What is gun violence?

Violence is the one threat to the human community that we haven’t figured out.  We know what to do about famine. We know what to do about global warming. We know what to do about disease. We may not always have the will to do what we need to do to protect us from those threats, but we know what we need to do.

Not true when it comes to violence. We don’t know what to do because we don’t know why some people become violent and other people don’t. You’ll hear it said, for example, that people are violent because they were raised in violent households, or they were treated violently, or they have a problem with alcohol or drugs. But in fact, there are more non-violent individuals who come out of those backgrounds than violent ones. How do you predict which is which? You can’t.

Violence is defined by the WHO as a conscious effort to injure yourself or someone else. Stick the word ‘gun’ in front of the word ‘violence’ and we have the idea that gun violence is the conscious attempt to injure yourself or someone else by using a gun.

That’s all fine and well except for one little thing. Very few gun owners, maybe less than two-tenths of one percent of the people who own guns in the United States will ever try to hurt themselves or hurt someone else with one of their guns.

What we keep hearing from all the gun-control advocates the days, particularly because of the recent wave of mass shootings, is that gun violence is a ‘public health problem.’ But public health is the study of how some kind of health risk spreads from person to person or from place to place.

We know how guns get from one person to another. Either they get sold, or stolen, or given away as gifts. But how does violence get from one person to another? Why do two children who are born and raised in the same household with the same parents wind up with one having a normal life and the other one in jail?

There was a family named Bogle which over five generations moved from Tennessee to Texas, committing crimes all the way. They would set up shop in a trailer park and sell drugs in a organized fashion until the cops came lookig for them at which point they would pack up and move to another trailer park.

Over the course of these four generations, more than 60 members of the Bogle family did stretches in various penitentiaries for serious crimes, up to and including homicide. You can read all about this bunch in a great book written by our friend Fox Butterfield.

The Bogles always owned guns,  but they never, not once used a gun in the commission of a crime. Why not? Because guns were ‘too dangerous’ according to a member of the Bogle clan.

How did these lifelog, professional, violent criminals understand something about guns and gun violence that some 16-year-old kid walking down a street in East St. Louis doesn’t understand?

If you can figure that one out, please feel free to respond to this blog.