View Full Version : Proliferation of guns blamed for epidemic of violence in S.F.

01-18-2008, 2:30 AM
Proliferation of guns blamed for epidemic of violence in S.F.

This article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.
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A lot has changed since San Francisco police Lt. John Murphy started working the drug and homicide beats in the 1980s.
"In the '80s, we'd get one, two or three guns a week," Murphy said. "Now it's like - who doesn't have one?"
Just about everyone, it seems. Kevin Ryan, the former U.S. attorney who worked on federal law enforcement for the Bush administration, recently joined the staff of San Francisco Gavin Newsom as director of the Office of Criminal Justice. He says the sheer numbers are shocking.
"There are 60,000 handguns in San Francisco," Ryan said. "And 2,400 assault rifles. There are a lot of guns out there."
You're reading that right. SIXTY THOUSAND guns in a population of less than 745,000 in a geographical area of 49 square miles. That's a gun in every five households, or one for every 12th man, woman or child.
And Ryan says confrontations are going nuclear almost immediately. "Instead of a fistfight, a dispute is elevated to a shooting at the drop of a hat."
You can pick your example, but for a clear case of mindless, senseless gunplay, it is hard to beat the incident at the downtown Metreon shopping mall in November, when a 15-year-old boy shot an 18-year-old three times after an argument over moving too slowly on the escalator. The victim was pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital 30 minutes later.
"It's sad," says Murphy. "He's 15 years old. How could you be that mad at that age?"
And what was a 15-year-old boy doing with a gun? Where do these guns come from?
Most San Franciscans might initially conclude that the city needs stronger gun laws. But Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of UC Davis' Violence Prevention Research Program, says, "In San Francisco, it is actually very difficult to legally buy a handgun."
But it's a different story outside city limits. Guns are flooding into town from out-of-state gun shows, like the one next month in Reno, where background checks and waiting periods are not required. Another common tactic is a "straw purchase," where someone without a criminal record legally buys weapons and then resells them for cash. Murphy says one individual bought 62 guns in one year.
"We have numerous cases," said San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, "where someone buys legally, then drives a truck or SUV into the Bayview neighborhood, opens up the trunk and has a fire sale."
One thing is certain: Gun violence has local residents calling for action. After posting the highest homicide total in 12 years in 2007 (98), 2008 got off to a gruesome start with six deaths in the first two weeks - including a 19-year-old who was shot in the heart while sitting on porch steps chatting with his girlfriend.
"It's tragic and a source of frustration to everybody," said Harris. "They're people, human beings, and they've got lives."
Guns are also political dynamite. Newsom hired heavy-hitter Ryan to address persistent questions about the climbing homicide rate, and Harris made gun violence a centerpiece of her inaugural speech Jan. 8. And some don't want to touch it. Newly confirmed Northern California U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello, who started work Jan. 7, was "not available" for a comment on the topic. His spokesman Josh Eaton said, "We recognize that this is an important issue. Accordingly, we will continue to work closely with federal and local authorities to address the problem."
So are there any suggestions? Actually there are, although the solution begins by understanding the motivation of the shooters.
"Since the mid-'80s," says Wintemute, "the illicit drug trade has armed itself with progressively more lethal weapons. If you live in that environment, you'd be foolish not to carry a gun. It's essential business equipment these days."
You might have guessed that. But what you might not know is that a very small number of shooters are causing a large number of the incidents. SFPD's Murphy says at one point his group was able to identify and remove 12 bad actors from a neighborhood and "we didn't have a shooting for seven months."
Wintemute says that approach is a big part of the "Boston Miracle," a gun violence program that dramatically reduced homicides in that city in the '90s.
"They called in the gang leadership," Wintemute said, "and they told them, 'We know who you are, and we know most of you are on probation. If you don't knock it off, you're going to see probation enforcement like you've never seen before.' "
Wintemute says the Boston police concentrated on nailing the slow learners who ignored the warnings, even if it was for jaywalking, to get them out of the area. The results were dramatic. (Unfortunately, Boston's homicide rate has climbed again after funding cuts and staffing problems.)
Still, it's an idea. In the coming weeks, everyone from Harris and Ryan to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives is promising dramatic new initiatives. They've gotten the memo. This is a topic that has the city's attention.
"It is a perception of safety and violence," said Ryan. "Do the citizens of San Francisco feel safe? I think there is a lot of anxiety out there."
Who knows, in a week or so, maybe even U.S. Attorney Russoniello will chime in.
C.W. Nevius' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. E-mail him at cwnevius@sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

01-18-2008, 2:54 AM
Isn't that something? They know exactly how many REGISTERED weapons are in the City. Last time I checked, registered gun owner were for the most part on the up and up. I wonder if they have any idea how many UNREGISTERED weapons they have running around their streets?

Way back when, during my misspent youth running on the streets of the City, I could've bought a number of guns for well below what they go for on the legit market, cash and carry. Now, when I buy a gun, I not only pay the 'legit' price, but I have to jump through a bunch of hoops and wait ten freakin' days to bring it home!

Maybe the authorities need to concentrate on the illegitimate gun trade and leave law abiding citizens alone!

End rant. I know it's all been said before.

My blood boiled when I read that article. Being an employee of the above named publication, it just peeves me to no end...

01-18-2008, 4:52 AM

4 Brigada
01-18-2008, 5:22 AM
Maybe the authorities need to concentrate on the illegitimate gun trade and leave law abiding citizens alone!

Why would they? Law abiding citizens and gun owners are easy targets ( follow the law and comply with it). Criminals always go for the easy pickings. It doesnt matter the "clothes" they wear.

01-18-2008, 8:29 PM
You can't reason with idiots.