It takes only two things to keep people in chains:
The ignorance of the oppressed
and the treachery of their leaders.
The U.S. has the most, per-capita, gun-related violence of any nation. Yet steps taken to reduce this violence is met with a wall of “2nd Amendment” resistance. Why?
What if NRA’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, was correct when he spoke of “a good guy with a gun”?
Most of the people who own guns are “good guys” by usual definitions, though even “good guys” can become “bad guys” at any moment.
Aside from hunting, collecting and target shooting, guns are owned out of fear — the fear that a “bad guy” might attack. It’s similar to the reason why “good nations” have stockpiled nuclear weapons. They are afraid of “bad nations” with nuclear weapons.
The problem is that the very existence of weapons, nuclear or otherwise, begets the purchase of additional weapons.
People living in high-crime areas buy guns to protect themselves, and this proliferation of guns encourages others — even those in lower crime areas — to buy guns, in an infinite feedback loop, where the existence of guns encourages the purchase of ever more guns.
So perhaps, the problem is not guns. Perhaps the problem is fear, and gun ownership is just the symptom of fear.
If we address fear, a social problem, rather than debating 2nd Amendment rights, we may find grounds for agreement.
For social problems, there are no total solutions: There are only partial solutions.
Failure to recognize that basic truth leads to misleading objections based on the words, “That wouldn’t have stopped [insert specific problem here].”
There is no complete solution to gun-related violence, other than to destroy every gun on earth and all the companies that make guns, and all the ingredients that would allow someone to make anything called a “gun” at home.
But, there may be partial solutions that can reduce the fear that stems from gun-related violence.
To identify solutions, we must define terms. What would you say defines “gun-related violence”? It is when someone:
- Commits murder with a gun?
- Attempts murder with a gun, but only wounds?
- Robs you while holding a gun, but does not shoot it?
- Shoots at you, but misses?
- Robs you and shoots a gun into the air?
- Hits you on the head with a gun?
- Robs you while displaying a fake gun?
- Threatens to use a gun, but doesn’t show it or have it?
- Robs you and grabs your gun?
- Steals your gun during a burglary?
- Attempts suicide with a gun?
- Commits suicide with a gun?
Which would you include in “gun-related violence” statistics?
Suicides by gun accounted for about six of every 10 firearm deaths in 2010 and just over half of all suicides, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Although suicide is violence against self, it is substantially different from other sorts of gun-related violence, so solutions would also be substantially different.
On June 13, 2016, we published, Five partial solutions to gun-related violence., One of the five partial solutions was:
Apply the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) laws to gangs.
A great many gun killings are committed by street gang members. Entire neighborhoods, even towns, are held hostage by the fear of turf wars, drive-by shootings, revenge shootings, and robberies. Street gangs are criminal enterprises under RICO.
Under RICO, a person who has committed “at least two acts of racketeering activity” drawn from a list of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering if such acts are related in one of four specified ways to an “enterprise”.
Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count.
In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.
Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is considered easy to prove in court, as it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.
Some patterns of activity include:
It shall be unlawful for any person who has received any income derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity or through collection of an unlawful debt. (Bottom line: Every gang member does this, so merely belonging to a gang is considered a crime.)
. . . to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise which is engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce. (For example, if your gang deals in drugs, guns or women, you, as a member of the gang, are liable.)
. . . to conspire to violate any of the provisions [of the law]. (Even talking about breaking the law with your fellow gang members is a felony.)
Your police know who the gang-bangers are. They have lists. They have evidence. The police could round up many of them, tomorrow.
Although the post specifically mentioned “gun killings” it would be equally appropriate to any gun-related crimes committed by members of gangs.
We had sent copies of the article to Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanual, and of course, did not receive a response. Little did I realize at the time, that others had pursued the same idea, for last week, the Chicago Tribune published a relevant article. Here are some excerpts:
6 gang leaders convicted in county’s 1st test of RICO law
By Megan Crepeau Chicago Tribune
A jury on Saturday convicted six leaders of a West Side street gang in Cook County’s first test of a tough state anti-racketeering law.
Moments before the verdict was disclosed in Judge Michael McHale’s courtroom, the six Black Souls bosses held hands as they stood behind their attorneys. None showed emotion as McHale announced that each had been found guilty of racketeering conspiracy and drug conspiracy.
The seven-man, five-woman jury, which deliberated about 13 hours, also found the gang’s leader, Cornel Dawson, and gang “vice president” Teron Odum responsible for four murders between 2002 and 2013.
Also convicted were gang enforcer Duavon Spears and Antwan Davis, Clifton Lemon and Ulysses Polk, all identified as top-level managers. All six face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx hailed the unusual Saturday verdict — the jury was sequestered at night at a hotel — at a news conference Saturday evening.
“For over a decade, the Black Souls terrorized their West Side neighborhood through violent crimes to protect their illegal trade.”This case demonstrates what we can do when we work together.”
The trial marked the county’s first test of the Street Gang RICO Act, passed by the state legislature in 2012 and modeled after the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute. It is designed to give police and prosecutors a powerful tool to uproot violent street gangs.
Testifying during nearly two months of the trial were more than 100 witnesses, including police, gang members and a lifelong drug dealer who secretly recorded hundreds of hours of conversations with the defendants.
Jurors heard evidence of gruesome murders. The case was based in large part on a series of recordings made by drug dealer Alex Williams, who cooperated extensively with police.
Many of the recordings, played for jurors, captured the defendants discussing day-to-day drug-dealing matters and bragging about their violent exploits.
Armed with the state anti-racketeering law, prosecutors urged jurors to consider the Black Souls as a criminal enterprise and hold the six defendants accountable for the actions of the gang as a whole.
In the larger urban areas especially, fear of gangs begets the purchase of guns, by “good guys” and by “bad guys,” for self-defense.
Unfortunately, when even a “good guy” buys a gun, he (or she) increases the probability of gun violence.
When a “bad guy” steals a “good guy’s” gun — and it happens all the time — that gun now is in the possession of a “bad guy.” Gun ownership tends to flow from “good guys” to “bad guys.”
And “good guys” can become “bad guys” in an instant. Road rage, lovers’ fights, being bullied, being treated unfairly, latent bigotry — all can lead the human species to acts of violence, and having a gun handy, makes that violence much more tempting and likely.
Destroying street gangs would remove much of the fear that leads to gun purchases.
The infinite loop becomes: Fewer gangs = fewer gun purchases = fewer guns = fewer guns that are used for crime = less fear = fewer gun purchases.
Hunters still can have their guns. Collectors still can have their guns. With the end of street gangs, fewer people would be afraid (a good thing in of itself) and fewer people would feel the need to own guns.
The U.S. Supreme Court already has approved RICO laws, so all that states and cities must do is adopt them, and the police and the courts enforce them, and we will have taken the first productive step in reducing gun-related violence.
Rather than punishing the “good guys” for owning guns, we can help to cure them of the disease called “fear.” Then, they voluntarily would be less likely to take the gun “medicine.”
No, this wouldn’t prevent all gun-related violence. But, it’s a step that will allow us to live safer lives and with less fear.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
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