TOC - Gun Info 7
-- Obama’s Discipline Policy Made Schools Less Effective and Unsafe - 3/13/18
-- Zero correlation between state homicide rate and state gun laws - 10/6/15
-- 010108 - Don't Blame Liberals for Gun Control - 1/08/01

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 Obama’s Discipline Policy Made Schools Less Effective and Unsafe.

March 13, 2018   Jarrett Stepman   The Daily Signal

A school discipline initiative launched by the Obama administration has become the subject of national debate after the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.  As is typical with so many other policies, federal meddling in what should be a local matter leads to poor results.

This is the conclusion reached Monday by a Heritage Foundation panel about a school discipline initiative, launched by the Obama administration that suddenly became the subject of national debate after the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

A “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education in 2014—designed to crack down on racial disparities in school discipline and reduce the “school to prison pipeline”—created negative unintended consequences, according to Manhattan Institute scholar Max Eden, who was on the panel. 

Obama-Era Policies Helped Keep Parkland Shooter under the Radar.  Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl, recently suggested in a memo to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that the guidance to schools led to “systematic failures” to report the Parkland shooter to legal authorities.  Eden and other panelists explained the specific problems the Obama policy created for schools around the country. They have enumerated here what went wrong among others things:

1.) Schools Feared Investigation and adopted Lower Standards for Discipline.  Gail Heriot, a University of San Diego School of Law professor and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was part of the panel and explained how the Obama administration used the guidance as a potential cudgel against fearful schools.

In particular, Heriot said, the threat of an Education Department investigation had a chilling effect on schools that intended to discipline a minority student in particular.  “If the federal government had said, ‘don’t discipline minority students unless it’s justified,’ it would have sounded reasonable,” Heriot said.  But how schools read it is more like “Don’t disciple a minority student unless you’re confident you can persuade some future federal investigator, whose judgment you have no reason to trust, that it was justified.”  The nature of bureaucracy, Heriot said, means that it’s “inevitable” for those trying to follow such guidelines to overreact.

Schools simply avoided disciplining troubled students because they were fearful of being caught up in a costly investigation, panelists said.  Eden, the Manhattan Institute scholar, also spoke about the chilling threat of investigation. The Obama policy was not guidance, he said, “these were orders.”

Any time a school had a racial disparity in school discipline cases, administrators faced an investigation, so the best way to hold down the number of punishments was simply to lower standards drastically, investigations began as well-intentioned means to find discrimination, Eden said, but after the Obama administration’s racist guidance, investigations “became pretext for prosecutions intended to force school districts to adopt lower standards.”  “These investigations hit hundreds of districts, serving millions of students,” Eden said. “The scope of it is breathtaking.”

2.) Unwillingness to Punish Minority Students Put Other Minority Students in Danger.  A breakdown of school discipline made it more difficult for serious students to succeed in schools that serve mostly low-income families with high levels of minority students. 

Virginia Walden Ford, a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, also runs a program in Little Rock, Arkansas, that mostly serves low-income black and Hispanic students.  Ford described how students in Arkansas that she spoke to would often stay home because they were afraid of other students picking fights, and had concluded that teachers wouldn’t do anything about it.  One girl explained to Ford how students at her school didn’t feel safe “because the kids that were creating a lot of the discipline problems” got “a slap on the wrist” instead of real punishments.  “There were no consequences to their actions,” and this creates an environment in which good students feel “unsafe.”

Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow and vice president for external affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said there are “very good reasons to be concerned about exclusionary discipline, but there are equally good reasons to be concerned about the concern.”  Most educators want students to be more civically engaged but it sends an awful message to children when the place that they do engage are places where they “feel unsafe, where they are bullied, or, God forbid, harmed, and there’s no meaningful consequence.”

3.) Teachers Feel Like They Have Lost Control.

The guidance to schools from the Obama administration took discipline decisions out of teachers’ hands and put them in the hands of bureaucrats, the discrepancy in school discipline is based on disparate rates of bad behavior in classrooms — black, white, Asian, and other ethnic groups have different levels of discipline problems—and teachers are reacting to this.

Teachers are simply “identifying the students who are actually misbehaving,” Heriot said, “and especially for the worst offenders, it tends to be the same kids.”  “Once prior behavior is taken into account, race drops out as a predictor, entirely,” Heriot said.

But now it’s more difficult for teachers to use their best judgment to discipline students and it’s leading classrooms to get out of control, classrooms are becoming a “battleground,” not a “safe haven,” Ford said.

