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Practice Profile

Reducing Gun Violence

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses

Practice Description

Practice Goals
There are various firearm-violence interventions that aim to reduce gun-related crimes and homicides in neighborhoods and communities. These different policies and programs aim to reduce the threat to public safety caused by firearms and decrease the number of illegal firearms or weapons in the possession of criminals.

Practice Components
Various policy and programmatic efforts have been put in place over the years throughout the United States with the intent of reducing gun violence. This issue has been a persistent public policy concern for communities, policymakers, and leaders. The target of many interventions has primarily been on reducing the rate of firearm-related homicides among urban youth (Makarios and Pratt 2012). To deal with this issue, several policy strategies have been deployed.

First, there are public health approaches to increase information, training, and safe storage of guns through campaigns and outreach. These programs mostly concentrate on education and counseling about the potential dangers of owning a firearm and how to safely store weapons.

Second are gun buy-back programs, wherein cash, gift certificates, or other incentives are offered in exchange for firearms. The goal here is not only to reduce the number of guns on the street (and thus firearm-related homicides) but also to increase community bonds and awareness and mobilize informal types of social control against gun violence.

Third are gun laws, whereby legislation has been passed in response to gun violence. Some of these laws increase the penalties for crimes committed using firearms and are designed to deter the use of guns in criminal activities. Other gun laws concentrate on the necessity of background checks for firearm purchases. Some laws limit the types of firearms that can be sold. Others mandate the safe storage of firearms, unloaded and locked away.

Finally, there are law enforcement campaigns that aim to reduce gun violence. These too can vary, with some concentrating on the policing of hot spots (areas identified of particular interest to law enforcement because of a concentration of criminal activity) and other problem areas for gun violence. By identifying these areas, police patrols can saturate the hot spots to restore order and increase the number of illegal firearms seized. These types of programs can also be a part of wider-scale community programs designed to reduce gun violence by coordinating the involvement of all members and stakeholders of the community, often targeting young gang offenders. Other programs rely more heavily on the judicial system—such as using gun courts, for example—to speed up the court processing and trial of crimes committed with firearms, or to mandate training and awareness programs for first-time offenders. Alternatively, stricter probation requirements increasing both supervision and support to young gun offenders can be mandated when they are released into the community.

Target Populations
While the overarching goal of these policy and community interventions remains the same—the reduction of gun violence—the mechanisms, means, and targeted populations through which this goal can be achieved vary. Some interventions principally emphasize reducing the availability of firearms. Some concentrate on increasing the knowledge of their safe use and storage. Still others focus on the heavier policing of known high-crime areas or the greater supervision of probationers at risk of being victim to or committing gun violence. Most often these interventions target a reduction in firearm homicide rates for specific geographic areas and aim to create safer communities and neighborhoods.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
Makarios and Pratt (2012) looked at results from 29 studies that examined the effects of policy and community interventions to reduce gun violence. They found the interventions were associated with a significant decrease in violent gun crime (r = –0.144). This indicates that these programs overall had a moderate to weak effect on gun crime. The authors disaggregated their analysis to show the effect of different types of interventions. Their analysis found no significant effects for gun buy-back programs (r = –0.01). Conversely, the analysis of gun laws found that they exerted a significant, although weak, impact on reducing gun crime (r = –0.089). Finally, the analysis of law enforcement campaigns found that they had a significant, moderate effect on reducing gun violence (r = –0.231). Overall, the results of the disaggregated analysis show law enforcement strategies yielding the greatest effect on reducing gun crime, followed by gun laws, while gun buy-back laws were not shown to significantly reduce gun crime. In addition, Makarios and Pratt (2012) further disaggregated the results to show the effect of different types of gun laws. Their analysis found weak to moderate, significant effects for gun laws enhancing prison terms (r = –0.089), and similar effects for waiting periods and background checks (r = –0.078). The analysis of gun laws found that weapons bans had significant, moderate effects on reducing gun crime (r = –0.194). Finally, their disaggregated analysis of gun laws showed that safe storage laws made no significant impact on gun crime. The authors also disaggregated the results to show the effect of different types of law enforcement interventions. Their analysis found significant, moderate effects for policing strategies (r = –0.233) and similar effects for community programs (r = –0.271). The analysis of policing interventions found that probation strategies had a stronger, moderate, significant effect on reducing gun crime (r = –0.325). Finally, their disaggregated analysis showed that prosecutorial strategies made no significant impact on gun crime.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11983 - 2005290

Meta-Analysis 1
Makarios and Pratt (2012) included 29 studies in their meta-analysis that evaluated a program or strategy that attempted to reduce gun violence. The studies included needed to have conducted their analysis at the macro level, measuring rates of gun crimes, as opposed to individual-level measures of recidivism. The studies also needed to include an outcome measure of violent or gun crime to be part of the analysis. The types of study designs included were all quasi experimental, owing in part to the nature of place-based research. The highest-quality studies used matched pairs or longitudinal designs with comparison groups. Other types of designs included longitudinal time series. Some poorer-quality designs were also included using precomparisons and postcomparisons controlling for intervening factors.

