Learning from MADD, Let’s Work to Make Gun Violence Morally Reprehensible
Since the 1980’s there has been an effective partnership between law enforcement, advocates and legislators credited with saving over 300,000 lives that would have been lost to the crime of drunk driving. So when considering the epidemic of gun violence, it is fair to ask why similar efforts have failed.
Although it is clear that noble intentions fuel those protecting our neighborhoods from armed violent offenders, the interventions they historically support are slightly off the mark. The policies that advocates demand, the tactics that police employ, and the laws that our judicial system chooses to enforce, are not aligned.
In the case of drunk driving, MADD led the effort to make the offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated a morally reprehensible act. Law enforcement aggressively targeted drunk drivers and courts exacted swift and certain punishment.
In the case of gun violence, public safety efforts have broadly focused on preventing homicides by regulating lethal weapons and punishing killers. Tactical interventions have focused on illegal firearms possession and gun traffickers. Unlawfully firing a gun, however, is rarely treated as a significant offense, rather it is viewed as a victimless crime unless someone is hit. In fact, the FBI only requires state and local law enforcement to report on gun crimes that result in injury or death.
If we are to replicate the success that has saved hundreds of thousands on our roads we must recognize that unlawfully firing a weapon in a public space is no different than driving drunk. Both acts are crimes that produce deadly consequences that must be stopped.
At ShotSpotter we recognize that police cannot apprehend the shooters if they do not have access to real-time actionable intelligence that alerts them to the exact location of a shooting. Research suggests that fewer than 20 percent of incidents where citizens unlawfully shoot a gun are ever reported to police. For cities with police who are not supported by ShotSpotter it is similar to a fire department only capable of responding to 1 out of every 5 fires.
Shooting a gun in a public space, except in the case of self-defense, is a crime that requires a police response and investigation. There remains no disagreement that we must enforce the laws on the books. However, without ShotSpotter’s real-time gunshot detection it is impossible for police to ensure public safety within the communities that most need the help of police.
Researchers project that by the end of this year more young people between the ages of 15 and 24 will be killed as a result of gunfire in their neighborhoods than from an accident in their cars. With the benefit of new technologies and new thinking we can successfully confront this unacceptable trend.