Gun control? Censorship? Mental health care?
FBI Director Christopher Wray doesn’t normally give television interviews. He doesn’t frequent the Sunday morning talk-show circuit, he isn’t a regular guest beloved of late night comedy hosts. He probably hasn’t met Oprah.
That Mr. Wray broke his relative radio silence in April to sit down with Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes is perhaps indicative of the current sociopolitical and cultural climate in America.
In other words: Summer’s here, and it’s going to be a hot one.
Crime is up- as in way, way up. From Seattle to Chicago to Washington, D.C., violent crime is swelling shockingly, ballooning like a blimp. And, not only is it going up, it’s spreading out.
Chicago has been grappling with high rates of crime for decades; there is something new about crime in the Windy City now.
Thieves are more brazen than ever before, requiring Chicago’s downtown drawbridges to be drawn against roving bands of thieves hitting the Magnificent Mile en force, and on one memorable occasion dumping emptied out cash registers on the lawn of the Missouri Governor’s mansion.
Killers are getting much bolder, too; shooting into a crowded street and hitting 11 people, killing 2. Someone retweeted a video last week to the Chicago City government showing a shoot-out in broad daylight on a city street lasting several heart-stopping minutes.
Crime is occurring in neighborhoods where crime has never been a problem before. A teenager shot and killed another teenager in Millennium Park two weeks ago, a stone’s throw Chicago’s iconic “Giant Bean” statue.
Chicago’s homicide rate is reaching record levels and the warmer weather months have only just begun, when crime usually goes up anyway.
And it isn’t just gun violence and homicide in major cities; as we’ve all seen from the news recently, mass shootings seem to be happening with alarming frequency. Were the three mass shootings the U.S. experienced in a single week one terrible week, or was it an ominous sign of worse things to come?
Is that the new normal?
According to the FBI, homicide is up 29% nationwide. The killing of police officers is up 59%, which isn’t likely to do much for the rank and file officers desperately trying to compensate for staffing shortfalls.
With an economic downturn looming almost certainly over the horizon, crime isn’t likely to get spontaneously better. With even companies like Walmart and Target losing money in the current economy, small businesses are doing even worse. It is only a matter of time before companies, like Tesla, begin cutting their workforces.
Lay-offs and downsizing, rising unemployment, swelling inflation, the spiraling cost of fuel; none of these factors is going to lower crime in your local neighborhood.
There are other things contributing to the epidemic of gun violence reaching full boil in America.
No one lays them out quite as succinctly as FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“In 2020, there was a 29% jump in murder in the United States, nearly 5,000 more people killed than the year before: What is behind this leap in homicide?” Mr. Wray was asked by 60 Minutes host Scott Pelley.
“Certainly the pandemic didn’t help,” answered Mr. Wray. “There’s a variety of ways in which that contributed to it. We’re seeing more and more juveniles committing violent crime, and that’s certainly an issue. We’re seeing a certain amount of gun trafficking, interstate gun trafficking. That’s part of it. And we’re seeing an alarming frequency of some of the worst of the worst getting back out on the streets.”
One factor Wray was too delicate to mention, is how many people purchased guns in 2020 and 2021. Many of those were first-time gun buyers; Democrats in blue districts.
It isn’t hard to understand why so many people felt it necessary to arm themselves in 2020. Lest we forget how many downtowns stayed boarded-up for months as retail areas and even residential neighborhoods braced for nightly riots, vandalism, petty theft and worse.
Over-zealous “protestors” forced Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to move after they tried to burn down the apartment building he and 113 other tenants shared.
“March to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s home declared riot Monday as burning debris thrown into building,” declared the Oregonian in August of 2020, offering, “Key takeaways,” such as: “Shortly after 11 p.m., a bundle of newspapers was set ablaze and thrown into a ground-floor storefront in the residential building,” and, “The demonstration came during the 96th consecutive night of protests since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.”
Wheeler was forced by the incident to move house, which isn’t a luxury everyone can afford. A gun, by comparison, is very cheap.
In nearby Seattle, only a few days earlier, rioters used quick-mix cement in an attempt to seal all the doors of their local police precinct, trapping police officers inside before setting fire to the building.
“They mixed up the ‘Quikrete’ and then tried to seal off the exits,” said Sergeant Randy Huserik with the Seattle Police Department. “I don’t think there’s a lot of leaps that have to be made about what their intent was last night.”
Besides killing police officers, the rioters obviously hoped to prevent officers from discharging their sworn duties. Half that plan worked. Police officers were able to escape the building, though one was injured, but no one got any other police work done that night.
“The entirety of the uniform patrol of the Seattle Police Department was committed to what was going on at the East Precinct,” said Huserik. “If you had called 911, no one would have responded.”
Yes, the flood of protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis were overwhelmingly peaceful, statistically 93% peaceful- even, as CNN so famously described them, reporting in front of a burning building, “fiery but mostly peaceful.”
But that other 7% was a problem, albeit unacknowledged, and it remains one. During those protests, between $1 and $2 billion in damages were caused during the most expensive episode of rioting in history- and that number only covered a two-week period.
If the public perceives the legal and justice system as inadequate; if police departments are unable to keep peace in the streets, people are going to arm themselves.
Three mass shootings in one week may well be a watershed moment for gun control, but even if it is, there are plenty of other things we must do to avert the rising trends of violence and lawlessness.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)