What's Next for the NRA: Arming Young Black Males

According to the NRA, guns are life-savers. The group credits rising gun ownership (albeit among a shrinking share of the population) and the spread of concealed carry laws for the decline of violent crime from its peak in the 1990's. According to the NRA, there are as many as 2.5 million defensive uses of guns per year.

"An armed society is a polite society," goes a favorite NRA quotation, borrowed from science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein.

To say the least, these assertions are controversial (you can find objective discussions here and here). But let's accept them for now, if only to see where they lead.

That would be to what surely will become the NRA's next urgent priority:

Arming young black males.

The NRA's own principles and policy positions cry out for it:

  1. Americans need to be armed, so they can protect themselves from violent crime. The police can't be relied upon, especially since they usually show up after an attack has occurred. "The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," as NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre says.
  2. Regulating guns is no good. It infringes Second Amendment freedoms, and only law-abiding people will obey the regulations -- "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns," as another favorite quote has it.
  3. There are also risks from terrorists, Latin American drug gangs, the deranged and even the imminent breakdown of society, according to LaPierre. Again, only by being armed can citizens defend themselves.

Obviously, the NRA should therefore focus its efforts on those who are most at risk from violence. Who are most at risk? By far, young black males.

Let's look at the numbers, as collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control.

In 2010, for the first time since 1965, homicide fell off the list of the top 15 causes of death for the US population overall (see here, page 14).

But not if you were a young black male. According to the CDC's 2009 figures, for you, homicide was the number one cause of death.

For black males aged 15 to 24, half of all deaths were by homicide. Think about that: half.

Here are some comparisons of percentages of deaths by homicide, by age group:

US Centers for Disease Control, National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 61, Number 7: Deaths: Leading Causes for 2009

Source: US Centers for Disease Control. Chart: the author.

It's a horrifying crisis, as many in law enforcement, public health and government have been saying for years.

So, since the NRA believes guns make their owners and others around them safer, I'm sure we can count on the group throwing the bulk of its effort into making sure young black males are carrying guns, ASAP.

Hang on a minute, some may say. Some of those young black males were probably criminals. After all, a higher percentage of black people live in poor, urban areas with high rates of violent crime.

True, but remember what the NRA teaches us:
  1. The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
  2. We can't keep guns out of the hands of criminals by regulation, and regulation puts the Second Amendment at risk.
  3. Society is crumbling. According to LaPierre, our violence-plagued cities are a preview of what we can expect.

But hang on another minute. Doesn't the NRA say we should enforce existing gun laws, which would help reduce gun violence among black Americans, and all Americans? Yes, but also per the NRA, that can't be allowed to happen if it involves actual enforcement, because then the ATF would take away our freedoms. More research into gun violence is also off-limits.

Now, as it happens the NRA has already begun to reach out to black people. There's room for it, given the profile of the current membership. March of this year saw the debut at NRANews.com of commentator Colion Noir, an African-American gun rights advocate.

No way this is just a token gesture. Given the critical need, I'm sure we can expect black-oriented gun rights organizing to become the lion's share of NRA activity any day now.

Second priority will no doubt be given to young Hispanic males, who face the next-highest level of risk.

It can't be that there are already too many guns flooding high crime minority communities. Remember, guns make people safer -- if these particular armed societies are less than polite, obviously, they need to be more heavily armed.

Now perhaps you think I'm being ironic. You may be right.*

But it could be that the joke will be on me: after all, think of the profits being left on the table by the NRA's clients, the gun-makers. They may want to go for this multicultural outreach stuff, big time.

Because no matter how confusing they may sometimes seem, there's one simple thing that always makes the NRA's positions perfectly coherent: the gun industry money behind them.

*Let me emphasize that the targets of my irony are the NRA leadership and its exploitation of fear, in particular xenophobia. I am not saying that all NRA members think of race when they imagine law-abiding Americans defending themselves against criminals, or even that all members buy into the NRA's vision of an armed citizenry fighting crime and terror. For example, the great majority of NRA members disagree with the group's leaders on the issue of sensible gun regulations, like universal background checks (which members overwhelmingly favor).