Crime as a big issue in campaigns this year?

David Broder reports how at least one survey claims that crime is a big issue this year:

WASHINGTON -- From Pakistan to Serbia, and recurrently in Iraq, the headlines point to the dangers of the world -- most notably the threat of terrorism. And yet when the polling firm Cooper & Secrest Associates asked
1,139 Americans in December which threat they took most seriously, 69 percent chose violent crime and only 19 percent named terrorist attack.
The survey was part of a striking report released Saturday (Feb. 23) by Third Way, a liberal think tank, and several governors, warning that the crime issue, which has slipped off the political agenda since its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, is about to return.
"Four new and dangerous sociological trends are converging to disturb the peace and are threatening a crisis of crime, if not addressed," says the report. . . .

Possibly it is because of misleading claims put out by places such as the Police Executive Research Forum (for my discussion of this see here). Yet, the most recent numbers indicate that all cateogries of violent crime were falling for at least the first half of last year and that crime rates have been falt during this decade. Except for the news coverage of this, it is very hard to see where these fears are coming from. Things are certainly no worse off than a few years ago when there was no similar concern about crime rates.

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Defend yourself at your own risk in the UK

From the Daily Mail in the UK:

A shopkeeper could face a murder charge following a fatal struggle with a knife-wielding raider.

Tony Singh fought back when Liam Kilroe, a career criminal, ambushed him in his car after closing time.
Kilroe, who was trying to steal Mr Singh's takings, staggered away with a stab wound from his own knife and died in a pool of blood.

The 25-year-old was on the run after being charged with two robberies.

Police called to the scene found Mr Singh in a state of shock, still sitting in his car and nursing serious knife wounds to his back, face and neck.

However, the officers arrested the 34-year-old and are preparing to send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

A murder charge would carry a life sentence on conviction.

The case resembles that of Tony Martin who was charged with murder after shooting Fred Barras, 16, during a raid on his Norfolk farm in 1999.

He was convicted of manslaughter and served three years in prison. . . .

Thanks to Richard Miller for sending me this link.

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Kansas CIty murder rate down in first year of right-to-carry law

I am not going to argue that by itself this is evidence that right-to-carry laws are good (many other things can happen in a year), but at least the fears put forward predicting problems were proven false.

Crime down in KCK last year
The Kansas City Star
After two years of seeing reported violent crimes increase, Kansas City, Kan., saw the number of such crimes drop 5.5 percent last year.

More notably is that homicides fell 45.7 percent, from 46 homicides in 2006 to 25 last year. The last time the number of homicides was this low was in 1986, Brown said.

“We are very happy with (2007) stats,” said Capt. James Brown, a Kansas City, Kan., Police Department spokesman. “However, for those of us who have been in the business long enough, we know that there are curves that occur.” . . .

What is disappointing is that the article completely left out the fact that last year was the first year of the right to carry law in the state.

Thanks very much to David Cooper for sending me this link.

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Government not to successful in keeping this well-known convicted killer from getting guns

The link to this story is here:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- A federal jury convicted a 23-year-old man on an obscure weapons charge Tuesday, apparently unaware that 10 years ago he and another boy killed four classmates and a teacher in a schoolyard ambush.
Mitchell Johnson faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced in the next 45 days on a count of possessing a firearm while being a drug user. Through his attorney, Johnson declined to comment Tuesday.
Johnson was arrested on New Year's Day 2007 after police stopped his van and said they found a bag of marijuana in his pocket and a 9 mm pistol and a 20-gauge shotgun in two bags. Police said they stopped the van after getting an anonymous tip about drugs in the vehicle.
In 1998, Johnson, then 13, and 11-year-old schoolmate Andrew Golden opened fire as students and teachers left Jonesboro Westside Middle School after Golden pulled the fire alarm. The boys killed English teacher Shannon Wright and four students ages 11 and 12. They wounded 10 other people. . . .

Thanks to Rich for sending this link.

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Justice Swedish Style

The famed Karolinska Institute in Sweden faced a dilemma this last week. What to do about one of their students at the medical school had committed a vicious murder, fatally shooting someone seven times in a crime the police classified as a hate crime because of the killer's Nazi sympathies. The school expelled the murderer on the grounds that he had changed his name on his High School transcripts in order not to have his past discovered. To me though, there were two interesting parts of the story.

"After serving 6 1/2 years of an 11-year sentence, Mr. Svensson was released on parole in February 2007. According to Swedish prison standards, inmates are usually released after serving two-thirds of their sentence."


"others said he had served his time and should be permitted to stay and become a doctor."

It is interesting to me that someone can commit such a heinous crime and only receive 6 1/2 years of prison. Perhaps it is less surprising that people would feel that one's debt to society had been repaid after so short of a prison term and that this person could then be trusted to be a doctor (in the United States it is extremely unlikely that the person would ever be given a medical license). Apparently, Svensson, the murderer, had used "six years" of his 6 1/2 years in prison to take course online so it is not even clear how much of a penalty he really faced from prison. It also appears as if it might be relatively easy for one to hide their criminal record in Sweden, obviously Svensson was not released on parole, as he would have been in the US.

I have done a lot of research on the impact of criminal conviction on legitimate earnings in the US and I attempted to disentangle it from the length of the prison sentence, but it would be interesting to see if there was a similar impact in Sweden. One big difference could be if Swedes are better able to hide these criminal records. American criminals find it difficult because when they are released on parole, their employer must fill out reports to the criminal's probation officer. If you are unemployed or have a low level job for a number of years, it may be very difficult for a criminal to hide that past employment history.



What do 911 operators advise people to do when they are confronted by criminals?

You can't always run away from the criminal. In fact, if the 911 operator knew about the National Crime Victimization Survey showing that particularly for women running away is not particularly effective, I don't think that the operator would so automatically give this advice. So what is the victim supposed to do now?

As he heard his locked bedroom door rattling as the burglar tried his screwdriver to open it, Six, clutching an aluminum baseball bat, told a 911 operator he couldn’t exit through his window as she had advised, AZCentral.com reported. . . .

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"more young black men in prison than in college" -- False

What Obama Got Wrong
Friday, December 14, 2007; Page A14

WHAT HE GOT WRONG: "I don't want to wake up four years from now and discover that we still have more young black men in prison than in college."

-- Barack Obama, rally in Harlem, Nov. 29

Obama has repeated this false claim to predominantly African American audiences, even after The Washington Post pointed out the mistake to his campaign. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 106,000 African American men ages 18 to 24 were in federal or state prisons at the end of 2005. An additional 87,000 were temporarily held in local jails in mid-2006. According to 2005 census data, 530,000 African American men in this age group were in college.

Black male college students outnumber black male prisoners even if the age group is expanded to 30 or 35. The Obama campaign has not responded to several requests for statistical data to support the senator's remarks, and it has not explained a similar claim that he made to an NAACP audience on July 12.

-- Michael Dobbs

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Fewer Armed Police, More Violent Crime

Some Background Of Nebraska Mall Killer

For whatever this is worth:

OMAHA, Neb. — The teen gunman who killed eight people and himself in a mall this month once told social workers he was satanic and acknowledged that he often acted before thinking of the consequences, according to newly released court records.

I think that it makes a lot more sense to worry about whether people are able to defend themselves than whether these killers are Satanic.



Yale University Jury Opinion Study

For those interested, a friend of mine at Yale and a student of his are conducting this survey on juries. Please feel free to participate. This survey picks a case where someone shouldn't have used a gun defensively and sees how people react to the case.



Well I actually know a murderer

I have frequently written and talked about how unlikely it is for the type of people who I lecture to at universities to know someone who has committed murder. When you consider that about 90 percent of adult murderers have an adult criminal record, that they have long histories of social problems, that they overwhelmingly live in just a few percent of the counties in the US and are usually young black males, the odds are just very low. Well, I can now say with certainty, that I know a murderer. Rafael Robb was an economics professor at Penn when I was there, and we went out to dinner a couple of times. I had very briefly meet him when I was in graduate school at UCLA.

A former Ivy League professor pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter for killing his wife as she wrapped Christmas presents last year, telling a judge he "just lost it" during an argument.

Rafael Robb, once a tenured economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, faces a likely prison sentence of 4 1/2 to seven years for bludgeoning his wife, Ellen, on Dec. 22.

Robb, 57, said Monday that he got into an argument with his wife about a trip she was taking with their daughter and whether they would be returning in time for the daughter to return to school.

"We started a discussion about that. The discussion was tense," Robb said. "We were both anxious about it. We both got angry. At one point, Ellen pushed me. ... I just lost it."

This is one part that reminds me of the unjustified egos of a lot of academics:

A former Ivy League professor pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter for killing his wife as she wrapped Christmas presen Robb was an expert in game theory, a complex melding of psychology, human behavior and economics — all aimed at determining what one's adversary will do next.

With that background, police say, Robb may have thought he could outsmart them.



Most Acquaintance Murders in NYC involve Criminals Killing Criminals

This is a point that I have tried to make in my books on crime. Too often the term acquaintance murder is used to imply people who are somehow emotionally close to each other:

It is extremely common around the nation to find in killings involving acquaintances that those involved are not family members but criminals or drug gang members, said David M. Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.

In the 412 killings this year, the number of people with previous arrests for narcotics was striking: 196 victims and 149 assailants. And 77 percent of the assailants had a previous arrest history, while 70 percent of the victims did, the statistics showed.

Killers and those killed are overwhelmingly male and most in both categories are between 18 and 40, according to the police analysis. In terms of race and ethnicity, whites make up 7 percent of victims and assailants, while 66 percent of the victims and 61 percent of the assailants are black and 26 percent of the victims and 31 percent of the assailants are Hispanic.

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Saudi Arabia: Does its punishment for rape encourage the crime?

Saudi Arabia defended on Tuesday a court's decision to sentence a woman who was gang-raped to 200 lashes of the whip, after the United States described the verdict as "astonishing". . . . .

Putting aside one's reactions to this weird penalty, there is the question what impact it has on the total number of rapes. It is not clear. There are two effects. Surely, punishing women will make them even more willing to avoid situations that could result in rape. But it also makes it less likely that women will report rapes when they occur. It is not clear what the net effect is. It would be an interesting empirical study to see if Islamic law increased rape rates. The big problem with testing this is that if rapes stop being reported at the same time that the rules change, one would have to come with something imaginative to figure out how to measure the change in the number of rapes. Surveys would probably also be problematic.



The Mafia's Ten Commandments

The Mafia's Ten Commandments makes a lot of sense to economist. See a brief Fox News segment on it here. I would guess that my friends who do the economics of religion who be able to explain some of these reasons. Here are some of them:

No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it. (Essentially always having someone vouch for the person being introduced.)
Never look at the wives of friend
Never be seen with cops.
Don't go to pubs or clubs.
Wives must be treated with respect. (I suspect is that they know a lot and you don't want them going to the police.)
You must be available at all times to the Mafia.

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Finland: "Gun ownership high, violence low"



THE Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively halted U.S. executions via lethal injection until it can rule on a challenge to the constitutionality of a particu lar execution "cocktail."

This is just the latest example of the whittling away of the death penalty - the courts have already cut executions by over a third since 1999. But this latest suspension of executions is likely to demonstrate yet again that the death penalty deters crime. . . . .

