What Works to Reduce Community Gun Violence?

Solutions Journalism Network

America has multiple gun-violence problems, from mass shootings to domestic violence to violent felonies like robbery committed with the gun as an essential tool. But the category of crime that accounts for the most violent deaths in America is community violence, also known as urban violence or street violence. While violent crime in America has fallen roughly by half since its most recent peak in the early 1990s, it remains stubbornly persistent in geographically tiny corners of our cities, among small numbers of people, mostly young men, for strikingly similar reasons – namely, a dire set of social conditions ready-made to turn mundane interpersonal "beefs" deadly because of the plentiful supply of guns. Shockingly, it stands as the leading cause of death, by far, for young Black men in particular.

Addressing the underlying social problems is an obviously necessary long-term project, but that's too diffuse to save lives in the short term. Responses highly targeted to those at highest risk of violence have a good deal of evidence that they can help reduce violence, particularly because the immediate behavioral causes of street violence are so predictable – and, thus, more preventable – than most other forms of violence. Though violence research has been starved of federal funding, a good deal still is known about what works to prevent community gun violence. That's where a few caveats are needed. First, some of the most effective responses to community violence, at least according to the weight of the scientific evidence, have been policing strategies that when performed carelessly can easily careen into abusive treatment of neighborhoods in ways that can actually make bad situations worse. Next, there's no single solution. Rather, the greatest success stories have sprung from blended approaches tailored to circumstances and balancing a complicated set of values.

This collection, which will be kept updated, keeps both that science and those downsides in mind while shining a light on the most hopeful approaches to reducing community gun violence.