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Gun Violence Aimed at Black Males Triggers Concern

Freddie Allen, NNPA Washington Correspondent | 3/5/2014, 3 p.m.
Several new studies confirm what most people have suspected all along: No group is harmed more by gun violence than ...
African-American and Latino young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers — and account for almost half of the country’s murder victims each year. Flanked by students from Being a Man (BAM), a Chicago-based program that teaches discipline, conflict resolution and offers mentoring, President Barack Obama at a White House briefing outlines "My Brother's Keeper's” Initiative which helps young men of color facing tough odds. Photo by Shevry Lassiter

A loophole in the federal law governing gun sales allows private sellers, even on the Internet, to peddle guns without the buyer going through a background check.

“In 2009, undercover stings at gun shows in Nevada, Ohio and Tennessee revealed that 63 percent of private sellers sold guns to purchasers who stated that they would be unable to pass a background check,” according to the Children’s Defense Fund report.

It also found: “A 2011 study of Internet gun sales found that 62 percent of sellers agreed to sell a gun to a buyer who said he probably couldn’t pass a background check.”

Researchers say that this is how guns often make it onto the black market – literally and figuratively – and it’s also the reason why many gun control advocates support background checks for every gun sale.

A law mandating universal background checks on all gun sales enjoys nearly unanimous support (92 percent) among with 18-29 year-olds.

According to the CAP report, 60 percent of people under the age of 30 were concerned that gun violence would affect them “personally or their communities in the future.” For people of color under 30 years old, that concern jumped to 73 percent.

“A vast majority of Americans support this idea: that every gun sale should have a background check,” said Chelsea Parsons, associate director of Crime and Firearms Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Without that, it’s meaningless to say that certain categories of people can’t buy guns.”

Although Franklin supports background checks on gun sales, he said that handgun laws don’t have anything to do with the massive gun violence in the black community in cities like Baltimore.

“Criminals don’t care about the law,” said Franklin “They buy their guns illegally. They pay twice or triple what the gun is worth, because they have the money, because they are selling dope. These laws that we’re passing are only going to affect law-abiding citizens.”

Franklin said that background checks don’t get to the root of the problem – it’s the continued drug war waged in our nation’s poorest communities.

The drug scene often attracts urban youth because they aren’t many attractive alternative economic opportunities for them, said Caroline Fichtenberg, research director for the Children’s Defense Fund.

“A smart, Black boy living in Southeast Washington, D.C. may see the drug economy as the best way to get money and to be recognized as someone who has accomplished something,” said Fichtenberg. “And that is something we absolutely must change.”

Fichtenberg said that reducing the availability of illegal guns, teaching children that violence is not the way to resolve conflicts, making long-term investments in communities and improving educational and economic opportunities for poor communities are just a few of the steps needed to change the tide of rampant gun violence that disproportionately affects young blacks.

Franklin said that ending the drug war is paramount to stemming the tide of gun violence among black youth.

“We have to end this drug war, we have to end drug prohibition,” said Franklin. “That’s going to halt the cycle of mass incarceration of sending all these young boys to prison. Once we end the drug war, we have to take some of the money that we’re not spending on cops and court rooms and prisons and we have to beef up these organizations that have these wonderful mentoring programs,” he said.

The former law enforcement officer said change must start today. “If we don’t start now, outlining a long-term plan to deal with these children and their families, beginning with ending the drug war, we’re going to continue to lose generation after generation. It’s been decade after decade after decade. We should know that by now.”