Some comments are coming in on this piece. See this by Art DeVany, Clayton Cramer, Free Republic, and Prairie Pundit.

I got this email from someone who read my piece.

First, I accuse Mr. Lott of no less than intellectual dishonesty with regards to some of the statistics he uses. To begin, the sentence "while African-Americans have committed 53 percent of all murders since 1980 in which the killer's race is known, they have accounted for only 38 percent of the executions." While at first glance, this seems to indicate that racial bias is non-existent in death penalty cases, one must remember that murder in itself, while necessary, is not sufficient for the death penalty to be handed down. Thus, the total number of murders is not a measure of the number of cases being considered for the death penalty. In fact, because the circumstances involved are relied upon almost exclusively (ie. the victim, prior history, etc.) when deciding whether or not to hand down the death penalty, simply citing these numbers does not tell the whole story in the least. . . . the author conveniently forgets that not every state has the death penalty. For instance, Michigan, New York (from 1978-94, well within the time that this statistic draws from), Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia do not currently execute anyone. These states (and district) all have some of the highest black populations in the country. . . .

The problem is that the gap between blacks and their share of executions and murders has gotten larger over time. This was originally in the op-ed, but got cut for space constraints. (The numbers before 1980 are pretty meaningless because even when an execution took place, there was only one execution a year.)

Further, your piece misses the point in its entirety. It is deceitful to say that the Court "effectively halted U.S. executions via lethal injection," because it does not tell the whole story. I'm sure you know that the issue at hand is whether the lethal injection itself constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" . . .

There are two points. 1) The point of the piece was to address some of the general arguments that have been presented agains the death penalty. 2) There are so many issues that one can get into in 700 words. I figured most people know this claim you point to and can judge for themselves whether lethal injection is so cruel.

This is simply a temporary stop-gap measure designed to ensure that the constitution is not trampled. This case currently before the Supreme Court does not aim to question the constitutionality of the death penalty itself.

Does the moratorium increase the chances that the death penalty through lethal injection will be ended? If lethal injection is found to be "cruel," would hanging or a firing squad be cruel? In any case, does it then lower the cost of criminals committing murder?

Thus, not only is this piece intellectually dishonest, but the most extreme instance of a "jack story" that I can imagine. . . .

Thanks for you thoughtful comments. But I must confess that I don't know what "jack story" means.

A further discussion of these issues can be found in my book, Freedomnomics.

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Mexico's strict gun control hasn't stopped its worst problem: crime

Mexico has very strict gun control laws:

Mexico's gun control laws are much stricter than in the United States. Individuals may purchase pistols or lighter caliber rifles, but only after obtaining a license following an exhaustive background check and then registering the firearm with the federal government. . . .

But voters think that the country's most pressing problem is crime:

People in Mexico have a clear idea of what their country’s most pressing concern is, according to a poll by Ipsos-Bimsa published by El Universal. 21 per cent of respondents think crime is the biggest problem facing the Latin American country. . . .

Gun control advocates claim that the problem is guns from the US. Here is my question: Why is it that if the Mexican's can't control the drug trade, they are going to be able to stop the drug gangs from getting the guns that are necessary to protect their drug businesses?

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One Briton's View of Guns in the US

Despite the recent spate of shootings on our streets, we pride ourselves on our strict gun laws. Every time an American gunman goes on a killing spree, we shake our heads in righteous disbelief at our poor benighted colonial cousins. Why is it, even after the Virginia Tech massacre, that Americans still resist calls for more gun controls?

The short answer is that “gun controls” do not work: they are indeed generally perverse in their effects. Virginia Tech, where 32 students were shot in April, had a strict gun ban policy and only last year successfully resisted a legal challenge that would have allowed the carrying of licensed defensive weapons on campus. It is with a measure of bitter irony that we recall Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, recording the words of Cesare Beccaria: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

One might contrast the Virginia Tech massacre with the assault on Virginia’s Appalachian Law School in 2002, where three lives were lost before a student fetched a pistol from his car and apprehended the gunman. . . .

It is nice to see that these arguments are even being taken seriously in the UK.

Thanks to Dan Gifford for sending this to me.

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New Op-ed: DC asking for Cert on Gun Ban


Alan Colmes forces Giuliani to say Whether He thinks that the Brady Act Reduced Violent Crime

If there is an academic study by Economists or Criminologiist that finds tht the Brady Act reduced violent crime, I hope that someone will please point to it for me. Alan Colmes deserves some respect for forcing Giuliani to answer this question.

COLMES: But the Brady Bill did lead to a decline in crime. You have to acknowledge that.
GIULIANI: The Brady Bill was part of the crime bill. The crime bill overall helped. I am not saying it did not help. But the reality is that what we did in New York was nothing short of totally unexpected. Nobody thought it was possible.

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For DC the ban on handguns is a safety issue


UK Gun Crime Soaring, Labor Government Accused of Cooking the Books

THE government was accused yesterday of covering up the full extent of the gun crime epidemic sweeping Britain, after official figures showed that gun-related killings and injuries had risen more than fourfold since 1998.

The Home Office figures - which exclude crimes involving air weapons - show the number of deaths and injuries caused by gun attacks in England and Wales soared from 864 in 1998-99 to 3,821 in 2005-06. That means that more than 10 people are injured or killed in a gun attack every day.

This weekend the Tories said the figures challenged claims by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, that gun crime was falling. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, tells her in a letter today that the “staggering findings” show her claims that gun crime has fallen are “inaccurate and misleading”. . . .

Thanks very much to Will Brink for bringing this to my attention.

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South African Gun Control hasn't reduce Crime Rates

Here is an article from Friday's Christian Science Monitor:

It is now 13 years since South Africa turned its back on the oppressive era of apartheid and, in a remarkably peaceful transition, embraced democracy. Much has been accomplished as blacks and whites sculpt a new, multiracial nation. But the warning in the Sowetan's boardroom is a reminder that democracy must be nurtured to flourish. . . . . Thus the big cities such as Johannesburg have become seedbeds for robbery and violent hijacking, making crime South Africa's biggest problem. Sometimes it is the work of individuals; sometimes the work of organized gangs. One black editor, while in no way supporting the old apartheid regime, remarks wryly: "There was no city crime or unemployment in the old days. If you were a black without a [residence] pass and a letter from your boss saying you had a job, the police would run you out of town. Today, whether you are black or white, you take your life in your hands if you walk downtown at night." . . . .

South Africa gun control really started disarming many people after 2004.

The Firearms Control Act came into effect on 1 July 2004 after the Pretoria High Court dismissed an application by seven organisations to prevent the Act from being implemented. . . . .

Thanks to Rich Griffiths for sending me these links.

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Handgun crimes rise in Britain since ban

Despite a ban on handguns introduced in 1997 after 16 children and their teacher were shot dead in the Dunblane massacre the previous year, their use in crimes has almost doubled to reach 4,671 in 2005-06. Official figures show that although Britain has some of the toughest anti-gun laws in the world, firearm use in crime has risen steadily. This year eight young people have been killed in gun attacks: six in London and one each in Manchester and Liverpool. . . . .

I don't think that the population of Britain has gone up much in the last decade (if it has gone up at all), but it would still have been better if they reported this in terms of crimes per capita. In any case, there are lots of reasons why gun crime is low or high in different countries, but the main point is how it changes when the regulations change. At the very least here, a gun ban doesn't appear to have lowered the crime rate.

Thanks to Richard of Newport for sending me this link.

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Rational Monkeys

It appears that even monkeys understand the notion of deterrence. At the very least, they at least respond in the way economics predicts: the more costly something is the less they do of something.

They say the monkeys are more afraid of young men than women and children, and the bolder ones throw stones and chase the women from their farms.

Nachu's women have tried wearing their husbands' clothes in an attempt to trick the monkeys into thinking they are men - but this has failed, they say.

"When we come to chase the monkeys away, we are dressed in trousers and hats, so that we look like men," resident Lucy Njeri told the BBC News website

"But the monkeys can tell the difference and they don't run away from us and point at our breasts. They just ignore us and continue to steal the crops."

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Forum on helping Terrorists

I am not really sure that I understand what some people are thinking sometimes.

If you were a terrorist, how would you attack?

That's the question a New York Times blogger posed Wednesday on the newspaper's Web site.

Steven D. Levitt, in a controversial posting on the paper's Freakonomics blog, has invited fellow bloggers to submit their worst-case scenarios for a terrorist attack.

The blogosphere is buzzing about whether the posting will prompt officials to stay ever-alert, as Levitt intends, or whether it could lead to a catalog of ideas that could encourage new attacks

Instead of setting up a forum to educate terrorists an alternative approach was suggested to me: "put up a website on how to CATCH terrorists (and criminals) more easily. The how-tos should be sent secretly to FBI,CIA, police."

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Predictions on surveillance cameras

I wonder whether there will be a difference in the change in crime rates between the summer and winter with these cameras. Surely there are fewer crimes that take place in the winter, but my guess is that the drop will be smaller then because in Chicago (one of the cities mentioned in the story) most people where some hood or face mask, thus negating the benefit of the camera.

Most people in the United States have no reservations regarding the use of video cameras in public places as a way to improve safety, according to a poll by TNS released by the Washington Post and ABC News. 71 per cent of respondents support having public surveillance cameras, while 25 per cent do not. . . . .

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The penalties faced by white collar criminals

This article only mentions the prison term faced by Fingerhut. But of course he will have to provide full restitution and fines. He is retired so he doesn't have to look for a job again because if he did (as I have pointed out in Freedomnomics), he would have an almost impossible task. There is also a high probability that his wife will divorce him and take most of his assets.

In his day, Bert Fingerhut was a Wall Street player. A top-ranked securities analyst for eight straight years, making calls that moved markets, Mr. Fingerhut rose to director of research at Oppenheimer & Co. in 1980. Three years later, he retired to Aspen, Colo. He was 40 years old.

In the Rockies, Mr. Fingerhut became as passionate about conservation as he once was about stocks. He joined the boards of a string of environmental organizations. So devoted was he to the wilderness that he got married in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park.

But he couldn't get Wall Street out of his system. In the 1990s he picked up a copy of Peter Lynch's "Beating the Street," in which the former star manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund wrote of a "can't-lose proposition (almost)" called bank-conversion investing.

When mutual, depositor-owned banks convert to public companies, Mr. Lynch noted, they must let depositors buy stock at the initial-public-offering price. The new shares are often priced at a discount. So "the next time you pass a mutual savings bank or an S&L that's still cooperatively owned," Mr. Lynch suggested, "think about stopping in and establishing an account."

Mr. Fingerhut took the advice to heart, and then some. Starting in 1995, he opened accounts at more than 400 banks across the country, from Wellsburg, W.Va., to Covina, Calif. He eventually got in on public offerings at many of them, and flipped their shares for quick profits. Over a decade, he made $11 million from the strategy.

There was one problem: The way he did it, he was breaking the law.

In May, Mr. Fingerhut pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud banks and their depositors by secretly using other people as fronts to open accounts for him, thus increasing the number of IPO shares he could buy. He forfeited all the money he earned from the strategy. On Friday, a federal judge in Newark, N.J., sentenced the onetime star stock analyst to two years in prison.
. . . .

Thanks to Jack Langer for sending this article to me.

