The recent attack on the US Capitol by white supremacist and fascist extremists shocked the entire nation, and has led to a fervent debate on how to address the problem. Some groups have called for more restrictions on firearms ownership as an answer, yet nearly none of the extremists involved in the attack were armed. Now is not the time to be removing the ability of the citizens of Rhode Island to defend themselves, nor to put them at the mercy of violent, corrupt law enforcement agencies known to be riddled with white supremacists, some of whom aided and took part in the attack on the Capitol.
Plenty of laws currently exist to prosecute the fascists who attacked the Capitol; the problem is that these groups are made up partly of off duty law enforcement and military personnel. Given the massive disparity between brutal police treatment of Black Lives Matter protests, including here in Providence, versus the permissive police response to the Capitol attack, these people may not be charged with any crimes at all. If they are charged with any crimes, they face far more lenient punishments than those meted out against non-white protestors for simply making their voices heard. Additionally, though anti-gun groups are sounding an alarm about the increase in gun purchases, “The highest overall firearm sales increase comes from Black men and women, who show a 58.2% increase in purchases during the first six months of 2020 versus the same period last year,” meaning the outcry over the increase in sales is aimed at disarming the very people these groups claim to want to protect.
Anti-gun groups repeatedly claim that banning “assault weapons” and high capacity magazines are “common sense reforms”. But this is completely disproved by even a cursory glance at the actual statistics around gun violence. The overwhelming majority of crimes committed involving a firearm are committed using handguns and only firing a few shots. Banning so-called “assault weapons” or high capacity magazines will do absolutely nothing to address the problem of violence in our communities because such laws would have no effect on the weapons used in almost all these crimes.
What those bans will do is serve to give more power to the police state to criminalize non-white and poor gun owners while refusing to enforce the restrictions against their white supremacist friends, as has been demonstrated time and time again when these laws have been enacted. We saw this just a few days ago in Virginia, where Black gun owners had their legally carried firearms seized at an annual protest while white protestors doing the exact same thing were left alone. With an average of 13,657 homicides per year during the 2007-2017 timeframe, about one-tenth of one percent of homicides were produced by mass shootings involving assault weapons. Because of extensive media coverage of these events, many people have been led to believe that such rifles pose a significant threat to public safety.
However, such shootings are extremely rare, and a look at the FBI data informs us that homicide with these types of rifles represents an extremely small fraction of overall homicide violence. It’s also worth noting that the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban had very little impact on reducing gun homicides while continuing to perpetuate discriminatory enforcement of firearm ownership laws. Banning or confiscating such firearms from the civilian population would likely produce little to no reduction in violent crime rates in America.
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No one wants gun violence to continue, but more laws criminalizing otherwise law abiding gun owners is not the answer. Doing so does nothing to address the root cause of gun violence; the vast majority of gun crime is economic in cause, due to a lack of available jobs paying a living wage, a lack of affordable housing, affordable healthcare, and other services. These oppressive economic circumstances push good people to the margins of the economy and force them into difficult situations they would not otherwise be in. Of the 5 states with the highest rates of gun violence, 4 of them are in the top 10 states with the highest poverty levels in the country. Rhode Island, where anti-gun groups claim new gun restrictions are needed, has the second lowest rate of gun violence per capita in the nation.
If we really want to solve the problem of violence in our communities, we need to attack and rectify these root causes by increasing funding for affordable or free housing, free higher education, more job training, and other services. We must give all members of society an equal opportunity for a comfortable life where their needs are met and they are not subject to discrimination.
Considering these facts, it’s quite clear that people are not driven toward gun violence by the mere availability of firearms. Concentrating more power in the same racist police apparatus that violently oppresses the very people these anti-gun groups claim to want to help is not the solution, and will only exacerbate the root problem.
Increased gun control measures are virtue-signaling by centrist politicians who want more benefit from their white privilege and more power and funding for police. Instead of helping communities, these policies trick well-intentioned progressive citizens into believing they’ve found the radical solution to gun violence. Instead, these citizens are only oppressing themselves and their neighbors by supporting such policies that revoke their right to self-defense against racist violence