“We’ve seen it since the Obama administration policy: Teachers are afraid to do anything, say anything,” Ford said, adding, “They’re not safe because they can’t make decisions on how to discipline kids.”  Students who misbehave understand that teachers can’t do anything to them, so bad behavior escalates and makes schools a poor environment for education, Ford said.

4.) Arrests and Suspensions Went Down, So Did Academic Standards

The Obama administration policy pressured schools to reduce arrests and suspensions, but the discipline problem escalated, and many schools suffered academically.  “A significant portion of the achievement gap is actually a time-on-task gap, and much of that time-on-task gap is caused because of disruptions in the classroom.”  Getting climate and culture right in the classroom is a delicate task for teachers, Pondiscio said, and it is often more important than the actual content of instruction.  Lazy reporters” focused on selected statistics that show suspensions going down, and then they insinuated it is a sign that schools are getting safer.

Eden said he reviewed data on school districts after the Obama guideline was put in place. From the little data that existed, he found “across the board” drops in achievement, higher levels of truancy, and in some cases, more time spent out of school specifically for black students because more serious incidents were taking place.  “When schools aren’t allowed to enforce basic norms, serious problems increase,” Eden said.

5.) Federal Meddling Leads to Local Failure.

Ultimately, one of the biggest problems with the Obama guidance on school discipline is that it injected federal meddling into an issue best handled by states and localities, panelists said.  “A lot of this guidance comes with the discomfort of the excesses of ‘zero tolerance,’”   Zero tolerance policies are the other side of the same coin, he said, explaining that they also took power out of teachers’ hands and forced them to take actions against students.

If we don’t want police to be stepping into classrooms, it’s important to allow teachers to use greater discretion about how they discipline students, Eden explained.  Additionally, policies that worked well in some areas failed in others because of the differences among localities, panelists said. The federal government is poorly equipped to handle these nuances.

“When a locality makes a mistake,” Heriot said, “it’s a lot easier to correct at a local level than when the federal government pushes the rule”.


 Zero correlation between state homicide rate and state gun laws

October 6, 2015    By Eugene Volokh

There’s been much talk recently — including from President Obama — about there being a substantial correlation between state-level gun death rates and state gun laws.

Now correlation obviously doesn’t equal causation; there may be lots of other factors that are the true causes of both of the things that are being measured. But if we do look for now at correlation.

It seems to me that the key question should focus on state total homicide rates, or perhaps (for reasons I describe below) total intentional homicide plus accidental gun death rates. And it turns out that there is essentially zero correlation between these numbers and state gun laws.

To begin with, here’s why I focus on total homicide, rather than gun homicide or all gun deaths. First, few people care much about whether they are stabbed to death or shot to death. And even if gun restrictions do decrease gun homicides, that effect may well be offset (or more than offset) by an increase in other homicides:

Some killers would kill with knives or other weapons instead of guns.
To the extent that today some attempted killings are stopped by defenders who have guns, those attempts might succeed if the guns become harder enough for defenders to get.
To the extent that today some potential killings (or attempted robberies, rapes, or burglaries that lead to killings) are deterred by attackers’ fear of running into a gun, it might be that fewer will be deterred if guns become harder enough for defenders to get.

If — put together — these effects mean that tighter gun laws will mean 100 fewer gun homicides in a state but 100 more homicides with knives or other weapons, the net result would hardly be a gun law success.

Now of course you might think this won’t happen, and the 100 fewer gun homicides will be only slightly offset by, say, 20 extra knife homicides. But to determine whether that’s true (to the extent that correlations can determine such things), you’d want to see how gun laws are correlated with total homicides, not with gun homicides. If you’re right that the stronger gun laws will yield this net 80-homicide decline, that should show up in stronger gun laws being correlated with total homicide rates.

Second, suicides are quite different from homicides. Morally speaking, restraining people’s liberty, and in particular their ability to defend themselves, to prevent murder of unwilling victims deaths is quite different from restraining that liberty to prevent others from willingly killing themselves. It is no accident, I think, that the calls for gun restriction are usually specifically tied to murders — whether mass killings or the aggregate of individual killings — and not to suicides.

Suicide is also likely to be driven by many factors related to culture and the person’s living situation, factors very different from those involved in homicide. The age-adjusted suicide rate among blacks in the U.S., for instance, is less than 40% of the suicide rate among whites, while the homicide rate is much higher for blacks than for whites — and that’s just one of many examples.

