Editorial: Gang Violence, the NRA and You

So here you go: another example of African American entertainment lionizing [presumably] illegal firearms. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with street culture will know that it’s suffused with firearms references within a criminal framework. Which is entirely understandable. Forget the whole “rebellion against oppression and poverty” angle. Guns are cool. There. I said it. Whether it’s a set of matched Purdeys, a bog standard Glock or a NERF gun, firearms have fun written all over them. And personal empowerment. Which is, as the Brits would say, dead sexy. Sorry, but it’s the truth. Not for everyone. But for a whole lot of everyone’s. Luckily for American gun enthusiasts of all colors, shapes and creeds, it’s entirely possible to worship these weapons from anear. Legally. Gun control advocates would consider that access unlucky or undesirable, but there it is. Now, watcha gonna do about it sucka?

The obvious issue here: gang culture. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by suggesting that society shouldn’t encourage the idea of joining a gang and wielding illegal firearms for personal enrichment or empowerment. Street gangs are bad. Gun violence is bad. Street gang gun violence is bad, bad, bad.

In 2001, more than 50 percent of LA’s and Chicago’s homicides were gang-related. That’s 689 murders between them. Teenviolencestatistics.com reports that 100 percent of cities with over 250 thousand inhabitants reported gang activity, costing society more than $100 billion a year.

Needless to say, the problem has grown worse in the intervening nine years. The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Gang Intelligence Center cites stats from their 2008 National Drug Threat Survey: “The percentage of law enforcement agencies in the United States reporting gang activity in their jurisdictions increased from 45 percent in 2004 to 58 percent in 2008.”

How many of those gang members use—or have access to—illegal firearms? I’m thinking . . . all of them. Which the DOJ reckons is around a million members, all told.

Combating the concept of gang gun use isn’t worth sacrificing our First Amendment rights; but it’s close. The plague of gang gun crime is at least bad enough that we should give some serious thought to how to counter the anti-establishment gun gestalt that sucks in so many vulnerable members of our society. Let’s start with what we’re not doing . . .

NRA? Hello? At the risk of alienating one of the most powerful, well-funded and active lobbying organizations on planet Earth, the NRA has failed to tackle this problem in any visible, effective or visibly effective way. On the web page’s list of Legislative and Policy Issues, gang violence is number none out of 27.

The vast majority of the org’s promotional materials are, let’s face it, Lilly white. Check the website. Chuck Norris, Charlton Heston, Wayne LaPierre, Tom Selleck, some guy in a cowboy hat, Sarah Palin. People of color are notable by their absence. To paraphrase both Barack Obama and Ms. Palin, how’s that “white guys clinging to their guns and religion” thing going?

Not so well when it comes to tackling the gun violence bedeviling minority communities. Keep in mind that the aforementioned 2001 stats reveal that American gangs are 47 percent Hispanic, 31 percent African American, 13 percent white, 7 percent Asian. I’m not saying the NRA should take affirmative action to make its membership reflect the ethnic makeup of an armed, violent and illegal criminal conspiracy. But a move in that direction would certainly help.

Let me be clear: the NRA is not a racist organization. Quite the opposite. They’ve fought for gun rights for all Americans in general, and minority gun owners in specific. The NRA’s work on over-turning a gun ban in San Francisco public housing shows that their lobbying efforts are color-blind. But (you knew that was coming) they have not been a key player in the battle against gang violence.

Obviously, the NRA supports laws against illegal gang activity. But they are not pro-active in this effort. As far as I know—and I’d love to be corrected in this—there is no major push by the NRA to reach out to gun-loving minority youths to rope them into a safe and constructive outlet for their firearms fascination. And that’s exactly what needs doing.

[NB: TTAG has contcted the NRA on this issue. If and when they reply, we will publish their response here.]

It’s not enough to simply tell a gang-vulnerable child or teen that gangs and gun violence are not the answer. To combat this scourge, we need to turn potential gang shooters into safe, responsible, law-abiding gun owners. We need relevant, exciting and free—yes free—youth gun programs throughout America’s cities.