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Now this is cruel and inhuman criminal punishment

I can't wait until the courts review the prison policies discussed here.

The article deals with the clothing worn by women visiting male prisoners. There obvious concern involves the behavior of the prisoners around these visitors. On the other hand, one thing that isn't mentioned is that the more that male prisoners anticipate visiting from outsiders, the more of a penalty it is for them to have that perk taken away from them. There might be more problems during visitation, but there might be fewer problems at other times.

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Concealed Carry Increasing in one of my Favorite Towns

Recent violence in Lubbock appears to have sparked a larger interest in concealed handgun licenses, so NewsChannel 11 taking a closer look into what it takes to receive one of those permits.

"The object of carrying a weapon is to prevent things from happening," Beverly Ellis, owner of Gun Shak in southwest Lubbock County said.

Ellis is also a concealed handgun license instructor. Before you can get a conceal-carry license from the Department of Public Safety, you'll have to spend hours of class time with her, or at least another instructor like Ellis, and it appears more people in Lubbock are up to the challenge.

"In the last two or three months there's been a much greater interest. With all the things that have been going on, they just feel like they want to be prepared, in the event that something happens," Ellis said.

"I am safer," Paul Bean said. . . .

You can tell it is Texas (at least outside of Houston and Austin) when not only is the article quite positive about right-to-carry, but also the news article provides a link on how people can get permits.

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Sign up here for your own gun free zone

There is a very funny YouTube segment here. This is really very funny. In rewatching this the fourth time, it finally dawned on me that this is from Fox News' "1/2 hour news hour."

Thanks to David Hardy for posting this link.

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New Op-ed in Philadelphia Inquirer: Guns don't kill people, Phila. does

My son Maxim and I have an op-ed in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

When Mayor Street spent 15 hours waiting in line for an iPhone recently, the city was not impressed by his love of new technology. Rather, Street had to answer to a passerby asking, "How can you sit here with 200 murders in the city already?"

Local politicians say they know the source of the problem: the lack of gun control. Gov. Rendell recently complained the state legislature "has been in the control of the NRA." Street blames the increasing murder rate on "the dangerous proliferation of guns on our city streets." Last Tuesday, two City Council members announced the novel legal tactic of suing the state government to let Philadelphia pass its own gun laws. . . . .

A comment tread can be found here.

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The NRA backing gun tracing as a crime fighting tool?

I am not sure how this squares with other positions that the NRA has taken on tracing (positions that I have agreed with them on). I have an op-ed that is coming out in the Phiadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday, though unfortunately I am at least a day late with my piece.

The state legislature last night passed a gun-control bill advocated by Philadelphia lawmakers, a notable feat in a state so strong on the right to bear arms and so hostile to the city's efforts to regulate them.
The Senate passed the legislation, 50-0, following overwhelming passage in the House last week.

The two measures in the bill, called minor by gun-control supporters, were nonetheless hailed as an important step in a new working relationship between the National Rifle Association and urban lawmakers.

One part of the bill would compel police departments to trace all illegal firearms confiscated from those under the age of 21 and report the guns to a state-police-run registry. The other would expand the definition of firearm under state law to include long-guns such as rifles and shotguns, providing more uniform application of state law.

The NRA backed the bills, saying the tracing requirement would help to fight crime.. . . .

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The EU is upset that the Czech use castration in a few very limited cases

This is very weird. Murders who are repeat offenders for sex crime are asked to voluntarily get castration. The EU is upset because this isn't "voluntary" because if these creeps don't agree to the surgery, they will be locked up until they are no longer viewed as a threat to others. You can really see that most of Europe has no notion of deterrence or punishment.

Surgical castration was confined mainly to offenders who had committed murder, and only with their consent.

But the committee cast doubt on how free that consent could be, if the alternative for the prisoner was indefinite confinement in a psychiatric hospital.

The committee said it was concerned about the overlap between the doctors treating the offenders and the panel of experts responsible for approving the operation.

The Czech government said castration procedures were carried out according to law, but improvement in legislation would be debated this year.

One of the hospitals involved said the procedure was only used for repeat offenders, many of whom were alcoholics and individuals with learning disabilities.

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Fox New Interview on whether crime is increasing

ANGLE: Are you safer on the streets today than you were a decade ago? How about a generation ago? We have heard some scary-sounding statistics about the U.S. crime rates, but what are the real numbers? National correspondent Catherine Herridge spoke with one expert who has undertaken a close study of the subject.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, thank you for being our guest. Let's lay out a foundation for people. When we look at crime statistics over the last two or three decades, are we safer today than we were in the 1960's?

JOHN LOTT, AUTHOR, FREEDOMNOMICS: Well, early 1960's, murder rates were roughly similar to what they are now. Violent crime rates are still much higher now. But during the late 1960's they we want up and they pretty much stayed high during the 70's and 80's. And it was only in the beginning of the 90's that we began to see the drop.

Since the beginning of the 90's, murder rates are about half of what they were at that time. And finally, crime rates are down nearly a third. So we have seen big drops in crimes over the last decade and a half or so.

HERRIDGE: If that is the case, why is it, when we look at big newspapers, like the "New York Times" or "USA Today" and the headlines say that violent crime is up for the second or third year in a row, and they almost suggest that it is almost some sort of a spike in violent crime in this country?

LOTT: Right, well, there has basically been a couple waves of this publicity. We had some stories the very end of last year and the beginning of this year, and they were mainly motivated by studies that were put out by something called the Police Executive Research Foundation, which is kind of police chiefs mainly for large cities in the United States. And it was kind of picking data. So they would go and pick some cities to report. They would pick some crime numbers.

So, for example, they would exclude rape rates, because rapes were falling. And they would look at the number of crimes, rather than the crime rate. . . . .

(Click through to read the rest)



Defending Oneself in England can lead to fines or prison

This ought to really dissuade criminals from attacking people. Here is a guy who gets in trouble even though he was already being physically attacked. Even more bizarre is that he apparently faced prison if he hadn't pleaded guilty.

A shopkeeper has been fined £250 and given a criminal record because he fought back when he was attacked by shoplifters.

Jacob Smyth chased three youths out of his hardware shop in Penzance, Cornwall, when he was set upon. When he was kicked in the groin by one of the hooded youths who had stolen cans of spray paint Mr Smyth hit back.

Police issued fixed penalty tickets to the shoplifters but charged Mr Smyth and a colleague with assault.

Yesterday he pleaded guilty to assault at Truro Magistrates’ Court. He claimed after the hearing that he had been advised to plead guilty because otherwise he could have faced a six month prison sentence.

The court was told that Mr Smyth, a father of three, caught the youths stealing the spray cans in October last year. Two of them turned on him and he was kicked in his groin just weeks after a vasectomy operation. He retaliated and punched 18-year-old Craig Spiller to the ground.

Paul Gallagher, defending, said: “The court can only imagine what they intended to do with that spray paint. He could see the cans poking out of their pockets. He leant forward to get them and at that stage he was set upon.

“He did punch one of them to get him off. In the heat of the moment he kicked him once or twice. Initially he was acting in self defence. Frustration at the situation took over. The lads were interviewed and given fixed penalty notices by police but unfortunately for Mr Smyth ended up in court today.

“He was the one who was trying to do the right thing and get his stolen property back.”

Julian Herbert, prosecuting, said the “aggravating factor” of the case was shop staff “taking the law into their own hands”. Fining Mr Smyth £250 and ordering him to pay £43 costs, Angy Haslam, chairman of the magistrates, said: “The act was aggravated by the fact you kicked the victim on the ground. We feel it has been mitigated because you acted in self defence.”

Speaking outside court, Mr Smyth said: “I did nothing wrong. I was getting a good beating from this lad. I had no choice but to defend myself. . . . .

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Who says that criminals don't care about getting the death penalty


A new attempt at deterrence

British Government Caught Distorting British Crime Survey Numbers: Violent Crimes 3 million higher than reported

Government figures 'missing' two million violent crimes
By David Barrett, PA Home Affairs Correspondent
The Independent
Published: 26 June 2007

An extra two million violent crimes a year are committed in Britain than previously thought because of a bizarre distortion in the Government's flagship crime figures, it was claimed yesterday.

A former Home Office research expert said that across all types of crime, three million offences a year are excluded from the British Crime Survey (BCS).

The poll caps the number of times a victim can be targeted by an offender at five incidents a year.

If anyone interviewed for the survey says they have been targeted more than five times a year, the sixth incident and beyond are not included in the BCS.

The authors of a report by think-tank Civitas said the five-crimes limit is " truly bizarre" and "misleading".

Professor Graham Farrell of Loughborough University and the former acting head of the Home Office's Police Research Group, Professor Ken Pease, calculated that if the cap is ignored, the overall number of BCS crimes is more than 14 million rather than the current 11 million a year estimate. . . . .

Please see the Liberty Zone here for a very nice related discussion.



Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Seniors feel safer when they carry gun"

May be things are starting to change when you see articles like this in a paper such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Even at 69 years old, Russ Geis has enough vitality to bike through Stark County's remote nature trails.

He said the .380-caliber handgun on his handlebars will ensure he's doing it at 70.

Geis is among a growing number of seniors licensed to carry a concealed firearm. Because of the way the state collects such information, it's hard to determine exactly what portion of concealed-carry permit holders are 60 or older. However, some local permit data and anecdotal information indicate they have steadily packed heat since the state's concealed-carry law passed in 2004.

"You are out in a park, riding a bicycle trail and all of a sudden you're confronted by a drug addict who would kill you for $5," Geis said. "Are you going to sit there and say, 'Boy, I hope the police show up?'

"Having a concealed weapon today is more to my advantage than it perhaps would've been when I was 30 years old.". . . .

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New Op-ed FoxNews.com: Death as Deterrence

"'You're fired,' man hears after saving a woman's life"

When a neighbor screamed she'd been shot, Colin Bruley grabbed his shotgun, found the victim and began treating her bloodied right leg.

Tonnetta Lee survived Tuesday's pre-dawn shooting at her Jacksonville apartment, and her sister and a neighbor praised Bruley's actions. But his employers, the same people who own the Arlington complex where Bruley lives, reacted differently. They fired him.

Bruley, a leasing agent at the Oaks at Mill Creek, said he lost his job after being told that brandishing the weapon was a workplace violation, as was failing to notify supervisors after the incident occurred. He'd worked at the Monument Road complex since December and for the owner, Village Green Cos., since 2005. . . .

Some other members of the media are starting to pick up on this story.

Yes, Bruley may have deviated from protocol -- but he did so in an emergency situation. He put the life of his neighbor -- who was also his client -- ahead of his own safety. Which raises the question: Isn't this the kind of person any company would want as an employee?

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How to get your jail sentence reduced by almost 90 percent: Cry

This is almost too funny. Paris Hilton was supposed to serve something like 23 days in jail (the sentence was 45 days, but with good behavior she was expected to get out in 23 days). Hilton still must serve home detention and it will be for the full 45 days.

On the heels of reports that Hilton had been crying in jail and receiving visits from her psychiatrist, reporters at the press conference seemed to think that the heiress had manipulated her jailers.

