Sometimes I feel sorry for Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitprop machine The Trace. For some reason, the former Mayor of New York hired actual journalists to do his dirty work. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary (e.g., The New York Times), journalists are required to present the facts of a story. So when The Trace’s jobbing journos tackled a story about New York City’s Project Fast Track gun court program, part of the City’s 200-member gun suppression division, they come face-to-face with its failure.
Police are also making lots of weapons arrests. In 2015, there were more than 13,000 arrests where weapons charges were the top offense, 54 percent more than in crime-fighter Rudy Giuliani’s final year in office.
Conviction rates, however, have not kept pace with the climbing case load. Statistics from the state’s Division of Criminal Justice indicate that the ratio of convictions to arrests in cases where a weapons charge was the top offense dropped to 18 percent from 2009 to 2013, down from 40 percent in the 1994 to 1998 period.
The above info is buried in Jarret Murphy’s story, but it’s impossible to avoid the simple truth: the City’s hugely expensive effort to “get guns off the street” is a bust. Speaking of busts, the reason conviction rates suck is bad or at least “difficult” police work.
Seems it’s beyond the NYPD’s powers to establish probable cause for many if not most of their stops. Not to mention the cops’ inability to preserve evidence or establish ownership of the errant firearm (or the department’s lack of enthusiasm for fingerprinting confiscated weapons).
“Officers have a difficult time because they’re not legal experts,” Brooklyn Law School professor Bennett Capers points out, helpfully enough. Surprisingly, The Trace gives Mr. Capers’ common sense criticism of the entire effort column inches — before finding a quote that puts lipstick on the proverbial pig.
As powerful as the desire to remove guns from circulation might be, Capers wonders if resources might be better spent focusing on the guns that actually have been used to commit crimes. “I’m always sort of thinking, our homicide clearance rate is still way too low. We only solve two thirds of homicides,” he says. Nationally, the FBI reports a homicide clearance rate of 64 percent; it can be much lower in high-crime cities. “There are people who’ve already been shot. We ought to address that too.”
Or maybe the effectiveness of gun courts at surmounting the challenges of evidence en route to swift and certain justice is beside the point. As LaBahn notes, even when an illegal gun is ruled inadmissible in court and the person accused of carrying it goes free, they don’t get their firearm back.
“At a minimum,” he says, “you’re taking that gun off the street.”
If the 200-member team confiscates one gun, it’s worth it? I don’t think so.