Pretty much from the start of my time here at Bearing Arms, I’ve argued that what researchers needed to be doing was to stop trying to find excuses to pass gun control and instead start looking for the roots of violence. We needed to try and find out why people are violent and what we can do to try and address that, rather than punish law-abiding citizens who have done nothing wrong.
Yet time and time again, I come across studies that try to claim gun control is needed. All of those studies tend to be easily debunked, of course, but some will take it as the gospel truth.
However, it seems some people are looking deeper. Researchers at Northeastern University just released their findings in a study that looked deeper into places where gun violence is all too common.
Although politicians still regularly blame gun violence on mental illness, that theory is largely rejected by public health authorities, and a new study breaks down the ‘social determinants of health’ that raise or reduce risks for homicides.
Just as diseases vary from one population to the next, gun violence is more common in some areas and groups than in others, meaning the factors that shape our lives also shape the risks of a shooting.
Researchers at Northeastern University found that wealth gaps, distrust of institutions, poverty and how much a government spends on the good of a neighborhood are all linked to its gun violence rates.
Working out if these associations are in fact causes for gun violence could help to stem the gun violence ‘epidemic’ and its diminishing effect on the average American lifespan.
Here, the Daily Mail goes off on a bit of an anti-gun tirade that has absolutely nothing to do with the study, but what else can you expect from not just a mainstream news outlet, but a British-based mainstream news outlet. Folks don’t call it “The Daily Fail” for nothing.
However, it eventually finds its way back into the study’s findings.
While there may not be a biological form to gun violence, it does have a social morphology.
To paint a clearer picture of the social risk factors that influence gun deaths, the Northeastern University team analyzed data on gun homicides from 2015 in neighborhoods across the US, including 13,060 deaths.
They found that in counties where there was general trust in society and institutions, gun homicides were 19 percent less common.
If people had social mobility – meaning that both individuals and generations could, over time, progress in terms of social and economic status – 25 percent fewer people were killed by guns.
On the other hand, in neighborhoods with a high density of men living alone, gun deaths were 12 percent more common.
And most telling of all, rates of firearm-involved homicides were 26 to 27 percent higher in neighborhoods with high proportions of people living in poverty, they found.
Of course, the idea that firearm-involved homicides were higher in poorer neighborhoods isn’t overly surprising. We can see that in our own communities by looking at the “sketchy” neighborhoods that play host to more crime in general. Park Avenue or Rodeo Drive, they ain’t.
Large numbers of men living alone can suggest a number of things, of course, but one possibility is that they’re not seeking out domestic bliss by building a family. Strong families have long been argued to be a key deterrent in combating violent crime, though that argument is often challenged by the left. However, if a large number of adult men are living alone in a neighborhood and it’s not a row of college frat houses, then what are the other possibilities?
Now, I’m not ready to place all the blame on the lack of nuclear families. That’s part of it, but the idea of social mobility described above is also important, though I’d argue what matters is whether people believe they have it. Social mobility is a core part of the American backdrop. Anyone can go on to achieve anything…but a lot of people don’t see it that way.
Interestingly, I recently wrote about a proposal from a former Obama administration official that seemed to focus on a lot of these same issues. That plan would directly target many of these single men and poor families with programs designed to provide the opportunity for social mobility. Helping people with job training and similar programs can change the landscape of an entire community.
I’m a libertarian and I generally don’t want the government spending money on much of anything. I want to see government just small enough you can feed it into your kitchen sink’s garbage disposal.
However, people are going to demand a government solution to violence, and that means money’s going to be spent. In that case, I’d much rather see studies like this looking at the causes of violence and potential solutions seeking to do address those causes than the gun control we’re all likely to be saddled with.