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NYC – SELF-PROTECTION – Why These Young Men Carry Guns

He was 7 years old, standing in a bare room opening onto a patio in Brooklyn, when an uncle handed him a pistol that was twice as big as his hands. His uncle guided his finger to the trigger and pointed the barrel straight ahead. A loud crack split the air, followed by the scent of gunpowder, he recalled. His uncle, his breath smelling of alcohol, said in the boy’s ear, “This is how you survive.” Since that moment, the young man, now 21, said he had owned several guns and handled many more — he estimates about 50 — all of them illegal. They were tools he needed, he claimed, for self-preservation in Crown Heights, where some sections have seen a rise in crime. “I got to keep my gun,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared arrest or street reprisals. “Cops want to kill me. Dudes want to kill me. I don’t know if I’ll be alive tomorrow.” As 2020 has brought a storm of turmoil to New York — the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest and dwindling public resources in poor neighborhoods — young men like him have become a source of worry for the authorities. The city has seen a sharp rise in gun violence. More than 1,730 people have been shot so far this year as of Nov. 29, double the number for the same period a year ago — a level of gun violence not seen in 15 years. Murders have also surged nearly 40 percent, to 420 so far this year from 304 in the same time period last year. The police say feuds between street crews over turf and drug deals are driving most of the violence. A single gang feud in Brooklyn, for instance, has been blamed for 26 deaths. Those conflicts have been made worse by the pandemic’s economic and emotional toll on low-income families. But the authorities said they are also grappling with a deep-rooted gun culture in the city’s poorer neighborhoods, where some young men carry firearms not just to commit crimes but also in a misguided attempt to protect themselves.  [full article]

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