Thursday, January 31, 2013

Listening to the Wrong People on Guns

I don't have a lot of answers regarding gun policy. I've written plenty on this blog already about my views on guns and their unsuitability for self-defense. But stories like this one have made me realize something else - that we're mostly listening to the wrong people (including me) in this debate:
Mother loses fourth child to Chicago gun violence
The facts on gun violence get lost amidst the philosophical shouting, posturing, and flag-and-constitution waving. Most gun deaths occur in urban areas, particularly "inner cities". Much of it is between people who know each other. Most of the victims as well as the perpetrators are the urban poor, disproportionately minorities. Newtown, Aurora, Gabby Giffords, and the case of the suburban mom who held off a home invader with her gun are all lightning-strike rare events. The reality behind the statistics of gun violence is this - one-at-a-time shootings, kids caught in the crossfire, gang revenge attacks - a daily grind of shootings that mostly go unreported on the national stage.

If this is the case - and in broad measure, it's very hard to argue otherwise - why are we listening to rich white people in suburbs and rural countrysides argue about guns? What does Wayne LaPierre know about the realities of gun violence in America? How much time has he spent in Cabrini-Green?

The same is true of me, of course. I don't live with daily violence. I don't know anybody who's been shot. Which is why I'm reluctant to offer up solutions from afar.

Right now we have a national argument over gun control being conducted by a bunch of rich white folks with philosophical axes to grind, who want to tell the poor black folks in the inner cities how they should solve their very real security problems. The NRA will point out that Chicago's strict gun control laws don't seem to be helping; liberals will point out that arming everyone (which is pretty much the case in inner-city Chicago) doesn't seem to help much either. Judging by the track record to date, neither has much useful to say about solutions.

One terrible irony is that one of those philosophical axes being ground in public is about "tyranny". We are witnessing a spectacle of the rich, white, and rural telling the poor, black, and urban what to do and how to organize their own communities and lives. In our philosophical arguments about theoretical tyranny, we have apparently forgotten what the actual thing looks like. Maybe we should shut up and listen for a while to the people whose lives are most affected by guns.

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