On the one hand, guns exacerbate a culture in which human life is treated as valueless and disposable.
There’s the 12-gauge shotgun that was used to kill Renisha McBride. McBride crossed city lines from Detroit to Dearborn Heights, apparently searching for help after her car crashed. The 19-year-old ended up on the porch of Theodore Wafer, who is charged with fatally shooting her in the face.
Then there are the guns used in 333 of Detroit’s 386 homicides in 2012. And there’s a stark racial bias to these deaths: In Michigan, African-American men are 41 times more likely to die of homicide than white men.
This is further reinforced by the woefully understaffed and overstretched Detroit Police Department. While police use of force against African-Americans in Detroit has a long, gnarly history, the most immediate issue with today’s police isn’t abuse, it’s their striking absence and negligence: a 50-plus minute wait after dialing 911; less than 10 percent of cases solved; over 10,000 untested rape kits forgotten over the course of two decades.
On the other hand, guns provide a way to address a context saturated with violent crime and police inefficacy.
In this vacuum of social disorder, Detroiters — known for their grit and perspicacity — have doubled-down on the problem of crime. For some, this has taken the form of organized citizen patrol groups, such as the Detroit 300, which uses Michigan’s combination of citizen arrest and concealed carry laws to apprehend criminals the police are unable (or unwilling) to arrest themselves.