Gun proliferation is a business concern in Detroit
Yvonne Fields, left, and her daughter, Tanya Fields, both of Detroit, say their family plans to spend time closer to home during the warm-weather holidays, on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Detroit, due to shootings and random violence occurring in Detroit and other cities. "The holidays are not like they used to be," Yvonne Fields said before the Memorial Day weekend began. "The gangs have taken over. They do drive-by shootings. Everyone is living in fear." | Corey Williams/AP

This past weekend was Movement in Detroit, a massive electronic music festival that occurs over Memorial Day weekend, taking place in Hart Plaza. The festival brings tens to hundreds of thousands of people down to the riverfront and throughout the city, where bars and clubs hosted Movement parties. Much of this attendance is from out of town.

The Detroit Tigers were also in town, bringing in just under 20,000 extra people on Sunday alone. Along with a handful of weddings, parties, and people coming into the city for no other reason than having nothing better to do, the city was full. With this many extra people and the bustle they bring, it’s no wonder that when a John Doe is shot and killed in the early hours of Sunday morning that it’s only “bad for business.”

Detroit’s local news channel 7 WXYZ reported on another downtown shooting that occurred over the weekend, interviewing local business owners and the suburbanites that migrate into the city for events. Gun violence has been fairly common downtown as of late, and the focus has been on how this is affecting the “view from outside” in the nearby suburbs and the general commerce of the city.

With an increasing annual budget—up to $368.1 million for the fiscal year of 2023—the Detroit Police Department, alongside private security firms hired by the powerful Illitch and Gilbert families, have been unable to curb the gun violence.

Earlier this year, it was reported that an increase in non-violent gun crimes was occurring over the last couple of years in the city: Police were targeting Black people who were carrying concealed weapons. These weren’t armed people walking among us as “bad guys with guns” but rather people who legally obtained a firearm, registered it with police, and, in some cases, applied for a concealed carry license.

Still, in the shadow of the Uvalde school shooting, concerns over whether the police will actually protect people in such crises and questions of gun control have created a certain dissonance in public discourse. Indeed, we want firearms to be less attainable. Certainly, we want police to respond to our calls immediately and protect us from those firing indiscriminately upon innocent people. However, when the supposed “good guys with guns” can’t save us—from failing to stop the shooter in Uvalde (not to mention how they saved their own children and prevented parents from doing the same) to “safely” taking down Kyle Rittenhouse (who of course was later found not guilty)—how are we to conceptualize public safety?

Alongside these concerns, we have to digest at near-lightspeed each new mass shooting and wonder: Are gun control laws the answer? Why does it seem so impossible to have gun control? Above all, though, we must ask: If passed, will they not simply be enforced like so many other laws we already have—from property to criminal law—with all their racist and misogynistic content intact? Will we not see the same disparity in how these laws are enforced against Black people—or how the breaking of such laws is used against women, trans, and femme people?

With the rise in private security forces, the focus of security and policing being for the sake of property and commerce, and the further militarization of police forces, it appears that Detroit’s WXYZ has pinpointed it all too well: It’s a business decision.


Andrew Wright
Andrew Wright

Andrew Wright is an essayist and activist based in Detroit.  He has written and presented on topics such as suicide and mental health, class struggle, gender studies, politics, ideology, and philosophy.