The Soundtrack of New York

From the New York Times

So far this year, according to the [New York] Police Department, 957 people have been victims of shootings in the city — an increase of 7 percent in the same period in 2011 — with 144 of the shootings resulting in death. Each year since 2009, the number of shootings in the city has gone up.

This summer has been particularly dramatic, especially over the Fourth of July holiday, a traditionally crime-ridden time. Although the murder rate is down in the city so far this year, for the week of July 2 to 8, the number of shootings was up by one-third compared with the same period the previous year.

Three weeks ago in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, residents rallied to end gun violence after a 3-year-old boy, caught in the cross-fire at a playground, was shot in the leg. On July 21, the day before Lloyd Morgan was killed on the grounds of the Forest Houses, Elquinn Warner, 26, suffered a bullet wound to his abdomen from a semiautomatic 9-millimeter handgun at the McKinley Houses across the street during a dispute. He survived, but perhaps because something like this has come to seem so common, the shooting went unreported in the news media.

In its defense of loose gun laws, the National Rifle Association has seemingly had very little to say about the contingent problems gun mythology produces in cities — the perversions of civility that only guns can introduce. In parts of New York, the sound of gunfire assumes the tenor of background noise, enervating communities and drastically reordering the rhythms of ordinary life.

When talking about gunfire, residents of the Forest and McKinley Houses deploy a set of metaphors to describe its ubiquity: it’s like hearing an ice cream truck, they say, or airplanes overhead, or nearly anything else that is part of the soundtrack of existence.

“My son is 3, and he can tell the difference between a gunshot and a firecracker,” Bryant Williams, a resident of the McKinley Houses for 30 years, told me outside his building last week. “They are very similar sounds. That’s crazy.”

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