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The Good and the Bad of Donald Trump’s White Paper on Guns

in Elections and Politics, Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has shifted away from his previous support of some gun control policies, including longer waiting periods and a ban on “assault weapons.” Although his campaign is general devoid of any meaningful or specifics on policy, Trump released a white paper last week that offers support for the Second Amendment.


The white paper opposes restrictions on firearms, such as “assault weapons,” that are usually targeted by the anti-gun left. But this is a departure for Trump, who, in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, expressed support for a ban on this type of firearm.

“The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions,” Trump wrote. “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” (Emphasis added.) Trump was, at the time, considering a bid for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination.

Today, Trump, as he does on many different issues, sings a different tune. “Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like ‘assault weapons’, ‘military-style weapons’ and ‘high capacity magazines’ to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans,” Trump’s white paper states. “Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.”

He opposes expanded background checks and supports allowing the military to carry weapons on base and at recruiting centers. In the months after the Newtown tragedy, conservatives resisted a failed attempt to expand background checks, which wouldn’t have stopped that particular incident from occurring, and, after the recent shooting at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, have expressed support for allowing recruiters to carry weapons on the job.

One particular policy proposed by Trump is likely to strongly appeal to conservatives. He supports “national right to carry,” which would make concealed carry permits valid in every state and the District of Columbia, much like a driver’s license. “A driver’s license works in every state, so it’s common sense that a concealed carry permit should work in every state,” Trump says. “If we can do that for driving – which is a privilege, not a right – then surely we can do that for concealed carry, which is a right, not a privilege.”

While this policy is attractive and worth of support – and at least three pieces of legislation have been introduced in the current Congress to achieve that goal – one aspect of Trump’s white paper is particularly troubling. He expresses support for a little known federal program, known as “Project Exile,” that existed in Richmond, Virginia in the 1990s.

“Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release. Obama’s former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a ‘cookie cutter’ program. That’s ridiculous. I call that program a success,” the white paper states. “Murders committed with guns in Richmond decreased by over 60% when Project Exile was in place – in the first two years of the program alone, 350 armed felons were taken off the street.”

From 1993 to 2010, violent crime fell across the United States. The Pew Research Center found that the gun homicide rate fell by 49 percent from its peak level in 1993 and the victimization rate for other violent crimes committed with firearms, including rape, dropped by 75 percent.

“Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s,” Pew noted, “the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. “ Theories on what caused the decline in crime rates vary, but economist Steven Levitt, known for the best-selling book, Freakonomics, has written that changes in policing strategies and gun control didn’t have much of an impact.

Project Exile was a federal program created in 1997 that targeted felons in possession of firearms. It brought these cases to federal court, where offenders faced a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Trump’s praise of Project Exile may be misguided. A 2003 study called into question its effectiveness as a deterrent to violent crime. “Despite this widespread acclaim, some skeptics have questioned the effectiveness of Project Exile, pointing out that homicides increased in Richmond in the last ten months of 1997 following the program’s announcement,” the authors explained. “In fact, the Richmond homicide rate increased by 40 percent between 1996 and 1997.”

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who represents part of Richmond and the surrounding area, blasted Project Exile in a speech on the House floor in April 2000. “The mandatory minimums associated with Project Exile show no better results. The proponents suggest that the violent crime rate has gone down 39 percent in the city of Richmond under Project Exile,” Scott said. “At the same time it went down 43 percent in Norfolk, 58 percent in Virginia Beach and 81 percent in Chesapeake without Project Exile.”

Trump’s white paper may offer a good idea, national right to carry, combined with fluff in contradiction to his previous statements, but programs like Project Exile are bad policy that are better handled under state law. What’s more, it defies logic. Violent crime is at its lowest point in the last couple decades. Unfortunately, the politics of fear are politicians need to succeed to win support from people who simply don’t know better.

No, Violent Crime is Not Getting Worse

in Criminal Justice, Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

One wouldn’t know it if they read what some news outlets are reporting or listened to the words of some Republican hopefuls and pundits on television, but there isn’t any real evidence that crime is getting worse.

The Pew Research Center, in May 2013, noted that the gun homicide rate was down 49 percent since 1993, when it peaked. What’s more, non-fatal gun violence dropped by 75 percent over the same period analyzed. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, an agency in the Department of Justice, found similar figures, a 39 percent drop in gun homicides and a 70 percent drop in non-fatal gun violence, between 1993 and 2011.


