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Weekend Read: Bill Bratton’s Cures for Gun Violence

Posted by Larry Doyle on January 19, 2013 12:55 PM |

Given all of the attention to the gun issue, I welcome sharing this Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview with William Bratton. Who is he? Former New York City (and Los Angeles) police commissioner. How did he do while In New York?

Mr. Bratton publicly promised to cut crime by 10% in his first year and 15% in his second. Privately he told Mr. Giuliani that crime would drop 40% in three years.

And down it went. In two years, murders fell 39%, robbery 31%, burglary 25% and car theft 36%. By 1998, two years after he left the job but with his programs firmly in place, murders had fallen 70%, robbery 55%, burglary 53% and car theft 61%.

How might he address the gun issue currently? 

The WSJ Weekend Interview with William Bratton is a fabulous read,

The last time America had a gun-control debate was the early 1990s, and it was followed by the great two-decade-long decline in American crime. The irony is that gun control had very little to do with that decline.

William Bratton did. Serving as New York City’s top cop for 27 months from 1994 to 1996, he helped turn around a violent, crime-ridden city with policies that later were adopted nationwide and across the globe. The 65-year-old now runs a consulting business and a tech firm that focus on law enforcement, and in a recent chat he puts the gun debate in the context of policies that really have made America safer.

As announced Wednesday, President Obama wants more federal and state information-sharing, more data collection and better training for local law enforcement. But the heart of his proposals, and the most controversial, are his requests that Congress reinstate the ban on “assault weapons” that lapsed in 2004, outlaw ammunition clips holding 10 or more rounds, and extend mandatory background checks to almost all gun sales.

Mr. Bratton likes what he calls the “symbolism” of this agenda, but he’s unsure if its enactment would make a substantive difference. “Its importance is that it is a motivator to keep people aware, concerned and involved,” he says as we sit amid the police helmets, miniature squad cars and framed magazine covers of his midtown Manhattan corner office. “The good news is at least the issue is once again being discussed and being discussed seriously. As to what the ultimate outcome will be, it’s anyone’s guess.”

The problem with the gun and ammo bans, he offers, “is that that’s going forward.” They do nothing about the 350 million firearms, including assault weapons, and hundreds of thousands of extended clips already in circulation. “You can’t deal with that retroactively.” As for the practical effect of gun control, he notes that “all the studies that were done about assault weapons after the ban ended after 10 years were pretty much inconclusive.”

He says he’d support “anything that reduces the number of rounds in a clip.” In an attack like the one in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Bratton says, the faster a deranged killer can shoot, the more damage he can do—and the less time is allowed for the police to arrive. “Oftentimes it is in the changing of a clip that the opportunity presents itself for stopping. What’s the right number—seven, 10, 15? Who knows? The right number is no bullets in the clip, but that’s not going to happen.”

Mr. Bratton predicts that “the most successful focus is going to be on the licensing and background checks. Because that’s the heart of the problem—who gets access to the guns?” he says. “Clearly a large number of people who shouldn’t have firearms actually apply through the process and obtain firearms.” He also argues that Congress ought to confirm a permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for the first time since 2006.

But the gun reform that truly gets Mr. Bratton fired up is one you don’t hear much about these days. It is what he calls “certainty of punishment,” or stricter gun-crime sentences.

“People are out on the streets who should be in jail. Jail is appropriate for anyone who uses a gun in the commission of an act of violence. Some cities have a deplorable lack of attention to this issue,” he says, citing Philadelphia.

In Chicago, where the murder rate rose 16% last year, “to try to put someone in jail for gun-related activity you really have to go the extra mile,” he says. “If there’s one crime for which there has to be a certainty of punishment, it is gun violence.” He ticks off other places where help is needed: “Oakland, Chicago, D.C., Baltimore—all have gangs whose members have no capacity for caring about life and respect for life. Someone like that? Put ‘em in jail. Get ‘em off the streets. Keep people safe.”

Mr. Bratton has some experience with jailing bad guys, making them stay off the streets and watching the crime rate drop. His efforts in New York brought him to national prominence, but he has been collaring criminals for decades. After serving in the military police during the Vietnam War, he returned to his native Boston and worked his way up in that city’s law-enforcement organizations.

He moved to New York in 1990 to take over the transit police (which was then separate from the city force). Quickly crime dropped across the subway system. In late 1993, after a brief return stint in Boston, Mr. Bratton was appointed commissioner of the New York City Police Department by Mayor-elect Rudy Giuliani. Consciously echoing Churchill, he declared at his first news conference that, “We will fight for every house in the city. We will fight for every street. We will fight for every borough. And we will win.”

It took a lot of fighting. More than 2,200 New Yorkers had been murdered the year before. Daily commuting meant being confronted by prostitution, drug use, public urination, theft—urban life run amok. Mr. Bratton publicly promised to cut crime by 10% in his first year and 15% in his second. Privately he told Mr. Giuliani that crime would drop 40% in three years.

And down it went. In two years, murders fell 39%, robbery 31%, burglary 25% and car theft 36%. By 1998, two years after he left the job but with his programs firmly in place, murders had fallen 70%, robbery 55%, burglary 53% and car theft 61%.

One of his first challenges was to change a helpless, can’t-do mentality. From the 1960s through most of the 1980s, the FBI’s “Uniform Crime Reports” included this note: “Criminal homicide is largely a societal problem which is beyond the control of the police.” That pretty well described the thinking in many urban battlegrounds.

Mr. Bratton rejected it. He led the NYPD according to the principle that, as he wrote in 1999, “No place is unpoliceable; no crime is immune to better enforcement efforts.” The key was giving the police the novel goal of preventing crime, not just responding to it. To achieve that goal, they mostly needed new strategies for policing, not new legislation.

For starters, they wouldn’t ignore minor crimes such as prostitution, aggressive panhandling, excessive noise and underage drinking. It was an application of what would become famous as the “broken windows” theory, which held that even small signs of disorder would, if left untended, breed further disorder, crime and fear.

