Soderberg: Politicians Talk About Seizing Illegal Guns, But It Does Nothing to Stop Violent Crime

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Baltimore gun seizures chart homicides

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld told me in 2018 that he began to realize that seizing guns was a bit like fighting the drug war. It felt “endless,” he explained.

“In Baltimore, at the peak of when we were seizing guns—when we were really effective going after guns and trying to get guns off the street—Baltimore PD would take in about 2,500 to 3,000 guns,” Bealefeld said. “Every year in the state of Maryland—every year—30,000 brand-new guns were being sold. We would seize 4,000 and high-five and claim victory and have photographs. But we can’t even keep up with the flow they sold that year.”

Bealefeld was commissioner from the middle of 2007 to about the middle of 2012, a period in which Baltimore City famously reduced arrests while also reducing homicides. In 2006, Baltimore Police made 90,283 arrests and the city endured 276 homicides. In 2011, Bealefeld’s last full year as commissioner, Baltimore Police arrested 60,009 people and there were 196 homicides, the lowest the city has seen since 1977 when there were 171 homicides.

Gun seizures and weapons possession arrests also dropped during this 2007-2012 “Bealefeld era.” In 2006, there were 3,055 seizures and 1,348 weapon possession arrests. In 2011, there were 2,178 seizures and 1,244 weapon possession arrests.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has also questioned the efficacy of focusing on gun possession. “We need to recognize that not every person charged with possessing an illegal gun in New York City is a driver of violence,” Bragg wrote on his campaign website. “My dad had an illegal gun not because he liked guns or because he was ‘dangerous’; he had a gun because of crime in the neighborhood. This was not an idle notion.” …

“There is no correlation (much less cause and effect) between guns seized and violent crime. A more relevant statistic is the clearance rate for serious crimes,” Maryland Shall Issue’s statement reads. “BPD’s arrest clearance rate for murder in 2020 was a merely 28.7% and only 44.9% in 2011. By comparison, the nationwide clearance rate for murder is 54.4%. Baltimore’s clearance rate for homicides is plainly abysmal, a reality that does not go unnoticed by violent criminals and law-abiding citizens alike.” 

Data obtained by Battleground Baltimore shows that since 1990, the annual homicide clearance rate has significantly declined. In 1990, the clearance rate was 75.7%. In 2021, it was 42%. Arrests for murders have also plummeted. In 1990, there were 347 arrests for murder. In 2020, there were 102 (Baltimore Police did not provide Battleground Baltimore with 2021’s number). …

Additionally, the police’s inability to reduce violence no matter the number of guns seized puts people at risk, and that means they are more apt to obtain a gun for protection—“illegally,” if they must. 

“Most [at-risk youth] possessed or used guns out of a generalized fear of being victimized or a specific fear of retaliation. A history of violence victimization also informed the decision to carry a firearm,” the National Institute For Justice wrote last year. “Many also reportedly felt a pervasive fear of the state, particularly law enforcement.”

Baltimore City Police Department Commissioner Michael Harrison has frequently focused on gun seizures. Following a series of shootings around Memorial Day 2021, Harrison spoke to local television affiliate Fox45 and said that crime in Baltimore is the way it is because there is “a lack of consequences for carrying guns.” 

Harrison pretty much said the same thing in 2019 after a burst of troubling shootings around Memorial Day. Then, he promised that police would be “aggressive” about going after guns.

Recently, Mayor Brandon Scott bemoaned an especially deadly January, with 36 homicides and 49 nonfatal shootings, but stressed that police were working on it. There were 111 “gun arrests” in January, he boasted.

One of the reasons for seizing guns is not only to get them “off the street” but to use them as evidence and trace them to other crimes. But last week, when Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was asked how often guns that are seized are traced back to crimes, he said he did not know.

“I don’t have those statistics at my disposal at this moment,” Harrison said. 

— Brandon Soderberg in 30 Years of Gun Seizures in Baltimore Haven’t Kept the City Safe

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  1. Gary Snyder had similar results in Chicago during the 2010s; repeat violators faced little to no consequences for continually breaking gun laws, and kept at it until some other thug finally killed them. He and then Mayor Emmanul proposed mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders, but this was blocked by a contingent of “Black Illinois lawmakers “ on the grounds it was “a recipe to lock up more Blacks and Latinos” (Chicago Tribune, October 2015). The racial demographics of endemic urban crime means nothing is going to change

    • There was testimony from Leo Smith of Chicago Cred on 12/15/2022 in the Illinois HB5855 hearings that 35% of the violence in Chicago takes place in 5% of the blocks. On the south side, 50% of the violence is in 8% of the blocks.

      Their solution is to ban “assault weapons” and “large capacity magazines”. They know who and where the problems are, but it would not be “appropriate” to address those.

    • “Mayor Emmanul proposed mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders, but this was blocked by a contingent of “Black Illinois lawmakers “ on the grounds it was “a recipe to lock up more Blacks and Latinos” (Chicago Tribune, October 2015).”

      Chris? Hello?

