The Corner

America’s Childish Debate on Gun Violence

One thing that makes the gun-control advocates’ case much harder is the fact that gun violence tends to occur precisely where gun laws are strictest, among the most glaring examples being Chicago. Now, as Eliana points out, the administration has a retort: David Axelrod blames Chicago’s rampant gun violence on the lax gun laws in Chicago’s surrounding areas — where there is, by the way, virtually no gun violence.

One is tempted to snicker, but at the most superficial level Axelrod is right: Chicago has the misfortune of being surrounded by a country full of responsible well-adjusted adults who live peacefully and safely without any need to give up their Second Amendment rights. Therefore, pace Axelrod, the tragedy of Chicago is that its huge population of violent delinquents is allowed to run amok because in the areas outside Chicago, most people are responsible enough to handle personal liberty. But that’s really an argument for a police-state lock-down in Chicago, not outside of it. 

Anyway, I don’t think there’s a strong cause-and-effect in the high correlation between gun violence and strict gun laws. There might be some: when I lived on the northeast side of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., there were times I wished everyone were armed, not just the criminals and the nearly-useless local police. 

Still, I suspect you will find a much stronger causal link in the high correlation of gun violence to the prevalence of welfare and other antipoverty programs. Where government programs have eliminated the need for a father in the household, and virtually all children are born to poor, deeply uneducated unwed mothers, the breakdown of the family has had intractably catastrophic consequences. Thousands of neighborhoods and indeed whole cities have been trapped in a tight, vicious spiral of abysmal educational attainment and terrifying crime rates.

Focusing our national discussion of gun violence on assault weapons is not just childish but shameful — virtually none of the gun violence in America comes out of the barrel of an assault weapon. Meanwhile, virtually all of the roughly 10,000 gun murders per year that nobody talks about (or, apparently, cares about) occur among the urban poor, where antipoverty programs continue to offer a horrifying exposition of the law of unintended consequences, in what has become practically a massive descent into barbarism. 

When America is ready for an honest, adult conversation about gun violence, it will start there. The discussion we’re having now is just silly. 

[UPDATE: This post has been corrected to reflect the annual firearm murder statistics in the FBI’s annual crime reports for the last 10 years.]

Mario Loyola is a former White House speechwriter and environmental adviser. He is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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