I have just finished rereading the remarkable book by Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake, which was published in 1972 and correctly predicted our Vietnam collapse the following year. Fitzgerald’s thesis is that we failed in Vietnam because we tried to take our definition for government and apply it to a country whose political culture was not only wholly different but had been developed and solidified over several thousand (not hundred) years.

              I believe that a variation on Fitzgerald’s argument happens to explain our inability to do anything tangible to reduce what has become an endemic condition called gun violence which has cost us between 30,000 and 40,000 lives each year for the past thirty or more years.

              And it also should be noted that since we have no idea how many people each year survive a gunshot wound but in many cases then experience a shortened lifespan, our understanding of the true dimensions of this problem is what Grandpa would call ‘nisht tachlis’ (read: not understood.)

              One of the few things we do know about gun violence is that blacks are victims of fatal shootings ten times more frequently than whites. In fact, for all the talk about how the United States has a violent crime rate which is 7 to 20 times higher than any other OECD nation-state, the death rate for whites is around 2.5, whereas the rate for blacks is 23.5.

              The average homicide rate in the entire OECD is 2.6, which happens to be the homicide rate for whites in the U.S. But let’s remember that the white population in the United States has somewhere between 300 million and 400 million guns sitting around within easy reach. In terms of per capita gun ownership, no other OECD country has a civilian arsenal even a fraction of that size.

              On the other hand, we have absolutely no idea how many guns could be found in the households of American blacks, for the simple reason that legal black ownership of guns has always been a no-no with the cops. When one of those researchers does a telephone survey of gun owners and asks whoever picks up the phone whether there are any guns around their home, what do you think the response from most blacks is going to be?

              No matter how you shake it or bake it, the problem of gun violence in the United States is a problem in the black community because fatal and non-fatal assaults are intra, not inter-racial affairs. But this problem doesn’t spread around like a viral infection, it’s a type of behavior which is taught or learned.

              Where does this teaching and learning first occur? Where do you think it occurs?

              The biggest problem facing my friends who do gun research in the stated hopes of coming up with a new or better way to reduce gun violence is that they focus virtually all their attention on new or revised regulations that can be imposed on gun owners by government agencies, particularly the courts and the cops.

              Someone walking around the neighborhood waving a gun? Call the cops. Some depressed, lonely old man sitting in his living room holding a gun? Go into court to ask for an ERPO order to take the gun away.

              That’s all well and good except for one, little thing. Why should black Americans trust either the courts or the cops? You think the black community doesn’t remember how the U.S. Public Health Service conducted experiments at the Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, GA by secretly injecting black men with syphilis over the course of 40 years?

              In 1997, Bill Clinton signed an official apology about this study and some money was coughed up by the government to pay off the subjects and families of a public health experiment that was right out of Doctor Mengele’s playbook before and during World War II.

              Big friggin’ deal, okay? Not one medical researcher who was engaged in this horrific deceit saw the inside of a jail cell. Not one.

              I would be a little more charitable towards my friends who do public health research on gun violence if I could see the slightest interest or intention for getting the results of their work into the consciousness of the community which needs to understand gun risk most of all.

              Like you’ll find a copy of The New England Journal of Medicine lying around the barber shop where members of the black community convene on Sunday afternoon to shoot the sh*t about whatever needs to be shot.