All too predictably, the slaughter this week in Uvalde, TX immediately became nothing but grist for the political mill. In the absence of a white killer, Democrats leapt to their fallback position – gun control. If Republicans have anything to offer on the problem of gun violence, they’re keeping it quiet.
In short, political players remain incompetent to even discuss, much less solve the problem of gun violence in the U.S. Their words are cant. The “facts on the ground,” plus the ideologies of the two parties, prevent them from seriously addressing the issue. In order to focus constructively on it, in this post I present some of those “facts on the ground.”
But, before I do, let me be clear: I hold no brief for guns. I don’t own one and never have. My wife owns a 20-gauge shotgun that’s useful for dispatching the occasional rattlesnake, but that’s it. I am the furthest thing from a shill for the gun lobby. If Congress wants to ban AR-15s and similar weapons, I have no objection, but I’m also essentially certain that doing so will have no impact on our homicide rate. It is precisely because I am so concerned about gun violence that I urge us to stop closing our eyes to pertinent facts such as the following - facts that can, if we allow them to do so, direct us away from pointless rhetoric and bad laws:
Facts: Guns are a fact of life in the U.S. There are about 400 million firearms in private hands in this country. Even if we didn’t have a Second Amendment that prevents governmental confiscation, those guns are a fait accompli. Plus, even if we constitutionally could, we don’t have the political will to try to take those guns from their owners. Four hundred million firearms represent a lot of votes. Like it or not, guns are here to stay.
Facts: The overwhelming majority of gun owners are law-abiding people. They don’t rob liquor stores; they don’t slaughter defenseless children. They hunt deer and wild hogs and hope to defend themselves and their loved ones. That means the people who commit criminal gun violence are a very small sliver of the gun-owning public and are mostly involved in the trade in illicit drugs, armed robbery, burglary and the like. Even if the government could take guns from their owners, it would do so overwhelmingly from those who’ve never committed a crime and never will.
Facts: In 2020, there were about 21,000 murders in the U.S. That’s a rate of about 6.36 homicides per 100,000 population, up from 4.96 just two years before. About 11,000 were committed by a person using some sort of firearm.
Facts: About 2.6% of all homicides are committed by a person wielding a rifle of any kind. Almost all gun homicides involve a handgun. Efforts to control access to specific types of rifles, such as AR-15s, even if 100% successful, would have no meaningful impact on our homicide rate.
Politically incorrect facts: According to the FBI, about 56% of homicides in the U.S. are committed by 13% of the population, i.e., black Americans. Of course, only a tiny percentage of blacks kill. Most of those murders were by males and mostly young males. Over 90% of the victims of black perpetrators are themselves black.
Politically incorrect facts: The approximately 11,760 homicides committed by a population of about 41.6 million black Americans give a homicide rate for our black population of 28.2 per 100,000 people, higher than those of Brazil and Guatemala.
Politically incorrect facts: Given the above, all the other races in the U.S. (about 290 million people) committed about 9,240 homicides in 2020 for a rate of about 3.18 per 100,000 people, barely above Samoa’s 3.15 that ranked 93rd in the world.
Facts: Samoa’s gun laws are far more restrictive than those of the U.S. The rate of gun ownership by Samoans is 0.41 guns per 100 people in the country. By contrast, our ownership rate is about 120.5 per 100 people or almost 300 times the rate in Samoa.
Facts: In 2020, the murder rate in Baltimore, Maryland was 56.1 per 100,000 people, higher than that of the most dangerous country in the world, El Salvador. (The State Department maintains an advisory discouraging travel to El Salvador due to violent crime.) The murder rate in Annapolis, MD was 2.53 per 100,000 people. The two cities are about 35 miles apart, in the same state, governed by the same laws and regulations and having the same availability of firearms.
Facts: From 1990 to 2015, the murder rate in the United States dropped steadily. Over that same time, the number of firearms in private hands increased steadily.
Therefore, the murder rate is a function of factors other than the availability of guns. Attempts to increase regulations on gun ownership may satisfy the understandable impulses of many people when faced with a horror like the one at Robb Elementary School. But they will have essentially no impact on the rate of murder by firearm. Plus, any effort to limit the number of guns in private hands runs afoul of the massive number of guns already there and of course the Second Amendment.
It is long past time to (a) admit those facts and (b) get on with a real conversation about who commits murder, why and how to reduce the incidence of homicide in this country. It appears that, if we’re to do those things, someone other than Democrats and Republicans will have to take the lead.