Dead minorities aren’t really a problem for this country; otherwise we would be having a much different conversation about gun violence in America. Minorities are more likely to be victims of homicide, and non-whites are also disproportionately more likely to commit homicide, yet that has not reached the level of national discussion evoked by the massacre in Connecticut.
The president has made a clear distinction between the gun violence that plagues the poor and minorities in this country, and the fear of random events which are rare and singularly violent, but also tend to disrupt those white neighborhoods that are relatively free of gun violence.
Mr. Obama outlined a package of twenty-three executive actions he will take without congressional approval that seemed as reasonable as they were narrow. His list ranges from issuing memorandums on addressing informational barriers to communication between law enforcement agencies to ordering reviews of safety measures and technologies.
In truth, Mr. Obama’s actions were a concession to the reality of gun politics in America. By acknowledging the “individual right to bear arms,” the president all but shut out the arguments often made by anti-gun folks who wrongly claim that the right to keep and bear arms is about state militias.
Mr. Obama said that, “The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different, that this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids.” In short, the president did what he could and then left the rest to us.
That’s good news for the NRA. American voters love their guns and violence in our streets was never a compelling reason to restrict gun ownership unless it reached into the lives of non-minorities in any systematic way.
The shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut may be enough to convince Congress to adopt narrow provisions that follow the president’s lead, but the call for some comprehensive ban on semi-automatic weapons seems unlikely for now.
The president has demonstrated in the past to be practical enough to pick his battles and he seems to have done so here, as well. Congress has proven sufficiently incompetent to expect a difficult battle to reap the results he wants, and it looks as though those people who do want greater action are willing to take it. New York just passed sweeping new limits to their already restrictive gun laws and it’s likely other states will follow.
Whether or not this will have an impact on gun violence remains to be seen, and the data suggests it’s not likely. But until we look at the root causes of our unusually violent nation, we will continue to see bloodshed on our streets. Unfortunately, that would require a look at policies that the president and Congress are unwilling to explore for now.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.