This Week in the Killing Streets
Two pieces side by side in today's San Francisco Chronicle:1. A pit bull who mauled a police horse in an unprovoked attack was spared euthanasia. More than 113,000 people signed an on-line petition to spare the dog, and raised an "undisclosed sum" of cash for his defense. The dog, unleashed and uncollared at the time of the attack, also caused the officer riding the horse to be thrown and injured. 2. A shorter piece, about 6 shooting deaths in Oakland this week, 4 of them within six hours on Friday. Friday's victims were 17, 22, 30, and 20 years old, and were all members of "identified groups." Last year, Oakland saw 131 homicides--clearly 2013 is starting out with a bang.So--before the pit bull community speaks up, let me say this. I love pit bulls, always have. And I know dogs. The fault with this case lies with the dog's owner, sure, but tell that to the mauled horse and the injured rider. But what struck me was the juxtaposition of these two stories. Where are the 113,000 people with cash in hand to begin to work--or even donate--against the rampant gun violence in the city? The Oakland Tribune reports " Police on Saturday vowed to intensify efforts to curb violence in the city," but it's also worth noting that the police force has shrunk 20% since 2009. The police here are stretched so far that in 2010 the chief released a list of crimes the police would not respond to in person if planned layoffs went through. The layoffs went through. Among the "freebie" crimes in Oakland are burglary, theft, grand theft, extortion and vandalism. Another headline read: "Oakland police investigating four homicides within hours." It says a lot that police acting promptly after a murder is newsworthy.Because of the horror of the Newtown School shootings, effective gun control is finally a matter of public attention. School shootings and the rampant gun violence in the cities are different phenomena in many ways, and a multifaceted approach will be needed to address the two issues. One thing they have in common, though, is easy access to guns. So the next time someone says "we've got to curb access to assault weapons and large-capacity magazines," say, "sure, great idea," and ask back "what about the weapon of choice in the inner city--semi-automatic and automatic (legal or not) hand guns?" Not only the cheap ones, either--a successful gang banger very often has the cash in hand to buy a nice gun via straw purchase at a gun show or elsewhere. Right now the assault-style weapons are getting a lot of attention, but it's the small guns that kill most often in the streets. So let's care as much about the deaths of the young in the streets as we do about the potential euthanasia of a pit bull.
About the Author
Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).