I have been reading and writing about gun violence for more than ten years. I have yet to see how one of the most significant factors that we need to understand about this peculiarly American form of behavior not only remains unstudied by all the public health mavens (read: experts) but isn’t even mentioned by this so-called scholarly community as an issue of concern.

              What I am referring to is the extraordinary differential between whites and blacks when we look at the numbers for homicides versus suicides committed with a gun. The difference is startling. For whites, the gun-homicide rate in 2021 was 3.05, for blacks it was 28.03. This puts the white gun-homicide in the United States right around Sri Lanka and Turkey, and considering that white Americans own ten times more guns that the residents of either those other countries, the rate of gun homicides suffered by American whites isn’t so bad.

              On the other hand, the rate of gun homicides experienced by American blacks is up there around countries like Sudan, Guinea, and the Dominican Republic. In 2021, the U.S. gun-homicide rate for blacks between ages 14 and 34 was – ready? – 64.05. The only country which matches that number in the entire world is El Salvador. No other country is even close.

              Looking at gun suicides, however, gives us a much different view of things.  In 2020, the rate of white gun suicides was 7.84, the black gun suicide rate was 3.95. When it comes to how guns are used in this country for ending a human life, as opposed to using a gun for hunting or sport, whites use guns to shoot themselves, blacks use guns to shoot someone else. In that respect, I’m still waiting for the first researcher to attempt an analysis of the differential between gun homicide and gun suicide using race as the fundamental variable in both types of events.  

When public health researchers try to explain the racial difference in gun-homicide rates, they invariably trot out the same old, same old narrative about the ‘hopelessness’ and all the other socio-economic blah, blahs, blippity-blahs about the inner-city or what is now referred to as ‘underserved neighborhood’ life. This narrative was a particular favorite of the gun-control academic crowd during the Covid-19 Pandemic, when the incidence of gun violence shot up and of course was explained as being caused by the increased socio-economic pressures spawned by the spread of a virulent and deadly disease.

              We don’t yet have numbers for shooting deaths in 2022 or 2023, but either the media is paying more attention to gun violence, or maybe the gun-violence rate has jumped even higher, or maybe a combination of both. But if the increase in both gun homicides and suicides in 2021 was due to the socio-economic stresses of the Pandemic, how come present-day gun violence seems to be happening even more frequently although the incidence of Covid-19 has gone way down? Duhhh….

               Thirty years ago, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published two articles which definitively made a connection between access to guns and medical risk. They did not qualify what types of guns, or whether the guns were locked away, or anything else. They simply looked at the incidence of homicide and suicide in households which contained guns.

              These two articles provoked a shitstorm on both sides of the gun debate, with pro-gun advocates claiming that guns were the most effective means to protect individuals from crime, and anti-gun advocates claiming that we needed to regulate gun ownership to a greater and more effective degree.

              How did the so-called public health gun experts situate themselves within this debate? They decided and continue to promote the idea that having guns around is okay, as long as they are used in a ‘responsible’ or ‘safe’ way.

              What does ‘responsible’ mean? It means whatever behavior these public health experts believe will reduce the risk from guns, although they have yet to produce any research which actually shows any causal linkage between gun-violence rates and more laws and regulations covering guns.

              I love the studies which correlate gun violence with gun laws, i.e., the more gun controls you put into the legal environment, the more you reduce violence caused by guns. Except the fact is that with a handful of exceptions, the states which have lots of gun-control laws and lower rates of gun violence, had those lower gun-violence rates before the new laws were passed. Oh well, oh well, oh well.

              Want to end gun violence? It’s very simple. Get rid of the guns which cause the violence. This week the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal challenging an assault rifle ban passed by a second Illinois community – Naperville – which follows from an assault rifle ban passed by Highland Park in 2014. The Highland Park ban was upheld by the SCOTUS in 2015.

              How come the public health gun researchers who are all so worried about gun violence never make a peep about reducing gun violence by simply getting rid of the guns?

              Oh, I forgot. You can’t conduct public health research on gun violence unless you first commit yourself to programs which promote responsible behavior with guns. After all, didn’t C. Everett Koop promote the idea that tobacco wasn’t a health risk if people would smoke in a ‘responsible’ way?