“So what . . . do you want to do nothing about gun violence?” Actually, I absolutely want the nation to take steps to reduce gun violence. But the only time I ever hear calls for that are when a bunch of white people get killed, and I’m sorry if it’s uncomfortable to talk about but shootings in public places like schools and movie theaters do not make up a significant fraction of gun violence in this country . . .
Everybody now knows James Holmes’ name because he shot a bunch of white people. Just like everybody now knows Adam Lanza’s name. He committed the cardinal sin of shooting white children. But if you wave a magic wand right now and no more Aurora- or Sandy Hook-style shootings happened ever again, you know what you would have done? You’d have saved a few dozen lives a year. Because the real gun violence problem in this country is not committed with black rifles with drum magazines in shopping malls, it’s perpetrated primarily with inexpensive handguns in inner cities.
By far the largest portion of victims of gun violence are young black and Latino men. Liberals are so very quick to talk about white privilege and social inequality, the stacked deck that racial minorities in this country face and the systemic discrimination that keeps them there. And they are right. But when they talk about ending gun violence, they aren’t talking about making changes to that system so young minorities have more opportunity to reach their full potential instead of being cut down by the violence associated with gangs and drugs. Instead, they’re talking about banning the guns that crazy white people use to kill other white people.
It’s incredible that the gun lobby is so often accused of being racist when before Sandy Hook there were over one thousand gang-related homicides committed in this country and nobody’s said a damn thing about it. Sure, there was a media frenzy over the death of Trayvon Martin . . . it’s really easy to get excited about a story about a “white” man hunting down and killing an innocent teenager because of the color of his skin. That’s drama, right there, regardless of how true it is.
If any of you who wore hoodies for a month last year could name any of the other young black men shot on the same day as Trayvon Martin I will buy you all the skittles and iced tea you can handle. We simply do not care about gun violence in this country until there’s a dramatic story with a clear bad guy. When the bad guy is the system and when you are a white person in America and, as such, you are the system and thus the bad guy, those stories won’t be told on the evening news.
So if you tell me you want to fight gun violence in America, for the love of God, please do. But you will do far, far more good by working to fix issues of racial and social disparity, by recognizing privilege and how deeply ingrained it is in our society and by figuring out ways to fight for equality tooth and nail.
That’s not as easy as giving gun control another try, or as saying “guns are bad” and washing your hands of it knowing you’re on the side of the good guys. And it’s not as easy as rallying around a school full of dead children. It’s a lot harder to admit that you’re part of an ugly society that, despite improvements, is still wildly stacked against minorities and that for every white person who dies in a school shooting there will be scores of bodies in city morgues whose names you will never know.
But if you want to make a serious impact on gun violence in America, the freaks and loons committed to becoming celebrities by going for a mass shooting high score aren’t the place to start.