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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crime, Gun Control, and Red Herrings

With the recent Heller Vs. D.C. decision in favor of the second amendment in the proverbial books, we are now going to be treated to the obligatory cries from pundits, concerned citizens, and "caring" politicians about how this decision will lead to death and destruction throughout our cities (especially the inner cities). Of course, gun control is the simple answer to a complicated problem. It is really nothing more than a way for folks to feel good about themselves. It's a way for politicians to pretend as though they are serious about crime. I am of the opinion that gun control has a negligible effect at best on crime, and counter productive effect at worst. The one effect I know it would have is infringing on a right guaranteed in the Constitution.

Chicago's Englewood neighborhood epitomizes Chicago's inner city. Walk through Englewood and the first thing you will notice is the obscene amount of garbage everywhere but a garbage can. This area isn't merely forgotten by the city's establishment but frankly by its own citizenry. A colleague of mine once bought a building that was controlled by drug dealers. After he removed them forcefully from the building, he cleaned it up and fixed all the windows. Why?...because dirt attracts dirt he told me. The same thing is happening in Englewood. The dirt that is left all throughout the streets attracts the figurative dirt known as the criminals, drug dealers, and gang bangers.

Look at any demographic statistics of Englewood and you will find high poverty, unemployment, a lack of education, and startling amounts of drug and alcohol use. In order to confront the high crime rates of Englewood first and foremost it must become business friendly. Of course, Englewood only becomes business friendly when all its other ills get resolved. Therein lies the vicious cycle that this neighborhood is in. The problems of Englewood are much more complicated than the Constitutional right of gun ownership. No matter what ban on guns you create, you aren't going to address the real root causes of crime in that neighborhood: poverty, joblessness, drug and alcohol use, lack of education, and all of it leading to a lack of hope.

Englewood was in fact a relatively nice neighborhood until convicted murder, Larry Hoover, built his gang, the Gangster Disciples, from prison and used Englewood as ground zero for their operation. Currently, the gang has changed its name and the operation estimates to net tens if not hundreds of millions nationally. The Disciples are ambitious, entrepeneurial, sociopaths. That means if its illegal and has the potential to profit, they will find their way into it. They've been known to deal drugs, gambling, prostitution, and in the last few years they even got involved in mortgage fraud. No doubt the first folks cheering for a total gun ban would be the Disciples themselves since that would remove legitimate competition into a whole new business venture.

Therein lies Englewood's second crime problem, the gang that runs the area. Here the root causes are the same as the initial ones I spoke of only there are even more. The folks of Englewood have a natural distrust of the police. The police rely on the citizens to tip them off to where the bad guys are. Of course, if the citizens don't trust the police, they won't tip them very often. The Chicago Police has constantly made efforts to reach out to the leaders in Englewood, and other areas like it, with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, the Disciples will continue to rule that area as long as their remains less than fully enthusiastic cooperation between the citizenry and the police.

Englewood is a microcosm of the problem of crime all throughout the country. In each city, it has its own version of Englewood with their own version of the Disciples. The roots of all crime lie in a lack of education, jobs, high drug and alcohol use, and you'll almost always find plenty of real dirt and garbage on those streets along with the figurative ones. In fact, in Englewood at least, the safest areas have what are known as block clubs which set up rules for the neighborhood on the block including making sure that garbage is put into a garbage can.

So to all the politicians, pundits, and misguided individuals who bemoan the second amendment as the nexus of all violence I say if only it were that simple. If eliminating guns eliminated crime, we would have eliminated both long ago. The reality is that crime is complicated problem requiring complicated solutions. Gun control only makes people feel good and think they are helping when really they've done nothing. If these folks were really serious about putting an end to violence, the first thing they could do is make their way to Englewood (or whatever is their Englewood) with a garbage bag and clean up the garbage on the street. That simple jesture would go a much longer way toward confronting the problems of crime in America than infringing on the Constitutional rights of ownership.


Anonymous said...

Excellent essay, thanks.

Anonymous said...

It is it just me, or is it ridiculous to think that some Chicago Crip is going to say “Man I can't get be gettin' me no nine 'cause it's against da law.”?