A few years ago, I stayed at a friend’s apartment in a very old building in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Besides the spectacular location, the most distinctive thing about the place was a bare wall in the living room on which slashes made by fencing swords were visible.

Those slashes were evidence that, in the early 19th century, the building housed a fencing school. The school existed, not for the sake of sport, but for the sake of young men who needed the training for survival. Apparently, two centuries ago, sword fights were common on the streets of the city. Men were quick to take offense and quick to pull out weapons to settle even frivolous disputes.

It sounds a bit like Seattle today.

In 2021, gun deaths, gun injuries and shots fired in Seattle all surged to the highest levels in a decade. And it has not stopped in 2022. Every weekend seems to bring a new shooting in the city or the near suburbs. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz sees no single cause for the recent surge, but one thing is a constant: the shootings and deaths are primarily among young, non-white men.

If Black lives really matter – as well as the lives of young Latinos and Asians – we need to address all the factors contributing to this violence with at least as much fervor as we do unjustified killings at the hands of police (which are small in number compared to the count of murders committed by angry young men shooting at each other).

As the marks on that wall in New Orleans indicate, young men of various social groups have always been prone to being hot headed and quick to resort to a weapon. Today, though, the weapons are not rapiers or even the switchblades of the gang fights of the 1950s. Now, it is pistols with 50-round clips that are far more deadly.

And no one needs to go to a special school to figure out how to shoot a gun. You just pull a trigger and someone dies.

See more of David Horsey’s cartoons at: st.news/davidhorsey

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