"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


We are apparently destined to have a collective spasm of gun control blathering in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting tragedy.   Liberals who may have never shot a gun, much less owned a gun, apparently believe that the mere availability of guns inevitably leads to criminal insansity like that of Adam Lanza at the Shady Hook Elementary School.  

Let them explain the following data which popped to my attention today.   In his NY Times column, liberal statistician extraordinaire Nate Silver -- OK, so he got the election right -- notes that Democrats and Republicans are starkly divided by gun ownership.   But the data he presents is highly interesting for reasons he likely wouldn't acknowledge.   According to November exit polling, only 21% of African-American voters own guns, while 47% of whites do.   But, according to this study by the Department of Justice, over a thirty-year period, blacks committed 52% of homicides in America, while whites committed only 45%, despite having a population six times the size.   If gun ownership was a predictor for committing murders, the fact that blacks own guns less than half as often as whites ought to mean that they would commit fewer murders, not more, shouldn't it?   But the reality is that they commit murder at a much higher rate than whites -- six or seven times as often.

None of this is to cast aspersions at African-Americans, or to belittle the horror of Sandy Hook.   It's simply to offer the suggestion that, rather than guns, poverty, the breakdown of the family, a demonstrably idiotic "war on drugs," a culture of dependency, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the inner city, terrible school systems, the gang culture, and many other factors have combined to make black murder rates substantially higher; just as, rather than guns, divorce, the anomie of suburban high schools, the soul-wasting disaster of videogaming, mental illness, the isolation of suburbia, the shriveling of neighborhoods, the lack of church attendance, and the general loss of community, have combined to make it more likely that disaffected young men might commit horrific acts of mass murder.  

It's a cliche, but it's true... guns don't kill, people do.   And, in particular, people with particular kinds of environments.

If you really wanted to lower the murder rates in America -- and I'm as concerned about the murders of young black men on the south side of Chicago in gang-related drug killings as I am about the admittedly more horrific, but also rarer killings at Shady Hook -- here's what I would propose.   Don't outlaw a tool, a weapon.   Instead, let's change the environments of young black men in the cities and young white men in the suburbs.   One, let's wind down the war on drugs just as we've wound down the war in Afghanistan.... let's just accept defeat and get on with our lives.   That will eliminate the reason behind many of the gang-related homicides in our cities.   Two, let's make it as difficult to get a violent first-person shooter videogame as it is to buy cigarettes or liquor if you're under 21.   We seem to have made it a priority to keep young people from developing Habit A that leads to lung cancer.   Why not make it a priority to keep young people from developing Habit B that leads to cancer of the soul?

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