Thursday, July 06, 2006

"The Guns of Boston"

That's the title of the latest write-up by David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix, where he takes on, once again, the ongoing problem of gun violence in the City of Boston, and what is being done (and not done) to address the issue. Let's just say I find this article to be a "hit or miss" kind of piece, at best.

The guns of Boston

He begins by stating the obvious - gun crime is on the rise in Boston (who knew?), when compared to recent years. He then breaks down the shootings and stabbings by neighborhood, and the results there are equally non-surprising.

The Codman Square area, which was quiet over the winter, has recently exploded with gunfire, as have other hot spots, including Fayston Street, in Roxbury; the intersection of Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue, in Dorchester, and Blue Hill Avenue between Morton and Walk Hill Streets, in Mattapan.

Next, comes an often-overlooked statistic, one often drowned-out by the ever-growing sound of gunfire in these neighborhoods.

But here's the rub: overall violence and crime are not on the rise. The number of shooting victims during the past 10 weeks is twice as high as it was during the same period last year, yet the total number of aggravated assaults is actually lower, as are the number of rapes, robberies, burglaries, larcenies, and vehicle thefts.

So, why are shootings on the rise? What is driving the scumbag population in these neighborhoods to turn their communities ino their personal shooting galleries? What's the problem here?

Wait for it...

The problem here is guns.

Not scumbags with guns?

Not scumbags with guns and no respect for human life?

Not scumbags with guns, no respect for human life, and a complete disregard for the laws of our Commonwealth and the nation?


It's all about the guns, apparently. (Well, it's also George Bush's fault, but we'll get to that in a minute)

Moving on.

Two paragraphs later, he brings up another part of the equation, which he has reported on quite extensively in the past.

Three of the city’s 12 police districts, covering much of Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, account for half of this year’s aggravated assaults and recent stabbings, but three-quarters of the city’s shootings and homicides. Even without considering the scores of serious, often debilitating, injuries, and the extraordinary fear that gunfire spreads among innocent residents — especially when police leave more than 90 percent of those shooters on the streets — it’s apparent the area is wracked by violence.

Hmmm...who could have guessed that the inability to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate violent criminals would have a negative impact on the quality of life in the neighborhoods in which these scumbags reside?

The article then goes on to highlight the disparity between the rates of firearm crimes in various Boston neighborhoods.

East Boston has a violence problem, with a dozen stabbings in the past two months, for instance. And South Boston, Charlestown, and downtown Boston — especially Chinatown — are experiencing a frightening rise in drug-related violence, says City Councilor Michael Ross, who chaired a Special Committee on Youth Violent Crime Prevention that issued its report earlier this month. Yet those neighborhoods aren’t seeing surging homicide rates. In fact, just five percent of assaults in such places involve firearms.

Yet in the three gun-violence hot spots, Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, assaults are four times more likely to involve guns — that’s 20 percent of all 2005 assaults, up from 15 percent in 2004 — leaving people dead in the streets, and others huddling fearfully inside.

So, incidents of gun-related crime and violence are on the increase in the inner-city. We all knew that. What is, apparently, still up for debate is what's causing it, and what should be done to best address the problem.

Unfortunately, it’s one thing to recognize — as Mayor Thomas Menino and others do — that Boston’s problem lies with the prevalence of guns on its streets.

I must beg to differ...again.

The problem lies with the prevalence of individuals "on the streets" who are willing to use these guns in a violent manner. As I wrote back in November of last year, in response to yet another of Mayor Menino's "We have a GUN problem" soundbites du jour:

What's "so frustrating" is reading day after day about your refusal to address the CRIMINAL problem in your city. News flash - You could drop a crate full of handguns, rifles, and shotguns on every street corner in a town with a low criminal population and guess what the result would be?


Criminals commit crime.

Non-criminals do not.

Stop me if I'm going to fast for you, Mr. Mayor.

Back to the article at hand...

It’s another thing to fix that problem. This much is clear, however: efforts now under way won’t do it.

You can say that again.

OK, here's the part of Mr. Bernstein's article where it really starts to read more like something you'd expect to find in the Boston Phoenix - the part where he addresses some of the supply-and-demand issues in play here.

Criminal-justice researchers talk about supply-and-demand solutions for reducing gun prevalence in violent areas. But at least for now, cities like Boston will have to focus on the demand side, because the availability of cheap, black-market guns is not going away any time soon.

"Any time soon"? Try "ever".

That's just the nature of the "black market". It can't be legislated out of existence. There is no magic spell that can make it go away. How many billions of dollars have been spent fighting the "black market" supply chain of illegal drugs flooding our cities and towns? Gee, if only New Hampshire and Vermont would adopt Massachusetts-style crack control laws, then we'd...oh...never mind.

