Short Take: Everybody Else On The Block

Despite the facts that Peter Moskos got his Ph.D. from Harvard and teaches at John Jay College of Coppery and Shoe Repair, he’s got a point. A good point. An important point. It begins with a twit showing a video of shooting in what otherwise appears to be a quiet, well-maintained suburban residential street.

Based on this video, Moskos goes on a tear.

Forget about the shooters or victims for a moment. Thing about everybody else on the block. Well kept homes with gardens. They matter, too. Not just for their sake but for our sake and the sake of Philadelphia.

How many of you wouldn’t move if this happened where you live?

While picking up and moving isn’t quite that simple, that’s not the point.Who wants to live on a street where you or your children could well be killed in the crossfire? Who wants to live on a street where crossfire is a possibility, if not a reality? There were four shooters. Three teens were shot, a 13-year-old and two 16-year-olds. It happened at about four in the afternoon.

There are many levels to stories like this, shoot outs like this. There are the stories surrounding the shooters. The stories of the victims, who may or may not have done anything to cause the shooters to go after them. This isn’t usually a random act of violence. And then there are the stories of the people who live on North Frazier Street and have nothing to do with the shooting, other than being too close for comfort and thanking their favorite deity that the bullets didn’t find their way into them or someone they loved.

What about them?

He’s right, it matters. Much as gun enforcement, such as stop & frisk, has been executed in an outrageously racist way, with cops tossing black kids at random for a search in the hundreds of thousands, that does not mean illegal guns don’t exist and people don’t do what the four shooters in the video did.

When a kid is nabbed with an illegal gun, the routine is to claim it’s for self-defense. What sort of idiot would say otherwise? Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. But as long as the person isn’t a shooter, it can’t be disproven. Not that it wins in court, but it does convince the people who want to empathize with the defendant. But who wants to empathize with the person who lives across the street when the shooting starts?

As is so often the case, there is no “right” solution to most intransigent social problems, and guns are a particularly fraught problem. For better or worse, our Second Amendment has been held to establish a personal fundamental right to keep and bear arms. That doesn’t mean that four kids at four o’clock shooting up a house on a quiet street is either a fine exercise of constitutional rights or a sad reflection of systemic racism. It’s a problem.

Will some otherwise innocent people get banged by gun enforcement? Of course. But nobody who isn’t carrying an illegal gun will get banged. That’s the beauty of enforcing gun laws. Enforce gun laws. I can’t believe this is now a controversial opinion in “progressive” circles.

These four shooters weren’t merely exercising their right to bear arms, but were committing the crime of attempted murder. Whatever beef, if any, they had with the people in the house is one thing. But they had no beef with the people next door or across the street, or on the street behind the house, because bullets don’t stop traveling at the property line. Do the neighbors have a right to quiet enjoyment of their homes without being in the middle of  a shootout? If you lived there, would you?

The debates about such matters almost always come from the opposite extremes. Either no gun enforcement because it’s a right, or no gun enforcement because it’s racist, or toss every black kid against a wall to see if a gun falls out because everybody knows that it’s black teens carrying. None of these positions are adequate or tenable. We can’t violate constitutional rights for reasons right or left, and yet everybody else on the block wants to survive as well. As Peter Moskos says, their right to live shouldn’t be forgotten in our theoretical debates over constitutional rights.

18 thoughts on “Short Take: Everybody Else On The Block

  1. Paleo

    When there’s a prominent shooting they make a show to scream for tougher gun laws, which they frequently decline to enforce because doing so would disproportionately affect a favored “marginalized” group.

    And as you point out, they ignore the impact that doing so has on a much larger marginalized and much more sympathetic group.

    It’s all just bread and circuses. Or, as PJ O’Rourke noted, the actual three branches of our government are money, bullshit, and television.

    We elect ‘em, so I guess we deserve what we get.

  2. Carlyle Moulton

    Most intransigent problems are the result of human nature being what it is and not what humans think it is at least in people like themselves. The USA has an underclass problem and a gun problem. An underclass on its own is bad but add guns and one gets carnage. Were it possible to remedy the problem it would require a human society to do things that no human society is capable of doing namely understand what creates and underclass in the first place and what is necessary to rehabilitate and re-socialize its inhabitants.

    SHG, this comment has turned out to be longer than I intended but I beg your forbearance. Knowing what created the underclass is NECESSARY before you can even thinkk about solving it and America’s gun problem will never be solved.

