Most gun violence is perpetrated by criminals, not by those who abide by the law, but there are strategies we can employ that will drastically reduce gun violence. I recommend re-appropriating tax dollars and/or raising taxes to support one such strategy. If you know anything about me, you know that I rarely advocate for tax increases! But in this case, I think that the money would not just be “well-spent,” but is critical to keeping us safe, rejuvenating our communities, and saving our children’s future.
Taking a Page From History
Thomas Ricks is a military historian who studies insurgencies, and he points out in his book “The Gamble” a universal truth that we have unlearned and relearned in recent history in Vietnam and Iraq. What almost always works to put down an insurgency is to flood the area with troops and then give them very specific, unique instructions:
- They are to buy from local shops.
- They are to play with the local kids.
- If at all possible, they are to get an apartment or house in the neighborhood.
- They are to walk around outside all the time, chat with the neighbors, and not hide in a base/ fort/Humvee.
- They are to support the community in any way they can, including taking out bad guys.
Inevitably, the people start coming to them with Intel. “Some guy I don’t know drove a truck into the neighborhood and then left, would you check it out?” “The apartment across the hall from me smells funny, I think he’s making something dangerous in there and I don’t want my kids to get hurt.” Etc. Doing this flips the local reliance on the insurgents for protection to the peacekeeping force, and the bad guys do their bad stuff somewhere else.
The Good Neighbor Project
In America, gangs run the places with the highest rates of gun violence and the locals trust the gangs more than the police. They outright hate the police. We have to change that. Introducing the “Good Neighbor Project.” Here’s how it works:
- Police officers may volunteer for a (minimum) 1 year “tour of duty” in a neighborhood plagued by violence and other crimes.
- Cities should aim to flood these areas with police officers, so volunteering would come with “special pay” and it should be a large enough pay increase to provide an incentive for a large number of police officers to volunteer.
- Police officers “deployed” to these areas will be given the unique, specific training referred to above. They must:
- Play ball with the local kids, appear in local schools for presentations, escort kids to school in particularly unsafe areas, supervise recess outside, patrol the school halls to provide interdiction of violence if it should start
- Buy from local shops (present receipts to their precinct as proof)
- Rent/buy homes in the neighborhood (rental contract required as proof)
- Walk around outside, and talk to everyone. Earn their trust.
- Police officers will be required to complete some minimum amount of community service projects in their free time while “deployed,” but may choose what they participate in. Some ideas:
- Repairing apartment buildings/homes/schools–putting in insulation, new drywall, painting, plumbing repair (if qualified), etc.
- Career counseling regarding how to become a police officer, or how to finish high school
- Picking up trash
- Taking a group of kids on a camping trip or other outing
- Police officers will run a “Neighborhood Watch” program where they educate the community on how to protect itself and provide firearms training for legal gun owners.
- Police officers will provide referrals to social workers, who may also volunteer to be “deployed” for a minimum of one year to these areas, with “special pay.” The social workers would do everything the police officers do except actual law enforcement.
- Police officers will receive special training and will have to be “deployable” to these areas. They must:
- Receive training on ways to de-escalate situations without the use of force in addition to normal training on use of force to defend themselves and those around them.
- Have never had substantiated complaints of excessive use of force, racism, theft, altering evidence, etc, brought against them.
- Be in good standing/not on probation, etc.
- Wear a body camera at all times while on duty for the year they are in these areas
Soon, they’ll gain the trust of those in these neighborhoods. Locals will see this peacekeeping force as more protective of their neighborhood than the gangs were. The police officers will gain Intel from the locals and they’ll take out the people who perpetrate the most gun violence and other crimes. Their influence will help young men who only have criminals as role models to grow up right. Soon, gun violence in America will plummet. There will be nowhere for the criminals to “hide,” because the bulk of the people who used to support them now are no longer afraid to report their behavior for fear of retaliation. There will still be crime, of course. But taking these tactics would completely change the crime culture and anti-police sentiment in these neighborhoods where the vast majority of gun violence in America takes place.
Ending the Divide
There is a cultural divide in our country that has at its root a failure of families to raise children in righteousness. That might sound self-righteous and egotistical, but in fact, I think it’s more of an indictment against those who *do* raise children in righteousness than against those who don’t. We cannot afford to live on an island. We know how to do something that has the potential to revolutionize the entire society– to rear a child who respects others and authority, who can take direction, who is emotionally stable, who is passionate about work and creating, who has the work ethic and morals and financial skills to be self sufficient– and we have failed to teach those who don’t know how to do these things. They live in an echo chamber that spreads the same deadly lies that are killing our nation. They live where violence and toxic stress are facts of life.
The Good Neighbor Project is a way to start to reach out to them. If the police officers and social workers who are the first “boots on the ground” set up a safe community for others, then civilian missionaries may choose to come to live in these neighborhoods (at wildly reduced housing prices and cost of living! Just look at how much a house costs in the “bad part” of Detroit!) There are plenty in America who desire to lift up those who are destitute and make bad choices. If we really want to decrease violence and end the divide that exists, we must leave our places of comfort and share our knowledge by example. We are resourceful and creative–we need to befriend them, love them, protect them, and set the example. We may be the only hope to save our nation from total implosion. But we are not, in general, willing to live in a place where our lives are in danger. So the Good Neighbor Project would make it possible for us to enter these areas and rejuvenate them. The Good Neighbor Project is a step toward ending the divide and healing our nation.