Rudy Giuliani Thinks He Understands Gun Violence. He Doesn’t.

When I was a kid, we used the term ‘racist’ to describe the actions or views of people who justified racial inequality because the racial group on the ‘bottom’ didn’t have the intelligence or the motivation of the racial group on the ‘top.’  And while there were always African-Americans who made stupid or hateful statements about Caucasians (think Jesse Jackson’s ‘Hymietown,’) these dopey attitudes didn’t qualify as racism because Whites who were sometimes demonized by Blacks were still on top.

BLM           This rather obvious Black-White interrelation blurred when the legal barriers upholding racial segregation began to collapse.  It blurred some more as African-Americans, some African-Americans, a few African-Americans made it into the middle class or became visible and successful in entertainment and sports.  And of course the idea that racism presupposed inequality became blurred even further when a certain Kenyan-born person moved his family into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, an address from which, unfortunately, he will soon have to depart.

But what has really confused the issue of racism is a conscious and continuous effort by the right-wing noise machine, aided and abetted by the Republican party and Fox News, to pretend that African-Americans are also racists whenever they raise concerns about their own status, as if questioning the behavior of Whites toward Blacks is some kind of ‘proof’ that Whites can be victimized by racism and racist attitudes as well.

This nonsense erupted in response to the emergence of Black Lives Matter following the execution of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood-watch activist who happened to be walking around with a gun.  “What do you mean, Black lives matter?” thundered Rush Limbaugh, “Don’t all lives matter?’  And since BLM is only concerned about their ‘own’ kind, this is proof pari passu that the organization’s perspective and strategies are racist to the core.

Now the fact is that police violence is endemic to inner-city communities where most African-Americans happen to live. The fact is, the fact is, the fact is, but who cares about facts when you can earn a living by running your mouth off on television and say whatever happens to be in your stupid head?

And the numbskull I am referring to is Rudy Giuliani, who went on Fox and accused BLM of being ‘inherently racist’ because the real danger of a Black kid getting shot was not from a cop but from another Black kid. So why does the BLM movement spend all its time talking about the behavior of racist cops?  Because the cops are White, the BLM movement is Black, and it’s the racism of the BLM movement which keeps them from talking about Blacks shooting other Blacks.

I’m not trying to posture myself as an expert either on politics or race.  My expertise extends only to the issue of guns.  So I’m going to correct Rudy G not from a racial perspective, but from the facts (here’s that damn word again) about gun violence no matter whose skin color happens to be involved.

Gun violence between civilians is overwhelmingly intra-racial, and in eight out of ten instances gun violence occurs because two or more people get into an ongoing argument and sooner or later someone pulls out a gun. With whom do people have disputes?  With people they know because they live together, or they live on the same block, or they go to the same school. And even if it’s an argument over drugs, Rudy’s favorite form of gun violence, the argument erupts between two members of the same gang.

On the other hand, police are supposed to be trained to keep the lid on disputes with citizens so that violence between law enforcement and civilians, particularly gun violence, is kept under control. If the shootings in Louisiana and Minneapolis are part of a wider problem of cops too often using their guns on minorities, than the problem has to be corrected now, and no amount of demagoguery from nincompoops like Giuliani should prevent that from taking place.

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Is There Enough Data On Gun Violence? I Think So.

The current issue of the journal Pediatrics contains a disturbing article on childhood gun violence; disturbing for what it says and for what it doesn’t say.  The article uses a relatively new source for analyzing the incidence and cost of child and adolescent hospitalizations for gunshot wounds and comes up with numbers that are much higher than previously believed to be the case.  The authors examined data from hospitals that cover 96% of the total U.S. population and computed their estimates based on admissions under the age of 20 coded for any type of gunshot wound.

1911In brief, the researchers found that there were almost 7,400 hospitalizations for gunshot wounds in 2009, with the overwhelming majority concentrated in African-American males ages 15 to 19.  This group accounted for more than half of all the hospitalizations, with a rate at least ten times higher than White males of the same age.  The racial disparity in gun violence between Blacks and Whites of all ages is significant, but it appears to be highest in the late adolescent years.

The article is important because it is derived from a data source that is probably more representative than any other source used by public health researchers to date.  Nevertheless, the findings about the incidence and demographics of adolescent gun violence are not substantially different from what we already know. Frankly, if there’s anyone out there who still needs to see more data to convince them that gun violence,  particularly directed at adolescents, is a public health issue, then that’s someone who won’t be convinced there’s a problem even if they took a bullet in the head.

mini for blogI think that physicians, public health researchers and other health professionals need to stop accumulating data about gun violence and start figuring out effective and realistic strategies for dealing with the problem itself.  They also need to stop being concerned about whether their research can be used to offset the continued promotional activities of the NRA.  The NRA isn’t in the business of doing research on gun violence or doing research on anything else.  The NRA is in the business of marketing guns.  And as long as its message doesn’t create the risk of legal retaliation, the NRA will keep telling its members what they want to hear.  Which may or may not have anything to do with the facts.

The advocacy groups and medical professionals that want to end gun violence need to figure out how to end gun violence, whether or not their strategies appeal to gun owners, or non-gun owners or anyone and everyone else.  Gun violence is aberrant behavior and while we know everything we need to know about the results of this behavior, we know next to nothing about why people who commit this kind of behavior act the way they do. If we figured out this behavior perhaps we would have a better chance of stopping it before it begins.