Gun rights defenders argue that gun laws don’t reduce violence, noting that many cities with high gun violence already have strict gun laws. But this ignores the ease with which urban residents can evade local laws by obtaining guns from dealers outside their cities or states. Effective gun regulation requires a nationally coordinated response.
By DAVID COLE, New York Times OP-ED Contributor
Published: January 1, 2013
IN the days following the Newtown massacre the nation’s newspapers were filled with heart-wrenching pictures of the innocent victims. The slaughter was unimaginably shocking. But the broader tragedy of gun violence is felt mostly not in leafy suburbs, but in America’s inner cities.
The right to bear arms typically invokes the romantic image of a cowboy toting a rifle on the plains. In modern-day America, though, the more realistic picture is that of a young black man gunned down in his prime in a dark alley. When we celebrate gun rights, we all too often ignore their disproportionate racial burdens. Any effort to address gun violence must focus on the inner city. (main body of this OP-Ed article can be found on the NYT website)
If we are to reduce the inequitable costs of gun rights, it’s not enough to tighten licensing requirements, expand background checks to private gun sales or ban assault weapons. In addition to such national measures, meaningful reform must include initiatives directed to where gun violence is worst: the inner cities. Aggressive interventions by police and social workers focused on gang gun violence, coupled with economic investment, better schools and more after-school and job training programs, are all necessary if we are to reduce the violence that gun rights entail.
To tweak the National Rifle Association’s refrain, “guns don’t kill people; indifference to poverty kills people.” We can’t in good conscience keep making young black men pay the cost of our right to bear arms.
David Cole is a professor of constitutional law and criminal justice at the Georgetown University Law Center.