LETTER: Gun crimes demand attention from political leaders

Chris Hertig
Spring Garden Township

While mass shootings are given significant media attention, they are but the tip of the iceberg regarding gun violence. Suicides are a much larger portion. Another major aspect of gun violence is that perpetrated by criminals. This includes the garden-variety possession of firearms without a license, guns in the hands of juveniles, etc. How big a piece of the gun violence pie this comprises is anyone’s guess.

It also includes the possession or use by those with a lengthy rap sheet. The “5 percenters” (that proportion of the inmate population that needs to remain part of that population) are a serious challenge. Our criminal justice system isn’t designed to deal with them. At some point they get out and resume their predation.

They have always been a problem. History is filled with instances of bad guys getting out and doing bad things. Today, many robberies are at the hands of these people. Police officers killed in the line of duty are usually ambushed while making arrests, serving warrants or conducting traffic stops by 5 percenters. And that should give us pause.

We need valid data on all aspects of the gun violence problem. We can’t manage what we don’t understand. The state auditor general should conduct an audit of charging and sentencing for gun crimes. That would be a logical start followed by all relevant agencies (district attorney offices, police departments, probation departments, etc.) keeping records of their own.

Gun crimes, unlike mass shootings and suicides, are within the control of government. They need effective control from government, primarily at the state level. They demand immediate attention from our political leadership. Transparency on the incidence of gun crime is required. It is long past due.