Now that we know cold weather, snow, blizzards, expanding sea ice, war in Syria, the resurgence of the Taliban, the reappearance of Brian Williams, the escalation of anti-Islam rhetoric, the popularity of TMZ, and the attacks on Hillary Clinton are all the result of global warming, how long can it be before gun violence in America is linked to tree-ring data from the Middle Ages?
To forestall this last conclusion, I offer, as a public service, a sketch of what a real campaign against gun violence might look like. I’m not just talking about homicides, but criminal wounding and maiming as well.
Such a campaign does not depend on whether you believe there should be more guns, fewer guns, or no guns.
You would start by examining where a lot of gun violence takes place. I know: this is a breathtaking assumption. It makes the mind reel. In the history of our species, no one has ever suggested a solution for a problem based on where the problem is located. But there’s a first time for everything.
Wait for it: a map could be constructed. What??!! Yes, a map, based on known statistics. I apologize if the idea is just too boggling, but there it is. You make a map that shows major areas where gun violence has been occurring.
Because, well, that’s the problem you’re trying to solve.
Before you jump ahead too far, let me assure you blame is no part of this analysis. You’re just doing a little geo-research.
And after you make the map, you then actually think about those areas where much gun violence has been happening. You think about what has already been done to alleviate and remedy the situation in those places. You assess the success of those efforts.
Again, I know this approach is absolutely foreign, but give it a chance. You never know what may come of it.
Now, for example: suppose you discovered some of those high gun-violence areas were also high poverty areas. That might mean something. It’s just a crude correlation, but don’t immediately discard it. And then, just suppose that many of the jobs which were once available in those areas had been taken away and exported to foreign nations where slave labor is plentiful.
A possibility, that’s all. Look into it.
And just suppose, in those high-crime, high-poverty areas, there are, take a deep breath, many gangs. You know, people who are organized, people who have guns, people who argue with each other over turf, people who shoot the guns on a more or less regular basis. Wounding and killing each other and also innocent bystanders. And suppose, when you figure it out, when you add it up, the raw number of gun woundings and killings surpass, by a considerable quantity, the number you would find if you looked at other areas where people have guns, like ranches out West. This is just a hypothesis, nothing more. But don’t eliminate it.
And, in addition, try this: add up all the people who have been purportedly wounded or killed in lone-guman mass shootings, the ones that are covered extensively in the press, like Aurora and Sandy Hook—and compare the number of victims to the numbers of day-in day out gun-violence victims in those high-crime high-poverty areas I previously mentioned. Go ahead, take a chance, nothing to lose. Who knows, even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while.
A true picture might start coming together.
Now, I’m going to take a sharp turn here, call it a sidebar, but I think it’s important: your analysis should also take into account what our leaders are presently doing to alleviate gun violence in those places where a lot of it occurs. For example, our current President would qualify as a leader if I’m not mistaken. So…how many times, since he took office, has he mentioned the word “gangs”? How many times? More importantly, how many times has he explained, with great emphasis, how significant a role gangs play in gun violence? How many times has he said, explicitly and in detail, what he is going to do about that? Just asking. As my readers know, I normally write about cake recipes and floral arrangements and nail polish and children’s books, so I don’t follow the President’s speeches. But if it turns out that your gun-violence map occasionally highlights geo-areas where gangs prevail and make life miserable for the local populations (and by “miserable” I mean, for instance, much blood flows and parents lose children and no one wants to walk the streets at night), you would expect a leader who really wants to solve the gun-violence problem to focus a great deal of attention on gangs. Yes?
Now, I will offer a statistic. Again, since I write about lawn parties and picnics and the most durable balloons to buy for children, I can’t verify this statistic, but I throw it out there for your perusal. A non-profit group called gunviolencearchive.org lists (on their home page) the number of US gun-violence incidents in 2015. That number is 48,671 (and counting in real-time). I’m just guessing here, but I feel this number exceeds the total of persons shot at, wounded, or killed in the highly publicized lone-gunman mass shootings, like San Bernardino and Fort Hood. Maybe. It seems like it. Perhaps.
How many of those 48,671 gun-violence incidents are created by gangs? This is apparently a difficult figure to come by. People slant, skew, rearrange, and chop up the statistics that are presented. They really do. I guess they have agendas.
The Huffington Post (“Do We Have a Gang Problem or a Gun Problem?”, 04/03/2014) cited the National Gang Center in stating the number of gang-related killings (2011) was 1824. On the one hand, these killings were not limited to guns. On the other hand, there was no number for gang gun-woundings. Suppose you shrank the number of gang gun killings from 1824 to 1000, and then multiplied that by 4 to get the number of incidents of gang killing plus wounding. 4000 such incidents, the result, could be compared to 48,530 incidents of gun violence in the US in 2015. Roughly 8% of gun violence in the US would turn out to be gang-related, if my arithmetic is correct. 8% seems like a significant figure to me, across the span of the whole nation.
The NationalGangCenter (.gov) offers some other interesting (chilling?) numbers about gangs:
“The most recent estimate of more than 30,000 gangs [in the US] represents a 15 percent increase from 2006 and is the highest annual estimate since 1996…Larger cities and suburban counties remain the primary locations of gangs, accounting for roughly two-thirds nationwide….The most recent estimate of approximately 850,000 gang members  represents an 8.6 percent increase over the previous year.”
