“They shoot and don’t ask questions,” said Saybo Williams, 19, whose older brother Jerry was shot and killed last summer in Capitol View.
Many residents of the neighborhood say it came as no surprise that America’s political system swung into action after the December mass killings at an elementary school in mostly white, middle-class Newtown, Conn. But the current political wrangling on the Hill has just served to underscore residents’ suspicions that Americans as a whole undervalue the lives lost to gun violence in inner-city neighborhoods such as theirs.
The focus on suburban shootings at the hands of unstable men armed with assault weapons also fails to capture the big picture of gun violence in America. Handguns are the weapons of choice in about 90 percent of gun crimes, with assault weapons used in about 8 percent. And most gun violence occurs in urban communities such as Capitol View and the North Capitol Street area, where Monday’s shootings took place.
Twenty-six people died in Sandy Hook Elementary. In the District’s Sixth Police District, an area of fewer than 10 square miles that encompasses Capitol View, 19 lives were lost to gun violence last year and 55 people were wounded in shootings. The year before that, 22 people were killed and 35 were wounded. Eighty-eight lives were lost in the city last year, and the Sixth Police District consistently ranks first or second in the running homicide toll.
In the months after the Newtown tragedy, shock and grief have given way to a feeling of frustration here as gun laws are debated on the Hill, just a few miles away yet also remote.
About 96 percent of the residents of Capitol View and the area around it in the District’s Ward 7 are black. Nearly a quarter of the population is younger than 18, and almost half live in poverty, according to census figures. The median household income is $38,500, compared with $61,835 for the city overall. The unemployment rate is the second-highest among the city’s wards, conservatively estimated at 11 percent, compared with 6.7 percent for the District as a whole.
The demographics of Capitol View and the surrounding community, especially the high poverty and unemployment rates, mirror those found in urban neighborhoods nationally where gun violence is prevalent. Fixing these and other problems will require more than a ban on assault weapons or more thorough background checks, crime experts and Capitol View residents say.