The goal of the current gun control debate is to reduce gun violence across America.
That’s a noble goal.
To achieve it, President Barack Obama is weighing several different options that include both legislative and executive action. Among the ideas he’s considering: a mandatory federal background check before any gun purchase, limiting the capacity of magazines and another assault weapons ban. New York has already passed similar control measures.
There is one main problem with all of those proposals: they will not reduce gun violence because most gun violence happens in inner cities across the country and most of them are committed with handguns, not rifles. Handgun regulation isn’t mentioned as part of this equation (by the way, I’m arguing that it should be). It’s just that for some reason we’ve grown to accept handgun violence as part of everyday life in America. I’ve never been sure why.
In 2011, there were 515 murders in New York City, 431 in Chicago, 344 in Detroit (it’s worth noting that NYC and Chicago have very tough gun restrictions). In Phoenix, someone was murdered every three days. Murders happen so often they barely make the news. Previous legislative attempts have never really been able to address the issue because the issue isn’t guns. The issue is mostly poverty. And poverty is harder to solve and easier to ignore.
As David Frum writes for CNN:
If you ignore America’s poor, you can make all kinds of problems disappear from view. Not counting the poor and minorities, the country does not have an obesity epidemic. Not counting the poor and minorities, the United States has perfectly adequate schools. Not counting the poor and minorities, America would have a higher average income.
Unfortunately, America wakes up to violence only when it happens in a movie theater in Aurora or at an elementary school in Newtown. In the aftermath, politicians always want to do something. We all pray it will never happen again. We, too, want Congress to act, but we should want Congress to do something effective that won’t limit our cherished freedoms.
I don’t have a perfect answer or solution. Maybe no one does. As we move forward and recover from tragedy, some form of gun control will happen, either in Congress or via executive order.
Once it is completed, the president and other politicians will line up to take credit. They will take credit because they have done something, but they will have done something else that won’t solve the problem. The press will still applaud.
Meanwhile, America’s big, dark and violent secret will remain in the neighborhoods we never visit unfazed by Congressional meddling.