Friday, February 2, 2007

Pennsylvania Is The Worst

Pennsylvania has the highest black homicide rate in the nation, reports the Courier's Deborah M. Todd. Although the bulk of those murders took place in Philadelphia, 79% of Allegheny County's homicides were of black persons, a statistic far higher than the national average, and reflective of the entire state.

“This underscores the need to provide opportunities for education, for affordable wages and to have access to decent health care,” said Sonya Toler, executive director of Governor Rendell’s Advisory Commission on African-American Affairs. “Hopefully we’ll see some sensible gun laws in Pennsylvania that will help reverse this negative trend.”

The bulk of the article deals with Pennsylvania's struggle to enact tougher gun legislation, but without mention of the underground market and problems of enforcement. Nor was there discussion of how the state might provide "opportunities" and the such.

The Comet ran the photo above to provoke the question: is this really a matter of culture? The P-G's Tony Norman would disagree:

To a great extent, the cause for much of the carnage in urban Philly and Pittsburgh is rooted in socio-economic realities folks don't like to talk about: class, education, lack of opportunity and nihilism. Blacks, who are disproportionately poor and illiterate, are more likely to resort to solving problems with the easily available guns floating around. It's not an essentialist construct like "culture" that causes blacks to shoot each other. All of American culture is steeped in violence and get-rich-quick schemes.

Mr. Norman acknowledges there are no easy answers, but probably would agree that culture, at least, is not helping. His own suggestion sounds awful cultural: a movement within the African-American community of interventionism, reminiscent of the "Freedom Riders."

A complex problem like this calls for a whole raft of partial solutions. Even if Pennsylvania manages to get tough on gun access, and to somehow improve minority opportunities, we should acknowledge how many of those guns were bought with drug money, and fired in drug wars.

One component of our solution clearly should be the rational decriminalization of many drug offenses, if not outright legalization in some cases. Call it a strategic, phased withdrawal from a failed War on Drugs, that has been costing us in blood and treasure for almost thirty years.

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