Walt Handelsman: Endless Random Gun Violence

I write to comment on the message of Walt Handelsman’s editorial drawing. As usual, his drawing and commentary are provocative and timely, but I want to make sure the public understands that gun violence is rarely random.

While we have victims of accidental shootings and random acts of violence, those are extremely rare. Decades of law enforcement experience and criminological research have shown that homicides and gun violence are overwhelmingly concentrated among very small networks of people who often commit large numbers of other crimes, are most victimized and lead very risky lives.

For most cities, the roughly one-half of 1% of people in this high-risk world will be associated with half to 75% of homicides. Most shootings are in retaliation from the previous shooting or beef, part of a long pattern of intimate partner violence, and so on.

Since violence is not random, it is preventable. Evidence-based approaches like focused deterrence, street outreach and hospital-based violence prevention are all based on identifying, working with, supporting and when necessary incapacitating those most at risk. The well-known criminologist David Kennedy described the first application of these facts in Boston, which cut youth homicide by two-thirds and overall homicide by half, in his 2011 book “Don’t Shoot.”

Hurt people hurt people. Why people shoot each other is a complex problem but one that can be addressed with a multifaceted approach focused on these relatively small populations and violence dynamics.

In Baton Rouge, continuing efforts by law enforcement agencies and others are working to address gun violence such as TRUCE, CHANGE, the mayor's Safe, Hopeful and Healthy program. We all need to continue to work together to solve this plague that threatens our community. Murder is no accident!


district attorney

Baton Rouge

Our Views: Another march, but against our old plague, violence in our streets