“Stop the behavior when it’s small, stop the cancer when it’s small,” Mr. Bratton says, an approach he says is as useful today as it was then. It turns out that those who committed minor offenses often also committed major ones. When police started arresting subway turnstile-jumpers, one in seven had an outstanding warrant and one in 25 carried a gun.

Another innovation was the almost obsessive use of timely crime data to drive tactics and accountability. Police began questioning every person arrested with a gun about where, when and how it was obtained. Detectives were instructed to investigate all shootings as if they were murders.

All of this went on under a legal architecture that had existed for years, including a 1974 state gun-control law considered the strictest in the nation. The tide turned so dramatically only in 1994, says Mr. Bratton, because finally the police enforced the law “fairly, compassionately and consistently” across all neighborhoods.

Another part of the anti-violence solution was the 1968 Supreme Court ruling Terry v. Ohio, which held that a police officer is allowed to stop, question and frisk a person on the street if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. “Stop-and-frisk” became a central feature of policing—and now, in a transformed New York two decades later, it has become a matter of controversy. Liberals want it banned.

Critics of stop-and-frisk argue that it discriminates against blacks and Hispanics, who are the subjects of a majority of stops. Proponents say this simply reflects the demographic realities of crime. Although blacks make up only 23% of New York’s population, for example, they accounted for more than 60% of all murder victims in 2011 and committed some 80% of all shootings. The issue is now in the federal courts, where for the first time a judge last week ruled a part of the program unconstitutional.

Stop-and-frisk is not something that you can stop. It is an absolutely basic tool of American policing,” Mr. Bratton says. “It would be like asking a doctor to give an examination to you without using his stethoscope.” Critics, he complains, “always leave out the middle term—stop, question and frisk. About 60 to 70 percent of the stops don’t result in a frisk in New York.” As for Judge Shira Scheindlin’s recent ruling, he predicts a reversal “when it goes to the Supreme Court.”

If stop-and-frisk makes it to the highest court in the land, the ruling might be more than a matter of academic interest for Mr. Bratton. He has been out of the police-chief game since 2009, when he retired after a successful seven-year stint in Los Angeles. But he has been speaking with more than one of the candidates who are positioning themselves for New York’s mayoral election this November. Asked whether he might return for a second stint as the city’s top cop, he offers praise for current Commissioner Ray Kelly and says little more than “I’ll keep my options open.”

Think Rahm Emanuel and the mayors of the 10 most dangerous cities in America might want to give Bill  a call. Perhaps Eric Holder, Joe Biden, and President Obama himself may want to ring Bill up.

What do people think?

Larry Doyle

Isn’t it time or overtime to subscribe to all my work via e-mail, an RSS feed, on Twitter or Facebook.

I have no business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

 

 

 

 

  • Ed Pefferman

    Larry,
    At the risk of sounding like I am “second guessing”
    Chief Bratten, who I respect and admire, I have some
    rather novel ideas about how to mitigate this problem.

    GET REAL
    In this age of celebrities, we over emphize the ability
    of one persons impact on this plague. Chief Bratten
    promised he would reduce crime by 40% in three years
    (a very nobel promise, coming from a Pol, not a Chief)
    Chief Bratten was NYPD’s Chief for 2.7 years. The
    population of NY is what?
    Even the WSJ article implies the the reduction in crime
    during this period was more a matter of age demographics.

    THE SCALE OF THE PROBLEM
    350,000,000 in circulation now!!!! These arn’t
    particlarily pershable items.
    Let’s examine this number, how many of those are shotguns
    (3-5 max rounds,limited range,max damage close range),
    deer rifles ( 1 round chamber, usually 3 or 4 clip),
    military style weapon (basically post Vietnam and
    clips of up to thirty,but theoretically unlimited.
    I would bet that these military style weapons made in the
    last twenty years, only amount to less than 50,000 of
    the 350,000,000 toatal.
    What this suggests,is we need a very focused effort to
    get these “off the streets” and band new sales of this
    type weapon.
    I propose a “Bounty Program” on these weapons, sould
    be national, but could be statewide.

    Got to go, for now, but i will be back.

    Ed

  • FredB

    Ed, I’m glad you put “off the streets” in quotes. I owned an AR-15. I did not consider it “on the street.” That’s a very loaded term.

    Your ideas are far from novel.

  • Peter Scannell

    I nominate Bill Bratton for SEC Enforcement Director!

  • Ed Pefferman

    FredB,
    I’ll bet that’s exactly what Adam Laza mother thought

    Ed

  • Ed Pefferman

    Lary,

    Part II (continued from previous blog)

    CLIPS……trying to regulate these is a waste of time.
    These can be manufactured in my garage in about two
    hours. All this would do is create a cottage industry.
    When I was in Vietnam we use to duct tape two of these
    thirty round clips together,it took a split second to
    rotate them. We did it to all are clips. Maybe a novice
    would screw this process up but I doubt it.
    Got to go.
    Ed

  • RB

    The average person with just a modicum of practice can drop a magazine and swap to a new one and start firing again in 2 seconds on average. With regular practice they can accomplish it in just one second and a few who could be considered world class could do it in about 0.7 seconds as I have read recently.

    But, doesn’t all of this pretty much totally ignore the fact the criminals won’t obey the new gun laws no matter what they are? If that is so, and I believe that has been proven many times, then new gun laws are only restricting law abiding citizens at home and making it more difficult for them to feel safe in their own homes.

    Obama is not interested in having a Czar like Bratton. Bratton might actually dare to suggest that the real need is for us to eliminate psychiatrists’ability to give out psychotropic drugs almost like they were candy to anyone they consider depressed or troubled. Proven side effects of these types of drugs are both suicidal and homicidal tendencies.

