Tag: Gun violence

David Kennedy: how to stop the killing

David Kennedy

By Alan Bean

I am re-posting this review of David Kennedy’s Don’t Shoot because it addresses the issue of gun violence in realistic, practical and non-ideological terms that make sense to me.  America is obsessed with guns and violence.  The reform movement is right about the need for common sense gun reform.  The NRA is right about the toxic impact of violent movies and video games.  But when you ask why the murder rate in this country is six times as high as most other western democracies, you’re talking about several hundred inner city neighborhoods.

If you want to know how these neighborhoods turned into killing fields, the best place to begin is with William Julius Wilson’s When Work Disappears.  If you want a primer on felon disenfranchisement and the horror of the war on drugs, read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.  But if you just want the shooting to stop, David Kennedy’s Don’t Shoot is by far the best advice going.  Here’s my summary of his argument.

David M. Kennedy: Don’t Shoot: The End of Violence in Inner-City America

David Kennedy

David Kennedy directs the Center for Crime Prevention and Control and teaches criminal justice at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  He is bright, intense, and haunted by the horrors he has witnessed on the streets of inner-city America. He doesn’t place his hope in the conversion of white suburbanites; his focus is on a perception gap that keeps police officers and residents of high-crime neighborhoods from really seeing one another.

Kennedy isn’t dreaming of a drug-free utopia; he just wants children to be able to walk to school without encountering open air drug markets.  He isn’t trying to build crime-free communities, he just wants the killing to stop.  “The killing’s wrong,” he says.  “The killing’s terrible, it’s got to stop.  Even the street guys, almost all of them, think that.” (more…)

Guns don’t kill people . . .

By Alan Bean

“Guns don’t kill people,” David Cole says, “indifference to poverty kills people.”

So long as the consequences of gun violence are born by poor black males, Cole believes, the nation will not pass meaningful gun regulation laws.

There are two obvious responses to Cole’s argument.  It has frequently been noted that most of the cities with high rates of gun-related homicide already have strict gun control laws.  But this only underscores the need for national legislation that discourages people from importing guns into urban neighborhoods.

The second quibble is even more obvious: if poor black males are using guns to kill one another that’s on them.  The only solution, this argument goes, is for young black males to use firearms more responsibly. (more…)

Gun legislation won’t do it; we need a twelve-step program

By Alan Bean

America has a gun problem, but gun control legislation is too weak a fix; we need a 12-step program.

Since the tragic shootings in Newtown CT, we have been buried in a welter of statistics.  Support for gun control is rising, we are told, but the polls vary as to the extent of the shift.  We are reminded that 60% of men but only 39% of women favor gun rights over gun control, and that Republicans (72%) are more likely than Democrats (32%) to place the priority on gun rights.

Those inclined to dig deeper into the figures recently compiled by the Pew Research Center will discover that support for both gun rights and gay marriage has been advancing in recent years, a sign that libertarian arguments are impacting a wide range of issues.

The Pew study also shows that whites are twice as likely as African Americans or Latinos to value gun rights over gun control.   Moreover, white opinion changed radically in the wake of the election of Barack Obama.  In 2007, 37% of white Americans valued gun rights over gun control; the figure is now 57%.  White opinion on the gun issue flip-flopped in the space of four years.

Americans are far more likely to own guns than anyone else on the planet.  Here in the USA, 88.8 out of 100 people own at least one gun, that’s almost one firearm per person.  In Canada, the rate is 30.8, in Germany its 30.3, and in France its 31.2.  But in most of the world, the rate of gun ownership is exceedingly low: (Mexico 15, Australia 15, Denmark 12, Israel, 7.3, England 6.2, Afghanistan 4.6, the Netherlands 3.9, Romania .7).  In North America, Americans own guns at three times the rate of Canadians and six times the rate of Mexicans.

Americans are also far more likely to use firearms to kill people.  In the United States the homicide by firearm rate is 3.2 per 100,000 per year.  In the rest of the developed world, the rate varies between 0.0 in Japan (where only 11 homicides were recorded last year) and Belgium at 0.7.  In Canada, the rate is 0.5, less than one-sixth the American rate. (more…)