Efforts to block that market are being effectively squashed: there is a concerted national political effort, driven by the gun industry and the National Rifle Association (NRA), to ensure the survival of the black market for handguns.

OK, let's run with that "thought" for a while.

Let's say the black market for handguns - or all guns, for that matter - were to dry up overnight. Does anyone think the gun manufacturers would start closing up shop after losing this crucial chunk of their "customer base"?

I don't.

Likewise, let's say that the wettest of Chucky Schumer's wet dreams were to become reality one day and all the gun manufacturers in the country - nay, the world - were to close their doors for ever. Would the black market for guns follow suit and shrivel up on the vine and die?

Hardly. Sure, the selling price of a gun might go up as a carjacker suddenly finds himself in need of a replacement piece for the .45 he tossed off the Tobin Bridge last month while being chased by the Staties.

I think it's a bit of a stretch to look at the existence of a legal product and the existence of a "black market" demand for that product, and automatically declare that a symbiotic relationship exists between the two.

Now, I can see that line of thinking being relevant in the case of cigarette companies relying on the "black market" demand of underaged smokers, but it's not quite the same. When a smoker dies, it's not like his heirs will be taking possession of all the cigarettes he's consumed over the years. Once you smoke a pack of cigarettes, that's it. They no longer exist, and you've got to buy more to replenish your supply.

A well-built handgun will outlast several generations of owners.

"But, wait, doesn't that bolster the claim that the gun industry relies on the "black market" to maintain a steady demand for their product? Mr. Bernstein certainly thinks so."

I don't think so. Read on.

That claim has nothing to do with leftist, gun-hating paranoia or with legitimate gun ownership. The gun industry needs to sell roughly two million handguns in the US every year, and it simply could not do that if the black market were to wither. Legitimate handgun owners rarely need to buy new guns; the industry’s profits require more repeat-business customers.

You got that?

Legitimate handgun owners rarely need to buy new guns...

Tell me something, David. Who gets to determine who is, or is allowed to become, a "legitimate" handgun owner? Mayor Menino? Chuck Schumer? Dianne Feinstein? Kofi Annan?

But, I digress. That's a topic for another day.

Also, in many states, a law-abiding citizen can become a "legitimate" handgun owner by merely making it past his or her 21st birthday with a couple hundred bucks in the bank. It's not like the population of "legitimate" gun owners in this country is going to dry up anytime soon.

Note also, the obligatory use of the subjective word "need". Who gets to determine what kind of guns, or how many guns, "legitimate" gun owners "need"? Tom Reilly thinks he alone has that authority in Massachusetts.

So, as to his claim that "legitimate" handgun owners rarely "need" to buy new guns, well, consider the Bullshit Flag flown on that one.

Every "legitimate handgun owner" I know wants "to buy new guns", and would be at the gun shop every weekend picking up a new handgun if his or her household finances allowed it. Note: demand for a product is based on what people want, not what they need. People "need" to eat nutritional food, but fast food sales, when compared to tofu sales, indicate that people "want" to spend their money on unhealthy crap.

...the industry’s profits require more repeat-business customers.

I seriously doubt Mr. Bernstein actually interviewed any "legitimate handgun owners" when doing his research for this piece. It's simply foolish to let yourself believe that John Kerry, with his solitary break action shotgun and an irrational fear of handguns, is reflective of this country's "legitimate" gun owners. As a "legitimate" gun owner, I can tell you that I do, in fact, "need" more new guns - quite a few more.

I don't yet own a .22-caliber target pistol, or a .38 snub-nosed revolver, or a mid-sized 9mm pistol, or a Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver, or a single-action revolver in any caliber (.22LR, .38/.357, .44, .45LC, etc.).

Now, do I really "need" to buy all these guns? Not if you look up the word "need" in the dictionary, I don't. But, I "want" to, and the gun industry knows this. Are they to be demonized for striving to meet the legitimate demands of their consumer base?

Maybe in other people's imaginary worlds, but not mine.

Do any "legitimate" swimming pool owners "need" to buy new swimming pools? No. But, I don't see the swimming pool industry folding anytime soon.

Do any "legitimate" sport fishermen "need" to buy new fishing rods?

Do any...well, you get the point. I hope.

Let's run some numbers:

According to National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) Public Relations Director Steve Wagner, there were approximately 4.7 million new firearms sold nationwide last year. This NRA webpage has that number averaging 4.5 million a year per BATFE statistics.

Estimates of the number of "legitimate" gun owners in the country vary, depending on the sourse of the information, from 44 milion to 70 million.

Using the more conservative estimates, we find that the evil gun industry is currently selling one new gun per year for every ten "legitimate" gun owners in the country, and presumably making a profit doing so - hardly numbers suggestive of a calculated flooding of the black market.

