt to reduce. Gun collectors and speculators immediately rush to buy guns and accessories that might be difficult to find with a ban.
Further, gun bans have failed to achieve their objectives and, even with best real estimates would take years to show any kind of significant effect. Few, if any, of the most spectacular crimes of this year would have been affected in any way by such a ban. It also must be said that the federal government hasn't given gun owners any reason over the last 100 years, let alone the last 10, to believe that the Second Amendment is anything less than an absolute necessity.
So if the government believes that removing the Second Amendment would save lives, then it should be willing to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that it simply isn't necessary. Because it's not paranoia if someone is actually reading your e-mails and monitoring your phone calls.