Streets of (Gun)Fire

RECKONING WITH INCREASED VIOLENCE & HARD SOLUTIONS TO ITS END

By Lee Ross, Acumen Editor


Authorities in several major U.S. cities have spent the first half of 2021 fighting an uphill battle against a wave of gun violence which has claimed the lives of more than 8,100 people. That figure amounts to roughly 54 lives lost per day. And despite the D.C. officials' insistence that statistically violence is on a down-swing, one need only take a peek at daily accounts of shootings, stabbings, car jackings, and random acts of violence tweeted through DC Real Time News - a news agency dedicated to breaking emergency reports - to become alarmed by the apparent increase.


Gun ownership rests among the core tenets (self-defense) and rights of citizenship owed good Americans. As such, Americans continue to grapple with outdated laws, a socially corrosive romanticism with firearms, and a morbid disconnect between gun violence and its victims. With more than 400 million firearms in circulation, the number of guns now exceeds the nation’s population of 330 million. And with more than 19 million firearms sold in the first 6 months of 2020 alone, the presence of so many guns make regulating them near to impossible.


“America has the weakest gun laws and the most guns of any comparable nation. Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than people in other high-income countries - 38,000 Americans dies from gun violence every year, an average of 100 per day”, estimates the Giffords Law Center.


A vast majority of shootings take place in cities where community violence and homicides are keenly felt. Washington D.C., the nation’s capital, is no different. The Center for American Progress reports on the ‘devastating toll’ that gun violence has had on Washington D.C, from 2008 through 2017, 985 people were killed with guns. From 2014 through 2018, there were 24 mass shootings in Washington D.C. A person in D.C. is killed with a gun every four days.


However, analysts argue that weak gun laws are not the District’s problem; the people misusing them, are.

D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, chair of the Council’s public safety committee, spoke of the uptick in gun violence at the close of 2020 as ‘senseless’ and noted that most violent crime was committed by a small percentage of vulnerable residents.

“The District urgently needs to act boldly and strategically to tackle gun violence. This cannot be viewed as solely a police issue or we will never truly make progress on the root causes,” he said in a press release. “We need the full weight of the District government working together to solve this challenge, as gun violence rises and we near the anniversary of another public health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic,” Allen said.



SOLUTIONS: HARD ON CRIME, A WEAKENED COURT SYSTEM, AND DERELICT PARENTS?

David Bowers an ordained minister founder of the all-volunteer NO MURDERS DC movement -- a coalition of concerned citizen volunteers working to end murder in D.C. -- sat down with Acumen Magazine to discuss the surge of gun violence in the District and the need for a comprehensive, holistic plan to eradicating violence in the nation’s capital.


ACUMEN: Having grown up in D.C. during the 80s drug epidemic, you witnessed the gun violence. What do you think has changed since that time?

David Bowers: I think it’s a few things, first on a fundamental level there are people who just want to kill other people and there is a spiritual component to that – a level of evil. There is an economic deprivation issue and another that centers around an access to guns. Another part is that there has not been an intentional sustained over a period of time comprehensive approach to ending murder (and gun violence) and because of that and the lack among people of having tools to resolve conflicts and living in a violent culture, all of that put together that is why we have this disproportionate amount of violence in these poor, Black communities in the District. There is this sense of community accountability. Why do people steal on Wall Street or why do corporations get away with gross theft in their own ways and exploitation is the same reason some people get away with shooting somebody. There is not enough accountability in that community and that peer group that says we know you did it, we are not going to tolerate it, and you have got to go.


ACUMEN: What do you think is driving the uptick in gun violence during quarantine when so many should be safely tucked inside?

David Bowers: The violence mirrors America because you’re thinking, everyone should be in the house and certain things should go away and for a while numbers do go down, but they revert back because people are still out on the streets. We talk about poor, Black, and disenfranchised areas where violence can just break out, but then the same things are happening in more affluent neighborhoods or out on the beaches in California because Americans are not staying restricted. While life has changed, it hasn’t to a degree that folks are not still living the way they always have. At the same time, because of the pandemic everybody’s walking around on edge and there are people who are turning violent because they’ve got that pent up anger – they’ve lost a job, someone or a few people they know have died, they’re experiencing a loss of freedom of mobility, and many are traumatized or grieving, so that contributes to that violence. People also have more time on their hands – they would have been in school or on a job, and without that routine, there is more idle time to stew and react poorly.


ACUMEN: Is there a way to legislatively address gun violence without stepping on the Second Amendment?

David Bowers: If it is, I don’t know what it is; that’s the short answer. The long answer is: Form multiple fronts, my mind goes to how do I keep David Bowers from wanting to shoot or kill Dr. Shantella. That goes to everything I spoke of from prayer to economic support, mental health, nurturing, making sure there is an environment of accountability – the whole nine yards -- before I think of the gun laws. Because whether I shoot you, stab you, or push you off the cliff, the fundamental question is why do I want to kill you? Why do I think it’s okay to kill you? Regardless of what the instrument is, that has to be addressed first.

ACUMEN: So, the answer lies as much in conflict resolution and impulse control as in legislation?

I think there are a lot of things that can happen where people feel like they need to own a gun that has nothing to do with the Second Amendment; this deals with the humanities side of things that can easily get lost in the debate about guns – smart gun laws, gun safety or gun limitations. I think there needs to be a lot more attention put on that. Keep in mind, the gun laws in D.C. are some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. If we can get other states to have more sensible gun safety and purchase laws nationally, that could be helpful for sure, but we still have to deal with the desire people have towards violence.


ACUMEN: What impact do you think a violent popular culture has on the rise in gun violence?

David Bowers: If I put bad greasy food that is not good for my system into my body – they taste good going in and going down but will give me the runs – that’s where we are culturally. It tastes good watching this foolishness its enjoyable going down. We as a nation are a very violent country and a very violent culture. If I can get video games and its all about killing, I turn on television its all about sex and the middle finger and violence, there are no boundaries. That’s the crap that comes out on the back end. It tasted good going in and tasted good going down, but now, as a nation, we’ve got the runs. The shit’s coming out.


ACUMEN: How do relaxed boundaries inform the political process and the push-pull of gun rights v. responsibilities?

David Bowers: The people who get paid to be influencers – but what have they done or offer political commentary – what have you ever done? The commodification of sex – there is no code, no sense of shame, no sense of ‘there are lines we don’t cross.’ The coarsening of the culture of the body politics – truth don’t matter, facts don’t matter… We have had an ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude about life, that is what are getting on the back end of things now. We address that one by one, little by little, conversation by conversation, we have to fight daily for a code. There has to be accountability. From the highest levels of government – are we going to protect the democracy, to our own households where we say, there will be no cursing inside this home – at some point we have to agree that decency matters. Another analogy: In bowling you have the lane and the gutter. You hit the gutter and you have gone too far. You may be going down the left and I’m going down the right, but there is a gutter – and once you hit that gutter, you have gone too far.