Clinton hits back at gun culture: The murder rate is steady, but spectacular killings have taken crime to the top of the political agenda

IN Washington a one-year-old child was burnt to death when a man tried to kill her babysitter, who had seen him rob and shoot a cab driver, by lobbing a petrol bomb into the room where she was sitting. In New York Amy Federici, shot through the head on board the Long Island Rail Road last week, became the sixth person to die as the result of a shooting spree by a single gunman.

Spectacular murders have moved violent crime to the top of the political agenda. President Bill Clinton last week told a meeting of mayors and police chiefs that violence was 'tearing the heart out of our country'. A survey of 1,600 inner-city youths shows that one in five regularly carried a gun. One schoolboy, asked by researchers what calibre of weapon he carried, pulled his gun 'from his jacket to examine it before responding'.

It is not that the crime rate is increasing. The number of murders in the US is steady at 24,000. But this year has seen a spate of crimes of exceptional violence, such as the massacre on the Long Island Rail Road, affecting white neighbourhoods outside black ghettos. Americans in the most placid suburbs feel threatened.

With the passage of the Brady bill, the first measure of gun control to be passed by Congress since 1968, the Clinton administration believes the National Rifle Association is weakening. In the face of popular anger, Republican senators did not dare to maintain their filibuster of the bill. Janet Reno, the Attorney-General, says: 'It should be at least as hard to get a licence to get a gun as it is to drive.'

The concern is real, but President Clinton's enthusiasm for gun control is also fuelled by the knowledge that it is a good way for the Democrats to dish the Republicans by undermining their tough- on-crime image. He is also politically safe from criticism by black leaders such as Jesse Jackson because in recent weeks they, too, are saying that blacks are the main victims of violence. Of the 453 people murdered in Washington last year only 12 were white.

A young black male is seven times more likely to be murdered than his white equivalent. Under Republican administrations in the Eighties, when the prison population soared to 1.2 million, blacks saw White House promises to do something about crime as thinly coded attacks on the black community as a whole. A theme of Mr Jackson's recent speeches is that more blacks are now being murdered by other blacks than were ever killed by white lynch mobs.

Although the murder rate is not going up, the pattern of violence is changing, according to the crime figures for the first half of this year. The most dangerous cities, increasingly, are medium-sized ones with a population of less than one million, such as New Orleans, Washington, St Louis and Baltimore, and not the big cities such as New York and Los Angeles. Police say this is because large-scale drug operations are moving out of the big metropolitan areas into neighbouring towns and cities.

Dennis Martin, the president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, says: 'They're going where the money is: the places where they can get top dollar for their drugs, where the police are a little less sophisticated and the competition isn't as rough.' It was the development of crack cocaine in the mid-Eighties that fuelled the growth of heavily armed gangs. This in turn has produced a culture of violence in black neighbourhoods where guns are routinely used to settle disputes.

In Philadelphia last week, for instance, 16-year-old Kevin Graham was lying on the floor of a friend's house playing a video game when an argument started and another boy, aged 17, took out his pistol and shot Graham in the back of the head. Elsewhere in the city on the same day six other people were murdered, all but one shot with a handgun.

There are other signs that violence and crime are becoming a political priority. As pressure on politicians and police goes up the job security of police chiefs has dropped.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# asp.net Developer - West Sussex - permanent - £40k - £50k

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments