BY CHARLEY UNDERWOOD
The other day on a forum that I read and contribute to, a former Minneapolis police officer linked a report at https://protectmn.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The-Economic-Cost-of-Gun-Violence_FINAL-1.pdf, citing a study that showed that gun violence causes economic harm to cities as well as suffering for victims and those who love them. Statewide, it comes to $764 million a year. I was suspicious that here was yet another argument for valuing money and property over human life. Being curious, however, I read on.
What I found astounded me. The optimistic part of the report is that both the carnage and the business costs have solutions, including:
• Universal background checks (to eliminate the private-seller loophole).
• Community investment strategies (to lower the poverty/hopelessness causes).
• Hospital-based violence intervention programs (a public health approach to intervene during victim treatment, reducing both future revenge shootings and recurrence shootings for the initial victims).
Please note: I looked and looked in this report, but at no point did I find that the solution to gun violence was more armed or more heavily armed police officers. It was remarkable to me that this report began with approaches that right-wingers typically call “gun control” and continued with programs that look very much like the language in Amendment Question #2, which Minneapolis voters just defeated.
I want to be very clear here. I am not personally advocating for an abolition or complete defunding of the Minneapolis police department. Nor am I trying to “re-litigate” the defeat of Question #2. Nor am I suggesting that police officers are universally or even mostly bad actors. Rather, I firmly believe that most probably have noble civic impulses, motivated by a deep desire to serve their fellow citizens.
What I DO want to point out is that this particular study does not conclude that the solution to gun violence lies in more authoritarian, armed and lethal remedies. What I DO want to advocate is that Mayor Frey and the City Council members get serious and begin dealing with the actual causes of violence, outlined so well in “The Economic Costs of Gun Violence.” And what I very much DO want to argue is that we have not actually solved a single bit of the lack of police accountability which has led to so much mistrust, civil unrest, huge liability exposure, massive police resignations and PTSD and disability claims. These problems have been festering for decades, with no real solutions. It is time to stop posturing and start addressing this unacceptable situation.
Some who read the original forum post but neglected to read the link might conclude that we simply need to support the police more, with more funding, more recruitment, more praise, less criticism. That’s not what the report says, however. It is well worth the read. The problem of gun violence is real, critical, urgent. But it will not be solved with more guns.