More gun car­nage

Our view: Re­cent ur­ban vi­o­lence doesn’t prove the fail­ure of gun con­trol

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

La­bor Day week­end turned vi­o­lent in Bal­ti­more with no fewer than 22 peo­ple shot be­tween Fri­day af­ter­noon and Mon­day evening, in­clud­ing four triple-shoot­ings. Un­der such cir­cum­stances the death toll might have been worse — three of the vic­tims are dead and an­other four were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion by late Mon­day — but that may be the best that could be said of the hol­i­day vi­o­lence.

As it hap­pens, the deadly week­end co­in­cided with sim­i­lar events in Chicago, where a whop­ping 31 peo­ple were shot, in­clud­ing nine fa­tally, be­tween early Mon­day and early Tues­day. The Windy City has gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion for gun vi­o­lence since the death of 32-year-old Nykea Aldridge, cousin of Chicago Bulls guard Dwayne Wade and mother of four whowas laid to rest on Satur­day. Even Don­ald Trump has jumped into the act, tweet­ing early on that the tragedy (and, by ex­ten­sion, the dan­ger­ous­ness of cities gov­erned by Democrats) should cause African-Amer­i­can vot­ers to sup­port him.

Mr. Wade, in turn, has faulted too-weak gun laws and urged re­forms to make the city safer, to re­build trust in po­lice within the black com­mu­nity and to pro­vide more re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in pris­ons. Pro-gun groups and their al­lies re­acted to this un­sym­pa­thet­i­cally, re­peat­ing what has be­come a mantra for the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and oth­ers: Chicago al­ready has tough gun laws, and they don’t work. Mr. Trump is among those who have fre­quently sug­gested Chicago has the “tough­est gun laws in the United States” but does “worse than any­body else” at gun vi­o­lence.

Such a view is, of course, pop­py­cock. Chicago does have a high rate of vi­o­lence, and, yes, the city has placed re­stric­tions on gun sales and per­mits. But what has hap­pened there is not un­like what has hap­pened in many other cities, in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more, that have tried to re­duce the num­ber of guns that end up in the hands of crim­i­nals — the bad guys have the where­withal to seek their firearms out­side city lim­its.

As re­cent stud­ies by Duke Univer­sity and Univer­sity of Chicago dis­cov­ered, about 60 per­cent of firearms taken af­ter an ar­rest in Chicago come from out­side the state (quite a few from nearby In­di­ana), and an­other 22 per­cent from else­where in Illi­nois. Gangs of­ten ar­range such gun buys and make large pur­chases on be­half of mem­bers. Chicago’s re­stric­tions likely help re­duce gun vi­o­lence, but they have a lim­ited im­pact given that the city is an is­land in a sea of loose gun reg­u­la­tions.

Mary­land has had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence. Data from the fed­eral Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives have pointed to the high num­ber of guns used to com­mit crimes here that orig­i­nate in states with less re­stric­tive own­er­ship laws. Of the more than 5,000 firearms re­cov­ered by the ATF in Mary­land in 2014, for in­stance, more than 2,200 orig­i­nated out of state, many of them from Vir­ginia and Penn­syl­va­nia. And that’s con­sis­tent with what the Johns Hop­kins Cen­ter for Gun Pol­icy and Research has found: Places with tougher gun laws end up deal­ing with crim­i­nals who ac­quire their guns else­where.

That’s not a re­pu­di­a­tion of gun con­trol, it’s a re­pu­di­a­tion of Congress, which has failed to adopt even the most com­mon-sense re­stric­tions on a na­tional level out of fear of NRA reprisal. Most Amer­i­cans sup­port re­forms, but sin­gle-is­sue Sec­ond Amend­ment ab­so­lutists have suc­ceeded in in­tim­i­dat­ing Repub­li­cans into sub­mis­sion. That tide may be turn­ing (Repub­li­can can­di­dates have won pro-gun-con­trol en­dorse­ments in the key Penn­syl­va­nia and Illi­nois Se­nate races) but not enough for the cur­rent Congress.

As in Chicago, Bal­ti­more’s prob­lems with gun vi­o­lence are more com­plex than merely de­ter­min­ing where firearms are pur­chased. Mr. Wade touched on some of them, but there are more, in­clud­ing con­cen­trated poverty, lack of job op­por­tu­ni­ties, the lu­cra­tive drug trade, racism and on and on. But if can­di­dates for higher of­fice, whether for Congress or the pres­i­dency, truly care about the Nykea Aldridges of the word — or per­haps the 4-year-old and 6-year-old shot at La­trobe Homes by a dis­grun­tled dice player fir­ing in­dis­crim­i­nately into a crowd Satur­day in Bal­ti­more — they would pledge to do what­ever they can to keep guns out of the hands of crim­i­nals.

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