The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Who Is Murdering Whom?

Posted on | March 26, 2018 | Comments Off on Who Is Murdering Whom?

Newt Gingrich got his facts wrong in an appearance Sunday on Fox News:

There are five cities in America that have most of the killings in America, five cities. All five theoretically have gun control. All five cities are a disaster. By the way, those guns are almost all handguns.

This is false. There were 17,250 murders in the United States in 2016, of which only 1,568 (i.e., 9%) occurred in the top five cities: Chicago (765), St. Louis (188), Detroit (303), Washington, D.C. (138), and New Orleans (174). So it’s not true that “five cities . . . have most of the killings in America.” This false claim has been spread around the Internet, and probably originated as a misstatement of an actual truth:

Most homicides in U.S. occurred
in 5 percent of counties, says study

The homicide rate may be rising in some U.S. cities, but slayings are still a localized phenomenon, with most U.S. counties not seeing a single homicide in 2014.
The vast majority of homicides occurred in just 5 percent of counties . . . according to a new report released [in April 2017] by the Crime Prevention Research Center. . . .
About 70 percent of the counties, accounting for 20 percent of the U.S. population, had no more than one murder in 2014, with 54 percent of counties experiencing zero murders, the report found.
Meanwhile, 5 percent of the counties, which made up nearly half the population, accounted for more than two-thirds, with the highest numbers concentrated in areas around major cities like Chicago and Baltimore.

The main point of that study was that rural America is relatively free of violent crime, which is far more prevalent in urban areas.

If Gingrich got the facts wrong on Fox News, he was correct in his general point that cities with strict gun-control laws (which include Chicago and Washington, D.C.) are nonetheless very dangerous places. Why? Because crime is a people problem, and a propensity for criminal violence is not randomly distributed within the population. For decades, liberals promoted misleading claims about the “root causes of crime” — racism, poverty, etc. — that did not translate to effective policy for preventing crime, which is what most people actually care about.

By the 1990s, even Democrats had figured this out, so that Bill Clinton struck a tough-on-crime posture in his presidential campaigns, seeking to exorcise the ghosts of Mike Dukakis and Willie Horton that had haunted the Democrat Party. As a result of more effective policies, the U.S. homicide rate declined from 9.8 (per 100,000 population) in 1990 to 4.4 in 2014 — a 55% reduction in 24 years. Of course, there were non-policy factors involved in the decline of crime, including the advent of DNA testing and the widespread use of video surveillance cameras. However, the shift toward a tough-on-crime policy stance had a major impact, and the old liberal “root causes” arguments about crime were thereby proven wrong. Human behavior can be influenced by incentives, and effective law-enforcement provides negative incentives to criminal behavior.

The “Black Lives Matter” movement that was launched in 2014 can be viewed as an attempt to revive the discredited “root causes” mythology. By depicting criminals like Michael Brown as innocent victims of racist police, activists sought to exploit widespread public ignorance about the reality of crime and law enforcement in America. Heather Mac Donald exposed this reality in her book The War on Cops, pointing out that a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by black man than the other way around (see “Putting Homicide in Perspective vs. the Media’s ‘Atrocity Narrative’ Propaganda,” Oct. 3, 2017). The racial aspect of violent crime is impossible to ignore. Black males, who constitute barely 6% of the U.S. population, are about 44% murder victims in the country, and are also about half of those arrested for murder. Effective policies to reduce violent crime in the United States will save black lives, but such efforts will also require locking up black criminals.

Which brings us back to the subject that got Gingrich tangled up on Fox News Sunday: The Parkland High School shooting and the resulting hysteria ginned by Democrats and their media allies (see “The Phony ‘Gun Violence Epidemic,’” March 25). There is no “epidemic” of school shootings, America’s children are safer in schools now than they were 25 years ago, and therefore demands for draconian gun-control laws are unjustified and misguided. The real crime problem, as Gingrich said, is in cities like Chicago, where 23 people have been shot to death so far this month and another 108 were shot and wounded. A total of 91 people have been shot to death in Chicago so far this year, despite the city’s gun-control laws. Crime is a people problem, and there are a lot of bad people in Chicago. By contrast, there are a lot more good people in Parkland, Florida, but there was this one bad kid with a gun.

Why should this anomalous event — a tragedy that could have been averted if the authorities had acted on all the tips they had about the shooter — be made the justification for a crusade to disarm the millions of law-abiding gun owners in America? Of course not, and if people knew the facts, they’d be mad as hell at the way the media have lied to them.



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