We’re seeing more calls for Michael Bloomberg to run for president as a Democrat, or perhaps even as an Independent. “He was a strong mayor!” “He’s the right kind of billionaire!” “He cares!” The supporters gloss over the mayor’s nannying, praise his anti-gun activism and say he’s just the type of politician America needs. One thing they don’t talk about, oddly enough, is the fact that Bloomberg and Moms Demand Action are pushing policies that would put more young black men behind bars.
As reported in the Aspen Times, Bloomberg claimed that 95 percent of murders fall into a specific category—male, minority, and between the ages of 15 and 25. Cities need to get guns out of this group’s hands and keep them alive, he said.
“These kids think they’re going to get killed anyway because all their friends are getting killed,” Bloomberg said. “They just don’t have any long-term focus or anything. It’s a joke to have a gun. It’s a joke to pull a trigger.”
The Bloomberg method of reducing violent crime seems to be: Treat all young, black males as potential murderers, which means stopping and frisking them at any given opportunity, arresting them for low-level crimes and viewing an entire community with suspicion. Oh, and we need a few new gun laws in this country—laws that will have a disproportionate impact on these young men if they are carrying a firearm, even if they have no criminal intent.
Bloomberg recently paid for a rally outside the U.S. Capitol, where a couple hundred attendees vowed to do #WhateverItTakes in order to … well, it’s not really clear. “End gun violence,” maybe? “Reduce gun violence,” perhaps? Or maybe they were simply saying that they would do #WhateverItTakes to try to pass a law mandating background checks on all firearm transactions. If that’s the case, then they’re not really doing anything to reduce violence at all.
What if doing “whatever it takes” doesn’t actually mean passing another law? When anti-gun activists say we have to “do something,” anti-gun lawmakers know what they can do. They can draft a bill. They can try to make that bill become a law. And after that, they can claim credit for having “done something.” But all they’ve really done is pass a law. It’s up to law enforcement to actually enforce the law, and if you talk to the officers who are dealing with violent offenders, they’ll tell you we’re not really lacking laws to deal with these guys. In fact, we have plenty of laws on the books to deal with the worst criminals in a community. What we’re lacking, it seems, is the legitimacy of the law.If you want to reduce violent crime, and do it dramatically, another gun law isn’t going to help you.
Look at what happened in Bloomberg’s New York City. The then-mayor said the state needed to crack down on illegal gun possession and convinced lawmakers in Albany to pass a mandatory minimum 3½-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm. The mayor was sending a message to criminals, but I don’t think it was the one he was intending.
See, if you’re going to tell people that you’re cracking down on something, you actually have to be able to do it. And there’s no way that every person arrested in New York state or even New York City is going to get 3½ years behind bars for simple possession of an unlicensed firearm. The system couldn’t handle the explosion in prison population, for one thing. As a result plea deals are common, even if you’re not a celebrity or a famous athlete like Raymond Felton.
If you want to reduce violent crime, and do it dramatically, another gun law isn’t going to help you. Bloomberg says 95 percent of homicides involve young black males killing each other, but that doesn’t mean that 95 percent of young black males are going to commit homicide. Data from cities around the country (as documented in David Kennedy’s must-read book, Don’t Shoot) show that the individuals who are responsible for crimes and the victims of these crimes usually comprise far less than five percent of the age group in any given city or high-crime neighborhood. The worst neighborhoods are full of good people, but Michael Bloomberg is pushing for policies that will keep treating them all like hardened killers.
The entire anti-gun push of Bloomberg and his groups is aimed at somehow reducing the supply or “availability” of firearms. But David Kennedy, a key part of the groundbreaking work on reducing homicides in Boston in the early 1990s, says the research on homicide trends showed “access had always been so easy there didn’t need to be increased availability, just demand.” Conversely, if you want to target violent crime, you don’t try to reduce the supply of firearms to criminals, you try to reduce the demand for firearms among violent criminals.
Kennedy recommends offering these core offenders the opportunity to stop their killing alongside the promise (not an empty threat) that if they or their compatriots continue shooting, the consequences will be severe, swift and certain. This message, backed by deeds and coupled with the support of a community willing and able to say “no more” to the perpetrators of violence, is what can bring violence down both quickly and dramatically. As Kennedy makes clear, we can make our communities safer—right now—but only if we’re willing to focus on the killings. Not the guns, or the drugs, or the crime, or the unemployment rate. Focus on the killings, and you can make neighborhoods safe for children to play outside, for couples to walk down the sidewalk, and for families to hang out on the front steps of their home. In fact, we have plenty of laws on the books to deal with the worst criminals in a community.
So are these gun-ban activists really willing to do whatever it takes? What if it means setting aside their anti-gun ideology to focus money and resources on programs that work? In Boston, where Kennedy and others worked so hard to bring down the homicide rate by focusing on violent offenders (before seeing politicians and infighting bring down the Ceasefire program), current Mayor Marty Walsh is now sending out letters to every licensed gun owner in the city urging them not to be involved in violent crime rather than focus on the incredibly small number of Bostonians who are actually responsible for the violence.
Sadly, right now it looks like the anti-gun activists are more interested in “doing something” than they are in really doing whatever it takes to do something that works. As long as the focus remains on the gun instead of the killing—and as long as those Bloombergian Mayors Against Illegal Guns target the universe of law-abiding gun owners or a city’s entire population of young black males, as opposed to focusing law enforcement resources on the most violent criminals—don’t expect this spike in violent crime that we’re seeing in so many cities to drop any time soon.