Whitmore didn't fully deny this accusation. When one reporter asked him, “What’s your comment to people who say she played you like a puppet on a string — she came in here, didn’t like it, it was hard and she got out?” he replied, “Once again, I just think that’s a different way of saying it, only the language is a little more — liquid. I would simply say that I understand that."

The sheriff's spokesman would not elaborate on Hilton's medical issues, nor would he say if they were physical or psychological. He added that the decision to send Hilton home was based on dozens of consultations and discussions over a period of three or four days.

I could write a defense of this for Ms. Hilton given that a day in jail for her must represent much more of a penalty in terms of forgone income than a day for most others, but I will not press the point in this case.

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The tiny rate that people are wrongfully convicted

There is an interesting discussion of compensation to criminals who have been wrongfully incarcerated here. There are multiple interesting points in this discussion, but one of the more interesting is that there have apparently been only 200 cases exonerated through DNA evidence. Given that there are about 2.19 million people in prison just today and that we are talking about cases over many years, this seems to me like an amazingly small number. Off the top of my head I don't how many of these people were in prison for murder or other serious crimes such as rape or robbery, but suppose that in any given year that it is conservatively 400,000. A rate of 20 per year or even 40 per year or even a total of 200 being exonerated seems remarkably tiny. Even the worst possible and obviously wrong number would imply that only .05 percent were wrongfully convicted. The normal saying is that it is better to let 10 guilty men go than wrongfully convict one. Well, in this case the DNA evidence alone shows you would rather let 2000 guilty go rather than wrongfully convict one. I have lots of problems with overly aggressive prosecutors and would have thought that alone would imply that many more cases would be overturned via DNA evidence, but this evidence on exonerations through DNA evidence, despite the publicity that it receives, is pretty meager.



Robbery Victim Protects Himself With Permitted Concealed Handgun

In yet another case a legally licensed citizen in Ohio has successfully used their concealed handgun to stop an attack.

Akron man with concealed gun shoots at robbers
Posted by Donna J. Miller June 01, 2007

A man legally carrying a concealed handgun shot at an armed robber in Akron.

Four teenagers approached 24-year-old Raphael L. Owens at about 11:30 Wednesday night near the corner of Elmore Avenue and South Portage Path. One pointed a chrome-plated gun at Owens and demanded his cell phone. Owens gave up the phone.

The robber then asked, "what else do you have?"

Owens tried to run, but the robber grabbed his arm. Owens broke free, pulled out his own gun and fired one shot, missing the teens, who took off running.

They ran south on Elmore while Owens ran toward a pay phone. When he got to Grand Avenue at West Exchange Street, he saw the suspects up the street, at Grand and South Portage Path. Again, one teen leveled a gun at him. Again, Owens fired a shot and missed.

The suspects fled as Owens called police from the pay phone at West Exchange and Dodge Avenue. ...

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Well at least South Africa put into place those tough new gun control laws


"Terror Suspect Claims Torture by Americans"

The evidence is beginning to appear overwhelming that we are unfairly treating prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. WARNING. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN OR THOSE WHO ARE PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE. OK, you have been duly warned. The detainee was reportedly:

forced to use unscented deodorant and shampoo and having to play sports with a ball that would not bounce.

I admit that the "unscented deodorant and shampoo" is troubling, but I am really outraged that the prisoners were given "ball that would not bounce." This is truly shocking and almost unbelievable. If I hadn't read this news account myself, I would not have believed it.

Possibly these types of outrageous conditions are causing people around the world to become terrorists.

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Jackie Mason on gun control

Wisconsin courts examine concealed handgun issue.

Lawrence Stich writes me that the courts are examining these self-defense cases on a case by case basis. This strikes me as similar to not posting a speed limit but making you have to go to court regarding each case to determine if someone were going too fast.

Pizza-delivery man Andres Vegas, who shot two people in seven months who were trying to rob him during deliveries, says the concealed-carry criminal charge against him ought to be tossed out for infringing on his constitutional rights.

In a motion filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court this week, lawyers for Vegas - he is fighting a misdemeanor charge for carrying a concealed weapon - contended that the state's concealed-weapons statute can't fairly be used against him because his job with Mona Lisa Pizza takes him places where he needs the gun for security.

"This prosecution functionally disallows Mr. Vegas' exercise of his constitutional rights to keep and bear arms for defense and security," his attorneys, Craig Mastantuono and Rebecca M. Coffee, wrote in the motion.

Authorities found Vegas shot the suspected robbers - one on N. 22nd St. on Jan. 4 and a 14-year-old boy on N. 34th St. on July 14 - in self-defense during what he told police were attempted armed robberies.

Vegas, 46, of Cudahy, was previously the victim of an armed robbery attempt in 2005, which was cited when prosecutors elected not to charge him in the July shooting. According to court records, he was also robbed, pepper-sprayed and beaten during a September pizza delivery, when he says he was unarmed. . . .

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More on Chicago misreporting murder rates


Two powerful op-eds on gun free zones

The problem with gun free zones is getting more and more attention. The first is by the very famous Michael Barone in today's National Review Online:

When Florida passed its concealed-weapons law, I thought it was a terrible idea. People would start shooting each other over traffic altercations; parking lots would turn into shooting galleries. Not so, it turned out. Only a very, very few concealed-weapons permits have been revoked. There are only rare incidents in which people with concealed-weapons permits have used them unlawfully. Ordinary law-abiding people, it turns out, are pretty trustworthy.

I’m not the only one to draw such a conclusion. When she was Michigan’s attorney general, Democrat Jennifer Granholm opposed the state’s concealed-weapons law, which took effect in 2001. But now, as governor, she’s not seeking its repeal. She says that her fears — like those I had about Florida’s law 20 years ago — proved to be unfounded.

So far as I know, there are no politically serious moves to repeal any state’s concealed-weapons laws. In most of the United States, as you go to work, shop at the mall, go to restaurants, and walk around your neighborhood, you do so knowing that some of the people you pass by may be carrying a gun. You may not even think about it. But that’s all right. Experience has shown that these people aren’t threats.

Virginia has a concealed-weapons law. But Virginia Tech was, by the decree of its administrators, a “gun-free zone.” Those with concealed-weapons permits were not allowed to take their guns on campus and were disciplined when they did. A bill was introduced in the state House of Delegates to allow permit-holders to carry guns on campus. When it was sidetracked, a Virginia Tech administrator hailed the action and said that students, professors and visitors would now “feel safe” on campus.

Tragically, they weren’t safe. Virginia Tech’s “gun-free zone” was not gun-free. In contrast, killers on other campuses were stopped by faculty or bystanders who had concealed-weapons permits and brandished their guns to stop the killing. . . .

The second is by a good friend of mine, Tracy Price, in today's Washington Times:

The above list is a tiny sampling of the growing number of multiple-victim shootings, including at least 39 school shootings in the United States. What do all of the above have in common? Each occurred in a "gun-free zone." The recent killing of 32 innocent students and teachers at Virginia Tech adds another tragic chapter to this horrible book of violence and death. I, like many fathers, consider this reality when I send my sons off to school each morning. . . .

Thanks to Jon Shell for sending me the first article.

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An unbelievably bad father

Is this man a candidate for the worst father?

I agree with one of the commentators that if I promise someone my kidney and don't deliver, I should be held liable.

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Privatizing Law Enforcement in Southern Oregon

Replacing local law enforcement with private gun owners. It is completely unreasonable to completely eliminate police protection. That said, it has long been true in a large number of rural counties that there is not 24 hour police protection, and even when there is protection it can take very long periods of time before police are able to arrive at the crime scene. Still, citizens shouldn't be expected to have to provide their entire police services themselves.

Brian O'Connor wrote me that:

Interesting things happening here in Josephine County in lovely southern Oregon. It looks like the county budget's going to take a huge hit because federal funds are drying up. In particular, the Sheriff is saying he's going to have to eliminate all patrols for the county -- which is pretty big -- unless voters vote in favor of a levy to support law enforcement. It's highly unlikely that the levy will pass, and everyone knows it.

The upshot is that handguns are flying off the shelves of the local gun shops (I confirmed this with the people at Bradbury's Gun-N-Tackle Thursday) and the Sheriff has scheduled 4 seminars to teach people how to fend for themselves. (We have a fairly large Meth problem in the county.)

I've included a clipping from today's Grants Pass Courier, 4/28/07. (The paper is not available online.)

UPDATE: A lot of counties are apparently facing the same problems.

Other counties in Southern Oregon would fare even worse than Jackson County, which closed all of its 15 library branches April 6 and laid off the equivalent of 80 full-time workers. Curry County officials have spoken of declaring bankruptcy, and Josephine County, which also intends to close its libraries, plans to cut back on law enforcement, making arrests only for major crimes.

If a one-year extension is ultimately approved, Walker said it makes no sense to talk about reopening libraries, only to shut them down again.

“One year would not change anything,” he said.

Besides the library layoffs, Jackson County’s budget for next year calls for eliminating an additional 92 positions in public safety, roads, law enforcement and community justice. . . .

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Stossel: Gun control isn't crime control

Please also watch the video in the upper righthand corner.

But be careful about how far the calls for gun control go, because the idea that gun control laws lower gun crime is a myth.

After the 1997 shooting of 16 kids in Dunblane, England, the United Kingdom passed one of the strictest gun-control laws in the world, banning its citizens from owning almost all types of handguns. Britain seemed to get safer by the minute, as 162,000 newly-illegal firearms were forked over to British officials by law-abiding citizens.

But this didn't decrease the amount of gun-related crime in the U.K. In fact, gun-related crime has nearly doubled in the U.K. since the ban was enacted.

Might stricter gun laws result in more gun crime? It seems counterintuitive but makes sense if we consider one simple fact: Criminals don't obey the law. Strict gun laws, like the ban in Britain, probably only affect the actions of people who wouldn't commit crimes in the first place. . . .

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Some multiple victim public shootings around the world

This is list not complete. It misses out on the attacks in France as well a s Switzerland. For example, September 27, 2001 — a lone gunman shot and killed 14 people in the Swiss cantonal parliament in Zug, near Zurich. Note that all of these are in gun free zones. I also wish that the listing had made it clear that the Tasmania attack had 35 deaths. The 20 deaths and then reference to 15 might be missed by casual readers as having a greater total.

Deadly Mass Shootings Around the World

Apr 26 02:23 PM US/Eastern
By The Associated Press
Some of world's worst mass shootings:

_ April 16, 2007: Seung-Hui Cho, 23, kills 32 people and himself on Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va.

—Nov. 20, 2006: Sebastian Bosse, 18, opens fire at former school in Emsdetten, Germany, before killing self. Five people are wounded and dozens hospitalized for smoke inhalation after he sets off smoke bombs.

—Sept. 13, 2006: Kimveer Gill, 25, opens fire in cafeteria at Dawson College in Montreal, slaying one student and wounding 19 before killing self.

—April 26, 2002: Robert Steinhaeuser, 19, who had been expelled from school in Erfurt, Germany, kills 13 teachers, two former classmates and policeman, before committing suicide.

—April 28, 1996: Martin Bryant, 29, bursts into cafeteria in seaside resort of Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia, shooting 20 people to death. Driving away, he kills 15 others. He was captured and imprisoned.

—March 13, 1996: Thomas Hamilton, 43, kills 16 kindergarten children and their teacher in elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland, and then kills himself.

