POLITICS: PennAve

Big Ideas: On guns, the Volcker rule and Portland's mistakes

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Gun Control,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Think Tanks,Law,Volcker Rule

Sam Bieler for the Urban Institute's MetroTrends: “Criminals will always get guns.”

It's a common refrain in America's firearm violence prevention debate, all the more worrying because of its apparent truth. In spite of the best efforts of police and policymakers, gun violence exacts a heavy toll on the American people: 8,855 murders and 142,568 aggravated assaults committed with firearms in 2012 alone.

In the face of these sobering numbers, it’s worth asking how criminals, poorer and less-educated than the average American, keep getting guns. The embarrassing answer? We don’t know for sure. Until we know more about the sources of crime guns, it will be difficult to devise and build consensus for effective, targeted policies that reduce unlawful access to firearms.

That’s not to say we’re flying blind. We know that criminals primarily get their guns from corrupt firearm dealers, gangs and social networks, and theft. What we don’t know is how important each of these sources is to the criminal gun market. ...

If we are to develop and implement new strategies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, we need more research on how they got those guns in the first place.

 

VOLCKER RULE PROBLEMS

John Berlau for the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Open Market: You might think after the disastrous debut of healthcare.gov and thousands of insurance cancellations, those who call themselves progressives might just have a little humility about grandiose government schemes with vague terms and objectives.

Not so, if judged by the adulatory greeting by liberal activists and the establishment media of this month's implementation of a pie-in-the-sky provision of the Dodd-Frank financial “reform,” a law that has often been referred to by experts as “Obamacare for banks.”

Like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank was a 2,500-plus-page law rammed through the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2010. And like the bureaucrat-written rules implementing Obamacare, the regulations implementing the law are pretty lengthy as well.

Joint regulations issued to implement Dodd-Frank's so-called Volcker rule were almost 1,000 pages, nearly half as long as the law itself. “Changing the ways of Wall Street” was how a New York Times news piece characterized the rule when it was released.

Yet this week, even the NYT was compelled to report on the regulation hitting a bank that was about as far away from Wall Street as once could get. “Volcker rule Quickly Hits Utah Bank,” reads the headline of an NYT article describing how the Volcker rule forced Salt Lake City-based Zions Bancorp. to divest a long-held debt security and take a loss of $387 million by doing so. As Bloomberg notes in its piece on the shocking hit to the bank's balance sheet, this “cost is more than Zions earned for any calendar year since 2007.”

 

THE PERILS OF PORTLANDIA

Baruch Feigenbaum for the Reason Foundation's Out of Control Policy Blog: Portland, Ore., is known for its smart growth policies and urban growth boundaries. And Portland boosters happily provide tours to out-of-town government officials on the Portland model. City leaders from across the U.S. return to their local municipalities and try to emulate Portland. But as I found on a recent trip to Portland that is a big mistake for four reasons.

Firstly, Portland officials and leaders admit they have made mistakes. When Portland implemented its smart growth plan, it had no good U.S. model. As a result it made some bad choices. The city has engaged in too much traffic calming by deliberately slowing almost every route. This has made it challenging to travel anywhere during rush hour. According to travel design guidelines, at least one route every quarter-mile should offer unencumbered travel, and Portland falls woefully short of this standard. Some types of vehicles need a congestion-free alternative. A two-minute delay for an ambulance can be a matter of life and death.

The city has built several bike trails to nowhere. Bike trails are like roads; they must connect at least one origin with at least one destination. If the path travels for a half-block into a dead-end street, it is not going to be used. Yet Portland has built several of these type of bike trails. The city received federal grant funding and instead of funding a needed highway, it supported these trails.

The streetcar is a poor use of transportation resources. While many Portland boosters are excited about the economic development benefit of streetcars, such boosters do not consider other transit options that may be more effective at transporting passengers from point A to point B. And even by streetcar standards, the Portland Streetcar is exceedingly slow, with an average speed of 8 mph and an average gap of 15-18 miles between each train. An Oregonian reporter walking at 3.25 mph actually walked the streetcar’s route in less time than his wait and ride would have taken on the streetcar.

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