Third Way Perspectives

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Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

What’s on the Ballot?

October 16th, 2012

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Voting via Flickr

The Presidential & Congressional elections are not the only important votes on the November 2012 ballot. Several states will also ask voters to weigh in on key ballot initiatives that could have national implications. We’ve put together a guide to some of the most important initiatives and referenda below. We’ll update this cheat sheet after the election so that you can see how they fared with voters in their states!

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NRA is real winner on gun laws

July 23rd, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on Politico.

Nothing will happen. That seems to be the consensus among policy experts after the senseless tragedy in Aurora, Colo., last week.

In the past, after sensational instances of gun violence, whether it was a celebrated person getting shot or the massacre of innocent children, we’d see a surge of support for new gun control measures. No longer. We didn’t see much of a policy response to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona last year or to the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida this year.

The National Rifle Association has won. It has succeeded in changing the national discussion from gun control to gun rights. How did that happen?

For one thing, Americans have lost confidence in gun control measures. Gallup has been polling on the issue since 1959. Last October, Gallup reported “support for a variety of gun control measures at historic lows.”

Should there be a law banning the possession of handguns except by the police and other authorized persons? In 1959, 60 percent said yes. In 2011, 26 percent said yes. Should it be illegal to manufacture, sell or possess assault weapons? Last year, for the first time, a majority of Americans said no.

Why the shift? Here’s one reason: By and large, Democrats have stopped talking about the gun issue. It’s too costly for them. In September 1994, the Democratic Congress passed an assault weapons ban and President Bill Clinton signed it. In November 1994, Democrats lost their majority in the House for the first time in 40 years. Clinton said the gun lobby had to lot to do with his party’s defeat.

Since 1994, Democrats have been skittish about the gun issue. The assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. Getting it renewed has not been high on President Barack Obama’s agenda.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, I met with a group of voters in West Virginia. West Virginia used to be a solid New Deal Democratic state. The late Sen. Robert Byrd was the embodiment of that tradition. But in the last three presidential elections, West Virginia has gone Republican.

I asked the voters how many of them had health insurance. Only three out of 10 did. I asked them which candidate would be more likely to help the uninsured. Most of them said John Kerry, the Democrat. So were they planning to vote for Kerry? Almost all said no. “Why not?” I asked.

“We hear he wants to take away our guns,” one member of the group said.

“Are your guns more important than your health insurance?” I asked.

“Mister,” one woman replied, “our guns ARE our health insurance.”

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Look to ’94 Crime Bill to Solve Budget Crisis

June 16th, 2011

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This piece was originally published in The Hill.

The FBI reported that crime took another dip last year. That came as a surprise, because conventional wisdom held that crime rates track the economy: fewer jobs, more crime.

But the decline in the crime rate is not a one year blip. In the last fifteen years, the number of murders in America declined by one-third, assaults by one-fourth, and car thefts by one-half.[i]

Is there a lesson here for the budget debate? Just as the budget is the dominant, intractable, insoluble problem today, so was crime in the 1990s. Just as a major deal on an anti-crime package seemed improbable then, a major deal on the budget seems a pipedream today.

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Creating a 40-Hour Work Week for Prisoners

January 19th, 2010

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This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.

Violent crime decreased by 4.4% in the first half of 2009, despite the lousy shape of the economy and the high rates of unemployment, according to a surprising report released last week by the FBI. Experts looking to explain this counterintuitive trend have credited everything from smart and targeted policing in big cities (last year New York was safer than it had been during any year on record), to innovative use of new technologies to prevent and deter crime (more cities are using crime-mapping systems and other novel strategies to leverage scarce resources), to the $4 billion included in the stimulus bill to help state and local law enforcement and criminal justice systems weather the tough economic times.

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