Why Bloomberg Is Right and LaPierre Is Wrong (Part II)

Posted March 29, 2013 at 6:22pm

The National Rifle Association is paranoid about universal background checks leading to national registries leading to confiscation of guns. The NRA threatens politicians who favor limits on the size of magazines. And CEO Wayne LaPierre was downright hysterical on “Meet the Press” last week, attacking New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s $12 million gun control campaign — as if the NRA doesn’t use its clout to block gun control.

On the other hand, LaPierre has these points in his favor: enforcement of existing gun laws is not consistent, as Syracuse University TRAC reports show. And every jurisdiction ought to adopt the NRA’s Project Exile, whereby a criminal using a gun gets automatic extra jail time.

But as David Brooks opined in The New York Times this week, the response to gun violence has been excessively focused on banning guns, not on policing. As he said, “the sad fact is that gun acquisition is probably the link on the killing chain least amenable to influence.”

“Past efforts to control guns have not dramatically reduced violence,” he added. “The Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Brady Act of 1993 and the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 all failed to reduce homicides significantly.” He cited studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arizona State University and the University of Cincinnati.

Better is what’s going on in Bloomberg’s own New York City.

As Heather Mac Donald wrote in The Wall Street Journal last year, New York’s pro-active policing policies probably have saved the lives of 10,000 black and Hispanic men since 1993 — a number based on the fact that blacks and Hispanics made up 79 percent of the decline in homicide victims since 1993.

“Blacks were 62% of the city’s murder victims in 2011,” she wrote, “even though they are only 23% of the population. They also made up a disproportionate share of criminals, committing 80% of all shootings, nearly 70% of all robberies and 66% of all violent crime, according to crime reports filed with the NYPD by victims and witnesses, usually minorities themselves.

“Whites, by contrast, committed a little over 1% of all shootings, less than 5% of all robberies, and 5% of all violent crime in 2011, even though they are 35% of New York City’s population. Given where crime is happening, the police cannot target their resources where they’re needed without producing racially disparate stops and arrests.”

In New York, police commanders are held responsible for changes in the murder rate in their areas and homicide has dropped 80 percent there, as Brooks observed.

What works in New York would work in, say, Chicago, now the nation’s murder capital. But the NYPD’s tactic — 684,000 cases last year of stopping people, questioning them and sometimes patting them down — is being challenged in court as racially discriminatory. Stop and frisk might be more diplomatically conducted, but because blacks and Hispanics are the most frequent victims of crime, it’s also in their communities’ advantage.

The bottom line is: Universal background checks are good. So, probably, is limiting magazines. These aren’t violations of the Second Amendment; not even the NRA objects to outlawing machine guns and bombs.

But if we really want to stop gun violence, the one proven answer is more and better policing. Bloomberg and LaPierre may detest each other, but they’re both right on that score.