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Gun violence shatters lives among its victims, and leaves society at large shaking its head and wringing its hands.

Criminal-justice experts and analysts, however, recognize and understand a key concept and condition that rarely makes the news but is essential to making progress: the law of crime concentration.

Half of the gun deaths in the U.S. in 2015 occurred in just 127 cities. Moreover, gun violence is further concentrated in neighborhood areas within those cities that comprise only about 1,200 census tracts, which cover roughly 1,600 square miles. To properly frame the reference of the minuscule nature of those numbers, our country has 73,057 census tracts and 3.8 million square miles.

Though those neighborhoods contain only 1.5 percent of the U.S. population, 26 percent of the nation's gun homicides happened within their local confines.

Now you see why gun-crime statistics by state are utterly deceiving. Any averaging that lumps large numbers of counties with zero gun deaths together with a very few urban counties with very high gun homicides produces an idiotic and useless result. Outliers that are way out of scale always skew averages into meaninglessness.

Gun-crime "solutions" based on state averages are therefore doomed to fail; they seek to solve illusory problems.

Consider Missouri and Arkansas, for instance. The per-adult gun ownership rate in Arkansas is twice that of Missouri, but the firearm murder rate in Missouri is 50 percent higher than Arkansas. Both states rank high in gun death rates, the problem isn't statewide in either, as FBI murder data demonstrate.

In 2016, Arkansas had 216 murders, for a rate of 7.2 per 100,000 population. But only 25 of those murders occurred in nonmetropolitan areas. For those 55 counties, the murder rate was half the cities' rate.

In Missouri, the contrast is even starker: The metro homicide rate was three times the non-metro rate. Of Missouri's 537 murders, 474 occurred in its eight metropolitan areas. Of Missouri's total gun homicides, one-third can be traced to neighborhoods in either St. Louis or Kansas City.

That's not a Show Me State irregularity; it's a national reality.

Moving up the map, 31 of Iowa's 99 counties belong to metropolitan areas. In all of the 68 nonmetro counties, there were only 8 murders in 2016. The murder rate in St. Louis (population 319,924) is 50 times more than in nonmetro Iowa (population 681,181).

Trying to approach those two population sets with a one-size-fits-all crime prevention strategy is absurdity beyond description. What our concentrated crime problem is crying out for is a common-sense strategy that treats communities according to their situations, and applies crime-prevention resources and practices accordingly.

Some city neighborhoods need police presence, loitering policies, curfews and other measures ratcheted up radically until improvement is seen. Many, many other small towns and neighborhoods across the nation don't need anything at all--certainly no new gun laws.

In reviewing urban areas where concentrations of gun crime are most rampant and produce the most deaths, some insightful political observations arise.

The top five cities with the highest gun death rates are New Orleans, Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore and Oakland. The top five cities with the highest non-fatal gun crime rates feature some overlap: St. Louis, Memphis, Oakland, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

If we expand each list to the top 20 cities, and cross-reference them, 14 cities appear on both the gun death and non-fatal shooting lists. Of those 14 cities that were in both top 20 gun crime categories, Hillary Clinton carried every single one in the 2016 election, with landslides (more than 60 percent) in nine of the 14.

In some of the deadliest gun crime cities, such as St. Louis, New Orleans and Baltimore, Trump fared worst of all, getting only 15.9, 14.7 and 10.7 percent of the vote respectively.

How silly it would be for Democrats to limit their campaign strategy for 2020 in the metro areas where their candidate won hands-down. A strategist suggesting more ad spending in Baltimore would be a laughingstock. To change things, obviously the party must address the many suburbs, small cities and rural counties where Clinton lost.

How silly it is, likewise, to propose and devise gun crime solutions for the vast majority of people and places in the U.S. where there is no gun violence problem.

To effect change and improvement, we must address those small, narrowly defined areas where gun crime is off the charts.

Politicians can sound noble and statesmanlike standing up and calling on Congress for a national assault weapon ban. Meanwhile, nightly handgun shootings take a deadly toll on constituents trapped in select census tract neighborhoods--so easily identifiable, so statistically predictable, so conveniently forgettable.

Back in 1914, opposing troops in World War I along no-man's land called a Christmas truce and put down their weapons to celebrate the holiday. Maybe mayors in major cities ought to coordinate a plea for a gun crime truce this Christmas.

No shootings, for just one day.

It might fail miserably. No harm in trying, though. The longest journey always starts with a single step.


Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.

