Thursday, August 21, 2008

Newark - Another Fatal Shooting

CNN reports on the latest fatal shooting which happened in Newark NJ. 15-year-old Bukhari Washington was shot through the head while sleeping when his downstairs neighbor accidentally fired the semiautomatic rifle he'd bought for protection.

It is a discouraging turn of events for Mayor Cory A. Booker, who has staked his administration on reducing violent crime and creating programs to help at-risk youth.

"Obviously it is frustrating when guns injure or kill people, but when a young person is hurt, it is a deeper blow," Booker said this week. "We are making strides, but at times your success is punctuated by incidents like this that show how much more work there is to be done."

Our friend and frequent commenter Weer'd Beard, who has a wonderful blog by the way, has objected several times to this kind of talk, an idea with which I completely agree. Guns only injure or kill people when one of the people pulls the TRIGGER. I believe this point has been made to me in an attempt to ensure that I don't demonize the guns as evil objects, responsible for the violence. Other commenters, namely Nomen Nescio and Bob S., have made the same point. I get it, truly.

The mayor's point, though, is very clear. They're striving to bring down the criminal activity in Newark, with some good results and this case marks a tragic setback. There have been others.

Washington's death called to mind the slaying earlier in the summer of 18-year-old Sujeiti Ocasio, who was fatally shot hours after graduating from high school, allegedly by another teenage girl with whom she'd had a dispute.

And this one.

The city's most notorious slayings happened a year ago. Assailants shot three college-bound students execution-style behind a deserted middle school after an attempted robbery. A fourth person was also shot in the head but survived.

In Newark it's the proverbial two steps forward and one step back.

Still, the proliferation of illegal guns often seems insurmountable. Last Friday, police raided a public housing complex and seized a small cache of weapons from an abandoned apartment.

The haul included two semiautomatic assault rifles of the type allegedly used by Perry, plus dozens of rounds of ammunition, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .357-caliber revolver and a 9mm handgun, along with a bulletproof vest.

In recent discussions, here and here, we've mainly talked about legal guns. One concern of mine is that some of them end up in the hands of criminals, reducing the overall numbers might help that. I haven't made much headway with my eloquent and convincing commenters. Not yet, anyway.

Here, on the other hand, we're talking about illegal guns. The accidental perpetrator of this crime, although he had no prior convictions, was illegally in possession of the weapon. I believe all the other references to gun ownership in this story are of the criminal variety.

What's to be done? Lock up those bums; throw away the key? I don't think that's working very well in Texas. And not only in Texas where it's not working. When it comes to inner city black or Hispanic offenders, that's throw-away-the-key mentality prevails in many places. It's not working.

I'm not proposing answers. I'm leaving the question out there: what's to be done?


  1. "What's to be done? Lock up those bums; throw away the key? I don't think that's working very well in Texas."

    Texas has some of the lowest per-capita crime rates of most states, and even so the Big Cities like Houston, Austin, and Dallas are considered to be fairly liberal....and also the places where gangs abound. Not to get over myself without research I'd wonder if gang-bangers get any more jail time in Dallas than they do in Boston (Which for non-murder offences is on the scale of a Month-or-two with Parole) And I can't think of a single inmate who's been executed there since Bush left Office.

    What I CAN speak for is my home state of Mass where criminals are NOT punished for their crimes, and only non-violent offenders (Like Gunshops being accused of not reading a state-prepared safety list, or a citizen having his coat blown open on a windy day exposing his carry peice...I have more of these and details if you want) are punished by our gun laws (and those who are just simply prohibited for random reasons)

    But one thing I CAN say about Texas is a fairly famous example. After the Lubby's Diner Massacre Texas outlawed open carry of firearms, but created a conceald carry licence system (CCW had previously been illigal in TX) rape and violent crime went down nearly overnight. Why? Rapists and muggers starting picking their usual victims....but now some of them were getting shot...or nearly shot...and the people with the guns were legal ones, so they weren't committing crimes with them.

    Also all the ATF data makes it VERY easy to track gun dealers and black market sellers who are selling guns to criminals, yet the only gun shops I read about being shut down are for clarical errors, or incompetence by the ATF (I can give you examples of this as well if you'd like)

    So my proposal is this:
    - Better Enforcement of NFA and GCA-type laws
    -Rolling back of post 70s laws that only restrict lawful people from items of personal defence and recreation
    - Stricter penalties for violent crime (ANY Violent crime, weapons used unimportant)
    -Work to lift the cultural ban on discussion of gun awareness and safety (Ie: 4 rules taught in schools, and work to make Hollywood and TV more TV and look to see how often fingers rest on triggers...that's how the accident in New Jersey happend, and while its the owner's fault for the accident, cultural changes can help this a little) Also most people are minimally aware (or incorrect) of US gun laws, better awareness will further help these issues.

