The title of this post, Campus Riots Encourage Gun Violence, may seem a bit farfetched to you, but consider this.
Heather Mac Donald, in The War on Cops, writes about Broken Window Policing (also known as Proactive Policing), which she describes as “the active enforcement of petty misdemeanor crimes which generates a community feeling of law and order that in turn inhibits more serious crimes.” She provides ample evidence that Broken Window Policing works.
Her examples include repairing broken windows, removing graffiti, and general cleanup of streets and parks. Her evidence includes everything from news reports to scholarly studies. There are a few failures, but overall Broken Windows Policing works often enough to make it an effective law enforcement strategy.
I offer this extension to the concept of Broken Window Policing. Campus riots and shouting down or physically preventing speakers from speaking or even arriving at their venues are intellectual graffiti, and they play the same role that physical graffiti plays in encouraging more serious crimes, including gun violence. It is as though permitting the perpetrators of the misdemeanors to go without punishment gives others permission to commit more serious crimes. The potential criminal thinks, “If the college kids can get away with their unlawful activities, I can get away with mine.”
My colleague Aga Malicka has suggested that the same dynamic applies to sports fans who progress from celebrating to rioting to looting in response to a victory (or a defeat) in an important contest. I think she is correct.
My evidence for this proposition is purely anecdotal. I have observed that campus misdeeds have increased along with the increase in gun violence, as well as increases in other felonies. But as we all know, correlation is not causality. But I find the idea intuitively appealing. Don’t you?