Although instances of gun violence were falling, according to the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of Americans believed gun-related crimes were on the rise compared to 20 years before. The causes of this belief are certainly up for debate, but the media’s focus on shootings and coverage of politicians’ reactions could be a cause. After all, bad news sells.

At the end of August, The New York Times reported that “[c]ities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines.” The Times offers data from several U.S. cities that have seen spikes in homicides. Some have interpreted the story as a nationwide spike in violent crime attributed to the so-called “Ferguson effect.” Heather Mac Donald pushed this theory in a May editorial at the Wall Street Journal.

“Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today,” Mac Donald wrote. “Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests.”

Others, including Bruce Frederick of the Vera Institute and John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center, have taken a more reasoned approach to the perceived spike in violent crime.

“[N]ot all of the increases cited by the Times are statistically reliable; that is, some of them are small increases, or are based on small numbers of cases, such that the observed increases could have occurred by chance alone. Among the 16 top-20 cities for which I found publically available data, only three experienced statistically reliable increases,” Frederick explained. “Only one of the top-20 cities included in the Times’ sample, Chicago, experienced an increase that was statistically significant.”

“Even where a statistically reliable increase has been experienced,” he noted, “a single year-to-year increase does not necessarily imply a meaningful trend.”

Writing in response to Mac Donald at the end of May, Lott pointedly contested her narrative, writing, “The bottom line is that across the largest 15 cities in the US the murder rate has fallen by by 12 from 749 to 737 (a 2% drop) or from 43 from 871 to 828 (a 5% drop).”

And while many are insisting that violence against police is becoming a trend, the Associated Press recently noted that shooting deaths of police officers are actually down by 13 percent. “There were 30 shootings last year and 26 this year,” the report explained. “Those figures include state and local officers, as well as federal agents.” The data used in the report came from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Each shooting, whether of an innocent person or a police officer, is a tragedy, but everyone needs to calm down about this supposed uptick in violent crime because the data suggest that 2015 is consistent with recent years. Even if by year’s end there’s an increase in violent crime, it’s far too early to call it a trend.

Survey: “Stunning Turnaround” in Support for Gun Rights

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Good news for the Second Amendment: support for gun rights is higher than it’s been in decades, Constitutionaccording to a new survey from the respected Pew Research Center.

The Washington Times describes the findings as “a stunning turnaround in how Americans feel about the issue just two years after the [2012] Newtown school shooting.”

The Pew survey found that fully 52% of Americans say protecting gun rights is more important than gun control — the highest support found by Pew in two decades, the first time they’ve found a majority championing gun rights over gun control, and a rise of seven points in just two years.

Further, nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say gun ownership does more to protect people from crime that put them at risk.

The numbers are helped by a huge increase in support for gun rights among black Americans. Fifty-four percent of blacks now say firearms protect people from crimes, nearly double the percentage saying this just two years ago. Thirty-four percent of blacks support gun rights over gun control, a rise of 50% from 2012′s 24%.

Some statist limitations on gun rights still have significant support, such as universal background checks (favored by 90%) and limits on various rifles and ammunition magazines (around 50%).

But overall this is a rousing show of growing support for one of the most basic and fundamental rights.

New Poll: Americans Want A More Libertarian Foreign Policy

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Nearly half of the public, and a strong plurality, say the United States government should intervene less in the internal affairs of other nations, as libertarians have long urged.

That’s the finding of a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted April 23 to 27 and released May 1.

Fully forty-seven percent said the U.S. should “become less active in world affairs.” Only 19 percent — less than one in five — said it should be more active, and just 30 percent said it should remain at the current level.

This is consistent with a Pew Research Center poll we reported on last year, which found a record 52 percent of Americans agreeing that the United States “should mind its own business internationally.” That figure is a 40-year low.

Notes the political newspaper The Hill: “The latest numbers are a stark contrast from public opinion WSJ and NBC News recorded just after 9/11, when 40 percent of people wanted the U.S. to engage more of the world and only 14 percent wanted it to be less active.”

The WSJ/NBC poll also found support for President Obama’s interventionist foreign policy extremely low. Only a bit over a third approved of his handling of foreign policy. Just 37 percent said they approve of Obama’s handling of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

The entire poll can be seen here.