Magazine article Insight on the News

Feds Shouldn't Get Credit for Reduced Crime

Magazine article Insight on the News

Feds Shouldn't Get Credit for Reduced Crime

Article excerpt

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord and don't pass the ammunition! Why? Because across the country, murder rates are plummeting. According to new FBI figures, the murder rate fell 7 percent in the first half of 1996, continuing a three-year trend.

The downside of this is that next to other Western countries, the United States still is comparable to a World War I battlefield. Whatever we may be doing right, we need to be doing a lot more. But what are we doing, anyway?

First, let's make clear that anybody who says there's a simple or complete answer either is lying to you or to themselves. That includes the claims of Sheriff Wild Bill Clinton that he done rode them varmints outta town on a rail.

"Crime has dropped in the last four years as we worked to put 100,000 police [officers] on the streets," he said in his Jan. 4 radio address. He also repeatedly has given credit to the Brady Bill, which requires a waiting period and background check for handgun purchasers.

But note Clinton's careful wording about those cops. He said he worked to put them there, not that they actually exist. Indeed, for the most part they don't. Studies show that at best the legislation has added about 17,000 new officers, and many of those would have been added anyway but now simply are funded with federal dollars.

As to the Brady bill, Sarah Brady humbly boasted at the Democratic National Convention that her husband's namesake law "has helped keep more than 100,000 felons and other prohibited purchasers from buying handguns."

Actually, the White House itself only has claimed 60,000, and a General Accounting Office report last year found that half of those rejected were for administrative reasons--mostly paperwork errors. Only 5 percent were rejected because of violent-crime convictions and most probably just proceeded to buy a gun on the streets.

Thus, a University of Chicago study recently found that the Brady Rill was about as effective as the Brady Bunch in preventing crime.

The way we know that neither Clinton nor anyone in the federal government deserves credit for reduced crime is that about 95 percent of crime is handled by state and local agencies. That's easily measured, because about 95 percent of the criminals behind bars are there on state, not federal, charges. …

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