25% of New California Gun Buyers Had No Background Check: Survey

The first comprehensive survey of California gun owners in over 40 years also found that roughly 25 percent of California adults live in households that possess at least one firearm. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom has promised to “raise the bar” on gun control.

About 25 percent of California adults who purchased firearms recently did not have a background check, according to a survey released Sunday.

The 2018 California Safety and Wellbeing Survey also found that some 25 percent of Californian adults live in households with firearms—and 40 percent of those households included children aged 12 and younger.

The survey, conducted last month by the University of California-Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP), was released on the heels of the California gubernatorial election won by Gavin Newsom, who has promised  tougher gun regulations, and the mass shooting  that  left 12 dead at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Ca.

The survey represents the first major exploration of firearm ownership in the state in over 40 years, said Nicole Kravitz-Wirst, a researcher who led the survey.

“Much remains unknown about the details surrounding firearm violence,” Kravitz-Wirtz said in a press statement accompanying the report. “Accurate and up-to-date information that could be used to develop effective policies and programs to decrease deaths and injuries from firearms is critically needed.”

According to the survey, 14 percent of California adults—roughly 4.2 million people, personally own firearms; and five percent of the firearms are assault rifles. Handguns are the most popular purchase and “were most often obtained for the purpose of protection,” the statement said.

The state already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.

“We alsdo found, unexpectedly, that roughly 25 percent of those who purchased their most recent firearm in California reported that they did not undergo a background check,” said Kravitz-Wirtz.

After a mass killing in 2014, California passed a law that let police officers and family members seek restraining orders to seize guns from troubled people. A year later, a shooting rampage in San Bernardino led to voters outlawing expanded magazines for guns and requiring background checks for buying ammunition.

The state has also banned assault weapons, all part of a wave of gun regulation that began 25 years ago with a mass murder at a San Francisco law firm.

Gun control activists and politicians are already weighing what more can be done, and whether existing measures could have prevented the killing, the New York Times reports.

Newsom has signaled he will introduce even tougher regulations.

“The response is not just prayers,” he said last week. “The response cannot just be excuses. The response sure as hell cannot be more guns.”

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee shortly after the vote, he promised to “raise the bar” on gun control, suggesting he would have signed bills that Brown vetoed in recent years, such as .expanding California’s gun violence restraining order law, which allows police and family members to seek the temporary removal of firearms from someone they believe is a danger to themselves or others.

California has had the most deaths from mass shootings since 1982: 128.

Florida, with roughly half the population of California, has the second most, 118. Most gun deaths are not from mass shootings, and the focus of the gun control movement is on reducing overall gun deaths, in homicides, suicides and accidents. By that measure, California has been successful: It has cut its gun-death rate in half over 25 years, and is among the states with the lowest rates, with 7.9 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2016.

The survey was presented Sunday at the American Public Health Association in San Diego.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Firearm Homicide Rates Rising: CDC Study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a study of the most recently available data from 2015-2016, found that 43 percent of the largest 50 metropolitan areas reported increases in the rate of gun-related deaths compared to 2012-2013. Firearm suicide rates are also going up.

After steady declines, firearm homicide rates are on the rise, according to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Firearm suicide rates have also continued to increase, accounting for 50 percent of all suicides and 42 percent of youth suicide, and suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death among all those over 10 years of age, said the study which examined statistics for shootings between 2015-2016—the latest period for which data is available.

The study outlined rising rates, possible means of prevention and steps forward in gun control.

“Another factor likely affecting both firearm homicide and suicide is access to firearms by persons at risk for harming themselves or others,” the CDC said.

Youth homicide rates, though lower than those among persons of all ages, have also been increasing. In large metropolitan areas, firearm homicide rates have remained higher than national rates.

The authors of the study—Scott Kegler, Linda Dahlberg and James Mercy—noted three instances in which reducing access to guns may be helpful: reducing access to guns during an “acute suicidal risk,” particularly among young people; preventing persons accused or convicted of domestic violence restraining orders from possessing a firearm; and strengthening the background check system.

They called for more research.

According to 2015-2016 figures on large metropolitan area firearm homicide and suicide rates, 43 percent of the largest 50 metropolitan areas reported increases in the rate of gun-related deaths, compared to the rates in 2012-2013.

More than 27,000 people were killed in gun homicides in 2015-2016. In 2013-2013, that number was 23,000.

The data was collected using the National Vital Statistics System and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Homicide rates have begun to rise only recently. On the other hand, rates of suicide have been steadily increasing in the past 15 years across all ages, states, population groups and rural and urban settings. Rates of firearm suicide are still increasing. Rates increased 21 percent between 2006 and 2016.

“It is too soon to know whether recent increases in firearm homicide rates represent a short-term fluctuation or the beginning of a longer-term trend,” the report said.

The report noted preventing firearm homicides was difficult, but suggested policies to modify physical and social environments in urban areas may help, such as low income housing tax credits and greening activities.

The full study can be downloaded here.

Lauren Sonnenberg is a TCR news intern.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Old-Fashioned’ Policing Still Needed to Stop Gun Violence, say Two Scholars

The “public health” approach to preventing gun violence won’t reduce the high levels of shootings seen in many neighborhoods around the U.S. unless traditional policing is strengthened, according to two leading criminologists.

Gun violence won’t be reduced by treating it as a public health problem alone, say two prominent criminologists.

Finding ways to improve “old-fashioned” policing that emphasizes getting shooters off the street to face punishment and imprisonment is critical—but it’s in danger of being overlooked in the attention to newer strategies like community policing and early conflict mediation, Phillip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig wrote in a paper for the Social Science Research Council.

Many scholars have seized on the notion that the escalating levels of gun violence in many neighborhoods around the U.S. should be seen as an “epidemic” that can be addressed by public health disease prevention strategies.

But “when it comes to prevention of criminal misuse of guns, public health scholars tend to ignore or minimize…the most targeted prevention capacity: the criminal justice system’s ability to arrest, punish, and incapacitate shooters,” they wrote in the paper.

The authors cited the Aug. 4 weekend in Chicago, when 74 persons were shot but just one shooter was arrested, as an example of the “de facto impunity” provided gunmen when police fail to provide sufficient deterrence.

“One arrest out of 74 is even worse than normal—on average about five percent of shooters are arrested in non-fatal cases and 17 percent if the victim dies,” they wrote, adding that “even when there is an arrest, a conviction is far from guaranteed.”

The authors suggested that the lack of sufficient investigative resources, including more detectives, and the inability of police to provide protection to eyewitnesses who might identify the shooters, explains the startlingly high levels of gun violence in Chicago.

