The rate of gun homicides has declined dramatically in the last 20 years. Here we observe this:
Vox author German Lopez dissects the typical liberal reaction to mass shootings, after the tragedy that recently occurred at UCLA. While Democratic voters are undoubtedly acting in good faith in wanting stricter gun laws right after mass shootings, these incidents represent about 1% of gun deaths. Two articles that I came across address how privilege renders many Americans numb to the stark reality of black victims of gun violence. The black-white gap in gun deaths is simply astounding as the statistics for the type of deaths are in reverse:
The data shows that 77% of white gun deaths are suicides, but 82% of black gun deaths are homicides. Black people are 13% of the population, but are over half the victims of gun homicide. How could this public health crisis that has sparked such moral outrage remain for so long? And more daringly, why does discussion about gun control appear to be centered around white victims when black victims are a disproportionate share? (This is not to say white lives don’t matter, and no offense was intended as this is not what I’m implying)
There are several explanations, one of which seems to be the most obvious. White people are the majority, which I consider a fair reason. (To an extent) But more unfortunately, “black on black crime” is seen as an inner-city issue regarding culture. The famous line is often invoked by conservatives to counter arguments about racial inequality. As countless authors have demonstrated, it is a myth that black people don’t care about crime in their communities.
I think other answers, such as the perception of black gun violence being more complicated are more plausible. As evidenced by conservatives’ insincere use of “black on black crime”, talking about problems in the black community is difficult. Besides the explanations of poverty, unemployment, and general lack of opportunities, space maybe the best explanation. The combination of poverty and unemployment in a densely populated area (specifically urban) sounds like a recipe for disaster. The “culture of violence” theory posited by conservatives is broken down by research regarding income, unemployment, and geography.
(Side Note: Think it’s a race thing? Think again. “Poor urban blacks (51.3 per 1,000) had rates of violence similar to poor urban whites (56.4 per 1,000)” It’s not genetics or just culture that explains black criminality, despite what racists would have you believe.)
Another important topic is illegal vs legal guns. There is a correlation between stricter gun laws and fewer gun deaths. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 40% of incarcerated individuals guilty of gun crimes obtained firearms illegally. Research also indicates gun laws affect the availability of illegal guns. While tougher gun laws have a modest effect on homicides from illegal guns, specific legislation regarding urban communities is also needed. Operation Ceasefire has been better at curbing urban gun violence than gun legislation. Also known as Cure, the name for the newly formed organization, it reduced shootings in one neighborhood in Chicago by 67% in its first year! And to conservatives’ surprise, it has existed since 2000, well before Black Lives Matter activists were “thugs.”
Overtime, Ceasefire has resulted in 42%, 34%, and 44% drops in gun homicides over the years in several cities. The approach requires the cooperation of community leaders such as church pastors, at risk victims and offenders which are typically low-income black males, and law enforcement. A series of meetings and incentives are used to prevent violence, and to attack the issue head on at the local level and literally on the street.
Some have expressed concern with how the Obama administration has handled urban violence. In terms of activists rallying against gun violence, there has been a perception that the first black president has been quick to respond to suburban white violence and not to the violence in black urban areas. The president responded to the Sandy Hook mass shooting insufficiently, according to Rev. Charles Harrison:
“What was said to us by the White House was, there’s really no support nationally to address the issue of urban violence…The support was to address the issue of gun violence that affected suburban areas — schools where white kids were killed.”
Aware of the success of programs such as Ceasefire however, Obama has called for an increase in federal funding of programs that address urban violence. When the president pushed for tripling the funding for such programs, Congress cut one program by 50% and another by 30%. Congressional funding of programs that address urban gun violence are a very small fraction of criminal justice spending. It is quite clear that the Republican congress cares about “black on black crime” as much as they claim they do.
But even liberals who are concerned with gun control and violence should be focusing more on this as well. When 15 of the 30 people who die of gun violence each day are black, those on the left, which is supposed to be aligned with people of color, should raise more awareness of the color of gun violence. Additionally, there should be an emphasis on community based programs as they are not only politically neutral, not falling into either liberal or conservative camps, but they require the help of the people being served. When public policy is paternalistic, communities generally express backlash. Having several groups involved, including the community, results in a dramatic reduction in violence and an increase in feelings of autonomy and freedom. Omitting the latter can have disastrous political effects as shown by Thomas B. Edsall in “The Anti-P.C. Vote”
My next post will be about political elitism vs populism, which I expect that my colleague Jack will take the elite side, but we shall see what occurs.