    Additionally, if the idea is to stop or materially reduce mass shootings.. please note that roughly 90% or more of the shooters are either on or recently getting off psycho-tropic drugs. Additionally, making the sentence of mass shooters more strict? Is that a serious recommendation? The great majority of them kill themselves at the end of their killing spree already.

    There is also something important for all people who might have to defend themselves at home to remember.. when bare SECONDS count, the police are only MINUTES away!.. Police seldom save anyone from being attacked and killed in the spur of the moment once someone has broken into their home, no matter how fast the call goes out to them. The police nearly always arrive just in time to tag the bodies, gather the evidence and start an investigation to find the attacker that got away. The same timing holds true for mass shootings as well, although most shooters, as noted above, tend to off themselves and save the State the effort of finding and prosecuting them.

    You know, I am now in my early 60’s and fortunately my memory is still pretty good and although we have had lots and lots of guns in the possession of the general public for a many, many decades, I honestly do not remember lots of mass shootings taking place before these highly dangerous prescription drugs were available for emotional disturbances and depression.

    Such highly dangerous drugs should be restricted for use only on patients who are in a secure Institutional setting where they do not have access to the general public. Psychiatrists should not be free to dispense them freely to patients who are still freely walking our streets. Ahh but then that issue won’t even be given serious consideration.. not with the huge amount of money that the pharmaceutical industry funnels through their lobbyists to our government officials. How silly of me.

  • Gamma

    Agree with this man.
    As a society we need to not focus on just one “solution” to the gun problem but on multiple management strategies to a problem that will never fully be fixed.

    That means addressing the underlying causes of violence and crime, as well as mental illness; ignoring paranoid extremist rhetoric (“the government wants to take all my guns!”) and focusing collectively instead on clarifying what types of weapons and clip sizes we will reasonably accept as a nation; enforcing existing rules and managing for broken windows; giving police and government (e.g., bureau of ATF) the proper crime-fighting tools and rules while maintaining checks and balances on their powers and functions; and being realistic about future outcomes.

    Sadly, there will be more violence in the future no matter what is done. But I hope those little kids are somehow honored with some real and practical outcomes that save future lives.

    Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome.

    Thanks Larry.

  • Rick

    Gun Violence is Not a Republican Problem, It’s a Democratic Problem

    Posted By Daniel Greenfield at Daily Mailer

    January 18, 2013

    Forget Wal-Mart and skip your local gun show. The murderers of tomorrow will not be found wearing orange vests at your local sporting goods store. They won’t have NRA memberships or trophies on their walls.

    You won’t find them in America. Look for them in Obamerica.

    67% of firearm murders took place in the country’s 50 largest metro areas. The 62 cities in those metro areas have a firearm murder rate of 9.7, more than twice the national average. Among teenagers the firearm murder rate is 14.6 or almost three times the national average.

    Those are the crowded cities of Obamerica. Those are the places with the most restrictive gun control laws and the highest crime rates. And many of them have been run by Democrats and their political machines for almost as long as they have been broken.

    Obama won every major city in the election, except for Jacksonville and Salt Lake City. And the higher the death rate, the bigger his victory.

    He won New Orleans by 80 to 17 where the murder rate is ten times higher than the national average. He won Detroit, where the murder rate of 53 per 100,000 people is the second highest in the country and twice as high as any country in the world, including the Congo and South Africa. He won it 73 to 26. And then he celebrated his victory in Chicago where the murder rate is three times the statewide average.

    These places aren’t America. They’re Obamerica.

    In 2006, the 54% of the population living in those 50 metro areas was responsible for 67% of armed killings nationwide. Those are disproportionate numbers especially when you consider that for the people living in most of those cities walking into a store and legally buying a gun is all but impossible.

    Mayors of Obamerican cities blame guns because it’s easier than blaming people and now the President of Obamerica has turned to the same shameless tactic. The NRA counters that people kill people, but that’s exactly why Obamerican leaders would rather talk about the guns.

    Chicago, the capital of Obamerica, is a city run by gangs and politicians. It has 68,000 gang members, four times the number of police officers. Chicago politicians solicit the support of gang members in their campaigns, accepting laundered contributions from them, hiring their members and tipping them off about upcoming police raids. And their biggest favor to the gang bosses is doing nothing about the epidemic of gang violence.

    80% of Chicago’s murders are gang-related. But in 1999 when a bill came up in the Illinois State Senate to charge anyone carrying out a firearm attack on school property as an adult, a law that would have largely affected gang members, the future leader of Obamerica voted present. Had he not voted present, it is doubtful that he would have been reelected in an area where gang leaders wield a great deal of influence.

    The majority of murders in the cities with the worst homicide rates are gang-related. And while it isn’t always possible to be certain whether a killing was gang-related, the majority of homicide victims in city after city have been found to have criminal records.

    In 2010, there were 11,078 firearm homicides in the United States and over 2,000 known gang-related killings, over 90% of which are carried out with firearms. Since 1981, Los Angeles alone has had 16,000 gang related homicides. That’s more than twice the number of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    This is what Obamerica looks like. It’s a place where life is cheap and illegal guns are as available as illegal drugs. It’s the war that we aren’t talking about, because it’s easier to talk about the inanimate objects being used to fight that war.

    There are, as John Edwards said, two Americas. America is a country that runs pretty well. And then there’s Obamerica. Not all of Obamerica is broken, but a lot of it is. America does not have a gun violence problem. Obamerica does. And Obamerica has a gun violence problem for the same reason that it has a drug problem and a broken family problem.

    Democratic leaders and machines, combined with social workers and justice crusaders have run Obamerica into the ground. Obamerican cities used to be the homes of industry and progress. Now they’re places where young Black and Hispanic men kill each other in growing numbers.

    America does not need gun control. It is a mostly law-abiding place. And gun control cannot help Obamerica. Not when its murder rate is driven by gangs who have no trouble obtaining anything; whether it’s legal in the United States or not.

