Are ‘white men’ to blame for mass shootings?
Okay, The Washington Post is liberal. We all know its overall perspective. But is it too much to ask the Post’s editors to be thinking liberals? An op-ed in the Post on March 29 titled “White men have much to discuss about mass shootings” by Charlotte and Harriet Childress attempted to inject race into the debate on how to stop mass murderers by blaming “white men and boys.” The op-ed is so factually inaccurate the Post should give itself four Pinocchio’s for running it.
The Post introduces Charlotte and Harriet Childress as “researchers and consultants on social and political issues,” but it should have been clear to the Post’s editors these twin sisters from Oregon didn’t do any research on this political issue.
Charlotte and Harriet write: “Nearly all of the mass shootings in this country in recent years—not just Newtown, Aurora, Fort Hood, Tucson and Columbine—have been committed by white men and boys.”
The thing is there have been mass shootings (when two or more people were shot) committed by non-white Americans. Here are a few from 2012: Jeong Soo Paek, a Korean American, killed four people at a health spa in Norcross, Georgia; Travis Lamonte Steed, a black man, started a gun fight in a night club in Jackson, Tenn., that resulted in one death and 16 injuries; Su Nam Ko, a Korean American, killed seven people at Oikos University in Oakland, Calif.; Otis Phillips, a black man, was reportedly involved in a shooting that left two dead at a soccer tournament in Wilmington, Delaware; Radcliffe Frankin Haughton, a black man, killed three at a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin; Jacob Tyler Roberts, an Hispanic man, killed two people at a mall near Portland, Oregon.
Also, while Adam Lanza, the killer at Sandy Hook Elementary, and some other notable mass killers were white, other famous mass murderers have been Asian, black or Latino. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, was a Korean American. John Allen Muhammad, aka “the D.C. sniper,” was black.
This poor attempt by Charlotte and Harriet Childress to make the debate on how to stop mass murderers into a racial issue impugning white men should have been easily dismissed by the editors at The Washington Post. Could it be that they were blinded by their ideology?
Whatever the reason, this dishonest op-ed does bring up an important topic many in the liberal media have been carefully avoiding. The Childress sisters write that “when the criminals and leaders are white men, race and gender become the elephant in the room.” Now, though treating “white males” in America as a homogenous class is so silly it’s hard to take seriously, this ideological twisting of the facts does point a finger back at the real elephant in the room: inner-city violence—often between minorities—occurring in areas that have the most stringent Second Amendment restrictions in the U.S.
Consider that in 2012 a total of 532 people were murdered in the city of Chicago, according to statistics compiled by the website Crime in Chicago (log on here for their names and stories: ). Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has said 500 people were killed in 2012, but whatever the precise number of fatalities, this needs to be honestly discussed for the best solutions to be found.
One thing the Post should be addressing is that in 2012, while Chicago earned the gruesome distinction of being the murder capital of the U.S., the Windy City also rated dead last in federal prosecutions of gun crimes.
David Burnham, co-director of Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data-gathering and research organization run by Syracuse University, says they found that on a per-capita basis Chicago ranks dead last for prosecuting gun crimes. Burnham says that according to case-by-case U.S. Justice Department information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by TRAC, there were 52 prosecutions in Illinois North (Chicago) in 2012, or 5.52 per million in population. By this measure, compared with the 90 federal judicial districts in the U.S., the prosecution rate in Chicago was the lowest.
So the city with the highest murder rate also has the lowest federal prosecution rate for gun crimes yet the mainstream media thinks this isn’t a story? Could the media’s avoidance of these facts have something to do with how they view race? According to the City of Chicago, though blacks make up 33 percent of the city’s population about 80 percent of the people murdered in 2012 were black. Many explain these numbers away by saying the killings are mostly related to gang violence. Regardless, how can they explain away the lack of federal prosecutorial zeal for crimes related to guns? Could it be that they’re afraid that such a discussion would inevitably show that the left’s anti-gun-rights ideology doesn’t work in practice?
The TRAC study also determined that the number of federal weapons prosecutions nationally has fallen nearly every year in the U.S. from a high of 11,015 in 2004 to 7,774 in 2012. In fact, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), in 2010 of the 6 million Americans who attempted to buy a gun about 76,000 were denied. Of those, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) referred 4,732 cases for prosecution. Of these, 44 people were prosecuted and 13 were punished.
Given all this, shouldn’t The Washington Post, and other media outlets, be investigating? If they’re going to make room for Charlotte and Harriet Childress to make unsubstantiated claims about white men and guns, couldn’t they send a reporter to find out why federal prosecutors don’t seem to be trying very hard to put away the bad guys with guns?
Near the end of their op-ed the Childress sisters write: “If life were equitable, white male gun-rights advocates would face some serious questions to assess their degree of credibility and objectivity.” They then rely on their false premise to ask: “What facets of white male culture create so many mass shootings?”
The thing is rural areas in the U.S.—areas that often have higher legal gun-ownership rates than urban areas—also have some of the lowest murder rates in the U.S. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, for example, determined that from 1993-1998: “Urban males experienced violent victimizations at rates 64% higher than the average combined suburban and rural male rate.” But the media isn’t all that interested in acknowledging or looking into this, as it what they might report could conflict with their politics.
Many readers gave The Washington Post a drubbing in the comments section on this op-ed. One reader summed up the Childress sisters’ op-ed this way: “I am a liberal, but these two are perfect examples of off-the-deep-end yahoos who give serious liberals a bad name.” By running this poorly fact-checked op-ed, The Washington Post is also giving itself a bad name.
Frank Miniter is the author of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide.