In the aftermath of the tragic Newton Elementary School shooting, we are, as a nation, attempting to recover from the traumatic shock of such a terrible event. A collective cry in favor of stricter gun control has emerged from the tears and bewilderment. Here I am wondering why it took the death of 20 children and six teachers, and the shooter’s own mother for us to finally call for stringent gun control. We have children dying every day from gun violence in urban communities in senseless fashion. We have a video game culture that promotes opening fire with assault weapons on crowds of oncoming humans. Yes, we have a huge problem with gun violence in the United States, but why have we waited for an elementary school shooting to ignite urgency?
Ravaged by gang violence and crime, many of our nation’s urban neighborhoods face the tragedy of senseless murder on a daily basis. Whereas we were rocked as a nation from the Sandy Hook massacre, families in city limits face the constant fear of gun violence with no end in sight. Chicago, for example, faced 36 homicides in the month of November, 33 of which were at the face of a gun barrel; that’s not even a high-mark statistic. November was actually one of the safer months, with August calling in 57 bodies, 49 of them from bullets. I’m not trying to minimize the tragedy of Sandy Hook, but there are two very different reactions to gun violence, differentiating school shootings and gang violence. When a white man murders 20 children, we cry for gun control. Yet, when gang violence causes over 400 black-on-black murders in Chicago, we blame black culture and hip-hop music?
And yet, the NRA and its army of second amendment disciples continue to spew their argument for liberal access to firearms. The most entertaining argument I’ve heard is, to paraphrase, “if everyone had a gun for protection, the shooter would’ve been stopped much earlier.” Ah, so we’ve gotten to the point where we should arm elementary school teachers (and perhaps, the promising sharpshooters of the next generation) to prevent school shootings? Certainly not.
The thing is, many of the Americans who stand against gun control are the same people who blame hip-hop music for perpetuating a culture of urban gun violence. To these people, I say listen to the music that you consistently blame to deter attention from the real problem of remarkably easy access to firearms. Then, maybe you’ll discover that we already have an relevant example of what happens when everyone has a firearm for their so-called “personal protection” in urban communities. Clashing gangs have their members armed with weapons to protect themselves against enemy fire, but all that results is murderous crossfire.
Hip-hop doesn’t get a free pass from perpetuating inner-city violence, but it certainly shouldn’t take all the blame. Crime didn’t come from hip-hop, but music can certainly glorify and magnify the reality of gang violence. Rappers can also be, in a sense, reporters of crime from the streets, going along with Chuck D’s claim that hip-hop is “the Black CNN.” Just as hip-hop could take more responsibility to criticize gun violence, we could take more action as listeners. The fact that gun violence is glorified is not a problem of hip-hop, but rather a problem of gun prevalence in urban communities.
We can continue to blame our nation’s “culture of gun-violence,” but in reality, the only action that will effectively reduce the violence is a firm set of restrictions on gun control. Whether these guns get into the hands of young brainwashed gang members in the inner-city, or a troubled man who intends to shoot up a school of children, they are equally damaging weapons that rob innocent lives. We can continue to point fingers at hip-hop music and blame some vague problem with our nation’s gun culture, or we can take action now, and ensure that assault weapons stop hitting the streets, for the sake of innocent children in the inner-city and the suburbs.