Op-Ed: To reduce gun deaths, focus on Connecticut’s drug trade, gang life

The final draft of Sandy Hook Commission Report calls for new restrictions on the legal possession of pistols and rifles. These restrictions are purportedly aimed at reducing gun violence in our state.

But the preponderance of gun violence in Connecticut will not be addressed by these proposals. Few of the murders in our state occur with legally purchased weapons. Most occur with illegally obtained weapons by people already engaged in illegal activities. In the inner-cities of Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, where the majority of the murders occur, these killings are a consequence of the proliferation of street gangs and the illegal drug trade those gangs control.

Op-ed submit bugAnyone who has traveled through the state knows some areas are much safer than others. There are some areas in our cities where you do not want to be after the sun goes down and others where you do not want to be in any time of the day even with a police escort. In a state that boasts some of the safest communities in the country, you can find urban combat zones.

Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport are all rated on the Neighborhood Scout list of the 100 most dangerous cities in the United States. Bridgeport comes in at number 89, Hartford holds down the 46th spot while New Haven, the spot where Gov. Dannel Malloy announced his “second chance” initiative holds the state’s worst ranking at 37. To put those numbers in perspective, Compton, Calif., is ranked 33rd and Newark N.J. 31st.

During 2013 and 2014, at a time when the murder rate is trending downward both in Connecticut and nationwide, there were more than four times the homicides in these three cities than the number of children who  died at Sandy Hook. These killings were not the result of a single horrific event that shocked the world. The losses in our inner-cities occur one death at a time. The victims, mostly black or Hispanic, are quickly forgotten by all but the grieving families. In our inner-cities, men, women, children, teens and young adults, die with a distressing regularity and no one speaks up.

One of the major factors in the killings is the drug trade and the street gangs that control it. In those areas of our cities where you don’t want to stay too long, the street gangs aggressively protect their territories. The funds to buy the guns and bullets protecting these territories come from the sales and distribution of illegal drugs.

The final draft of the Sandy Hook Commission calls for background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms no matter if the sale is retail, at a gun show or private transaction. It also calls for a certificate of registration for every firearm, restricting sale of ammunition to owners of registered firearms, further bans on any firearm capable of holding more than ten rounds, trigger locks, and serial numbers etched on ammunition among its proposals.

Can anyone seriously believe gang members will submit to background checks when buying stolen pistols off the street? Will the gangs obtain valid registrations for their weapons? Is it reasonable to expect that gang members will worry about being arrested for using high-capacity magazines in their pistols or that trigger locks will be installed between drive-bys?

Placing additional burdens on lawful and law abiding gun owners will not cut into the largest contributor to gun violence in Connecticut or the nation. The street gangs who already operate outside the law can hardly be expected to be deterred by these proposals. The opposite may be true, knowing their victim is less likely to be able to defend himself, the gang members may be more inclined to impose their will by the force of a bullet.

We cannot rationally expect additional laws to curtail the behavior of those who already choose to flout the law. What we can do is to take the money and power from the gangs, weakening their hold on our inner-cities. We can become better people and turn away from illegal drugs and the violence they leave in their wake.

Our inner-cities are combat zones because otherwise good people decide to get high either on a regular basis or just for the weekend. When we, one person at a time, realize that when we buy the drugs that give us a brief escape from reality we are also paying for the bullets that are only too real in our inner-cities the grip gangs have on our inner-cities will loosen.

When the idealistic students realize the consequences of their actions, when young adults see the children that are being terrorized by the gangs as the friends and playmates of their own children, when we all begin to realize that the black and Hispanic youth being murdered in our nation’s inner-cities by the thousands as being as deserving of a memorial as the children killed at Sandy Hook, then we will have become a better people.

Michael Dutton of New Fairfield maintains a blog called The Abandoned Generation Project.

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