October 2009

Downrange: 10/09

Readin’, ‘Ritin’, & Anti-Gunnin’

I was surprised when my teenage daughter brought home a book called Fist Stick Knife Gun, A Personal History of Violence in America by Geoffrey Canada. It’s a series of tales about the author watching his peers, inner-city black youth, beat, knife, and shoot each other. As Canada describes his tough life growing up in South Bronx, the incidence of guns was comparatively rare, so life was better back in the

Todd Woodard

Todd Woodard

day, he says, when they just savagely assaulted each other. Later (to his credit), Canada describes trying to make a positive change in those same dangerous areas of the South Bronx he returns to after he gets degrees at Bowdoin and Harvard. But the big difference, he laments, is that the increased number of guns wielded by adolescents make fights become funerals.

I’m twisted off at the English department at my daughter’s school for a whole set of reasons. Fist is full of language, violence, and ongoing depictions of predations by the strong against the weak. That’s bad enough. Moreover, Fist is vehemently anti-gun, because pistols illegally obtained, illegally possessed, and illegally used by Canada’s friends, enemies, and clients use them to shoot each other. Naturally, that’s the fault of gunowners like you and me, even though we’re not killing each other like they do on Union Ave.

In chapter 23, he says flatly: "I believe all handgun sales should be banned in this country. The argument… that the Second Amendment was passed so Americans could own weapons is a specious one." The cover page is dated 1995, so it would be a few years before the Supreme Court officially disagreed with Canada. Canada also wants ammunition identification to make killing people "less anonymous" than it is today. He wants coded ammunition logged to a specific buyer in which the brass and bullet (and any bullet fragments) could be traced back to the buyer. And gun buy-backs.

Apparently, one book Canada didn’t read at Bowdoin and Harvard is John Lott Jr.’s, More Guns, Less Crime. The Bronx is overwhelmingly "gunless," despite that Canada sees use of guns all around. The Bronx’s residents can’t protect themselves against the lawless because only the lawless have guns—because of New York City’s restrictive gun laws!

Those of us who live west of the Hudson say, no thanks. Practically every urban center in the country is just like the Bronx—incessantly and perhaps irredeemably violent because the good people there are defenseless, because of people just like Geoffrey Canada.

Is that a conclusion my daughter’s English department will come to when they finish teaching Fist? Probably not. And when I visit those teachers to complain about Fist, and I ask how is it that millions of gunowners in the rest of the country aren’t killing each other like they do in the South Bronx, will they have an answer? Probably not. GT

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