    Certain things that decent people pretend that they find abhorrent are in fact normal. Class-ism, genocide, lynching, misogyny, racism, rape of outsider females. Every colonial settler state attempts genocide against the indigenous people, such genocides are seldom complete as their remain humans who claim indigenous descent but if you ask what proportion of the genes one such has that come from the original gene pool one would find that they are 32nd cast, 64th cast, 128th caste…… In Australia (population near 20,000,000) there are 300,000 who claim Aboriginal identity which is about 1.5% however most of them that I see on TV programs could pass for white if they wanted to and attract discrimination by failing to do so. The true measure of genocide is the proportion in the national gene pool of genes characteristic of the indigenous population not percentages of individuals.
    In a completed colonial settlement such as Australia or the USA men of the settler race have unimpeded access to the fertility of indigenous women but indigenous males have no reciprocal right to the wombs of settler women. Over generations this dilutes indigenous genes.

    Some examples of genocidal colonial settler states are:-
    1/ Australia;
    2/ Argentina;
    3/ Brazil;
    4/ Canada;
    5/ Israel (not yet completed but coming soon and given the level worldwide anti-Palestinian racism WE will avert OUR eyes, let it happen and breathe a sigh of relief, “finally the Middle East Problem is resolved” );
    6/ New Zealand;
    7/ The USA.
    In the USA the dominant classes have discriminated against all others including former slaves, immigrants and indigenous but not all have been damaged to the same extent. Former slaves and the indigenous had their cultures beaten out of them and lower literacy excluded them from political power after the dominant classes came to realize that social mobility by unwanted sub-humans is a threat to their privilege. One consequence of upward social mobility for some is downward social mobility for someone else or that is the way most humans perceive it. There are layers of ladders up the pyramid of social mobility and one can not reach those on the second level if one has not climbed up those to the first, but US Blacks started as slaves had a brief period in the Sun during Reconstruction but were put back in their proper places as underclass paupers with Redemption. Since then multiple waves of immigrants that were initially received with discrimination, in alphabetic not chronological order Chinese, French, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Scandinavians… but most were after a generation or two were either accepted as WHITE or as model minorities. A majority of US blacks never reached the lower levels and segregation was the choice of whites so the black underclass became isolated in areas deliberately deprived of resources by government choice, white exclusion and the bank policy of red lining kept them from accumulating wealth in appreciating values of property.

    Keep a group of people down for several generations and they become an underclass, angry, bellicose, having hair triggers for violence, lazy, apparently of low intelligence and incompetent at obtaining resources except by BLUE COLLAR crime, who ever heard of a poor black implementing a decent WHITE COLLAR crime, defrauding pensioners after stripping a business of all assets and leaving it bankrupt or a $100 million Ponzi scheme. The crimes that are treated most severely in the US are those of which it is easier to target Blacks like fish in a barrel and I would argue that a main motivation of the laws against mind altering substances is that they provided discretion to authority to skew enforcement and solve The Negro (and Hispanic) questions. 11%-13% of high melanin skin individuals well exceeds the tolerance level of whites and model minorities. Not a war on Drugs but a war on Blacks and poor people.
    SHG AN ASIDE:- a few days ago I read a post of yours about a lawyer whose surname I have forgotten but whose first name was AMY who pointed out that the effect of WOKISM means that entertainment and advertising cultures do not depict the Black underclass as it is. I can no longer find it on your site nor can I find the email from you that led me to it, I can’t see how you could have caused the email to disappear but sometimes I notice previously seen emails are gone and either I deleted them accidentally (wrong key at the wrong time) or my flaky email [program did.

    Back to main argument. Amy ??????’s depiction of the class is correct and is in accord with the perceptions of most respectable people but it ignores how they got there. An underclass is very hostile to character traits necessary to ascend from the slippery pit. Good character is not going to stop a black man being convicted of a crime which he did not actually commit because the trial penalty forces him to take a plea and the conviction is enough to nix any chances of ascending from the slippery sided pit, barred from menial professions (like hair dressing), barred from housing, barred from government help with education. If one lives in the underclass one cannot always choose not to commit crime but one has to choose lesser over the greater. Living in the underclass creates a constant state of anxiety and fear and maybe PTSD, fear of crime, fear of gangsters who mostly prey on their own, fear of the forces of law and order. Bad diet, constant worry, lack of intellectual stimulation because underclass culture is deficient, lack of stimulating education. Most respectable people will assume that the inferiority is genetic and their may be some truth in this as during 260 years of slavery OWNERS bred SLAVES for DESIRABLE characteristics and none of INTELLIGENCE, INITIATIVE nor ENTREPRENEURIAL TALENT would have been seen as desirable. A slave who can read, think plan an take initiative is a dangerous slave, better to sell him down the river or better yet kill him. I believe respectable people underestimate how much cognitive and socialization damage several generations of intense discrimination can do. Perhaps you and your readers should view the program THE WIRE on POLICING IN BALTIMORE that highlights the toxic effects of ARMY OF OCCUPATION POLICING of a minority or google AUSTRALIA QUEENSLAND CRIME BAIL with site restricted to for recent articles about the Queensland Australia government passing a law to make breach of bail a criminal offence requiring immediate imprisonment mainly because of youth crime committed by high melanin skin children of our conquered defeated and reduced to an underclass descendants of the previous tenants of the continent prior to the arrival of the rightful owners on 26 January 1788. The estimate of how long these people have inhabited Australia keeps going up. It started at 30 thousand then went up to 40 and now may be as high as 60. During that time a totally intellectually, physically and socially incompetent race managed to survive in an extremely hostile environment but in a mere 233 years of defeat and conquest have become a drug and alcohol addicted helpless, hopeless, jobless socially inept and crime addicted minority with poor education, health & life expectancy low wealth and income. The idea that they were this hopeless for ???? Thousand years is ridiculous. Australia’s indigenous youth assault, burgle, invade homes mug, steal cars and engage in deadly fights but one thing they rarely do is shoot people. Unlike the US Australia does not have a surplus of available guns. An underclass always results in crime but an underclass plus guns means carnage.