—Dec. 6, 1989: Marc Lepine, 25, bursts into Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique college, shooting at women he encounters, killing nine and then himself.

—Aug. 19, 1987: Michael Ryan, 27, kills 16 people in small market town of Hungerford, England, and then shoots himself dead after being cornered by police.

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Law enforcement official on Fox News Radio

I didn't catch the Law enforcement official's name, but he said something interesting if not surprising: "Law enforcement always receives these copycat cases after these events [Virginia Tech] get attention in the news."



Passive resistance doesn't work so well

"Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success" -- British self-defense expert Maj. Robin Browne, commenting on his company's work in a Texas school district teaching students how to rush and subdue an armed attacker, quoted in an Oct. 13, 2006 Associated Press story.

From Opinion Journal's Political Diary.



Student asks for class to be held off campus to be safer


Fred Thompson on Guns

Research paper on Multiple Victim Public Shooting

I have been getting a lot of requests for a copy of my research on multiple victim public shootings. You can download the paper here.

UPDATE; A debate on that work can be found here. Thanks to John Fund and Cal Blalik for sending me this link.

Two comments and responses:

1) "Prof. Lott wrote in an email that he counted less-severe incidents to get enough data for statistically significant results. He justifies his exclusion of gang murders because gun usage by chronic criminals "would not be directly affected by the passage of right-to-carry laws."

That seems to be precisely the reason to include them for a full picture of the effect of these laws. Of course, the complete picture frequently goes missing in this debate."

-- The point is that we tried and reported it many different ways (including the measure used by the New York Times, two or more murders, three or more murders, four or more murders, various combinations of that with injuries as well as injuries separately, and the number of attacks). If someone had a reasonable suggestion for a measure, we would have used it. Out of all those ways, one way was not statistically significant and for what I think is a very obvious reason: the basic model had almost as many control variables as events. My question is: why is it better to try only one measure and find that is statistically insignificant as the other paper you cite does? Besides saying it is too much work, what is there reason for only trying one measure? They also include crimes that we provide a theoretical reason for why they will move the coefficient towards.

2) "Grant Duwe, a researcher on the later study, said the news-archive approach was likely incomplete, because the media don't always give publicity to multiple shootings."

-- Duwe and co-authors had a choice between doing the costly and time consuming media approach that we did or they could use the government data that includes cases that would include cases that shouldn't have been included. An important question to answer in evaluating Duwe's answer above is: Does one really believe that there are really many multiple victim public shootings involving non-gang members and where four or more people are killed that don't get any news coverage? These authors were sent our data before they did their paper and did not provide any evidence that our method missed the types of cases that we were concerned about. From having checked our data against the FBI reports (which we had done years before their work), I would argue that the only cases they picked up were gang shootings of other gangs. Something that can be interesting, but would not be particularly relevant for our estimates of the impact of right-to-carry laws.

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Another gun free zone: "1 Person Dead; Gunman on the Loose at Virginia Tech University"

All the public universities in Virginia have rules banning guns on campus.

BLACKSBURG, Va. — A gunman was loose on the Virginia Tech University campus in Blacksburg, Va., Monday, and officials were warning everyone to stay away from all building windows.

A state government official told The Associated Press said that at least one person was killed and another was injured in a shooting incident at the West Ambler Johnston residence hall early Monday morning. FOX News has not yet confirmed that report. . . .

UPDATE: Paul Huebl sent around a link confirming what I had already put up about Virginia Tech being a gun free zone.

Last spring a Virginia Tech student was disciplined for bringing a handgun to class, despite having a concealed handgun permit. Some gun owners questioned the university's authority, while the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police came out against the presence of guns on campus.

In June, Tech's governing board approved a violence prevention policy reiterating its ban on students or employees carrying guns and prohibiting visitors from bringing them into campus facilities. . . .

UPDATE: Obviously, this has turned into a much more horrible situation than was originally reported. I will wait to post more until more is understood about what happened.

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Crime Surge in England: Tony Blair Blames Black Culture

Possibly Bill Cosby could get away with something like this, but politicians really take a big risk discussing these topics. Black on black crime, whether it is in the US or the UK, inflicts a massive cost on the black community. My own belief is that a stricter law enforcement system with more real penalties would help. If you increased arrest and conviction rates in those communities, my guess is that crime would also go down there.

Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem. . . . .

Giving the Callaghan lecture in Cardiff, the prime minister admitted he had been "lurching into total frankness" in the final weeks of his premiership. He called on black people to lead the fight against knife crime. He said that "the black community - the vast majority of whom in these communities are decent, law abiding people horrified at what is happening - need to be mobilised in denunciation of this gang culture that is killing innocent young black kids".

Mr Blair said he had been moved to make his controversial remarks after speaking to a black pastor of a London church at a Downing Street knife crime summit, who said: "When are we going to start saying this is a problem amongst a section of the black community and not, for reasons of political correctness, pretend that this is nothing to do with it?" Mr Blair said there needed to be an "intense police focus" on the minority of young black Britons behind the gun and knife attacks. The laws on knife and gun gangs needed to be toughened and the ringleaders "taken out of circulation". . . .



"UK is knife crime capital"


Trying to set the Police Executive Research Forum Straight


Hurricane Katrina has long term effects on gun ownership in Lousiana

Sixty-four-year-old Vivian Westerman rode out Hurricane Katrina in her 19th-century house. So terrible was the experience that she wanted two things before the 2006 season arrived: a backup power source and a gun. "I got a 6,000-watt generator and the cutest little Smith & Wesson, snub-nose .38 you ever saw," she boasted. "I've never been more confident." People across New Orleans are arming themselves _ not only against the possibility of another storm bringing anarchy, but against the violence that has engulfed the metropolitan area in the 19 months since Katrina, making New Orleans the nation's murder capital.

The number of permits issued to carry concealed weapons is running twice as high as it was before Katrina _ this, in a city with only about half its pre-storm population of around 450,000. Attendance at firearms classes and hours logged at shooting ranges also are up, according to the gun industry. . . . .

Thanks very much to Robert Stevens for sending this.

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New Op-ed on Guns and the 2008 Campaign


Alexander Cockburn Deflates Fears of Another "Crime Wave"

Ominously timed for Campaign 2008 we've got a hike in certain stats for violent crime. So we can look forward to Steve Squarejaw-type commitments to being tough on crime, particularly from Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and -- it's surely safe to assume -- Hillary Clinton. The Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based law enforcement think tank whose board consists of seven police chiefs, including William Bratton of the LAPD and John Timoney of Miami, has just put out a report stridently titled "Violent Crime in America: 24 Months of Alarming Trends". This follows the alarums of the Forum's October 2006 bulletin, which featured Bratton predicting "a gathering storm" of violent crimes.

Of the fifty-six police departments voluntarily sending 2006 figures to the Forum-New York City was not among them-forty reported increases in homicide and robbery. The Forum says that between 2004 and 2006 homicide increased 10.2 percent, robbery 12.3 percent, aggravated assault 3.1 percent, aggravated assault with a firearm up 10 percent. . . .

The Forum's fearful trumpetings would diminish sharply if its statistics addressed crime rates rather than merely numbers of crimes. The population of the United States is rising by about 1 percent per year. As the columnist John Lott pointed out, if the police chiefs had measured the violent crime rate, "it would have been hard to argue that violent crime is increasing because while the rate did go up slightly in 2005, it had fallen every single previous year since 1991. How can they claim that violent crime is out of control when it had fallen for thirteen straight years before rising by 1.3 percent for just one year?"

There are wide divergences in the performance of the cities reporting to the forum. Murderers in Charleston worked away diligently and managed to hike their total from 11 victims in 2005 to 23 in 2006, a headline-making rise of 109 percent. By contrast the murderers of Atlanta could only manage 107 in 2006, up from a disappointing 89 in 2005, but down from 112 in 2004. In Chicago aggravated assaults fell two straight years, from 18,820 in 2004 to 17,438 in 2006, a drop of 7.3 percent. . . .

Cockburn is right on point here. As hard as it is for me to still be surprised by the New York Times, I was still amazed that they have tried creating this hysteria over rising crime. The NY Times is what seems to have given this report the main attention that it received. The quote that Cockburn uses from me is for a report that the Police Executive Research Forum had issued this past year, but it is still exactly on point for this re-release of this slightly updated report. The most recent report that was issued earlier this year appears to be even worse in that it is not even clear whether there was a bias in what city crime rates were reported. For those interested in seeing the PERF report please go here.

Just to give you an idea of how bizarre this report is, when you read this note that this is the number of crimes, not the crime rate. It is akin to comparing the number of crimes in a city 20 years ago with today even though the population of the city might have doubled over that time. See page 5:
Alexandria (VA) Homicides doubled from 2004 to 2005
Arlington (TX) 5-year high for aggravated assaults
Boston (MA) 10-year high for homicides
Cincinnati (OH) 20-year high for homicides
Fairfax Co. (VA) 16-year high for homicides
Kansas City (MO) 6-year high for homicides
Nashville (TN) 7-year high for homicides
Orlando (FL) All-time high for homicides
Prince George’s Co. (MD) All-time high for homicides
Richmond (CA) 10-year high for homicides
Springfield (MA) Nearing a 10-year high for homicides
Toronto (Canada) 10-year high for homicides
Trenton (NJ) All-time high for homicides
Virginia Beach (VA) 10-year high for robbery

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Message to Bloomberg: Police volunters without guns in NYC? What are you thinking?

Given that Bloomberg is against even police carrying guns off-duty, I suppose that this isn't too surprising. Yet, if this is the policy that you are going to adopt, possibly you should also have strategy of teaching these volunteers to run away from any attacks when they occur.

NEW YORK — A gunman rampaged through a strip of restaurants and bars in a trendy Manhattan neighborhood, killing two unarmed volunteer police officers and a pizzeria employee, the mayor said.

Regular police officers then shot and killed gunman David Gavin, who had bag with a fake beard, two guns and 100 rounds of ammunition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said early Thursday.

"Tonight was a horrible night for the New York Police Department and for our city," he said. "Two men who volunteered their time to make our city the safest big city in America lost their lives helping to keep it exactly that way."

A neighborhood resident, Tina Lourenko, said she saw the gunman and recognized him as a former employee of the pizzeria. . . .

Thanks to Robert Stevens for getting me to think about this piece a second time.

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Roanoke Times publishing list of Virginia permit holders

About 2 percent of Virginians, 135,789 of us, have concealed handgun permits. . . .

As a Sunshine Week gift, The Roanoke Times has placed the entire database, mistakes and all, online at www.roanoke.com/gunpermits. You can search to find out if neighbors, carpool partners, elected officials or anyone else has permission to carry a gun. . . . .

One of the benefits of concealed handguns is that criminals don't know who is going to be able to defend themselves, so even those who have no plans of carrying a concealed handgun benefit from the fact that others do so. Now if a criminal wants to attack someone all a criminal has to do is look up the name of a potential victim and see if they are able to defend themselves. I have one question for Christian Trejbal (the writer of the piece): Does he put a sign up in front of his home reading "This is a gun free home"? Probably not, and for good reason.

Thanks to William Taggart for alerting me to this newspaper article.

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Two Concealed Handgun Permit Holders Stop Public Shooting

Memphis, Tennessee 3/8/07

Police in Memphis say a gunman firing a pistol beside a busy city street was subdued by two passers-by who were also armed.

