“If they want to really settle [street beefs], we can have them down to the Civic Center, put a boxing ring up let them go and box it out,” the mayor said. “And the best man wins and the beefs will be over. Those are some [different] kinds of things I’m thinking about, hoping that we can get these people to put these guns down.”
Mayor Jack Young’s ‘suggestion’ that “beefs” or altercations between people on the streets of Baltimore can be solved by fisticuffs instead of shootings and gun battles is very flawed.
The urban myth that ‘back in the day’ street quarrels were worked out in hand-to-hand jousts is only a myth. Sorry Mr. Mayor, we searched for the time when ‘beefs’ in Baltimore were settled man-to-man without guns and could not identify that period in local history.
The lore of a time when real men resorted to an almost honorable one-on-one physical contest to redress public conflicts, passed on through the generations by oral expression in barber shops and on street corners, does not square with the facts.
When Mayor Young was a young man, a few years out of high school, 1975, Baltimore experienced 259 mostly hand gun murders, 50 less than were committed last year, in 2018. Moreover, in the 44 year period from 1975 through 2018 Baltimore City has experienced 11,554 murders, an average of 262 murders per year.
The thing that appears to have driven gun violence in Baltimore since the mayor’s youth, back in the day, has not been a change by offender’s in their conscious preference of whether or not to employ weapons, but simply the ready availability of guns as compared to then.
The proliferation of guns, and drugs, is the potent combination that has driven the explosion of murder on Baltimore streets, not fist-fighting as a less desirable option to settle differences, beefs.
Besides, what would be the ramifications of additional ‘beefs’ resulting from contenders under the mayor’s boxing versus shooting ‘solution’ who were dissatisfied with the outcome of their bout, for whatever reason?
While an exact number of illegal guns on Baltimore streets could not be reasonably estimated, consider that during a one-year period between 2014 and 2015, 3500 guns were collected by the City under a buyback program, probably a small number of the total out there.
The one thing that has changed since back in the day is the willingness of perpetrators to use guns. If Baltimore City had the same homicide rate in 1975 as it had in its worst year, 2017, of 57.8 per 100,000 residents, instead of the 259 murder victims that year there would have been 499.
Since 1975 to present the murder rate in Baltimore has nearly doubled from 29.9 per 100,000 despite the population shrinking by 28.25%, nearly 245,000 citizens, roughly the equivalent of Norfolk, Virginia or Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Think of how many guns might show up at the Royal Farms Arena by adversaries in a boxing contest in anticipation of unacceptable outcomes by one side or the other? The possibilities of running gun battles downtown and/or when the boxing combatants return to their neighborhoods?
No Mr. Mayor, boxing is not a viable alternative to solving gun violence on the streets, unfortunately. Your well-meaning sentiment and frustration is palpable, but drugs – as a cause of altered psychological states predisposing people to violence, and also conflicts resulting from illegal drug commerce – precludes your recommendation.