On March 28, a senior at Detroit's Northwestern High School enthusiastically introduced Dr. Ben Carson to speak on "Humble Beginnings" — how Carson escaped the mean streets of Detroit to gain international prominence as a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon. On April 11, Carson returned to northwest Detroit to give a talk at the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.
In his remarks, Carson lamented that Detroit gun violence had claimed another victim: the very Northwestern student who had introduced him just two weeks before.
As the U.S. Senate embarks this week on another spasm of gun control legislation in response to the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting, the Northwestern victim (his name is being withheld by the school district) is a reminder that Sandy Hook is an anomaly — the overwhelming majority of homicides in America take place in cities like Detroit, affect young males and rarely get media headlines.
If Washington passes a federal background check for all gun sales, it will be largely symbolic. Not only would a background check not have prevented Adam Lanza from acquiring a gun (his mother owned the firearm), it would do little to address violence in inner cities awash with illegal guns and drugs. This week's White House-driven gun circus is politically calculated to embarrass the gun lobby, but attacking the root causes of gun violence means boldly tackling much stickier issues: drug legalization, police reform and single-parent families.
In the week following the Newtown massacre, there were more than a dozen gun homicides in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis. In 2012, 52 people were slain for every 100,000 Detroiters. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, large cities account for two-thirds of gun-related deaths.
That is no coincidence as the illegal drug trade is concentrated in America's inner cities, bringing with it gangs, drive-by shootings and waves of illegal weapons. The young males, most of them with criminal records, who populate this underground economy don't acquire their guns at shops or gun shows where a background check would flag them.
Ending the drug war would starve this violent culture — just as the end of Prohibition did in the 1930s. But there are other, more politically palatable reforms to be made.
New York City, for example, has seen dramatic change in recent decades — from one of America's most violent cities at 30 killings per 100,000 population to just five today (in a city of 8 million people, that's 418 killings last year down from 2,245 in 1990). Mayor Michael Bloomberg is right to point to better gun licensing (works for car safety, too). But, say criminologists, gun law enforcement is a piece of a comprehensive law enforcement strategy.
"Gun policing in New York got much more effective as every kind of street policing got more effective," Franklin Zimring, author of "The City that Became Safe," tells the Associated Press.
New York implemented so-called "hot spot policing" that vigorously targeted high crime ZIP codes, built computerized crime-mapping systems, and enforced existing gun permit laws — including using controversial stop-and-frisk laws for gun-carry IDs. In short, New York doesn't distract itself over anomalies, but concentrates on the known bad guys — even as law-abiding Americans continue to buy guns in record numbers.
Breaking the culture of violence, say black leaders like Carson, includes slashing family-busting welfare dependency, and encouraging two-parent homes that help cut off Detroit's assembly-line of violent young males. Single-parenthood is not only the No. 1 cause of poverty — 80 percent of Detroit newborns are to fatherless homes — but also the leading indicator of young male school dropout, crime and illiteracy rates.
With leadership in the home, says Carson, young males learn personal responsibility. And with better leadership on gun violence, America can focus on real solutions to the mayhem that terminates so many humble beginnings in Detroit.
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130416/OPINION03/304160309#ixzz2QkIW45dL