I am not going to identify this speaker from yesterday’s conference, as his professional knowledge is excellent, and I don’t want anyone googling him to be put off as if his information might not be valuable. In the area of risk assessment for violence among the mentally ill he is well worth attending to.
It is his considerable ability to accept surprising and counterintuitive information within his specialty and apply it practically that makes him a good example for my purpose, in fact, for once he was outside his specialty – and not very far outside – this seemed to vanish. The overall homicide rate among young men went up at the same time as handgun sales, and went down when handgun sales declined. His remarks seemed to rather vaguely imply that if we didn’t market, glorify, and produce handguns at such a rate, we would have fewer homicides. Perhaps he thinks that the decline over the last two decades was in fact the result of some change in advertising or production or cultural attitudes, though he didn’t mention any data there.
That spike in the 80’s coincides quite nicely with the introduction of crack cocaine to the streets. That seems more likely to me. There were more young men who suddenly felt a need to protect themselves or threaten others, so they bought handguns. Making them less easily available, or even unavailable, might have reduced the number of homicides somewhat. Other means of protection and threat are less efficient – which is why people buy guns. But I doubt strenuously that with the amount of money at stake, territory to defend, and desperation of the addicts that the homicide rate would have been much less. People would get guns at higher price, or used other weapons.
There were a few other issues where the good doctor’s opinion was a rather unimaginative version of the default position of non-radicals on the left, and all were public policy issues. He is capable of imaginative and counterintuitive thought, as he ably demonstrated, yet once out of the area where he has to apply serious application of the little grey cells to earn his daily bread and understand complicated issues, he just falls into tribal mode.
If he, then me. Such shortcuts in thinking are how we all get through in the world. Yet they mislead.
I may do a post or two on violence, BTW, as there are different ideas running around in my head, plus info to share that might not be generally known by those who don't have to keep up with these things.