Beyond that, if you really want to commit suicide (and there’s good reason to think that people who use a gun to try to commit suicide — as opposed to, say, pills — really do want to commit suicide) but can’t get a gun, it’s not hard to find alternate reliable means of killing yourself. (On the latter point, see the National Academies’ Firearms and Violence report, which concludes, as of 2004, that “Some gun control policies may reduce the number of gun suicides, but they have not yet been shown to reduce the overall risk of suicide in any population.”) And, finally, even if some gun laws could decrease suicide, those would often be very different gun laws than those intended to decrease homicides. For instance, even total handgun bans or sharp restrictions on handgun purchases, which have been urged as means of reducing homicides, would be highly unlikely to affect suicides, which could just as well be committed with shotguns (a la Kurt Cobain or Ernest Hemingway). Same for bans on so-called “assault weapons,” bans on large capacity magazines, restrictions on carrying guns in public, and more.

The careful reader might be asking, “What about accidents?” The substitution effects I describe above (e.g., reduction in gun homicides might be offset by increase in knife homicides) are indeed highly unlikely for accidents, so it makes sense to look at total intentional homicides plus fatal gun accidents. Indeed, that’s what my counts of “homicides” below will refer to below. But if you want to exclude fatal gun accidents, and focus only on intentional homicides, the results are virtually identical, since fatal gun accidents are so much rarer than homicides — for instance, in 2012, there were 548 fatal gun accidents but 16,688 homicides, according to CDC’s WISQARS database. (Note that I used an average of three years’ worth of accident data, 2011 to 2013, because there are very few gun accidents in any given year in most states.)

So, given this, let’s look at how jurisdiction-level homicide rates (i.e., homicides per 100,000 people) correlate with jurisdiction-level gun laws, counting the 50 states and D.C. (I use 2012 Justice Department homicide data, from the Proquest Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2015. I use the 2013 gun law scores and grades from the Brady Campaign, with low scores meaning a low level of gun restrictions and high scores being a high level. And I use an estimate of my own for D.C. based on the Brady Campaign’s criteria, since the Brady list didn’t include D.C.; I think my estimate is if anything an underestimate of D.C.’s tight gun laws, at least as of 2012-13.) I have also run the analysis using the data from the National Journal article that has recently been in the news, and the result is virtually identical.

First, the ten lowest-homicide jurisdictions, again including both intentional homicide and accidental gun deaths:
Jurisdiction Homicide rate Brady score Brady grade
New Hampshire 1.1 5.5 D-
Vermont 1.3 -4.0 F
Iowa 1.6 14.0 C-
Massachusetts 1.8 60.5 B+
Utah 1.8 -2.0 F
Minnesota 1.9 19.5 C
Maine 1.9 3.0 F
Hawaii 2.1 58.5 B+
Idaho 2.2 0.0 F
Wyoming 2.4 -5.0 F

Now the ten highest-homicide ones:
Jurisdiction Homicide rate Brady score Brady grade
Arkansas 6.3 1.0 F
Maryland 6.4 66.5 A-
Tennessee 6.4 2.0 F
Missouri 6.8 -0.5 F
Michigan 7.1 15.0 C
South Carolina 7.3 1.0 F
Alabama 7.5 3.5 D-
Mississippi 8.1 -4.0 F
Louisiana 11.6 -2.0 F
D.C. 13.9 50.0 B

The correlation between the homicide rate and Brady score in all 51 jurisdictions is +.032 (on a scale of -1 to +1), which means that states with more gun restrictions on average have very slightly higher homicide rates, though the tendency is so small as to be essentially zero. (If you omit the fatal gun accident rates, then the correlation would be +.065, which would make the more gun-restricting states look slightly worse; but again, the correlation would be small enough to be essentially zero, given all the other possible sources of variation.) If we use the National Journal data (adding the columns for each state, counting 1 for each dark blue, which refers to broad restrictions, 0.5 for each light blue, which refers to medium restrictions, and 0 for each grey, which refers to no or light restrictions), the results are similar: +0.017 or +0.051 if one omits the fatal gun accident rates. You can also run the correlation yourself on my Excel spreadsheet.

Now of course this doesn’t prove that gun laws have no effect on total homicide rates. Correlation, especially between just two variables, doesn’t show causation.

Perhaps there are other confounding factors (such as demographics, economics, and so on). Perhaps even controlling for those factors, there will be other missing factors that are hard to control for — for instance, maybe as the crime rate increases, calls for gun controls increase, so high crime causes more gun restrictions, or maybe calls for more freedom to defend oneself increase, so high crime causes fewer gun restrictions (e.g., liberalized concealed-carry licensing rules). And of course when small changes in the model yield substantial changes in results (e.g., if you calculate the state gun scores differently, the results will likely be different), you know how little you should credit the output. Figuring out the actual effect of government actions, whether gun laws, changed policing rules, drug laws, or anything else, is devilishly difficult.