No one was hurt during the incident that apparently began with a minor traffic accident, but one passing car was believed hit by a bullet.

Brothers William Webber and Paul Webber told police they stopped their car and pulled their own pistols when they saw a man firing a handgun yesterday.

The brothers said they ordered the man to drop his weapon and then held him at gunpoint until police arrived a few minutes later. Police say the Webbers did not fire their pistols.

Police arrested Dementrius Roberson and charged him with reckless endangerment. Police say the Webber brothers and Roberson have licenses to carry firearms.

Paul Webber says Roberson was firing across traffic and they couldn't tell why he was shooting. . . . .

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DC Gun Ban Struck Down

The Federal Appeals Court today struck down the ban. A copy of the decision can be found here. Remember you read it here first.

The first paragraph in the decision says it all: "Appellants contest the district court's dismissal of their complaint alleging that the District of Columbia's gun control laws violate their Second Amendment rights. The court held that the Second Amendment . . . does not bestow any rights on individuals except, perhaps, when an individual serves in an organized militia such as today's National Guard. We reverse." Also interesting (p. 57): the court clearly recognizes that restrictions are unconstitutional when they prevent guns from being used in self-defense. The Appeals court granted summary judgement for the plaintiffs.

In the dissent, I wonder if the Judge understands that her decision (p. 3) implies that people should be able to own machine guns. They are surely weapons used in militias.

I have no doubt that this is going to the US Supreme Court. There is significant disagreement across the circuit courts that I think there is no doubt that the Supreme Court will grant cert. This is actually a very high risk gamble. IF the gun ban is struck down, it will have major implications. If not, no gun regulation will be deemed "unreasonable."

UPDATE: Fox News has posted a useful discussion here

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France: Film police violence, go to jail

Scooter Libby Trial Verdict


Supreme Court Going to Decide About Whether to Allow High Speed Police Chases

This is a case for the Supreme Court? The problem with the decisions at the district and circuit court levels is that the courts looked at what they thought were the costs and benefits from pursuit in those cases. Even if a particular pursuit turns out badly, the threat of pursuit may stop a lot of other crimes from occuring. It is too bad that the person in this case became paralyzed, but what about the other crimes that were stopped?

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case expected to lay down new rules about when and how law-enforcement officers can chase suspects and use their vehicles to stop them.

At issue before the court is whether a Georgia police officer went too far when he rammed his vehicle into the car of a driver who refused to pull over for speeding. The car went down an embankment, and the crash left the 19-year-old driver paralyzed from the neck down.

Civil liberties advocates and critics of police chases are concerned that a ruling for the officer in the case would give law enforcement the green light to use more aggressive tactics even for minor offenses.

Most Central Florida law-enforcement agencies have policies that prohibit pursuits when only traffic or minor offenses are involved, although some policies are more restrictive than others.

Law-enforcement officers across the country are concerned that a ruling for the driver would put them in legal jeopardy for split-second decisions at crime scenes.

But even if the court rules in favor of the deputy, don't expect area law-enforcement agencies to change how they deal with fleeing suspects, one veteran Central Florida police official said Sunday. . . . .

As the chase continued on Georgia Highway 74, at speeds of up to 90 mph, Scott took over and led the pursuit.

Seconds later, Scott asked permission to use the PIT maneuver, and his supervisor responded over the radio: "Take him out; take him out."

But they were traveling too fast on a wet two-lane road for the maneuver, so Scott rammed Harris' Cadillac in the rear, sending the car down an embankment.

Harris was paralyzed and was never prosecuted.

He filed a lawsuit against Scott, alleging violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment's guarantees against unreasonable seizures and excessive force. . . . .

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"Cash-Strapped Michigan Sheriff's Department Auctioning Machine Gun"

Given that machine guns are legal and given that there are zero crimes committed with these registered machine guns, this seems like a rational policy to me, but I am sure that this Sheriff's office will be given all sorts of grief.

"For sale: Collector quality, fully automatic M-16 [by the Lapeer County Sheriff's Department] in excellent condition. Never fired outside shooting range."

UPDATE: Sayuncle writes me that:

"Given that machine guns are legal and given that there are zero crimes committed with these registered machine guns,"

There have been two murders committed with lawfully owned MGs. One case was a cop used a Mac 10 to murder an informant. In another, a wealthy doctor killed his assistant whom he'd been stalking with a Mac-10.

UPDATE: Sayuncle was nice enough to inform me that the case involving a police officer did not involve a privately owned machine gun. He pointed to the details are available here.

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The City of Chicago having real trouble keeping track of guns in evidence storage


Anti-crime advice from a criminal


The scary power of prosecutors

When I was chief economist at the U.S. Sentencing Commission I came across many prosecutors who scared me. You want people who are really motivated to get their job done, but these guys would frequently feel that everyone commits thousands of crimes and even though we only caught this person for one crime, we are really justified in throwing the book at this person. These guys have so much power. I never meet Giuliani, but he impressed as among the worst in the way that he went after Milken. Charging Milken with a hundred crimes, going after Milken's brother, and going after others to make Milken break, not because he really seemed to believe that these charges were justified. In the end, Milken went to jail for something that had only involved fines in the past. But Milken agreed to this to save his brother from Giuliani trying to destroy Milken's brother's life.

The trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is the closest version of a Red Queen trial this country has had in a long time. One says that knowing it might start a stampede from past defendants laying claim to the most upside-down prosecution.

Lewis G. Carroll's account of the Knave' s trial before the Red Queen and White Rabbit is famous for the Queen's dictum, "Sentence first, verdict afterward." But read the full transcript of the mock trial and one will see that the real subject is not justice, but the humiliation of the defendant.

The trial of Scooter Libby in Washington, the national capital of illogic, has been exemplary. In December 2003, the prosecutor purports a crime has been committed by revealing a "covert" CIA agent's identity to the press -- despite knowing then what the outside world learned nearly three years later -- that the revealer of the agent was a State Department official, Richard Armitage. With the "whodunnit" solved on day one, the prosecution follows the Red Queen's script by taking the nation on a useless, joyless ride through the opaque looking-glass of Washington journalism.

The testimony of three of the world's most sophisticated journalists -- Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper and Tim Russert -- was the trial's closest thing to the White Rabbit reading nonsense verse to the jury: "For this must ever be a secret, kept from all the rest, between yourself and me."

The Libby case went to the jury yesterday. After the verdict, all the characters in this satire on Beltway mores will go back to doing what they did before, except for one -- Scooter Libby.

If found guilty, Mr. Libby goes to prison. He is ruined. If acquitted, he loses only that which he built daily the past 35 years of private and public life -- his reputation. This, too, is ruin.

Purified justice notwithstanding, something here has gone "horribly wrong."

As is increasingly true of politics, American justice today has come to look more like mortal combat, the videogame. Notions of proportionality have eroded. Crimes that are minor crimes, civil offenses or mere hardball politics like the Plame case must be elevated to a capital offense. Eliot Spitzer's pursuit of AIG founder Hank Greenberg rose to a bonfire of never-proven criminal charges that put the torch to the company and Mr. Greenberg before burning down to its current ash of alleged civil offenses against him.

Under the constant stare of the media Cyclops, prosecutors can't back down and justice in 21st-century America degrades to swamp justice. Exhibit A: the Duke lacrosse-team prosecution. Judge Lewis Kaplan, in the federal government's recent KPMG prosecution, sat in appalled disbelief as federal prosecutors attempted to reduce 18 defendants to rubble. . . .



Do they really want to convict this good Samaritan?

I understand how the person whose place was broken into must feel, but would convicting this guy really create the right incentives for neighbors in future cases? Possibly the solution is that the person with the DVD shouldn't have had the volume turned up so high? May be the neighbor can follow the lead in this story I posted on earlier.

OCONOMOWOC, Wis. — A sword-wielding Wisconsin man broke into his neighbor's apartment thinking he was chivalrous after hearing the cries of a woman he thought was in peril — but instead, she was in porn.

James Van Iveren was in his Oconomowoc apartment listening to music when he heard loud cries from a woman he thought was pleading for help, reported the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The 39-year-old grabbed a cavalry sword, a family heirloom, and rushed upstairs to forcibly open the quarters of an upstairs tenant he barely knew.

"It was a woman screaming," Van Iveren said of the Feb. 12 incident. "She was screaming for help."

Bret Stieghorst told police that he was watching a pornographic DVD when Van Iveren kicked open his door, damaging the frame and lock in the process, with a 39-inch blade in hand.

Stieghorst said Van Iveren demanded "Where is she?" while thrusting the sword at him.

The neighbor told police Van Iveren became increasingly aggressive as he repeated the question, insisting that he had heard a woman being raped. The complaint said that, with the sword pointed at him, the neighbor led Van Iveren throughout the apartment, opening closet doors to prove he was alone. . . .

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"Blair to hold summit on gun crime"


Poll on Canada's gun registration program

An example of poll bias. The ANGUS REID FORUM has the question: Does the gun registry help reduce crime? The problem is that there is no possible answer for whether the gun registry might be counterproductive, that it might actually increase crime.

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What one British cop wants: re-arming of the British population

Here is a blog written by an anonymous British Police Officer.

My answer to anti-social behaviour (actually my answer to crime as a whole really) is the re-arming of the British population. Although I sometimes give the impression that I don't like the public much, they're generally quite reasonable except where their dogs are concerned. In my darker moments I think guns should be not just legal but compulsory for sane, law-abiding members of the public. I can’t see much point in petty legal distinctions between automatic, military, sniper, hunting, fully-automatic, large calibre or machine guns but I think the military should have the monopoly on heavy artillery. I would have a licensing system very similar to the system of driving licences we have, only simpler ("So, you pull the trigger here, now which end does the bullet come out of ?") People would be elected to positions of responsibility within local neighbourhood watches and senior police officers would be able to raise a posse, members of which would have to wear fluorescent vests for safety reasons.

Thanks very much to Dave Senger for sending this.

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Setting the record right, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence gets corrected

The Executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence had this thoughtful little note last week in the Washington Times. I had written a letter responding to the statement in the Washington Times that cited state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis as claiming that "the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has reported that gun shows are the second-leading source of guns used in crimes, behind only unscrupulous licensed dealers." The point that I made was that "The ATF doesn't make the claim that its investigations are representative of the distribution of sources of illegal guns" and then I pointed to the Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of 18,000 state prison inmates in 1997 that showed 0.7 percent of those inmates who had weapons got them from gun shows and 1 percent from flea markets.

Follow the gun trails
Once again, researcher John R. Lott Jr. is revealing the ideology behind his misrepresented statistics in claiming that gun shows are not a major source of crime guns (Letters to the Editor, "Gun scruples," Sunday).

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) report in question, "Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Laws Against Firearms Traffickers" (http://www.atf.gov/pub/fire-explo_pub/pdf/followingthegun_internet.pdf) analyzed crime-gun trace data compiled from 1,530 firearms-trafficking investigations over a 2½-year period.

The report found that "gun shows were a major trafficking channel, involving the second highest number of trafficked guns per investigation (more than 130), and associated with approximately 26,000 illegally diverted firearms."
ATF further stated that "prohibited persons, such as convicted felons and juveniles, do personally buy firearms at gun shows and gun shows are sources of firearms that are trafficked to such prohibited persons."

