In 2017, Kenosha had the highest rate of gun ownership in the country at 4.6 guns per 1,000 residents.
Wisconsin’s biggest city reported more people were shot there than any other municipality in the state — 322 in 2017, according to the city’s police department — as well as the fourth highest number of homicides and the second highest number of nonfatal shootings.
This explosive rate of violence is likely the product of Kenosha’s unusual situation — it’s home to two of the largest manufacturers of handguns in the country — and of its demographic makeup, which has allowed poverty to push in close proximity to middle-class communities and kept residents from retaliating against one another.
“You see that the narrative that this city is about property and wealth and not about people — they’re not really true,” said Tony Bognar, Kenosha’s police chief, according to Slate. “They’re not so pervasive as they seem sometimes.”
While the city’s demographic makeup has given it a different social dynamic from other areas, the city’s relationship with guns has often been a mixed one. Kenosha’s third district, the one most affected by its rapidly growing number of gun crimes, has had a longstanding dispute with its neighbor, the third-largest city in the nation.
“The [Baker] family, the Chew family, has controlled all the land in the city of Kenosha,” said Susanne Rizzi, a former member of the Kenosha Police Commission. “And we just can’t do anything. We can’t put out the stop fire or put out the shooting.”
Though Kenosha remains largely peaceful, there have been reports of gunshots at a major music festival, a rock concert, a parade, a backyard barbecue, and even a private home. Four people were killed and at least 64 were wounded in 2017 in Kenosha — more than 20 of them minors.
While it’s easy to see how Kenosha, home to one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of guns, is a perfect incubator for a gun culture, there are various possible explanations as to why people there are happy to risk their lives when faced with a gun.
“You’re supposed to be able to carry weapons. You’re supposed to be able to protect your family,” said Kathy Behm, a mother of two teenagers.
Kenosha resident Kevin Perry said that one reason is that in some of the areas with a large amount of violence, “you want to have your own militia. It’s your own police force.”
While violence is more common than ever in Kenosha, people in the city are claiming to be more engaged, more concerned with their neighbors and contributing to positive change.
“There’s a lot of anger in our community, but it’s still a pretty calm community,” said Jeremy Blanchard, who was recently promoted to police chief. “The vast majority of our residents are not mad at each other, and they’re not trying to kill one another.”
He was followed by another statistic-lacking recent news article, one which notes that Kenosha has one of the highest rates of homeowners taking violent action against their neighbors. The number of gunfire guns “who replied” to officers’ calls for help last year was 144.