“After a shooting spree,” the writer William S. Burroughs observed, “they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.”
The same rule applies to crime. In many of America’s cities, the murder rate is rising to a level not seen for years. And do you know what’s to blame according to the Left? That’s right: Guns.
In May, President Joe Biden’s (D) press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters the U.S. has a “guns problem.” Notice she didn’t say “crime problem.” In July, the president of the Washington, D.C., tourist bureau blamed the city’s low-visitation rate on “gun violence.” In the mainstream media, any talk of rising crime is sure to be accompanied by a reminder that firearms sales spiked last year during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
But here’s the thing: While they may provide a convenient excuse, it’s not the guns that have changed. Washington, D.C., basically has the same gun laws it has had for a decade—as do Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Yes, a lot of guns have been sold over the past year or two, but a lot of guns were sold during the year or two before that, and during the year or two before that, too. Since 1990, the number of firearms in private hands has more than doubled—to the point at which it is estimated there are now more guns in the United States than there are people. For almost all of the last 30 years, irrespective of gun sales or changes to the law, crime has been dropping fast. It dropped after the Heller decision. It dropped after the McDonald decision. It dropped after the “assault weapons” ban expired. It dropped after a majority of states adopted “shall-issue” concealed carry. It dropped as constitutional carry became the norm. The claim that the rise we’re suddenly seeing must be the result of more people legally owning firearms simply doesn’t pass the laugh test.
So what has changed?
The causes of crime are multifarious and complex. But it doesn’t seem too great a stretch to observe that this spike is happening at the same time as the police are being vilified in the culture; as cash bail is being abolished in the name of “justice”; as rioting is being excused (providing that the rioters have the correct political aim); as drug-addiction is becoming rampant once again; and as many jurisdictions have concluded that the best way to ensure “equity” is simply to refuse to enforce the law.
In New York City, most of the candidates for Manhattan District Attorney are openly opposed to jailing people for illegal firearms possession—even as they advocate for the strictest set of gun laws in the country. In Portland, Ore., the city is scrambling to find cops who are willing to work for its restored Gun Violence Division, after it voted to abolish the organization in a moment of madness last summer. Last year, “defund the police” was the chant of choice at protests. This year, the murder rate has jumped. Perhaps, just perhaps, they’re related?
After a pair of high-profile gang shootouts near Nationals Park and 14th Street in Washington, D.C., Police Chief Robert Contee held a press conference to complain about his “shrinking workforce.” “What am I going to do with these resources?” Contee asked, before confirming that his department was short more than 200 cops. During the subsequent question-and-answer portion, a woman in the crowd spoke up. “I see people doing violent crimes,” she said, “and I see them back in my community months later—it breaks my heart.”
It should break all our hearts. Maybe we should start there.