Bill O'Reilly Hypes Ineffective Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentences To End Gun Violence

Studies Find That Mandatory Sentencing Is Ineffective And Hurts Minorities

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly argued that mandatory federal sentencing for all gun crimes as the solution for the curbing gun crime in America despite research showing mandatory minimum sentencing has no deterrent effect on crime.

On the November 2 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly claimed that Hillary Clinton’s push for gun safety measures is a “total waste of time,” instead arguing that “any crime with a gun, even simple illegal possession should be subject to federal mandatory prison sentences. All gun crimes should become federal crimes.”

However, studies find that mandatory sentencing laws have little to no deterrent effect on gun crimes and violence. A New York Times op-ed cited a report by the Northwestern University Law School which found that “decades of empirical evidence and evaluations of specific state experiences demonstrate that mandatory sentences will not reduce gun violence.”

A study from the National Research Council reviewed multiple studies on the effect of stricter sentencing and found that “more severe punishments for gun crimes ... had no apparent deterrent effect”:

Drawing from past research, the report argues that more severe sentences don't effectively deter crime, pointing to these past studies:

  • An analysis of a federal program in Virginia that imposed more severe punishments for gun crimes found that “the threat of enhanced sentences had no apparent deterrent effect,” the report said.

  • Studies found that teens didn't commit significantly fewer crimes after they turned 18, even though the severity of punishments increased. One analysis reported “an immediate decline in crime, as predicted, but it was very small and not statistically significant,” according to the National Research Council report.

  • A California law requiring minimum prison sentences of 25 years for three-strike offenders had only a minimal deterrent effect, studies showed. One study found the law created a 2% reduction in the felony crime rate at most, limited only to people with two strikes. Another report did find that the law was a deterrent, but concluded that it wasn't enough to justify increased costs of incarceration.

“Evidence is limited on the crime prevention effects of most of the policies that contributed to the post-1973 increase in incarceration rates. Nevertheless, the evidence base demonstrates that lengthy prison sentences are ineffective as a crime control measure,” the report noted.

And sentencing decisions, including mandatory minimum sentences, disproportionately affect people of color. According to the ACLU, “sentences imposed on Black males in the federal system are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes.” Additionally, the study found “racial disparities in sentencing can result from theoretically ‘race neutral’ sentencing policies that have significant disparate racial effects.”