Saturday, January 16, 2010


Excuse me as I make a foray into local social issues today.

The city of Newburgh has been in the news lately.

On January 13, there was a story in the Mid-Hudson News about how Newburgh was going to participate in Orange County's gun buyback program on Saturday, January 16.  Bring your gun down to the police station and they'll give you a Shoprite supermarket gift card worth up to $150.
A few hours after this story appeared, a 13 year old stabbed and killed a 17 year old on the streets of Newburgh at 4 in the afternoon.  A number of other kids were involved in the fight and witnesses reported some of them had "clubs."  The local newspaper reported that the school district was going to close all its schools Friday in response (not stated, but obviously worried about violent gang retaliations).
Pretty ironic.  The same day the story appears about a gun buyback program - whose aim is to reduce street violence - kids stab each other to death.  Maybe we need a knife buyback?  Of course, we all know the kids would then beat each other to death with clubs.  Buy back clubs and they'd hit each other in the head with rocks.
It's not the weapons - it's the people.  I grew up in this area.  When I was a kid, I brought my pocket knife to school (Rondout Valley) every day and no one cared (no one stabbed each other either).  I still carry a Swiss Army knife every day, like most geologists, even though it probably technically violates my college's "weapons" policy.  It's a tool I use almost every day (I fix things a lot).  When I was a kid, everyone had a BB gun by the time they were 10 and many had .22 rifles by the time they were 14 and deer hunting at 16.  I can't remember anyone ever shooting anyone else.
Today, New York State makes law-abiding citizens jump through hoops to legally own a pistol.  The process takes 6-8 months, involves photos, fingerprinting, and judge visits, and costs a couple hundred dollars.  Every pistol is registered.  When, where, and how you can carry or use your pistol is governed by a strict (albeit sometimes confusing) set of laws.

Are we safer because of this?  Has gun violence been reduced?  Of course not.  All it does is inconvenience people who would be far more likely to protect you with their pistol than shoot you.  Just the opinion of a card-carrying NRA member who enjoys shooting a .40 Glock (and who thinks the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is still relevant today).
We don't have a gun problem in this country (or a knife problem).  We have a social problem - a subculture of sociopaths that we try to regulate with laws.  Only problem is that sociopaths don't obey laws.

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