The National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress were so alarmed at the results of this report and others that they acted in 2004 to prohibit the ATF by law from releasing any further trace information to the American public under Freedom of Information Act. One would be hard-pressed to imagine a more anti-democratic measure outside of book burning.

The Department of Justice study mentioned by Mr. Lott (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/guns.htm) involved a survey of inmates in state prisons, 2 percent of whom said that they purchased the gun used in their crime at a flea market or gun show.

An additional 80 percent indicated they got their gun from "family, friends, a street buy or an illegal source." No effort was made to trace the crime guns involved in the study to find out where they were originally bought and how they were subsequently trafficked.

It is likely that many of these guns were originally purchased at gun shows. The only thing the study hinted at was how the last illegal transfer of a firearm had taken place, and we know from ATF that guns often change hands several times before being used in crimes.

The Virginia State Police report that background checks prevented 2,668 illegal transactions by criminals and other prohibited purchasers in Virginia in 2005 alone. If this type of activity is taking place in regulated gun sales that are overseen by the ATF, then what type of individuals are buying guns when the rules are: "No paperwork, cash and carry"? It's a question that the citizens of Virginia should be asking their legislators.

Here is my response.

Gun trails
The executive director of theCoalition to Stop Gun Violence's response to my letter was extremely misleading ("Follow the gun trails," Letters, Feb. 3).

First, simply repeating the number of transfers investigated by the Clinton administration ignores the issue that I raised: theBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigations were not representative of how the typical criminal got their guns.
It really just shows where the Clinton administration decided to put its investigative resources. For example, if the Clinton administration had decided to only investigate gun shows, they could have said the percentage of investigations involving gun shows was 100 percent. What would that prove?

Second, the possibility that a third party might have gotten a gun from a gun show and then transferred it to someone who used it in a crime will not be prevented by regulations on how guns are sold at gun shows.

Regulations at gun shows could theoretically stop the 0.7 percent of armed criminals who obtained their guns at gun shows, but the regulations will not stop someone who can buy a gun at a gun show from transferring a gun outside the show and the regulatory costs will significantly reduce the number of gun shows by about 14 percent.

Finally, not only is there no academic journal study by economists or criminologists showing that regulations such as the Brady Act reduce violent crime, but even island nations, such as Australia, England and Ireland, with easy borders to defend have seen increases in murder and violent crime after complete or partial gun bans were adopted.

The notion that past gun control failures can be fixed with yet more laws should at some point give pause to even someone from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

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DC Considering Temporarily repealing Gun Ban


London's Property Crime Rate 39% Higher than New York's

Gallup claims that while 32 percent of Londoners have been victims of property crimes, New York's victimization rate is 23 percent. Of minor interest, this probably means that the violent crime rate is greater in London than New York by a larger gap than exists between property crime in the two cities.

Thanks to John WIlliamson



Letter in Today's Washington Times on Gun Show Regulations

The article on gun-show regulations in Virginia contains a serious mistake ("Panel kills gun-show checks for private sales," Metropolitan, Thursday). The article cites state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis as claiming that "the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has reported that gun shows are the second-leading source of guns used in crimes, behind only unscrupulous licensed dealers." Unfortunately, the study she cites simply was not designed to reach the conclusion that Mrs. Davis claims, because the ATF report looked at 198 non-randomly chosen investigations. The ATF doesn't make the claim that its investigations are representative of the distribution of sources of illegal guns.

By contrast, the Bureau of Justice Statistics conducted a survey of 18,000 state prison inmates in 1997, the largest survey of inmates ever conducted. Less than 1 percent of inmates (0.7 percent) who had a gun indicated they had obtained it at a gun show. When combined with guns obtained from flea markets, the total rises to 1.7 percent. These are tiny fractions compared to the estimated 40 percent of the criminals' guns that are obtained from friends or family and the 39 percent that are obtained on the street or from illegal sources. The numbers also had changed little from a similar 1991 survey that indicated that 0.6 percent of inmates had gotten their guns from guns shows and 1.3 percent from flea markets.

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Take guns from police and crime soars?

This is shocking: you take guns away from police, arrests plummet, and crime rates soar. How could that possibly happen? This occurred even though there was widespread concerns of corruption among the police.

Police in the violent border city of Tijuana have their guns back three weeks after being forced to hand them over to federal authorities on allegations on collusion with drug traffickers. . . .

The officers handed in their guns Jan. 4 after President Felipe Calderon sent 3,300 soldiers and federal police to Tijuana to hunt down drug gangs. . . .

The Tijuana police initially stopped patrolling when their guns were taken, saying it was too dangerous, but most later returned to work. . . .

Last week, the Tijuana police department announced it had issued some officers slingshots and ball bearings to defend themselves.

Algorri said the drastic action put the city's safety at risk, and cut in half the number of arrests made in January compared to the same period last year. . . .

In several neighborhoods, residents took the law into their own hands, grabbing suspects off the street and tying them up before calling police to haul them off. . . .

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Blame game on crime increasing

Crime rates went up in 2005 after falling almost continually since 1991. The small increase in 2005 and the "3.7 percent increase in violent crime" for the first half of 2006 has gotten a lot of attention. Some want to put the blame on the 1 billion in cuts for Federal government aid since 1998. I am not sure of the exact theory why it is only showing up now, but the main point is that the federal money was a real waste. The hundred thousand more cops was largely more computers and other things that substituted as cops. The cops that were hired were largely people who would have been hired anyway or were used for things that didn't have anything to do with crime.

"If you talk to police, they'll tell you that fighting crime is like cutting the grass, you have to keep up with it. We didn't do that," he said. "We're seeing the results of that and I think the time has come where the wake up call takes place." . . . . .

Thanks to Keith Rasmussen for sending me this link.



Murder rates up in many cities


Weird Crime Fact: Male Rapes


The Police Executive Research Forum Going Political

The Police Executive Research Forum's analysis of violent crime trends has already gotten significant newscoverage and may get more tomorrow when they meet in Boston during the afternoon. The theme of their report is that violent crime is rising again. Their first figure (Box 1) summarizes their concern by showing the number of violent crimes, murders, rapes robberies and aggravated assaults over the last 19 years. As soon as one sees their numbers, you know that there is a problem because they are reporting the number of crimes, not the crime rate. Given that population is growing at about 1 percent per year, this is of some importance. If they had used the violent crime rate, it would have been hard to argue that violent crime is increasing because while the rate did go up slightly in 2005, it had fallen EVERY SINGLE PREVIOUS YEAR since 1991. How can they claim that violent crime is out of control when it has fallen for 13 straight years before rising by 1.3 percent for just one year?

For robbery, something that they point to as particularly significant ("Sounding the Alarm on Robbery"), it had fallen for 12 of the previous 13 years and in this one year had risen by 2.9 percent.

In addition, they some how manage to exclude even the absolute number of rapes from their list of violent crimes, possibly because it falls in 2005 from 2004.

Their call for more gun control is not based on any evidence that this will reduce crime.

I agree with them that the "decrease in police department staffing levels" is important, though I don't think that they are overall on point.

Thanks to Rich for sending me the link to the report.

Foor a detailed discussion see this.



New Research that Abortion Increases Violent Crime Gets Attention

From today's Chicago Sun Times:

A high-profile economist is challenging the conclusion in the best-selling book Freakonomics by University of Chicago professor Steven D. Levitt that the legalization of abortion in the early 1970s led to a major drop in murder and other violent crimes a generation later.

John R. Lott Jr., a former U. of C. economist now teaching in New York, says the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision actually caused violent crime to rise.

Lott and fellow researcher John Whitley plan to publish a paper in October in Economic Inquiry that questions Levitt's research on abortion and crime.

Lott and Levitt already were feuding over Lott's charge that Levitt had defamed him in Freakonomics.

In their new paper, Lott and Whitley say that legalization of abortion prompted a cultural change that increased the number of children born out of wedlock. Those children of unwed mothers caused murders to rise by more than 700 cases in 1998 alone, saddling the public with more than $3.3 billion in "victimization costs," the paper says.

On the other hand, Levitt's research found that Roe v. Wade resulted in a savings of $30 billion a year that crime would have cost the public.

More unwed mothers

His Freakonomics, co-authored by Stephen Dubner and published last year, says legalized abortion led to a large drop in murder and other violent crime in the late 1980s and early '90s, and continues to reduce crime.

The book suggests that if the aborted fetuses had instead been born, they would have become adults more likely to commit crimes because they were unwanted by their mothers.

To illustrate the point, the book says the five states that allowed abortion three years before Roe vs. Wade saw major declines in violent crime between 1988 and 1994 -- earlier than the other states.

But Lott says the Levitt study did not fully consider the increase of children born out of wedlock. His theory is that with the option of abortion, women became more likely to have premarital sex, but then had their babies and raised them as single parents.

Children born out of wedlock have had smaller investments in "human capital" by their parents and are more likely to get into trouble when they grow older, Lott says.

On average, his paper says, about 5 percent of whites were born out of wedlock from 1965 to 1969, rising two decades later to 16 percent. For blacks, the figure rose from about 35 percent to about 62 percent, the paper says.

Before legalized abortion, more than 70 percent of children born out of wedlock ended up in families with a father, but the fraction fell to 44 percent in 1984, according to the paper. . . . .

If you want to read the research, you can find it here. THe newspaper article says that I concede that abortion through its effect on "unwanted" births slightly reduces violent crime, but what I believe that I said is that it is possible. The net effect however is abortion increases violent crime.

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Will Donohue and Levitt predict that a massive new crime wave is coming?

Guttmacher Institute, associated with Planned Parenthood, claims that: "The rate of unintended births — unintended pregnancies carried to term — rose by 44 percent among poor women from 1994 to 2001, but declined by 8 percent for wealthier women." If true, I assume that those few who still believe that abortion massively reduces violent crime rates after the errors were discovered in the original research will be predicting that we will soon see a big increase in violent crime rates. If up to 80 percent of the changes in murder rates can be explained by abortion as has been argued, those who believe this relationship must be worried we could be in for big increases in murder. (Of course, the abortion is more likely to slightly increase crime.) People born in 1994 will become teenagers starting next year. Presumably, proponents of this theory will start warning people very soon.

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Interesting conference on the abortion and crime link

Today we just had an interesting conference on the abortion and crime link. There is a video of the event. We invited all the Americans who had finished work on this topic by the middle of February, so while it might appear that almost everyone who had finished a paper thought that the link between abortion and crime was nonexistent or possibly even positive. There was one paper that claimed to find evidence in favor of Donohue and Levitt, but that when the issues raised by Chris Foote were dealt with the significance of the effect went away. Video is available of the two sessions at the top right of the page.

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The Economist Magazine on Steve Levitt and Abortion

Of course, lots of people have always thought Mr Levitt was in the wrong. Even if abortion cuts crime, it is still immoral, they fulminate. But this is largely beside the point: Mr Levitt's research does not take a position on abortion's social virtues, but aims merely to uncover its societal effects. Besides, for someone of Mr Levitt's iconoclasm and ingenuity, technical ineptitude is a much graver charge than moral turpitude. To be politically incorrect is one thing; to be simply incorrect quite another.