Friends and families of victims are more likely to seek violent retaliation if there’s no confidence that police will act forcefully to hunt down the shooters and take them off the streets, they wrote.

They wondered whether the contemporary emphasis on “preventive policing” and stricter gun regulation had diverted key resources from the traditional police role of deterrence and “incapacitation” of violent offenders.

“Police chiefs have learned to espouse proactive measures such as intensive patrol of crime hot spots, problem-oriented policing, (and) community policing has also acquired considerable cachet,” the papers said. “In this new prevention-oriented ethos, crime investigation seems old-fashioned.

“But in our view, reactive policing is a vital component of preventing gun violence and is ignored at our peril.”

They singled out as potentially effective some newly developed police and community strategies, such as “focused deterrence,” where police concentrate on identifying known shooters and violent individuals in a neighborhood and warn them they will suffer consequences if they are caught misusing guns.

But they pointed that such strategies can only work in the long run if police and courts “make good on the threat.”

The authors called on other scholars to devote more research into the consequences of shifting more police resources from investigation to prevention, noting for example that the percentage of detectives in the Chicago police force is now half as high as it is in large cities that have lower homicide rates, such as Los Angeles and New York.

“The criminal justice system is intended to preempt private vigilante action, but that purpose is undercut by poor performance,” they wrote. “Arresting less than 10 percent of shooters (as is currently the case in Chicago) may not assuage the instinct of survivors, their families and their gangs to avenge their victimization.”

The authors said while the public health approach was a useful addition to gun violence prevention strategies, criminologists and public health scholars need to focus as well on improving the performance of police in traditional areas, such as increasing “clearance” rates, which measure solved crimes.

Police authorities, for example, should focus on removing the bureaucratic “bottlenecks” that tie up police investigations and result in low clearance rates.

Equally important, they wrote, is investigating how police can improve witness cooperation and help “keep witnesses safe in dangerous neighborhoods that are often essentially run by street gangs.”

Cook is the ITT/Sanford Professor of Public Policy and a professor of economics and sociology at Duke University. He served as vice chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Law and Justice.

Jens Ludwig is director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab and McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Science Administration, law and Public Policy at the university.

The full paper can be downloaded here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Brazil’s President-Elect Sets Sights on Looser Gun Laws

Brazil’s far-right, pro-gun president-elect Jair Bolsano has signaled he will seek to relax his country’s firearms laws in a bid to combat a homicide epidemic that last year claimed nearly 64,000 lives. Critics say the strategy will boomerang.

Brazil’s far-right, pro-gun president-elect has signaled he will seek to relax his country’s firearms laws in a bid to combat a homicide epidemic that last year claimed nearly 64,000 lives, the Guardian reports. In his first television interview since being elected on Sunday, former army captain Jair Bolsonaro said it was time to abandon what he called the politically correct fallacy that Brazil would be a safer place if everybody was unarmed. “It won’t be any better. If there were three or four armed people here now, I’d be certain that some nutter wouldn’t be able to come in through that door and do something bad,” the right-wing populist told his interviewer from Record, a television channel owned by one of his powerful supporters.

Bolsonaro’s incendiary comments provoked an immediate reaction from his political opponents. “The majority of the Brazilian population is against the right to carry weapons and wants more intelligent solutions,” tweeted former environment minister and presidential candidate Marina Silva, calling Bolsonaro’s proposal “appalling.” “Firearms are responsible for 71 percent of recorded homicides in Brazil. That is why I don’t tire of saying … The more guns, the more violence,” Silva added. In a recent interview Scott Mainwaring, a Harvard Kennedy school Brazil expert, said he was troubled by Bolsonaro’s faith in firearms. “The idea that you can reduce violence by cutting back on the restrictions of purchasing and carrying guns is ludicrous. There is no public security specialist in the world, or very few, who would say that is a good idea. It’s a terrible idea. It will increase violence.” See also, The Crime Report, “Race, Policing and Video in Brazil”

from https://thecrimereport.org

8,300 Children and Teens Treated Each Year for Gun Injuries: Study

Researchers at Johns Hopkins based the figure on a survey sample of visits to emergency rooms around the U.S. They also estimated the annual cost of treating the youths at $270 million.

More than 8,300 children and teenagers are treated annually for gunshot wounds at emergency rooms around the U.S., according to an estimate by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

This works out to an estimated $270 million a year in medical costs, said Fazal Gani, who led the research team at Johns Hopkins Surgery Center for Outcomes Research.

Gani said the team’s findings were based on data from a sample of 75,086 people younger than 18 who arrived alive at a hospital emergency room with a firearm-related injury. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics Today journal, found that for every 100,000 teens and children who arrived at emergency departments around the nation, 11 were there for a gun injury.

They based their estimate on an extrapolation of those numbers, and their estimate of $270 million in costs from the shootings was based on average emergency room and inpatient charges of $2,445 and $44,966 per visit, respectively.

In an interview published Tuesday by the Hub, the Johns Hopkins online platform, Gani called the figures the “tip of the iceberg.”

“Our study not only highlights the substantial clinical burden and loss of life associated with gunshot wounds, but…the large economic and financial consequences of these injuries to patients and their families, “ he said.

“Unfortunately, these numbers are likely the tip of the iceberg, as we were unable to account for subsequent costs for long-term therapy/rehabilitation or expenses associated with lost work for the parents.”

Roughly 86 percent of the young people in the study group were males with an average age of 15, the report said, and the most common reason for the injury was assault (49 percent) followed by unintentional injuries (38.7 percent).

from https://thecrimereport.org

Putin Calls for ‘Tightening’ Russian Gun Controls

After a deadly mass shooting in the Crimean city of Kerch last week, Russia’s president is demanding legislation for “tightening control” of firearms. He was backed by a senior security official who said Russians weren’t ready for “large-scale possession” of guns.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking a leaf from U.S. gun control groups with a demand for tougher firearm legislation.

“I draw your special attention to the need for tightening control of firearms,” Putin told a meeting of senior law enforcement officers and prosecutors in Moscow earlier this week, according to reports from Russian and other news sources.

“I am waiting for your concrete proposals.”

In the Soviet era, most ordinary Russians were not permitted to own guns, but gun control has become a hot topic after a deadly shooting at a college in the Crimean city of Kerch this month.

Twenty-one people died and 70 suffered injuries in the Oct. 17 incident, after a student attacked classmates and teachers with an improvised explosive device and a shotgun he legally owned.

The shock waves reverberating from the shooting appear to have woken up senior law enforcement authorities.

