Earlier today my colleague Tom Knighton reported on the claims by media that “mass shootings” rose dramatically in 2020, which I see as part of a broader trend by anti-gun activists to promote the narrative that the Great Gun Run of 2020 (which has now become the Great Gun Run of 2021) is somehow responsible for the rise in violent crime that we’ve seen in most parts of the United States over the past year.
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we delve deep into the issue and highlight some of the problems with the narrative of the gun ban crowd, starting with the fact that the rise in violent crime coincided with the first round of COVID lockdowns and stay-at-home orders issued almost a year ago. That’s also when gun sales started soaring, and there’s pretty clear evidence that the COVID shutdowns spurred both an increase in firearm purchases and violent crime, though there’s little evidence that the new gun owners were actually driving violent crime.
In the first six months of 2020, for example, homicides in New York City were up 21-percent compared to the same time period in 2019, but it’s highly unlikely that any New Yorker who decided to buy a gun was immediately able to do so, at least legally. The process for obtaining a premises permit allowing you to keep a gun in your home can stretch out for months on end in the best of circumstances, and with the COVID-related closures the permitting process ground to an almost complete stoppage for months.
In fact, while the number of permit applications in the Big Apple increased by nearly 300-percent last year, the number of permits that were approved actually declined compared to 2019. Shootings and homicides were both way up, but legal gun ownership was stagnant thanks to the discretionary policies of the NYPD that are designed to inhibit the Second Amendment rights of New York City residents.
Remember, when the first round of lockdowns kicked in, we saw police departments in major cities like New York and Philadelphia scale back the numbers of arrests for low-level offenses while taking proactive steps to release those already held behind bars while they were awaiting trial. At the same time, most criminal courts across the country almost completely shut down, in some cases for months on end, leading to a situation where violent criminals felt like they could commit crimes with impunity.
It’s no surprise that many Americans decided to purchase a firearm and ammunition for the very first time as a result of the uncertain future and the rise in violence, and that trend continued after violence and riots erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May. Not only did the riots and unrest force police departments to divert resources, but they also led to many cities partially defunding police departments and taking a second-look at programs that are designed to specifically target violent offenders.
In Portland, Oregon, for instance, the city disbanded its Gun Violence Reduction Team over complaints that the unit was disproportionately racial minorities. In the months after the unit was shut down, shootings in Portland increased dramatically, and shootings in January and February of this year were nearly double what they were in 2020.
Ike is a long-time Portlander. He remembers the out-of-control gun violence of the 1990s. And now he believes he is witnessing a resurgence.
Gun violence took the life of 25-year-old Curtis Smith earlier this week. Smith was shot on Thursday in Farragut Park in north Portland.
Back on Morgan Street, Ike wonders if the effects of unemployment, racial strife, and a pandemic are part of the problem. Whatever the cause, he thinks we all must confront it.
“We need to take it from here, talking about it, to action. And everybody’s being affected by this so everybody needs to be in on the discourse of how we can solve this problem or at least move forward to the solutions.”
There are multiple factors for the increase in violent crime across the country, but millions of new gun owners aren’t to blame, and pursuing a public safety strategy that relies on restricting our constitutional rights isn’t the answer. We need to ensure that our court system, as dysfunctional as it is in the best of circumstances, is at least up and running and able to deal with violent criminals, but we also need to get back to the basics of policing in many cities, starting with the fact that a large amount of violent crime is committed by a relatively small group of people.
That’s what police in Louisville, Kentucky are doing with their new Gun Violence Intervention program.
Wednesday afternoon, David Kennedy, an esteemed criminology professor from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, presented Fox, D-13, and other councilmembers on Louisville Metro Council’s public safety committee a solution in response to 2020’s record-breaking spike of violent crime: a program that’ll soon start up in Louisville called Group Violence Intervention, or GVI.
“The criminal justice version of prevention is deterrence,” Kennedy explained. “It’s letting people know that the stove is hot so that people don’t touch it.”
Jessie Halladay, who works for the city, will manage the project and will assist Kennedy and others in using data to target those who are most at risk of committing future violent crimes. Kennedy says most of those people belong to “groups” that he likened to “street warriors” defending their respective neighborhoods against perceived disrespect.
She estimates that only a fraction of a percent of any city’s population is the driving force behind the majority of violent crimes.
“We need to be directly engaging with those people who are shooting and creating the violence in our community, which is a very small number of people, and directly engage them,” Halladay said.
Sounds a lot more reasonable (and constitutional) than trying to simply ban our way to safety by passing sweeping gun control laws, doesn’t it? I wish the folks in Louisville the best of luck in their implementation of the GVI program, and I hope that other cities around the country will pay attention to the results in the months ahead. There’s no need for new laws or even dramatic increases in spending to greatly reduce violent crime; we just need a shift in tactics to ensure that the most prolific offenders are the primary targets of these deterrence efforts.
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