Recently released crime statistics confirm what I've been hearing from mayors and police chiefs and reading in magazines and papers from across the country - violent crime is on the increase once again, and in places many thought were safe. The role of guns in this increase should be obvious.
According to statistics released by the FBI on December 18, 2006, the climb in violent crime is highest in cities with populations between 25,000 and 500,000 with all the size groupings within this range showing an increase of over 5%. In another report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics on December 10, 2006 released information which showed an increase in killings at schools during the 2004-5 academic year (a time period which doesn't include the fatal shootings in schools in Wisconsin, Colorado and Pennsylvania this fall) with victims ranging from age 5 to 18.
When I was mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana during the 1990s and crime and violence were on the upswing across the country, the federal government responded by providing funds to hire more police through their COPS grants and made it harder for criminals to get easy access to guns by adopting the Brady Bill in 1993, which provided for background checks, and the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. Over the past few years, however, the federal response seems to have reversed its efforts - COPS funding has been cut, the Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to expire, and the Brady background checks have been weakened. In effect, our national approach to fighting crime has gone from "more police and less guns" to "more guns and less police." Is there any wonder violent crime is on the upswing?
A story in The Washington Post on December 20, 2006 shows again the tragedies that come from too easy access to guns. The Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department announced that two of its officers, Michael E. Garbarino and Vicky O. Armel, who were slain outside the Sully District police station in their county on May 8, 2006 would be receiving medals of valor. The Police Department also released a report describing how these officers, and two others who responded to the shootings, acted with courage and heroism in dealing with the 18-year old shooter who was carrying an AK-47 type rifle along with a .30-06 rifle, four .22-caliber handguns, and one .38-caliber handgun.
If our police, at our police stations, carrying weapons, and wearing bulletproof vests (Armel was struck in the chest by a .30-06 round that pierced her vest), are vulnerable to such attacks, how can we think that the solution to rising crime is more guns for the general population? Why not make it harder to get these weapons? According to the Post, the teenage shooter had recently fled from a mental health facility in Maryland and his parents are being investigated by federal authorities for "possibly allowing him illegal access to their cache of guns."
As a general rule, more guns means more violence, not less. Let's use some common sense to help make our communities, our schools, and our homes safer in the New Year.