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Ending Gun Violence in Raleigh

Will more RPD officers solve our violence problem?

2022 saw Raleigh’s worst year in homicides. Raleigh, with a population of about 470,000 people, saw 49 homicide deaths, compared with 33 in 2021.

To put that in context, the entire country of Austria, with a population approaching 9 million people, had 65 homicides in 2020.

Raleighites live in a relatively safe city in an exceptionally violent country. The Viennese live in a relatively violent city in an exceptionally safe country. Vienna experienced a couple dozen homicides in 2020 (same as Raleigh), except that North Carolina (population roughly 11 million) experienced more than 800 murders in 2020. That’s a murder rate nearly 15 times the rate in Austria.

We can speculate at length about the reasons for the immediate jump. Post-COVID-related? Spikes in the costs of living putting pressure on people and families? A lack of police officers?

But Austria also experienced many of these same factors. What Austria does not have is ubiquity of guns. And it does not have the income equality.

If you’re wealthy or at least middle to upper middle class in the U.S., you experience a murder rate equivalent to the safest European countries.

If you’re poor or lower middle class, you experience the real American homicide rate. That is to say, violence in the United States (and Raleigh) is disproportionately felt by the poorest people in our communities.

Because we live in a post-Calvinist country, we tend to believe that the poor in some way “deserve” or at least “can’t be surprised” by what they experience. They are not God’s elect.

But of course this is nonsense. Our economic system is broken, and because our economics are tied with deep moral issues about what it means to be a human being, our moral system is broken. While I’m not opposed to good stop-gap measures, the real solution to our violence problem won’t come from limiting gun ownership per se (although that should happen).

It will come from a thorough-going revision of a political and economic order that is more humane.

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