Aaron Regunberg: AK-47s Don’t Kill People, Single Mothers Kill People, Apparently

Saturday, October 20, 2012


As anyone familiar with my political leanings could imagine, there was quite a lot that Mitt Romney said in last Tuesday’s presidential debate that I found frustrating. But by far the most upsetting was the ignorance and prejudice Romney displayed in his answer to the question, “What can be done to limit the availability of assault weapons like AK-47s?”

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The first sentence out of Romney’s mouth was, “I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or, or making certain guns illegal.” According to Romney, the answer to our nation’s ongoing instances of mass violence — wherein murderers have been able to easily get there hands on assault weapons before turning those weapons on crowds of innocent Americans — is not to do anything to regulate the purchase and sale of these military-level killing machines. What, then, is the answer, in Mr. Romney’s view?

“We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great idea.”

Got that? According to Romney, AK-47s don’t kill people, single parents kill people. Who knew?

I, for one, am glad that Mr. Romney shared this pearl of wisdom with us, because it cleared up some serious misconceptions I’d long suffered. I grew up in a single-parent household, and all these years I’d been operating under the (apparently misguided) belief that my mom was the best parent I could ever ask for. Silly me, to have thought she raised me and my sister right and fought for us and always supported us, when all this time she’s really just been fomenting future bloodshed.

I never knew my family was participating in a cycle of violence more responsible for tragedies like the mass killings in Colorado and Wisconsin and Virginia Tech, or the attack on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, or the Columbine shootings (all of which, interestingly, were committed by people raised in two-parent households) than the gun laws that made it possible for those people to acquire their weapons.

Mr. Romney’s statement was personally offensive to me and, I have no doubt, to millions of people like me who were raised in single-parent households or are single parents themselves. But it’s particularly frustrating when taken in the context of Romney’s actual positions on social and economic policy. Because let’s be clear — the number one predictor for the presence of violence in communities is not marriage, but persistent poverty.

As was articulately laid out in a post-debate discussion on Martin Bashir Live, it is true that a lot of single moms in our country get trapped in a cycle of poverty. But while single-parent households are statistically more likely to be low-income, the idea that poverty is caused by lack of marriage is absolutely laughable. And Romney isn’t advocating that we deal with this reality. He isn’t saying that we should give more women the tools to take control of their lives with family planning services (this is the guy who said he’d “get rid of” Planned Parenthood). And he’s certainly not trying to build a safety net for people working to escape from poverty. On the contrary, the Romney-Ryan plan will shred this safety net, slashing funding for education, kicking kids off of services like the free lunch program, and endangering pro-working family policies like the earned income tax credit and the child care credit that help keep so many hard-working Americans above water.

The answer to violence in our society, then, has little or nothing to do with marriage. It has nothing to do with Romney’s subjective moralities and ignorant and condescending views of families like mine (or, for that matter, like Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s, who both were raised by single mothers).

Instead, we need to look at the real causes of crime. A recent study from the World Bank — hardly a leftist enclave — in the Journal of Law and Economics found that, “Income inequality, measured by the Gini Index, has a significant and positive effect on the incidence of crime,” and that “faster poverty reduction leads to a decline in national crime rates.”

If Mr. Romney truly wants to help prevent bloodshed, I would suggest he spend a bit less time insulting American families and a bit more time revamping his many policy proposals that are currently designed to increase the most important causes of violence, inequality and poverty. Until then, Mr. Romney, I can only hope for your sake that you never come across my mother, because I expect she would teach you a lesson about respecting differences that, it seems, your mother never got around to teaching you.


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