The gun control debt is once again under way across our country. In fact it could be argued that until the terrorist attack on my city during the Boston marathon, it was the biggest story. After the horrific crime committed in Newton, Connecticut every reporter, blogger, politician, talking head, and pundit had something to say. At the time, I chose to remain quiet, part out of respect to the victims of the crime but more so because I strongly believe that three things should never be developed from emotion: policy, opinions, and decisions. Emotions often lead to poor product from all three of them. I can only wish that lawmakers felt the same way. Would it not be great that instead of rushing for the nearest camera to announce the filling of new legislation and policy, they would instead step back and think? But since that is not going to happen anytime soon, I will now weigh in on a few points.
I will start with the obvious: passing laws means nothing to law breakers. If someone is willing to take a life, the ultimate crime, then they are not going to stop at breaking any of the laws that would fall under capital murder in order of severity. When confronted with this common sense viewpoint, gun control proponents say that we should at least make it harder for criminals and terrorists to get a hold of guns, and I must confess I am not sure what the logic is here, other than logic has nothing to do with it. The one thing we know is that the perpetrators of the mass killings that spur these knee jerk reaction-call for new laws, have been planning their attacks for some time. The key word here is planning. We make plans to deal with the challenges and obstacles to our goals. Furthermore our country’s history and present experience tells us that making things harder for criminals just makes other criminals a whole lot richer and more powerful. After all, criminal empires are built on providing what has been prohibited to those who want it.
The reality is that while crimes like Newton, CT capture the attention of the majority of us, there are non-headline grabbing crimes taking place on a daily basis in our country, especially in our major cities were the highest rates of gun violence are often found. In the case of gun violence in the cities, it is more often than not, a situation where assault rifles are neither used nor high-capacity clips. Yet I believe all thinking people would agree we have an epidemic of gun violence taking place in our inner cities. Many of the mayors of those cities have been calling for tighter gun control for years, despite the fact that many of those cities and the states they are already located in already have some of the strictest control laws that exist. Because of this there is a strong school of thought that says we should be enforcing the gun laws that we already have. I happen to agree with that school of thought but I would add cultural norms to the equation, at least when we are talking about inner city gun violence in the African-American community.
Last week I was on Facebook and came across a video that was posted on a friend’s timeline. The video from WordStar hipHop.com shows what they say is an unarmed man who was shot by the police while fleeing from them. Now I while not even bother to take on whether or not that is true or the part about fleeing from the police. Instead what I am interested in is the reaction from the bystanders. You can see in the video that a large crowd begins to gather when word begins to spread that the police have allegedly shot an unarmed man. The people are very angry and begin to yell and curse the police– their passion is inflamed and they want justice. The police begin to arrive in force to control both the crime scene and the ever-growing crowd. As I watched the crowd grew and the anger of the people rose as they demanded to know why the police shot the man. It was at this point I began to think about every other shooting scene I have personally witnessed, either on the news or unfortunately in person, having lived a number of years in the inner-city myself. In each and every one of those instances there were no crowds demanding why or talking to the police at all. In fact the police are having trouble finding anyone at all to talk to them and share what has happened. This is quite a contrast, when it is Black on Black violence there is no outrage. No one is demanding answers. However if there is the thought that the police may have shot someone, then there is outrage and marches and politicians from the community demanding justice and investigations.
Can you imagine if the community displayed that type of involvement for the majority of shootings that take place in our community, the ones that do not involve the police? If we just did that, we could stamp out the gun violence in our communities which in itself could result in major reduction in our country’s gun violence. Wouldn’t it be something if every time there was a shooting in the community, the community would mobilize, demand witnesses come forward, hold marches and rallies where community leaders and politicians would condemn the perpetrators and vilify such actions to the point of shaming anyone who would dare give aid and comfort to those responsible? If this were to happen would we still need new gun control laws?