Getting Guns “Off the Streets”

Manuel Lora pointed me to this article on the “success” of last year’s Kicks for Guns campaign. Talk show hosts and various promoters of these programs love to talk about taking guns “off the streets,” as if a person who makes a living as a criminal, using a gun, would trade it in for a pair of shoes. As others have mentioned, these programs generally only result in a bunch of old, fairly useless guns being turned in in the first place. But I want to address the notions behind the rhetoric.

It seems apparent to me, based on the places where these events are staged, that “getting guns off the streets” is just code for “getting poor urban minorities to disarm themselves.” The main people who would turn in a functional gun in an inner city are 1) drug addicts who are just looking for something which can be converted into cash for drugs or traded directly for drugs and 2) people who try to avoid using guns. Obviously, people of type 2 are not much of a threat in terms of gun crime, but even 1) is really not a threat. A drug user who feels that a gun is better used as currency for drugs, rather than used as a tool for robbery, is exactly the kind of drug user who is no physical threat.

This is just an angle for the anti-gun lobby. Unfortunately, it is one which resonates with the “law and order” gun lobby. Black liberals have often accused conservatives of using racist “code” when addressing minority issues. “Getting guns off the street” is code embraced by liberals of all colors, and all-too-frequently resonates with conservatives as well.