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Gun Policy, Cannabis, ISIS: RAND Weekly Recap

August 9, 2019

This week, we discuss what scientific evidence tells us about the effects of gun laws; how the United States can maintain its influence in the Pacific; what ISIS might do to raise funds for a comeback; the cannabis policy landscape in Washington state; how prison education can help inmates make it on the outside; and ways to address insider threats.

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Informing the Gun Policy Debate

The nation is mourning after two mass shootings in less than 24 hours this past weekend. In an apparent act of white supremacist terrorism, a gunman opened fire in a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people and wounding more than two dozen others. And in Dayton, Ohio, a lone shooter whose motives are unclear killed nine people and wounded almost 30 more. These massacres came one week after a mass shooting at a garlic festival in California.

In the wake of these tragedies, the national debate about gun policy has intensified. What does scientific evidence tell us about the effects of gun laws? Last year, RAND released findings from one of the largest studies ever conducted on the subject. Our goal is to establish a shared set of facts that will improve public discussions and support the development of fair and effective gun policies.

Aerial view of islands in Palau, photo by Lightning Strike Pro/Adobe Stock

Part of the Freely Associated States, the Republic of Palau comprises more than 500 islands north of Australia and east of the Philippines

Photo by Lightning Strike Pro/Adobe Stock

How to Maintain U.S. Influence in the Pacific

This week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with leaders of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. His visit highlights the importance of these Pacific Island nations to U.S. defense and foreign policy interests. A new RAND report examines China's growing influence in the region and what the United States can do to maintain its strong position there. Recommendations include maintaining funding to the nations and strengthening U.S. engagement in the region.

Armed fighters over a background of Syrian, Iraqi, and U.S. currencies and gold ingots, photos by zabelin, Cimmerian, Vitoria Holdings LLC, and johan10/Getty Images

Photos by zabelin, Cimmerian, Vitoria Holdings LLC, and johan10/Getty Images

Countering an ISIS Comeback: Follow the Money

After losing its territorial caliphate, ISIS will almost certainly attempt a comeback. And that will require money. That's why RAND researchers studied how the group managed its finances. In a new report, they find that ISIS is likely to resume raising funds through criminal activities, including extortion, kidnapping, and smuggling. There are steps that Washington can take to help block these revenue streams. For example, the most important measures in Iraq and Syria are domestic intelligence gathering and law enforcement.

Pre-rolled marijuana joints are pictured at the Sea of Green Farms in Seattle, Washington, June 30, 2014, photo by Jason Redmond/Reuters

Pre-rolled marijuana joints are pictured at the Sea of Green Farms in Seattle, Washington, June 30, 2014

Photo by Jason Redmond/Reuters

How Is the Cannabis Market in Washington State Changing?

Washington was one of the first U.S. states to legalize recreational marijuana. Since licensed stores have now been operating for several years, there is data to shed light on supply and demand. A new RAND report details the types of cannabis products being manufactured and sold in Washington. It also provides insights into the total amounts of THC that residents obtain from both legal and illegal sources.

Man reading in prison cell, photo by Manuel-F-O/Getty Images

Photo by Manuel-F-O/Getty Images

Education Can Help Prisoners Make It on the Outside

Correctional education programs have been shown to reduce recidivism and save taxpayers money. A recent RAND evaluation of one such program revealed key lessons about what people need to succeed in college courses while incarcerated—and after being released. Understanding what works and what doesn't will help ensure that these programs benefit both the inmates and the communities to which they return.

Diagram of an insider threat under a magnifying glass, image by Andrea Danti/Adobe Stock

Image by Andrea Danti/Adobe Stock

New Ways to Address Insider Threats

Insiders could cause harm to the United States, maliciously or unintentionally. This threat isn't new, but it's likely to increase in the near term. This is one reason why vetting personnel is essential. So how could the security clearance process be improved? A new RAND report explores different approaches that focus on continuous evaluation to help address insider threats. The authors consider costs, efficacy and best practices, and some of the practicalities of using such new approaches.

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