Russian National Guard Commander Viktor Zolotov said this week that Russian society isn’t ready for large-scale possession of firearms, asserting that too many Russians tend to use guns “without justification in stressful situations,” reported Rt.com.

Zolotov said the National Guard, a domestic military force that reports directly to the president, is “opposed to the wide distribution of guns.”

He added: “Our society isn’t yet ready for this—both economically and psychologically.”

Three days after the shooting, the National Guard proposed a draft law which would require gun owners to inform the agency whenever they travel with their weapon for more than three days.

According to current laws, Russians over 18 can obtain a firearms license after attending gun-safety classes and passing a federal test and background check. The license is for five years and may be renewed.

Firearms may be acquired for self-defense, hunting, or sports activities. The weapon must be registered to a single address where it should be stored in a safe.

from https://thecrimereport.org

A Pre-Election Primer: Criminal Justice and the Midterms

Victims’ rights, gun violence  and—no surprise— marijuana legalization are among the criminal justice issues appearing on state ballots in next month’s midterm elections. Here’s why you should pay attention to the outcomes.

Victims’ rights, firearms restrictions, civil rights for returning citizens, mandatory mental health training for police—and, once again, marijuana legalization— are all on state ballots for next month’s midterm elections.

While the list of criminal justice issues represents a lower number than in previous election cycles—they make up only a small percentage of the 157 initiatives presented to voters in 37 states this November—the outcomes could have a major impact on justice systems in some key states, such as Washington and Florida.

And some observers believe they could have national resonance in the political landscape shaping up for the presidential race in 2020.

“I can’t say [criminal justice] is playing a bigger role than previous elections,” said Robin Olsen, a senior policy associate who works on criminal justice reform at the Urban Institute. But, she adds, justice issues will continue to play a “big role” in many congressional and gubernatorial races as well as ballot initiatives across the U.S.

Unlike the 2016 federal election, when tough-on-crime rhetoric and warnings of a surging national crime wave stoked partisan battles, the pre-election debates on justice are more narrowly focused on issues of local concern—even as they reflect the same deep ideological divisions affecting the country over the past two years.

That underscores what is likely to be one key takeaway of the midterm vote.

While criminal justice remains fundamentally a state and local issue in the U.S., the midterm vote will shape and influence the bipartisan coalition for federal justice reform in the next Congress, according to Holly Harris, executive director of the Justice Action Network, a bipartisan national lobby group for federal and local justice reform.

Noting that widespread popular support has fueled justice reform initiatives in some 30 states over the past decade, Harris said “criminal justice reform issues poll very well,” with voters especially concerned with the rising number of opioid overdose deaths and mass incarceration.

“If I’m an incumbent in this election cycle, I would be concerned with not supporting criminal justice reform,” Harris told The Crime Report. “The American people are frustrated with Washington’s inability to move forward (on federal legislation), even as states have passed criminal justice bills.”

Here’s a snapshot of some of the most significant initiatives on state ballots next month, and why they matter.

Gun Control at the Grassroots

Probably the foremost example of the interplay between national justice concerns and local issues is gun violence, which some commentators have called the defining issue in many congressional races.

According to a poll conducted by Global Strategy Group for Giffords PAC, a group that backs stricter gun laws, Democrats’ advantage over Republicans in competitive swing House districts increases from a three-point lead to a 10-point lead when they focus on gun violence prevention.

guns

Shooter at a gun club. Photo by Peretz Partensky via Flickr

That’s one reason why former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is investing $5 million in a digital ad campaign targeting 15 “Red to Blue” House races. And, fueled by the widespread emotional sympathy for the student survivors of the Parkland, Fl., school shooting, who have crisscrossed the country lobbying for greater restrictions on firearms, the issue continued to pick up traction this fall.

A bellwether battle is shaping up over Initiative 1639 in Washington State, which would ban people under 21 from buying semi-automatic assault rifles and increase background checks for those types of weapons. Background checks would include a local law enforcement check of the most up-to-date local court, criminal and mental health records, and the completion of a firearm safety training course.

The initiative, modeled in part after Connecticut’s strict gun laws, also proposes creating standards for holding gun owners accountable if children or other prohibited people injure themselves or others with an insecurely stored firearm.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country’s leading anti-gun control lobby group, has so far spent one-tenth of what it had spent during the 2014 midterms, according to the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission,  but it has thrown its heavyweight support behind opponents of 1639.

The initiative is a “fraud being perpetrated on the good people of Washington State,” the Washington Arms Collectors, a member of the coalition fighting 1639 wrote in a statement provided to The Crime Report by the group’s director of operations, Wayne Rankin.

“They will tell you it’s about public safety, but it will do nothing to stop a single crime,” Rankin added. “This initiative has nothing to do with assault weapons and is directed only at our good citizens who already pass multiple background checks before owning a firearm.”

According to a mid-October poll, some 59 percent of registered voters now support the initiative.

Curbing Police Misconduct

Washington state is also the stage for another ballot battle fueled by concerns over police use of force. Initiative 940, which bears the ungainly title of “Police Training and Criminal Liability in Cases of Deadly Force,” would require law enforcement officers to obtain violence deescalation and mental health training to help officers resolve conflicts without using physical or deadly force.

The measure, if passed, would create a good faith test to determine when the use of deadly force by police is justifiable, and it would remove the requirement currently on the state books that prosecutors show that a law enforcement officer acted “with malice” to be convicted in a deadly force incident.

police

Photo by Carl Wycoff via Flickr

The so-called “Deescalate Washington” initiative has divided many former allies in the cause of police reform. Some community groups prefer to wait for what they hope will be more effective legislation under consideration by state lawmakers—effectively putting them in the same camp as police groups who oppose the initiative.

Although deescalation training is now widely accepted by national police organizations like the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and is already part of the training for major city police agencies like the New York Police Department,  some police see such mandates as another step in efforts to handcuff  law enforcement.

“They purport that 940 is about training, which is nonsense,” Seattle Officer Mike Solan, president of the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs and the campaign manager for the Coalition for a Safer Washington, told local media.

“Its true intent is to make political prosecution of police officers.”

A poll in February showed more than two-thirds of Washington voters were in favor of an earlier version of I-940.

Supporters place it in the wider context of the national movement to hold police accountable and tackle implicit bias in law enforcement.

“We have heard so many stories of loss and violence over the years, particularly in communities of color and with people with disabilities, Tim Reynon and Kim Mosolf, members of the Deescalate Washington group, wrote in the Seattle Times.

