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It’s an unfortunate fact of today’s society that youth violence happens every day. Living around the D.C. area it seems like every week there’s another shooting. As humans, we have a need to quantify the impact of things on our lives in order to better understand how it effects us and society. Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson from San Mateo County in California published a study yesterday that quantifies the effect of youth violence in their county, and I have to say I have a couple of issues with the A High Price to Pay: The Economic and Social Costs of Youth Gun Violence in San Mateo County . . .

The first section of the report, the actual quantitative stuff, seems pretty solid. Without being able to check their numbers I can’t say for sure, but their methodology sounds right.

They took the average cost of the investigation, court hearings, trial and incarceration and totaled it up to form the “Estimated Range of Costs for one Firearm Crime to San Mateo County Taxpayers for Local Government Law Enforcement Response to Youth Firearm Crime.”

That number shakes out to somewhere around $266,461 – $856,323 for adults and $577,177 – $650,305 for youths, where the first number is the minimum possible expense and the second is the maximum theoretical possible expense. These are theoretical calculated costs, not observed costs, so the actual numbers may vary.

Using records from emergency rooms, coroners, and other sources, they also attempted to quantify the expense of youth violence in terms of medical attention, lost wages, disability and “lost quality of life.”

There wasn’t a lot about how they calculated that last one (actually, I didn’t see a single word about it), so I’d take the final number with a gigantic grain of salt. What they came up with is $234 Million as the final cost of youth violence for the county between 2005 and 2009.

Based on these methods, each fatal injury costs society an estimated $6.4 million (range $3.4 to $9.1 million), and each non-fatal injury costs society an estimated $46,000. Using these parameters, the cost of the 36 fatal and 133 non-fatal firearm injuries to youth in San Mateo County from 2005-2009 will total $234 million over time.

The calculation for “lost quality of life” makes me a little nervous (because even we, the “experts,” have no idea how to quantify that). But the next bit drives me absolutely daffy.

The report attempted to say something about the demographics of these crimes: who was committing them, what ages, where were they from, that sort of thing. And they went about it in the cheapest way possible.

  • Eighty-one percent of adults and 56 percent of youth incarcerated* for firearm crime in San Mateo County had been previously arrested.
  • Nine out of 18 (50 percent) juveniles incarcerated* and 31 of 75 (41 percent) adults incarcerated* for firearm crime are gang-affiliated.


*These figures are based on the jail and juvenile hall population
for a single day in 2011. It is conceivable that these figures vary
considering the transient nature of the jail population.

Read that last part again. The county based their analysis of the population of violent offenders on a SINGLE DAY’s worth of data.

Crime, like everything else, has a natural rhythm. As an EMT, I know I’m twice as likely to get a call at 4 PM as I am at 8 AM while the Monday shift goes out to dinner and the Friday shift stays at the firehouse (because Friday has four times the call volume as Monday).

If the people behind the study were conniving enough they could cherry pick the day that the most youth are likely to be incarcerated and use that as the data point. Say, the day after Halloween.

The report goes on for pages picking apart the information they gained by this “snapshot” approach.

Incarceration and recidivism for firearm crime is also high and concentrated in select communities and demographics. A snapshot of the 75 adults held at the county’s correctional facilities for any firearm crime (ranging from possession to homicide) on a single day in 2011 reveals that 45 percent were Latino, 28 percent were African American, and 96 percent were male. Of the 18 inmates held at the juvenile facility for firearm crime on a single day in 2011, 67 percent were Latino, 22 percent were African American, and 94 percent were male. Both adults and youth charged with firearm crimes had a high recidivism rate; 81 percent of incarcerated adults had been arrested before, as compared with 56 percent for youth. Seventy-eight percent of the 18 incarcerated juveniles were from the three communities of East Palo Alto, San Mateo, and the North Fair Oaks neighborhood of Redwood City. While the City of San Mateo has relatively low rates of fatal and non-fatal firearm injuries, it has high rates of incarceration for juveniles engaging in firearm crime.

(Emphasis added)

Again, one day’s data is driving the analysis.

In general, the report seems to do fine. The mathematical bits are of a questionable quality but are based on logical assumptions and data. The demographics and related information is based on an extremely small set of data, but that fact is pointed out and the conclusions drawn are logical.

Speaking of the conclusions, the paper has about a page and a half of recommended solutions, including increased counseling and outreach programs. In my book, worthy endeavors. But then we get to the closing bullet points.

Listed are the model ordinances and resolutions for cities and counties to pursue.

