Sonn: The real gun problem

BY BARRETT SONN | JUNE 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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Gun violence in America is treated the same way we handle a leaky faucet or a nagging hemorrhoid: accept it as the new norm until it overflows or explodes.

Last week, in another explosion of violence, a shooter killed five people in Santa Monica, Calif.

Major incidents such as this are relatively far between, but smaller-scale gun violence is an everyday occurrence all across the country. Turn on the local news at any given moment, especially in a big city like Chicago, and you are bound to see something about a shooting. Or two. Or five.

According to statistics provided by Bureau of Justice Statistics there were 11,101 firearm-related homicides in 2011. From 1993-2011, 70 percent of all homicides were firearm-related.

Many believe that gun violence has recently reached a fever pitch, but a Pew Research Center study noted that the firearm homicide rate dropped 49 percent from 1993 to 2010. We actually have less gun violence than we think. Why do so many of us believe otherwise? Perhaps mass shootings have something to do with it.

In the past few years, we’ve had an inexplicable number of them, from Arizona to Connecticut, and most recently in Santa Monica. After each one, people rose to cry foul against guns, ownership of guns, and the different nuances regarding the issue, such as the definition of the Second Amendment.

But as the above statistics show, and as we all know, firearm crimes occur every single day. Mass shootings are outliers. They are a tiny percentage in comparison to the larger picture. And frankly, it’s downright remarkable they don’t happen more often, considering the number of guns and people in America.

What is also remarkable is how we’ve come to accept the other types of gun violence as being a normal part of society. Or, if we don’t think it’s normal, we still choose to do nothing about it. It’s almost like there are areas of America where that type of crime is seen as being a given, and it’s not until that crime spills over certain borders that we start to worry and get uncomfortable.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s another issue here, and it involves race and social class. We know minority kids get killed. Going back to that Pew study, 55 percent of firearm homicide crime victims were black, yet blacks make up only 13 percent of our nation’s population. We don’t protest. We shove that stuff out of the way. But when kids in a nice suburban neighborhood are targeted? Hey, now that’s just unacceptable! What an outrage!

It’s sickening. We’ve let a lot of neighborhoods go, like some people in their 40s let themselves go. We don’t care. Ironically, the things we don’t care about are actually the most damaging to society.

So don’t focus on mass shootings. Focus on what’s happening consistently, all over the nation, every hour, every minute. Use those as motivation for calls to action.

Outliers are outliers — they’re going to happen every so often, regardless of what we do to try to change it. Our problem is much bigger than a few mass shootings.

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