Material inequity: Why Canadian gun control works better than Mexico’s

I have pointed out to liberal friends that for all the talk about murder and gun control, everyone talks about Canada and Western Europe, no talks about Mexico and Russia.  The Mexico’s gun laws are in some ways stricter than Canada’s.  Here’s the NYT dishonest presentation of it:

Americans look at Mexico and see a country of relentless bloodshed, where heads are rolled into discos, where mutilated bodies show up a dozen at a time and where more than 60,000 people have been killed since the government began its assault on drug traffickers in 2006.

But Mexicans see their northern neighbor as awash in violence, too. They look with amazement at the ease with which guns can be purchased in the United States and at the gory productions coming out of Hollywood, and they shake their heads at the mass shootings last year in Tucson and last week in Aurora, Colo.

Why, Mexicans ask, don’t Americans tighten their gun laws? Doing so, they say, would stanch the violence both in the United States and in Mexico, where criminal groups wreak havoc with military-grade weapons smuggled in from the United States.

Why dishonest? Mexican gun violence is higher than the US.   Nor do all the illegal arms come from the US, they also come from other violent countries in central America, and some of the military grade weapons are left over from both US and Soviet interests during the cold war.  Gun control alone does not explain that, and the unattributed assertions of the NYT do not go with my anecdotal experience talking to Mexicans here in narco-crime truamaized Northern Mexico.  The randomness of US mass killings does shock here in Mexico; however, so does the randomness of the cartel violence.  It is impossible to tell if this is cultural or mass killers just become narco-enforcers–it, however, is not the availability of weapons.

So what’s the difference?  If I had to put money on it: It is relative poverty mixed with inequality.  Canada has a small population and the lowest wealth inequity in North America.  Mexico and the United States have severe wealth inequality, and even though things are improving here in Mexico, much more poverty than the either the US or Canada.

The Week, of all places, seemed to actually get this in an recent article:

But there is an intersection of men and violent crime that is open to immediate political intervention. In their 2009 book The Spirit Level: Why Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out what other commentators have re-established in the wake of the Isla Vista murders: violent crime is overwhelmingly committed by young men between the ages of 15 and 29. And, calling upon the expertise of Harvard Medical Schol’s James Gilligan, the author of Violence and Preventing Violence, the authors posit that “acts of violence are ‘attempts to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation — a feeling that is painful, and can even be intolerable and overwhelming — and replace it with its opposite, the feeling of pride.'” This conclusion, too, resonates with the facts of the Rodger case.

I think the Week article misses some of the points.  Most gun violence is not related to mass killings like this.  Most gun violence is suicide, and then a lot of the remaining violence related to intimates engaged in things like the drug trade. All of which are tied to systemic wealth imbalance, but the idea that status competition in addition to out-and-out misogyny could have been involved with Elliot could explain a bit of the why this is so specific to US even compared with countries with awash in weapons.  I still think a hate-monger PUA-worshiping individual like Elliot Rodgers may have killed women anyway as violence against women is older than American hyper-wealth inequity, and was significantly worse even in the recent past.

The implications for gun control are clear though; if the US remains trending towards the same inequality patterns we link to places like Eastern Europe and Central America, reforms like gun control are unlikely to work.  If you reduce the material inequity, however, you are likely to lower the violent crime (which is lowering already for other reasons) anyway with or without gun control.



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