No one would ever mistake The Guardian for a pro-gun news outlet, but the paper’s new editorial on “rising gun violence” is still worth talking about, if for no other reason than to push back against some of the arguments. Take, for instance, The Guardian’s assertion that, while there’s no evidence that increased gun sales are in any way responsible for the surge in violent crime seen in many cities, there’s still something troubling about seeing millions of Americans embrace their Second Amendment rights for the first time in their lives.
Research so far does not suggest a direct correlation between the rises in gun sales and violence. Experts point instead to economic desperation, isolation and the loss of social structure with the closure of schools and community organisations by the pandemic, and the disruption to prevention initiatives – such as the work of violence interruptors, who help to mediate when conflict develops. But the increase in ownership is nonetheless disturbing, and one study – not yet peer-reviewed – suggests that states with lower levels of violent crime pre-Covid saw a stronger connection between additional gun purchases and more gun violence.
Yeah, that study The Guardian mentions comes from the anti-gun researchers at UC-Davis, so I’m gonna take their conclusions with some boulder-sized grains of salt. The bigger issue is that The Guardian’s editors are disturbed by an increase in gun ownership, which amounts to be disturbed over Americans exercising a civil right.
It’s also worth noting that the paper’s editors don’t seem to have much of an answer when it comes to fighting crime, other than to blame guns.
The president’s response includes predictable, if welcome, measures such as tightening regulations on the sale of “ghost guns” assembled from kits. The striking and overdue change was the $5bn earmarked in the infrastructure bill for prevention funding, though that may not survive congressional politicking. Community intervention programmes have been proven to work. The administration is to be applauded for recognising that while gun controls are essential, they cannot be sufficient in a country already awash with firearms. Nor will simply pouring more money into the police when those disproportionately hurt by gun violence – young black men – are also disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.
Come again? Gun controls are essential, but the enforcement of those laws leads to a disproportionate impact among young black men. Seems to me like those two positions are at odds with each other, but The Guardian’s editors don’t even attempt to reconcile their contradictory takes.
With gun violence costing America an estimated $280bn a year, a much bigger investment in prevention is both necessary and affordable. Other items on the administration’s list – such as bans on assault weapons and improved background checks – require congressional action that is unlikely. The National Rifle Association maintains significant political clout despite its disarray. It has also achieved what it wanted in exchange for its investment in Donald Trump: a strongly pro-gun supreme court, which is likely to hear a second amendment case soon, reviewing a New York law that strictly limits the carrying of guns outside the owner’s home. Legislative progress, however limited, could soon be unwound. In the face of such developments, and the fast-rising human toll, never have concerted efforts to tackle gun violence been more necessary.
Once again The Guardian conflates gun ownership with violent crime, which tells me that the “concerted efforts” they want to see would do far more to impact legal gun ownership than violent criminals. And that’s the real problem: whether the anti-gun editors like it or not, the United States is home to more than 100-million gun owners who have the constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear the estimated 400-million privately owned firearms in their collective possession. Any strategy to reduce violent crime that tries to do so by cracking down on gun ownership itself is bound to miss the target, and likely violate civil rights in the process. That might not matter much to the editors of the British paper, but here in the United States, there’s are 100-million reasons why their argument falls flat.