It seems that every major city is experiencing a massive surge in violent crime. A lot of the smaller cities are seeing the same thing, to be fair, but the larger cities get the headlines.
In Staten Island, NY, the DA has some thoughts about what is causing the violence. They’re…interesting.
Summer heat and temper flare-ups.
Angst and anger over monthslong coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns and restrictions.
Social unrest and protests sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police in Minneapolis.
A lack of education and job programs for youths.
The availability of guns on the street and settling old scores.
Changes in bail laws and police tactics.
Those are just some of the factors that have ignited a recent spate of gun violence in the borough, which in a matter of days snuffed out three men’s lives, said District Attorney Michael E. McMahon.
“There no question we’re in a sort of perfect storm, if you will, when it comes to the alarming increase in gun violence on Staten Island,” McMahon said in a recent interview. “There are just too many guns out there in the open and being used in a way we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s all coming to a head. It is very concerning, and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
I’m going to give McMahon credit for one thing. He seems to get that there’s no one simple cause for the upsurge in violence or in violent crime. That means he may well recognize that violent crime, in general, is a complex issue that likely lacks a single root cause.
Good for him.
Yet claiming the availability of guns as a cause is something I (unsurprisingly) have to take issue with.
You see, there’s not really any evidence that the availability of firearms has actually increased. Yes, we’ve seen a surge in gun sales, but those are primarily going to law-abiding citizens. Despite the doom and gloom in the news, we’ve seen that the percentages of criminals trying to skirt the system haven’t really increased significantly.
All that comes as a time when more people are still stuck at home due to COVID-19. That’s resulted in less property crime since the outbreak began, meaning fewer new guns are stolen and funneled to the black market. Even if there is an increase in straw buys, that’s unlikely to lead to an increase in gun crime itself.
So no, I don’t buy that there’s some increased availability of guns. Especially since there have been no laws liberalizing gun laws there.
The problem is that people in roles like McMahon’s have a tendency to blame guns because it’s easy. Many of their constituents already blame the availability of guns, so it makes guns an easy scapegoat.
Yet, as noted already, there’s no reason to believe there’s been an increase in the availability of guns for criminals. That tells us that the availability of guns is actually playing little to no role in violent crime increases in Staten Island.
All such claims do, though, is muddy the already complicated waters about gun crime.