Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Teaching Philly kids to use guns — the right way

Two years ago, trying to find a radical solution to the gun violence problem in Philadelphia, I suggested that maybe it was time to stop clamping down on guns and time to start inculcating a culture of responsible gun ownership and usage. It was kind of a controversial idea. 

While there are plenty of guns circulating in Philadelphia, there are also plenty of guns — per-capita, at least — in my home state of Kansas. Yet there are relatively few gun deaths there: As best I can tell, 9.9 gun deaths per 100,000 residents in Kansas, compared to 24.3 in Philadelphia. (The comparisons aren’t quite exact, but I think the disparity between those two numbers is probably in the neighborhood of correct.) Why? 
One of the reasons, surely, is that cities are simply more violent places: Living cheek by jowl can produce short tempers; short tempers can produce violence. 
But it’s also true that my rural friends have built a culture of gun safety that goes hand-in-hand with the culture of gun ownership. The clearest expression of this: To get a hunter’s license in Kansas, you must complete a 10-hour hunter safety course — heavy, of course, with lessons on how to handle firearms safely and respectfully. Some classes are taught by the NRA, but a hunter safety course was offered in my rural Kansas middle school back in the late 1980s.

Today, Helen Ubinas reports somebody else had the idea, too, and is running with it. Meet Maj Toure:

While gun-control advocates are forever looking for ways to reduce the number of guns in circulation, Toure favors dealing with a gun culture that isn't going anywhere, believing that legal gun ownership and training can reduce crime. In a city where so many people die by guns, I'd love to believe that solution would work. But my guess is that the people who go to the trouble of educating themselves about what it takes to own and handle a gun legally aren't the yahoos creating chaos with guns on the streets. 
"I was 15, walking around with a gun I had no idea how to use and no real respect for," he said. "In hindsight, I wish there would have been somebody to say, hey, this is a firearm, it's not a game. So when I'm seeing other people living out the same scenario, I want to be that adult teaching them properly."

Toure's militance puts Ubinas off a bit — he apparently favors black gun ownership as a deterrence against police brutality. It's worth noting, though, that Second Amendment activists often suggest that private gun ownership is a means of restraining government; Toure is well within NRA norms on that one. And for what it's worth, gun control efforts largely have their roots in white fears of an armed black populace. I'm curious to see what impact Toure's efforts have in Philadelphia. It's a hell of an experiment, at the very least. 

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