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Does America Have a 'Gun Culture?'


I love the title of last week’s article in Vox: ‘America’s Unique, Enduring Gun Problem Explained.’ In fact, the article doesn’t explain sh*t. What we get is what we always get from the Fake News when some high-profile shootings make it onto the front page, namely, some quick quotes from the same five or six experts who are always ready with their quick quotes: David Yamane tells us that Americans now buy handguns, the Harvard group tells us about those ‘supers owners’ with their stacks of guns, Michael Siegel talks about gun violence and weak gun-control laws, Jeff Swanson gives us a blip about gun violence and mental illness, and Robert Spitzer throws in his two cents as well.

How come the writers of this piece didn’t get the usual twenty words or so from Garen Wintemute, the ER doctor out of California who always has something to say? And how come in a lengthy section on the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision there wasn’t a quote from Adam Winkler, the law professor and 2nd-Amendment expert out of UCLA?

You’ll forgive me if I sound a bit less than enthusiastic about the verbal meanderings of the group whose quotes allowed the writers of this article to present themselves as competent journalists when it comes to the issue of guns. Not only did the authors of this piece simply string together a bunch of quotes without attempting even the slightest degree of critical review, but they even got the facts wrong, or at least the use of data to support their presentation of the facts.

For example, the authors state, according to the FBI, that 45% of all murder victims were killed by handguns in 2019. Except that the percentage of handguns used in killings is probably much higher, because the FBI was unable to identify the actual type of gun used in 25% of all fatal gun assaults.

Please don’t think for one minute that the purpose of today’s column is to call into question the research published by any of the gun ‘experts’ quoted in the Vox piece. They all do good and important work.

What I’m calling into question is the fact that whenever gun violence reaches a level where the Fake News needs to run a piece, invariably the persons who are given the task of throwing something together to meet the publishing deadline are nice, intelligent men and woman who know absolutely nothing about guns.

And because the writers of this Vox article fall squarely into the category of journalists who know how to write but don’t know anything about what they are writing, invariably they’ll miss or misstate the most obvious points.

And the most obvious point about gun violence which somehow keeps being vaguely understood but never really confronted, is the fact that virtually all the data we use to understand the gun ‘culture’ is data based on legal owners of guns, whereas gun violence is overwhelmingly and almost completely a function of behavior by individuals who do not have legal access to guns.

Take, for example, the brief discussion about the Bruen case, where the Supreme Court has made it easier for Americans to walk around their neighborhood or drive across the country with a gun. According to this article, Bruen will result in a proliferation of street shootings, a judgement which has been repeated umpteen-thousand times by every gun-control group.

Know what? For all the research that has been done on guns and gun violence and gun culture and gun everything else, there has yet to be one, single piece of research which tells us how many acts of gun violence are committed by individuals with legal access to guns, versus the number of gun assaults which are the handiwork of individuals using illegal guns.

With rare exceptions, law-abiding gun owners aren’t the individuals who are running around committing upwards of 250 fatal and non-fatal gun assaults every day. Gun violence isn’t a culture, it’s a form of behavior which in more than 80% of all gun-violence events, happens to be a crime.

The Vox article is largely based on what four researchers told the writers about guns. Not one of the experts consulted for this piece has any connection whatsoever with criminology or has ever published any research involving crime at all.

Know why the gun-control community avoids the issue of crime? Because such an approach would lead into a consideration of race and the racial groupings not of the victims of gun violence, which is mentioned all the time, but of the shooters, would have to be addressed.

In 2019, the last year for which we have complete data, the FBI says that 2,302 whites were arrested for homicide, for blacks the number of arrests was 3,282. Know what these numbers produce when we use them to create a homicide rate based on race? The white rate is 0.97%, the black rate is 7.01%. I am calculating the rates for each racial group by using the overall population for that group because homicide is overwhelmingly an intra-racial event.

Know what happens when we compare homicide rates by race? The whole argument that has been circulating through gun control-land about how violent we are because of the existence of all those gun begins to fall apart. In fact, the gun-violence rate for white Americans is below the gun-violence rate in Great Britain, which is invariably touted as the safest country of all.

And by the way, the white population in the United States not only has a very low gun-violence rate but is a population which happens to own maybe 400 million guns. So much for how the Supreme Court’s decision to allow law-abiding Americans to walk around toting a gun will result in a tsunami of bloodshed coming down the streets.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to find some backdoor way to promote the gun business while pretending to be liberally inclined. I’m also not a Trump-ite in disguise. But this country has been cursed by racism since we justified bringing black slaves to America in 1619 or whenever the first black slaves appeared.

And what the curse of racism creates is a situation in which any issue which touches on behavioral differences between the races is overstated by the alt-right and handled with kid gloves by the alt-left.

Which is why the Fake News continues to lament about how gun ‘culture’ kills and injures countless Americans every day, without ever explaining why guns, gun culture and gun violence may mean very different things depending on who you are, where you live and the color of your skin.

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