Long before Newtown and the ongoing wave of mass shootings gripping the U.S., the fiction of safe suburbs versus dangerous cities had been upended. The urban white flight of the 1960 and 1970s stopped and even reversed in recent years as 24-hour cities appeared safe and secure, especially in upscale neighborhoods. Today young families may move out of cities back to suburbs, looking for better public schools, but today they rarely leave out of fear of violence or for a safer environment.
In the gateway cities, aggressive police tactics, including stop and frisk, have helped reduce gun related violence, albeit there’s still too much especially in impoverished neighborhoods riven by drug gangs. The big cities also tend to have stricter gun registration laws and city dwellers are less likely to be interested in hunting—shot guns and assault rifles might be cumbersome accessories for protecting yourself in a studio apartment anyway. And it’s hard to tote an AK-40 on the subway without being noticed or find a shooting range to practice. On a per capita basis, gun country concentrates away from cities towards the suburbs and rural America. But the guns that come into cities are typically purchased in laissez-faire gun jurisdictions where the Second Amendment is part of the gospel and then brought back illegally to wreak havoc.
At the same time, suburbs have become prone to the same crime that people moved out of the city from decades ago. If you live on a lonely lane or on a two-acre lot, maybe you want to have a gun in the house in case of a break in.
While most American gun owners are responsible and prudent, guns are extremely dangerous and most of them are designed for one thing—to hurt or more precisely kill people. Hand guns and assault rifles are not meant for hunting and few people buy them for collections. When there are as many guns as people in the U.S. (more than 300 million by last count), the availability makes it just too easy for a nut case or a drunk or someone caught up in the passion of the moment to find a weapon and perpetrate mass harm. And when deranged or unstable people can so easily get their hands on military assault rifles and multi-round clips of armor piercing ammunition mayhem follows. And this kind of mass violence is more likely to happen in places like Newtown, Aurora, or other suburban/rural districts because these places allow people to buy and own these weapons. If someone loses their mind, these weapons are available to do what they are manufactured for—kill people.
About 12,000 gun-related homicides occur annually in the U.S., gun-related suicides account for even more deaths, and all tolled about 100,000 Americans are shot each year. The 27 victims in Newtown are a tragic example, but only a drop in the bucket.
So there is no mystery about what to do to curb this senseless violence— sell guns only thru licensed dealers who must do background checks on buyers, register all guns, ban ownership of assault weapons which should only be available to the military or police, and impose lengthy prison sentences on violators.
But can reason take hold? If it doesn’t, we have only ourselves to blame for the next Newtown.