DeWayne Wickham recently penned a piece lamenting the number of black children killed as the result of gun violence. During his reflection, he set the foundation for the need for more gun control by acknowledging the deaths of both Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager killed by George Zimmerman, and Hadiya Pendleton, an innocent victim who was recently killed in a case of mistaken identity by gang members on the South Side of Chicago.
Though Wickham’s point that gun violence among black children being pandemic is well taken, he neglected to properly label the reasons for such violence. He also doesn’t go far enough in detailing who’s responsible for this pandemic. Mr. Wickham did make mention of it, but almost in passing- that the overwhelming majority of the deaths of the black victims come at the hands of other blacks. That’s the first issue.
The death of Martin, though sad and unfortunate- especially for his family- does little to advance the case for increasing gun laws to reduce violence. Martin was as much a victim of his bad judgment, and the profile set by the previous eight burglars, as he was of Zimmerman’s gun.
The Pendleton case, however, may provide cause.
When citing FBI statistics regarding the number of black deaths, Wickham didn’t note that the majority of those deaths came at the hands of other blacks. Using the same FBI statistics cited by Wickham, of the 2,938 murder offenders (up to the age of 22) in 2011, 1803 were black.
The total number of black murders regardless of age in 2011 was 2695. Of that number, 2447 were committed by blacks.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all homicides committed between 1980 and 2008, 47.4 percent of the victims were black while 52.5 percent of all offenders were black. Of all felony murders during the same time period, blacks accounted for 44.1 percent of those murdered while accounting for 59.9 percent of the offenders. Blacks accounted for 56.9 percent of all gun homicides.
Any serious mention of protecting black children from violent crime has to include a sincere effort in assigning blame to the causes of crime, along with effective methods to reduce it. Wickham uses a false argument to justify his blame for violent crime by condemning “those who want more prisons, not better schools…” He also blames Congress for kowtowing to the NRA.
This undermines his concern for black youth by appearing disingenuous. Who, specifically, wants more prisons and not better schools? What specifically does the NRA have to do with black gang members on Chicago’s South Side who shot Pendleton with their illegally-obtained guns?
I don’t doubt Mr. Wickham’s sincerity regarding black youth. But if the obligation to confront this problem belongs to “all of us” as he claims, then it’s our responsibility to point the finger directly at who and what is responsible.
First, some of the cities with the harshest gun laws also have the highest rates of black-on-black gun violence. This is no coincidence.
Second, Wickham is right: America’s children need to be protected from gun violence, but not necessarily with more gun laws. Restrictive gun laws punish only those who follow the law, not those who don’t. This is precisely why we call lawbreakers criminals. No matter how many (more) laws are created with the intention of reducing gun violence, criminals by definition will disregard these laws, knowing that their potential victims will be increasingly defenseless.
We should consistently and effectively prosecute lawbreakers with stiffer prison sentences, not constrain the law-abiding.
Third, and most importantly, Wickham makes absolutely no mention of the fact that the disproportionate numbers of gun violence that victimizes blacks, committed by other blacks, are from fatherless households. That’s the second and most crucial issue.
Seventy percent of black children are born out of wedlock, and roughly 60 percent live in homes without fathers. This sad reality should motivate state and federal governments as well as local communities- especially churches and other religious organizations- to encourage blacks to get and stay married. Children from households where a mother and father are present are less likely to engage in violent behavior, including gangs.
A number of social pathologies have been attributed to those who come from fatherless homes, including juvenile delinquency, youths in prison, youth drug use, high school dropouts, behavioral issues, and trouble dealing with authority. Nowhere is this more prevalent than among black children.
Mr. Wickham and I agree that gun violence is a detriment to black youth; we simply disagree with whom and what receives blame. If we want to reduce gun violence, especially in the inner cities, we have to change and redeem the cultural values that foster it. This begins with recreating and redeeming the black family.