But since people have been talking about simple two-variable correlations between gun laws and crime, I thought it would be helpful to note this correlation — or, rather, absence of correlation.
Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.

 Don't Blame Liberals for Gun Control January 8, 2001 email this article to a friend

ANTI-GUN CRUSADERS seem worried about the advent of a Republican administration. Heaven knows why. Republicans, in recent years, have managed to do nearly as much damage to the Second Amendment as Democrats.

In 1969, journalist William Safire asked Richard Nixon what he thought about gun control. "Guns are an abomination," Nixon replied. According to Safire, Nixon went on to confess that, "Free from fear of gun owners' retaliation at the polls, he favored making handguns illegal and requiring licenses for hunting rifles."

It was President George Bush, Sr. who banned the import of "assault weapons" in 1989, and promoted the view that Americans should only be allowed to own weapons suitable for "sporting purposes."

It was Governor Ronald Reagan of California who signed the Mulford Act in 1967, "prohibiting the carrying of firearms on one's person or in a vehicle, in any public place or on any public street." The law was aimed at stopping the Black Panthers, but affected all gun owners.

Twenty-four years later, Reagan was still pushing gun control. "I support the Brady Bill," he said in a March 28, 1991 speech, "and I urge the Congress to enact it without further delay."

One of the most aggressive gun control advocates today is Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York City, whose administration sued 26 gun manufacturers in June 2000, and whose police commissioner, Howard Safir, proposed a nationwide plan for gun licensing, complete with yearly "safety" inspections.

Another Republican, New York State Governor George Pataki, on August 10, 2000, signed into law what The New York Times called "the nation's strictest gun controls," a radical program mandating trigger locks, background checks at gun shows and "ballistic fingerprinting" of guns sold in the state. It also raised the legal age to buy a handgun to 21 and banned "assault weapons," the sale or possession of which would now be punishable by seven years in prison.

Gun control crusaders argue that the Republicans are simply yielding to grassroots pressure, to gainpolitical advantage. But polls show little evidence of such pressure

A Gallup/CNN/USA Today survey taken in June 1999 - only two months after the Littleton massacre -showed that the number of Americans who favored stricter gun laws had declined by 20 percent since1990.

Public support for gun control has dwindled even further since then. An Associated Press poll released on theone-year anniversary of the Littleton shootings shows that Americans favor strict enforcement of existing laws over new gun laws - the exact position of the National Rifle Association (NRA) - by 42 to 33 percent.

That same month, a survey by the Pew Research Center showed that only 6 percent of Americansbelieved that tougher gun laws would prevent future school shootings.

Meanwhile, a Tarrance Group poll has shown that only 5 percent of Americans want gunmakers andgun dealers held responsible for misuse of firearms.

Clearly, the pressure for gun control is not coming from the grassroots. It comes from those layers ofsociety that the left calls the "ruling classes" - academics, Hollywood stars, Washington insiders andmultibillion-dollar media conglomerates.

The latter are particularly influential in pushing anti-gun propaganda. A study by the Media ResearchCenter released in January 2000 showed that television news stories calling for stricter gun lawsoutnumbered those opposing such laws by a ratio of 10 to 1.

The blame for this media bias is traditionally assigned to "liberal journalists." And, indeed, mostjournalists do hold left-of-center views. A 1996 survey of working journalists by the Roper Center andthe Freedom Forum showed that 89 percent had voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Only 4 percent identifiedthemselves as Republicans and only 2 percent as conservatives.

Yet, their "liberal" views probably have less impact on the media's anti-gun bias than most peopleassume. Rank-and-file reporters have little power to influence the political spin even of their own stories.

When I worked at the New York Post in the mid-1980s, I found the newsroom filled with liberals. Theygrumbled constantly about the paper's conservative slant. But they went along with it, because it wascompany policy.

Liberal news organizations are no different. Political bias comes from the top. Rank-and-file reporterssimply do what they are told.

Those of us who cherish our Second Amendment rights are keeping our fingers crossed about GeorgeW. Bush. But the monolithic commitment America's "ruling classes" have shown toward gun controlmakes one wonder whether even a president is free to buck the current.

Richard Poe is editor of and He is the author of BlackSpark, White Fire and other books. For more information about Poe and his work, E-mail him here.