Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gun Logic Part 4 - White Men Don't Matter

Gun enthusiasts are happy to say they need guns to defend themselves, but they go out of their way not to acknowledge that more people use their guns to kill themselves than to kill anyone else. More than half of all gun deaths in the U.S. every year are caused by people deliberately killing themselves. Most of the rest are caused by people shooting other people for malicious purposes, and a small number of people are killed each year by accident. Almost no one is actually shot to death by police who are enforcing the law or by people defending themselves.

The curious racial overlay on this data is that almost all of the suicides are committed by white males. White guys shoot themselves to death far out of proportion to their numbers in the population. Neither white, black, or Hispanic women shoot themselves or anyone else in any significant numbers. Black males get shot in greater numbers than their proportion of the population, usually by other black males. Hispanic males do some shooting too – mostly at other Hispanic males.

When the pro-gun lobby tries to frighten people into buying guns, they focus on the homicide statistics, which disproportionately implicates and affects minorities. The pro-gun lobby doesn't even want to acknowledge gun suicides, so they ignore more than half of the gun death problem, and most of the white victims.

Though there are racial overtones in the gun-lobby's rhetoric, hiding the white victims does not seem like classical racism, until you consider that they are also hiding the white perpetrators. By looking only at the homicides and not the suicides, the gun lovers create an impression that gun violence is mostly a problem that is caused by minorities in our urban ghettos. If we look at all the gun deaths, we see that gun violence is mostly a white male phenomenon and is not confined to the urban poor.

The effect of this distortion is that most of the problem of gun violence does not get fixed. When we set out to eradicate polio and other diseases, we didn't just vaccinate minorities and leave the majority white population unprotected, we went after the disease wherever it was. When we endeavor to prevent and treat AIDS, we put our efforts into the population segments which are most at risk. Why are we being encouraged to pay no attention to the white people who are most of the people involved in gun violence both as perpetrators and victims?

Part of the answer is that the pro-gun lobby promotes the idea that people who get shot deserve to get shot because they are criminals. This supports the gun lovers' view that the people who do the shooting are good people, and that shooting bad people is a good thing to do. They don't want to admit that most of the people who get shot, and most of the people who are doing the shooting, are just depressed and could be helped rather than being killed. They don't want anyone to realize that the people who kill themselves are just like the majority of gun lovers – white guys. They certainly don't want to think about the fact that the person who a gun owner is most likely to kill is himself. “Buy a gun, join us, and shoot yourself,” would be a pretty peculiar recruiting slogan for the NRA.

It is pretty easy for the pro-gun lobby to perpetuate its charade. Although white guys have traditionally been the biggest political force in this country, they have usually organized against women and minorities. They haven't been pointing the finger of blame at themselves. But that is what they need to do. White guys need to ask themselves why they are killing themselves, and why the gun lobby is making it so easy for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment