"These deaths are concentrated in poor, segregated neighborhoods"
December 21, 2015 8:10 PM   Subscribe

McBride wanted President Obama to make Ceasefire and similar programs part of his post-Newtown push to reduce gun violence. He had brought a short memo to give to White House staffers, outlining a plan to devote $500 million over five years to scaling such programs nationwide. His pitch to Biden that day was even simpler: Don’t ignore that black children are dying too.
- Beyond Gun Control, Lois Beckett, The New Republic and Pro Publica
In response, the vice president agreed urban violence was very important, McBride said. But it was clear that “there was not a lot of appetite for that conversation by folks in the meeting,” McBride recalled. Later, other ministers who worked with McBride would get an even blunter assessment from a White House staffer: There was no political will in the country to address inner-city violence.
Cure Violence, formerly Ceasefire, is a " teaching, training, research and assessment NGO focused on a health approach to violence prevention" founded in 2000 by Gary Slutkin, an epidemeologist.

Slutkin: Let's treat violence like a contagious disease
Chicago, Baltimore, Ferguson, New York . . . Cities Torn Apart . . . How Can We Change?

Visualizing the Shooting Epidemic in Baltimore from the Baltimore City Health Department

2008, New York Times:Blocking the Transmission of Violence
The traditional response has been more focused policing and longer prison sentences, but law enforcement does little to disrupt a street code that allows, if not encourages, the settling of squabbles with deadly force. Zale Hoddenbach, who works for an organization called CeaseFire, is part of an unusual effort to apply the principles of public health to the brutality of the streets. CeaseFire tries to deal with these quarrels on the front end. Hoddenbach’s job is to suss out smoldering disputes and to intervene before matters get out of hand. His job title is violence interrupter, a term that while not artful seems bluntly self-explanatory. Newspaper accounts usually refer to the organization as a gang-intervention program, and Hoddenbach and most of his colleagues are indeed former gang leaders. But CeaseFire doesn’t necessarily aim to get people out of gangs — nor interrupt the drug trade. It’s almost blindly focused on one thing: preventing shootings.
2013: Chicago Drops CeaseFire from Anti-Violence Strategy
2014: From Zero Tolerance to Cure Violence: Is New York City Shifting on Gun Crime?
2015: Baltimore: How do you cool down urban violence when summer heats up?
Can a person’s brain be prevented from codifying violent behavior?
The brain is the manager of behaviors, but this is not seen or treated as a “mental health” issue. Rather, it is an issue of normal brain processes. While at first we need to have “interrupters” to help high-risk people off the hook socially, or go against the norms of their community, longer term it requires the expectations of a person’s [peer] group to change, and subconsciously driven behaviors will follow. So when someone says they’re going to retaliate violently, their group says, “You’re gonna do what?” You need to make a nonviolent response the group’s norm.
Brookings: Focused Deterrence, Selective Targeting, Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime: Concepts and Practicalities
NIJ: Gun Violence Prevention Strategy: Focused Deterrence
CCL: The Effects of "Pulling Levers" Focused Deterrence Strategies on Crime
To synthesize the extant evaluation literature and assess the effects of pulling levers focused deterrence strategies on crime.
Based on our narrative review, we find that nine of the ten eligible evaluations reported statistically significant reductions in crime. It is important to note here that all ten evaluations used nonrandomized quasi-experimental designs. No randomized controlled trials were identified by our search strategies. Our meta-analysis suggests that pulling levers focused deterrence strategies are associated with an overall statistically-significant, medium-sized crime reduction effect.
CEBCP: Focused Deterrence Strategies

recommended reading: Inner-City Violence in the Age of Mass Incarceration
The Real Problem With America’s Inner Cities
President Obama: He must address causes of inner city gun violence in Chicago speech
Who’s to Blame for Mass Incarceration?
People Resort To Violence Because Their Moral Codes Demand It
posted by the man of twists and turns (15 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. This is an extraordinary collection of articles. I am pretty passionate about gun control and very much appreciate all the work that went into creating this post. Thank you. As I looked thru the list I was happy to see the article by Tage Rai, People Resort to Violence Because Their Moral Codes Demand It. I remember reading it this summer when it was first published and it struck me as vitally important. More people need to broaden their thinking about the real causes of violence before we can effectively deal with the myriad issues associated with it.
posted by pjsky at 8:52 PM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is the same group featured in the documentary The Interrupters, right? I've been meaning to watch that for quite some time.

