• School Shootings: It’s Not the Guns, It’s Kids Killing Kids

    June 3, 2022 // 4 Comments »

    Americans ages 18 to 20 account for only four percent of the population but 17 percent of murders. School shootings and their equivalent at Walmarts get the most attention. The problem is not just the guns. It is the young men who wield them. That means any possible solution rests with the shooter, not the firearm.

    There’s a pattern inside those sordid statistics, with some 70% of school shootings since 1999 have been carried out by people under 18. The median age of school shooters is 16. It’s kids shooting kids, whether because they are left out, bullied, teased, or angry at some slight or teacher’s offense, it is kids killing kids. Since these killings tend to be “local,” typically shooter and the dead share a racial and/or social-economic background, leaving “white supremacy” as a cause in the dustbin alongside the 1990s blaming “heavy metal” and Satanism. There have been at least 554 school shooting victims, with at least 311,000 children exposed to gun violence at school in the U.S. since the Y-in-the-road game changing Columbine High School massacre, spread across 331 schools. The frequency of shootings has increased, with a surge of 34 incidents in 2021, the highest in any year since 1999.

    Since it’s not the guns per se but young men who are to blame, more traditional gun control is unlikely to make much of a difference. Already under the Federal Gun Control Act (GCA), shotguns and rifles, and ammunition for shotguns or rifles may be sold only to individuals 18 years of age or older. All other firearms can be sold only to individuals 21 years of age or older. Licensed sellers are bound by the minimum age requirements established by the GCA regardless of state or local law. However, if state law or local ordinances establish a higher minimum age, the licensee must observe the higher age requirement.

    Background checks vary in quality from state to state but generally seek to prohibit sales for reasons such as a history of domestic abuse or violent felony convictions, crimes unlikely to snare the shooters just out of high school. No background check is going to catch someone seething with rage over race or his grandmother. Checks also are at the time of purchase and gun ownership can be forever. There is the private transfer loophole that bypasses most background checks, but no evidence that young mass killers seek out this method of gun purchase.
    There is also the Columbine divide that somehow factors in to kids killing kids. Pre-Columbine America saw school shootings number only approximately 300 instances in 150 years. Post-Columbine shootings number 331 in only 23 years. Something big is very wrong in America and our kids are not alright. Add in drug use and overdose deaths, and teen suicides (many involving guns; suicide is the third greatest cause of teen death, with homicide in the number two position), and you have more than a crisis, you have a nightmare.
    Though the Columbine killers had few friends, it is doubtful no one (including parents and siblings) had no idea about the thoughts running through their heads. Later this would all be blamed on the then-new shooting games like DOOM (a “murder” simulator) and heavy metal music. But it seems much less a surface problem and more something deeper and thus ironically more visible. In other words, in Columbine and likely in many of the other 331 modern-era school shooting, somebody should have seen it coming.
    Therein lies several potential solutions. Lessening gun access in specific, targeted ways may help, such as raising the Federal age for long guns to age 21 or older. Provide tougher penalties for anyone who illegally sells guns to those under age, and for adults/parents who do not secure their guns. Such measures are statistically supported, do not affect most current gun owners, and simply require the sacrifice by legitimate young hunters of safely using dad’s old rifle another year.
    But real change will require enhanced red flag laws, laws which enlist parents, gun sales people, teachers, and peers in spotting students who should not have ready access to firearms. A red flag law allows people to petition a state court for the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger themselves or others. A judge makes the final determination. Such laws exist in 19 states and D.C. at present (14 states of those states adopted red flag gun laws after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida) with considerable variation. One of the most significant variations is who may petition a court to take someone’s guns away. Every state currently allows law enforcement to do so, but California is the only one which includes family members. None of the laws in place allow teachers, clergy, doctors, coworkers, or school peers, people who may well know a young man’s intent best, to petition. A Federal law which standardizes such criteria is badly needed.
    Opposition to red flag laws tends to fall on standard grounds, specifically that not all states allow the gun holder full due process at his hearing (easily remedied by a Federal law that does) and the generic concern about the government having the ability to take a gun anyway from anyone. Yet gun confiscation via a hearing, though likely needing a Supreme Court decision of its own for clarity, appears to be an example of presumptively lawful regulatory measures (such as regulating concealed weapons, prohibiting possession of firearms by felons, etc.) already permissible under Heller v. District of Columbia. Basic red flag laws are judicially sound, and have, for example, been used in Florida nearly 6,000 times since 2018 and survived a state Supreme Court challenge there. And Florida has had no school shootings since the law went into effect. New York’s current red flag law, had it been properly implemented, could have stopped the grocery store shooter.
    School shootings almost always involve a delineable type of shooter: 16-18, male, loner. Red flag laws are designed to take guns away from people before they commit crimes, and have been legally tested. As a potential national-level solution they do not restrict gun ownership among most adults, and barely open the Pandora’s Box of the Second Amendment. They are as apolitical as anything to do with guns in America can be (and are supported by 72 percent of Americans. Donald Trump has backed red flag laws.) In the search for answers following the latest school shooting, a Federal red flag law is worth a… shot.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy

    Do Black Lives Really Matter… to Blacks?

