Gut check: Are you serious about fighting guns?

As with some other large cities — Chicago, Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis — Philadelphia is experiencing what could be called an epidemic of gun crime.

While Philly crime has been halved over the past couple of decades, homicides here are climbing.

Crime peaked in ‘90s, then plummeted

Attaboy, Mayor Jim Kenney, D.A. Larry Krasner and former Police Commissioner Rich Ross. 

If guns are a crisis as we keep hearing,  to be serious about reducing gun crime you have to whack it seriously and across the board. Half-hearted measures will get half-assed results. 

Once upon a time in America, bad actions had consequences, but not so much any more. I don’t want to point fingers (but I will) and I trace a cultural shift back to Dr. Benjamin Spock, the book-writing pediatrician who became the spiritual guru to Baby Boomer parents. Punishment was out, positive reinforcement was in. Soft guilt replaced hard expectations.

There is nothing wrong with reward, another word for positive reinforcement. That’s how I trained my dogs, but I realized my kids needed a pinch of punishment along with the strong rewards. They were capable of comprehending concepts such as good and evil that were beyond the ken of the lower animals.

Yes, there were occasional spankings, a technique I learned from my parents. 

The concept of consequences seemed to blow up in the counter-culture revolution  of the ‘60s, where pretty much everything was turned on its head.

Do the right thing became do your own thing. 

As America entered the ‘70s, the crime rate sky rocketed, smashing the glass ceiling in the early ‘90s, resulting in a harsh 1994 crime bill. 

Incarceration went up and crime went down over the next two decades. Some revisionists say crime was declining anyway, which may be true, but the crime bill accelerated the decline. 

The jails filled up, the result of what some called “mass incarceration,” which was not that massive and almost everyone locked up should have been, I previously reported.

That brings us to today, with Philadelphia’s weekly street slay fest, almost always in bad neighborhoods. 

Almost all the victims are nonwhite. Allowing this to continue could be construed as racist.

As a parent, and as an adult, I can tell you that you get less of a behavior when you punish it and more of a behavior when you accept or praise it.

So how do we cut gun deaths, almost all of which come at the hands of bad guys with illegal guns?

Here is my recipe: 

First, end plea bargaining and downgrading gun crimes. No more reducing a “gun” crime to one listed as an “instrument of crime.” The equation must be: GUNS = JAIL. No if, ands or bullets. 

Under Pennsylvania law, carrying a gun without a permit can get you up to five years in prison, says gun law expert Jon Mirowitz. Start hammering offenders with that and watch the word go out that Philly is serious as a heart attack on illegal carry.

Remind yourself that Meek Mill, in his previous drug-dealing line of work, was collared with an illegal gun, but the gun charge vanished. Hip-Hop Privilege? That sends exactly the wrong message. 

Use a gun in the commission of a crime and get an extra 10 years.tacked on to your sentence. Serious penalties are required.

All the above seek to punish. What follows seeks to prevent.

Employ stop and frisk in neighborhoods with a high number of shootings. 

Stop and frisk is controversial. Why? 

The neighborhoods with the greatest gun violence are the poorest and also the least white. Stops made in those neighborhoods primarily will be black people. As are most of the victims. So, yeah, you would see more stops in Nicetown than Chestnut Hill. Stop and frisk would rolled out in the dark areas of the map.

Stop and frisk in dark areas

Does stop and frisk work?

It depends.

A report by the Pennsylvania ACLU examining 41,661 stops made in the first and second quarters of 2018 found that 84% of people were stopped with reasonable suspicion, which is the standard.

Some 20 illegal guns were seized in that half year. which is a small number, but 20 guns taken off the street represents 20 lives potentially saved. That would by 40 for the year, and that is more than 10% of the projected annual death toll total.

I think one reason for the small weapons haul is fhe illegal owners leave their guns home, fearing to be snared. I can’t prove that — it just makes sense. . .

Is it justified? I think so.

Straw buyers are qualified gun purchasers who buy guns for those — like boy friends — who can’t pass a background check. Under Pennsylvania law, that can bring 5-10 years in state prison — but only if the judge imposes it.

Judges  can’t go wobbly. They need to impose the sentence, even on the baby mamas of the guys they bought the gat for. 

