To follow up on the post I wrote early Sunday morning, the key factor in the Trayvon Martin killing was the presence of a gun, and specifically a handgun. I want to live in a world where young black men are not presumed guilty until proven innocent, where the murder of a young black man means as much as the murder of a young white man would, where the notion of legitimate self-defense is not separate and unequal. We should strive to build that world. But, as I noted in a very different context, making people better is, if nothing else, a very long-term project. The arc of history may bend towards justice, but unfortunately, it is usually long, far too long.
But there is an avenue that has been ignored. The Trayvon Martin killing involved a gun. It was not a bludgeoning or a stabbing. It involved the easiest kind of gun to get stupid with, a handgun. You can hide a handgun, which, incidentally, removes the any deterrent effect of carrying said weapon–no one mugs someone carrying a shotgun (as some like to say in a different setting, if you have nothing to hide…). It’s light, easy to draw, and so on. Unlike hunting rifles, they are specifically designed to make killing another person easy and convenient.
Time was, a majority of Americans believed that handguns were the weapons of criminals and thought handguns should be outlawed. Yet we have moved in the opposite direction, even as handguns are the cause of the majority of gun deaths. Unfortunately, gun control advocates have abandoned this issue.
At the same time, the vile lobbying group ALEC, which carries the NRA’s water on the lobbying front, has made it easier to get away with misusing firearms, as well as get access to firearms.
Making people better or making them less racist and prejudiced is difficult. As we often write on this blog, there are assholes and they walk among us. But there are ways we can intervene. Restricting access to handguns will keep many people alive. Opposing groups such as ALEC will keep people alive.
It’s not the perfect or the desired solution, but, as is often the case with public health, focusing on the proximal will keep people alive.