Professor Jooyoung Lee from U of T St. George's Sociology Department was recently featured in a news article in The Hamilton Spectator weighing in on the recent rise in gun violence in Hamilton, Ontario. The article examines increasing statistics on crime and gun violence in Hamilton. Professor Lee outlines some reasons why people carry guns and methods through which guns are obtained by Canadians. Professor Lee teaches sociology at the St. George campus. His research involves studying the effects of gun violence on Black young men.
We have posted an excerpt of the article below.
NEWS Dec 27, 2017 by Nicole O'Reilly
Hamilton police believe there are more guns on city streets.
The evidence is in the numbers: 40 shootings this year.
The concerning statistic marks a rapid escalation of gun violence in this city, with shootings doubling year over year for the last several years. There were 22 shootings in 2016, 14 in 2015 and seven in 2014.
Four of this year's shootings have been deadly, including the last three successive homicides between October and December.
"I think there are more guns on the street and more people to use them," said Hamilton police Supt. Ryan Diodati, of the investigative services division.
Yet there is no singular reason for the increase in guns or shootings, or a clear indication if the trend will continue, he added.
These guns — typically illegal handguns — are often used not just in shootings, but in robberies and home invasions, which have also seen increases in specific areas.
...There is a whole school of research into why people carry guns — in particular handguns.
Most drug dealers are armed, but drug dealers aren't the only people carrying guns, said Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto who has extensively studied the people's experience with gun violence.
"The No. 1 reason why young people want to get a gun ... the biggest reason is for protection," he said.
Often young people, especially in marginalized communities, don't feel safe and don't have faith in police, he added.
Other reasons for carrying a gun include status and being involved in a particular argument or "beef." Some marginalized youth who do not have good opportunities to "move up in the world" can see having a gun as a status symbol.
"Being perceived as tough or perhaps violent is its own form of social capital ... a stand-in for other markers of achievement," Lee said.
Accessing guns illegally is as easy as a drive over the border to a state with loose gun laws in the United States. The Hollywood movie-esque scene of traffickers hauling a huge shipment of illegal guns is not common, he said. What is common is people buying a couple of guns, perhaps at a gun show in Ohio where you don't have to show ID, and smuggling them back to Canada illegally.
Illegal guns here tend to get passed around and can be shared within a criminal group, Lee said. Often being part of a criminal group means you get access to a cache of weapons. A spike in shootings can mean many things — that there are more guns available, or that there may be rivalry between rival groups.
"The other thing we know is that these patterns vary year to year," Lee said. "It's hard to abstract away from that and say that it's predictive of a longer-term trend."