“In Washington, African Americans and Latinos are killed by police at vastly disproportionate rates; Native Americans at a rate higher than any other group.”

Immigration Opponents Target Sanctuary Laws

Immigration is one of the most emotional issues of the midterm elections in the wake of President Donald Trump’s hardline stance on immigration and the separation of families at the borders. Almost 13,000 migrant children are detained in federally contracted shelters, reaching a record high, The New York Times reported last month.

Many states and cities have established themselves as “sanctuaries” where local enforcement refuses to assist federal immigration authorities in identifying and detaining undocumented immigrants. In response, Washington has threatened to cut off federal law enforcement funding to jurisdictions that don’t go along with its get-tough policies.

immigration protest

Los Angeles march for immigrant rights, 2013. Photo by Molly Adams via Flickr

A major challenge to the sanctuary concept is now playing out in Oregon, where a proposed Measure 105 would axe a 31-year-old law passed with bipartisan support barring state and local police agencies from assisting in federal immigration enforcement.

“If Oregon’s sanctuary law gets repealed, it could become an even larger part of the Republican Party’s agenda as the GOP looks to the 2020 presidential race and beyond,” said Oregon media commentator Conrad Wilson.

Both supporters and opponents also see the measure, in effect, as a referendum on President Trump’s immigration policies, and commentators say the results could have national implications, according to governing.com.

“We need to win this campaign—and win it big—so we don’t see similar measures like it popping up [across] the country,” Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for the “No on 105” campaign from Oregonians Against Profiling was quoted as saying. “By voting no, we can show that Oregon wants no part in the immigration policies of [U.S. Attorney General] Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump.”

A recent poll of likely Oregon voters from the Hoffman Research Group of Portland found that just 31 percent support repealing the sanctuary law, while 50 percent oppose repeal.

One group fighting against the proposal is Causa, an immigrant rights organization.

“Immigrants or people perceived to be immigrants would be especially harmed by [the proposal], but [it] would make us all less safe,” Andrea Williams said, Causa’s executive director.

“Trust is the foundation of good policing. But when police play the role of federal immigration agents, many immigrants will be too afraid to call them, cooperate with them or show up to testify.”

Oregonians for Immigration Reform—the organization that worked to get Measure 105 on the ballot—has been identified by The Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

But Jim Ludwick, the organization’s communications director, rejects the designation.

“We support environmentally sustainable legal immigration,” Ludwick said. “We want to control crime and congestion in an already congested nation, but [opponents of the proposal] want open borders, and they call anybody who supports the rule of law as a hate group.”

Battling the Opioid Crisis

 Each day, more than 115 people across the nation die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and a  recent analysis by the Wall Street Journal found that ads mentioning the opioid crisis have aired more than 50,000 times in congressional and gubernatorial races across 25 states, compared to 70 times just four years ago.

There has been an increased push to treat instead of punish those battling opioid addiction, as more Americans view prescription drug addiction as a disease.

opioids

Photo courtesy US Department of Agriculture via Flickr

In Ohio, which is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths, a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution, placed on the ballot as State Issue 1, will provide a test case of whether such ideas have traction with voters.

State Issue 1 mandates that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances be classified as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

The proposal also calls for reduced sentences for incarcerated individuals—except for those imprisoned for murder, rape, or child molestation—by up to 25 percent if they participate in rehabilitative, work, or educational programming.

A recent poll showed that a near majority of voters support the amendment. However, some of the measures most power opponents, including the chief justice on the state’s supreme court, warn that it could backfire.

“I believe as a result of this amendment, should it pass, people will die,” said Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.

Supporters, however, say it’s long overdue.

“There is so much investment in punishing people and locking them up in prison cells and so little investment in the healing that people need to transform their lives,” said Stephen Johnsongrove of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center.

Marijuana, Again

Turning to other drug-related issues, the movement for marijuana legalization continues to gain traction. This fall, voters in Michigan and North Dakota will decide whether to legalize recreational weed, and Missouri and Utah voters will weigh in on medical marijuana use. If all four measures pass, it bring to 43 the number of states where some form of marijuana use is legal (32 medical marijuana and 11 recreational).

marijuana protest

Photo by Chris Yarzab via Flickr

Missouri actually has three separate propositions related to medical marijuana on its November ballot, offering voters a menu of policy choices. The proposed constitutional Amendment 2 would allow state-licensed physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients with qualifying condition, and exact a 4 percent tax (the revenue would be used for providing healthcare to veterans).

Amendment 3 would also legalize medical cannabis, but would carry a 15 percent sales tax on sales of the drug. Proposition C, not a constitutional amendment, would  legalize marijuana prescriptions to patients with qualifying conditions, with a tax of 2 percent.

The Utah medical marijuana initiative, spearheaded by the Utah Patients Coalition, has run into opposition from the Utah Medical Association, which warns it would become a gateway to recreational use.

“Foremost, citizen initiatives are a terrible way to decide what is and is not medicine,” Mark Fotheringham, the association’s vice president of communications, told The Crime Report.

The Rights of the Formerly Incarcerated

Since the last presidential election, a movement to champion the civil rights of returning citizens has expanded steadily from “ban the box” measures aimed at striking questions about former convictions from employment applications to ending employment and housing restrictions and restoring the right to vote.

Florida

Photo by Joelk75 via Flickr

One of the last holdouts to that movement has been Florida. Amendment 4 on the state’s ballot is an effort to rectify that.

But surprisingly it is running into opposition from both sides of the ideological divide.

The amendment would automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions upon completion of their sentences—excluding those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.

The exclusions are one reason why some prisoner rights advocates are pushing back against it.

“We oppose these divide-and-conquer type tactics that single people out based on offense category,” said Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News and director of the Human Rights Defense Center, who was convicted of murder in 1987 and spent nearly 20 years in prison.

“If you look at other movements—like the LGBT Movement—they didn’t leave anybody behind. Right now, you can be a gay serial killer on death row and still be able to marry the person of your choice.”

Given that Florida’s vote in the national elections has historically been decided by a narrow margin of voters, the expected number of new voters—some 1.5 million people—has focused the attention of both parties.

That’s why, although Amendment 4 was originally backed by Republicans as well as Democrats, there are now signs of blowback from some GOP strategists who, thinking ahead to the presidential election in 2022, worry that it will put into play a large number of voters who are likely to vote Democratic.

A September survey shows that the ‘yes’ votes have a strong edge.

Politics and Crime

Taking a different tack entirely, a proposed amendment to the Louisiana constitution would prohibit convicted felons from seeking or holding public office until five years after the completion of their sentences, unless pardoned.