    This country does not need to have a conversation about how many bullets should go in a clip. It does need to have a conversation about how many parents should go in a family. It needs to talk about the ghettos of Obamerica and have a serious conversation about broken families and generational dependency.

    Obama has become a role model to millions of people in the black community. If anyone can address these problems, it’s him. But instead of trying to solve the problems of Obamerica, instead of doing something about the high levels of unemployment, the broken families and the glamorization of drug dealing and violent crime, he wimped out and picked a fight with rural America.

    AIDS prevention was sabotaged by the claim that the disease was a general problem spreading through the population. It wasn’t. Neither is gun violence.

    Adam Lanza is as much of a poster boy for gun violence, as Ryan White was for AIDS. A better poster boy for gun violence might be Jay-Z, who boasts of having been a drug dealer and claims to have shot his brother at the age of 12. The drug dealer to millionaire rapper is the Horatio Alger story of Obamerica. And Jay-Z can be seen partying with Obama.

    If Obama really wants to get serious about gun violence, then all he has to do is turn to the man standing next to him. But Obama, like every Chicago politician before him, don’t want to end the violence. The death toll is profitable, not just for rappers writing bad poetry about dealing drugs and shooting rivals, but for the politicians atop that heap who score money and gain power by using the problems of Obamerica as some sort of call to conscience for the rest of the country.

    That’s what Obama is doing now. Hiding behind Newtown and adorable little kids is the grim specter of Obamerica’s death toll. It’s buried inside the gruesome figures of how many Americans are shot each year issued as an indictment against the entire country in general and gun owners in particular. But those numbers are not an indictment of America. They are an indictment of Democratic mayors and liberal social policy. They are an indictment of Obama.

    We need to set aside the same old tired social justice rhetoric and have a serious conversation about what is wrong with New Orleans, Detroit and Chicago. And we need to do it before it’s too late.

  • Kris

    At a Tennessee Football Game—not a joke
    Christianity is now the target of persecution…

    THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS!
    GOD BLESS EVERYONE WHO READS THIS AND PASSES IT ON.

    I FIND IT INTERESTING THAT A HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL CAN SEE THE PROBLEM, BUT OUR SOCIETY CANNOT.

    This is a statement that was read over the PA system at the football game at Roane County High School, Kingston, Tennessee, by school principal, Jody McLeod

    “It has always been the custom at Roane County High School football games, to say a prayer and play the National Anthem, to honor God and Country.”

    Due to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, I am told that saying a Prayer is a violation of Federal Case Law. As I understand the law at this time, I can use this public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it “an alternate life style,” and, if someone is offended, that’s OK.

    I can use it to condone sexual promiscuity, by dispensing condoms and calling it, “safe sex.” If someone is offended, that’s OK.

    I can even use this public facility to present the merits of killing an unborn baby as a “viable” means of birth control.” If someone is offended, no problem…

    I can designate a school day as “Earth Day” and involve students in activities to worship religiously and praise the goddess, “Mother Earth”, and call it “ecology…”

    I can use literature, videos and presentations in the classroom that depicts people with strong, traditional Christian convictions as “simple minded” and “ignorant” and call it “enlightenment…”

    However, if anyone uses this facility to honor GOD and to ask HIM to bless this event with safety and good sportsmanship, then Federal Case Law is violated.

    This appears to be inconsistent at best, and at worst, diabolical. Apparently, we are to be tolerant of everything and anyone, except GOD and HIS Commandments.

    Nevertheless, as a school principal, I frequently ask staff and students to abide by rules with which they do not necessarily agree. For me to do otherwise would be inconsistent at best, and at worst, hypocritical. I suffer from that affliction enough unintentionally. I certainly do not need to add an intentional transgression.

    For this reason, I shall “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” and refrain from praying at this time.

    ” However, if you feel inspired to honor, praise and thank GOD and ask HIM, in the name of JESUS, to bless this event, please feel free to do so… As far as I know, that’s not against the law–yet.”

    One by one, the people in the stands bowed their heads, held hands with one another and began to pray.

    They prayed in the stands. They prayed in the team huddles. They prayed at the concession stand and they prayed in the Announcer’s Box!

    The only place they didn’t pray was in the Supreme Court of the United States of America — the Seat of “Justice” in the “one nation, under GOD.”

    Somehow, Kingston, Tennessee, remembered what so many have forgotten. We are given the Freedom OF Religion, not the Freedom FROM Religion. Praise GOD that HIS remnant remains!

    JESUS said, “If you are ashamed of ME before men, then I will be ashamed of you before MY FATHER…”

    THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS! GOD BLESS EVERYONE WHO READS THIS AND PASSES IT ON.

  • Rick

    America’s Exodus from Marriage
    By Peter Wehner
    Commentary magazine
    01.17.2013
    In 2000, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was asked to identify the biggest change he had seen in his 40-year political career. Moynihan, a man of unusual sagacity, experience, and perspective, responded this way: “The biggest change, in my judgment, is that the family structure has come apart all over the North Atlantic world.” This change has occurred in “an historical instant,” Moynihan said. “Something that was not imaginable 40 years ago has happened.”

    I thought about Senator Moynihan’s observation after reading “The President’s Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent,” which is the centerpiece of the latest State of Our Unions report. This study focused on the nearly 60 percent of Americans who have completed high school but do not have a four-year college degree.

    What we’re seeing is a rapid hollowing out of marriage in Middle America–with 44 percent of the children of moderately-educated mothers born outside of marriage. “We’re at a tipping point with Middle America,” W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading scholar on marriage, told National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez, “insofar as Middle Americans are on the verge of losing their connection to marriage.”

    We are “witnessing a striking exodus from marriage,” according to the study.

