The city of Milwaukee suffered through a long, violent winter that has now spilled into an equally bloody spring.
There have been 43 murders so far this year, more than double the number of killings reported for the same period a year ago.
Nearly a dozen have lost their lives in just the past week.
After a particularly bloody Sunday in which three more people were killed in a single incident, Mayor Tom Barrett took to his bully pulpit. He called a press conference Monday and lashed out at Gov. Scott Walker and the state Assembly for “putting more guns on the streets,” reported Fox 6 Now.
“I do want to lock up more people who do get involved in gun fights in parks, in streets, outside taverns because black lives matter,” Barrett said.
Barrett says homicides are up 160 percent in Milwaukee this year, and he’s pointing an angry finger at state lawmakers in Madison who sponsored and voted for a concealed carry law.
“This community has to face the reality that the gun laws this state has put forward over the last few years, as proud as it makes the governor and the legislature feel, have resulted in more guns on the streets of the city of Milwaukee,” Barrett said.
It’s not the first time Barrett has gone on an anti-gun rant, and it likely won’t be the last. He was one of the founding members of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who sponsored the concealed carry law, dismissed Barrett’s comments as “hyperbole” not backed up by facts.
“I mean, were the people that perpetrated the crimes concealed carry holders? We don’t know that,” Vos told Fox 6. “So I don’t really know the point he’s driving at other than trying to misdirect the public.”
The latest diatribe from the Democrat mayor wasn’t much different from previous tirades that reveal a “blame guns first” approach to solving Milwaukee’s festering crime problem, says one of America’s most well-known sheriffs, David Clarke Jr., who spent 24 years working for the Milwaukee Police Department before he became sheriff of Milwaukee County.
Clarke, who still lives in the city, points out that while the number of homicides in Milwaukee has shot up this year over last, one must look at a larger sample of data, not just this year over last, to get an accurate picture. That’s because last year was a particularly safe year in Milwaukee. Homicides were down 14 percent from the year before.
“The holes in that argument are obvious. First of all, there’s an ebb and flow to crime,” Clarke told WND. “You’ll see a high period followed by a low period, and a low period will often be followed by a high. But some things remain constant, and one is the availability of guns.”
So Clarke wonders why last year the mayor and his police chief, Ed Flynn, “were not attributing that drop in homicides to guns.”
“Mayor Barrett was one of the founding members of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against [Illegal] Guns. Ed Flynn just comes along in tow, so he’s got to sing from the same sheet of music as his boss,” Clarke said.
One of Flynn’s major “crime-fighting” projects was to “set up a straw man,” Clarke says.
Flynn placed a lot of the blame for “gun violence” on Badger Guns and Ammo, a gun store that operated on South 43rd Street. The rap on Badger Guns was that it was making so-called straw purchases to relatives or friends of people who were not qualified to own guns due to prior criminal records.
“That’s not the fault of the store. Part of the gun investigation in any crime is that they should have gone back and found out who the original purchaser was and how did he get the gun,” Clarke said.
“Ed Flynn was the same guy about a year-and-a-half ago who told (Sen.) Lindsey Graham under questioning about straw purchases that ‘those are paper purchases, and we don’t chase paper.’ Everything was up to snuff, and they claimed Badger Guns was the fault for all the violence in Milwaukee.”
So Badger forfeited its license and gave up its general retail business. It only sells guns to members of its shooting range now.
“They don’t sell guns anymore, so what happens? The violence goes up,” Clarke said.
He said the story of the gun store was just another example of Barrett and Flynn cherry-picking both anecdotal evidence and crime data to wage their war against guns.
Rather than blame guns, Clarke said, something needs to be done to shore up black families, both economically and morally.
“They’re regurgitating the talking points for Bloomberg and furthering his anti-gun agenda. Guns have always been available but it is always a small subculture of the population, the black culture, that operates by a different set of rules,” he said. “They take property at gunpoint; they intimidate and control neighborhoods at gunpoint.”
