Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gun Crime in NOLA and the US

Ever since Hurricane Katrina rolled through people have been talking and speculating about crime in NOLA. There was indeed zero crime in the city when the city was empty. But now it is not - the general figure for the returning population in New Orleans itself is around 230,000.

There has always been crime in this city (no doubt a correlation with there always being a lot of poverty in this city). It was bad before the storm and it is bad now. The figures per head of population make this city one of the most dangerous in America. There are tales of shootings, murders and muggings. My boss was robbed at gun point (that's AK47 gun point) on his own front doorstep in front of his wife and child on New Years Eve.

I was prompted to write this post by Mark's excellent post about his wife witnessing guns brandished a stones throw away from NOCCA where one of their children goes for dance classes. This is the comment I wrote on his blog:

Yet again a brilliant post - although one I would have rather you had not had to write!!!

As a legal alien from a civilisation without guns, American gun violence has always shocked me. I'm not stranger to it - a man was shot and killed at our laundrette two weeks before we left for the summer, in Cincinnati and we used to listen to the gun-fire and wait to hear the accompanying ambulance sirens from our deck.
I know there is the whole (in my view preposterous) right to bear arms thing here but really hows it working out? In the UK we have a tiny fraction of the gun violence (yes, we have some - but its tiny compared with the US - even per head of population). The police don't carry guns (we have a gun squad if needed). Its very hard to own a gun (after the Dunblane massacre the laws were tightened).

What scared me most though, was when watching a British TV program recently the person (a cop) was in danger and my automatic reaction was "oh no they don't have a gun"!!! So quickly we become used to guns and them being a necessity. When I first came to this country I was freaked out and scared everytime I saw a cop with their gun - now I'm scared if they don't have one.

We as humans are easily persuaded and our fear often clouds our judgements. The rise in crime in NOLA scares me and I have no answers. But if guns were not a "right" in this country I think it would be a lot safer.

I will never understand the American obsession with guns. Guns kill people and that is their purpose. I understand the right to bear arms if you are a pioneer fending for your life but we do not live in pioneer days. It is anachronistic. Yes, I know people now view guns as a necessity to defend yourself from all the criminals that patrol our streets, but this is the cycle this country is stuck in.

I wish I knew an easy answer to this, but I don't. I just know that I hate that aspect of this country.

The crime in this city is bad and the drug-lords have returned but without their normal ghetto enclaves of business their violence has spread to other normally, safer areas of town. I think the other issue is that when you have so many people so profoundly affected by such a catastrophic event as Katrina you have a population whose mental health is unstable and therefore more prone to extreme behaviour. Now I'm not saying that this means that everyone who lost their belongings, is living in a FEMA trailer, or is displaced, is waving a gun and robbing people!! - just that those with a predilection towards such behaviour are more likely to exhibit such behaviour as a result of their experience.

I think it is another symptom of loss in this city and a way of lashing out. This city could really benefit from an army of mental health professionals.

I understand why it is the way it is, I do not condone it and it makes me sad and angry.

I hate guns!


TravelingMermaid said...

"There was indeed zero crime in the city when the city was empty."

Actually, there was plenty of crime and violence when the city was wasn't completely empty. I have a friend who was working on the levee immmediatley after the breach, I have friends whose husbands are firefighters and cops....there was plenty of violence after Katrina. My husband came back (sneaked in) a few days after was a very, very scary time...gunshots in the night, attempted break-ins, looting.

I understand your hatred of guns, especially considering where you grew up. I don't look at our right to bear arms as "obsessive"...I think what's happened in this country is that guns have gotten into the hands of the irresponsible, power-hungry and souless. After seeing the lack of order in this city first-hand after K, I wouldn't want to be at the mercy of thosc criminals with guns and me without. And you can be sure they will always find a way to get a gun.
Just my opinion. :)

Chris said...

I agree with you.

Coming from Canada we also have guns but for some strange reason we don't go around shooting each other to the degree that the US does. Why? Michael Moore tried to answer that question in Bowling for Columbine. Yes I know that movie was very biased but still some valid points were raised. What is it that changes just by heading north and crossing the border?

Much of it I think is the vicious circle of fear. People want guns because they are afraid. What are they afraid of? Other people with guns. It's a vicious circle.

I think in Canada, people are not afraid. You find much less of an 'it's us vs them' attitude. When we look at crime, it's not the 'we need to lock these people up, build more prisons, bring back capital punishment' but rather how did they get this way, what can we do to prevent this from happening again, is there a support network available to give people help before it gets to this.

If you reach out to people in love and a genuine attitue of I want to help you rather than stay away I'm afraid you're going to kill me then perhaps change can happen. But someone needs to take that first step. And it will take a long time to repair the damage that's already been done.

Well that's my opinion on it.

Katie said...

I've been tagged to complete this expat questionnaire, and now I'm tagging you! It's fun if you have a bit of time. Here it is:

5 things you love about your new country.
4 things you miss about your old country.
3 things that annoy you about your new country
2 things that surprise you about your new country
1 thing that you'd really miss if you had to leave your new country.