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NAT’L – GUN CRIME – What’s Behind the Recent Rise in Shootings?

A little over a month ago, not very far from where I live, a small group of Brooklyn residents were enjoying a late-night cookout near a local playground when two gunmen dressed in black approached the group and fired shots, killing a 1-year-old child in his stroller. The child, Davell Gardner Jr., was another tragic victim of a wave of gun violence that swept New York City in June and July. And not just New York. Murders have spiked this summer in large cities across the country, even as other violent crimes have decreased. What’s behind the rise, and how should cities respond when trust in law enforcement has sunk to record lows? Here’s what people are saying. Why have shootings increased? Fluctuations in crime rates are notoriously difficult to explain. In fact, criminologists still don’t agree on what caused the major decline in crime in the United States over the past three decades, which makes accounting for this most recent spike especially difficult. Still, a few potential theories have emerged. The pandemic-induced recession: Murder rates typically increase in the summer, but experts told The Times that the coronavirus has compounded the socioeconomic stressors that often give rise to gun violence, including poverty, unemployment, housing instability and hunger. In Kansas City, for example, my colleagues have reported that many recent shootings have seemingly had no clear rationale, often arising from petty arguments that devolve into violence. In many cases, economic hardship appeared to play a role. “The pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence,” Michael Sean Spence, policy and implementation director at the nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety, told The Times. “What we’re seeing is almost a perfect storm.” The killings by police officers of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that sparked protests around the country may also have contributed to a climate of despair and desperation. In Kansas City, the Rev. Darren Faulkner, who runs a program that provides social support to those deemed most at risk of violence, said that such cases had left many of his clients feeling “hopelessly trapped in a system in which they will never thrive.”

Some elected officials have suggested that law enforcement agencies may be partly to blame for the rise in crime. In New York, gun arrests started to plummet in mid-May even as shootings began to surge, raising concerns that officers were staging a work slowdown as a form of retaliation against the protests.  [full article]

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