That would effectively tweak a 2016 court ruling in 2016 which allowed convicted felons unlimited rights to seek and hold a public office in Louisiana.

Supporters of the measure say it is intended to restore trust in the political system.

“I think there is a certain amount of integrity that is necessary in the political world to develop trust of the people,” said Republican state Sen. Conrad Appel, who sponsored the legislation that put the proposal on the ballot.

Some commentators say the prime motivating factor behind the amendment is to counter Louisiana’s notorious record for political corruption

“We as elected officials want the voters’ faith and trust,” Appel said. “We have to earn that trust, and if we violate it, we should not be in a position to throw it back in your face.”

The earlier court ruling in fact overturned a long-term precedent which required convicted felons to wait at least 15 years before seeking public office.

Ending Jim Crow Juries

But another Louisiana amendment is aimed at bringing the state’s court system in line with the rest of America. The proposed Constitutional Amendment 2 in Louisiana calls for jurors to reach a unanimous verdict, rather than just a majority 10 of 12 jurors, to convict people charged with felonies.

jury

Photo by Patrick Feller, via Flickr

The current system represents a last holdout of Jim Crow-era laws that were passed across the south in response to the post-Civil War movements to enshrine full citizenship and voting rights for African Americans.

Critics say the “split jury” system continues to be a source of shame for the state, and a monument to white supremacy.

According to a review of nearly 1,000 Louisiana felony trials from 2011 to 2016, by the Advocate newspaper, about 40 percent of convictions by 12-member juries had one or two holdout jurors. Black defendants were about 30 percent more likely to be convicted in non-unanimous verdicts than white defendants, the newspaper found.

If the Louisiana measure passes, Oregon will be the only other state that doesn’t require a unanimous verdict for conviction.

Victims’ Rights

Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Nevada are proposing to expand the rights of crime victims to their state constitutions in separate amendments. Some proposals would enshrine the right of crime victims to receive to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status; others call for the right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release; and the right to restitution.

The effort is aimed at expanding the reach of a 2008 California statute called Marsy’s Law, formally known as the Victims Bill of Rights Act, and it worries the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that such statutes would undermine due process.

Marsy's Law

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Marsy’s Law is named for Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a University of California-Santa Barbara student killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. California legislators were moved to act after her mother, Marcella Leach, encountered the accused killer in a grocery store. Supporters said Leach should have been warned that he was released on bail.

Her story “is typical of the pain and suffering the family members of murder victims have endured,” says the website put up by supporters of the original California measure.

“She was not informed because the courts and law enforcement, though well-meaning, had no obligation to keep her informed.

“While criminals have more than 20 individuals rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, the surviving family members of murder victims have none.”

The ACLU says the law is well-intentioned, but ultimately unconstitutional.

“Marsy’s Law is premised on the notion that victims should have ‘equal rights’ to defendants,” the ACLU says on its website. “This…is a seductive appeal to one’s sense of fairness. However, the notion that victims’ rights can be equated to the rights of the accused is a fallacy.

Gabriel Ware

J. Gabriel Ware

“It ignores the very different purposes these two sets of rights serve.”

Some victims’ rights advocates have argued that victims would be better served by more funding for victims’ services, such as programs that help victims of sexual violence.

J. Gabriel Ware is a TCR news intern. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Finding Shooters Before They Shoot Again

A crime lab in the San Francisco Bay area has made an impressive dent in gun violence by helping local cops swiftly identify weapons used in crime through the 20-year-old National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. So why aren’t other police departments taking advantage of the network?

The criminals terrorizing the East Bay suburbs outside of Oakland, Ca., were getting bolder.

They robbed a family in well-to-do Fremont, Ca., at gunpoint. They broke into another house with pistols drawn, ready to confront residents. They shot a local school board member and pistol-whipped her husband as the victims unloaded groceries in their driveway, and then fled with a purse and cell phone.

For weeks in the summer of 2016, police struggled to gather enough evidence to arrest the men. Then one of them tried to dispose of a gun.

[That provided the evidence police needed to crack the case—thanks to a local crime lab that has uniquely positioned itself as a major player in combating the area’s endemic gun violence.]

As one suspect fled from carjacking a Danville man in his garage, police say he tossed his Glock in a commuter lot beside the freeway. Investigators from the county gang task force, who were monitoring the man through a wiretap on his cell phone, picked up the gun within minutes. They delivered the weapon to the Contra Costa County crime lab, where technicians used a sophisticated ballistics database to link it to shell casings from three other recent shootings, including the one that left the school board member hospitalized.

With those leads in hand, investigators gathered enough evidence to arrest eight members of the so-called Swerve Team gang and charge them with three murders, 14 attempted murders, six armed robberies, and two carjackings.

“The gun was the first link,” said Robert Pamplona, a senior inspector on the county’s gang task force.

Law enforcement departments across the country have access to the same system that Contra Costa has been using to catch the people committing gun crimes on its streets. It’s known as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), and it’s maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

microscope

When a gun is fired, it leaves a unique marking on the shell casing it ejects. Images of those casings make up the NIBIN database. Pictured: A microscope in the Contra Costa lab for examining bullets. Photo by Cayce Clifford/The Trace

NIBIN is like a giant fingerprint database—but for guns, which when fired leave unique markings on each shell casing they eject. By entering images of fresh casings into the system, investigators can make matches to those already on file, connecting different shootings to the same gun, and from there to shooters or gangs.

But NIBIN only works if police assiduously log all the casings they recover, and do so quickly, before trails grow cold. In many cities and counties, that’s not happening. Studies show many police departments and crime labs are misusing NIBIN, or not using it at all.

“Research has consistently shown that police investigators often do not receive forensic evidence testing results until after their investigation has concluded,” a team from Sam Houston State University in Texas wrote in the Journal of Forensic Sciences last year.

“These time lags prevent investigators from using this critical evidence in the manner that we expect it to be used: to assist in identifying suspects in criminal cases.”

The Contra Costa crime lab’s proficiency with NIBIN is the result of protocols put into place by its no-excuses director.

Those procedures have also made it an exception. In partnership with NBC Bay Area, The Trace surveyed California’s 18 city and county crime laboratories. On average, they report taking three months to enter evidence into NIBIN and get back leads. That’s more than 15 times as long as the turnarounds that Contra Costa achieves.

In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Police Department’s crime lab last year processed bullet casings up to 95 days after police collected them. The Santa Clara crime lab reports that it takes “months to a year” to run casings through NIBIN and look for leads. Both labs say they are working to narrow that window, and San Francisco says that, so far this year, its average turnaround time is about eight days.

