It’s Still The Handguns Stupid

I know I’m shouting into the wind about handguns–which cause the overwhelming majority of gun deaths, both suicides and homicides–but Gary Younge makes an interesting point (boldface mine):

Having identified the problem, but without being able to envision any political remedy, Williams grudgingly understands the ubiquitous presence of guns as a banal fact of death in this country. Herein lies the central challenge for the national gun-control movement: It has rallied many good people who are doing good work, but it has failed to connect with the communities most keenly affected by gun violence. Indeed, the people who need it most—low-income communities of color—are the very ones we hear from least.

Segregation is a serious barrier to empathy. So when poor black and brown people are shot dead in areas deprived of resources, the media, the police, and a sizable portion of the political class are confirmed in their view that these are dysfunctional places where dysfunctional people live and die. It doesn’t challenge their worldview; it confirms it.

“If you’re a reader of The New York Times, then a child who is shot by a stray bullet during a gang shooting is not easy for you to imagine,” says Dan Kois, the culture editor of Slate, who in 2013 ran an online, crowdsourced death tally to record all the people who were shot daily. “Sandy Hook was easy for people to imagine.”

When there are mass shootings, the nation’s attention becomes concentrated on the issue. National gun-control advocates come to the fore and make the case for the kind of common-sense laws that would keep more Americans safe. But most people who are shot dead do not die in mass shootings—and most children and teens who are shot dead are not that young and not that white. Indeed, most people who are killed by a gun use one to kill themselves, and many of the remaining deaths come in the form of routine interpersonal violence. So the readers of The New York Times (and The Nation, for that matter) are going to have to broaden their imaginations if they’re going to mount an effective, sustainable challenge to the gun lobby.

While there is a racial component to this–and a decidely non-trivial one–I think there’s also an urban versus suburban/rural divide. Overwhelmingly, in urban areas, homicides are caused by handguns–it’s not like the movies where every hardcase has a long-barrel semi-automatic. That’s what people in cities, regardless of race, worry about: someone pulling out a hidden handgun and shooting you over something stupid (an argument or a robbery), not some spree shooter. Instead of a fist fight or even a knife, someone pulls a trigger, and, bang, you’re dead. People in the suburbs, unless they’re truly paranoid, don’t worry about this. Yet handguns, far and anyway, are the leading cause of death, not assault rifles (not saying people should have easy access to those either).

But we won’t get a handle on gun violence until we get serious about handguns.

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5 Responses to It’s Still The Handguns Stupid

  1. PScottM says:

    The future of gun control as I see it is not through legislative pressure but economic/monetary pressure.

    By that I mean we need to encourage businesses to ostracize those who sell guns and ammunition. After all, it’s been working in NC after HB2 was passed. NCAA tournaments were pulled and companies that had been thinking of expanding in NC are now looking at other options. Remember Michael Moore, the film maker, was able to pressure K-Mart to stop selling guns and ammo because the Columbine killers bought their equipment there.

    But how to bring it about?

    Get billboard advertisers to stop accepting advertisements from gun stores. Pressure WalMart to discontinue selling guns and ammo. Pressure your local newspaper to stop carrying advertising for stores and events where guns and ammo are sold or traded. If that doesn’t work, make the advertising of these items double or triple the cost of a conventional advertisement. If there is a local news story that involves guns in a ‘good light’, refuse to run it. Is your local politician offering a gun prize raffle for his/her fundraiser, don’t advertise the event.

    Get Google and Yahoo to stop mentioning gun stores and web sites in their search results. Let’s get Fedex and UPS to stop ALL delivery and pick-up from gun stores. Does the local pizza parlor offer delivery? No more to the gun stores. Retailers should put up those stickers saying no guns or weapons allowed. Anyone found carrying openly should be refused service.

    As a last resort the local governments could refuse business permits to the gun stores and any business that has a corporate charter should have it pulled.

  2. Gingerbaker – Vermont – Trying to think independently about renewable energy and ending the burning of fossil fuels.
    Gingerbaker says:

    By your own argument, you have shown that the so-called “gun problem” is not a gun problem, it is an urban drugs/gang problem. And why is it not a “guns” problem, per se? Because to a statistical farthing – literally a rounding error – virtually all guns and legal gun owners are NOT INVOLVED in the “problem”.

    So, go ahead and keep misidentifying the problem. Go ahead and keep harping on about how “guns make you stupid”. Go ahead and keep talking about taking guns away from people. Just don’t act so darned surprised when you read the statistics of how many rednecks vote Republican. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t look inward when you rightly lament about the many reasons why we “can’t have nice things”. That’s partly on you.

  3. Tom_b says:

    We need to address it like other public health problems. We ban cigarette advertising and tax tobacco products enough to make usage burdensome. We could easily do the same for guns without interfering with anybody’s demented over-interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, especially given the demise of the country’s most egregiously clueless interpreter. The catch is, we need a complete national weapon registration database. We keep databases for other resources that add costs to society– automobiles– or create taxation “opportunities”– real estate. Such a database, of course, does not exist due to the efforts of the GOP’s favorite terrorist group and their puppet legislators.

    • Gingerbaker – Vermont – Trying to think independently about renewable energy and ending the burning of fossil fuels.
      Gingerbaker says:

      “we need a complete national weapon registration database:”

      Why? If you answer, please tell us how the benefit of such a thing outweighs the political damage the NRA will wreak with such an idea. Almost every single gun owner is a law-abiding citizen. Hundreds of millions of guns never do anything untoward. But… you say we need a gun registry?

      Almost all the havoc from guns is either suicide (which is not a problem as far as I am concerned) or drug-/crime-/gang- related. How is a gun registry going to stop those fellows?

      Then, weigh the answer to that with a guestimate of how many Trump voters would never even think of voting for a democrat because of the 2nd amendment. We have important issues we need government to solve – like AGW – how are we going to accomplish anything if we keep pissing away our political power away trying to take guns from law-abiding citizens?

      Seriously – you want to eliminate most gun crimes? – legalize drugs.

      • Tom_b says:

        “Why? If you answer, please tell us how the benefit of such a thing outweighs the political damage the NRA will wreak with such an idea. ”
        Because with a registry, you can collect taxes; a proven way to diminish bad behavior and raise revenue. As for the NRA, their damage is already baked into the system: they give Republicans 100% ratings; Democrats 0%. How much more partisan can they get? Moreover, stronger gun laws are a winning issue– taking on a giant, corrupt special interest group? The suicides matter primarily to the left behind, but, with registration, data mining might reveal unsettled individuals hoarding assault rifles. Better a psych intervention than a massacre, though that takes us off the hand gun theme.

        Your alleged right to brandish weapons in city streets in some states (really– open carry) interferes with my right to feel safe.


        I am not likely to change your thinking, but please note I have not suggested banning guns. Target shooting is a legitimate sporting activity and I am sure some weapons are interesting from a collector’s point of view. But, every weapon taken out of circulation will improve public safety incrementally.

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