And 2020 wasn’t a great year for public safety in Los Angeles to begin with. There were more than 300 homicides in L.A. last year, which was the most since 2009. Now the city’s on pace to top that grim milestone this year, with murders happening at an even faster pace.
In the first four months of 2021, the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center has seen a nearly 87 percent increase in the number of patients experiencing “penetrating trauma,” such as gunshots and stabbings, over the same period in 2020, and that’s only one indicator of an alarming trend, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Data from the Los Angeles Police Department shows that 465 people were shot in the city between January 1 and May 1 this year, a 67 percent jump over 2020, while homicides had already hit 115 on Sunday, an increase of more than 26 percent compared to this time last year.
The news is equally grim in the surrounding areas. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department reports that homicides in its jurisdiction rose by more than 113 percent in the first three months of 2021, with 64 people murdered, up from 30 killed last year. In that time, aggravated assaults with guns have risen by 82 percent, with 465 victims over 255 in 2020.
According to L.A. Mag, police are blaming the rising violence on “gang activity and the easy availability of guns,” which begs the question: why are guns so easily available for criminals, given the restrictive gun control laws in the state?
If someone wants to get a gun legally in Los Angeles, they have to go through a background check and a ten day waiting period. If they want to legally purchase ammunition they have to go through an additional background check, and it’s against the law for them to purchase ammo from out-of-state to bring back to California.
All legally owned firearms must be registered with the state, and including DIY and home-built firearms… you know, those dastardly “ghost guns.” And in order to legally carry a firearm in Los Angeles, you have to obtain a concealed carry permit, of which there are only a few hundred in all of Los Angeles.
If criminals can get their guns so easily, the same can’t be said for law-abiding citizens who would like to keep and bear arms for self-defense.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore recently told the Police Commission that despite gun arrests being up by 90 percent this year, it’s still difficult to counteract the sheer number of firearms hitting the streets, especially untraceable “ghost guns,” which people assemble from parts ordered online.
Gang interventionist Skipp Townsend cited ghost guns as one cause behind the trend, claiming some youth used stimulus money to buy the unregistered weapons and then showed them off and taunted rivals on social media, sometimes filming themselves in closed parks.
In other words, criminals are breaking the law in order to illegally obtain firearms. Well, there’s a shocking development that no one could have predicted.
One of the other issues, according to city official Anne Tremblay, is that gang intervention workers have been forced to do their job remotely because of the pandemic restrictions imposed on the general public. I’m sure that it is much more difficult to do outreach to gang members when you’re forced to rely on Zoom or Skype to make contact with them, but the question remains: who put those restrictions in place to begin with, and why are they still in place now? COVID-19 cases are declining across the Los Angeles area, and there’s no real risk for these violence interrupters to have meetings, even face-to-face, with the individuals they’re hoping to reach, especially if those meetups take place outside.
Los Angeles (and California more generally) is a prime example of why trying to ban and arrest our way to safety doesn’t work. All the gun laws in place haven’t been able to curtail the rising homicide rate, even while arrests for carrying gun without a license have increased dramatically. L.A.’s gun control-centric strategy is failing, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the response from politicians will be to double down on their tactics and impose even more restrictions on the law-abiding in the desperate hope that maybe this time around the criminals will be impacted too.