Gun violence rose sharply in Washington, D.C., in 2007, with the number of homicides jumping 7 percent after several years of decline, says the Washington Post. The city had recorded 181 killings as of late Monday, an increase that police officials attributed in part to escalating violence in the drug trade and fighting among neighborhood gangs. Nonfatal shootings and other gun crimes were also up. The increase in gun violence comes as the city is waging a U.S. Supreme Court fight to preserve its 30-year-old gun law, one of the strictest in the nation. Critics say the law violates Second Amendment rights and is ineffective, as evidenced by the large number of guns that wind up on city streets. D.C. argues that matters would be worse without the law.
To prevent more bloodshed, D.C. police are focusing on crime hot spots, putting more officers on street duty, and upgrading technology. Officers recovered more than 2,900 guns in 2007, about 250 more than the previous year, and rejuvenated a unit designed to get firearms off the streets and determine how they are getting into the city. The number of killings in the city had been declining since 2002; officials said the increase should be put in perspective. In 2006, the city recorded 169 homicides, a 21-year low. The totals in recent years are much lower than during the crack cocaine-related violence of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when more than 400 people were slain annually.