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COLUMN: Gun control's negative effects on marginalized groups



The Las Vegas shooting earlier this month was the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. As with every instance of gun violence, the debate over gun control has been brought to the forefront of the media as a result. 

This debate generally has two very strong sides: those who wish for the national government to regulate the purchase of guns, and those who believe the government should not substantially increase regulations.

The debate makes it seem simple, but in reality, it is a much more nuanced issue.

People do not consider the fact that implementing strict gun control laws will most likely have a negative effect on marginalized people.

Criminalization laws will always be unfairly detrimental to people of color. A perfect example of this is the war on drugs. Across racial lines, illegal drug use is generally the same, with only 1 or 2 percent differences between race. 

At the same time, black people are imprisoned at six times the rate of white people for drug-related crimes. Many factors play into this, such as the sociopolitical isolation of people of color and sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine, two pharmacologically identical substances, of 18-to-1 – the former much more likely to be found in low-income areas.

With this precedent, nationally implemented gun control laws will likely have a comparable effect. 

Stop-and-frisk laws implemented in many major cities throughout the United States also disproportionately target marginalized people. 

For example, in New York City in 2016, 52 percent of the people stopped were black. New York City only has a 25 percent black population, and 76 percent of the people who were stopped were totally innocent. 

This is not a coincidence. 

Nor is it unique to New York City. Similar data has been found in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. Gun criminalization will absolutely factor into this discrimination. 

It will give law enforcement officials another reason to racially profile and arrest those they believe to be dangerous without any justification, increasing the overall tension between the police and people of color β€” largely in areas of sociopolitical isolation.

The question of individual citizens owning guns is a hard one, especially when it comes to modified semi-automatic weapons like those used in the Las Vegas shooting. 

Gun control would be a large factor in making these weapons much harder to obtain. 

At the same time, criminalization of guns would put the issue into the hands of our already armed and militarized police system, adding to the senseless violence against people of color and constant racial profiling. 

When we think of gun violence, we must take into account that the police force is also guilty. 

While we work toward a solution to protect the United States from mass shootings and gun violence, we must always take into account the underlying problems of racial discrimination facing us and not directly contribute to the racism plaguing law enforcement.

emmagetz@indiana.edu
@emmaagetz

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