Editorial on 12/08/2017

Print Headline: Concentrated solutions

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  • Dontsufferfools
    December 8, 2017 at 10:06 a.m.

    Kind of a dumb column. Ignores the massacres and school shootings that have nothing to do with inner-city problems. Ignores the issue of semi-automatic weapons with 100-round drums. Ignores the fact that when cities like Chicago and D.C. have instituted strict gun control, they were undermined and had their policies rolled back by NRA-backed lawsuits. Sandy Hook Elementary is in an affluent community, not an inner-city 'hood. Yet, the kids are all dead.

  • Slak
    December 8, 2017 at 10:48 a.m.

    Brilliant column. Highlights the deceptive tactics used by anti-second amendment fanatics. School shootings, weapon types and other red herrings are all meaningless distractions to the real issue. By far, the most gun crime is committed in small areas which have been under democratic control for decades. Smell the societal rot brought on by the left's social experimentations.

  • Dontsufferfools
    December 8, 2017 at 5:41 p.m.

    Hey Slak, go to the Newtown town square, stand on a your soapbox, and tell the folks that school shootings "are meaningless." But you won't, because you don't have the courage of your nonsense.

  • WhododueDiligence
    December 8, 2017 at 8:44 p.m.

    "Any averaging that lumps large numbers of counties with zero gun deaths together with a very few urban counties with very high gun homicides produces an idiotic and useless result."
    That's a strange statement since by definition all averaging must include all the numbers in the data set including all the zeroes to obtain the average. Many rural counties might have zero gun deaths in some years but as Dontsufferfools points out, some suburban or rural areas have mass shootings. Also, the quoted statement is an apples-to-oranges comparison because gun deaths don't equal gun homicides. Gun deaths also include gun suicides and accidental gun deaths. Statewide averages are not useless. They're used in this column to compare Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa.
    "How silly it is, likewise, to propose and devise gun crime solutions for the vast majority of people and places in the U.S. where there is no gun violence problem."
    It's a gross exaggeration to say that there is no gun violence problem outside the urban higher crime areas specified in this column. Neither Kelley nor crime experts can predict where mass shootings will occur. They have repeatedly occurred outside the urban areas mentioned. Kelley's suggestions for reducing gun violence in urban areas seem to be very sound, but it's wrong to use statistics (which obviously change from year to year) in a mistaken attempt to show "zero gun deaths" and "no gun violence problem" outside those urban areas.

  • Packman
    December 8, 2017 at 9:24 p.m.

    Great column, but it has a major flaw. It will confuse useful idiots with facts. Such as America doesn't have a gun problem. America has an inner city violent crime problem. If libs really wanted to make a dent in murder rates they would support focused effort as recommended by Dana Kelly. But instead they scream for meaningless nationwide bans on rifles built on a military platform. Obviously they really don't care about solving the problem and I simply cannot understand why.

  • Dontsufferfools
    December 8, 2017 at 9:28 p.m.

    One could argue, too, that the gun proliferation produced by liberal gun rights policies contributes to the shootings in the "concentrated" areas. Chicago, for example, has almost no gun stores, yet, it is overrun with guns that are brought in from Indiana and neighboring states or stolen from unlocked SUVs in the suburbs.

  • WhododueDiligence
    December 9, 2017 at 7:31 a.m.

    "But instead they scream for nationwide bans on rifles built on a military platform. Obviously they really don't care about solving the problem and I simply cannot understand why."
    Of course you can't, Packman. Even after the Las Vegas shooting which killed 59 and wounded/injured more than 500 others in 10 minutes, you still simply can't call them what they are--military style assault rifles capable of approximating military style high-rate automatic firing with cheap modifications. Instead of calling them what they are you refer to them as rifles built on a military platform. That sounds benign. You make it sound as though they're ordinary hunting rifles built on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

  • wildblueyonder
    December 9, 2017 at 3:13 p.m.

    Does anyone know how many shootings in say, Chicago, are handguns or assault type weapons?

  • PopMom
    December 9, 2017 at 4:39 p.m.


    America both has a gun problem AND an inner city violent crime problem. The inner city violent crime problem can be solved by better schools and crackdowns on crime. The gun problem can be solved by more background checks and restricting access to weapons with semi-automatic capabilities.


    The blue states tend to be richer and less violent than the red states. Your faulty logic suggesting that there is a link between being Democratic and violent does not hold up. The inner cities which tend to be heavily black vote Democratic because most of the racists have gone over to the Republican Party; that is the correlation.