At least three California counties — Fresno, Ventura and Orange — are not using NIBIN at all.

“If a lead is taking eight months to get into hands of investigators, it’s worthless,” said Sam Rabadi, who was head of the firearms division at ATF in 2012 and 2013, and who now works for Vigilant Solutions, a private investigative technology company.

“The overarching goal is to get to the shooter before they shoot again.”

Public officials are desperate for more ways to link guns to shooters. About two out of every five murders in the U.S. go unsolved, according to the FBI. Solve rates for nonfatal shootings are in the single digits in several major cities.

Unapprehended, perpetrators strike again. Street justice fills the void, leading to revenge shootings.

“NIBIN is a chance to deter that small number of people who are prone to grab guns and shoot at other people,” said William King, who authored the first comprehensive report on NIBIN for the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013.

“NIBIN holds those people accountable.”

By misusing the ballistic fingerprinting, or not using it at all, King said, “police have failed a lot of communities in the inner cities.”

Better ballistics testing, on its own, won’t fix the problem. Many police departments are understaffed, have strained relationships with the communities they rely on for witnesses, or simply don’t prioritize solving gun crimes. But taking full advantage of NIBIN’s capabilities can help cops catch shooters who might otherwise remain at large.

Underperforming Crime Labs

Contra Costa County used to be among the many jurisdictions underperforming in their use of NIBIN. Then, in 2015, a former San Francisco detective named Pamela Hofsass took over as director of its crime lab. Without an influx of funding or manpower, she transformed how her department taps the technology’s potential. The results she achieved helped shift how law enforcement throughout the county approaches solving gun crimes.

Hofsass dramatically cut the time it took to get NIBIN leads back to sheriff’s deputies and local police officers. That, in turn, helped them make more arrests, giving them greater incentives to pick up shell casings at shootings and bring them to the lab.

Pamela Hofsass

Without an influx of funding or manpower, Contra Costa lab boss Pamela Hofsass transformed how her department taps NIBIN’s potential and processes ballistic evidence. Photo by Cayce Clifford/The Trace

“Back in the day, when there was a shooting where no one was hurt, the officer might have kicked those casings into the curb,” Hofsass said. “They thought, there’s no blood here, no injured victims, there’s nothing. Now we know that the people who end up killing people usually start by shooting randomly.”

Ron Nichols, a former ATF NIBIN head who is widely credited with redesigning the agency’s protocols to get faster results, said the changes that Hofsass wrought are possible for any department.

“It’s less about money and resources,” he said, “and more about getting labs to change their mindset about how they do things.”

Ballistic investigations used to be an analog business. Firearm examiners would take Polaroid pictures of cartridge casings and store them in paper files. When a new shooting happened, they’d pull out the photographs and eyeball them for matches.

Beginning about 20 years ago, the ATF launched NIBIN, and brought the art of ballistics comparisons into the digital age. These days, after police send shell casings to a crime lab, staffers load them one at a time into an imaging machine, which takes photographs and uploads them into the database.

A gun collected as evidence goes through its own procedure. Technicians test fire it into a water tank, then gather the casings and enter them into NIBIN, looking for matches with ballistic signatures already on file.

The ATF now touts NIBIN as a cornerstone of its national crime-fighting operation. The agency maintains 179 NIBIN sites across the country, serving 3,000 law enforcement organizations. The system contains about 2.8 million images of shell casings.

Gun Violence Blind Spots

But laggards remain, leaving blind spots in the system. As of 2016, according to The Marshall Project, 11 states didn’t have a single NIBIN machine. Another 19 had only one or two. The ATF declined to provide The Trace with updated numbers.

Where NIBIN is available, many agencies are still struggling to realize its potential.

In Chicago, officials working to combat the city’s high murder rate have made efforts to collect more shell casings. A Chicago Police spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said officers now try to pick up and process shell casings after every reported shooting, even when no one is hurt.

But that requires the department to know when a round has been fired, and the city has installed gunshot-detection sensors in only about half of all precincts. In the others, it’s extremely difficult for officers to locate casings after the fact.

Processing times can also hinder investigations. Casings for homicides usually get entered into NIBIN within a couple of days, Guglielmi said. But lower priority cases, including shootings that don’t result in injuries, take a few weeks.

Experts say that delay can stall officers at critical moments — when it might be possible to stop someone from killing, or killing again.

“The sooner that I can get it [a lead] in my hands, the sooner I can get to the shooter before he or she reoffends,” ATF Firearms Operations Division Chief Michael Eberhardt told NBC Bay Area.

Last year, the ATF dispatched vans equipped with NIBIN equipment to Chicago, Baltimore, and Houston. The equipment in the vehicles is no more sophisticated than what each city is already using in-house. The bureau’s goal was to show local investigators how fast evidence can be processed when protocols are streamlined, and to entice investigators by getting them quick leads that help them bring more shooters to justice.

Spread over 700 acres of rolling hills northeast of San Francisco, Contra Costa County is dotted in some parts with cow farms and in others with desperate urban blight.

A war has raged for years in the western part of the county between gang members in Central and North Richmond.

“Out of the friends I had growing up, six are dead and three are incarcerated and not coming home,” said LeDamien Flowers, a North Richmond community organizer.

Within Richmond city limits, one in every three homicides went unsolved between 2011 and 2016.

When Hofsass took over the Contra Costa County crime lab in 2015, there was a backlog of more than 700 shell casings waiting to be scanned. On average, it took well over a year for the lab to get back to police with the results of a ballistics test.

“We’re talking about major crimes — attempted homicides or homicides with fired cartridge cases just sitting there,” she said.

Hofsass understood from her own experience as a detective that the lab had to do better.

“I knew from when I was in homicide, if I didn’t have critical information, then I wasn’t moving forward in that particular aspect of the case,” she said. “We had to think about what the detectives really need — to streamline it and strip it down. So that’s what we did. We overhauled the whole process.”

On her watch, Hofsass resolved, technicians would get detectives leads within at least four days of the shooting—two days to get the evidence to NIBIN, another two to get the lead back from the ATF.

But first, she had to get her staff onboard.

Prior to Hofsass’s arrival, “we were just functioning to put out fires right before things went to trial,” said Donnie Finley, her chief deputy. “Some days her message went over better than others. I remember people saying ‘We can’t do that, we don’t have enough people.’ ”

Tidy and no-nonsense, Hofsass convinced her team that they didn’t need more sets of hands, just smarter protocols.

Before Hofsass took over the lab, ballistic evidence routinely sat on shelves while it waited to be tested for DNA and fingerprints. Now it was immediately assigned to a technician.

