The Philadelphia Daily News has just run an article about a study that found that Pennsylvania suffers the highest per capita rate of black homicide victimization. The study was conducted by some of my favorite civilian disarmament extremists at the Violence Policy Center (which has also put out a press release about it), and co-authored by one of their head cheerleaders, Josh Sugarmann.
That being the case, it should surprise no one that the blame for this situation is placed squarely on firearms, and that the proposed solution is yet more restrictive gun laws. The Philly Daily News article quotes Sugarmann:
"The handgun is the primary [reason] behind the high rates," said Josh Sugarmann, the center director.Got some evidence to back up that . . . interesting assertion, Josh? I can buy the idea that handguns are the primary means of the homicides, but how does that imply that they are the primary reason?
Besides, why is it significant which state has the highest rate--obviously, one state has to be worst, and it apparently turns out that Pennsylvania is that state--why does that mean handgun laws must be tightened?
Maybe it's as the Gun Guys say, and that the connection is due to the fact (according to the Gun Guys) that Pennsylvania is "the state with the loosest gun laws in the country." Hmm--interesting assertion, Gun Guys. Interesting because it is quite at odds with what your pals over at the Brady Bunch say, in their "grading" of state gun legislation. According to the Bradys, Pennsylvania rates a D+, which sounds pretty "bad" (actually, it sounds good to those of us who actually revere the Constitution and hold individual rights as sacred, but I digress). As it turns out, though, the Bradys grade the whole country pretty low, and there are a whopping 24 states with lower grades than Pennsylvania's D+ (7 D's, 8 D-'s, 3 F+'s, and 6 F's). Five states share PA's grade of D+, meaning 20 states grade higher (of those, one is Kansas, which is just barely higher, with a C- grade--and that's despite the fact that the Brady Bunch hasn't updated their website to reflect the fact that Kansas now trusts its citizens to carry concealed firearms for self-defense). Basically, PA is about in the middle of the pack with regard to strictness of gun laws (according to the Brady Bunch), if not slightly higher. Besides, California, with its A- grade (which is the highest grade given by the Bradys--I guess you would have to actually set fire to the Constitution to get an A, let alone an A+), ranked fourth in the per capita black homicide rate. The state-by-state correlation between "loose gun laws" and per capita black homicide rate thus seems more than a little tenuous.
I think the larger problem with this "study" is the question of what is its point. If the numbers showed the opposite--that a disproportionate number of white people were being shot and killed, would that make any difference? As someone who despises bigotry in all forms, who believes that racial prejudice is a social cancer, I argue that homicides among blacks are no less tragic, and no more so, than homicides among any other demographic. If there is racism in this debate, it comes from the side that insists on treating black homicides differently from white homicides.
The Philly Daily News did at least point out that there is another side of the debate. The article quotes the Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson:
Black Americans are regularly battling problems with high-school dropouts, joblessness and imprisonment, argued Johnson.Exactly--a gratifying bit of good sense from a big city police commissioner.
"Until we fix the unemployment, the schools, and the poverty," the violence can't be fixed, he said.
Sugarmann, of course, was less impressed (and rather snide, I think).
Sugarmann said that the study was intended to raise policymakers' awareness of the dangers of handguns. He said the center is well-aware of other socioeconomic factors that contributed to the discrepancy in race-based homicide rates."Well-aware" of the socioeconomic factors or not, you sure didn't mention them until someone else brought them up, did you, Josh? Got any ideas as to how to address those factors? Josh--I can't hear you. Josh?
I guess he doesn't have time to help with that.