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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: gun control

Chicago Homicides and the Concealed-Carry

Nickie Phillips

Let's not get carried away.

(Searchingforstyle.com)

This dubious Red Statearticle suggests that the drop in homicides in Chicago during the first three months of 2014 is attributed to the recent implementation of the issuance of concealed carry licenses in the state.

This might be an interesting hypothesis, except for the fact that the “first wave of concealed-carry permits” was not mailed until the last week in February. And for the fact that the number of shootings had already fallen “24% from 2,448 to 1,864 between 2012 and 2013”. And for the fact that nearly $100 million was paid in overtime for officers and policing strategies that were implemented specifically to target gun violence.

Crimcast suggests a review of the problem of extraneous and confounding variables would be appropriate here.

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam: Interpersonal Violence, War, Guns, and Green Criminology

Nickie Phillips

By El Mariachi 94 [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest Post by Gennifer Furst, Associate Professor, William Paterson UniversityAs Pearl Jam releases its tenth studio album and celebrates the 23rd anniversary of its first performance, the band’s lead singer, Eddie Vedder and the four other band members (along with musician Boom Gaspar) are making headlines speaking out about criminological themes. From their beginning, Eddie and the guys have never shied away from issues of social justice. In fact, through the band’s Vitalogy Foundation, named after their third album released in 1994, they support the work of non-profit organizations in fields such as community health, the environment, and social change. Two dollars of every ticket they sell goes to the Vitalogy Foundation.

The Early Years

Much has been written about Eddie Vedder’s political commentary delivered during his performances from progressive issues on abortion to anti-war sentiments. Back in March 1992 during the band’s appearance on MTV’s Unplugged Vedder stood up during the performance of “Alive” and wrote “pro-choice” on his arm with a bold black Sharpie marker. The following month, during an appearance on Saturday Night Live, he wore a homemade t-shirt with an image of a hanger  on the front and “No Bush ‘92” written on the back. During the same performance, he changed the lyrics of “Porch”--a song some believe apolitical--to include a message about women’s right to choose. The band also address abusive relationships on one of their band's best known anthems, "Better Man" from 1994's Vitalogy.

The band was an early voice in today’s anti-bullying movement. The lyrics and video for “Jeremy,” one of the band’s most well-known songs from their breakthrough album Ten, brought attention to the issue years before Columbine, often regarded as the school shooting event that started the conversation. More than two decades later the issue of guns and mass killings in schools would again become an issue Vedder prioritized.

Touring During War Time

In addition to their activism on domestic social justice issues, Pearl Jam’s attention to the wars in the Middle East has been on-going. The song “Bu$hleaguer” on 2002’s Riot Act was a clear criticism of George W. Bush’s blatant deception and manipulation of the American public into supporting an unjust war:

A confidence man, but why so beleaguered?

He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer

Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike

The lyrics are explicit in their denunciation of the Bush administration and their actions. The bush, or minor leagues, is a reference to Bush as inept and unqualified to lead, and as someone who lucked into a position in the major leagues – that of President. Released during the buildup to the Iraq war, and touring during the initial stages of the Iraq invasion, the band experienced the wrath of those unwilling to question authority. For example, Vedder was accused of “impaling” the President

By conguita [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

when during their summer tour in 2003 he appeared on stage wearing a Bush mask. In order to be able to sing, he removed the mask and hung it on the microphone stand. Contingents of concert-goers booed at the gesture. However, the backlash never proved to be as damaging as the reaction to the Dixie Chicks who disbanded shortly after Natalie Maines expressed her dismay at being from the same state as Bush.

Then, as now, Vedder argues his disdain for the wars is rooted in support for the troops. He expresses concern for the victims – the soldiers and the families who have lost loved ones to an unjust war. In addition to meeting veterans and welcoming their stories, during performances he often acknowledges the veterans present. At a concert in Colorado that kicked off their summer 2003 tour (and where the Bush mask made its U.S. debut, having been used in Australia and Japan) Vedder declared,

Just to clarify... we support the troops.…We're just confused on how wanting to bring them back safely all of a sudden becomes non-support….We love them. They're not the ones who make the foreign policy. Let's hope for the best and speak our opinions.

The anti-war message reappeared in 2006 in “World Wide Suicide,” another cut from their self-titled album Pearl Jam (also known as the Avocado Album) that criticized the war and the country’s foreign policy. Quoted in Newsweek Vedder speaks out against the military industrial complex,

It's just not the time to be cryptic. I mean, our tax dollars for this (Iraq) war are being funneled through huge corporations – one of which Dick Cheney used to be head of (Halliburton).