The advantages of giving firearms skills to minority youths are myriad. For one, a gun club can keep them off the streets. For another, it can teach them discipline, pride and respect for others (who may be armed)—the cornerstones of a civil society. More? Firearms proficient youths grow up to be firearms-proficient adults, who can defend then themselves and their community from criminals, if only by their mere presence.

Uh oh. If we teach potential gang members better firearms skills, they may join a gang anyway—and become better killers. I know this is way, way out there, but is that such a terrible thing? Maybe gang violence would be less likely to claim so many innocent lives. In any case, on balance, IMHO, the potential rewards outweigh the obvious risks.

As gun owners (assuming), we can’t leave this issue to others. It’s time for each of us to reach out to the minority community. We need to reach into our own pockets and sponsor a minority youth. You heard me: I’m proposing a Big Brother program for guns. If you’re interested, just do it. Find a kid you can take to the range on a regular basis. Introduce them to proper safety, handling and shooting. And then report back here with pictures, video, testimonials. Anonymously if needs be.

If you believe that we are all responsible for each other, if you believe that government is not the answer to all our problems, then do something about the gang violence that’s eating away at our society like a cancer, leading to laws that restrict private gun ownership. Do it one person at a time. The life you save probably won’t be your own. But it will be somebody’s.

comments

  1. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Obviously, the NRA supports laws against illegal gang activity. But they are not pro-active in this effort. As far as I know—and I’d love to be corrected in this—there is no major push by the NRA to reach out to gun-loving minority youths to rope them into a safe and constructive outlet for their firearms fascination. And that’s exactly what needs doing.

    Robert, I understand where you are coming from but I don't think it would work.

    Let's wargame this for a minute: If the NRA were to seriously propose such a program, it would be denounced loudly and repeatedly from the pulpit of every black church, from every inner-city school, from every advocacy group, from every "community organizer" in every major city in the country. It would be seen as an attempt to put guns into the hands of inner-city youth at a time when activists are trying to get guns out of their hands. It would become fodder for late-night talk show hosts who would sneer that "apparently there isn't enoughgun violence for the NRA!" It would be denounced by race hustlers of the Sharpton/Jackson variety as an attempt to raise up the "body count" of gang violence so as to either justify racist policies (as in "those people just can't be trusted with guns") or to justify racism itself (as in "those people are savages.")

    That these people would be mischaracterizing the program is irrelevant. In media-driven America, you are what you seem. It would be a public relations nightmare and in fighting it, the NRA would drain their resources, as well as undermining their reputation with mainstream, apolitical, middle-class Americans, who generally hold the organization in fairly good stead.

    I think such programs are valuable and could be helpful, but the NRA is far too polarizing an organization to do it. Better to have other organizations provide multifacted programs that get inner-city youths out of the ghetto with programs that involve firearms but also involve other pursuits as well. Actually, JROTC is probably one of the better approaches. Just incorporating firearms training into JROTC cirriculum – which as I understand it has been stripped from it – would go a long way towards acheiving the goals you are talking about, of breeding civic-minded, responsible gun owners to counter the damage done by all the antisocial and irresponsible gun owners out there.

  2. avatar Brad Kozak says:

    I've always wondered…wouldn't holding a semi-auto sideways cause the spent brass to be ejected right into your face? Just sayin'…

  3. avatar Jim Sutherland says:

    The genie is definitely out of the bottle for legal and illegal weapons in the US. Your suggestions would at least develop a different viewpoint of gun use and better marksmanship might prevent unintended target deaths from hardcore gang members that can't shoot straight. It's a different approach Robert, but worth further debate.

  4. avatar Robert Farago says:

    Martin: you make excellent points (as always).

    It's a shame that the NRA is dedicated to defending gun rights, rather than extending them. Someone should take all the misapplied interest in firearms—displayed in this video and elsewhere—and turn it into something positive.

    I'm not so sure that a "multi-faceted" approach is the right one. Boy Scouts with guns? Don't see it. I reckon a more "in your face" responsible gun program (oxymoronic as it sounds) is needed.

  5. avatar ihatetrees says:

    @RF:

    …Boy Scouts with guns? Don’t see it. I reckon a more “in your face” responsible gun program (oxymoronic as it sounds) is needed.

    +1. Having just watched the video, I'd wager that Gun Safety Merit Badges are rare items in crips' and bloods' scout troops.

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