    More than 40 percent of children are born out of wedlock, while more than half of births (53 percent) among all women under 30 now occur outside of marriage. Between 1970 and 2012, the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried adults decreased by more than 50 percent. The divorce rate today is about twice that of 1960, though it’s declined since hitting its highest point in our history in the early 1980s. For the average couple marrying for the first time in recent years, the lifetime probability of divorce or separation now falls between 40 and 50 percent. Today more than a quarter of all children live in single-parent families, compared to only 9 percent in 1960. And the number of unmarried couples has increased seventeen-fold in the last 50 years.

    All of this has profoundly negative implications–for the emotional and mental well-being of children; for America’s social fabric and “civil society”; for social mobility and the gap in income inequality; and for dependency on government and costs to the state (family breakdown costs the taxpayers billions every year). The collapse of marriage in America, then, has enormous human and social ramifications. And whatever one thinks about same-sex marriage, this collapse has occurred long before any state approved marriage between gays.

    The report offers a range of recommendations to reverse this trend, including eliminating marriage penalties and disincentives for the poor and for unwed mothers, tripling the child tax credit, providing marriage education and evaluating marriage programs, engaging Hollywood to help shape positive attitudes toward marriage and parenting, launching social media campaigns, and presidential leadership on this issue.

    These recommendations may be fruitful, and the scholars who authored the marriage agenda have an admirable unwillingness to accept the collapse of marriage and the American family as irreversible. We are not, after all, by-standers in what is unfolding. We are the central actors.

    Still, we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the difficulty of the challenge we face. “The scale of marital breakdown in the West since 1960 has no historical precedent and seems unique,” the distinguished historian Lawrence Stone said a few years ago. “At no time in history, with the possible exception of Imperial Rome, has the institution of marriage been more problematic than it is today.”

    This is a deeply worrisome turn of events. And unless we find a way to repair the damage and the institution–unless we reshape our public and private attitudes toward marriage, family and children; toward commitment, self-giving, and love itself–there will be much human wreckage.

  • NRG

    Bratton cedes the right to bear too easily…..We have a God given right to defend ourselves..And he has not got a right to leave us without guns…..especially in the inner city. He is reticent on that point.

    If he can solve the problem of who has guns and who does not without trampling on the rights of the law abiding, then he can work on the lesser problems that result when the law abiding misuse of weapons…

    I would bet tho, that it’d fall so far off the list that no one would bother with the gun end of the conundrum and would just deal with the mental illness and drug*alki abuse aspects of the crimes that are committed.

    His stellar job, not to be denied, of cutting crime in NYC was a result of the muscle and determination he inherited from guys like Rudy and elected officials who believed in steady and determined enforcement. His Handiwork on those overblown violence rates and crime numbers came about because his political handlers let him off the leash his preceders had to live with due to Dinkins et al……..

    .Getting rid of gangs and illegal guns happened here to some extent, but as Chicago, Detroit, and DC demonstrate, the work hasn’t even begun yet.

    Under this president it won’t either . Just as it didn’t when he left gun violence guys alone in his own city because gang bangers vote too.

    Not as impressed over his career with Bratton as I am with others….he was MTA if I remember correctly…got that right?

  • LD

    Vice President Biden was curt, avoiding confrontation when he sat down with the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates. He looked across the table in his ornate conference room and asked the NRA official if his group could back a ban on assault weapons.

    “No,” was James J. Baker’s reply.

    There was little discussion, no real debate over whether a 1990s ban had worked. The two men simply moved on. Biden, leading a task force to study gun violence, was certain of the course of action President Obama would end up taking…

    Biden’s Gun Task Force Met With All Sides, but Kept Its Eye on The Target

  • Ed Pefferman

    Larry,
    Why is it that this discussion seems to attract what
    I would call, (for lack of a better term)the “religious
    right” There solution, toevery real problems is, ” we
    just need to pray more or harder. My response to that,
    ” well go to church and pray and stop filling up these
    posts with “feel good solutions” to real problems.

    Ed

    • LD

      Ed,

      I do not think the religious feel that faith alone is the answer BUT that faith within the context of strong family units, strong family values, and with the presence of two strong parents raising well balanced children is and should be a large part of the answer to a lot of what ails our nation.

      Would you disagree?

      What is the single best social program known to mankind?

      The two parent family.

  • Ed Pefferman

    Larry.
    Your “preaching to the chior”. I happen to be one of
    of those Catholics that you are always reminding us that
    you are. Went to Saint Marys Academy and Norfolk
    Catholic HS in Norfolk Va.

    Ed

    • LD

      Ed,

      I think if I went back throughout my blog I would venture to say that I may never have mentioned that I am Catholic. If I did it was totally inadvertent.

      I certainly do not mind highlighting the importance of my faith.

  • fred

    “The tide turned SO dramatically in 1994, says Mr. Bratton, because FINALLY the police enforced the law “fairly, compassionately and consistently” across all neighborhoods.”

    How refreshing, a leader who leads, takes responsiblity and requires his employees to do more than collect a paycheck.

    The penalty to a society which cherishes the freedom of its citizenry to carry firearms is more firearm related crime.

  • FredB

    Where is the leading by example? Police used to carry revolvers, six shots. Now they have Glocks, fifteen rounds and “patrol rifles”, which are assault rifles when owned by anyone else. There are SWAT teams with full auto weapons and armored vehicles and they are the equal to a military force. If you want to bring down the violence on the streets of America then bring down the level of violence the police bring to our streets.

    To the other Fred, from Ben Franklin

    “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

    • fred

      FredB,

      Do not misunderstand me, I am not taking a position, I am only stating a fact…for better or worse, the more guns in a society the more guns will be used. I have nothing but respect for the wisdom of Mr. Franklin, he was both a gentleman and a scholar.

      Although I can’t be certain, I think our “founding fathers” main adgenda in drafting the 2nd Amendment was probably defense from the tyranny of government, either foreign or domestic.

      I would like to hear a debate centered on this issue (governmental tyranny), then broadened to include the NRA lobby, hunting, self defense, gun crime,automatic weapons and armed school guards. Should guns be treated differently in a suburban rather than an urban setting?