    May 27, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    Do black lives really matter… to blacks? May 25 marked the second anniversary of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, sparking a wave of protests first under a banner of “All Lives Matter,” quickly changed to the “less” racist anthemic “Black Lives Matter.” The narrative of young black men being killed across the nation by white cops was strong, and inspired a Covid-summer’s full of protests and promises of change.

    Happy anniversary, and a fast forward to 2022, when New York City Mayor Eric Adams finally said the quiet part out loud. Adams slammed Black Lives Matter and anti-police activists after a recent spring night of bloodshed across the city that left more than a dozen people shot. “Where are all those who stated ‘Black lives matter’?” Adams said. “The victims were all black.” Three people killed and 13 others wounded in a series of shootings. Zero were shot by police officers. “The lives of these black children that are dying every night matter,” Adams said. “We can’t be hypocrites.”

    Well, well, there’s a change from the rhetoric which in 2020 New York lead to defunding the police, disbanding special gun control units (now being reinstated by Mayor Adams) reducing or eliminating bail for most common crimes, and, a few years earlier, bringing to an end “stop and frisk” broken window policing tactics. Once upon a time, taken together, whether by blind luck, racist intent, or practical policing, all of those things lowered the crime rate in New York. Then, baby, meet bathwater.

    The spate of killings this spring (coming just days after a mentally ill black man injured over 10 people in the subway by firing 33 shots and setting off smoke bombs) match the spate that set records last April; spring brings out the shooters it seems. New York City saw its bloodiest week since around the first anniversary of Floyd’s death, with 46 separate shooting incidents, a 300 percent surge from the same week in 2020. These shootings were part of a 205 percent overall increase in shootings in NYC in 2020, the bloodiest toll since 1996.

    Who is dying? Some 65 percent of homicide victims are black, though they make up less than a quarter of the city’s population. In the unsuccessful homicides, e.g., just “shootings,” black Americans are over 70 percent of the victims. The dead include more and more young people. This is because gang-related activity drives much of the shooting in the city. Over 90 percent of black homicide victims were killed by another black person, not by the white supremacists or those cops the media warns us about. In 2020, 290 black people were murdered and over 1,000 were shot, almost all by other black people. By comparison, only five of the 20 years of the Afghan war killed more Americans of all races. In further comparison, in 2020 only five of all the people killed by New York City police were black.

    You have to wonder which pile of bodies is really the distraction from systemic racism and which is really the more serious problem.

    Though the subway gets the most attention given its everyone-is-equal reach, a disproportionate number of the killings and shootings take place inside the vast public housing world of New York City, the 2,602 buildings controlled by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA; “the projects”) Because there are so many people living “off-lease,” no one knows the actual NYCHA population, but it is believed to be over 600,000. If NYCHA were its own city, it would have about the same population as Boston. While much of the public housing is in “bad” parts of town, not all of it is. The housing was built largely on city-owned and available land, and was championed by liberals in the 1950s and 60s. Some of NYCHA’s worst residences sit across the street from million-dollar condos on the Upper East Side.

    New York, and NYCHA, are simultaneously among the most diverse places in America and the most segregated. About 27 percent of the city’s households in poverty are white, but less than five percent of NYCHA households are white. In contrast, about a fourth of the city’s households in poverty are black but black households occupy 45 percent of NYCHA units. But even that does not tell the real tale. NYCHA is segregated building-by-building. Rutland Towers in East Flatbush is 94.9 percent black. Though Asians make up less than five percent of the overall NYCHA population, the La Guardia Addition at Two Bridges is 70 percent Asian.

    NYCHA is also very dangerous. The NYPD counted 59 homicides on NYCHA property in 2020, up 41 percent from 2019. The murder rate is far worse in the projects than elsewhere. As of late 2020, the projects saw 15.5 homicides per 100,000 people, compared to only four per 100,000 elsewhere in the city. Police counted 257 shooting incidents in NYCHA projects in 2020, a 92 percent increase over 2019. Some 67 shootings were reported per 100,000 NYCHA residents, compared to 12 per 100,000 in the rest of the city. A lot of numbers that all add up one way.

    The vast majority of these shootings are gang related, the gangs involved in some of the worst locations are black, and the beef is over control of turf to sell drugs inside the city’s vast gulag archipelago of public housing. The previous mayor’s office both acknowledged and sidestepped this uncomfortable truth by blaming the shootings on “interpersonal beefs.” Worried about the Thin Blue Line, when cops won’t testify against other cops? Try finding a witness inside the projects for a black-on-black gang killing. This is what a systemic problem actually looks like.

    So according to the MSM, what is New York’s problem? Guns, not people. Seems fair; Americans bought more guns in 2020-21 than they did in previous years. But when you take the next step, not to see who bought guns but who fired them in New York at other human beings, the answer is as clear as it is uncomfortable. The roughly 75 percent of the City who are not black are also not shooters. The sad thing is that black lives, like white one and yellow ones and brown ones, do matter, just not in the same way. What, on the second anniversary of his death, would George Floyd say when asked if a black life seems worth more as a political token than a living human.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy