Using the Poor as a Scapegoat for Gun Violence
Like a lot of kids raised in liberal New York City, I was taught that anyone who wants a gun is probably the last person who should be allowed to own one. I learned to consider the Second Amendment a quaint throwback to less civilized times and had it drilled into my head that only psychos, criminals, and men with small penises carry guns. Most gun violence could be blamed on economic inequalities created by Reaganomics, according to the elementary school teacher who made sure a Mondale/Ferraro sticker was affixed to each student’s binder.
Then I grew up, read the Bill of Rights, and married a gun nut.
Across the country in Phoenix, Meghan McCain was brought up with a more informed view on the right to bear arms. Her brothers were avid hunters and she developed a deep respect for the Second Amendment. Today she’s an NRA member with a lifetime of positive gun experiences under her belt.
I confess I have a soft spot for Meghan McCain. I don’t agree with all of what she writes and I wish she’d add something new to the national political conversation instead of recycling a mishmash of talking points. But I admire her practical decision to milk her campaign fame for all it’s worth, and I think she’s wise to go the contrarian Republican route. Controversy sells, as evidenced by her six figure book deal.
McCain and I agree on the Second Amendment issue. But while her devotion to gun rights confirms her bitter clinger bona fides, she appears to have absorbed a different kind of liberal humbuggery on the issue of gun violence.
The real solution to preventing gun violence is not taking away the tools, but tackling its causes: poverty, inadequate health care, mental illness, joblessness, inadequate housing, and poor education. Desperate people will make anything a weapon. We need to eliminate desperation, not guns.
Translation: guns don’t kill people, people with less money and education than Meghan McCain kill people. (And sometimes the mentally ill do it too.)
Way to scapegoat the impoverished!
I was under the impression that identifying poverty as the root cause of violent crime was no longer in vogue – after all, that would let guns off the hook – but apparently President Obama feels otherwise. Eight days after the 9/11 attacks, Barack Obama attributed the tragedy to the terrorists’ lack of empathy stemming from a “climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.” And in a 2007 speech, Obama called poverty “a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence.” Obama’s first pick for Commerce Secretary, Bill Richardson, shared similar thoughts during the 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum when he said, “the key in eliminating gun violence is eliminating poverty, eliminating hate.”
Perhaps Meghan McCain is simply repeating liberal talking points, but it seems to me that even among the political left, violent crime is usually approached as a complex phenomenon caused by a multitude of sociological and psychological factors. Many recognize that it reeks of classism to suggest that poverty creates desperation-fueled violence. It’s also unsupported by evidence. While a correlation exists between certain crimes and poverty, research has not proven a cause and effect relationship. There are simply too many variables.
Even Marxist criminologists don’t attribute crime to poverty, but rather to relative deprivation like income inequality. But both are silly assumptions: if all of the poverty-stricken or people who find life unfair engaged in violent criminal activities, the world would be in chaos. But clearly most of the world’s have-nots eke out their years without erupting into violence.
Instead, couldn’t it be that violent crime perpetuates poverty? We see this on an individual level among both victims and convicted criminals. It is also evident on the community level. Neighborhoods decimated by gun violence fail to attract entrepreneurs who might help the areas prosper. Crime also keeps property values low and drives up insurance premiums.
It may well be that poverty has little to do with being deprived, and everything to do with being depraved. And it isn’t economic poverty, but moral poverty that is to blame for gun violence.