Op-Ed: Clustered criminals habituate homicide

by C. D. Michel

Nearly 50% of all gun homicides involve only 4% of inner city gangsters. This is common, but not widely publicized, knowledge. It's a fact deliberately underemphasized by the Brady Campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and other gun ban advocates at the Happy Acres Home For the Terminally Bewildered. But a recent study by a sociology professor at Yale, who explored a poor Chicago neighborhood, evaluating homicide victims and their associations should reduce such willful ignorance.

Unlike gun control groups who believe associating with firearms is the seed of destruction, Professor Andrew Papachristos sees things differently. Papachristos dug through seven years of firearm homicide and police arrest records from one of Chicago's high-crime neighborhoods. What-do-ya-know: people in that neighborhood who associated with criminals had a significantly higher chance of being shot. And every step away from the gangsta life style reduced the odds of being killed by 57%.

"It's the behavior of sharing needles that puts you at risk for contracting HIV, not simply being poor and black and living in a certain neighborhood. The same is true with violence. It's who you hang around with that gets you in trouble."

Wow. There's a common sense statement, and one that could be used to write laws and regulations based on common sense and reason. But naturally, this conclusion didn't make many headlines, for the simple fact that it confirms the obvious: Hanging out with dope runners, pimps and gangster comes with occupational hazards, like catching bullets.

What is especially interesting about this study is how tightly the knot of homicide victims and perpetrators are, and how this defines the second largest source of gun deaths in America (the first largest source are suicides, which make anti-self-defense politicians' demands for small capacity magazines a bit odd since most suicide victims require very few bullets to kill themselves).

The study concludes: "You're at a risk for living in this [certain] community, but if you're in the network, your risk is astronomical." What this exposes is that a very small knot of thugs – about 4% of the community studied– were involved in nearly 50% of all gun homicides. "These are young men who are actively engaged in the behaviors that got them in this network." In other words, being and associating with thugs is hazardous to your health.

Let's have a look at how homicide numbers compare. In Professor Papachristos study, the neighborhood in question – with its ultra-violent 4% – had a homicide rate of 39.7 victims per 100,000 residents. The entire city of Chicago has a homicide rate of 14.7, or 63% fewer homicides than this one section of town. Were it not for gang-clogged neighborhoods like the one in this study, Chicago's homicide rate would be lower still. Same applies to Illinois, a state where Chicago's criminality skews the statewide homicide rate to 6.1 which, despite being 85% lower than the study's neighborhood, is 30% above the national average of 4.7.

California, Michigan, and other states' rates are similarly skewed by inner city violence. Guns don't kill people – 4% of tough inner city neighborhoods do.

Click here to read the entire op-ed.

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