troy ave
Troy Ave (right) fired a shot an an unknown figure out of frame to the left. He managed to end up shooting himself in the leg, and killing his bodyguard, who appears to be the man standing behind him in this photo.

We’ve pounded this drum relentlessly, and we’re going to keep pounding it: we do not have a “gun violence” problem in the United States. Per capita homicide is at an all time low according to the FBI, while gun sales are setting new records almost every month.

What we do have, however, is a situation where small cultural groups champion the tool of violence as a solution to many problems. These can range from so-called “educational beatdowns” to indiscriminate fire with illegal automatic weapons into crowds to anything in between. We most frequently find this behavior in geographically condensed urban areas, at the intersection where gangs, drugs, poverty, and “gangsta” music intersect.

We saw a stunning example of this culture of violence Wednesday night, when a rapper named Troy Ave pulled a handgun and opened fire before high school drop-out/drug dealer/convicted felon rapper named T.I. took the stage at a venue in New York City.

Ave managed to to kill his own security guard and shoot himself in the leg as well as two others, leading NYPD Police Commisioner Bill Bratton to assert that rap artists are “basically thugs.”

The city’s top cop slammed rappers’ actions in a WCBS radio interview as footage emerged of the chaos that unfolded as the shots were fired inside Irving Plaza.

‘The crazy world of these so-called rap artists who are basically thugs that basically celebrate violence they did all their lives.’ Bratton said.

‘Unfortunately, that violence often times manifests itself during their performances.’

Predictably, the left is far more outraged that Bratton dared directly attack thug culture instead of sticking with the left-wing argument that we have a “gun violence epidemic,” and so they quickly attacked him.

There are a few words that no public official should toss around lightly in 2016, and one of them is “thug.” Apparently no one told NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. In the aftermath of a deadly shooting at Irving Plaza, a music venue in Manhattan, this week, New York’s top cop unloaded about “the crazy world of the so-called rap artists” during a radio interview:

Basically thugs that basically celebrate the violence that they live all their lives and unfortunately that violence often manifests itself during the performances and that’s exactly what happened last evening. The music, unfortunately, oftentimes celebrates gun violence, celebrates the degradation of women, celebrates the drug culture and it’s unfortunate that as they get fame and fortune, that some of them are just not able to get out of the life, if you will.

Bratton’s comments represent an interesting cultural moment, for several reasons. The reason that it’s unwise to talk about “thugs” is—as Megan Garber explored in a fascinating piece last spring—that the word is heavily coded racial language.

The argument that “thug” is a racial term might have merit… if we were talking about the Muslim assassins largely wiped out by the British in India during the 1830s-1870s.

But “thug” isn’t used as a racial term by most today. Instead, thug has a very simple, consistent dictionary definition of being “a violent person, especially a criminal.” Thug culture is thug culture because it is a culture where criminal violence is not just accepted, but celebrated in word, in deed, and yes, in song.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that a lily-white liberal Atlantic blogger like David Graham isn’t qualified to judge the commissioner of a city where thug violence among wannabe rappers is a near-daily occurrence.

We have a very real thug culture problem in this country that leftists want to claim is a gun violence problem so that they have an excuse to attack the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens of every color, sex, and creed.

We’re always going to have a thug culture problem until we, like the British in India, use human intelligence to hunt down, incarcerate, or terminate the exceedingly small and hyper-violent gangs of thugs that are at the root of a stunning amount of the criminal violence in this nation.