Viewing the United States' involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as criminal, Vedder remains angry about the last presidency, and continues to bring attention to what he views as unjust killing in the name of war,

Those fucking bastards, they put us in this situation and screw up the whole fucking planet and goodwill with every other nation, and they are not going to be held criminally responsible.

Vedder became more personally involved with the criminal justice system when he became a vocal advocate for the West Memphis

CBS News/AP http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20094814-10391698.html

3 and the case of Damien Echols. In 1994 three young men from Arkansas were falsely convicted of the grisly murders of three young boys. Echols was sentenced to death. With no physical evidence, the convictions were based on the satanic panic that occurred in a small southern town (see Jenkins & Maier-Katkin, 1992). Echols shares a writing credit for the song "Army Reserve" from the album Pearl Jam (2006), a collaboration that occurred during one of Vedder’s visits to Echols on death row. Vedder remained a staunch supporter of the boys and was present when the three men were released in August 2011 after having served 18 years.

Guns

Vedder would later insert himself into public debate regarding another politically divisive issue: the right to bear arms. During a publicity interview in September 2013 promoting their new album Lightning Bolt, Vedder stated to surfer Mark Richards,

The fact that we're living in a country where 90 percent of the people want further gun laws -- to maybe somehow put a dent in some of this insanity that's happening -- and yet there's no further legislation taking place, it's very frustrating and upsetting.

A snippet of the clip where he went on to say that "I get so angry that I almost wish bad things upon these people," was aired as a stand-alone sound bite and exposed Vedder to criticism. What he went on to say, but was generally absent from most press pieces, was

But I don't have to because it seems like they happen anyways. It seems like every week I'm reading about a 4-year-old either shooting their sister, their dad, their dog, their brother or themselves, because there's fucking guns laying around. But I guess it's 'fun.'

Vedder responded to the criticism regarding his statements about guns at the October 25th Hartford Connecticut show, which took place a mere 50 miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, CT where 26 people were murdered. To members of the audience, it was obvious something was going to occur. The other band members left the stage and Vedder knelt on the stage, collecting his thoughts. He stood up and spoke into the microphone, addressing the crowd of over 16,000 fans who eagerly awaited what he had to say.

Tonight I got to meet three great men, incredible fathers of children who were lost, and it was such a powerful… a very powerful moment to have this chance to communicate to somebody that we had been thinking about so deeply.

And to know that it’s okay, in fact, not just okay, but it’s necessary that we continue a discussion to figure out how to unravel the situation where something like that can happen and make sure the odds of it happening again are very slim.

Vedder made reference to the criticism he received in the press in response to his previous comments about the need to protect people from gun violence. He framed the need for a discussion about firearms as a First Amendment issue. He defended his, and everyone else’s, right to voice an opinion about our personal security and well-being. Vedder encouraged the members of the audience to have the courage to demand a public discourse on the issue.

And you know, as well as I, you have to be very careful when talking about something like this. Because they want to defame your character or take away your right to speak, I mean while they’re protecting the second amendment they also don’t think you have the right to speak as an American as a taxpayer as a father, as a parent.

We’ve got a right to speak on this issue when the safety of our children is directly affected. And you will take some hits if you put it out there, but that’s the thing.

PearlJam_MindYourManners

Lest anyone think Eddie and the band were putting their opinions out there for the public in an uninformed or ignorant way, Vedder let the crowd know they consulted with experts and scholars. He used a critical approach to explain why the public may be swayed by those in favor of relaxing gun regulation.

I just want to clarify and we’ve done some research and I’ve talked to some very, much smarter people than myself – there’s a lot of them – that the myth that the gun lobby is the most powerful lobby in our is a myth. That’s a myth. The money is not the most money. The amount of people – it’s just in the millions.

It’s a myth, but it’s just because they’re louder. They’re louder and they’re very tenacious and if you speak up against them they will jump on you, they will tear you apart, and make it so that nobody else wants to say anything, or they want them to be fearful that…I mean we’re talking about, I’m gonna stop. You know what they’re talking about.

Vedder galvanized the crowd by telling people what they can do about the issue. He reminded everyone to exercise their right to vote (an issue the band has long-supported; for example, they performed in Rock the Vote concerts in swing states in October 2004). As with his message about the wars, he told the crowd that pressure from voters, using the power each person has to voice an opinion, is what brings about social change.

So, if all the research is saying, and all the polls conducted, you know, and not just people reacting to what happened, but you have to not just react you have to prefect. You have to go into prevention mode. So what we have to do, if the majority of people agree that there should be more legislation just to make it a little harder. We’re not taking away the right, just a safety issue – a safety precautionary, the same things you have to do to get a driver’s license or a car. It can’t be as easy as buying a pair of shoes. All I implore you, and I don’t mean to be preaching to the converted, but sometimes the choir has to sing louder, and that’s one of these issues.