    That's my proposal!

  2. Mike,

    I read the article and this really struck me:

    According to police, a floor below where Washington slept, 19-year-old Terrance Perry was handling a stolen riflehe had acquired for protection in a neighborhood where teens recall stabbings or fights the way suburban kids recite baseball scores

    Perry stole the rifle, what would have happened had Perry not committed a the crime of theft to begin with? Nothing, the teen would still be alive, right?

    Want to do something about "gun crime" REDUCE the crime rates in general. Enforce the laws, remove the factors creating an environment where teens have to STEAL a firearm for their protection.

    Let's talk about effective education, getting the government of the business of providing education. The government isn't doing such a great job; see Dallas Texas' plan to prevent kids from learning that has been in the news. Sometimes, I'm not proud of being a Texan, but this is liberal BS that has control of the education system.

    Let's end the dependency on welfare. This happened at "public housing", some of the most crime infested areas in cities. Generations grow up thinking the government should take care of them and allow them to do what they want; again....remember Perry stole the rifle.

    Let's empty the prisons of people in jail for victimless crimes. Prostitution, soliciting, drug use, etc and put the violent repeat offenders away and keep them away. Then maybe Perry wouldn't have felt the need to protect himself, wouldn't have stolen a gun he didn't know how to use.

    Please do this for me, what is an "illegal gun". Was the rifle illegal or was the Teen's possession of it illegal. The firearm is inanimate. If someone stole my car, ran someone over; would the news report it as an "illegal car" or a "stolen car"?

  3. Oh I forgot to adress this:
    "I haven't made much headway with my eloquent and convincing commenters. Not yet, anyway."

    I'd say you're doing great! You're sticking to your guns *yuk yuk* and aren't caving just because a bunch of gunnies ride into town with stats and bar-charts. But you're also analizing your argument and discarding ones that don't hold water, and focusing on ones that carry more weight.

    You're also holding our feet to the provervbial flams with the tough questions you're asking (Remember, if the case for guns was cut-and-dry either way the law would be set and few would be arguing it...much like the Ford Vs. Chevy debate...if one was REALLY better than the other, the other one wouldn't exist!)

    Do I agree with you? You can see I don't, but still of all the anti-gun bloggers I read (There really aren't that many, and many vanish from the scene) you're one of the only ones that do the above.


    That's somthing to be proud of, and I think we're making huge progress on the issue.

  4. I live in Texas. What works is the fact that under most circumstances you can kill somebody for threatening you or property.

    In the ghettos that doesn't make much difference but it definitely keeps them from walking up my drive.

    Prison is a second home to many criminals, they aren't afraid to die, or so they purport, so why not help them along and clean up society a bit?

    I don't lock my doors or my car doors and I'm not afraid of anybody but some misplaced politicians that might send thugs kicking in my door while I slept, shooting my dog, and then either shooting me or incarcerating me for wishing to have the right to self defense.

  5. One thing Bob said resonated with me. "Let's empty the prisons of people in jail for victimless crimes. Prostitution, soliciting, drug use, etc and put the violent repeat offenders away and keep them away." I definitely go for the first part of that, and I guess it would be hard to argue with the second. But I don't think it would be enough. It's the underlying causes that need to be addressed. Lack of proper education, abuse of the welfare system, drugs.

    Which makes me realize something. I feel reducing the availability of drugs, cocaine and heroin especially, would go a long way in reducing the problems associated with them. That's a little bit similar to what I've been trying to say about guns.

  6. Mike,

    It's not the availability of drugs that is the problem, but the illegal activities required to get them.

    Look at Prohibition in the 20s. Suddenly something that nearly everyone did was now illegal. Did they stop using alcohol or were they suddenly criminals?
    Prohibition greatly increased the size and scope of the mob, increased graft, corruption and bribery. Murder rates increased as people fought to protect their product.

    Did Prohibition succeed in changing behaviors?
    By the greatest majority of indicators, the biggest drops in alcohol consumption and alcohol problems actually came before national prohibition went into effect. Those drops continued for about the first two years of Prohibition and then alcohol consumption began to rise. By 1926, most of the problems were worse than they had been before Prohibition went into effect and there were a number of new problems -- such as a drinking epidemic among children -- that had not been there before.

