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Edelman writes: "Between 1963 and 2010, 73 percent of gun deaths in America were among Whites - over one million deaths."

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund.   (photo: John F. Kennedy Library Foundation)
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund. (photo: John F. Kennedy Library Foundation)

An All-American Crisis

By Marian Wright Edelman, Reader Supported News

09 March 13


"e are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote these words in his April 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in the same passage with his well-known warning that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." A few months later, Dr. King wrote that the same culture of violence that killed Medgar Evers in Mississippi in June 1963 and four little Black girls in Birmingham in September 1963 had finally killed President Kennedy in November 1963 reminding us that it's not possible to confine injustice, hatred, or violence to one group or community. What is tolerated in one place will eventually infect and affect everyone.

When many people think about gun deaths in America, the first stereotype that comes to mind is urban gun homicide-a crisis that disproportionately affects the Black community. As a result, too many people assume that despite recurring cases of often labeled "isolated" or "unpredictable" mass gun violence primarily committed by White male shooters, "ordinary" gun violence is mostly a Black problem that is or should be the Black community's responsibility alone to solve. This is simply not true, although the Black community must mount a much stronger and more persistent voice against gun violence. The fact is that most Americans killed by guns are White, and most Americans who kill themselves or others with guns are White and our nation's gun death epidemic is not simply a White or Black crisis but an American crisis.

Between 1963 and 2010, 73 percent of gun deaths in America were among Whites - over one million deaths. Large numbers of White parents have borne the terrible burden of losing their child to guns: Whites comprised 62 percent of child and teen gun deaths between 1963 and 2010 - exceeding 100,000 deaths. In 2010, 65 percent of gun deaths among Americans of all ages were among non-Hispanic Whites, as were 34 percent of gun deaths among children and teens. Gun deaths were the second leading cause of death for non-Hispanic White children and teens that year, second only to motor vehicle accidents, and the fourth leading cause of death among non-Hispanic Whites ages 1 to 64 after cancers, heart disease, and non-gun accidents. Eighty-three percent of White gun deaths were suicides, 14 percent were homicides, and two percent were accidents. Among White children and teens, 63 percent of gun deaths were suicides, 26 percent were homicides, and nine percent were accidents.

The state with the highest overall number of gun deaths among non-Hispanic Whites in 2010 was Texas, with 1,620, followed by Florida, California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona, and Michigan. The ten states with the highest rates of gun deaths among non-Hispanic Whites were Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming, Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, Alabama, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

The total of 31,328 people of all ages who died from guns in 2010 included 20,427 Whites, 7,291 Blacks, 2,943 Latinos, 378 Asian-Americans, and 289 American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Where do all of these deaths leave us? Fifty years later, it leaves us right back with Dr. King: there is no point making gun violence just one group's problem because we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality without a place to hide from pervasive guns and gun violence. Gun violence is a White problem because most gun death victims in America are White. Gun violence is a Black problem because Blacks are disproportionately more likely to be gun death victims. Gun violence is a Latino and an Asian-American and an American Indian and Native Alaskan problem because shamefully children and people of all races are dying from guns.

Gun violence is an urban problem that devastates cities like Chicago, and Detroit, and Tucson, Arizona, and Washington, D.C. Gun violence is a suburban, small town, and rural problem that devastates places like Newtown, Connecticut, and Conyers, Georgia, and Littleton and Aurora, Colorado, and Pearl, Mississippi. Gun violence is a problem in states with strong gun laws because guns still travel in from states next door. Gun violence is a problem for parents who would never dream of owning a gun and for parents whose guns are stored responsibly and safely because their children share the same playdates and parks and schools and universities and movie theaters and streets as children and adults who do have access to guns and whose family members and friends do not store them safely.

