Gun Violence and African American Youth: The Cause, Cost, and Cure

INTRODUCTION

Every media outlet in America has sensationalized gun violence. Fictional heroes and heroines save the day by massacring their enemies. Celebrities, especially musicians, project glorified public personas that support gun violence. Real life tragedies, such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, consume the media’s attention for weeks after the event. Yet despite the media’s obsession with it, the populations most effected by gun violence are largely ignored.   Localized shootings garner sympathy from the masses, but the day-to-day violence experienced by inner city youth, especially African American males, is considered so commonplace that it is hardly given a second thought. Consider this: Black adolescents are eight times more likely to be killed by gunfire than their white peers and 45% of all fatal shootings involved African American children, even though they make up only 15% of the total population in the United States.  (Children's Defense Fund, 2012) This research paper will attempt to identify the causes and implications of gun violence for African American youth; the focus will specifically be on the masculinization of firearms and the gender differences in gun violence for Black youth. The paper will further attempt to analyze the economic and social cost of gun violence for the target population, and address potential cures and ameliorants.

Secondary and Tertiary Sources

The academic literature surrounding the topic of gun violence is abundant. The brief bibliography that follows this proposal has some very strong examples of the type of research that has been done in this field. The bibliography is annotated to give a better description of the individual sources. Academic sources will focus on the broader and more quantifiable aspects of gun violence for the target population such as statistics, medical and psychological impacts, economic impacts, and best practices. Sources from the media, such as newspaper and magazine articles will also be included in the research paper, but they will focus more on the public opinion and editorialized views of gun violence rather than statistical data. Because this topic is current and dynamic the use of periodicals is imperative to keep up to date. 

The main topics of interest that will be supported by secondary and tertiary sources are:

  • Statistical evidence supporting the disproportionate rates of gun violence among African American male youths. 
  • The parallels between school shootings and urban shootings.
  • The perception of gun violence by the mass American culture.
  • A brief history of gun use/legality/ violence in America. 
  • Mental implications of gun violence, specifically Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Social and Economic costs associated with gun violence. 
  • Case studies.
  • Best practices for reducing gun violence.

(Individual perceptions will be discussed further in the “Primary Sources” section of the proposal.)

The largest problem anticipated with this set of sources is the cohesion between case study reports. Of the three case study reports examined, which looked at three separate inner city populations, it seems that there are significant differences in both the problem and the solution according to the demographics and/or geography of the problem area. This may result in a separate area of inquiry depending on the availability of data.

Primary Sources

The use of primary sources in the context of gun violence may rely on the use of crime maps and police data, but the predominant use of primary sources in this research paper will be to represent lived experience. i.e. “How does it feel to be affected by gun violence?” Because this research paper focuses on events that are current and local it is possible to consider obtaining personal interviews. Interviews would be the most desirable form of primary evidence because they could be tailored with questions specific to this research topic. Additionally, obtaining the interviews personally allows for the most current and pertinent information to be gathered. Unfortunately there is a significant degree of difficulty in conducting interviews. Logistically, interviews can prove difficult, but furthermore there are issues of obtaining interviewees and maintaining confidentiality. 

Plausibility

One of the hurdles for this research paper will be finding a cohesive method to incorporate all of the information in a way that is accessible to the reader. The breadth of information that will be covered in this research paper lends itself to a less formatted and more tangential structure. The vast number and variety of sources involving gun violence, African American youth, young men, mental disorders stemming from exposure to violence, and the impact of violence on society will have to be carefully curated in order to provide the most impactful information in the most efficient way. This can best be accomplished by establishing the argument that the research paper attempts to support early on. A strong and comprehensive thesis is key to making this a successful paper. Most likely the paper will be divided into three sections (excluding the abstract and conclusion). The first section, “Cause”, will look at the history of gun violence among African American male youth; it will examine the political, cultural and socioeconomical structures that impact gun violence.  The second section of the paper, “Cost” will focus on the implications of the gun violence on the individual, family, community, and societal levels. The final section of the research paper, “Cure”, will examine the current strategies being implemented to ameliorate the issue of gun violence in urban youth as well as theoretical solutions. “Cure” will also address potential and established blockades to solving the issue of inner city gun violence among African American male youth. 

Conclusion

This research paper has the lofty goal of using cultural pedagogy to address an issue of public health. It further crosses disciplines by assuming that the intersection of many cultures, both historical and to date, are the primary causes as well as potential solutions to solving the issues of gun violence.  Though this research paper is ambitious, it will be executed tactfully and efficiently; furthermore the issue being discussed is pertinent both locally and immediately in the New Orleans area. The city of New Orleans and outlying metro area continue to have the highest homicide rate in the United States, and with gun control finally being brought to light in the public sphere in the wake of the highly publicized mass shootings, there is not more pressing time to discuss the issue. 

 

   

Bibliography

  • Böckler, N., Seeger, T., Sitzer, P., & Heitmeyer, W. (2013). School Shootings. New York: Springer.
    • This book examines all of the aspects of school shootings and may prove useful when discussing tendencies toward violence in youth.
  • Children's Defense Fund. (2012). Protect Children Not Guns. Washington D.C.: Children's Defense Fund.
    • This source does a great job of compiling statistics from the CDC. In terms of numerical facts it will be a great resource for this report.
  • Cohen, J. A., Mannarino, A. P., Deblinger, E., Berliner, L. F., Keane, T. M., Friedman, M. J., et al. (2009). Effective treatments for PTSD: Practice guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. In Cognitive-behavioral therapy for children and adolescents. (pp. 223-244). New York: Guilford Press.
    • This book section details the therapies, which can be implemented for youth who have been exposed to violence.
  • Katz, J., & Siebel Newsom, J. (2012, 12 19). After Newtown, besides guns, let's talk about gender. The San Jose Mercury News .
    • This article discussed the interrelationship between the perceptions of violence for race and gender. This will be particularly useful when discussing the specific issues of violence with young men.
  • Leonard, D. (2010). Jumping the Gun: Sporting Cultures and the Criminalization of Black Masculinity. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
    • This article examines how the media presents African American masculinity and how academics and/or the public respond.
  • Loeb, J., Stettler, E. M., Gavila, T., Stein, A., & Chinitz, S. (2011). The child behavior checklist PTSD scale: Screening for PTSD in young children with high exposure to trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress , 24 (4), 430-434.
    • This article examines the cause and effect of PTSD in children exposed to violence. It might be particularly useful in understanding the long term affects of inner city violence on African American youth.
  • Squires, P. (2001). Gun Culture or Gun Control?: Firearms and Violence: Safety and Society. New York: Routledge.
    • This book examines the pros and cons of guns in North America; it may or may not prove a useful addition to the bibliography.
  • Sullivan, S. (2012, December 21). NRA’s Wayne LaPierre: Put ‘armed police officers’ in every school. The Washington Post .
    • This article highlights public opinion about gun laws and gun violence. Specifically it can be used to show possible reasons why gun lobbyists are so effective.
  • Tita, G., Riley, K. J., Ridgeway, G., Grammich, C., & Abrahamse, A. (2010). Reducing Gun Violence: Results from an Intervention in East Los Angeles. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.
    • This book is interesting because it looks at how reduction strategies may or may not work.
  • U.S. Department of Justice. (2007). Adolescents, Neighborhoods, and Violence: Recent Findings From the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods . Chicago: National Institute of Justice.
    • This report details the findings of a six-year study on the impact of violence on inner city youth in Chicago. I think that it will be particularly useful to this report as it is a recent longitudinal study that focuses specifically on gun violence in African American youth.