He said most legal gun owners in the greater metropolitan area live outside the city of Milwaukee.
“Yet only in Milwaukee do we see this violence. It’s black-on-black crime, and Milwaukee is not the only place we see this phenomenon,” Clarke said. “Yet they want to blame it on guns.”
He added, “I didn’t see Flynn stand up last year and say we had a reduction in homicides because of an increase in guns on the streets. … Neither one of them have a strategy to reduce crime, by the way. So, gun control, it’s a convenient straw man they can use.”
Putting the problem in context
Milwaukee is among the 20 most violent cities in the country. By far, the largest number of homicides in Milwaukee occurs in one zip code, 53206.
A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study says, “The 53206 Zip Code neighborhood serves as a bellwether for poverty changes in Milwaukee and nationally.”
Clarke said poverty is a risk factor that contributes to crime, but poverty itself does not cause crime.
“There are several risk factors. One is Milwaukee is the fourth poorest city of its size in the nation, so you have generational poverty, failing schools, absent-father homes, kids born out of wedlock, obscene levels of black male unemployment,” he said. “Those don’t cause crime, but they’re risk factors.”
Clarke said the “overwhelming majority” of poor blacks in Milwaukee don’t commit violent crime. But they often end up being the victims of black-on-black crime.
“When you have those risk factors, the underclass is going to grow. So Mayor Barrett has not come up with a way to reduce the size of the underclass,” he said. “If you do, you’re going to have lower crime. Fewer numbers of them, fewer instances of crime.”
Instead, Barret returns to his favorite tactic of blaming a tool – the firearm – for the crimes, rather than those who misuse the tool, and often don’t even own it legally.
“It’s easier to just go back to old reliable and blame it on the gun,” Clarke said.
In fact, the city’s murder rate, while up from last year, is down substantially from the 1990s. The city had 155 murders in 1990 and reached a peak of 163 in 1991 before falling 25 percent to 122 by 1997, according to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.
For most of the 2000s, the city has averaged about 90 killings per year.
As far back as 1991, the Office of Justice Assistance reported that Milwaukee’s black community was a growing area of concern for the state. The proportion of the state’s homicides occurring in Milwaukee escalated from 40 percent in 1984 to 70 percent in 1990.
“Victims of homicide in Milwaukee were more likely to be young, black and male,” the reported stated. “The victimization rate for blacks has increased steadily over the last seven years. In 1990, a black person was more than 10 times as likely to be a victim of a homicide as a white person.”
How to explain a broader drop in homicides?
So the data would appear to support Clarke’s thesis that the cause of any recent blip in violent crime is more complex than the availability of guns.
“If you look at the data, over the years violent crime has fallen, and there are more guns on the street. But nobody ever asks Chief Flynn why there has been an increase in guns while the number of homicides went down; why is that?” Clarke asked. “You won’t see that question asked, because the media here are willing accomplices in perpetrating that myth that guns cause violence.”
Clarke said it is a tiny percentage of gun owners who use their weapon “to intimidate and take.”
Beside the breakdown of the family and cultural values, Clarke believes some of Chicago’s crime problems have spilled over into Milwaukee.
“There might be something to people trying to escape the violence in Chicago that’s well documented, but the point is not all but a lot of them that escape the violence bring their baggage with them,” he said. “Those who come here may not be bad people themselves, but they have uncles and cousins and family members who then come to visit … and bring all that crap with them. I don’t have any evidence to suggest that is happening, but I think it’s worthy of further study to see if something’s there.”
Chicago has one of the strictest gun-control laws and yet one of highest rates of murder.
“It’s the same with Detroit, the same with D.C. And this blows that theory that Flynn and Barrett are propagating out of the water,” he said. “The overwhelming majority of people in these high-crime neighborhoods in Milwaukee are good, law-abiding folks, but it’s a subculture of the underclass that they’re up against. They live by a different set of values, fatherless homes, drugs. They don’t engage with their children. They don’t instill virtues and values in their children, and those are what breed a culture of violence from generation to generation.”