Interesting piece by David Frum on CNN.com: America’s gun problem is not a race problem. I’ve been largely avoiding discussion of the racial aspect of the Newtown massacre. Some have pointed out that there wouldn’t be as much of an outcry if the victims were people of color (there was at least one black child and one Asian child), and I might agree with that, but I don’t see it that way; I just see 20 dead innocent children and 6 dead innocent adults. Some have also said that the media is ignoring the fact that most mass shooters are white men. I might agree with that too, but I also don’t see it that way–I certainly see it as a male problem, but I think it’s mostly a gun problem. And while white men do commit the majority of mass shootings (44 of 62 since 1982), there are also quite a few non-white men who have been involved, such as Eduardo Sencion, One L. Goh, Jiverly Wong, Omar Thornton, etc.
But the Frum article is interesting. He notes an interview with Ann Coulter, who seems to put the entire blame on “demographics” and who had to go way back to Colin Ferguson to show that it’s a minority thing and that it’s “diversity” that is causing mass shootings (even though 44 of 62 mass shootings since 1982 were committed by white males). Is Ann Coulter saying that our problem is that we have too many people of color?
“If you compare white populations, we have the same murder rate as Belgium,” Coulter said. “So perhaps it’s not a gun problem, it’s a demographic problem.”
Frum says something I found very interesting:
The typical murder has one victim, not many. The typical murder is committed with a handgun, not a rifle. And in the typical murder, both the perpetrator and the victim are young black men. Blacks are six times as likely as whites to be the victim of a homicide. Blacks are seven times as likely to commit a homicide.
The horrifying toll of gun violence on black America explains why black Americans are so much more likely than whites to favor gun control.
Conversely, fears of being victimized by violence explain why so many white Americans — especially older and more conservative white Americans — insist on the right to bear arms in self-protection. They see gun violence as something that impinges on them from the outside. They don’t blame guns for gun violence. They blame a particular subset of the population. And they don’t see why they should lose their right because some subset of the population abuses theirs.
This is true among just about everyone I’ve spoken to. Most black people I know seem to support some form of gun control. Most white people and Asian people I know also support gun control, but most of the gun supporters I’ve run into (“we have enough laws and it’s unconstitutional to have more!”) seem to have violent fantasies of a man breaking into their home and them defending themselves by shooting that man dead (even though even the gun crazies themselves sometimes have trouble getting that first shot out). They keep talking about “that woman in Georgia” or post videos like this one. I have no idea what the race of the man these people imagine breaking in their home would be, but I always feel like the implied assumption of gun rights supporters is that the man probably would come from a certain “subset of the population.” If the numbers presented by both Frum and Coulter are right, then it’s probably black people who ought to fear gun violence more, which would explain why black people tend to be more pro-gun control. With white people who are pro-gun, I can’t help but think that there’s some kind of bloodlust there. Why aren’t these white people taking the logical approach that would make it harder for their assailants to get guns? I mean, really, you need to seriously question people who cheer whenever someone shoots a home invader (not that it happens often…it doesn’t.). Home invader or not, that’s still another dead person.
In any case, I agree with Frum that we can’t just ignore an entire subset of the population. I haven’t seen any evidence whatsoever that the bloodlusting set is successfully defending itself with guns. As Frum notes, “One important new study finds that a gun kept in the house is 43 times more likely to kill a household member than to be used in self-defense.” I think people probably should have access to guns, just not the larger magazines and assault rifles. No reason not to track guns either. If guns are a problems for Americans in general, let’s regulate them.
Oh, and by the way, race does play a big role in how we discuss guns as well. White privilege plays a role in discussion too. James Yeager, gun rights defender who happens to be white, got his handgun permit suspended for threatening to kill people after he got angry at Obama and Biden. Every time I watch his video (below), I can’t help but think that if he were black, he’d be locked up in prison (which, really, is probably where he belongs–those are some scary, scary threats).