  • Rick

    Violence and Mental Illness in Middletown, Connecticut
    By Lindsay Abrams from The Atlantic

    A stabbing, a shooting, and an uneasy relationship with the mentally ill haunts a city.

    On May 6, 2009, a man walked into the Wesleyan University bookstore and fatally shot Johanna Justin-Jinich, a 21-year-old student. She, a girl he had been obsessed with ever since a friendly acquaintanceship turned sour two years earlier, was pronounced dead at Middlesex Hospital. Stephen Morgan, the shooter, was able to walk away from the scene.

    The larger shooting spree that he had planned for the Wesleyan student body (he referred to it in his journal as “The Jewish Columbine”) did not come to be, but for the day and a half that Morgan remained on the lam, we — Justin-Jinich’s classmates and peers — remained on lockdown in our dorms. By the time he turned himself in, many of us, myself included, had fled campus.

    Despite witnesses, security footage, and a spoken confession, Stephen Morgan was found not guilty of his crime, on the defense of insanity. Specifically, he is “delusional, psychotic and paranoid and” — as we all learned that day — “a danger to himself and society.” Officially, he appears to have a schizoaffective disorder. As such, he now qualifies for intensive counseling and anti-psychotic medication, in the care of a team of psychiatrists and social workers, all of which he will be receiving while serving 60 years at Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH), 1.4 miles away from the bookstore cafe where he shot and killed Justin-Jinich.

    A surveillance photo of Morgan inside Broad Street Books [George Ruhe/AP]
    The following fall, the cafe had been remodeled, so as not to trigger the fractured psyches of the staff and students who had been present and themselves threatened. A framed rainbow PACE flag, taken from Justin-Jinich’s dorm room wall, is now displayed in tribute behind the counter.

    It was an unhappy reminder, for the remainder of my time at Wesleyan, of the tragedy that had marked my insular community.

    As a student at Wesleyan, I was a transient member of the Middletown community. I spent my freshman year mainly on campus, but made frequent jaunts down to Main Street, a strip of shops and restaurant a couple of blocks downtown from campus. I voted on the city’s ballot at the community senior center in the 2008 election. In my second semester, I volunteered, as a part of an anthropology class, at the Middletown Historical Society, housed on Main Street, where I cataloged archives attesting to the street’s 350-year history.

    But it wasn’t until I was in my senior year that someone, in a tone usually reserved for unsubstantiated rumors, told me another senseless tragedy that had occurred before my time. In the summer of 1989, a patient strode away from CVH and took a bus to Main Street. It was the day of the annual Sidewalk Sale, meaning hordes of residents were out on the streets. The inmate, David Peterson, then 38, approached a family as they exited Woolworth’s and stabbed 9-year-old Jessica Short 34 times as her mother and sister looked on.

    Paul Gionfriddo, who grew up in Middletown and attended Wesleyan, was running for mayor that summer. His campaign manned a booth about half a block away from the stabbing; he recalled for me the scene of incomprehensible chaos he witnessed before the news of what happened filtered its way down to him.

    The staff as CVH, whom Gionfriddo met with shortly afterwards, was devastated at the mistake that had cost Short her life — Peterson, with his diagnosis of chronic paranoid schizophrenia and history of violence, was never supposed to have been let off of the grounds. They also recognized the setbacks that this mistake would cause for their programs, including an outpatient facility they had been hoping to open to help transition deinstitutionalized patients back into the community. At the trial, Middletown residents called out for Peterson’s death. In the end, he, like Morgan, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. It was the third time he had received this verdict for a stabbing attack.

    “Downtown Middletown almost died after this, because no one felt safe there anymore,” Gionfriddo told me. Its decline is well-documented, as in a 1990 New York Times feature describing an atmosphere where “homeless people now outnumber shoppers on some parts of Main Street.” Main Street and the surrounding downtown area were plagued by the mentally ill rendered homeless by deinstitutionalization, Gionfriddo explained. They lined up at a soup kitchen in the North End that also functioned as a “flophouse” — which gave them a place to sleep, but no services, and required them to leave first thing in the morning. With nowhere to go, they wandered, and their presence on the streets further discouraged families from returning downtown.

    Though we weren’t there for its demise, it was only during my time at Wesleyan that efforts to revitalize Main Street — begun during Gionfriddo’s term as mayor — finally began to take hold. The North End now houses a mixed-income apartment block, a Community Health Center completed in 2012, and the Green Street Arts Center, Wesleyan’s (uneven) contribution to promoting arts education and outreach. The past two New Year’s, it’s played host to “Midnight on Main,” a downtown community festival. My classmates and I spent much time at Main Street’s restaurants and, later, its bars, many of which opened during our time there. A few days before I graduated, a frozen yogurt lounge opened — just as I was departing, Main Street, it appeared, had finally arrived.

    Even though little of this existed in Wesleyan’s institutional memory — blame it on the four-year turnover — the effects the incident had on Middletown, in retrospect, are evident. While the Wesleyan community grieved, but appears to have recovered, from the shooting, there’s no way of knowing how the event will continue to affect the school and the town in the coming years. This is the first year that none of Wesleyan’s undergraduate students were there when Justin-Jinich died. In time, the incident will go from traumatic memory in the minds of Wesleyan students to another story about something bad that once happened there.

    It’s funny, what ends up being remembered as communities heal and trauma loses its immediate potency. The residents of Middletown learned to fear Main Street, but lessons in treating the mentally ill have been less resonant. In the years following Jessica Short’s death, resistance to efforts to help the city’s homeless have persisted. On both sides of the political spectrum, as Gionfriddo described to me, there was a refusal to recognize the scope of the problem. Liberals didn’t want a 24-hour shelter to inhibit efforts at mainstreaming, while conservatives, in his estimation, were upset because he “refused to make scapegoats of all homeless, mentally ill people for the problems of the neighborhood.”

