AFTER the arrest in the Guilford murder case, I heard this...

August 29, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR. TY. COLUMN

AFTER the arrest in the Guilford murder case, I heard this on one of those foaming-at-the-mouth radio talk shows:

Now they'll have to register baseball bats, and you'll have to get a permit to carry a baseball bat, and guns don't kill people, baseball bats do. Et cetera. Gun-nut satire. Get it?

Well, in 1992 law enforcement agencies reported 22,540 murders to the FBI. "Blunt objects" -- principally clubs and hammers -- were the weapons involved in 1,029 of those. But firearms were the murder weapons in 15,377 cases. That's a better than 14-1 ratio. Guns are still the most deadly weapon, and society should be trying to control their number and use.

Second point. Some commentators in this and other newspapers saw the Guilford murders, in which the police have arrested the grandson of the victims, as an important reminder that crime is not just random and on the streets, but often involves intimate relationships in the home.

Well, yes, but according to those FBI statistics, only 2,748 of those 22,450 murders in 1992 were known to be committed by a member of the victim's family. But 3,053 were known to be committed by a "stranger." And in 8,818 cases, the relationship was "unknown," presumably strangers or unfriendly acquaintances.

Third point. A number of people were said to be relieved that the person arrested for murder was white. To the degree that this suggests to people that violent crime is a bi-racial phenomenon, it is misleading, and could make it more difficult to deal with the problem.

According to FBI statistics, in murders where the race of the offender is known, in 1992, 43 percent were white, 55 percent were black and 2 percent were "other."

It gets worse. Murders in the age 15-19 category broke down 35 percent white, 62 percent black and 2 percent other. What does this say about the future?

The other side of this coin is, murder victims in 1992 were 47.2 percent white, 49.6 percent black and 3.2 percent other or unknown.

Remember, those numbers for victims and offenders are for a nation in which blacks account for only 12 percent of the population.

So I'd say America, especially its law-abiding black population that is at greatest risk, definitely has a young black male problem -- especially those young black males growing up in fatherless homes, and we need to admit it and focus our law enforcement and, especially, our prevention programs on it if we're ever going to make this an unfearful nation again.

Tragically, almost every good proposal to do something, from true welfare reform to orphanages to job-training to midnight basketball to all-male schools -- whether it comes from conservatives or liberals, whites or blacks, Farrakhans or Moynihans -- is blocked, often by critics charging white or black racism, who, in some cases, are in fact covertly practicing it.

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