This week, we discuss which gun laws work—and which ones don't; a toolkit to help defend against mass attacks; one plausible path toward peace in Ukraine; programs that support families affected by incarceration; how to address homelessness in Los Angeles; and RAND's role in the Evidence and Equity Collaborative.
On May 14, 10 people were shot and killed in a racist attack in Buffalo, New York. Ten days later, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. And on Wednesday, an assailant carried out yet another deadly mass shooting at a medical building in Tulsa, Oklahoma. These events have reignited the deeply polarized debate about guns in America.
Data could help settle these disagreements, says RAND's Andrew Morral.
Morral leads the Gun Policy in America initiative, which seeks to establish a shared set of facts to inform the development of fair and effective gun policies. Since 2016, he and his colleagues have reviewed thousands of scientific articles to identify credible evidence about the effects of different gun laws.
The researchers found strong evidence to suggest that several policies—child-access prevention laws, for example—are effective at reducing injuries and death. But more often than not, strong evidence about the effects of gun laws is not available. This reflects an underfunding of gun policy research that has persisted in the United States for decades.
“We should not expect to implement laws only for which we have strong scientific evidence,” says Morral. Policymakers and the public may instead need to rely on logical considerations and weaker evidence. For example, there is mounting evidence that background checks decrease homicides. There is also moderately strong evidence that waiting period laws decrease firearm suicides and homicides, and that laws prohibiting firearms possession by people with domestic-violence restraining orders decrease intimate-partner homicides.
Some people who argue about guns are never going to be swayed by scientific evidence regarding firearms policies, Morral notes. But many of the arguments involve empirical questions that can be answered with good research.
Mass shootings and other attacks cannot always be prevented. But are there evidence-based ways to reduce the likelihood of such incidents—and reduce casualties when they do occur? RAND researchers recently examined 600 past attacks and plots, interviewed dozens of experts, and reviewed hundreds of references. They used their findings to create a toolkit that can help law enforcement, first responders, school officials, and others learn how to better defend against mass attacks.
According to RAND's Samuel Charap, a framework deal proposed by Ukraine in March could eventually provide a way to end the war. At the center of the deal is a trade: Kyiv would renounce its ambitions to join NATO and embrace permanent neutrality in return for security guarantees from both the West and Russia. Such an agreement would be exceptionally difficult to negotiate, given the intensity of fighting in recent weeks and mounting evidence of Russian atrocities. But so far, Charap says, it's the most plausible path toward sustainable peace.
About 2.3 million people live behind the razor wire of America's jails and prisons. Most of them are parents, and a disproportionate number are people of color. What prisons do, and can do, for incarcerated parents and their children is both a policy question and a social justice question. RAND researchers recently conducted a study to better understand what programs correctional facilities offer to parents—and which approaches are most effective at improving outcomes.
Over 100 people are dying on the streets each month in Los Angeles County. This has led to policy solutions focused on providing individuals experiencing homelessness with immediate access to shelter. But shelter beds and other temporary accommodations are not long-term solutions. And, perhaps more importantly, RAND research suggests that few people will voluntarily leave the streets for a group shelter. Our recent survey shows that unsheltered individuals have a strong preference for private housing.
In the fall of 2020, the CEOs of nine leading research organizations, including RAND, met to discuss the critical importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of public policy research. The result is the Evidence and Equity Collaborative, which aims to support diversity in each individual member organization, strengthen inclusive practices in policy research, and build a foundation for equitable analysis that will inform U.S. policymaking.
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