She cross-trained her staff so members outside the ballistics team could help out colleagues when their own workload got thin. Investigators who primarily worked crime scenes were taught how to enter evidence into NIBIN on the side. Latent fingerprint examiners were shown how to record the make, model, and function of crime guns when ballistics tests got backed up.

Hofsass bought iPads to replace the paperwork that lab technicians had been doing by hand. Lab workers who used to have to draw pictures of shell cases and their markings now snapped photos instead.

crime lab

A technician at the Contra Costa lab demonstrates the process of test-firing a gun to capture its ballistic “fingerprint.” Photo by Cayce Clifford/The Trace

She also asked for help from the ATF. At many local police labs, in-house criminalists do the initial side-by-side comparisons between shell casings they’ve entered into NIBIN and possible matches that the computer returns. That’s important work, since those initial hits are the ones that investigators can run with right away as they hustle to get shooters off the street. But it’s also time consuming.

In Contra Costa, and at 19 other labs across the country, those first matches are now made by ATF technicians based in Huntsville, Al. Hofsass said that’s been a huge help streamlining her process and opens up time her technicians can use to button up cases when they are ready to go to trial.

The ATF says it wants to do image comparisons for more agencies. The bureau plans to expand this service to as many as 30 additional sites next year.

The ATF also lent Contra Costa two technicians to help test fire about 600 crime guns that had been sitting in storage, and get that ballistic information into the NIBIN system. As they plowed through their backlog, Contra Costa crime lab workers started with the most recent cases, so they could get leads to detectives while the evidence was still fresh.

Rewarding Success

Today, Hofsass’s team is completely caught up. To keep her staff motivated, she painstakingly plans elaborate ceremonies to recognize techs who meet their benchmarks. When Hofsass hears that efficient lab work helped to make an arrest, or clear a suspect, she broadcasts that information to her staff, to make sure they know the work they’re doing matters.

“I’m saying there’s a way to be efficient, effective, and maintain your quality,” she said. “We’re here to make the world a safer place. So why would you want to take your time?”

Before Josh Medel worked for the FBI/Contra Costa County Safe Streets Task Force, he was an intelligence analyst in Iraq. He studied satellite images, drone data, and classified reports, trying to discern what opposition leaders were were planning. In Contra Costa, he looked at crime reports, social media feeds and cell phone data to figure out how who was running Contra Costa’s gangs and what they might do next.

When he heard what Hofsass was doing to produce faster ballistics results, he called the lab and asked for a year’s worth of the data it had collected. Analyzing it, he mapped out a sprawling diagram of the county’s gun crime: which guns were connected to which shootings, and which gang members might be connected to those guns—valuable information for prosecutors in California, where gang affiliation can mean longer prison sentences. In some cases, the webs sprawled to dozens of incidents.

The picture Medel was able to put together from Contra Costa’s NIBIN data was usually not enough to yield arrests on its own. But it was packed with valuable clues.

On the day of the carjacking that broke the Swerve case, police test-fired the gun that the suspect tossed in the commuter lot and entered the spent casings into NIBIN. When the ATF sent initial matches back, the results showed that three other recent shootings might have been done with the same weapon.

Investigators then gathered surveillance videos, GPS, DNA and cell phone data looking for other ties between the four shootings. They plugged that material into Medel’s map to figure out where a particular crime spree might fit in with wider county trends.

In the end, the Swerve Team linked 16 guns to 42 different shootings. Seven men were charged in the crimes. Police said that officers confiscated more than 200 illegal guns as a result of the investigation.

Getting shooters and guns off the street was not the only victory that came with the Swerve Team arrests. The headlines, and the fact that ballistics leads were key, got the attention of police at departments large and small across the Bay Area.

“Cops started saying, ‘Wow, maybe we need to clear out our evidence room,’” Medel said.

Every year, technicians at California’s Contra Costa County crime lab process hundreds of guns and shell casings recovered by police. Photo by Cayce Clifford/The Trace

Hofsass took advantage of the renewed enthusiasm for NIBIN to further refine Contra Costa’s use of the technology. She set up a drop box at the county’s central evidence locker. There, casings can be deposited round the clock with a simple evidence form, even if they aren’t collected as part of a criminal case. She’s planning a second drop box at the county jail, where police have to go regularly anyway when they book suspects.

For Carol Brown, the Swerve Team arrests marked a life-changing moment. A school board member in the leafy San Francisco suburb of Orinda, Brown and her husband were unloading groceries in their driveway in September 2016 when masked men attacked them. They beat Brown’s husband with a gun and shot her through the arm and chest.

The crime made headlines across the Bay Area, shocking in its apparent randomness.

Brown would spend two days in a locked ward in the hospital, protected from assailants who remained at large. On the third day came the NIBIN hit, when investigators connected the gun tossed in the commuter lot to shell cases from Brown’s driveway, compiling enough evidence to arrest the suspects.

Brown didn’t know that Hofsass’s ballistics team helped solve the case. What she knew was that she was safe again.

“I will not soon forget that moment,” said Brown. “Hearing they were in jail was the first time after it happened I felt like I could breathe.”

Editor’s Note: A video accompanying this story is available here.

Earlier versions of this story were originally published in The Trace and the San Jose Mercury. Ann Givens is a 2018 John Jay Crime Reporting Fellow and a juror in the annual John Jay Excellence in Criminal Justice Journalism Awards. She welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Self-Defense Study Challenges Gun Control Advocates

Does firearm ownership deter crime?  Florida gun researcher Gary Kleck says data he collated showing more than one million instances where gun owners fired in self-defense in the 1990s was never reported by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control—even though the data was obtained in CDC surveys.

The debate over how often people use guns to protect themselves in the U.S. continues to smolder.

Gary Kleck, a professor of criminology at Florida State University who is a controversial figure for gun control advocates, recently published a paper examining three surveys in the 1990s conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), entitled, “What Do CDC Surveys Say About the Frequency Of Defensive Gun Uses?”

The paper looks at a large portion of the literature on defensive gun use(DGU) in the US.  It focuses on data from three annual surveys in 1996, 1997 and 1998, produced by the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which by Kleck’s calculations, show an average of 1,138,534 instances of DGUs per year.

This number is far higher than the number commonly cited from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which reports annual estimates of roughly 60,000 instances of DGU.

Kleck writes, “CDC’s survey data confirm previous high estimates of DGU prevalence, disconfirm estimates derived from the National Crime Victimization Survey, and indicate that defensive uses of guns by crime victims are far more common than offensive uses by criminals.”

