One of the strategies most favored by gun-control advocates to reduce gun violence involves personal interventions with people who are most at-risk for using guns in ways they are not supposed to be used. These at-risk individuals tend to be men between the ages of 16 and 30, many are minorities and most of them live in poor, inner-city neighborhoods.
The strategy usually involves identifying the at-risk kids or young adults, mentoring them on the risks and dangers of carrying guns, and in some cases involving the target population in programs and activities that will help them get jobs or learn skills because otherwise they will just continue to ‘hang out’ and sooner or later gun violence will again rear its ugly head.
Probably the best-known of these programs is Cure Violence which approaches the issue of gun violence as a contagious disease, and seeks to limit the contagion by first figuring out where the pathogen can be found, then sending troops to those specific locations to wait, watch and then intervene at the beginnings of conflict between two small groups which starts with a few ‘fuck-you’s,’ then escalates into violence, ultimately resulting in the gun or guns coming out and – bang!
The street-level intervention model sometimes works well and sometimes doesn’t work so well. Evaluations of the program tend to be positive except that in just about every case, the work is limited to a specific, geographic area (usually a particular neighborhood identified by the cops as being extremely ‘hot’) where the decline in violence may or may not change the violence rate for the city as a whole. It is also difficult to assess whether a successful social service type of intervention can be achieved without increased attention to that area paid by the cops. Right now, New York City runs Cure Violence programs in multiple neighborhoods and as everyone knows, gun violence in the Big Apple, has almost completely disappeared. But how much of this decline is due to Cure Violence as opposed to the stepped-up anti-gun efforts by the NYPD?
Philadelphia has just announced the adoption of an interesting twist to the Cure Violence approach, in this case a program out of Boston known as LIPSTICK – Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing. This programs counsels women to refuse requests from husbands or boy friends to buy a ‘straw-sale’ gun and then hand it over to the man who is legally unable to purchase a gun for himself.
Several years ago I asked a LIPSTICK staff member whether they also counsel clients to contact the cops if or when they learned that their husband or boy friend possessed an illegal gun. She basically told me that such an idea was an invasion of the couple’s privacy and that it was something that LIPSTICK would never tell its clients to do.
Guess what? The same refusal to alert the cops when a kid on the street has a gun but walks away from a confrontation because of the intervention of a peacemaker is SOP for Cure Violence and other, street-level programs aimed (pardon the pun) at keeping things under control. To alert authorities to the presence of a gun would probably result in the street peacemaker losing his creds or worse, might provoke a retaliatory attack.
There is no greater risk to community health than a teenager walking around the neighborhood toting a gun. And maybe if an adult is carrying an illegal gun it’s not quite as much of a risk, but let’s not waste time trying to decide which is worse.
I am hoping that my friends in Gun-control Nation will stop trying to convince gun owners of their fervent support of the 2nd Amendment and start telling gun owners and everyone else that certain types of guns are too lethal to be in anyone’s hands. And you don’t get that message across to a fifteen-year old by letting him walk away with a gun.