He summarized by saying,

If we were louder, it can happen, we just have to be louder  and we have to let the politicians know that they will be reelected if they do what we ask, and we are asking for them to do it now. Cause what we don’t want is for any of those children’s lives to be wasted.

The band followed with a powerful performance of “Life Wasted” from their 2006 self-titled album. In the five-plus minutes that Vedder spoke during the band’s break in the show, he used the word “gun” only once, when he was referring to power of political lobby groups. Perhaps he meant to protect himself from the inevitable criticism he knew would result. Without using the term “gun” it becomes more difficult for his words to be taken out of context by those who would try to manipulate his message.

Green Criminology

Environmentalist of the Year

Green Criminology is the study of harms to, crimes against, and laws that regulate the environment. Green criminology examines how human behavior threatens the environment. Green criminologists study not only environmental pollution but also mining, poaching, and timber crimes and the ensuing effects on humans and non-human species.

Vedder is advancing these issues that are important to green criminologists. Since 2003 the band has worked with scientists to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide output on their tours. They then invest in various carbon-offsetting environmental projects. In fact, Pearl Jam was named 2011 Planet Defenders by Rock The Earth for their environmental activism. Vedder, a known surfer, has been a long-time participant in a variety of environmental groups that work to protect oceans and other waterways.

During his October 26, 2013 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Vedder used the opportunity to bring the issue of environmental contamination into the fore of people’s minds once again. Fallon played a clip from his July 2012 appearance featuring the two singing a duet called “Balls in Your Mouth” which Vedder joked should now be seen as “an environmental anthem.”

The oil spill, BP

Has left tar balls, all over the sea.

So don’t go swimming, down in the south

Unless you want, tar balls in your mouth

Balls in your mouth, balls in your mouth

Don’t swim in the ocean you’ll get balls in your mouth.

Vedder interspersed information about the Department of Justice trial against BP and the large amount of tar uncovered by the Coast Guard after Tropical Storm Karen hit the Gulf Coast, while Fallon riffed on the idea of “large balls” being found after the recent storm. Vedder remained on point and urged viewers to recognize the long-term effects of the BP oil spill.

But there’s this thing called the Gulf Restoration Network that you can look into and we were one of a group of people that tried to raise money for this organization so they could keep putting out information that was truthful and maybe was a different account than the kind of shiny happy commercials that the oil companies were putting out saying that ‘it’s all fine’ and ‘it’s all taken care of’ which if you did the research it would be interesting to see what you’d come up with.

As with his comments about guns, Vedder again referred to research as a source of truth, or at least as a source of information that stands in contrast to commonly held beliefs.

As the spokesman for Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder has used his ability to reach tens of thousands of people during a concert to promote issues of social justice. Over the band’s two-plus decades history, Vedder has educated his fans about a range of topics. He not only speaks about these important subjects but, of course, he also sings about them. By incorporating them into music culture he is marking the sociopolitical landscape of the time.

Vedder and Pearl Jam donate their time, names, and profits from their concerts to support these causes. They were early advocates in the fight against interpersonal violence, in the form of both bullying and domestic abuse. Vedder challenged the decisions of leaders and spoke out against the war during a time when many chose not to question authority. As the stories about gun violence stack up each day, Vedder and Pearl Jam are expressing their concern and urging their fans to as well. While green criminology is a relatively nascent area in the discipline, these criminologists may find allies in popular culture ready to advance their causes. With Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder continues to not only make music but also make a progressive mark on society as well.

Further Reading

Jenkins, P., & Maier-Katkin, D. (1992). Satanism: Myth and reality in a contemporary moral

panic. Crime, Law and Social Change, 17, 53-75.

Pearl Jam (2011). Pearl Jam Twenty. NY, NY: Simon & Schuster.

http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/254/233

http://www.wm3.org/

Being Black is Not a Crime: Rally for NYPD Stop and Frisk Reform

Nickie Phillips

panorama crowd

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and City University of New York (CUNY) faculty and students, including John Jay College's Center on Race, Crime and Justice, came together to call for police reform outside Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York where the trial Floyd, et. al. v City of New Yorkfeatured key testimony from criminologist Jeffrey Fagan.  In Floyd, several New Yorkers and CCR are arguing that the city's stop-and-frisk policies include racial profiling and suspicion-less stops that violate constitutional protections.

Organizer and Founding Director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice Dr. Delores Jones-Brown underscored that black and Latino residents have the same constitutional rights and right to safety as anyone else.  "The commissioner and the mayor may say that these policies are effective, but their own data tell a different story," she said.