If you aren’t willing to — pardon the pun — bite the bullet, you forfeit your right to whine about blood running in the street.

22 thoughts on “Gut check: Are you serious about fighting guns?”

  1. Jamming our prisons with people by longer sentences do not work, and taxpayers pay the tremendous cost per prisoner. Dr. Spock is the root of gun violence, really? How about violent TV programming? How about growing economic and educational disparities? How about the opioid crisis and the widespread dearth of mental health resources? Reduce the number of gun owners by background checks and taking them out of the hands of the mentally ill will make a dent. Personally, I am NOT talking about no guns ever, but let’s put some intelligent controls on ownership.

  2. It’s too late already when it gets this far.
    It must stop before it gets there.
    It’s caused by KENNEY and city council!
    Political policies of giving everything away to the RICH AND PUBLIC UNIONS all for VOTES!
    As a result
    NO AFFORDABLE HOUSING
    NO JOBS TO SUPPORT A FAMILY
    NO EDUCATION
    The three KILLERS!
    It’s the citizens fault for not voting them out!
    Look how can Bobby Henon Beat Pete Smith?
    Because Philly is just not only corrupt. But this shows the only ones that came out to VOTE are the RICH and PUBLIC UNIONS Why they are the only ones that benefit from KENNEY and City Council! That’s why this is the biggest poorest most impoverished most violent and corrupt city in America!

  3. HAPPY THURSDAY !!!
    Here we go again pallie. Let’s beat a dead horse. Pun intended. Guns, like everything else in this world are connected to everything else in this world. Meaning, you have to look at the big complete picture. Yea, it can be overwhelming, but the more minds working together will fix any problem a little better and a little quicker.
    Me being a kid from the ’60s saw the world change. The family unit went away and problems escalated. In the ghetto, the gang became the family. Territories had to be protected.Why fight if you can shoot. Jail became a bag of (sic) honor on the streets. AND if you got hit by gunfire, you were idolized! Go figure. That’s part of the problem. White folk become sociologists and they think that they can save the world. Big difference between Big Bucks County and North Philly. Almost no body in the ghetto is going to take a job for minimum wage. Wanna take a guess on how much money a drug dealer makes ?!?
    I know that I’m preaching to the choir. The President is trying to turn the culture around, after years of neglect. Poverty and crime is a generational thing, and it does get passed down through the generations. How do you convince the kids on the street that dealing drugs, using drugs and blowing people away is not the way to go. There’s a lot wrong with our system. The present hierarchy in Philly is only making it worse. Bleeding hearts are not much better. Tough love is understood. Respect is earned on the streets.
    I’m putting my soapbox away now.
    Tony

    1. Ah yes, Tony, you hit the nail on the head. The Demise of The Family Unit. With a 70% illegitimacy in Phila., and with the Baby Daddy either in jail, doing or selling drugs, no job, etc. Well, so much for that strong father figure. Even if the family is gifted with a strong mother figure, it’s not enough. The kids need both (hopefully legitimate) parents to instill some semblance of human dignity in their offspring. Yeah, I know, there I go dreaming again. The reality of this is between nil and none – and none just left the room.

  4. Jail time does deter the majority of people from committing crimes against society. The cost of incarceration is the price society pays to be safe from those wanting to cause harm and destruction. The old adage, “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” still holds true. Nowadays, criminals are embolden by short jail sentences.

    Dr. Spock’s method of child rearing enabled the coddling of the kids instead of punishing kids for bad behavior. A child not being punished feels they can get away with bad behavior. The more a child gets away with the more embolden they become. Children, at an early age, test the boundaries on what behavior they can get away with and what behavior they cannot get away with. I for one was punished when I did something bad. Those punishments ranged from being grounded to getting smacked. I learned to think about the consequences of my actions due to a punishment being the reward for my bad behavior. Blaming violence on TV, music, and video games are just a way of letting people off the hook for their bad behavior. By blaming these other things, society is saying people are too dumb to know the difference between reality and make believe. I grew up watching the Three Stooges and dare I say playing video games. I’ve never used scissors to hold onto to someone’s nose nor hit someone with a 2×4 or sledge hammer.