    1. SHG Post author

      Carlyle. You can’t do this. I’ve posted it only because of the effort you’ve put into it, but I will not do so after this. Please keep your comments brief and on point. I haven’t read your comment and don’t plan to. I don’t expect anyone else will either. Please.

      1. Carlyle Moulton

        Actually this started out as a comment about the post on gunfire in the leafy suburbs but mutated into one on your previous post about Amy Wax.

        Thanks for allowing it but I was hoping that you yourself would read it. I find posts on your blawg stimulate my thinking and clarify it.


        1. SHG Post author

          Your reading it twice is not a reason for me to read it. Having already explained myself, did you suppose this would convince me otherwise?

  3. orthodoc

    Calling North Frazier Street “quiet, well-maintained suburban residential” is a stretch–it’s not Temple-University-inner-city, but it’s not the Main Line either (I think it’s the 19th district–maybe 3rd worst in the city). The location is relevant. If gun enforcement is racist, a lack of gun enforcement is as well. As Wilfred Reilly (I think it was) wrote, ~95% of violent crime is intra-racial.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    How many of these young gunmen had criminal records, and how many had been arrested for gun possession but not prosecuted?
    Project Exile’s method of prosecuting and imprisoning felons,in possession worked. It also disproportionately affected African Americans because they were the ones committing felonies and shooting each other so it was called racist

  5. B. McLeod

    So, the Fascist shitlords on N. Frazier would like to impose their privileged, “no shooters” culture, and some Twitter rando with a Harvey stamp is upset that they can’t.

    Well, life goes on. If the good citizens on N. Frazier are interested in steps they can actually take to make a difference in their personal situation, they can go shopping for a nice rifle and some anti ballistic armor. Nobody is going to fix this for them.

  6. Jesse

    I’m confused about the point being made here. The law already “goes hard” against unlawful gun possession. OK, so the cops are supposed to enforce it within constitutional limits which may be inconvenient, but still. The kids in this example were carrying (and of course using) these guns illegally.

    And yet it didn’t stop them. I’m not suggesting that we get rid of underage gun laws, or, even as a libertarian, get rid of all gun laws period as some might suggest.

    But passing a law and expecting it to eliminate all human behavior we dislike is magical thinking. No laws in this current socio-governmental status will stop it. There are really only two ways to go: ever-increasing government power and intrusion in the attempt to rid us from this on the authoritarian side, or go the opposite way and loosen the restrictions on law-abiding citizens to responsibly protect themselves. Is there really some third way?

  7. Keith

    Claiming we should prosecute laws that exist says nothing about whether the law is proper or just.

    Saying they will claim it was necessary to carry a gun for self defense says nothing as to whether it’s true.

    But if we allowed anyone fit to do so to easily get a permit to carry, we would have a reasonable basis to know who should have that license revoked (when they commit a crime, for instance).

    I don’t presume to know which people have a reasonable fear such that carrying a gun and potentially being caught with it makes the juice worth the squeeze—but I know that claims we should just “enforce the law against them” becomes far more complicated when the law lets them carry weapons.

    What are we trying to do—and are we actually doing it? Or do we just prefer not to deal with intractable problems, and leave some people to do a back of the napkin calculation on whether being without a gun is more dangerous when someone on your block finds you, than being with one when the guy in blue does?

      1. Keith

        Right back at ya.

        Moskos said: “ It’s why you need to go hard against illegal gun possession. All you have is criminal gun possession. It matters.”

        Maybe you think that means something more than it says, but he’s talking about going after ”criminal gun possession”, not “illegally shooting”.

        That’s a problem when the system creates an incentive where people like this can’t get carry permits, but are then prosecuted, not for shooting the weapon, but illegally possessing it.

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