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 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…)