    The problem with the term economic disparity is the idea that regardless of the choices one has made in life that person should still be rewarded financially. Everyone is not going to become a millionaire or billionaire. Those who have made millions/billions are demonized to whip up the masses into a frenzy about getting a piece of the pie for nothing more than the everybody should win ideology. You’ll never see reports about people who live a comfortable life, people who sacrificed to save for their financial future, or people who are happy where they are in life. Stories about these type of people do not sell papers/magazines nor create traffic on websites. Stories about people who are happy with their life does not reinforce the us versus them narrative.

    The problem with the term education disparity is it’s related to funding. Funding alone will not fix the education problem in this country. Let’s look at the Philly school district. The kids have to check into school, but are not made to attend class. This is to falsely inflate attendance records in the school district so the federal school funding spigot isn’t turned off. The kids are not required to attend class, are allowed to disrupt class for those who want to get an education, or just wander the halls. The passing grade is 50 in the Philly school district as stated in an Inquirer report. The lowering of passing grades enables the district to pump up the graduation rate with poorly educated students. You get out of an education what you put into an education. Those just getting a passing grade will probably work the menial jobs. These people seem to expect to paid top dollar for their minimal education effort. This is not to say that someone cannot move up the income ladder, but they will have to work harder to move up the income ladder without a good education. Parents have a huge responsibility to make sure their kids are doing well in school. Parents shape a child’s notion about what a good work ethic in life is.

    The background check system is only as good as the information being put into the system. If a person is determined professionally to be mentally ill and not added to background check system, how is the person conducting the background check to know that person is mentally ill and not allowed to purchase a firearm? Why aren’t we limiting people from purchasing cars/suvs/trucks since drunk drivers kill/injure people as well? A car and a gun by themselves cannot kill or injure someone. Both a car and a gun require a human operator to cause potential harm to another person. The need to demonize inanimate objects enables the media’s anti personal responsibility agenda.

    People being held personally responsible for themselves has the potential to help lower crime rates and bring the economic/education disparity levels down. Personal responsibility will not solve all of society’s issues, but at least cause most people to pause before acting or reacting in a negative way.

  5. Stu – the illegal gun trade makes it so much tougher for a legitimate gun owner to state his case in this day and age. And it’s not just in Phila. These frigging morons who currently are so proud of their mass shootings, for whatever insane reason, represent only .000001% of the gun owning population in the U.S., but give the other 99.9999% the bad rap. Pardon the pun, but they are killing off the righteous gun owners. Yes, something needs to happen. I don’t have the answers, but certainly the great majority of proposals don’t come anywhere near solving the problem(s). Something will happen someday in the future to us legitimate folk, and I don’t like what I’m seeing – like the recent article in the Inqy about how to solve the problem by removing ammunition from the equation. This will go on until enough people cry “Uncle,” and then the fallout will not be to anyone’s liking.

  6. That damned 2nd Amendment!

    Does any sane person believe we would be a safer city (state/nation) if we disarmed all the legal gun owners? We’ve been at ‘war’ with drugs and poverty for…what? Forever? And how are those two situations working out? We’ve destroyed the family and cheapened life (how about another abortion, sweetheart? Or let’s pull the plug on granny, even if she doesn’t want us to), so taking away everyone’s guns will solve bupkes. There are more than 300 million guns in the hands of legal owners. If guns were REALLY the problem, you’d know it.

    1. Vince – you last sentence says it all. BTW, to refresh your memory, for all intents and purposes, there is no 2nd Amendment in NJ, NYC, CT, MA, CA, RI.

  7. Agree with a lot of what you said Stu and here are some serious additions. Kenney needs to flood those neighborhoods with highest gun incidents with more beat cops patrols than this city has eer seen. Not enough cops? Get the National Guard here to patrol neighborhoods – get to know the people who are just trying to live their lives. Get to know who the illegal gun/drug dealers are and target them. Use the same program our U.S. military successfully used in Iraq in fight the gun/bomb toting ISIS terrorists over their.
    Is this an extreme measure? You bet. To fight an extreme situation, which I consider the murder/shooting rate in these neighborhoods is, you need extreme measures.
    I would hope the Philly Police Dept. could handle flooding those neighborhoods with more patrols. But if not, where else are they going to get the number of law enforcement members needed to do the job?
    I am tired of turning on the news to see more children killed by those criminals with guns. Something needs to be done.
    And those caught committing these murders need to be put away for a long time. No pleas. Hard time.

