When We Talk About Gun Violence, Aren’t We Talking About Crimes?

For all the talk about a new gun law which is sweeping across both sides of the Congressional aisle following the mass shootings of last week, there seems to be one response to the problem of gun violence which somehow never gets said. And this response would take into account the fact that more than 75% of all gun injuries happen to be crimes. That’s right – crimes. 

Here are the numbers from 2017, rounded off a bit: Unintentional injuries – 15,000; suicides – 21,000; homicides and aggravated assaults – 90,000. Oops, that’s only 72% but it’s close enough. 

I know all the reasons why so many guns wind up in the ‘wrong hands.’ I also know all the reasons why so many shootings occur in inner-city, what we politely refer to as ‘disadvantaged’ zones. The latter topic may not be as popular for trade books as why America is quickly becoming a Fascist state, but a new book on this subject has a way of appearing every year.

Our most eminent gun researchers, Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig, have begun developing a different approach to this whole problem which my friends in Gun-control Nation should spend some time thinking about instead of always promoting the ‘public health approach.’ According to Cook and Ludwig, the average arrest rate for aggravated assaults in major cities is somewhere around five percent.  In other words, if I’m walking down Blackstone Avenue in Chicago and I decide to yank out my Glock and shoot someone else in the head, even if I miss and only hit him in the shoulder, the odds that I’ll get away with the assault are better than nine out of ten.   

The good news for my intended victim is that like most people walking around with a legal or illegal gun, I don’t practice enough to hit what I’m trying to hit. So even using a very lethal round like a 9mm or an S&W 40, chances are my intended target will survive. The better news for me is that when the cops show up and ask the three or four people who witnessed the assault to give them a description of what I look like, what they’ll be able to broadcast over the radio is that they are looking for someone who ‘I didn’t see nuttin’ at all,’ is the way I’ll probably be described.

Know why so many street-corner shootings appear to be just random, drive-by events? Because the nabe knows that if they go to the cops to complain that someone dissed them or someone assaulted them or someone’s just being a pain, the chances are better than even that the cops won’t do anything at all. Yea, yea, I know all about community policing – tell that one to communities of color in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., where the gun-violence rates in both cities have lately increased by more than 30 percent!

Let me make it clear. Believe it or not, I’m very pro-cop.  I earn my living doing lethal-force certifications for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and I appreciate the fact that when police show up at a home that is burning down they will rush right in to make sure that all the occupants are safely outside, including the family cat. So the purpose of this column is not (read: not) to dump on the cops.

On the other hand, I don’t understand why anyone who shoots someone else isn’t charged with attempted murder, since the only reason it was attempted and not completed was because the shooter didn’t shoot straight. Unfortunately, according to Cook and Ludwig, that even when someone actually aims accurately enough to leave a dead body in the street, the arrest rate for capital gun crimes is less than 20 percent.

My friends who promote the idea of a ‘public health approach’ to gun violence might take some time to consider the implications of the Cook-Ludwig research. Somehow I just don’t buy the argument that crimes as serious as gun assaults should go unpunished because we don’t want to be ‘judgemental’ about life on inner-city streets.

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3 thoughts on “When We Talk About Gun Violence, Aren’t We Talking About Crimes?

  1. Is it lack of resources that allows so many dangerous criminals to slip through the judicial system? The book “Don’t Shoot Me” makes a similar case for clear, swift and certain punishment for violent crimes through surgically targeting a community’s worst offenders.

  2. As someone who dealt with inner city (Chicago) shootings you are right on all counts. They don’t shoot very straight, won’t get ID’d, and the police are not bad guys. They sometimes get jaded since they only see people at their worst.

  3. I think it matters what part of Chicago you are talking about in your example, Mike. If I shot someone on Michigan Ave, you can bet your bottom dollar the cops would be all over it. And there would be lots of witnesses willing to give info to the cops. But this might not be the case in the neighborhoods where most of the gun violence occurs.

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