    The shooting’s aftermath [Jessica Hill/AP]
    But just as entire communities are affected by such senseless acts of violence, so are they — so are we all — responsible for the way they respond to and treat their members with mental illness. It was not Middletown or Wesleyan’s fault that either of these girls were murdered, but there is no question that society, beginning with our political leaders and trickling down to our public schools, prisons, and health programs, are unprepared to help people like Morgan and Peterson. Many years after the fact, Peterson told doctors that Short’s stabbing was an act of desperation: He had been hoping that would be extreme enough for the police would kill him and free him from his pain.

    Gionfriddo witnessed the system’s failure to respond firsthand. As a reluctant mental health “expert” pushing to empty the state’s psychiatric facilities, he only recognized the consequences of these policies when he became a father, and in turn became desperate to find help for his oldest son’s mental health problems.

    He documented the saga in the September 2012 issue of Health Affairs. A legislator in the Connecticut House at the mere age of 25, he pushed for deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill without paying due credence to the fact that the public schools and criminal justice systems weren’t prepared to recognize and treat them. He learned this the hard way when, in 1985 he transracially adopted an infant, Tim. In his essay, Gionfriddo describes the warning signs, beginning as early as kindergarten, which time and again went unrecognized.

    Throughout his youth, Tim was misdiagnosed with ADHD, some learning disabilities, depression, PTSD, conflict over his adoption and mixed-race family, and overly protective parents. When he was 11, he pulled a knife on his 5-year-old brother. Mostly, though, he posed a danger to himself. People with mental illness, Gionfriddo reminded me when we spoke, are far more likely to be the victims of violence than to commit violent acts.

    It wasn’t until he was 17 that Tim was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a lifelong disease that can cloud patients’ thoughts, inhibit their ability to have normal emotional responses or act normally in social situations, and make tenuous their connection to reality. Although psychotic episodes tied to schizophrenia don’t usually occur until a patient is in his or her late teens, a long period of seeming “off” and other symptoms can manifest much earlier in life.

    By the time adults realized that Tim suffered from more than just behavioral problems, it was too late. As Gionfriddo writes, “When Tim turned eighteen, he had no high school diploma, no job prospects, and a debilitating mental illness.” Unwilling to accept community health services sought by his parents, he broke off ties with overextended counselors who did not push to help him out. He cycled in and out of hospitals and prisons. Now, at 27, he is one of the ragged homeless populating the streets — in his case, of San Francisco.

    The entire story is heartbreaking, with each added detail read as a missed opportunity for an intervention that could have changed the course of Tim’s life. “Perhaps,” Gionfreddo writes, “even if Tim had gotten earlier, more effective, and better integrated care, he still would have become homeless. But I don’t believe that, not even for a minute.”

    Just last year, Middletown was launched back into the spotlight after the Department of Education investigated Farm Hill Elementary School for sequestering special needs students in “scream rooms” — small, windowless spaces where they were confined during emotional outbursts. The investigation was prompted by parents witnessing two school staff members holding a door shut while “a child inside kicked and screamed uncontrollably.”

    The school superintendent attempted to calm the hysteria by assuring parents that going forward, the rooms would only be used to deal with students with disabilities — prompting quick retaliation from advocacy groups. The attempts at behavioral control had no basis in therapeutic strategies, and illustrate how unprepared schools are for dealing with disturbed students.

    Teachers, Gionfriddo contends, aren’t there to treat, but they, along with pediatricians, are the first to notice symptoms of mental instability in children outside of their families. Just as we need to pay more attention to parents when they see red flags, other people in these kids’ lives must be trained to recognize signs. Otherwise, no one can take the necessary steps to treat their symptoms and control for risk factors. The system, then, needs a way to respond. It was three years after Tim’s teacher recognized that he had significant issues for him to receive special education services.

    Unfortunately, we live in a world where a mental health screening or mental illness-based IEPs (Individualized Education Programs for students with difficulty learning and/or functioning) can stick a kid with a diagnosis that will lead to discrimination in a way that other disabilities would not. When we only hear about the mentally ill once they’ve committed horrific acts, we fail to recognize how common mental illness is — common enough that half of us, at some point in our lives, will experience it to some degree.

    As Gionfriddo put it, “it’s not this big, scary thing all of the time.” But as Maia Szalavitz wrote here after the shootings in Newtown — just an hour’s drive from Middletown — “stigmatizing, bullying, rejecting, and isolating people who are different exacerbates every mental illness and developmental disability ever studied.”

    “Mental illness isn’t a problem,” said Gionfriddo. “The way we treat it is.”

    I don’t know if Stephen Morgan ever reached out for help, but surely his aberrant behavior didn’t go entirely unrecognized — Justin-Jinich had lodged a formal complaint about how he had harassed her. He had no violent history, but was directionless after returning to civilian life from four years in the Navy, and had moved back in with his parents. He was known to be a loner, “filled with anger,” and to make anti-Semitic comments. His father testified that he had problems ever since he was a baby, and that he had to repeat kindergarten due to his inability to follow directions or move between activities like the other children.

    After her death, the Johanna Justin-Jinich Community Clinic, dedicated to women’s health, was opened in Kibera by an organization run by Wesleyan students. It was a fitting tribute to a student who was passionate about public health. Be couldn’t an appropriate response also be to contribute to efforts to bring treatment to people who need it, recognizing cries for help long before they take the form of the slaying of a bright, promising young woman?

    Statistically, the vast majority of violent crime isn’t committed by people with mental illness. And mental illness, in terms of prevalence, is even more of a problem than violence. But in Middletown, the connection between those ignored by society who then come back to cause harm is difficult to overlook.

    Related Story

    No Flowers On the Psych Ward
    Maybe treatment won’t always prevent these things from happening, but Gionfriddo believes, “If you want to believe that treatment never works, it gives you an excuse to ignore and neglect mental illness.” He wrote in his essay of how Tim, raised in Middletown, would often visit the Wesleyan campus. For him, there was never any intention of violence. Instead, he just wanted to be around people his own age — it was an effort at connection. But here, again, the world rejected him. I can imagine how it must have been, on Wesleyan’s small and close-knit campus, where we were always hyper-aware of people who didn’t belong. It’s no wonder that campus security asked him to stay away.

