Daniel W. Drezner

My one post about American gun violence

Since moving to Foreign Policy, this blog has primarily been devoted to world politics, global political economy, and American foreign policy.  I don’t know if I’ve ever blogged about gun control and gun violence (though I confess I’ve been enjoying my Twitter exchanges with Second Amendment absolutists immensely).  Now if that peroration seems like a ...

Since moving to Foreign Policy, this blog has primarily been devoted to world politics, global political economy, and American foreign policy.  I don’t know if I’ve ever blogged about gun control and gun violence (though I confess I’ve been enjoying my Twitter exchanges with Second Amendment absolutists immensely). 

Now if that peroration seems like a windup for a big "we must do something about guns" post, you’re going to be disappointed.  Sure, from what I read, there’s a clear correlation between gun ownership and crime, but it’s far from clear that most of the policies on the table will do a whole hell of a lot to put a dent into that correlation. 

However, with the Obama administration gearing up for an ambitious set of policy proposals, and with the gun lobby gearing up to fight those proposals, I do have one useful policy suggestion.  If the White House is smart, they will take, verbatim, Kevin Drum’s suggested policy proposals for eliminating lead from our nation’s homes and topsoil. 

Now, if you think that sentence was a massive non sequitur, I’d encourage you to read Drum’s outstanding Mother Jones essay on the surprisingly robust connection between lead poisoning and violent crime, as well as his follow-up blog posts.  Despite understandable and initial skepticism, even skeptics seem persuaded by the causal link.  [Where’s the international relations hook?–ed.  This hypothesis holds when using cross-national evidence as well.] If the goal is to reduce violent, horrific crimes, then reducing lead exposure is a crucial part of the solution. 

The brilliant thing about adding this to the menu of policy proposals is that I suspect it would actually amass broad-based support.  Environmentalists will like it for obvious reasons, as will advocates of urban politics.  Parents will love it because they know lead is bad for you.  Policy wonks will love it because, well, the social science seems pretty rock-solid.  The best part, however, is that groups like the NRA would likely support it as well — because it makes them seem reasonable.  In the wake of Sandy Hook, an awful lot of commentators have been saying things like "it’s not just about guns," with a reference to meantal health or violence in the culture.  The causal evidence linking lead poisoning to gun violence and violent crime would appear to be far stronger than the stuff on popular culture.  So it would be smart politics for the NRA to endorse those measures. 

It’s pretty rare nowadays to come up with a policy solution that doesn’t run into some partisan divide — but this lead poisoning issue would seem to be the exception.  I hope both the Obama administration and Congress exploit the opportunity. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies. His latest book is The Toddler in Chief. Twitter: @dandrezner

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