  2. What? Taking an inanimate object didn’t solve the “people” problem!?! Shocking
    Oh lemme guess next we will start another expensive “community project” that’ll look good to the media and feel good to them but not make any real changes.
    Then next we will come up with a program to pacify and encourage and of course the keyword EMPOWER the word used when ya have none …..
    Heard it all on this endless cycle my whole life.
    Won’t get fixed till you admit what needs fixing

  3. “A more relevant statistic is the clearance rate for serious crimes“

    Just take a wild guess as to when the clearance rates for murder and rape started to drop….

    When cops decided Drug War funding was more important than actual crime. And Republicans cheered Reagan for it.

    Back the bluecoats!

    • 2/3 of all gun related homicides are directly attributable to the black market drug trade.

      “Gun violence Drug War” Is the search term that will enlighten (sine the lessons from alcohol prohibition isn’t a history the right is interested in).

  4. Funny how LEOs always come to these realizations in retirement.

    Pre-retirement it’s always “get on the train!” but in retirement they get to be all “maybe we shouldn’t have put those people on the train.”

  5. “But last week, when Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was asked how often guns that are seized are traced back to crimes, he said he did not know.
    “I don’t have those statistics at my disposal at this moment,” Harrison said.”
    In other words little to none!
    Funny or strange how politicians can quote statistics easily until asked a question they don’t want to answer and then all of a sudden they have “memory” loss or revert to “I don’t have those numbers at this time” etc.

  6. Seizing an illegal gun, never stopped a crime. While it is important to get illegal guns off the street, it would be far more helpful to put the bad guys in prison, where they belong.

    • to walter the beverly hillbilly

      You shot off your big mouth about how people in Japan had to keep their guns at a shooting club and that they were banned from buying rifles. Both moronic statements were lies. Here is a picture of a Japanese gun shop and the owner is holding a high power rifle for sale.

      And also—After obtaining a gun, the owner must register their weapon with police and provide details of where their gun and ammunition is stored, in separate, locked compartments. The gun must be inspected by the police once a year, and gun owners must retake the class and sit an exam every three years to renew their license.

      • dacian, the DUNDERHEAD, If you READ (can you?) You would see that I said that they cannot POSSESS the firearm in their HOME! It MUST be stored at their Gun Club, DUINDERHEAD. Not in their HOME. Therefor they are not allowed to POSSESS the firearm except at the gun club or if they are HUNTING. Pistols are strictly forbidden.
        IN the US MOST muderers are carried out with a HANDGUN.
        Now who is the moron, DUNDERHEAD!

      • I see you can post links. Where is the link to these letters you continue to spout about?

        Don’t refer me back to Andersons book or Bogus’s work. Link the actual letters.

        • to Strom Trooper

          If you are too cheap and stingy or afraid to read the book then quit yelling about the letters. You can also get an abbreviated synopsis of the book which includes references to the letters from a number of sources on line. Of course you will have to move your fingers over the keyboard.

          And big mouth here is only 1 of the letters and you could have looked it up yourself in minutes but you did not because you were terrified of the truth.

          Note: Although the official time of the Haitian revolution was 1791 the trouble came in small stages before 1791 and only went full blown in 1791 and Jefferson and Madison were all well aware of this as there had been many Slave holders fleeing to the U.S. from the very beginning of the troubles there. In other words they damn well knew what was going on in Haiti before 1791.

          Jefferson on the French and Haitian Revolutions, 1792
          A Spotlight on a Primary Source by Thomas Jefferson
          Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, June 16, 1792. (GLC08063p1)Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, June 16, 1792. (GLC08063p1)When Thomas Jefferson wrote this letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, three revolutions—the American, French, and Haitian—occupied the minds of these two renowned leaders. While the American Revolution had been won nearly a decade earlier, the US Constitution had been in effect for only three years and the survival of the United States as a republic remained in doubt.

          The French Revolution had been in progress for three years and Jefferson congratulated Lafayette on “exterminating the monster aristocracy, & pulling out the teeth & fangs of it’s associate monarchy.” But the radical Jacobins were becoming increasingly violent and unstable. Two months after this letter was written, King Louis XVI would be deposed and Lafayette would be imprisoned.

          Closer to home for Jefferson, slaves in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) had violently overthrown the plantation system, slave holders, and the government. In the letter Jefferson, as secretary of state, inquired about the policies of France’s new rulers toward the French colonists and the revolutionaries.

          What are you doing for your colonies? They will be lost if not more effectually succoured. Indeed no future efforts you can make will ever be able to reduce the blacks. All that can be done in my opinion will be to compound with them as has been done formerly in Jamaica.

          A full transcript is available.

