The Corner

What the Amazing Racial Disparities in Gun Violence Can Teach Us About Gun Control

Thanks to the Washington Post, I discovered this rather astounding chart showing the different rates of gun deaths for blacks and whites. For whites, “77 percent of gun deaths are suicides.” For black Americans, 82 percent die from homicide:

The next interesting statistic is that this high homicide rate comes from a population with a much lower rate of gun ownership. Roughly “41 percent of white households own guns, compared with to just 19 percent of black households.” In other words, when it comes to guns — white and black Americans live different lives. White Americans don’t experience much criminal gun violence but have much greater experience with guns. Widespread gun ownership doesn’t lead to criminal carnage, so fear-based gun control arguments simply don’t ring true. 

The experience of black communities, by contrast, shows that unless there are effective legal, political, and cultural efforts to thwart the criminal class, even much lower rates of gun ownership won’t stop widespread violence. It doesn’t take many armed and angry people to exact a terrible toll. Black America has a rate of gun ownership that gun controllers would long to achieve for the rest of the country, yet it still suffers from a horrifying level of homicide.

Suicides represent not just the vast majority of white gun deaths, but the vast majority of gun deaths overall. It’s unclear, however, whether high rates of gun ownership are necessarily material to the suicide rate. After all, as my colleague Mark Wright pointed out, Japan and South Korea have extremely high suicide rates despite far lower rates of gun ownership. Suicide is a cultural problem. It is not a gun problem.

Gun controllers roll their eyes whenever they hear the old saying, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” But it’s true. Communities with low rates of gun ownership can still suffer high rates of homicide. Communities with low rates of gun ownership can suffer from high rates of suicide. Black America has a homicide problem. White America has a suicide problem. In both instances, people are responsible for their own actions. Guns don’t make them kill.

 

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