Cultural Deviancy, Not Guns


There’s a story told about a Paris chief of police who was called to a department store to stop a burglary in progress. Upon his arrival, he reconnoitered the situation and ordered his men to surround the entrances of the building next door. When questioned about his actions, he replied that he didn’t have enough men to cover the department store’s many entrances but he did have enough for the building next door. Let’s see whether there are similarities between his strategy and today’s gun control strategy.

Last year, Chicago had 512 homicides; Detroit had 411; Philadelphia had 331; and Baltimore had 215. Those cities are joined by other dangerous cities — such as St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., Flint, Mich., and Camden, N.J. — and they also lead the nation in shootings, assaults, rapes and robberies. Both the populations of those cities and their crime victims are predominantly black. Each year, more than 7,000 blacks are murdered. Close to 100 percent of the time, the murderer is another black person.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are also most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery. The magnitude of this tragedy can be seen in another light. According to a Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute study, between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites.

What percentage of murders, irrespective of race, are committed with what are being called assault weapons? You’d be hard put to come up with an amount greater than 1 or 2 percent. In fact, according to FBI data from 2011, there were 323 murders committed with a rifle of any kind but 496 murders committed with a hammer or a club. But people who want to weaken our Second Amendment guarantees employ a strategy like that of the Paris chief of police. They can’t do much about hammers, clubs, fists or pistols, but by exploiting public ignorance, they might have a bit of success getting an “assault weapon” ban that will have little impact on violent crime.

There are other measures these people employ in an attempt to end violence that border on lunacy. Massachusetts’ Hyannis West Elementary recently warned a 5-year-old’s parents that if their son made another gun from a Legos set, he’d be suspended. Elementary-school children have been suspended or otherwise disciplined for drawing a picture of a gun or pointing a finger and saying, “Bang, bang.” I shudder to think about what would happen to kids in a schoolyard if they played, as I played nearly 70 years ago, “cops ‘n’ robbers” or “cowboys ‘n’ Indians.” Maybe today’s politically correct educators would cut the kids a bit of slack if they said they were playing “cowboys ‘n’ Native Americans.”

What explains a lot of what we see today, which politicians and their liberal allies would never condemn, is growing cultural deviancy. Twenty-nine percent of white children, 53 percent of Hispanics and 73 percent of black children are born to unmarried women. The absence of a husband and father from the home is a strong contributing factor to poverty, school failure, crime, drug abuse, emotional disturbance and a host of other social problems. By the way, the low marriage rate among blacks is relatively new. Census data show that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults from 1890 to 1940. In 2009, the poverty rate among married whites was 3.2 percent; for blacks, it was 7 percent, and for Hispanics, it was 13.2 percent. The higher poverty rates — 22 percent for whites, 35.6 percent for blacks and 37.9 percent for Hispanics — are among unmarried families.

Other forms of cultural deviancy are found in the kind of music accepted today that advocates killing and rape and other vile acts. Punishment for criminal behavior is lax. Today’s Americans accept behavior that our parents and grandparents never would have accepted.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

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