Let's go back to Mr. Bernstein's previous assertion.

The gun industry needs to sell roughly two million handguns in the US every year, and it simply could not do that if the black market were to wither.

To believe that to be true, you'd have to believe that the gun industry is unable, on average, to sell one new handgun to every gun owner in the country over a 22-year period without relying on the "black market" demand for handguns.

Not, one handgun a year to every gun owner in the country, which still doesn't sound like a lot to me, but one handgun in 22 years.

Sorry, not buying it.

Not even close.

Now, to his credit, on Menino's gun buyback program, Mr. Bernstein writes:

Menino's "Aim for Peace" gun-buy-back program is probably doing more harm than good. Very few people use these programs to turn in their only gun. But those who turn in a weapon receive, in effect, a "no-questions-asked" $200 trade-in toward an upgrade (in the form of a Target gift card) — helping street criminals move up to more accurate, powerful, and concealable weapons.

Now, while it seems he was reluctant to actually talk to any "legitimate" gun owners for the writing of this article, he apparently did visit Four Season's website just long enough to price up some handguns to see what Boston's gun-toting scumbag population could buy using the money they get from selling their Target gift cards.

For your next article where you plan on writing about the "needs" of "legitimate" gun owners, David, might I suggest you actually drive up to Four Seasons and have a talk with Carl there, or any of the numerous "repeat customers" that you would be guaranteed to find there on any given day.

David then goes off on straw purchases and everything the Bush administration is supposedly doing to keep straw purchasers in business.

Remember, kids, somehow, somewhere, it's always Bush's fault.

However, gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association’s friends in the Bush administration, Congress, and state governments, have worked hard in recent years to keep the pipelines to the black market open.

I forget, did they kick off that "Guns for Gangs" program before or after they had finished stealing the election in Ohio.

And, of course, there's the "treasure trove of national gun-crime tracing data" being kept in a secure bunker under Karl Rove's rec room. Hey, man, it must be true - Sarah Brady said so! And, we all know, they NEVER lie to further their agenda. Nope. Never.

David comes back down to Earth in the closing paragraphs of the article, where he writes:

If the supply can't be stopped, what can be done about demand? Philip Cook, co-author of the "Aiming for Evidence-Based Gun Policy" study, believes that criminals and gang members ultimately make rational choices about carrying guns. If costs and liabilities were to rise, fewer would carry them, he says.

You mean like the previously-convicted (and sentenced) armed robber who was arrested and convcited on a subsequent charge of illegal gun possession, and sentenced to a whopping eleven days in the joint?

So one way to curtail demand is to intensify the downsides of illegal gun-ownership, in any number of ways. But attempts to increase liability — more arrests for gun possession, for instance — have failed to change behavior.

Though it does play a crucial role in the grand scheme of things, "more arrests" is just that - one piece of the puzzle. The police could sweep the city and arrest every single piece-of-shit criminal lowlife therein, but if a sympathetic, bleeding heart judge is gonna send them back out on the streets with a gentle slap on the wrist, it won't do dick to lower the violent crime rate or improve the quality of life for the people of Boston.

He does state, quite accurately, that the kids carrying guns illegally in Boston...

...have determined that the value of carrying a gun outweighs the risk of spending six months in jail for weapons possession.

Does't take much of a rocket scientist to determine that. If I watched the police "cuff n' stuff" the guy who shot my brother on the steet corner, and then saw the shooter walking down the same street a month later, you can bet your ass I'd determine it would be worth my while to start carrying a gun.

The article closes on this high note.

There is yet another way to reduce demand, however. As the Phoenix has repeatedly argued, police should be more aggressive in arresting and punishing those who shoot people. In the past two-and-a-half years, 122 people have been shot to death in Boston. Only 28 arrests have been made for those murders, or 23 percent. Of those, only two alleged killers have gone to trial: one was convicted, and one acquitted. Of more than 800 non-fatal shootings during that time, the arrest-rate percentage remains in the low single digits.

Gee, imagine how bad those numbers would be if I were allowed to buy a 12-round pistol magazine. Or a Colt 1911, instead of the Smith & Wesson variety. Or, if I were allowed to drive to the gun range with my gun in a holster, instead of locked up in the back of the car with the ammunition stored in a separate container. Thank God we have all this "common sense" gun control keeping the people of Boston safe from harm.

One way to break the cycle and convince people to give up their guns, is to unilaterally disarm the truly violent criminals — by locking them away, not merely for possession but for shooting. Yet there has been no sign of improvement in this regard. Not surprisingly, then, the level of gun violence continues to rise.

It’s going to be one hell of a summer.


Anyway, I gotta get this post up and get back to work. I hope it reads OK, as I haven't had too much tiume to proofread it.