An opinion piece in US News by anti-gun activists Andrew Papachristos and Daniel Webster sounds reasonable on the surface, but when you dig deeper turns out to be a tissue of fabrication and falsehood. It looks very much like an attempt to divert billions of dollars of the "infrastructure spending" promised by President Biden to the cause of gun control. I won't reproduce the entire article here - you can read it for yourself - but it's worth addressing some of its points.
First off, most of the statistics and studies cited in the article come from anti-gun sources. (Follow the links in the article for yourself, and check out where they come from.) Their scholarship is dubious, their bias is clear, and I don't think anyone in his right mind would regard them as fair and balanced in their approach. Many of them are probably quantifiable only as unverifiable estimates, as in this claim:
Researchers estimate the economic toll of gun violence in the U.S. to be $280 billion, a price tag that includes the costs of short- and long-term physical and mental health care, forgone earnings, reduced quality of life for victims and criminal justice expenditures.
Who assigned a monetary value to "forgone earnings" or "reduced quality of life", and how? Those are basically unquantifiable - they're "what if" guesstimates. When such supporting evidence is the only thing cited in support of the authors' positions, it's fairly clear where those positions will lead.
The authors go on:
What America urgently needs is community violence prevention infrastructure, a system of physical, social, political and financial connections among community violence preventionists that can support, develop and sustain on-the-ground efforts to reduce gun violence. As with all public goods, such a system will require public investment and long-term commitments from government at all levels, as well as from community institutions.
. . .
New York City has seen success with programs that involve outreach and violence interruption and mediation, and efforts in Los Angeles have linked outreach with connections to job opportunities and other services. Oakland, California, greatly reduced its homicide rate by more narrowly focusing arrests, implementing targeted outreach efforts, and making substantial investments in social services and other prevention measures.
. . .
A community gun violence infrastructure would connect resources from all levels of government to the communities most impacted by gun violence by building thoroughfares between organizations, communities, government and resources. New York City's Office to Prevent Gun Violence and Oakland Unite represent models for how this might unfold at a local level.
That all sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Well . . . it sounds wonderful until one looks at what's actually happening in the cities the article cites as success stories. I give you two recent headlines:
- "After deadliest day of 2021, Oakland reels from gun violence"
- "New York City crime stats: Shootings surge to levels not seen in years, NYPD says"
There are many more I could have cited, but those will do for now. Those models of "community violence prevention infrastructure" suddenly don't sound so wonderful, do they? How the article can cite them as success stories, when their impact on the ground is effectively zero or even negative, I can't quite figure out.
Now we come to the meat of the matter.
The blueprint of any gun violence infrastructure must recognize that the expert architects of such systems often reside in these very same communities. And gun violence prevention leaders across the country, including many of those who attended a recent White House briefing, have experiences and ideas that can fundamentally shape a prevention infrastructure in more fair, just and impactful ways.
Of course, investing in infrastructure is costly. It requires the labor and materials to build and sustain it. Investing in community violence infrastructure means building and training a new community-centered workforce – essentially, a new form of public health worker or public safety professional.
Oh, really? Well, here are a few questions.
- If the "expert architects" of "gun violence infrastructure" already "reside in these very same communities", then why the hell haven't they already been more successful in reducing gun violence there? Seems to me their efforts have so far resulted in abject failure. How would throwing more money at the situation change that?
- What, precisely, are their "experiences and ideas" that can "fundamentally shape a prevention infrastructure in more fair, just and impactful ways"? Most of those I've read about while browsing the links in the article appear to be completely unqualified to do anything except serve as "community organizers". Our experience of such individuals in this country, particularly at senior levels, has not been such as to inspire great confidence in their abilities. I'm against giving them a single cent unless and until we know for sure it's being well spent.
- So the authors want "a new community-centered workforce – essentially, a new form of public health worker or public safety professional". Sounds to me like yet another variation of "Defund the police and replace them with social workers". Having served as a prison chaplain in a high-security penitentiary, allow me to assure you from personal experience that such criminals aren't your average innocent little baa lamb. Their only respect for law and order comes from the fact that they know the police (or the prison guards) will shoot them if they go too far - and even that knowledge doesn't stop many of them. What makes the authors think that touchy-feely "public health workers" will get through to them where even a bullet won't?
This sounds to me like yet another attempt to rake off billions of dollars of US taxpayer money, and pour it down the bottomless pit of yet more "community organizations" and "social upliftment" schemes.
If the authors expect me, or anyone else, to agree to fund such efforts, they'd better show us first when, where and how such community efforts have succeeded. They don't have to limit themselves to gun violence; they can take any and every community organization effort in our cities. I want to know how much has been spent on each project or program, and I want a dollar value on what it's achieved, so I can compare input costs to output results. If the balance isn't positive, why throw good money after bad? In almost every case with which I'm familiar, such a cost-benefit analysis has been uniformly negative.
Based on the decades-long, appalling state of society in many inner-city suburbs wracked by violence and crime, I have no faith in those cities' previous community organizing efforts, and I have no faith that a national program will do any better than a local one. This entire proposal seems to be nothing more than a call to allow the anti-gun movement to feed at the national taxpayer trough, without accountability and without scruple.
My answer is simply, "No."