The polarized debate over gun violence can only be bridged by measures that acknowledge legitimate concerns of community residents while addressing public safety priorities of law enforcement, says a new report released by the Joyce Foundation this week.
Arguing that “nuance is largely absent” from public policy discussions about gun violence, the report calls on policymakers to abandon the “simplistic, binary choice between ‘tough-on-crime’ or ‘soft-on-crime’ approaches” to firearms policy.
“(It) does little to inform solutions or make communities safer,” concluded a group of national experts convened by the Joyce Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform program.
The experts, who began meeting in 2019, include advocates, prosecutors and defense attorneys, policy experts, researchers, violence intervention practitioners, and members of law enforcement.
The recommendations in the report released this week, entitled “Toward a Fair and Just Response to Gun Violence,” are aimed at reducing harm caused both by gun violence and by some law enforcement responses to gun violence.
At the center of the group’s principles is a focus on fairness and safety.
“The popular misconception that safety and fairness are in conflict causes many to overlook the policies and strategies that are designed to achieve both and are successful because they do,” the report authors wrote.
The experts say the nation needs strategies that can reduce gun violence in the cities where it is most common, limit the proliferation of guns in those same communities, and, crucially, how to succeed in both of those goals without contributing to the over-incarceration of men and boys of color or further straining the relationship between police and communities of color.
Fair and Just’s proposals are collected under three main recommendations:
- Expand community-based interventions through public investment, the professionalization of community violence intervention and prevention, and generally improving economic, housing, and healthcare resources for residents reentering their communities;
- Emphasize supply side solutions to gun violence by improving federal and state regulations for gun sellers and privately-made firearms, instituting across-the-board licensing for handgun purchasers, and keeping equity top of mind when implementing firearm policies; and,
- Refocus the law enforcement response to illegal gun possession by reforming criminal justice responses including sentencing and diversion for non-violent illegal gun possession, redirecting policing efforts targeting illegal guns toward high-risk people and places, and increasing investments directly into communities most affected by gun violence.
The contributors to the report believe that these recommendations should send a powerful message to policy makers working public safety: “just practices make us safer.”
The Joyce Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform program has supported research and policy change to reduce gun violence for more than 25 years.
The full report can be accessed here.
TCR Justice Reporting intern Audrey Nielsen prepared this summary.