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At the risk of sounding too much like a cliche, I would make the argument that gangs of the 1960s were less malignant than the gangs of today. Both sets of organizations were not desirable to American society. It is not as if gangs of both time periods sought to enrich the American experiment of liberal democracy. Yet, one can see how gangs of today are much more lethal to this experiment with the influx of semi automatic weapons and drugs:
Two factors mark the major differentiation between earlier violent gangs and today’s violent gangs: the intensified commerce of drugs and the violence that surrounds the drug business, and the enormous increase in the availability of lethal automatic weapons that are used in gang murders.
The gangs of the 1960s did revolve around ethnic identity and sought to develop a nationalistic identity of self. As part of the nationalism that was so intrinsic to the time period, gangs of the 1960s embraced the idea of ethnic identity, thereby making their affiliation something more than being purely and entirely transitory. The modern gang setting is more destructive, willing to embrace violence on a larger scale with greater ease, and one in which collateral damage is of greater significance than with their counterparts of the 1960s.
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