Freedomnomics

Article published Monday, October 3, 2016, at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Commentary: Trump law-and-order platform would help blacks

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Is Donald Trump's "law and order" campaign just code for racism? The media and Hillary Clinton sure believe so. After Trump's recent talk in Chester, the front page of the New York Times criticized him for supporting the deportation of people who have been charged with crimes and the aggressive profiling of terrorism suspects as racist and counterproductive.

The theme is echoed with Clinton attacks that Donald Trump appeals to "xenophobic, racist, misogynistic" people.

But who actually cares more about African Americans, in particular poor blacks, who are the most likely victims of violent crime?

High crime rates in urban areas are a result of many failed policies that give African Americans little hope for advancement and cause young black men to turn to gangs. But on everything from education to jobs to directly lowering crime, Trump's policies would offer a lifeline to people who have been losing ground for decades. Clinton's policies will just exacerbate the problems. And no amount of debating points would change that.

On education, Trump strongly supports school choice. This would give inner-city blacks a way out of horribly performing public schools. Clinton attacks charters and clearly opposes other forms of school choice, instead protecting teachers' unions at the expense of students.

And who is harmed the most by illegal immigration? Who is most likely to suffer unemployment or wage reductions due to the added competition? Young, unskilled blacks and Hispanics. The biggest beneficiaries? Wealthy people who get to pay less for lawn care and housecleaning.

But crime is the immediate, life-and-death issue for so many people trapped in high-crime urban areas. Too many come to physical harm, have their property stolen, or lose their jobs as businesses are driven from their neighborhoods.

Clinton appears more focused on helping criminals, not victims. She promises to cut the U.S. prison population by more than 50 percent and claims that won't mean more crime. By contrast, Trump says the problem is a lack of police in high-crime urban neighborhoods. He believes in making things riskier for the criminals, not for the victims.

Clinton has responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by calling for more restrictions on police use of deadly force. She has refused to support stiff prison penalties for those who "knowingly caus[e] bodily injury" to police officers. But if you don't believe the police are the problem, making their jobs more dangerous or difficult means police will be less effective in stopping crime in these high-crime areas.

Clinton doesn't understand that the most likely victims of violent crime - poor blacks living in high-crime, urban neighborhoods - are the ones who stand to benefit the most from being able to defend themselves, and her gun-control plan basically amounts to only letting whites, not minorities, get guns.

For example, in Colorado in 2013, when the state enacted a tax on the private transfer of guns, all but two Democrats voted down a Republican amendment that would have exempted people below the poverty level from paying the new state tax.

High fees to register guns in Democratic strongholds such as Washington, D.C., New York City, or Chicago have meant that only the wealthy can legally own guns.

Or take something as seemingly innocuous as background checks on private transfers. Virtually everyone who fails a background check is someone who is legally eligible to buy a gun, so we're not talking here about preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands. Law-abiding minorities, particularly African Americans, are the ones most likely to be stopped from buying guns.

Clinton claims that background checks have stopped 2.4 million dangerous or prohibited people from buying a gun. But what she really means is that there were 2.4 million "initial denials." About 96 percent of "initial denials" are errors, and dropped after the first two stages of review, with more dropped during the three remaining stages. But the Obama administration has ended those reviews, which means nearly all initial denials are likely still mistakes - just never corrected.

Applicants used to be able to get their gun, eventually, though the delay could be dangerous for someone who needs a gun for self-defense. Now, however, most applicants are forced to appeal their denial, and will likely find it necessary to spend thousands on an attorney to do so.

These "initial denials" affect certain racial groups more than others. Hispanics are more likely to share names with other Hispanics; the same is true of blacks. Because 30 percent of black males are forbidden from buying guns because of their criminal records, law-abiding African American men more often have their names confused with those of prohibited people.

Democrats clearly haven't served the black community well, and more of the same isn't going to help. If African Americans are willing to listen to Trump, his logical arguments may have a real chance of winning them over.

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Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

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