The authors found 172 independent effect sizes within the 29 studies and produced standardized mean effect sizes, in the form of correlation coefficients for all the interventions, as well as for the different types of programs and policies included in the studies. They categorized the different interventions under three rubrics: gun buy-backs, gun laws, and law enforcement campaigns. Though the gun buy-back programs are all very similar, the authors further distinguished interventions within the remaining groups. Gun laws focused on enhanced prison terms, waiting periods/background checks, weapons bans, and safe-storage laws. The law enforcement interventions were comprised of policing strategies, probation strategies, prosecutorial strategies, and community programs.
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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Makarios, Matthew D., and Travis C. Pratt. 2012. “The Effectiveness of Policies and Programs That Attempt to Reduce Firearm Violence: A Meta-Analysis.” Crime & Delinquency 58(2):222–44.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Makarios, Matthew D., and Travis C. Pratt. 2008. “The Effectiveness of Policies and Programs That Attempt to Reduce Firearm Violence: A Meta-Analysis.” Crime & Delinquency 58(2)222–44.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Operation Peacekeeper Effective - One study
A community and problem-oriented policing program in Stockton, CA, to reduce gang involvement and violence among urban youth (10-18). Youth Outreach Workers served as mentors for youth in neighborhood settings. This program is rated Effective. The program was associated with a significant decrease in the monthly number of gun homicides. Also, when compared to gun homicide trends in other midsize California cities, the reduction in homicides in Stockton could be associated with the program.

Targeted Gun Law Messaging Promising - One study
This is a mail campaign intended to deter illegal firearm transactions in Los Angeles, Calif., using a letter outlining the regulations and laws surrounding firearm ownership. The program is rated Promising. Those who received a letter were more than twice as likely to report their firearms stolen than those who did not. The mail campaign did not appear to have an impact on whether the firearm became a crime gun or not.

Indianapolis (Ind.) Violence Reduction Partnership (IVRP) Promising - One study
A policing program that targeted high-risk chronic offenders in order to reduce gun violence in Indianapolis, Indiana. The program is rated Promising. When compared to the homicide trends in six other cities, Indianapolis was the only one that experienced a statistically significant decline. Gang-related homicides and homicides involving 15-24 year olds also showed a statistically significant decline.

Indianapolis (Ind.) Directed Patrol Promising - One study
A policing program that uses a proactive directed patrol strategy to reduce firearms violence in Indianapolis, Indiana. The program is rated Promising. The effect on reducing firearms crime was seen in the North target beats, but not the East. Control police beats showed an increase in gun crimes, and in the remaining areas of Indianapolis homicides increased.

Operation Ceasefire: Hollenbeck Initiative Promising - One study
A policing initiative that targeted specific dangerous gangs using aggressive enforcement to reduce gun violence. The program is rated Promising. In the five targeted police reporting districts, violent crime decreased by 37 percent during the six months after the intervention. This was a significant change in comparison to the other districts, where violent crime decreased by only 22 percent. The intervention also reduced gun and gang crime.

Cure Violence (Chicago, Illinois) Promising - One study
A violence prevention program that uses a public health approach, using trained street violence interrupters and outreach workers, public education campaigns, and community mobilization to reduce shootings and killings. This program is rated Promising. The program was associated with significant reductions in shootings, killings, and retaliatory homicides and also appeared to make shooting hot spots cooler in some neighborhoods but not others.

Operation Ceasefire (Boston, Mass.) Effective - More than one study
A problem-solving police strategy that seeks to reduce gang violence, illegal gun possession, and gun violence in communities in Boston, Mass. The program is rated Effective. There was a statistically significant decrease in youth homicides, citywide gun assaults, calls for service, and the percentage of recovered handguns that had a fast time-to-crime (the time between a firearm’s first sale at retail and subsequent recovery in a crime).

Kansas City (MO) Gun Experiment Promising - One study
A police patrol project aimed at reducing gun violence, drive-by shootings and homicides. During the experimental period, extra police patrols were placed in gun crime "hot spots" in a target area. The program is rated Promising. There was an increase in gun seizures, a decline in gun crimes, some evidence of program benefit diffusion, and no displacement. There were lower homicides in the targeted area but no statistical difference in drive-by shootings or other types of crimes.

Project Safe Neighborhoods (Chicago) Promising - One study
This is a comprehensive antiviolence initiative that uses collaborative strategies to alter perceived costs and benefits of gun violence and is intended to reduce illegal gun offending among ex-offenders. The program is rated Promising. Treatment districts experienced a 37 percent reduction in quarterly homicide rates and fewer gun-related homicides. There was a modest reduction of aggravated battery/assaults in the treatment district areas.

Project Exile Promising - One study
A crime reduction strategy in Richmond, Virginia implemented to deter former and would-be offenders from carrying and using firearms, with an overall goal of reducing firearm-related homicides. The project is rated Promising. Firearm-related homicides decreased significantly in the target area, compared with other U.S. cities where the program was not implemented.

Project Safe Neighborhoods (National Evaluation) Promising - One study
This program is a multiple agency initiative to reduce gun violence in large cities through enhanced enforcement and deterrence. The program is rated Promising. Cities that received the program experienced a significant reduction in violent crime relative to control cities between 2000 and 2006.

Kansas City (MO) No Violence Alliance No Effects - One study
This is a focused deterrence violence-reduction strategy. The goal was to lower the city’s exposure to violent crime, including reducing the numbers of homicides and aggravated assaults committed by chronic violent offenders operating within organized groups and other social networks. The program is rated No Effects. Two years postimplementation, there was no statistically significant impact on homicides, group-member-involved homicides, and aggravated assaults.
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Practice Snapshot

Settings: High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots, Other Community Setting

Practice Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Community Awareness/Mobilization, General deterrence, Hot Spots Policing, Violence Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Places

Travis Pratt
University of Cincinnati, Corrections Institute
566 Dyer Hall, P.O. Box 210389
Cincinnati OH 45220
Phone: 513.556.7765