But what is most amazing is that despite all the statistical significance being eliminated from their panel data set being eliminated when the results are done Donohue and Levitt's way with the the data they want to use, John Donohue now says what they wanted to do:

It may be asking too much of the numbers to convince everybody. “The debate over abortion and crime will not be resolved within the parameters of our paper,” says Mr Donohue. He thinks the arrest figures are “muddy” and the state population data “sloppy”. Combining the two generates so much noise, it is hard for the statistical tests to hear anything. Ted Joyce, a professor at Baruch College (part of the City University of New York), who has had his own methodological disagreements with Messrs Donohue and Levitt, also thinks the debate is stretching the data too far. He points out that if you add controls for 50 states and 12 years—as Messrs Foote and Goetz do, and as Messrs Donohue and Levitt meant to do—you are, in effect, holding another 600 things constant. This robs the data of most of their variety, and of much of their ability to explain anything.

There was no warning that these were the wrong tests at all in either of their previous papers or in Levitt's book. Levitt now refers to the “collage of evidence," but the panel data was the only test that really amounted to anything worthwhile. The rest of the data was merely cross sectional or time series.

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Incorrect claims about the data in More Guns, Less Crime

I have received an email comparing my work to that of Steve Levitt's regarding claimed coding errors in More Guns, Less Crime. Of course, this discussion is not very accurate.

1) There are no coding errors in the data used in “More Guns, Less Crime.” The book used crime data from 1977 to 1996, and as far as I know, no academics have claimed that there were any coding errors in that data. An interesting and useful Stanford Law Review article by Plassmann and Whitley added an additional four years to the data and the problem arose in this additional data. Overall, less than 200 cells out of 7.5 million cells were accidentally left blank. More important, the results that Plassmann and Whitley noted were the results which they thought were the correct ones were not affected at all by this minor change in the data.

2) I had put the data set on my website as a favor to Plassmann because it was very large and he did not have the ability to put it up for people to download. The data was corrected as soon as the missing cells were discovered and it was available for people to download. A note was added to the site to alert people to the correction. While I had helped them out on their paper, I let Plassmann and Whitley make their own statements about their results. My website reported the regressions in the same way that I had done them in all my previous estimates.

3) In statements here and here, I have discussed what was involved in Levitt's errors. The regressions where they left out the fixed effects were essentially the only ones that were at all useful in testing their hypothesis because they were the only ones that didn't require large degrees of aggregation to get to their "effective abortion rate" that were related to total murder rates in a state. The work that I did with Whitley directly related the age of the murder to the number of abortions when that murderer was born.

Thanks to Bob Thomas for his email.

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Levitt's Abortion "Disappeared" When "Programming" Error Fixed

Levitt's Abortion results disappeared when programming Error Fixed

"The Boston Fed's Mr. Foote says he spotted a missing formula in the programming oversight of Mr. Levitt's original research. He argues that the programming oversight made it difficult to pick up other factors that might have influenced crime rates during the 1980s and 1990s . . . . He also argues that Levitt should have counted arrests on a per-capita basis. Instead, he coundted overall arrests. After he adjusted for both factors, Mr. Foote says, the abortion effect disappeared.

Christopher L. Foote and Christopher F. Goetz's paper can be found here. Personally, I think calling this a "programming oversight" is being much too nice (See my post here to see an example of what you would have to miss to not notice whether you have used fixed effects). More importantly everyone who works with panel data knows that you use fixed effects.

My own work concentrated on murder rates, but I also included fixed effects. Donohue and Levitt never provided us with all their data or their regressions and would never answer any questions that we had so I just assumed that they had included fixed effects from the beginning. It would have been nice if they had provided us with this same information years ago.

My paper with John Whitley is available here.
A letter that I had in the WSJ is available here.
James Q. Wilson's review of this debate is available here.


See also Steve Sailer's past work on this topic.
See also Steve Sailer's compliation of what others are saying here.

UPDATE II (I have been asked about inaccurate claims regarding my own research in More Guns, Less Crime):

See this for a discussion about claimed errors in More Guns, Less Crime

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Revisiting John Donohue's cancelling of our gun debate last fall

1) It was very disappointing that John Donohue backed out of our debate on guns last December with just two days to go. I had looked forward to the debate, and obviously had my plane tickets well in advance. It was a date that Donohue had picked (I had said that I could do all but one day over the end of November through December and I would have gone beyond December if necessary), and the first email that I had confirming the event was received in September. I ended up speaking at Chicago on another topic so that a later debate could be attempted to be set up again with Donohue.

2) Unfortunately, the second planned debate was also cancelled. The debate was rescheduled for April 13th this year, and I made sure to reconfirm it because of the previous cancelation. The student at Chicago who set up the debate said that even though he had confirmed the debate with me multiple times and even though we had taken a date that I was told that Donohue wanted, the claim is that the debate somehow hadn't been completely confirmed with Donohue. (You would think that if the previous cancelation was an accident, Donohue would have been careful to double check this time just in case there had been any possible misunderstandings, but no one is claiming that he checked anything.) Attempts were made to get Donohue's coauthor Steve Levitt to substitute for Donohue and debate either guns or abortion claims were unsuccessful. From an email that the organizer sent me after the second debate was cancelled: "You have been the most patient and flexible speaker I could imagine . . . ."

3) In conversations with Joe Cascio (the speaker coordinator for the UC Fed Soc Chapter), I had said several times if we were going to schedule a third try at a debate, we should do it on the abortion and crime claims, especially given the amount of attention that this poorly done empirical claim had gotten. Despite Donohue claiming that the debate would actually take place this time, he was unwilling to debate this hot topic. Steve Levitt was unable to debate (he was debating the topic but only with people who didn't seem to know much about the issue) and Dubner, Levitt's coauthor, was unwilling to debate the abortion claims. The University of Chicago Federalist Society was again willing to have me give another talk that wasn't in a debate format, but they insisted that I remove the statements regarding the canceled debates from my website. (They simply viewed my posts about the April 13th event being critical of the Federalist Society (I disagree), and the earlier post that they wanted removed because they didn't want to be involved in a debate about a debate.) I told them that I would correct anything that they told me was wrong, but I wasn't going to remove the postings. If people set up debates and back out at the last moment, they should be held accountable.

On the substance of Donohue's work on guns, I would direct people to this paper by Plassmann and Whitley. There are two straightforward points that they make. 1) That the graphs at the beginning of the Ayres and Donohue work are very misleading because they don't make it clear that the sample of states is changing. The crime rates clear fall for a decade and a half and the sudden increase isn't real for the remaining states. It just looks like an increase because the couple of rural states that remain did not experience the decline in murder rates that more urban states experienced after right-to-carry laws were passed. 2) The second claim has to do with them fitting an intercept and line to the data and then limiting their reported impact on crime to only five years. Often there is no problem with this, but as Plassmann and Whitley clearly show it doesn't fit in this case. The Ayres and Donohue approach implies that crime initially increase (despite the fact that the year by year data discussed in point (1) doesn't, and it is just an artifact of their estimates over predicting in the early years because they are fitting this straight line with an intercept shift to crime that is falling at an increasing rate. But to compound the problem, they only discuss what the estimates mean for the first five years. Even with this approach if they had picked the sixth year it would have reversed their claims.

I also think that it is pretty clear why they find it difficult to debate either guns or abortion. Steve Landsburg was very nice to suggest in April that Levitt and I have a discussion at Rochester this fall, but I haven't heard anything back. I immediately wrote back saying that I was interested. Landsburg wrote in April that:
"Our department would like to arrange, sometime in the fall, to have you and Levitt visit simultaneously and give back-to-back workshops on guns, abortion or both. We want to hear your criticisms of each others' work and your responses to those criticisms. We *don't* want this to turn into a debate; we want it to be an academic seminar with all the usual rules of logic and evidence. The presenter is presumed to have the floor; there is an expectation of periodic interruptions from the audience; but there's also someone in charge to cut off questioning if it starts to take over the seminar. We would most assuredly *not* advertise this event to the general public, because we don't want an audience of advocates for any point of view. Ideally, we'd have you both here for two days, with you presenting on one day and Levitt presenting on the other. We are open to alternative suggestions. We'd pay you both an honorarium of some size to be determined, though surely far less than you deserve. We'll do what we can to make it attractive, though."

I am posting this because of an email that I received asking questions about Donohue's cancelation last fall.

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Abortion and Crime "debate" at the University of Chicago Scheduled for May 25th

The University of Chicago Federalist Society has tried for a third time to set up a debate between myself and John Donohue. Since the last two debates on the issue of guns at the University of Chicago were canceled at the last moment with Donohue withdrawing from one debate with just 2 days to go, I thought that we might have more luck scheduling a debate on another topic that is getting a lot of attention these days: abortion and crime. Donohue and Steve Levitt were the coauthors on a paper that got a lot of attention on this issue and Levitt as also recently coauthored a book with Steve Dubner that again goes over the issue. All three were asked to pick a time to debate the issue, but even though Donohue is free on the 25th and despite all the attention currently being given to the abortion research, none of them were willing to debate their work on abortion with me. (I think that I know why.) I will still be presenting on the 25th with the hope that Donohue will change his mind and defend his research.

Further discussions about John Donohue, including his backing out of one of the two previously scheduled debates on guns, are here.

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Debate with John Donohue is again canceled, this time with only six days to go

It seems like we have been through this before. In December, John Donohue cancelled our debate that was scheduled at the University of Chicago for December 2 on November 30th. After what had happened in the Fall, I double checked to make sure everything was confirmed before I turned down another talk that I had the chance to give, and I was assured that the event was set and that I should get my plane ticket. This time our debate that was scheduled at the University of Chicago on April 13th and canceled with just six days to go.

Further discussion of Ian Ayres & John Donohue are here.

Update: Here is an email that I received from Joe Cascio:

On Apr 7, 2005, at 3:08 PM, wrote:

Dear Dr. Lott,

I know that you are not going to be happy about this, but unfortunately, Professor Donohue cannot make it on the 13th of April. I am currently trying to work out the 21st (a Thursday with him). This time it really is more my fault. If you think that you could make it on the 21st (if that works out--I will let you know when Professor Donohue has his plane reservations in his hands), then we, of course, will pay for your current ticket and/or any changes that you have to make (or for both your current ticket and a new one if it is unalterable). If, on the other hand, you don't think you might be able to make it on that date or any other later in the quarter, I completely understand (obviously, we will still take care of your current reservation).

You have been the most patient and flexible speaker I could imagine and I feel as though you have been treated rather shabbily. I am really sorry about that. I still really hope that this event works out, if it does, I really feel like it might the best of our entire year. However, if it does not, I have nevertheless enjoyed working with you and I still really appreciate everything that you did for us in the fall at the last minute as well. Thank you very much, and I regret that I, once again, must convey my apologies.


Notes from me: Bold markings added. Before I bought my plane ticket, I had asked Joe in an email well before this one whether everything had been set up and he confirmed that they had. Unlike the first event being cancelled by Donohue with just two days to go, I have my suspicions about what happened here and I suspect that Joe is falling on his sword to provide cover. I was so mad that Donohue would cancel the first event the way he did, I have my suspicions that Joe is trying to keep things undercontrol by taking the blame "this time."

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