Firearms Research and the Crime Drop
The article lines an explanation of the drop in firearms violence during the 1990s and lessons that should be learned to avoid an increase. Previously it has been argued that growth in police and imprisonment may account for up to half of this decline; other approaches must achieve equal or better returns for each additional dollar spent on crime control. Research into “supply-side” responses is primitive and not promising thus far. “Demand-side” interventions are more promising, but they are not all alike. Some evidence suggests increasing the severity of penalties for illegal firearms use (e.g. Virginia’s Project Exile) is less effective than increasing the certainty of being penalized (e.g. Pittsburgh’s targeted patrol program). Researchers should not only compare the effects of these interventions with those of police and prisons, but they should take into account how much their effectiveness depends on police and prisons. In their reliance on the enforcement capacities of the police, sentence enhancement programs are very similar to targeted patrol programs. Targeted patrols are somewhat dependent on the severity of sanctions, not simply on the certainty of being caught.