Our friends at The Urban Institute have just released a new report, ‘We Carry Guns to Stay Safe,’ which they say represents ‘perspectives on guns and gun violence from young adults living in Chicago’s West and South Sides.’ You can download the report from the Institute’s website, or from my website right here. The report is a sobering account of the reasons behind the decision by many inner-city youths to carry guns in a city where gun violence in certain neighborhoods exceeds gun violence just about anywhere else.
In 2017, Chicago experienced more homicides than New York City and Los Angeles combined; the Windy City’s population was 2.7 million; the total population of New York and LA was five times as great. But the fatal violence doesn’t occur in equal amounts throughout ChiTown; neighborhoods on the West Side like West Garfield Park or Englewood on the South Side have a killing rate above 80 per 100K. That’s higher than the killing rate of any country in the entire world.
To understand the degree to which this problem appears to be simply uncontrollable, the research team at The Urban Institute interviewed 345 residents of these killing zones, of which almost all were African-Americans between the ages of 18 and 26, and slightly more than half were males. The research teams strikes a somewhat defensive tone in discussing their methodology because they seem to believe that the manner in which they recruited respondents may have biased the selection and therefore skewed the results. Let me break it to Jocelyn Fontaine and her colleagues: to the degree that they believe their findings should be taken with a small grain of salt in terms of overall validity, the value and importance of this work goes far beyond what has previously been produced in the entire field of gun violence research. In other words, this report should be required reading for anyone and everyone concerned about how and why 125,000+ Americans get injured every year with guns. Period.
Why am I willing to describe this effort in such grandiose terms? The best way to answer that question is to let the researchers explain why they did what they did: “The purpose of this research was to learn from young adults firsthand whether and why they decide to carry guns, how they acquire firearms, how they experience gun violence, and what they view as the best strategies to reduce gun carrying and promote safety in their communities.” So, for the very first time, we learn about gun violence from the individuals most at risk for committing gun violence which, if nothing else, should serve as a reality jolt for all the public policy aficionados promoting this gun-control law and that gun-control law without ever speaking to the people whose behavior, it is hoped, will be positively influenced by new regulations and laws.
I’m not going to go through all the report’s findings because I don’t want to save anyone the ‘trouble’ of reading the report. But one point deserve special mention: Of the one-third who said they carried a gun, albeit illegally in most cases, more than 90% claimed the gun was for self-protection. Now it turns out that study after study confirms that guns increase, not decrease, the risk of injury. Yet every public opinion survey confirms that a majority of legal gun-owners Americans believe that their gun is a positive, self-protective device. Guess what? The illegal gun owners believe the same thing, if anything, to a much greater degree.
Advocates for gun control talk endlessly about imposing new regulations that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ So here we have a survey in which virtually every respondent represents a pair of ‘wrong hands.’ Not only do they have no more trouble buying a gun than someone with ‘right hands,’ but the folks with the ‘wrong hands’ are becoming gun owners for the exact, same reason as the folks with the ‘right hands.’
Please read and think about this report, okay?