David Cole of the New York Times argues that young urban blacks pay the cost for the right to bear arms:
Gun rights defenders argue that gun laws don’t reduce violence, noting
that many cities with high gun violence already have strict gun laws.
But this ignores the ease with which urban residents can evade local
laws by obtaining guns from dealers outside their cities or states.
Effective gun regulation requires a nationally coordinated response.A cynic might propose resurrecting the Black Panthers to heighten white
anxiety as the swiftest route to breaking the logjam on gun reform. I
hope we are better than that. If the nation were to view the everyday
tragedies that befall young black and Latino men in the inner cities
with the same sympathy that it has shown for the Newtown victims, there
would be a groundswell of support not just for gun law reform, but for
much broader measures.If we are to reduce the inequitable costs of gun rights, it’s not enough
to tighten licensing requirements, expand background checks to private
gun sales or ban assault weapons. In addition to such national measures,
meaningful reform must include initiatives directed to where gun
violence is worst: the inner cities. Aggressive interventions by police
and social workers focused on gang gun violence, coupled with economic
investment, better schools and more after-school and job training
programs, are all necessary if we are to reduce the violence that gun
rights entail.To tweak the National Rifle Association’s refrain, “guns don’t kill
people; indifference to poverty kills people.” We can’t in good
conscience keep making young black men pay the cost of our right to bear
As Silver notes, the FBI information cannot be used to directly compare black and white homicide rates, since the non-black rate combines the white, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian rates. I will attempt to sort out some of those rates in the next post on this subject, but even a casual glance will suffice to show that the states with the highest non-black homicide rates, the District of Columbia (9.1), Nevada (5.2), Arizona (4.4), and California (4.3) tends to coincide with higher levels of Hispanic population.
If Cole’s thesis was correct, we would have to find that gun ownership and poverty are vastly higher among the black population than among the other U.S. populations. But this is clearly not the case with regards to gun ownership, since 44% of whites own guns compared to 27% of blacks, and the Hispanic poverty rate is 26.6%, nearly equal to the black poverty rate of 27.4%. Therefore, we can not only refute his argument that gun rights entail violence by comparing international crime statistics, but also conclusively show that his “necessary” recommendations for reducing violence are unrelated to the causal problem at hand, and as a result, extremely unlikely to reduce it in any substantive manner.