Guns and Demography

Email Print

how the civil rights establishment would react if Chuck Schumer
and Sarah Brady proposed a law denying black people the right to
keep and bear arms, but granting that same right to white people.
Al Sharpton and Kweisi Mfume would cry, "Betrayal!" Yet
many black leaders today support an anti-gun agenda that is fast
driving America in the direction of race-based gun licensing.

how it works.

activists have succeeded in turning the gun debate into an esoteric
exercise in statistical number crunching, comprehensible only to
highly trained academics. Anti-gun experts argue that guns increase
violence. Pro-gun experts argue that guns in the hands of honest
citizens reduce violence. We the People look on dumbly, mystified
by the charts, graphs, tables and diagrams wielded by each side.

Framers of the Constitution never intended that basic rights should
be subject to this sort of academic debate. They knew that once
the debate started, it would never end. One excuse after another
would be found to chip away at our rights, until none were left.

process has already begun. And, as the anti-gun movement progresses,
the rights of racial minorities will clearly be the first to go.
The reason is simple. If statistical number-crunching is to be our
guide in rationing out basic liberties, there is no question that
crime statistics unambiguously demand the disarming of black America.

and Violence

the white suburbs of Syracuse, New York where I grew up, many families
owned firearms for hunting and self-defense. Guns were plentiful
in our community, but gun violence was completely unknown.

I moved to New York City and took up residence in Alphabet City,
a largely Hispanic neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan,
notorious for drug trafficking. There I encountered a level of violence
that I had never before witnessed.

one occasion, I was nearly stabbed in the stairwell of my apartment
building, when I walked inadvertently into the middle of a knife
fight between two drug dealers. On another occasion, my wife and
I had to take cover in a doorway when a gun fight broke out between
drug dealers in front of our building.

to U.S. Justice Department figures from 1992, white Americans commit
murder at a rate of 5.1 per 100,000. For black Americans, the rate
is 43.4 per 100,000 — eight times that of whites. The FBI's Uniform
Crime Reports show that blacks, who make up roughly 13 percent
of the U.S. population, commit some 42 percent of all violent crimes,
according to 1995–1996 data.

addition, African American criminals prey on whites at a far higher
rate than white criminals do on blacks. Justice Department figures
show that in nearly 90 percent of all interracial crimes, a white
person turns out to be the victim and a black person the perpetrator
— a proportion that has remained remarkably steady for two decades
(the figure was 87.49 percent in 1981 and 87.83 percent in 1999).


media reports of suburban school shootings give the impression that
Main Street, USA is seething with potential violence. Yet Mike A.
Males, a researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has calculated that
the murder rate among white American teenagers in 1995 (that is,
the rate at which white youth, ages twelve to seventeen, were killed)
was "virtually identical" to that of Canadian youth. By
contrast, the murder rate among non-white youth in the United States
was eight times higher than among Canadian youth in 1998.

control advocates frequently point to Canada as a model of strict
firearms regulation. Yet, even with our looser laws, white American
teenagers are hardly more inclined to engage in gun violence than
Canadian youth. Writing in the leftwing journal In These Times,
Males points out that, in California, "where white households
are the most likely to harbor guns… the gun death rate among white
teens (three per 100,000) is as low as Sweden's or Canada's."

similar phenomenon can be observed nationwide. Males notes that
the proportion of youth murders committed with guns in Canada is
much smaller than that in the United States. Yet, when Canadian
youth are compared specifically with white American teenagers,
the difference narrows considerably. "The U.S. white-teen [gun]
murder rate is pretty close to Canada's," notes Males. "Non-white
youth are a different story: 180 murders, 147 by guns in 1998, a
rate five and eight times higher than for California white or Canadian

Class or Culture?

keeping with his leftwing views, Males emphasizes the role of class
in these differential murder rates. He contends that blacks commit
more murders because, overall, they have less money. Males' figures
do show that poor and affluent groups within the same race exhibit
different levels of violence.

there are clearly factors at work in the American crime wave of
the last forty years that cannot be explained by income alone. As
John Perazzo points out in The
Myths That Divide Us: How Lies Have Poisoned American Race Relations
"During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when poverty and
hopelessness plagued American life as never before or since, violent
crime rates were far lower than today — for whites and blacks alike.
Indeed, it was not until the 1960s, a period of economic prosperity,
that crime rates soared."

within the black community, cultural factors are at work that have
wreaked special havoc among the young. "Thirty years of research
suggests that the… boys who are most at risk for juvenile delinquency
and violence are boys who are physically separated from their fathers…,"
writes Clark University philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers,
author of The
War Against Boys

David Blankenhorn writes in Fatherless
that "the weight of evidence increasingly supports
the conclusion that fatherlessness is a primary generator of violence
among young men."

the reason for the extraordinary level of violence in the black
community, it presents anti-gun academics with a question they do
not like to address: Why should white people be subjected to the
same gun control laws as blacks, when black people are statistically
far more likely to commit gun violence?

academics have no reasonable answer to this question. Only libertarians
can answer it in a way that is consistent with traditional American

Libertarian Position

people today have come to believe that rights are conditional. They
believe, for instance, that if people are posting hateful or dangerous
material on the Internet, then the Internet must be regulated. They
believe that if people are making bad use of guns, then guns must
be restricted.

his book For
a New Liberty
, Murray Rothbard gave a name to this sort
of thinking. He called it "utilitarianism" — the notion
that rights and freedoms take second place to utilitarian or practical
concerns. In other words, if your rights are felt to conflict in
some way, with the greater good of society, then your rights can
be taken away. He writes:

a society which fervently considers all redheads to be agents
of the Devil and therefore to be executed wherever found. Let
us further assume that only a small number of redheads exist in
any generation — so few as to be statistically insignificant.
The utilitarian-libertarian might well reason: "While the
murder of isolated redheads is deplorable, the executions are
small in number; the vast majority of the public, as non-redheads,
achieves enormous psychic satisfaction from the public execution
of redheads. The social cost is negligible, the social psychic
benefit to the rest of society is great; therefore it is right
and proper for society to execute the redheads.

true libertarian, however, would recognize that the rights of redheads
are just as unalienable as everyone else's rights. Likewise, a libertarian
recognizes the irrevocability of gun rights — including those of
black and Hispanic gun owners — regardless of how poorly those rights
may have been used, up till now.

The Disarming of Black America

4, 2003

[send him mail] is a New York
Times-bestselling author and cyberjournalist. His latest book is
Seven Myths of Gun Control
from which this article is excerpted and adapted.
He writes for and runs his
own blog site

Poe Archives


Email Print