    Imagine how it could have been for him, and for Morgan and Peterson, and for Jessica and Johanna, if there had been somewhere to go.

  • jim wells

    In all these emotionally-charged discussions spear-headed by politicians, it’s nice to hear the opinions of someone who really knows what he’s talking about. Bratton Yes, Biden No.
    Mr. Bratton carefully reminds everyone that whatever happens from here cannot be applied retroactively. And there are plenty of assault-type rifles and high-capacity magazines already in the market. Which directs the discussion back to dealing with the folks who use these weapons to commit crimes against society. I still can’t believe that the US government has allowed the Army psychiatrist who shot & killed other soldiers at Fort Hood to hold up his trial over whether he has a beard or not. This type of equivocation over swift and severe penalties deprives society of the protection of legal actions which could act as a deterrent.

  • Ed Pefferman

    Larry,
    Do you really what to talk about your “Fighting
    Irish” artical?
    Think about it before you respond?

    Ed

    • LD

      Ed,

      Knock yourself out and write whatever you would like. It is a free and open blog. There are rules of decorum which you can reference at the Disclaimer.

      Beyond that, though, I have yet to read anything that I would define to be of substance from you so do not look for me to spend a lot of time on your comments.

  • Tom

    What is the REAL problem in America?

    Gun Culture’ — What About the ‘Fatherless Culture’?
    By Larry Elder – January 17, 2013. Real Clear Politics

    The face of gun violence is not Sandy Hook. It is Chicago.

    In 2012, President Barack Obama’s adopted hometown had 506 murders, including more than 60 children. Philadelphia, a city that local television newscasters frequently call ‘Killadelphia,” saw 331 killed last year. In Detroit, 386 people were murdered.

    Since 1966, there have been 90 school shootings in the U.S., with 231 fatalities. Yes, Sandy Hook shocked us. But the odds of a child being killed at a school shooting are longer than the odds of being struck by lightning.

    Of the 11,000 to 12,000 gun murders each year, more than half involve both black killers and black victims, mostly in urban areas and mostly gang-related. The No. 1 cause of preventable death for young black men is not auto accidents or accidental drowning, but homicide.

    Rapper/actor Ice T (“Cop Killer”) and I attended the same high school. In the 1991 John Singleton film “Boyz n the Hood,” the teenagers attend that school, and car-cruise the South Central Los Angeles boulevard after which the school is named.

    Crenshaw High opened in 1968. By the time Ice-T left, less than a decade later, Crenshaw had become, in the rapper’s words, “a Crip school” — meaning one controlled by that street gang. Because of the school’s reputation for violence, Time Magazine called it “Fort Crenshaw.” A powerhouse in basketball and football, the school lost its accreditation 2005, before getting it back in 2006 on a short-term basis.

    In 1970, I was part of the second graduating class in the new school’s history. Some kids, who started with me in the 10th grade, did not finish. But it was the exception rather than the rule. By 2012, only 51 percent of Crenshaw’s students graduated.

    What happened?

    Dads disappeared. Or, more precisely, to use Bill Cosby’s term, the number of “unwed fathers” exploded.

    In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote “The Negro Family: A Case for National Action.” At the time, 25 percent of blacks children were born out of wedlock, a number Moynihan called alarming. Fast forward to the present, 72 percent of black children are now born out of wedlock. In fact, 36 percent of white children are born out of wedlock. Of Hispanic children, 53 percent are born outside of marriage.

    In “Boyz n the Hood,” Tre, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., has an active father in his life. Doughboy, played by Ice Cube, was raised without a father. His mother resents him because she dislikes his father. On the other hand, Gooding’s hardworking, responsible father, played by Laurence Fishburne, stays on his son. He warns him against hanging out with the wrong people and that becoming a street criminal was a trap. He lectures his son that “any fool with a (penis) can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.”

    Studies show that children of divorced parents can have outcomes as positive as those coming from intact homes, provided the father remains financially supportive and active in his children’s lives.

    But what happens without dads in the ‘hood?

    In 1979, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that fatherless kids were twice as likely to drop out of school and that girls who grew up without dads were 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant teenagers.

    Rutgers University sociology professor David Popenoe published “Life Without Father” in 1996, where he describes the “massive erosion” of fathers in America. Popenoe concluded that boys raised without fathers were more likely to have problems with drugs, alcohol, behavior and social interactions. Several studies during the ’90s found that disruption in family structures was a predictor of children’s gang involvement.

    Many on the left dismiss the importance of fathers as “right-wing,” blame-the-victim propaganda. Well, the late rapper Tupac Shakur, in the posthumously released documentary “Resurrection,” said: “I know for a fact that had I had a father, I’d have some discipline. I’d have more confidence.” He admits that he starting hanging out with gangs because he wanted to belong to a family structure, and it offered structure, support and protection — the kind of thing we once expected home and family to provide.

    The formula for achieving middle-class success is simple: Finish high school; don’t have a child before the age of 20; and get married before having the child. Preparing for the future requires dedication. It requires deferring gratification, precisely the kind of “discipline” that Tupac admitted he lacked because he grew up without a father.

    Doing what you want to do is easy. Doing what you have to do is hard. Dads, by getting up and going to work each day, send a powerful message every day to their children: Hard work wins. There are no short cuts. The outcome is unknowable. But the effort is entirely within your control.

  • Ed Pefferman

    Larry,
    I’ll pass.

    Ed

  • crusader

    Ed; Spell much? Or ever proofread your own missives? Appears that you do not.

    • Ed Pefferman

      No I don’t proofread, it’s a waste of my time.

      Ed

  • wall street 69

    Ed. You are annoying.






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