Hmm. 30 thousand gangs in the US. 850,000 members. People dedicated to crime, quite dedicated. They have guns. Perhaps, just perhaps they can procure many of these guns from illegal sources, which would allow them to bypass the tightest registration laws. And, don’t forget, they shoot those guns. At people.
Before you jump in with data about where gang members get their guns, I should warn you that you can cherry-pick your answers. If you have an agenda, you can find the answer you desire. Oh, they get their guns from gun shows. They get them legally from gun shops. They get them from their friends, from other gang members. They get them from smugglers. They get them from aliens who live in the Orion Belt. I haven’t found an overall reliable analysis that answers this question—but even as someone who normally writes about holiday gift-wrapping suggestions and the best way to cook a turkey and building your own sandboxes for small children, I believe that, no matter what gun laws are passed in America, gangs will continue to get guns. Call it an intuitive belief.
And I must say, at this point, gangs in America reach out further than incidents of shooting. They create and sustain a justifiable climate of fear wherever they flourish. And of course, they sell drugs. They move them and they sell them, and if you want to go down a rabbit hole, pursue the links between US gangs and foreign drug cartels. Picking one out of a hat, try the Sinaloa cartel, based in Mexico.
There are people who would say that what I’m about to reveal now is a fairy tale. Since, again, I normally write about group sing-alongs and shopping tips for garage-sale enthusiasts, what do I know? Nevertheless, here goes: the Sinaloa, working with the CIA and/or the DEA and/or the US Dept. of Justice, provides actionable intelligence on rival Mexican drug cartels. And in exchange, Sinaloa is granted clean drug routes up from Mexico all the way to Chicago (a hub of heroin and cocaine distribution, and also a hub of gang violence).
Some US gangs act as drug middlemen and transporters for Sinaloa. Inevitably, among these US gangs, spats break out on issues of money and drugs and turf. And those spats, for some reason, result in guns being drawn and fired.
You could research the recent Chicago trial of a Sinaloa executive vice-president named Vicente Zambada-Niebla. Did I say trial? Actually, an open proceeding never happened. Instead, a secret plea deal was concocted. Apparently, federal prosecutors did everything they could to avoid testimony in court, because Zambada-Niebla’s attorney was claiming his client had struck a previous immunity arrangement with the feds: Zambada-Niebla would snitch on rival cartels, and in return he would be permitted to traffic, for Sinaloa, enormous quantities of drugs inside the US.
Who could believe such a thing?
My point is, to the degree (and for whatever reasons) that the US War on Drugs is failing, US gangs keep selling drugs and fighting with one another and shooting guns and killing and wounding people, not all of whom are gang members.
You would think that any campaign to diminish gun violence in America would include, and focus on, gangs—unless the more important agenda is maintaining the multi-billion or trillion-dollar drug business, with its associated payoffs to “helpmates.”
Accumulating money takes precedence over the downside of killing and maiming people? I know, it sounds crazy, but I put it out there because I want to cover as many bases as possible. A suggestion: you could examine wars in which money and natural resources were higher goals than preserving life. You might find a few instances. Just a guess.
Several weeks ago, I had a wild dream. I hesitate to describe it, because it’s so strange, but I’m going to lay it out there, in the interest of full disclosure. Or something. In the dream I was sitting in a large hall, and several Presidents of the US were standing at the podium. They were functioning like some little team. It was kind of cute. One President would start a sentence, and then another one would continue it. They were speaking in sing-song fashion, as if they were addressing a bunch of children who knew nothing (about how the world works). This was what the Presidents said:
“You see, the gun-violence problem…is part of the gang problem…and gangs are a necessary…part of the drug business…and the drug business…must never be interrupted…because it makes a lot of money…for a lot of people…important people…people like us…not us of course…but people like us…and so whenever we talk about…gun violence…we have to avoid really talking about the gang problem…and so we talk about…everything else except the gangs…do you see…why we are willing to sacrifice lives to gun violence…is that clear…is that simple enough…or should we try to talk in even more basic terms…”
But as I say, I normally write about children’s books and building sand boxes for the kiddies, and happy snacks, and the best trophies to buy for all those juniors who participate in group sports from the age of three, so my opinions are probably less complex than they should be. I’m just trying to open a few avenues of research for you, as a public service…
There was one last piece to the dream I had. While the Presidents were doing their act, a gang member suddenly appeared and stepped in front of them and said to the audience:
“Hey, who do you think I’m working for, aside from the cartels? I’m working for the government. Get it? The out-front government and the shadow government. I’m humping drugs for them and taking my cut. So what’s the problem? Don’t complain to me. Talk to them. If I make a few million and buy a nice house, that’s just me trying to make a living. I’m a capitalist with a gun. I have no moral responsibility. I’m an action-figure. A hero. Look around you. The culture is all about people like me now. Get what you can while you can…”
In the dream, the audience rose up against him and against the Presidents. Apparently, the audience hadn’t lost its sense of what was moral and what was immoral. In the dream.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free Outside The Reality Machine emails here.
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The author of an explosive collection, THE MATRIX REVEALED, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world.