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COMMENTARY: Bullets and ballots
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COMMENTARY: Bullets and ballots

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Gregory Clay

Gregory Clay

They joust through rap songs, they boast through social media. They were what Miami-Dade County Police Director Alfredo Ramirez called “feuding groups,” after three people ended up dead with at least 20 injured following a mass shooting on Memorial Day weekend.

That incident occurred during an album release party for a local rapper when three masked suspects with weapons emerged from a stolen white Nissan Pathfinder. The firing of bullets left about 100 shell casings, police said, with some members of the concert crowd returning fire.

The shooting lasted 10 seconds. Will somebody please clue us in on the genesis of all this nonsense?

“These aren’t drug turf wars,” Ramirez told CNN. “These are social media vendettas linked in with the flavor of gangs. But they’re not real gangs. They’re wannabes.”

Now we have this new killing element in the United States, as if we didn’t already have enough deranged reasons for gun violence.

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Miami-Dade is but one example of unbelievable national carnage. The homicide rate has skyrocketed in the nation’s five largest cities, according to CNN:

1) New York — 41% increase from 2019 to 2020

2) Los Angeles — 36%

3) Chicago — 56%

4) Houston — 42%

5) Phoenix — 52%

In a recent spate of debates in the New York mayoral race, what was the No. 1 topic: Violent crime.

Not the coronavirus, unemployment or infrastructure. Before the debates, three bystanders — including a 4-year-old girl — were struck by stray bullets in Times Square during Mother’s Day weekend. These incidents are sure to frighten away possible tourists to New York. The same can be said for other tourism-rich U.S. cities.

Ezra Klein, a columnist for The New York Times, posted a lengthy Twitter thread last month examining the political consequences of the nation’s violent crime spike.

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He wrote, in part, “Fear of violence undermines liberal politics. Just look at America post-9/11. Or after the crime surges of the '70s and '80s and '90s — strongmen politicians win, punitive responses like mass incarceration and warrior policing rise, social trust collapses.”

In explaining the Miami mayhem, Ramirez spoke of demographics and home environments, asserting, “Their big motive is to be on social media and call each other out and start these rivalries of who’s the baddest. And what happens in these situations, if they don’t have good family settings, they come from broken homes, they’re in that cycle of violence. They act on that violence. And that’s the tragic part.”

What about the laws? Maybe we need more?

Dr. Robert Cottrol, a distinguished law professor at George Washington University, issued an emphatic no to InsideSources.

“We keep adding ruffles and flourishes to the existing laws — for this special victim class and that special victim class,” he argued. “The laws are already on the books; just enforce them. Last I checked, there are laws against attempted murder and murder, which is what these mass shooting incidents are.”

However, many locales around the country are “re-imagining” the role of police, a movement that can be a help but also a hindrance. While Cottrol advised that we shouldn’t be “drowning in laws,” former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe spoke to CNN about today’s new challenges.

“The traditional way that law enforcement has addressed spikes in gun violence,” McCabe asserted, “is to more vigorously patrol people who are carrying guns. ...

“The problem is those same tactics and policies that target guns also tend to have disparate impacts on communities of color. ...“

Translation: In other words, for those aforementioned communities, police are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. That’s why FOX News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera often evokes on the air that there are “ghetto civil wars” occurring in the country that few want to discuss.

Regardless, battle lines already are drawn, especially by conservative politicians and media.

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Fox News, in particular, has been relentless and singularly hellbent on pushing its daily narrative that progressive and Democratic policies (such as defunding the police and relaxation of bail requirements) are to blame for out-of-control violence in the nation’s major cities. Especially cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago) in states (New York, California, Illinois) with Democratic mayors and governors.

The Democratic political mission: Paint Republicans and conservatives as delusional weapons freaks kneeling at the altar of the almighty assault rifle and gun lobby.

With that, we will see what happens at the ballot box in 2022.

Gregory Clay is a Washington columnist and former assistant sports editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

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