Gingrich: Obama should start with gangs
President Obama made a very odd comparison in his speech on guns in Minneapolis on Monday.
As part of his pitch urging the nation to enact his gun control proposals, the president referred to the tragedy of Newtown, Conn. in the same sentence as he talked about violence “in places like Chicago or Philadelphia or Minneapolis.”
But as the president must realize, the causes of the horrific event at Sandy Hook Elementary had little in common with the unending cycle of killings in places like Chicago or Philadelphia or Minneapolis.
A random, senseless tragedy like Sandy Hook points us to mental illness.
The equally tragic but routine violence in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis points us to a very different cause. It points us to gangs.
There is no question which type of violence is more common. As I wrote at Gingrich Productions last week, Chicago police estimate that 80 percent of homicides in the city are gang-related. Since 2007, more than 270 children have been killed there — a rate of three Newtowns per year.
Likewise, Philadelphia, a well-documented hotbed of gang violence, had 331 murders last year — the highest since 2007.
Even Minneapolis where the president spoke on Monday, authorities said an increase in violence is in large part due to gang activity. After a spate of killings in 2009 shook the Somali community, a community organizer there told CBS News, “It was all gang activity, totally, 100 percent…The police don’t want to say that but everybody else knows that.”
Nationwide, as I wrote last week, the FBI estimates that gangs are responsible for “an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions, and much higher in others.” And in 2009, the Bureau said gangs were behind 80 percent of all crime in the U.S.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, whose city has some of the highest levels gangs violence in the country, told Bill Maher on Friday he didn’t think new restrictions on gun owners could solve this deeper problem. He said:
“In the analysis of gun murders and shootings in my city, I could only find one in the entire time I’ve been mayor – and unfortunately there have been hundreds and hundreds – where a person who was involved in a shooting where they had their gun legally, where they legally acquired their gun. The guns that are causing carnage in our cities, my city and our country, every single year are acquired illegally.”
Because, as Booker argued, the overwhelming majority of guns used in homicides are already acquired illegally, the new gun laws like those the president advocates would probably have very little effect and save few lives, simply because the people doing the killing aren’t the type of people who follow gun laws even now. All the laws do is make it more difficult for the law-abiding to protect themselves.
If we really want to make a dent in gun violence, we will have to target the lawless gangs that have taken over whole neighborhoods.
But what fuels gangs more than anything else is their source of income: drugs.
The Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center has gone so far as to call gangs “the primary distributors of illegal drugs on the streets of the United States,” reporting that they “readily employ violence to control and expand drug distribution activities, targeting rival gangs and dealers who neglect or refuse to pay extortion fees.”
Some gangs rake in “millions of dollars per month” through these illegal activities.
We have long known that permissive attitudes toward drug use are one of the most significant factors affecting the rates of drug use, thereby increasing overall demand for drugs. Yet an increasing number of states have communicated just such a lax posture by decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.
President Obama himself said in December that marijuana use was not a “priority” for his administration and said they wouldn’t waste time “going after recreational users” in those states. He said he doesn’t support legalization of the drug “at this point.”
These kinds of messages are exactly what contributes to the increasing drug use. Last year, teen marijuana use reached its highest level since 1998, after falling through most of the 2000s. Less than half of high school seniors said they believe marijuana is harmful.
The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which conducted the study, blamed the increase on all the casual political talk about marijuana use, saying, “When you talk about the potential health benefits of marijuana, it’s the equivalent of saying heroin is a great pain medication, so you shouldn’t be wary of it.”
Such talk only fuels the fire of America’s gang problem — “the primary distributors of illegal drugs in the United States.”
If the Left wants to help prevent gun deaths, they can be most effective by going after gangs and the drugs that fund them.