  • Model Ordinance Regulating Firearms Dealers and Ammunition Sellers
  • Model Ordinance Requiring Reporting of Lost or Stolen Firearms
  • Model Ordinance Prohibiting the Possession of Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines
  • Model Resolution Encouraging Law Enforcement to Send Letters to Prospective Handgun Purchasers

Nowhere in this report, not one single sentence, provides data to back up these recommendations. It’s as if they’ve fallen straight out of the sky. And yet here they are, the Brady Campaign’s talking points. No proof, no evidence, not a single fact to back up the claim that they will decrease youth violence in any way shape or form.

That’s when the report lost all credibility.

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  1. Even a half-assed accountant knows that any analysis that takes into account spending, without taking into account concomitant savings, is completely flawed.

    For every gang-banging lowlife dirtbag who gets gunned down on the streets of DC, the city saves a lifetime of grief and expense. Spending $500 or $600 thousand per perp seems like bargain.

  2. How come those studies are always so narrowly selective in what they focus on? (sarcasm off)

    Single parent families (94% mother and her kids) contribute to a host of problems for youth and often continue on into adulthood. Young males in single parent homes are far more likely to drop out of school, join gangs and do violence, and to commit suicide. Young females are more likely to get pregnant, catch a sexual disease, and drop out of school. The majority of violent male offenders grew up in a single parent home. It would be great to see a study focusing on the social cost of single parenthood.

    • The issue, is that the subject of such a study isn’t politically correct, so it would be unlikely to get funding…

  3. I had a similar occurrence recently. I was part of a group that listened to the presentation of a thesis for a master’s degree in communications. The initial presentation indicated that the writer engaged 6 co-researchers to develop the information. At the end, during the Q&A, it was discovered that the 6 were actually the ones being researched. Based on 12 hours of interview with 6 persons that were essentially homogenous, the thesis made sweeping conclusions about its topic. (I’m vague here as not everyone cares for the minutiae of every degree or discipline.)

    One appeal to authority was made that was used as a hinge for everything else. The appeal was to a Greek philosopher and the quote was out of context. I knew this because I was familiar with the philosopher, his writings, and the type of Greek in his writings.

    When confronted, the presenter had to admit to cherry picking the quote and the “co-researchers.” Unfortunately, the degree had already been awarded and the university was familiar with the number of people involved.

    They just didn’t care as long as the presenter paid her tuition on time.

    I fear that real research is not taught. The whole point now seems to be to pick an ideology the school or prof approves of and then cherry pick all the data and use nothing but straw men from the opposing views and then call it research.

  4. I live in Napa, CA. One of the 9 Bay Area Counties. Any report of this nature coming from any of these counties is bogus. The whole bay are is anti-gun. Shootings in these anti-gun neighborhoods usually is the highest in the nation! They also lead the nation in violent crime. When I go to Oakland or S.F. with friends, I am glad I have a CCW and am packing.

  5. i remember when i was taking a pistol shooting class taught by the local police in california’s central valley. the police thought it was a dumb idea to limit magazine capacity, as it only took a few hours of practice to learn how to quickly change magazines. and knowing you only have 10 rounds in your magazine often encourages people to have more, rather than thinking one 30 round is enough, they now have 5-10 10 round magazines.
    in regards to the article, i have to say that they make it sound as though california is one big lawless state that needs a bunch or sheriffs and deputies to come down and tame the state. whereas i lived in california for 20 years and my first gun was a mosin nagant M-44. but because i put a monte carlo stock on it, the state some how figured out and sent me a letter stating that i had illegally modified my gun and i had to turn it in. luckily for me i moved 2 days later to arizona where they don’t complain about such insignificant things.
    my point is that there are so many regulations on guns in california that many don’t want to go through with the trouble of trying to get one. and criminals don’t bother with that whole 10 day waiting period. more so when they can just drive south of the border and pick one up for a tenth of the price that the local big 5 sells it for and there’s no extra fees or waiting period.
    in regards to the costs of everything, as i recall california treats criminals better than regular law abiding citizens.

  6. If I had written a paper in college and only cited one source, any one of my professors would have laughed at me. The professors in my major would have told me to get out of the office and re-write the entire thing. I’m sure that whoever wrote this had to have some sort of advanced degree. Either they are not following what they were/should have been taught, or California should spend more money on education and less on having people write propaganda such as what is quoted above.

  7. LCAV shill ABAG proposes that San Mateo County adopt LCAV proposals that failed to be adopted last time…

    The Calguns Foundation’s home town is in… San Mateo County.


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