I’m not really sure whether to shake my head in amazement that the New York Times has discovered that assault weapons kill very few people in America, or to be happy that they finally figured it out. Either way, on September 12th the Times published a “news analysis” by Lois Beckett, who writes for ProPublica, on “The Assault Weapon Myth.” In the analysis, Beckett reveals something that I figured out a couple of minutes into studying guns and violence in America: scary black rifles are not the problem.
The unmasking of the assault weapon myth, however, does not mean a fundamental rethinking of gun control efforts. Instead, it signals a shift in focus away from assault weapons toward handguns. (See also a companion article from September 9th by Beckett on the ProPublica site titled “Why Gun Control Groups Have Moved Away from an Assault Weapons Ban.”)
But is that still barking up the wrong tree? It is interesting to note that the Beckett assault weapon myth piece concludes by invoking the work of David Kennedy who has studied gun violence on the ground in America’s inner-cities (where the bulk of gun violence takes place) as much and as well as anyone. Kennedy’s solution? Not more gun control, as I have discussed in a previous post, but targeting the few individuals who are responsible for the majority of gun violence and addressing the issue of drugs and poverty in those communities.
As Beckett says of Kennedy’s work, “it’s an approach based on an honest assessment of the real numbers.” Better late than never, I suppose, but I’m still not sure if Beckett or others really hear what Kennedy is saying. For that, please check out his very interesting book, Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America.