Thanks for this. Amazing stuff.
posted by kristi at 10:04 PM on December 21, 2015

Moral justifications for violence make so little sense as ruses that we have to assume they’re at least somewhat sincere

posted by rustcrumb at 3:52 AM on December 22, 2015

Impressive research work here. I saw the first ProPublica article a few days ago and commented that it highlights the prejudices of liberal thought. Assault weapons and mass shootings get acres of print while the real victims of gun violence are nothing but a right-wing talking point "B-b-but Chicago..!!"
posted by Octaviuz at 4:46 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

There are quite a few hours of reading here. The two or three articles that I've already read were very good, so I presume the other links will be as well. The first article, by Beckett, certainly is.

This is an incredibly important conversation, and where the serious work would have to be done if we were at all serious about reducing gun violence, but never gets the attention that mass killings and terrorism do despite a far higher toll. (Or, as the first link clearly states: "In 2012, 90 people were killed in shootings like the ones in Newtown and Aurora, Colorado. That same year, nearly 6,000 black men were murdered with guns. ")
posted by Dip Flash at 5:27 AM on December 22, 2015

The story the statistics tell is that we don't really have a gun problem, but have drug gang problem and a mental health problem, which manifest themselves in distinctly different patterns of murders and suicides depending on geography and socioeconomic groups.

It seems like great ground for compromise.

Conservatives agree to significantly more funding for mental health, agree to drug legalization or de-criminalize to handicap the gangs' economic basis, and to upping gun-purchase background checks narrowly tailored to identifying gang members and affiliates and the mentally ill.

Liberals agree to more aggressive police action against whatever gang activity is left after the drug business goes away, and that law-abiding non-crazy people have an absolute right to buy, keep and bear firearms.
posted by MattD at 6:00 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

If we're going to do the whole connecting violence with mental illness and "crazies" thing again, can we use more specificity in talking about it? Because it's not just stigmatizing but often baseless; see the "normal brain processes" Spies article above. Seriously, folks, RTFA(s); the epidemiology approach is fascinating and may get us all away from this endless tack.

Less crankily, great post!
posted by thetortoise at 6:18 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

I saw the first ProPublica article a few days ago and commented that it highlights the prejudices of liberal thought. Assault weapons and mass shootings get acres of print while the real victims of gun violence are nothing but a right-wing talking point "B-b-but Chicago..!!"

I'm not sure how you got "prejudices of liberal thought" from an article focused largely on a relative moderate (even on gun control) like Obama, where a former WH official literally says "we did the bare minimum." Nor does it cover the fact that most anti-gun violence organizations are, in fact, working on legislation such as cracking down on interstate gun trafficking (by far the biggest contributor to guns ending up on the streets), regulating straw purchases, and strengthening the background check system.

The problem here is that, despite a majority of both liberals and gun owners and the US population at large supporting the kind of initiatives the article discusses and the gun control I just mentioned, gun policy is run by the Republicans and more than a few Democrats, who are in turn influenced by the NRA. This is an organization that is blatantly racist, hires racists to serve as their leadership, and refuses to do anything about gun violence ever. They have said out loud (to loud applause) that "our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules”, which is only correct insofar that most of them believed that guns were necessary to suppress slaves, but in the larger picture contradicts of what many of them believed. To posit the problem as stemming from "liberal thought" is a real stretch.

upping gun-purchase background checks narrowly tailored to identifying gang members and affiliates and the mentally ill

I think it's creepy and hypocritical that so many gun-rights advocates will scream bloody murder about a registry of guns or licensing programs, despite the fact gun ownership requires personal action (and isn't a universal civil right, let alone a human right), but when perk right up when creating a de facto registry of the mentally ill is on the table.

law-abiding non-crazy people have an absolute right to buy, keep and bear firearms

Nevermind the awful prospect of putting the mentally ill on some sort of watch list, but this is just wishful thinking. A good guy with a gun is only a good guy until they become bad, for whatever reason.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:31 AM on December 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

I find something frustrating about it being mentioned the ceasefire program mainly was preventing revenge killings to avenge murders- which were not going to be solved by the police.

When no one is carrying out justice, that means the people killing kids and nonviolent people can go on doing what they're doing.

I like the program, and I absolutely like the idea of addressing violence as something that spreads in this way; but better policing is absolutely needed if this is going to work, and a lot of communities, say people of color know they can't even call the police to help with a murder so they've been addressing it themselves.

Just the same as police who are given guns and power make horrible errors, so do members of communities serving justice on the terms in their own communities.