Gun deaths are a tragedy for families whose loved ones are murdered. Gun deaths are a tragedy for families whose loved ones commit suicide. We should take our blinders off because when the 2010 gun death rate for non-Hispanic Whites in the United States was nearly eight times higher than the average gun death rate in 25 other high income countries - and the overall gun death rate for all Americans was seven and a half times higher than the average gun death rate in those countries - and when children are killed or injured by guns every 30 minutes, gun violence is an all-American crisis. Other countries have already made the decision to say no more. It is time for all Americans to stand up, speak up, work together and do the same for our children and all of us.

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-24 # stevcook 2013-03-09 18:11
I think the skewed numbers you use are not helping your case 50 years and 100,000 deaths more children are born in a week now tell me what percentage of all death this was so we can look at it rationally.Comp are it to the charge of Stonewall Jackson's Charge.
-9 # brux 2013-03-09 22:46
Just looking at the numbers ... what does this say. I think it says a lot about the existence of a lower-class backwards society in the middle of America where education and morality has not really penetrated. A society where crime and violence is a way of life and guns are readily available.

How do we break the cycle or civilize these people? I think that is the question, not how we regulate their Constitutional right to bear arms, which in this case is a cruel mockery of the Constitution and our inalienable rights.

We had a way on poverty that worked to some extent but created such animosity from the existing power structure that it was shut off, at least according to Sargent Shriver in the interview done with Teri Gross on Fresh Air several years before his death.

We have a lot of fast breeding lower class society that creates a bigger and bigger drag on the rest of society and the government, and it is not a mostly minority problem either, but that is a facet of it. What do we do?
+9 # Glen 2013-03-10 05:49
The point is, stevcook, not percentages, but the reality of death and how it affects everyone. It isn't about comparing death rates per se, but about the extreme numbers of people dying within a population due to one reason: guns. That is also a means of comparing the U.S. to gun deaths in other countries.

The dead are not numbers or percentages. They are real and a tragedy.
-1 # Depressionborn 2013-03-11 14:15
Tell me glen, since when is being able to defend yourself a tragedy?
+5 # fredboy 2013-03-10 08:20
Guns are the instruments of terror.

Every day.

Thus a nation that claims to be against terror actually favors it.

By knowingly and intentionally spreading its deadliest instruments. To everyone.
+5 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-03-10 08:25
The problem is not guns alone, though control is plainly necessary: it is also a long history of isolationist individualism, its abject fear the shadow of its assertiveness, uncontrolled by a common ethic, & fomented by the gun industry.
-5 # Depressionborn 2013-03-10 09:03
Our state firearm death rate here is 6 per 100,000 for whites. The community is about 25,000 so shooting are so few and far between that no one can remember any. Some bad guys did come once to rob. They were quickly apprehended. I think their guns were already illegal, but then so is robbery.

One day, deputies caught two John Deere riding lawnmower thieves. Everyone in the country seems to have a Deere and often leaves it out in the yard. The thieves had stolen quite a few, and when they were in the back of the cop car one of the deputies turned and asked "say guys, just curious, but how come you never broke into any of the houses?" One answered "you gotta be nuts, everyone out here has a gun in the house".

Our big worries here are Doctors and hospitals and politicians. Death by big medicine is getting pretty high; and death by government seems more likely than by guns. Please don't take our guns, we use them to save lives and hunt pheasants. Our guns save lives.

It's ok with us if you don't have any. That way the bad guys will leave us alone and we can save ammo.
-1 # MidwestTom 2013-03-10 10:47
So roughly 50% ( 83$ of 65% ) of the gun deaths were suicides. The quickest way to cut gun deaths in half is to offer assisted suicide in all states.
-2 # rangeragainstwar 2013-03-10 10:47
Agreed w/ depression: Big Pharma and Big Agra and government collusion will get us faster than an individual's gun. It is a slow, inexorable death by toxicity and sloth.

Per Edelman's figures, blacks are killing/dying at a rate more than double their numbers in the population (12-12%). Why is that?
0 # cafetomo 2013-03-10 20:31
Oh, well, so long as it's not just a "black thing", maybe somebody should do something.

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