The 1996 survey asked people in six states (AK, KY, LA, MD, NH, WV), the 1997 survey asked people in seven states (CO, HA, MS, NH, NJ, ND, OH), and the 1998 survey asked people in four states (LA, MT, NJ, PA).

There is a high degree of variance among the nearly two-dozen studies compared in the paper.  For example, another study shown in Kleck’s paper by the CDC in 1994 found an implied annual estimate of three million DGUs, half a million more than Kleck himself and a colleague, Marc Gertz, found in a survey study they did in 1993.

However, many of the studies, while having vastly different results, had different recall periods.  For example, a recent 2017 Pew survey found there were 2.6 million instances of DGU, but there was no limit on the recall period.  This number would invariably drop considerably had the recall period been relegated to instances of DGU within the past year.

Kleck writes that the surveys by the BRFSS are of high quality, and ask more people (3,197-4,500 adults) than any other surveys except the above-mentioned one conducted by Kleck and Gertz in 1993.  It should be mentioned that while Kleck does not list the NCVS in his direct comparisons, it is by far the most comprehensive survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, asking roughly 90,000 people in 1994.

The question posed to respondents in the BRFSS surveys was: “During the last 12 months, have you confronted another person with a firearm, even if you did not fire it, to protect yourself, your property, or someone else?”

Kleck notes that the question was well-worded and gave respondents little room for error or misinterpretation. It included the use of any type of firearm, asked about a specific recall period, and asked respondents to report the incident even if they didn’t fire the gun.

Protection is one of the main reasons people cite for owning a gun, so the substantial amount of DGUs found by the BRFSS according Kleck’s calculations can serve to support that rationale.

False positives and false negatives, in which respondents lie or unintentionally give the wrong answer, can be a significant issue for DGU studies. Because of the fact that some portion of defensive gun use is likely illegal, for example, using it away from the home without a permit, respondents may not wish to divulge that information. That is just one way in which respondents may not give accurate answers to a very difficult question.

Kleck cites this as one of the reasons the NCVS may be underrepresenting the amount of DGUs each year in the US.  This is because they are asked about the incident after being asked where the incident occurred.

David Hemenway, Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, has been a vocal opponent of Kleck’s and vice-versa since the 1990s.  While Kleck states that there is more likelihood people will give false negatives than false positives, Hemenway says that false positives are a reasonable possibility from people who are fearful of gun control measures.

Hemenway wrote, “A few might actually deliberately lie on a telephone survey to help boost the numbers for the sake of their political beliefs concerning the dangers of gun control,” in a 1997 paper called, “Survey Research and Self-Defense Gun Use: An Explanation of Extreme Overestimates.

Hemenway and others have written that surveys can suffer from the problem of “telescoping,” in which respondents give answers that are true but happened outside the timeframe of the question.  Hemenway writes that the NCVS compensates for this with follow up interviews every six months, over a three year period.  “Analysis of the NCVS unbounded (or first-time) panel in comparison with the second indicates a substantial amount of telescoping of criminal victimization.”

Phillip Cook, a criminologist at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, has also written critically of Kleck’s work in a 2015 paper called, “Elusive Facts About Gun Violence: Where Good Surveys Go Bad.” Cook states that Kleck’s findings of 2.5 million DGUs per year is more than double the total number of robberies and assaults committed with a gun, “which in turn is far more than the number of gun crimes known to the police.”

A National Research Council report also finds that Kleck’s estimates appear exaggerated and says that it is almost certain that “some of what respondents designate as their own self-defense would be construed as aggression by others.”

The point is often made that official estimates from law enforcement agencies would provide more accurate data as to how many DGUs a year there actually are. Kleck argues, however, that “there is currently no feasible way to measure the prevalence of DGU other than surveys. “

He continues: “Certainly police data cannot provide adequate estimates given the unwillingness of most crime victims to even report their victimizations to the police (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999), never mind the controversial fact that they had threatened or attacked another person with a firearm.”

Cook also responds to a Kleck and Gertz finding of 200,000 people actually shooting their assailants per year, which he notes is again double the number of people killed or treated in emergency room departments.

Cook cites a series of jail surveys found that a high percentage of inmates said they had indeed been shot, “had the scars to prove it, (and) more than 90 percent of those who had been shot reported that they had indeed been treated in a hospital.”

Cook also mentions a study by three researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, including Hemenway, which found that survey respondents who were asked about both DGUs and victimization by guns, reported being victimized substantially more than DGUs.

A look at the literature underlines the fact that this is a controversial area of gun research.  Studies like the one done by Kleck and Gertz clearly lie on the high end of the spectrum, while the NCVS and Hemenway studies lie on the low end of that spectrum. It would seem to be a fair assumption that the actual number of DGUs annually are somewhere in between the extremes.

Nevertheless, the debate highlights the fact that DGU is an extremely difficult subject to measure, and that there is a serious need for more research on gun violence in general in the US, so that more of a consensus can be reached on this topic.

Adding to the debate about his assertions, Kleck claimed that the CDC never actually reported the data, although it is available for anyone who knows where to look.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dane Stallone is a TCR News Intern. He welcomes reader’s comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

NRA Sues Over Seattle’s New Gun-Storage Ordinance

The NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation allege that a new Seattle law requiring gun owners to lock up their firearms violates a state law that bans cities from regulating guns.

The National Rifle Association, Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and two Seattle residents are suing Seattle over the city’s new gun-safety law, reports the Seattle Times. Earlier this month, Seattle’s City Council passed an ordinance that requires gun owners to lock up their guns. Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the legislation Wednesday, with the law to take effect 180 days later. The legislation came at a time of heightened national concern around gun safety and mass shootings. Under the legislation, a gun owner could be fined up to $500 if a firearm isn’t locked up, up to $1,000 if a minor, “at-risk person” or unauthorized user accesses the weapon, and up to $10,000 if someone uses the weapon to hurt someone or commit a crime.

The lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court alleges that the “safe storage” requirement violates Washington state law, which prevents cities from regulating guns. “Seattle simply can’t break the law to adopt an ordinance as a political statement,” Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) founder Alan Gottlieb said in a statement. Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. “If they think we are intimidated, they are mistaken. I will continue to fight for our kids,” Durkan said in a tweet. In 2010, Seattle introduced a ban on firearms in Seattle parks. The NRA and SAF sued the city, and the law was ultimately ruled unconstitutional. In August 2017, however, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Seattle’s tax on guns. The 2015 ordinance imposed a tax of $25 per firearm and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition. The tax raised $93,000 last year.

from https://thecrimereport.org