So apparently this is the fourth year that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has put on its “Gifts for Guns” Program. The idea is to get as many guns off the streets, or out of people’s homes, as possible…so county residents can turn their guns in, “no questions asked,” in exchange for $100 (for handguns) or $200 (for rifles) gift cards. The idea is sweet ( “sweet” as in “warm & fuzzy,” not as in “cool”), and certainly well-intentioned, and if it makes county officials feel good about themselves and their efforts to curtail crime, fine. But I do have a few issues with the program.
First off, the program depends on the “no questions asked” policy, because”trust is the most important element” of the program, says Sheriff Lee Baca, who is also “confident that many of the weapons surrendered—3,000 since 2005—have been used in crimes.” From the Los Angeles Wave article:
“One individual turned in five rifles. He seemed a bit nervous as sheriff’s deputies removed the weapons from the trunk of his vehicle, but no questions were asked and no name was given and before driving away, completely and totally anonymous, he received $800 worth of gift cards.”
“Before they are melted down, if a weapon happens to match one that could have been used in a crime, at least, said the sheriff, ‘we can be thankful that that weapon will no longer be used in a crime.'”
So authorities are admittedly and intentionally destroying evidence that could be used to prosecute criminals? So the criminals can stay on the streets, but at least we know that those particular guns won’t be used in their future crimes…they will have to use different guns in the future. And then, hey, they can turn those guns in too, raking in a few hundred dollars for the destruction of the new evidence. It sounds like a great program…for gang members.
Of course, it’s not just criminals turning in guns…in fact it’s probably mainly non-criminals using the program, law abiding citizens like Dan Feuerlicht of Palos Verdes, who said this:
“The people surrendering the guns aren’t the gang members. I don’t envision anybody turning in a weapon unless they purchased it years ago, or because they lost a job and they need the money … or like myself, my son just turned 19 months and my wife and I decided we didn’t want a gun in the house. But, honestly, I doubt that this program will reduce the number of illegally obtained weapons.”
The program has a duel crime prevention/home-safety strategy, says Baca. “The idea is to get as many weapons off the streets as possible,” he said. “A lot of these weapons, just sitting around the house, often get picked up by kids, and sometimes they’re loaded, and they accidentally kill other children. You see it on the news all the time.” He also pointed to people who “have guns in the house [and] risk the guns getting into the wrong hands after break-ins.”
I think I’ll take that risk. The way I see it, if someone breaks in to my house he’s probably going to be armed already…I at least have the advantage of knowing where our gun is and stand some chance of defending my home and family. And as far as the kids go, there are far more children in homes with guns who don’t get hurt than those that do. It’s up to parents to come up with their own gun-safety strategy that fits their family’s situation. We’re KEEPING our gun. Of course, we don’t live in L.A. county anyway, but whatever.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas says that gun safety and non-violent attitudes should start at home, and encourages parents to “teach, preach and practice non-violence.” Says Ridley, who is “working on partnering with the Los Angeles Unified School District to make the practice of non-violence and mediation and conflict resolution a part of the curriculum,”
“If we can model that in our homes, then we can expect a drop in crime.”
I agree that gun safety and non-violent attitudes should be taught at home. I fear, though, that simply teaching “the practice of non-violence and mediation and conflict resolution” is far too simplistic, and unrealistic, an approach. Sure, it works great for kindergarten, but other kindergartners that my kid deals with don’t pull guns on him. In the real world, beyond the schoolyard fence, you know…the one full of (supposedly) thinking and interacting adults, there are people who can’t be negotiated with…who won’t sit down for a “conflict resolution” session. Violence should be a last resort, but I want my kids growing up with the practical knowledge that if they are confronted with evil, sometimes violence becomes necessary. A wholly pacifist approach is naive, whether dealing with the home-intruder who threatens your family, or terrorists (oh my gosh, I said the “T” word…don’t tell Obama!) who threaten your country. We must be ready to defend ourselves, with guns if necessary, should we ever find ourselves in such an unfortunate situation.
And yes, we buy our boys toy machine guns…they’re always a favorite toy with friends who come to play. I have absolutely no problem with the kids running around with toy guns and pretending to shoot the “bad guys.” That’s how I feel about what goes on in my home. As far as the homes that actually breed criminals, the homes that could really stand to “teach, preach and practice non-violence”…I dare say that preaching about the virtue of fathers in the home will do much more to lower crime rates than telling fatherless kids that guns are bad.