The headlines coming out of the weekend were grim.
Axios: “At least 54 injured, 11 killed in 7 separate mass shootings this weekend.” NBC News: “At least 12 dead in another weekend of mass shootings across America.” Yahoo! News: “At least 12 dead in 10 mass shootings in U.S. over the weekend.”
The headlines are clearly designed to create the impression that the United States is experiencing a Buffalo or Uvalde almost every day. It isn’t true. None of the shootings over the weekend had anything in common with those horrific events. As far as I could determine, none were carried out with AR-15s and most involved beefs among people at parties or in or around bars, with many having the hallmarks of gang shootings.
The first incident in the Axios report involved two cars pulling up at a graduation party in Summerton, South Carolina, and opening fire, killing one and wounding another seven. Almost all the victims were in their teens. According to police, it was a gang-related shooting stemming from previous drive-by shootings.
The quotidian violence of teenagers shooting teenagers in petty disputes and gang-related vendettas shouldn’t be minimized — in fact, it’s a significant blight on American life, disproportionately affecting young African American men and rendering certain neighborhoods in our country borderline unlivable. But they are a different category than what we commonly think of as a mass shooting.
There’s a difference between the phenomena of a disturbed young male who has been inspired by prior mass shooters to go to a school or other public place and slaughter as many people as possible, and the gang member who targets rivals.
The former are relatively rare, uniquely shattering events for a community and the nation at large that are, unfortunately, very difficult to combat.
The latter are much more common, typically don’t garner national attention, and are more susceptible to standard anti-crime initiatives, including more cops and robust prosecution.
A bizarre feature of the debate around gun homicides is that the same people who most fervently believe we need to enact gun control measures that will have very little effect on the former category of shootings tend to be hostile to or indifferent toward measures that will unquestionably diminish the latter category of shootings.
The Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics wore shirts emblazoned with the phrase “End Gun Violence” prior to their NBA Finals game the other night. That sentiment is anodyne and politically correct enough to be perfect for professional athletes, but slogans don’t accomplish anything, and the usual gun control measures aren’t going to “end” gun violence.
These same players presumably wouldn’t dare wear shirts urging the adoption of policies to keep young men from shooting other young men in the nation’s dispiriting, much more routine cycle of violence — “Support More Policing,” “Prosecute Gun Crimes,” or “Incarcerate Repeat Offenders,” for example. That would cause an uproar in polite circles, and so is considered utterly unacceptable.
The fact is that gun control is ideological congenial to the media and the left, whereas arresting and incarcerating people isn’t.
It is difficult to tell exactly how many gun homicides in the country are gang-related (among other things, witnesses are reluctant to talk). But the Department of Justice’s National Gang Center, in what is almost certainly an undercount, reports that there were roughly 2,000 gang homicides annually from 2007-2012, accounting for about 13% of all homicides. In Chicago and Los Angeles, around half of all homicides were gang related.
If we are going to take these killings more seriously, that’s a good thing. Tough-on-crime policies, as well as more tailored anti-gang measures like simultaneous targeted arrests, have been shown to have an effect. It doesn’t make any sense to strike a pose against gun violence in general, without taking on this scourge in particular — unless striking the pose is the point.
Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.