Laws banning assault weapons, prohibiting clips capable of carrying dozens of rounds of ammunition and requiring background checks of all gun purchasers will be about as effective in stopping gun violence as selling chastity belts in red-light districts. Most murders are crimes of passion and impulsive opportunity. Now that the United States is awash in guns with approximately 80 firearms for every 100 people lethal violence is everywhere.
Ask young men growing up in the nation's inner cities. They're dropping like flies in places like Chicago. We have our share of the craziness here in Connecticut, as well.
I've handled too many cases involving young men arguing about a woman, a liquor bottle or nothing at all. The cases go something like this: A night out on the town, with a stop at a night club. Or maybe just some street-corner chatter. Someone says something stupid the sort of thing we'd give someone a shove for years ago. A threat is made. An angry young man leaves, and then returns with a handgun. Bam, Bam, bam, and a few choice words, and there's a dead body on the ground. All present run for cover. In the days and weeks that follow, the police cajole a few eyewitnesses into testifying. Plea offers in this case are typically 30 to 35 years in prison. Lose at trial, and your client is lucky to be sentenced to 45 years behind bars.
These cases are heart-rending punches to the gut, costing, as they do, two lives, that of the murdered victim, and, that of the shooter.
Too often both the victim and the shooter in these cases are young black men. They were dying by the dozen each week across the United States long before Newtown. It wasn't national news when the victims were inner-city kids of color, and these victims aren't getting slaughtered by gun-toting Rambos carrying assault weapons. Handguns are the death-dealer's weapon of choice among urban youth.
"What's your problem with Operation Longevity?" a voice said as I stood on line in Dunkin' Donuts in New Haven the other morning. I didn't recognize the man who asked the question. He told me he was a probation officer. He was a brute block of a man, about 50, black, and with a world-weariness that told me I could trust him. He was asking me about the new federal initiative to jump on young men with guns.
"The feds don't have any business enforcing gun laws in the cities," I said. "It's like the war on drugs it's going to devastate communities of color." He knows I am right. He is a plantation master for those released from prison, but living on the state's leash.
"Did you know that the latest thing is kids renting guns for drugs?" he said.
"How's that work?"
"You can rent a gun for a day or two in exchange for drugs."