Everyone involved in the great gun debate wants to reduce firearm-related violence. Of course, the two sides differ on solutions to the problem. To oversimplify for the sake of brevity, the National Rifle Association wants to put guns in the hands of more law-abiding citizens in the hope that an armed society creates a politer society, whereas Everytown for Gun Safety wants to restrict access to guns in the hope that it keeps them from falling into the wrong hands.
However, truth be told, neither solution really addresses the elephant in the room which is that gun-related violence is an epidemic in the African American community. To quote from a recent Pew Study:
“A disproportionate share of gun homicide victims are black (55% in 2010, compared with the 13% black share of the population). Whites were 25% of victims but 65% of the population in 2010. Hispanics were 17% of victims and 16% of the population in 2010.”
It should be noted that men and boys make up the vast majority (84% in 2010) of gun homicide victims, as the Pew study reported. To give one an idea on how all that translates, while the No. 1 cause of death is car accidents for adults between the ages of 20 and 24, for black men the No. 1 cause of death is gun violence. Put another way, black males are four times more likely to be fatally shot than die in a car accident, according to the CDC.
Compared to their white peers, young black men are five times more likely to be gunned downed. Since most crime is black on black, white on white, Hispanic on Hispanic we have to ask ourselves, honestly, what’s going on in the African-American community? Moreover, what solutions will actually help to reduce gun deaths in those communities?
One major problem the African American community faces is gangs. According to an FBI estimate, gangs account for around 13 percent of all homicides annually. Roughly 2,000 gang-related homicides against 15,500 total homicides nationwide between 2007 and 2011. That’s all homicides, though, not strictly gun homicides.
I’d wager to guess that the majority of gang homicides were perpetrated with firearms, which if that’s the case, would probably suggest that gangs are responsible for a larger percent of gun-related homicides, which account for 11,000 of the total 15,500 homicides per year. Conservatively speaking, I’d bet that of the 2,000 gang homicides each year at least 80 percent or around 1,650 involved firearms.
There is no clear answer as to how many of those gang-related gun homicides involved black folks, but since 55 percent of gun homicide victims are black we can safely estimate that it is close to a majority.
I’m going to do some rough estimates for the sake of simplicity. So, there are 11,000 gun homicides per year, on average, 15 percent or 1,650 of which are gang-related and maybe half of which or 825 involve black people. To put that in perspective, roughly 7.5 percent of the total number of gun homicides per year are black victims as a result of gang violence.
I’m not a social scientist and I’m not 100 percent confident in my math or my rough approximations, but the point I’m trying to make is that black people, specifically, young black men are disproportionately affected by gun violence as a result of gang activity. Forget the numbers for a moment, but if we accept this premise then we can come up with better solutions to solve the problem because arming more good guys won’t directly reduce gang participation (It’s not that I don’t support arming more good guys, I’m all for it, it’s just that as a gang-reducing enterprise I have my doubts about its efficacy) nor will inane policy measures like universal background checks (A recent study showed that criminals don’t typically purchase guns at gun stores, they use straw purchasers, borrow them from friends, steal them, etc.).
If we really believe, to use a popular phrase, “Black Lives Matter” then we ought to start having real conversations about how to save black lives. Sure, police brutality is an issue — the main focus of the BLM movement — but it’s not close to being on par with gang violence. I’m not saying police brutality shouldn’t be addressed and handled just that too often the debate centers around topics that don’t address major contributing factors. To be frank, instead of talking about gun control, we ought to be talking about gang control. How do we keep young people from joining gangs? How do rehabilitate those who are in gangs? How to we do a better job of incarcerating those gang members who are beyond help?
Those are the questions we should be asking ourselves. Of course, there are other issues too that plague not only the African American community but all of us. Addiction. Addiction not just to illicit drugs but legal drugs as well. Alcohol, for example, is a real problem for many. Research shows that for the 40% of convicted murderers being held in either jail or State prison, alcohol use was a factor in the homicide. Are we doing all we can to treat addicts? Are we doing enough to educate youth about the dangers of addiction? Are the current drug laws in this country creating more problems than solutions?
Anyways, I don’t want this article to get misconstrued. I don’t think that all black people are drug-addled gangsters. Not at all. I’m just trying to start an honest conversation about the realities of crime statistics and acknowledge what no one wants to talk about, the fact that when it comes to talking about gun violence gun-control advocates and Second Amendment supporters too often ignore the plight of black people and the struggles they face within their communities.
What are your thoughts on this issue? What do you propose we do to address gang activity?