From the Philadelphia Weekly:

In case there was any doubt, Chris-Anne Smith, the moderator of a panel discussion on gun violence last Saturday at the African American Museum, started the conversation by rattling off last year’s grim statistics:

Three hundred eighty people were murdered in Philadelphia.

This represents a 15 percent increase from 2004.

Eighty percent of the victims died from bullet wounds.

Eighty-two percent of the victims were black males.

Most of the killers were black males.

Forty-five percent of the victims were 25 or younger.

None of these murder victims died over spring break in Aruba. None of them were on their honeymoon in a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Not a single one of them received attention from Dan Abrams, Rita Cosby, Larry King, or Greta Van Sustern.

And I think the lack of attention is of critical importance. The general public is simply unaware that murderous crime is up 15% in Philadelphia. And so long as the public is unaware of the problem there will be no support for attempting to address the problem.

The City of Philadelphia is very limited in what it can do to limit access to guns. Even Pennsylvania is limited in what it can do. Only a national plan can have any real hope of being effective.

There are several obstacles to developing a national plan, not least of which is the GOP control of the federal government. Most people do not live in a community where there is over a murder a day. They do not live with gun violence. If they don’t see it on television, then they are unlikely to consider it a problem that needs a solution.

Another problem is with the demographics. Eighty-two percent of the victims in Philadelphia last year were black males. Too many people assume the victim was a victim of gang-on-gang violence, and they have little empathy. What better way to humanize the victims of these crimes than to interview their grandmothers, their girlfriends, their schoolmates, and co-workers.

Lou Dobbs has an hour-long program on CNN, Monday thru Friday. He has discussed illegal immigration on his show nearly every day for over a year. I don’t know if this is an effective way to get good ratings. But, if someone would dedicate that same effort to the problem of urban gun violence it might begin to educate the general public about the urgent need for some kind of handgun control.

When I complain about the obsessive coverage of missing white girls on cable television it isn’t because I have anything against the Natalie Holloways of the world. What bothers me is that there are young, attractive black girls going missing in the nation’s cities everyday.

What the media chooses (not) to cover has as big of an effect on the national discourse as how they choose to cover those stories.

The Democrats have wisely decided to put gun control very low on their list of priorities. The issue is toxic in large swaths of the country. It’s a deadly topic in rural Pennsylvania. But people continue to die in the cities, and if the media would cover that fact we might be able to begin a new dialogue about possible solutions.

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