Until Pete Buttigieg announced that he was a Presidential candidate, he only thing I knew about South Bend, IN was Notre Dame. I went to graduate school in Chicago and every time I drove back home to New York, I could see the Golden Dome as we zipped past the campus on the interstate, but that was as close as I ever got to South Bend.
The city is an old manufacturing center, having been the location of several major manufacturing companies that supplied parts for the auto industry, and even before Buttigieg captured national attention with his announcement, he was known for having pushed some economic redevelopment plans that prevented South Bend from ending up in the downward spiral which trapped other rust-belt towns.
In addition to the Golden Dome, the city also has an annual music festival, several interesting museums, some pretty park space, all the usual amenities of medium-sized population centers (roughly 100,000 people live in the city itself, roughly another 200,000 folks live nearby) which are larger than small towns but not yet major, urban sites.
Unfortunately, it now appears that South Bend may be experiencing a life-style change which resembles many major, urban centers, and I’m not talking about a life-style represented by the appearance of Starbucks or a new shopping mall or a farmer’s market with ‘organic’ goat cheese selling at $30 a pound. I’m talking about the urban life-style known as gun violence which has seen 11 South Bend shootings so far in June alone.
The good news about violent crime in South Bend is that overall the number of homicides have gone down. There were 18 in 2012, Buttigieg’s first year in office, last year there were 9. The bad news about South Bend violence is the number of aggravated assaults went from 235 in 2012 to 782(!) last year. Guess what happens when two guys get into an argument and one of them pulls out gun? An assault turns into a shooting and using a gun is a very efficient method for turning a bloody nose into a bullet lodged in the head.
Right now, Indiana ranks 16th of all 50 states in the statewide murder rate, with an overall score of 6 per 100,000 residents for the Hoosier State. I always thought that Indiana’s murder rate was basically a function of street violence in Indianapolis which, Indy 500 notwithstanding, has always been known as a tough town. The nine murders which occurred in South Bend last year may not sound like a lot of people, but it means that the city’s murder rate is 50 percent higher than the state’s rate as a whole. That ain’t good.
And it particularly ain’t good for Mayor Pete’s Presidential campaign, because he has been proposing the one gun-control law that Gun-nut Nation hates most of all, i.e., a national gun-licensing system. Now it happens to be true that without a national gun registration of some kind, all the other ‘reasonable’ gun-control schemes may help reduce gun violence a little bit here and there, but the real big kahuna for gun control is national registration, no ifs, ands, or buts.
You might want to believe that if South Bend continues to be a murder-rich place, that this news could be used by Pete to underscore the need for better controls over guns. Except that’s not how the world works, at least the world as defined by the pro-gun noisemakers (Trump, Fox, NRA, et. al.) who will lead the charge for the other side.
Because what they will say, I guarantee it, is that the murder rate in South Bend points up the need for letting civilians walk around with guns. And since gun registration will result in gun confiscation, nobody will be protected and the crime rate in South Bend and everywhere else will zoom straight up.
I hope that last week’s gun mayhem in South bend was a blip and not the beginning of a trend. Because if it’s the latter, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign could be derailed.