          Behold you then, my dear friend, at the head of a great army, establishing the liberties of your country against a foreign enemy. may heaven favor your cause, and make you the channel thro’ which it may pour it’s [sic] favors. while you are exterminating the monster aristocracy, & pulling out the teeth & fangs of it’s associate monarchy, a contrary tendency is discovered in some here. a sect has shewn itself among us, who declare they espoused our new constitution, not as a good & sufficient thing itself, but only as a step to an English constitution, the only thing good & sufficient in itself, in their eye. . . . what are you doing for your colonies? they will be lost if not more effectually succoured. indeed no future efforts you can make will ever be able to reduce the blacks. all that can be done in my opinion will be to compound with them as has been done formerly in Jamaica. we have been less zealous in aiding them, lest your government should feel any jealousy on our account. but in truth we as sincerely wish their restoration, and their connection with you, as you do yourselves.

          Read the introduction, view the image, and read the transcript of Jefferson’s letter. Then apply your knowledge of American and world history as well as the contents of the letter to answer the following questions:

          Why did Thomas Jefferson congratulate the Marquis de Lafayette regarding the revolution in France?
          Explain Jefferson’s very serious concerns about the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue (Haiti).
          How did Jefferson suggest minimizing or reversing the effects of the Haitian slave revolt?
          Select specific passages in Jefferson’s letter to Lafayette and in the Declaration of Independence to develop an argument about Jefferson’s commitment to equality.

        • The link to the actual letters. you can do it, you show you can post links. Now post the link to prove you are correct. Quit dancing.

          Your claim is the 2A was written only because of the revolt. Your synopsis doesn’t show that as the case.

      • Your correction is awkwardly close to his assertions in both fact and spirit of argument but good work doing some research half assed or no.

      • to JRM

        which by the way proves Walter wrong yet again.

        my apologies I accidentally erased this video by mistake but here it is again and its about an American in Japan who owns guns and keeps them in his home there.

  7. ya kinda need to understand what ‘clearance rate’ means. it means of those crimes in which perpetrators were actually caught AND prosecuted. for example, if there were 100 crimes and 10 perpetrators were caught AND prosecuted they can claim a 100% ‘clearance rate’ because all 10 were caught AND prosecuted and if only 5 of those 10 were prosecuted then they can claim a 50% clearance rate – whereas 90% of the crime goes ignored because the perpetrators are not caught.

    nationwide…for crime overall … the clearance rate is 11%.

    so this type of comment…

    “BPD’s arrest clearance rate for murder in 2020 was a merely 28.7% and only 44.9% in 2011. By comparison, the nationwide clearance rate for murder is 54.4%.”

    … needs to be qualified to understand what it really means. and what it really means is that nationwide in the overall crime clearance rate of 11% only 54% of that 11% that were murder crime were ‘clearance’. which means BPD is really really bad at clearance rates for murder and always has been compared to the national overall crime clearance rate. But its not all bad news because its about the same ratio in all states and cities compared to the national clearance rate.

  8. During the famous “war on drugs” I saw a stat that for each 1 billon spent they could raise the price of cocaine by $20 a gram for a month. Evidence of the self correction of supply and demand for commodity.
    Street guns are durable. They are not injected into veins, they circulate. Hence the practicality. Of creating a shortage of street guns doesn’t exist. “How many guns does it take to do all the crime, and how many guns are present” is a statistical challenge question and the answer clearly tells you gun seizures are pointless. There are vastly more street guns in circulation than are needed to do all the crime. That video of the kids with full auto pistols says it all. But reality was never a consideration, only optics. Now if we created a shortage of criminals, say by incarceration of offenders, you reduce crime outside of prisons.

  9. Meh…Dimscum© are the main problem. They want ALL gun owner’s disarmed. Legal or illegal. Baltimore has a higher murder rate than Chiraq. Think about THAT statisticians🙄

  10. I wish the authorities would stop using the term “illegal gun” It is only an illegal gun if the serial numbers are defaced or has a sawed off barrel. These guns are “illegally possesed” by fellons or abusers.

    • Well some courts have ruled possession of a gun without a serial number is not a crime??

      And said such laws are unconstitutional!!!

  11. The one thing they did not mention was how many police officers were injured or killed in removing those firearms from criminals? There is a big difference between removing them from criminals and trying to remove them from law abiding citizens who bought them legally and the Government is now trying to make many of them illegal despite the clarification of the 2nd Amendment in Bruen. The government will not be able to confiscate legal firearms or firearms purchased legally from law abiding citizens without massive loss and damage to the collectors. That is my opinion and prediction. MOLON LABE

  12. How often do we hear crime victims demand that specific criminals, by name, be gotten off the street on the grounds that the streets belong to the victims and the criminals are trash who have forfeited their right to walk them?

  13. Is Clearance Rate an accurate measurement for violent crime? A Prosecutor can plea bargain a homicide down to a couple of years in prison and this does little to stem the violence, yet still counts to Clearance Rate,

  14. Voting for a”Progressive” Democrat is precisely the same as excusing, then dating, the perverted sexual psychopath who disgustingly and brutally raped you.

    In many cases, it is EXACTLY and
    PRECISELY the same guy.

    • dancing around the obvious leads us nowhere….focus on the real problem….if you dare…more blacks equate to more crime…less blacks to less crime…saying this isn’t a cultural thing is gross denial….

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