    Compare the after effects of before and after the re-legalization of alcohol. We don't have turf wars because Sam's Wine and Spirits opened up on The Kegger's street.

    The primary effect that I can see is to lessen the respect for all other laws. In the Air Force Non Commissioned Officers School, they taught this as "never give an order you know won't be obeyed". Heck, they are already looking at long prison time, why not kill to keep their profits - that isn't too much of a stretch in most minds, is it?

  7. Thomas, Thanks for coming back to comment. I can tell you this, if I were a criminal I sure wouldn't want to walk up your drive with bad intentions, or Bob's or Weer'd's, for that matter.

    Seriously though, how can you keep your house and car unlocked? Do you live in a rural area were no strangers (or criminals) ever come? Or is there some other way of letting them know not to mess with you and yours?

    Something else I've been meaning to ask is this. I've heard several times the expression "gun safe." Wouldn't keeping your guns locked in a safe defeat the purpose of having them for home protection?

  8. Yeah, I just don't think gun-prohibition will work, and agree it could be actually harmful. The legal, law-abiding gun owners will be the ones impeded in obtaining a weapon... the illegal owners will just continue on their merry way, accumulating assault-rifles and such.

    When my daughter married into a Texas family, the first thing they did was present her with a gun... I thought that was strange, but I realized it was an act of trust, like the cowboys and the homesteaders, etc: "You are family now, and you must help protect us, too." It's a tradition, and I don't think people outside of this tradition can totally understand or appreciate the meaning of it.

    But I am open to debating the topic, good comments here!

  9. Mike,

    I'll step in with the info on the gun safe. It's a good question, one that I started looking into when I inherited my firearms.
    Some states actually require that firearms be secured. Texas requires that readily usable firearms not be left available to children under 17.

    There are actually several different types available.

    The larger models resemble the old fashioned safes that small banks used. Many have dial combos, others have a keypad. They are primarily used to store rifles, shotguns and pistols that aren't used often.
    (By the way, how do you make a link on blogger?)

    Smaller gun safes are used in cars and homes, usually for one or two pistols that are for home defense. Think of something not much larger then a money box. Some have keys, the newer ones have touch pad type combinations that are very quick to open. Securing these to a piece of furniture or a wall provides additional security.

    I've been known to leave rear doors unsecured, and occasionally yell at my kids for leaving the front door unlocked. I live in a very quiet neighborhood, many of the neighbors are retired, and we keep an eye out on each other's houses.

    I'm trying to stop those habits of leaving the house unsecured. Believe it or not, I would prefer to deter a thief then shoot him or her.

  10. one thing that could work is to crack down on gang bangers. police patrols, on bikes or on foot, stopping people known or reasonably suspected to be active gang members, and finding some excuse to terry frisk them. then if they're found to be carrying a weapon, throw the book at them --- in federal court, under Project Exile or something similar.

    if that can be kept up, pretty soon gang bangers will stop going armed. of course, the sticking point is constitutional; how do you find a legally acceptable excuse for all those terry stops, and all that profiling.

  11. Mike,

    The African Wars rifles I collect live in a safe. Same with valuable hunting rifles and pistols. The firearms that get regular exercise and are defensively/coyote control oriented are either on my person or nearby.

    I live at the end of a dead end lane that's well off of any major or even secondary road. Nobody ends up on my rural acreage by accident and if somebody had intent to thieve, I'm remote enough from other people that they could blast my safes open and nobody would notice anyway. Wouldn't work in Manhattan but it works for me in rural Texas.

    Property is well fenced and there is a sign at the beginning of the drive that says "IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE WITHIN RANGE". People call or know the secret honk before they go around opening my gate, including UPS and FED-EX drivers, and none of them seem to mind either.

    Here's what happened to a POLICE OFFICER that had kept his gun locked up in his glove box when he needed it.

    Dumb, if you ask me.

  12. Daisy, Thanks for commenting. I swear we must have ESP because right before I saw your comment last night I was wondering what your opinion is.

    I find myself hard-pressed to support legislation as a solution. First because I don't trust the government and second, because of all the convincing arguments our frequent commenters have offered. I agree with much of what they have to say. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder if the seeming frequency of these incidents is connected to the vast numbers of guns that are out there.

    Thanks for that anecdote about your daughter's in-laws (I know they're not outlaws).

  13. "Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder if the seeming frequency of these incidents is connected to the vast numbers of guns that are out there."

    Oh it definetly is....but when you look at the number of guns, and the population it comes somthing to the tune of 0.001% of our guns are used in crime.

    How do you crack down on a number like that?