Giffords Law Center: The Ultimate Failure of Oakland Ceasefire
by Mario Acevedo
The Giffords Law Center is no stranger to those of us involved in the struggle to preserve our Second Amendment rights. At every turn, they propose legal barriers to infringe upon those rights in the name of combating “gun violence.” So, it’s both ironic and tragic when Giffords sweeps under the rug its most effective program at reducing that same “gun violence.” Why would Giffords do that? Because otherwise, the Giffords Law Center would have to admit that gun control has no effect at reducing “gun violence.”
Oakland, California—a place synonymous for violent crime and perennially named as one of the most dangerous cities in America. In response to that bloodshed, in 2012 the Giffords Law Center teamed with Faith in Action, the Black and Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium, and other community groups to implement “Oakland Ceasefire.” A report of that effort, published by the Giffords Law Center as A Case Study in Hope, is linked at the end of this article.
What Oakland Ceasefire managed was a 46 percent reduction of homicides (the majority of which were gun homicides) from 2012 to 2018, dropping from 126 to 68. Meanwhile, in Chicago over that period, homicides increased 11 percent. In Baltimore, 42 percent. In Denver, 67 percent!
Implementing Oakland Ceasefire was a complicated effort and something that did not happen by flicking a switch. The report details many false starts in the city’s attempts to formulate a working policy and what priorities the stakeholders agreed upon to implement an effective partnership involving the city, community leaders, social service providers, and law enforcement.
The five main components of the strategy were:
1. “Analysis of violent incidents and trends, referred to as a problem analysis, to identify individuals at the highest risk of participating in serious violence.” A mere 400 individuals, or 0.1 percent of Oakland’s population, were responsible for the majority of the city’s serious violent crime.
2. “Respectful, in-person communications with high-risk individuals to warn about the risks of ongoing violence and provide a genuine offer of assistance.”
3. “Relationship-based social services provided to high-risk individuals through the Oakland Unite network of community-based organizations. Oakland Unite is a unique city agency that uses taxpayer money to fund organizations that provide services like intensive mentoring, economic and educational training, and direct assistance to victims of violence and their families.”
4. “Narrowly focused law enforcement actions by the Oakland Police Department’s (OPD) Ceasefire Section…” also known as precision policing.
5. “An intentional management structure built around regular communication between Oakland Ceasefire partners and city leaders to stay on top of changing violence dynamics and track progress toward yearly violence reduction goals. Regular meetings include weekly shooting reviews, bimonthly coordination meetings, and performance reviews led by Oakland’s mayor.”
The authors of this study pointed out that in nine out of ten other cities which implemented a similar model as Oakland Ceasefire, achieved a reduction in homicides from 34 to 63 percent.
The report also details what didn’t work in reducing homicides:
“Scared Straight” programs that present images of victims and violence to warn against future violent behavior and…
“Gun buy backs.” Oakland Ceasefire confirmed that one of the gun controllers’ favorite gimmicks about “reducing gun violence” is nothing but virtue signaling.
A Case Study in Hope outlined the lessons needed for city government to address and reduce homicides:
1. “Bring in Technical Assistance Experts” “As Oakland’s experience shows, all stakeholders can be in complete agreement about violence dynamics and still be wrong.”
2. “Empower Partners to Work Together.”
3. “Help Secure Funding Streams.” This is America; nothing happens without money to grease the wheels. Federal coffers are sloshing with taxpayer dollars so there is plenty to spend on public safety.
4. “Stay Involved and Institutionalize the Work”
5. “Create A Violence Reduction Office or Agency”
There you have it, the most effective program to reduce gun violence in America. In Oakland, no less. What makes this program even more remarkable is that gun control was never mentioned as a factor in bringing down Oakland’s number of homicides.
Let me repeat this. Giffords Law Center’s most (and only) effective program at reducing “gun violence” had nothing to do with gun control.
So where are we now?
In 2019, Oakland’s homicides ticked up to 75. In 2020, they increased to 102. As of year’s end in 2021, Oakland’s homicides are 134 killed, which means the gains of Oakland Ceasefire have been wiped out.
How do you explain this? Did California suddenly abandon gun control? Not hardly, in fact, the state has since introduced even more strict gun laws.
What happened is that coalition of stakeholders fell apart. That partnership depended on a lot of personal relationships to keep a complex dynamic going. When new people come on board, they may not buy into previous agreements. Priorities shift. There is an ebb and flow to the criminals in the streets and each one must make a personal commitment to the program. Then with the pandemic lockdowns, isolation and remote meetings demolished the existing framework of relationships, which had to be reset to square one. Mix “Defund the Police” with California’s and Oakland’s lenient approach to prosecution, plus the emptying of the jails because of Covid, it’s no surprise the city has reclaimed its place as the state’s most popular outdoor shooting range.
Violent crime in Oakland has gotten so bad, that in June 2021, during a television interview outside city hall, the chief of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention, Guillermo Cespedes, was robbed at gunpoint. So much for the effectiveness of creating “A Violence Reduction Office or Agency.”
No matter what your stance is on the Second Amendment, every one of us wants to live in safe communities. With that in mind, the biggest tragedy of Oakland Ceasefire is that of all the proposals the Giffords Law Center continues to push in the name of “stopping the epidemic of gun violence,” the only one which proved to work is kept on a back burner at the far end of the stove. If Giffords was really concerned with public safety, why aren’t more programs like Oakland Ceasefire presented as priorities to state and municipal governments? Could it be that the Giffords Law Center can’t admit that its efforts to “prevent gun violence” are really about gun control and not about saving lives?
The report A Case Study in Hope is linked below.