Activists held giant PowerPoint slides with NYPD data indicating that gun violence has not decreased as a result of aggressive use of stop and frisk, nor were more guns confiscated or shootings prevented.  In 9 out of 10 NYPD stops, no arrests or summons are given -- and of those stops nearly 90 percent are non-whites.  In 2012, over a half-million blacks and Latinos were stopped.  Black and Latino young men between the ages of 14 and 24 are particularly plagued by unjustified stops, accounting for approximately 42% of stops when they are only 5% of the city's total population.

Several CUNY students spoke about their personal experiences with racial profiling and suspicion-less stops, putting faces to the statistics being debated about in the courtroom.  One white student described an incident in which he should have received a summons for two potential violations, but instead was released politely by police, while a student of color described being the victim of police abuse of the stop and frisk policy while he was doing nothing illegal.  Other activists linked the struggle for racial equality with similar struggles for police justice for LGBTQ people and the poor.

Queens College Professor Harry Levine explained that the sheer number of marijuana arrests in the city are largely the fruit of illegal frisks, saying that "The marijuana arrests are the cracker jack prize of the stop and frisks."

Crimcast sat in on expert witness Fagan's cross-examination in which sweeping questions about the normative methodological and theoretical mainstays of criminal justice were posed.  The city's attorney appeared to want to discredit Fagan's social science because the conclusions to his prior studies point to racially disparate outcomes in stop and frisk police discretion.  Rather than confront the lived reality of individuals who routinely endure suspicion-less stops, today's testimony instead had social science on the stand.  As criminologists we were surprised to learn that the city attorney hoped our field had solved major methodological quandaries of our time in completely packaged and unanimous ways, such as how to handle outlier data or whether population is a legitimate benchmark among others for stop and frisk activities.  Fagan dodged this baiting, and informed her of the true landscape of methodological variation in the field-- and in fact wise minds may take different approaches to monumentally complex datasets.

Crimcast predicts that this trial transcript may be of interest to criminologists regarding the application of their work to major policy issues of the day.  Some may even be excited to learn that academic criminology is relevant.  But we hope Floyd does not forget Floyd.  He and many others encounter the police as obstacles in going about their legitimate daily lives.  The chilling quality of these serious Constitutional violations and personal indignities are not fully captured by the numbers.

Gun Law Legislation and Obstacles to Effective Gun Control, NYC Bar Event

Nickie Phillips

Go here to register for the "Gun Law Legislation and Obstacles to Effective Gun Control" event to be held November 29, 2012.

Join Dr. Robert J. Spitzer and Lance Ogiste, Counsel for Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes as they engage in a lively discussion of New York gun laws, the efficacy of current gun control initiatives, and the Second Amendment.  Dr. Spitzer is a Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at SUNY Cortland. He is the author of “Gun Control: A Documentary and Reference Guide” and “The Politics of Gun Control.”

When: November 29, 2012, 6:30-8:30

Where: House of the Association, 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY

Business attire preferred.

Obama and Romney on Assault Weapons Ban

Nickie Phillips

Last night's Presidential town hall-style debate included a question on the ban of assault weapons.

QUESTION: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

The responses from both candidates are presented in the above clip from the Washington Post.

For Paul Barrett's take on the exchange in Business Week, go here.

For fact checking, see CBS News here.

The Chicago Tribune reports on the exchange here. The article points out that President Obama,

"once an ardent proponent of the assault-weapons ban, has done little to push such a proposal forward during his time in the White House."

Romney's claim that fully automatic weapons are banned in the U.S. is false. The LA Times points out,

"Fully automatic weapons -- guns that fire continuously when the trigger is held down -- are legal to possess in the United States but are tightly regulated."

The debate transcript can be found here.

For more on gun control, check out our previous post on gun control and crime prevention here.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out Adam Winkler's insightful article "Obama and Romney Both Failed the Gun Control Question."

Gun Control & Crime Prevention

Nickie Phillips

Check out David Cole’s article “Our Romance With Guns” here. Among the highlights, Cole reinforces the fact that young men of color bear the brunt of gun violence in the United States, points out that the NRA was a supporter of gun control until the leadership of Wayne LaPierre in the 1970s took a radical turn, and that approaches to crime prevention may be found by relying on smart policing strategies and “focused deterrence” programs without resorting to oppressive and unconstitutional stop and frisk policies. He reviews the following:

Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America by Adam Winkler

The City That Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control by Franklin E. Zimring

Don’t Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America by David M. Kennedy

For a database of research on firearms compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, go here.

For a special issue of Criminology & Public Policy (2005) on gun control policy, go here.