Chief Keef's Finally Rich drops tomorrow. Keef is on probation for pointing a gun at a police officer and Chicago Police are fining anyone caught putting up Rich posters. They are also probing his connection to another shooting (which SMDH X 1000). So with gun control on our collective brains, this album is sure to piss a few people off. But if we're really going to have a conversation about gun control, we need to differentiate between violence in Chicago and what happened in Newtown.
It's been a deadly year in Chicago, which recently tallied its 436th homicide. In one night in August, 19 people were shot. Gangs are a huge problem for the city, and as you can see on this map of Chicago gang turfs, there are multiple factions and a lot of friction points. Obviously gun control is a tool to help quell gang violence, but it's not the only solution. (For more on this, please watch The Interrupters. Anyways.)
The violence is a symptom, but its root causes are poverty, lack of opportunity, poor education and myriad other systematic problems that lead to one kid shooting another. There is a vast network of people and institutions whose sole purpose is to crack this nut. I'm not saying they work—they obviously are struggling—but we, as a society, recognize the problem. We spend billions of tax dollars a year trying to reduce violent crime.
On the other hand, we do literally nothing to prevent an otherwise unassuming person from firing on a elementary school. We actually encourage it by passing laws that make it legal to carry guns in all kinds of public spaces. Less than a day before the Newtown shooting, Michigan passed a law allowing licensed guns in schools. Supporters claim that another gun in the mix would have given the victims in Connecticut a "fighting chance." That's the stock response from firearm advocates; after Gabby Giffords was shot in Arizona, politicians argued that an armed crowd would have deterred Jared Loughner. The problem is guns and the solution is, apparently, more guns.
And that, of course, is the end goal: selling more guns. It's not about safety or "liberty" or whatever. It's about commerce.
The NRA and other pro-gun organizations have spent tens of millions of dollars over decades convincing Americans that, even as crime has plummeted to a 48 year low, their lives and the lives of their loved ones are in such danger that they need to strap up. To support this idea, they created an ideological threat: hostile Democrats bent on disarming the public. And then they push back at any laws banning guns from public spaces because apparently you can be responsible enough to decide whether or not to fire but not responsible enough to remember to leave your glock at home when you pick your kids up from school. (For a little more insight into the artificiality of the NRA and the gun lobby, please read this Deadspin piece.)
The lobbying has been so effective that gun control is considered political suicide. I personally don't have specific policy suggestions or a nuanced knowledge of gun laws. But I don't think I'm reaching when I say decades of political gridlock has probably left a lot of low-hanging fruit, legally speaking. For example: Virginia is the number-one source for guns used in crimes in New York. We should probably take a look at gun laws in Virginia.
I'm not anti-gun. I'm an American male. I grew up watching GI Joe and pretending to shoot my friends with an outstretched index finger all like "pew pew pew." I like violent movies and this might be my favorite song of all time. And while I'm extremely fortunate to have never had a gun pulled on me, I've stayed in sketchy parts of St. Louis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn long enough to stumble past crime scenes and miss shootings by twenty minutes. I'm not claiming any kind of hood pass but at the very least I know to avoid some places and have a good idea how to stay out of trouble.
What I don't know how to do is avoid someone like Adam Lanza, who was acting legally up until the moment he pulled the trigger.
As an addendum, I'd like to say that I have a lot of issues with the "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother" article that went around this weekend. Liza Long (the article's author) is not Adam Lanza's mother because unlike Adam Lanza's mother, Liza Long does not have a house full of guns.
Kids with violent mental health issues are problematic but, again, America employs hundreds of people and spends billions of dollars a year trying to diagnose and treat mental illness. Until someone stands up and says, "The only way to stop the mentally ill is with more mental illness" gun control needs to be the priority.
Skinny Friedman is on Twitter - @skinny412
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