Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday 22 May 2021


The ‘root cause’ of shootings in D.C.? Think guns and those pulling the trigger.

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Authorities investigate the site of a shooting at 10th and P Streets NW in D.C. on Tuesday. (Craig Hudson for The Post)
May 22, 2021 at 2:42 a.m. GMT+8

In January, D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, sang the praises of the selection of Linda Harllee Harper as D.C.'s first gun violence prevention director. The District needs to “act boldly and strategically to tackle gun violence,” Allen said, noting that the former top D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services official’s “philosophy is deeply rooted in the public health approach that is imperative to reducing violence.” Gun violence prevention, Allen declared, can’t be left “siloed in the public safety cluster.” Sister government agencies must also be brought to the table.

And in touting his own budget initiatives, Allen in 2020 announced his work to reinvest funding from the Metropolitan Police Department “in programs that get at root causes of violent crime, including violence interruption, school-based mental health, a new domestic violence shelter, housing for returning citizens, job training for transgender/non-gendered/non-binary youth, emergency rental funds to prevent evictions, and more.”

So, take that in the teeth, gun violence!

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Tuesday evening, around 7 p.m. in front of a rowhouse at 10th and P Streets NW in Allen’s Ward 6, a mother and her 5-year-old son were shot in a hail of bullets. As of Thursday, both remained hospitalized.

Just asking: Did any of this have anything to do with the “root causes” of violence? Were the mom, Katie Reilly, and child the victims of gang violence? Was there some schoolyard incident that got out of hand? A domestic dispute that spilled onto the sidewalk? Had a job opportunity been lost or denied? Perhaps, the looming and scary prospect of eviction and homelessness?

Are conditions present that would cause the gun violence prevention director to spring into action?

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In her formal Feb. 17 declaration that gun violence is a public health crisis in D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced an initial investment of $15 million to create another bureaucracy — a “gun violence prevention emergency operations center” bringing together the D.C. government’s “best and brightest” in education, job training, mental health counseling, housing and other areas, The Post reported.

Harper, as did Allen, declared war on the “root causes of gun violence” before it occurs. That will entail, she said, working “one on one with the most impacted residents” and emphasizing “the circumstances that put people at high risk of engaging in, or being victimized by, violence.”

Which turns my thoughts to the mother and her 5-year-old at 10th and P Streets NW, along with her husband and the couple’s other young child, who were nearby when the shooting took place. What are the thoughts of Mayor Bowser and Council member Allen about the victimized family and the other parents and kids who were filling the streets around the time the elementary school playground down the street emptied and closed? Did they do anything to place themselves at “high risk”?

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And, pray tell, what about the gunman? What are the thoughts of our “best and brightest” about the way to address his involvement in the “public health crisis” in which he plays a starring role? The police are trying to locate a suspect, identified as 26-year-old Anthony Bedney of no fixed address, who is wanted on a D.C. Superior Court warrant charging him with assault with intent to kill.

According to news accounts, Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said the gunman had been using a rental scooter when an argument took place between him and the family. How this argument escalated is unknown. But the police said the gunman pulled a mask over his face during the dispute, fired four times and fled, leaving the scooter behind.

In a statement to WUSA9, Katie Reilly’s husband said: “Give blood if you can.”

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To call the shooting “ridiculous” and “insane,” as Allen did, adds little to our understanding. Neither does it help much to hear him declare that the council is working to “double down and triple down on programs to intervene and get at violence in our city.”

By doing what?

Bowser complains about “a lack of support for police resources” by a council that last year cut 2.5 percent of the D.C. police operating budget. She suggests that if police lack “the tools in order to be able to get illegal guns off the streets, that can only lead to less safe streets.”

Have at it, Bowser and Allen.

Meanwhile, you are cordially invited to visit the D.C. Police Department’s firearm recoveries for May 10 to May 17.

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Think about the man who pulled the trigger on that little boy and his mother.

Read through the list of weapons, read the descriptions, imagine their lethality and accept the reality that this report represents only one week of recoveries, that people toting guns such as these are moving in and around the city like the Taliban in Afghanistan, free to mow down the innocent at will. Meanwhile, the powers that be, safely surrounded by protectors, wax eloquently about attacking “root causes” — leaving D.C.'s innocents to be delivered to death’s door.

To those keeping count, as of the end of April, 229 people have been shot in our nation’s capital. Pandemic? Covid-19 or gun violence?

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