Black Americans have a serious problem with guns. They don’t have enough of them. Despite being victimized by crime at several times the rate of whites, only 30% of black adults own guns, compared to 43% of whites.(1)
Blacks are also heavily represented in
But that is only half the problem.
In the absence of self-defense, the moderating influence on crime must come from the police. Unfortunately, the way police crack down on crime–by cracking down on all kinds of minor infractions, looking for excuses to search people, being suspicious of everyone who looks suspicious–is a great irritant to the law abiding. Greater police presence also brings the drug war down on blacks with terrible force, prosecuting huge numbers of African-Americans for consenting behavior.
This no-win situation was on display in
Both horns of this dilemma could avoided if the law abiding people were allowed to bear arms. They would be able to defend themselves and each other from crime, which would deter predation from inside the community, allowing police presence to diminish. The police would have a few more dead predators to scrape off the ground, but far few victims.
Gun control laws in the
The crime reducing effects of shall-issue laws have been well documented over the last fifteen years, and the current economic downturn is only accentuating the effect.(5) Crime rates are stable in the thirty-three states that now protect gun rights while many anti-gun states are experiencing a resurgence of crime.
Interestingly, the shall-issue movement has been slowest to reach those states in the northeast and mid-west that were the destination of the great northward migration of southern blacks in the hundred years after the Civil War. Today southern blacks can all get gun permits, and the safer streets and lessened police harassment that inevitably follow. Now it is the north’s turn to stop denying people their constitutional rights.
Rights are not conditional on need. Nevertheless, no group needs gun rights as much as African-Americans. Many blacks live in impoverished conditions where crime thrives, but bringing in more police, and having them use every excuse to question and search, is a terrible burden. Law abiding blacks must be free to defend themselves and each other so that they can live as safe as other people without being under the heel of the police.
1. For instance, in 1999, blacks were six times more likely to be murdered than whites (Bureau of Justice Statistics, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/, homicide trends in the
2. The others are
3. See “
4. The eight states that maintained protection of gun rights before the “shall issue” movement are:
5. Lott, op. cit., is still the most comprehensive study.