A Modest Proposal: Guns for the Poor

I have a terrific idea that might solve a lot of our problems. I know this may sound crazy, but if the conservatives are right, this will work. My program would be called “Guns for the Poor.” We should provide every poor person in America a gun. Preferably a big gun. And plenty of bullets. And, if the conservatives and the pro-gun lobby are right, this plan should turn out pretty darn well.

As gun-loving Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby recently explained in a column titled “A Safer Society with Guns,” conservatives believe people feel safer with a gun. And Jacoby thinks people should have more guns in more places than they do now.

Conservatives have pretty much had their way with their gun theory up to now, even under the Obama administration. The only two gun-related pieces of legislation Obama has signed allowed loaded guns in federal parks and permitted guns to be transported on Amtrak. We are, far and away, the most heavily armed country in the world. We have 90 guns for every 100 citizens. Want to know which country is in second place, behind us? Yemen.

It’s just too bad that people in general have not been fully cooperating with the conservative’s theory of “guns equal safety.” Because of the failure to cooperate by staying alive on the part of some, we have the highest rate of murder by firearms in the world. We have a higher rate than Mexico, awash as it is in drug-related bloodbaths. According to the CDC, 31,347 Americans died from firearms in 2009. That is like having 10 September 11ths. Every year.

Number of Deaths Due to Injury by Firearms per 100,000 Population, 2008, accessed April 2, 2012. (Source: The Kaiser Family Foundation)

Now, to make people feel even safer than having a gun in the house, gun-loving Massachusetts State Senator Stephen Brewer wants to bring the blessings of a Florida-style “Stand Your Ground’’ law to Massachusetts. He says he is doing so on behalf of the Gun Owner’s Action League.

And boy, that’s a great club name for them, because gun owners do like action. After the “Stand Your Ground Law” went into effect in Florida, gun owners went into action and shot a lot of people. The number of “justifiable homicides” tripled. There was a lot of extra shooting going on. And some stabbing, too.

Some of the “perps” who were killed under the protective umbrella of the “Stand Your Ground” law were doing things even worse than being caught red-handed carrying a bag of Skittles and looking suspicious. One guy in Florida was killed and is now dead because he stole a car radio.

Under the Stand Your Ground law, you can’t just shoot somebody like Bernie Madoff, even if he stands there and admits he stole billions of dollars from hundreds of people. We all know that would be wrong. We don’t execute people for stealing stuff. But you can apparently, legally kill some poor kid on the street who boosts a car stereo. Kind of funny how that works out.

And it’s not just in Florida that gun owners got busy shooting people. In Texas and Georgia, the justifiable homicide rate also doubled. This happened even though the overall U.S. homicide rate has been declining — even in states that don’t have Stand Your Ground laws. Go figure.

But here’s the thing. Studies have shown that poor households are 60 percent more likely to be burglarized than the rich households. This doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, being that rich people have all the money, and would seem to be the ideal people to rob, but hey, nobody ever said thieves were a particularly bright bunch or had well-thought business plans. Studies have also shown that at any given point in time, the poor and people of color were more likely to suffer violent victimizations.

So, it would seem that the people who really need guns are not the nice neighbors in my cushy, safe neighborhood. According to the logic of people like Jeff Jacoby, it’s the poor people and all the people of color who need guns the most. It’s people like the late Trayvon Martin who should be packing heat. Martin might be alive today if he had been armed with a pistol instead of Skittles when he was stalked in the fading light of a Florida evening by a strange man with a gun. Or we could have had a big gun fight right there in the middle of an apartment complex with bullets flying everywhere.

So, let’s also listen to the advice of Jeff Jacoby, Massachusetts State Senator Stephen Brewer, and the Gun Owners Action League and make sure that there are no more victims like Trayvon Martin. And let’s give the poor what they need to feel safe and secure from those armed strangers who mean them harm. Let’s give all the poor guns.