When It Comes To Gun Violence, Nothing Like Knowing Your Market.

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If and when Gun-control Nation decides to give out an award to the person who has done more to elevate the national discussion about gun violence, I suspect the winner will be David Hogg.  Ever since the Parkland massacre, this 18-year old has been roaming around the United States, appearing on an almost a daily basis at some kind of gun-control event. Occasionally he shows his youth and lack of smarts when, for example, he urged a gathering of Canadians to come across the border and vote for ‘gun-sense’ candidates next month. But by and large, he has captivated audiences with a combination of determined and well-spoken messages about the violence caused by guns.

gays             The only drawback with David’s activities, however, and this is in no way a criticism of anything he has said or done, is that most of his efforts have been spent preaching to the converted, so to speak, whereas it’s the ‘other side,’ the pro-gun folks, who need to hear what he has to say. Which is why it might come as something of a surprise to my Gun-control Nation friends to learn that Gun-nut Nation also has a new poster-boy promoting their point of view, and in this case, he’s yet another Parkland survivor, Kyle Kashuv, who has been appearing at various pro-gun events and even met Sleazy Don during a visit to Washington, D.C.

Back in April, Kashuv gave an interview to the news website Vox, in which he claimed to have never actually touched a gun. The same week he posted a picture of himself on his Twitter page standing at a shooting range holding an AR-15. He was later interrogated by the local cops because school officials at Parkland decided that any school student who promoted using an assault rifle might be considered a threat. The contact with the cops got Kashuv an appearance on the Tucker Carlson nightly show, at which point he became the equivalent of David Hogg for the pro-gun side.

I’m not at all surprised that Gun-nut Nation has developed an alternate reality to explain what happened at Parkland earlier this year. I’m also not surprised that just as David Hogg has become a formidable brand name for media that markets to the gun-control crowd, so Kyle Yashuv has been equally promoted and adored by media which chases the market known as gun ‘rights.’

I started following the ins and outs of the gun debate in 1968 because that’s when the federal government got into gun control big time, which meant that the gun business would be increasingly conditioned on what advocates from both sides had to say about guns. And what I noticed, right from the beginning, was that the media never reported on any gun issue without making sure they had input from ‘both sides.’ And this obsession with making sure that we have ‘balance’ in the gun debate has, if anything, become even more intense as the demand for digital content inexorably grows.

Recall that after the Pulse massacre in 2016, the gay community got more involved in gun-control activities and some of their efforts were circulated through the national print and digital press. Know what also happened after Orlando? The gay-rights groups which promote self-defense guns also got into the media act. And don’t underestimate the appeal of self-defense guns to LGBTQ – as the reporter who wrote a glowing article about gays and guns in Rolling Stone said, “gay rights and gun rights are a natural fit.”

I personally think that identity politics and responses to gun violence are a load of crap. And I further think that it’s just another attempt by self-promoting internet news and product hucksters to enlarge their marketing niche.

The truth is that I don’t care who you are – your age, gender, sexual orientation or a anything else.  In the words of Walter Mosely, “If you walk around with a gun, sooner or later it’s going to go off.”


No Matter Where It Happens, Gun Violence Is Still Gun Violence.

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Like it or not, much of the discussion about gun violence flows over to the issue of race, or more specifically, how racial minorities are disproportionately the victims of violence caused by guns. According to our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC), black Americans “are only 13% of the U.S. population, yet represent 50% of homicide victims,” of whom 83% were killed with guns.

town              Things don’t get any better when we break the numbers down by racial and age groups. In 2016, the leading cause of African-American mortality for men and women ages 15-24 and 25 -34 was homicide, accounting for 42% of all deaths for the 15-24 group, and ‘only’ 26% for the age group 25 to 34.  For whites in those some age groups, homicides ranked 7% and 5% respectively for all deaths.

These are terrible numbers, for the most part reflecting the degree to which African-American communities continue to experience the socio-economic manifestations of poverty which divide such populations from everyone else. I recall the shock and dismay when Michael Harrington ‘discovered’ this seemingly-intractable indigence in his classic The Other America, published in 1962. In the more than half century since that time have things really changed?

I think it’s a major step forward when a Parkland kid like David Hogg, who refers to himself as ‘white and privileged’ makes it clear that he wants to speak not just for his classmates but for “all of the people that have died as a result of gun violence and haven’t been covered the same can now be heard.” As terrifying as mass shootings are, let’s not forget that such events add a tiny fraction to the overall gun violence body count, and most of that count are bodies which are young and black.

The purpose of this column, however, is not to advocate for more attention paid to inner-city gun violence, but rather to discuss another aspect of the gun violence issue which is too-often ignored.  Because if we are going to concentrate our concerns on what gun violence does to the quality of life and the length of lives in our inner cities, we skip over what gun violence does in communities not of color, but communities where only folks in the majority race tend to live.

Ever been to Wirt County in West Virginia?  It covers some 250 square miles of rolling hills and small farms some 40 miles north of Charleston, in 2016 four out of five voters marked their ballots for D.D.D. Trump. The county is home to some 5,800 people, median family income is around $36,000 (the U.S. median is now just under $60,000) and the racial diversity is zero; i.e., it’s all white.  In 2014, there were 9 murders in Wirt County, which doesn’t sound like a heckuva lot except on a per-100,000 basis, which is how we figure crime rates, it works out to 155.  The last time I checked, the murder rate in gun-happy Philadelphia was 16.

Look at the murders in Wirt County from another point of view.  The population density in New York City is 66,000 per square mile, which means that in Manhattan, the average city block is home to roughly 3,300 folks.  Put two city blocks together and you have about the same number of people that live in Wirt County.  How would you feel if 9 people were murdered in one year on the block where you lived?

In 2016, more than 8,600 white men and women were murdered, three-quarters with guns. But we don’t hear about these killings because they take place in small, dispersed, isolated places like Wirt County, and believe me, there are plenty of Wirt Counties all over the national map.

I’m really hopeful that the Parkland kids will create more pressure on the media to talk not just about the spectacular, rampage shootings, but as well spend more time reporting about the humdrum, one-on-one shootings which happen every day. But let’s just remember to include all the victims of gun violence in those reports.


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