We haven’t changed drug laws or gun laws, we haven’t done anything about economic inequality or the flight of manufacturing jobs overseas, and we haven’t seen significant changes in the 50 year trend of the well-to-do moving to (perhaps now just “staying in”) the suburbs, so why would we expect major changes in the outcomes we’ve seen in terms of violence in urban centers over the last half century? I want to be very clear, it is not that I have changed my mind in any way in thinking that the dangers from urban crime are outweighed by the dangers of auto-centered living, it is that I have seen that criminal dysfunction is not endemic to urbanity and exists as it does in many urban centers in the United States for very specific reasons, none of which are being addressed.
The combination of the second amendment to the Constitution, a belief that gun ownership guarantees freedom, and a rural culture which normalizes gun ownership makes removing or even limiting guns impossible.
The War on Drugs has ensured that an enormous black market for narcotics empowers and enriches only the most violent…at least until they are killed or incarcerated…only to be replaced by the next generation of sociopaths (A non violent drug dealer, having no recourse to the coercive power of the state, could never demand payment of debts and would quickly go out of business).
The overall diminution in violence in the United States over the last decade is a marginal one. It has not turned our culture into Sweden or Finland. In the industrialized world we are more closely akin to the levels of inequality, and of violence, experienced in Argentina. The point here is that there is no reason to expect that young, mostly minority, men will stop killing each other, and sometimes others, in cities in America and we should stop feigning shock and outrage that they haven’t.
If, as with the much greater carnage on our roads, we are determined to do absolutely nothing about the causes which lead inevitably to these effects then we need to stop pretending that we really give a damn about it. Holding rallies, having peace marches, and praying for an end to the violence are as pointless and ridiculous as asking drivers not to kill cyclists: the outcomes are determined by human nature and the structures we have set up. Certainly “raising awareness” has some value. Fewer people die on the roads because we have changed our cultural attitudes toward drinking and driving, and that marginal change can be counted in lives not lost to tragedy. But harsher penalties for drunk driving constitute an actual change.
What would the equivalent be for urban violence? The decriminalization of drugs. Remove that entire market from the black market. Disempower gangs and eliminate the need for violence and the threat of violence within that area of commerce. As with the end of prohibition we might not only see reductions in gang violence but also a change in drug use from higher to lower potency formulations, probably making their use slightly more common, but much less harmful.
Surprisingly enough, doing nothing hasn’t worked. Perhaps trying something different is a good idea.