Guns, children and differences in different modern cultures
October 15, 2011
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Different cultures have different ways of dealing with a whole range of common issues, and often illustrate extremes, but few are as starkly different as the way the subject of kids and guns are viewed.
In August, FoxNews.com reported that California police were sticking to their guns in defense of accusations leveled at them for letting kids hold fully automatic SWAT weapons.
Community organizer Attila Nagy, who took photos of kids at a Santa Rose Police Department educational event, told FoxNews.com that he was concerned it might encourage kids to use guns in the future.
“My main concern is for kids who handle these things. They’re fascinated by them, and it makes them familiar with guns,” he said.
One city councilwoman, Marsha Vas Dupre, told her local paper that she was “alarmed and devastated” by the photos. Imagine that: “alarmed and devastated.”
But the police department is pushing back, saying they see nothing wrong with how they handled the event.
“The weapons are rendered safe and are unloaded. We ensure the safety of those weapons,” Santa Rosa Police Capt. Gary Negri told FoxNews.com, adding that the police attend the event to build ties between the police and the community.
“Our goal is saying to people, ‘hey, don’t be intimidated by the police.’ We want to break down that barrier… Once these events are over, people will be more comfortable having conversations with officers.”
Another goal, Negri said, was to educate kids about guns.
“Education and gun safety is a component of what we do.… We teach kids the difference between a real gun and a Toys R’ Us gun.”
Despite the complaints, some gun safety experts say the police are rightand that data shows kids who grow up with legal guns are actually less likely to get into trouble, FoxNews reported.
“A US Department of Justice study showed that children introduced to firearms by their fathers had a lower rate of delinquency than children who learned about guns on the street, or even children who had no experience with guns at all,” Dr. Tim Wheeler, director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Claremont Institute, told FoxNews.com.
The 1994 Justice Department report concluded: “Boys who own legal firearms...are even slightly less delinquent than nonowners of guns.” Specifically, 14% of kids with legal firearms committed street crimes, compared to 24% of kids with no guns at home.
Given that, Wheeler said, the response to the police actions seemed overblown.
“If this controlled lesson in firearms helped the kids understand that guns are not toys, some good could come from it. The knee-jerk rejection to the police outreach by locals was clearly excessive.”
The pro-gun control Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence was smart enough to decline to comment on that controversy.
A few weeks after the Santa Rosa police story broke, a group in Buffalo, NY, went to even further extremes in the way it considers and handles the concept of children learning about guns.
A group calling itself FATHERS (Fathers Armed Together to Help, Educate, Restore, and Save) hosted what they called a “buyback” of toy guns. Children were rewarded with pizzas and school supplies for turning in their toys that looked like guns, including air soft guns, NERF guns, water pistols and carbines, and those that are so absurdly shaped that no rational person, including children, would confuse it for a real gun.
“It makes them too comfortable, holding that gun,” said the president of FATHERS. “Then there’s no fear holding the real gun when they get older. We want to put that fear back into our children, teaching them what guns can do, how they affect their community.”
“A toy gun today, a real gun tomorrow; that’s what we want to stop,” said Charles Cina, owner of the cooperating pizza parlor.
Toy gun buy-ups intended to wean kids away from any physical or psychological connection to real firearms are not new. They have been held in many other cities by people who have the same aversion to firearms, and imagine some mystical childhood fascination with guns they see countless times on TV.
The criticism of the police gun education effort in California and the reasoning that inspired the toy gun buy-ups in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island all stem from the same irrational fear of anything that has to do with firearms.
It’s a superficial response that makes it look like someone is taking useful action even as people, parents and school administrators, take no useful action to stem more dangerous childhood behavior, like bullying and harassment that can lead to suicides and life-long psychological scars. School officials seem particularly ill-equipped to deal with such issues.
Right now, the state Supreme Court in Virginia is being asked to overturn a decision by a local school board that called a student’s confession of shooting spitwads at fellow students “violent criminal conduct” that involved “attempting to kill, shoot, stab, cut, wound, otherwise physically injure or batter another person.”
The appeal has been filed by attorneys with the Rutherford Institute in a case involving a 9th grade student at Spotsylvania High, who was sent to the principal’s office after shooting a handful of small, hollow pellets akin to plastic spitwads at fellow students.
The penalty that resultedexpulsion for the rest of the yearis far out of proportion to the offense, according to the filing to the court.
School officials referred the student, Andrew Mikel II, to the local police department at the timefor spitballing!
The Rutherford appeal notes that no one was hurt, and there was no indication that there was any desire to injure anyone, so the school’s actions “were excessively punitive and violate the constitutional guarantee to due process of law.”
It was in December 2010 when Mikel was removed from the school.
Contrast that with how other cultures deal with children and guns in this September story from Somalia by the online Huffington Post and other media sources.
A Somali radio station with ties to a militant Islamist group awarded rifles and grenades as prizes in a Koran-reciting competition for children.
The Irish Times reported that Andalus radio, which is run by the al-Shabab militia group, awarded an assault rifle and $700 to the winning child. The second-placed child didn’t miss out either, taking home an AK-47 and $500. Third place child received a pair of F1 hand grenades and $400.
The three winning children also received religious textbooks.
Pictures of the children being awarded their prizes were posted on a website linked to the rebel group. The al-Shabab group is linked to al-Qaeda and has been engaged in a violent struggle with the transitional government in Mogadishu.
A spokesperson for the group explained the thinking behind the contest. The New York Times quotes Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Monsur, a leading figure in al-Shabab as saying: “Children should use one hand for education and the other for a gun to defend Islam.”
The Daily Mail reported that the contest was organized for children between the ages of 10 and 17.
BBC News said this was the third year that the contest has been held. In previous years, winners have been given an RPG launcher.
An al-Shabab senior propaganda official, Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, told those in attendance at the prize-giving ceremony that the group would continue giving weapons to children, and urged young and old alike to join its ongoing war, according to raxanreeb.com.
Perhaps the anti-gun, anti-self-defense crowd in America should chew on that comment for a while.
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