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Better Gun Enforcement

Better Gun Enforcement -...

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\\server05\productn\C\CPP\4-4\CPP404.txt unknown Seq: 1 24-OCT-05 14:06 BETTER GUN ENFORCEMENT, LESS CRIME* JENS LUDWIG Georgetown University and National Bureau of Economic Research Research Summary: Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which for the past several years has been the major federal initiative to combat gun violence, includes several elements (such as gun locks and other efforts to reduce gun availability) that research suggests are likely to have at best modest effects on gun crime. In general, enforcement activities targeted at the “demand side” of the underground gun market currently enjoy stronger empirical support. However much of PSN’s budget has been devoted to increasing the severity of punishment, such as by federaliz- ing gun cases, which seems to be less effective than targeted street-level enforcement designed to increase the probability of punishment for gun carrying or use in crime. Policy Implications: PSN and other enforcement activities could be made more effective by redirecting resources toward activities such as targeted patrols against illegal gun carrying. Given the substantial social costs of gun violence, an efficiency argument can also be made for increasing funding beyond previous levels. KEYWORDS: Gun Violence, Law Enforcement, Project Safe Neighborhoods INTRODUCTION What, if anything, can be done about America’s problem with gun vio- lence? Despite a dramatic decline in gun violence during the 1990s, nearly 30,000 Americans lost their lives to gunfire in 2001. Of particular concern is gun crime, which is the focus of this article. Homicides account for less * This paper elaborates on testimony to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, May 13, 2003. Thanks to Sarah Rose for valuable research assistance and to Albert Alschuler, Alfred Blumstein, Anthony Braga, Scott Burau, Bernard Harcourt, David Kennedy, Tracey Meares, Wayne Osgood, Peter Reuter, Robyn Theimann, seminar participants at the Brookings Institution, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago, Charles Wellford, the anonymous referees, and particularly Philip Cook for helpful comments. Please direct comments to [email protected] All opinions and any errors are my own. VOLUME 4 NUMBER 4 2005 PP 677–716 R
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\\server05\productn\C\CPP\4-4\CPP404.txt unknown Seq: 2 24-OCT-05 14:06 678 LUDWIG than two fifths of all gun fatalities; nearly three fifths are suicides, whereas accidents account for only a small share of gun deaths. 1 Yet concern about gun crime is widespread, it affects the way many people live their lives, and it accounts for perhaps 80% of the approximately $100 billion in social costs that gun violence imposes on American society each year (Cook and Ludwig, 2000). 2 Skepticism that much can be done to combat this problem is fueled in part by the prevalence of gun ownership in America—35% of households own a total of more than 200 million guns, of which at least 65 million are handguns (Cook and Ludwig, 1996).
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