But all violence is not the same. Self defense is very different than killing innocents to get some money or to prove you're tough. The people who are taking down known killers in their neighborhoods, some of them may be heros by some definitions unless you actually believe in absolute pacifism under any and every circumstance.

Do we think violence is wrong against someone attacking children in a school building? Even I think that's understandable if needed. I want all the violence to end, but if we are going to assume that people in communities that have been attacked and assaulted and wrongfully imprisoned by police and who are serving justice in their own ways are always wrong if they ever use violence, we should probably take the guns from the police too, because violence is always wrong.
posted by xarnop at 7:16 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure how you got "prejudices of liberal thought" from an article focused largely on a relative moderate (even on gun control) like Obama, where a former WH official literally says "we did the bare minimum."

My comment was on what draws the most interest. If I have overlooked an outpouring of concern for inner-city youth that compares to that which arises whenever a mass shooting occurs, I apologize for my inattention. The passage I quoted literally cites the administration of a Democratic President of the United States basically asserting indifference.
What we have, as I see it, is a plane crash situation. Aviation safety is important but if you have finite resources, reducing traffic deaths is a lot more pressing. The traffic safety equivalents in this domain are things you've already mentioned; stopping straw purchases and interstate smuggling, instituting effective background checks, and ultimately (in my opinion), requiring a showing of cause for the acquisition of a handgun license.
posted by Octaviuz at 8:07 AM on December 22, 2015

I'd also recommend reading Ghettoside. That book makes a strong case that another major contributor to the appalling murder rate in U.S. communities of color is the failure to put resources into solving those cases and holding the killers accountable. (This seems to be a well documented phenomenon across cultures and through history -- failure to bring murderers to justice leads directly to unchecked personal violence in the communities that are not protected by the legal system.)
posted by bearwife at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

The CeaseFire/CureViolence story is local media cat nip in Chicago - they can't resist a piece about using public resources under the direction an scientist! to empower ex-gang members/felons to talk their peers out of violence. However, evidence the program is as effective as other anti-violence programs is weak, there's been evidence of financial mis-management, and it's leader Tio Hardiman was arrested for domestic abuse, which certainly hobbled the organization. I think the Chicago Police department didn't like the program because it was taking all the credit for crime reduction and it competed with other non-violence programs who have more clout. Welcome to Chicago politics.

Finally there's the issue of race. Having worked in some of these neighborhoods the question is asked why state funding has to be channeled through a program directed by a white professor at a university? What does he know better than someone actually from the neighborhood?* Especially considering that a state audit found direct funds to local groups where more effective.

*Of course someone could totally have great knowledge using science but we're talking about the court of public opinion. And these are folks watching limited public resources go to a group getting a great deal of attention. I've even had discussions about "rewarding" felons with this sort of work, because jobs are particularly scare in these communities and coveted. There's a deep well of conservatism/calvinsim/prosperity gospel that's often ignored, despite those folks often being a sizable portion of the working/religious class of these communities.
posted by zenon at 10:22 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kennedy's "Don't Shoot..." should be required reading for for all who are concerned about gun violence. Also, those advocating increased background checks should know that the system (NICS) is partially broken. NICS is the FBI database query system that performs the background checks and consistently prevents felons, wife beaters et.al. but allows "crazies" to be approved for gun purchases. "Crazies" being people who have been determined to be a danger to themselves and others by the mental health professionals. I don't know where the file maintenance or the mental health community is falling down but it must be fixed before background checks will have any effect on the problem of the rare mass shootings by crazies.
posted by shnarg at 11:56 AM on December 22, 2015

Despite the title, there's some good stuff in here about gun violence in general: America Is Fine With Mass Shootings—as Long as They’re Not Perpetrated by Muslims
Ultimately, talking about mental illness obscures the real problem: We’re awash in firearms and refuse to take the steps needed to keep them out of the wrong hands.

Perhaps the most frightening thing we know about gun violence comes from a study conducted by researchers at Duke, Harvard, and Columbia that was published earlier this year in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law. It found that almost one in 10 Americans who have access to guns are also prone to impulsive outbursts of rage. Among this group are almost 4 million people who carry their guns around in public and say they “have tantrums or angry outbursts,” “get so angry [that they] break or smash things” and lose their temper and “get into physical fights.” The researchers also found that those who own many firearms are significantly more likely to exhibit signs of uncontrollable anger than people who own just one. The authors of the study noted that very few among that group had been diagnosed with the kinds of mental illness that would be unearthed in a standard background check. They say that we need to start restricting gun ownership based on whether people have a history of violence, not on diagnosed mental illness.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:16 AM on December 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

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