The United States has the highest rate of youth homicides among all of the wealthiest nations on earth. In fact, the firearm-related death rate, in the USA, is 12 times higher among those less than 15 years of age than the combined total of those of similiar age in the 25 other most industrialized countries.
There are few enduring memories from the presidential debates. And while, most of the second debate between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney covered well rehearsed campaign speech topics, there was one subject raised that was not on the script. Nina Gonzalez asked the following question, "President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?"
By implication, Nina Gonzalez asked a much more profound question, and that is, without bipartisan support in the Congress, which of the great social issues in America has this adminsitration been able to address?
In the course of President Obama's reply, and that of Governor Romney, an interesting theme emerged that is well worth exploring, as violence in America is to say the least, a problem.
President Obama stated that " ... I think that one area we agree upon is the importance of parents and the importance of schools, because I believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they're less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts."
And, here we have a testable hypothesis. In logic it can be stated this way. If, as President Obama suggests, when the young people have opportunity they less likely to engage in violence. Then, it stands to reason, that when you have a lack of opportunity for the young, the tendency for the young to engage in violence increases.
Mitt Romney, made the following observation, "In a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically." Again, stated in logical terms. If, as Romney observes, the prospect of living in poverty decreases in two parent families, then it is more likely to find single parent families living in poverty.
There is an extensive body of evidence to support Governor Romney's observation. For example, in 2010, 15.1 percent of the population of the United States lived in poverty, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, an indication of the depth of the Great Recession.
These numbers reflect broad increases in poverty rates experienced by all age groups, with the notable exception of adults over age 65. The overall rate of poverty however, fails to reveal the much higher rates within certain groups, such as single-mother families, who had a poverty rate of more than 40 percent in 2010.
One of the primary concerns about families living in poverty, particularly single parents and children, is that, due to their limited financial resources, they may experience material hardships and struggle to meet basic needs for food, housing, and clothing.
One would hope that armed with such knowledge, communities across this nation would address the unforseen consequences of current family support measures which encourage the break up of the family unit.
The statement by President Obama is equally insightful, nonetheless it requires a higher order of logical analysis to prove since the circumstances which support it are counter intuitive. One would assume, and reasonably so, that there was a simple equation to the effect that the more guns there are in circulation the more gun deaths there would be. And therefore, that limiting exposure to firearms would save lives.
However, when one recognizes the inverse relationship between opportunity and violence, the fact that the District of Columbia, which has the lowest gun ownership rate in the nation, and yet has a higher rate of gun deaths than any other locality in the USA, can be explained. Therefore, an inverse relationship exists between the oppotunities the young preceive they have, and their likelihood to engage in violent acts. Therefore, increases in preceived opportunity are equated with decreases in youth violence.
And, with these rather unexpected remarks we have the foundation of a discussion which ought to be a top priority in every community in America - the economy, poverty and violence in America.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon our elected officials and community leaders alike to show how their plans for the economy, will deal the question of poverty - the worst form of violence in America.
And, it is the question of violence in America, with which our executive and congress must surely address, as it is progress in the arena of social affairs that tends to engender the nation's respect for our government.
My great fear, is that we will not seize the opportunity to address poverty and violence in our communities in an intelligent and meaningful way , and that by the time the wealthy in America learn to respect the poor, the opportunity disadvantaged in this country will have truned to hatred, and America will know no peace.