There’s no debate over the fact that many cities across the United States are seeing more violent crime these days. In fact, it’s not exactly a new phenomenon at this point. The trend started last spring, during the first stay-at-home orders. Things got exponentially worse after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer, and for most of the country, things haven’t gotten any better even as the lockdowns have been lifted and life returns to some semblance of normalcy.
The media’s fixated on blaming the rise in crime on the surge in gun sales, and anti-gun activists and politicians are eagerly amplifying that narrative. Heck, even Vladimir Putin (himself a big fan of gun control) got into the act on Tuesday, using the rise in violent crime to both deflect from the abuses of human rights in Russia and to try to ding the United States for it’s recognition of the right to keep and bear arms.
‘You don’t have time to open your mouth and you’re shot dead,’ he said, referring to mass shootings in the United States.
‘Look at American streets. People are getting killed there,’ he said. ‘You can get a bullet in the neck.’
Russia’s official homicide rates aren’t that much different than the United States, and I tend to doubt any official statistics on death from the authoritarian nation anyway. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem here. We do, but it isn’t gun ownership or even record-high gun sales.
Instead, as we talk about on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, the United States has a crime problem; or more specifically a lawlessness problem. Yes, violent crimes involving firearms are increasing in many cities. Homicides increased by about 33% in major cities last year, one of the biggest one-year increases in our nation’s history. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest, however, that the increase in shootings (and stabbings) is part of a much broader trend.
Take the fact that traffic fatalities also increased last year, even though the number of miles driven by Americans declined dramatically.
The nonprofit National Safety Council estimates in a report issued Thursday that 42,060 people died in vehicle crashes in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years.
Plus, the fatality rate per 100 million miles driven spiked 24%, the largest annual percentage increase since the council began collecting data in 1923.
And even though traffic is now getting close to pre-coronavirus levels, the bad behavior on the roads is continuing, authorities say.
“It’s kind of terrifying what we’re seeing on our roads,” said Michael Hanson, director of the Minnesota Public Safety Department’s Office of Traffic Safety. “We’re seeing a huge increase in the amount of risk-taking behavior.”
The 42,060 traffic fatalities last year is more than double the number of homicide victims in the U.S., but the number of drug overdose deaths is even larger. According to new figures from the CDC, more than 92,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, an increase comparable to the rise in homicides. It looks like the numbers will be even higher this year, and cities like San Francisco have already had hundreds of deaths this year.
Amid a drug epidemic fueled by fentanyl, 2021 is on track to be a record-breaking year for overdose deaths in San Francisco. In January through April, 252 people died from overdoses, according to preliminary data from the San Francisco Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. Of those, 182 involved fentanyl. In the same time frame last year, 181 people died from overdoses.
By comparison, during the same four-month time period in which 252 San Franciscans OD’ed and died, a total of 11 people were murdered in the city.
In Washington, D.C., opioid overdose deaths increased by more than 50% last year, upending Mayor Muriel Bowser’s promise to cut the opioid overdose death rate in half from 2018 to 2020. In New York, there was a 27% increase. In Ohio, 24%. Almost every state in the country has seen a similar spike, but the national media has paid almost no attention, choosing instead to focus almost exclusively on “gun violence.”
We have a crime problem right now, and it’s only going to get worse if we treat it as a gun problem instead. We need to address the fact that more of us believe we can get away with crimes; whether it’s driving 90 on a two lane road, dealing heroin on the streets of San Francisco, or carjacking Uber drivers in Chicago.
These issues must be addressed with different strategies, but those strategies need to take into consideration the fact that these issues have some underlying commonalities. As far as violent crime goes, there are smart and effective strategies that both Republicans and Democrats could (in theory, anyway) agree on that would reduce violent crime without increasing overall arrests, but instead Democrats are pushing a gun control agenda that is guaranteed to fail in Congress (as well as in practice, if it ever were enacted).
Focusing on violent criminals is out, focusing on legal gun owners is in, and that’s bad news for all of us.. or at least those of us who value our lives and our right to defend them.