  8. still HAPPY THURSDAY !!!
    I brought out by soap box, so here I go again. Everybody who replied to Stu is on the same page. Everyone speaks the truth as we know it. So where’s the problem ? Do any of you, besides my pallie and myself, know any of Philadelphia’s finest ? If you do, then you already know part of the answer. For the rest of you. Any cop that works a district day in and day out, probably knows who is who. If that’s still true, then those same cops can pretty much tell you everything you need to know. The guns, drugs, gangs, all of it. The street cop has his hands tied behind his back thanks to the D.A. and friends. Those same cops are trying to make sure that they all get home at the end of the shift. Boy ! Did we come a long way ! All down hill.
    Then there’s that little thing called money. Back in the ’60s, the city was jumping with work. WE had factories making just about anything that could be made. Then the economy started to slip and the work was going to the southern states, and China was making inroads. Then NAFTA came along and everything went in the toilet. Think back. When did “ghettos” come into existence ? Back in the day, there were sections of the city that were not the best, but they were neighborhoods full of working class people. The city started to slide with the economy and the ’70s introduced unemployment, welfare and all of those government handouts. Yet money was being made every day. People learned how to play the system and got into the habit of laying back, sleeping in and collecting .
    So, once again, here we are stuck in a rut that has been in the making for 50 or 60 years – or more ! We have a President that is very successful at pi#*ing off people. Most of those folks (politicians) that are getting upset, are the ones that need to shut up and get out of the way. The working class Joe ( or Joan) doesn’t have the time to really dig into the crap that is coming out of D.C.. They get their 10 second sound bites from CNN or whoever, and swear to that bit as being the truth. Not the case for us old retired geeks. We can listen to the stories all day long, then get confused and swear by it.
    If congress would put the American citizen first, then maybe we could clean up our act. We all know that Washington D.C. is full of useless politicians that are only interested in taking care of the chosen few, as they have done for countless years. Because they don’t lead, California is turning into a huge burned out landfill. The uneducated masses want some form of liberated socialism. No guns, no bills, no worries .
    Our parents were part of the”greatest generation” . What will be said of us ?
    Tony

  9. Good evening Stu,

    Very important issue! Thanks.
    Not much to disagree with. All the comments were excellent, too.

    I worked 18 years in a poor black neighborhood as a firefighter. I witnessed first hand how so many of these people lived. We had a lot of fires which brought only more misery. Almost 30 years after leaving, I returned to my “Second Home” for a reunion. The firefighter camaraderie hadn’t changed, unfortunately the neighborhood hadn’t either. Why? This is a risky road to go down, lest I may be labled a racist, though I’m not. If you get a little to what I’m referring to, than I’m sure you’ll see that this is another part of the problem that
    is never mentioned. If a little headway were to be made in this direction we just may see some change in all the senseless shootings. Then again I may be wrong.

  10. I remember when D.A. Lynne Abraham claimed that the city’s new mandatory five-year sentencing policy for gun-related crimes would significantly decrease violent crime. That sure worked. A Daily News investigation revealed alarming judicial indifference to the new sentencing precepts.
    We had a rifle club in high school. Rifle club members often used to carry home their weapons for cleaning and maintenance. Nobody got shot.

  11. If only it were they simple to lock them up or even seize all guns.

    The issue is far greater in scope and well beyond Philadelphia. Check the crime stats and population data by race for any city, county or suburb in the US. Overall just over 13% of the population are responsible for over 60% of all violent crime. In Pittsburgh it’s a case of 23% are responsible for 78% of gun murders t I is year alone.

    Old white guys are never going to solve the problem. This is a cultural issue fostered and supported in the AA community over the last few decades. Until that community stepson, accepts responsibility and demands changes in behavior amongst themselves, nothing will improve.

    One last thing, poverty is not a valid excuse. There are more whites living in poverty than any other race by a wide majority.

          1. You obviously weren’t paying attention in math class in junior high. That seems to be the issue in general with people in Media, ignore inconvenient data and apply basic math errors.

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