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A Shot in the Dark; Finding the Right Solution for Firearms Safety

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Ever since the savage shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in early January, several politicians have mused about imposing stricter regulations on the sale and purchase of firearms. Considering that many domestic terrorists now buy their guns in an entirely legal fashion, this does indeed seem to be a course of action worthy of more than a moment’s thought. A large segment of the American population, however, would strongly disagree with such a notion as they fear that the government will do the unthinkable; confiscate their weapons. This concern is not entirely unfounded as many a left wing public officeholder has floated the idea in past years. Needless to say, door-to-door roundups would be an assault of horrific proportions on the most basic of freedoms which we as Americans enjoy.

Nonetheless, as the son of a now-retired veteran law enforcement officer and state jail warden, I fully understand the necessity for enhanced gun safety measures in this country. Should the scenario exist that scores of libertarians and even a few self-styled conservatives dream of, one in which obtaining a firearm would be conceivably as easy as purchasing a pack of batteries, bedlam would undoubtedly erupt. This leaves us with a most difficult question: how can guns remain more or less readily available to those willing to purchase them with the insurance that they are not falling into the hands of madmen-on-the-brink? I believe that the answer lies within a government mandate subjecting any individual seeking to buy a firearm to a thirty day waiting period before his or her weapon of choice can be taken home. During this time, local authorities could utilize federal, state, and of course, their own, resources to conduct an extremely thorough background check on the purchaser in question and, should he or she show no disqualifications for owning a gun, such as a history of severe mental illness, relevant criminal record, or lack of proper credentials, arrange for its pickup at the purchaser’s nearest police precinct or sheriff’s depot after registration. In the event that he or she were to fail to meet eligibility standards, one of two things would happen; a series of rigorous psychiatric evaluations over the course of an extended sixty day period, at the conclusion of which the purchaser would be reconsidered for ownership, or outright denial with no possibility of a refund from the store in which the firearm was originally bought.

I realize that some may see this as an undue burden on potential gun owners, but it truly would be, at least from my point of view, a change for the better in our society. People in true need of a firearm would not be barred from purchasing one, and those seeking to buy weapons for dubious purposes effectively prevented from doing so. The realities of our changing times demand new approaches to solving old problems; failing to realize this will only harm us all in the long run.

Guns are now, have been, and always will be an essential component to the culture of the United States. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, despite what some might say. However, it must be made that only the right sort of people are afforded the privilege of owing a possession holding the capacity for such destruction as a firearm. Anything less than this would be sheer barbarianism.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • http://www.democratizingegypt.blogspot.com Warigia Bowman

    Nice piece. Warigia

  • willford

    And IF you give the Governmt that power to test everyone IT WILL ABUSE IT AS ALWAYS!!

  • Doug Huffman

    Which part of “shall not be infringed” does this Son of a Cop not understand? Oh, that’s right, “dubious purposes” don’t include protecting oneself from the tyrant Leviathan.

  • TE Mujin

    1. The author uses the euphemism, ‘gun safety’ for gun control. Every responsible gun owner favors gun safety. In fact, that is the first thing we learn about guns – safety.

    2. The author does not understand that STATES – not the Federal Government — have what the constitutional cases refer to as the “police power”. Thus, he wants the Federal Government to step in and exceed its authority.

    3. This is old-fashioned Liberal top-down ‘gun control’, plain and simple. There is nothing new or constitutional about his proposal.

  • Cannonshop

    Not unexpected-crooked big-city cops don’t want armed civilians. Recently, a cop in Seattle blew a woodcarver away-the review board said the shoot was not justifiable, the cop, unlike a civilian, is not in court facing murder charges in spite of a large number of witnesses (the incident happened in public view!) Obviously, there was a fundamental failure somewhere, when they allowed this jerkoff to carry a gun and wear a badge-the badge thing, at least, has been taken care of-but being fired for killing someone in cold blood is scant punishment indeed-especially when the murder was carried out in the name of the public. a check of news items shows this to be a not unusual occurrance nationally, along with racial incidents and reports of brutality by the boys in blue.

    There are other problems with the proposal-for instance, WHAT defines “mentally ill”? If someone was diagnosed ADHD, as a child, could an agency use THAT to deny them the right to bear arms? or, how about depression? what about the traumatized crime-victim who purchases arms to protect themselves, would THEY fail his test?

    I think it likely so. When the burden of the proof is shifted, as in Mr. Cotto’s proposal, to the citizen and away from the state (similar to…welll, actually exactly like, shifting the burden of proof onto the accused, since his proposed system presumes you’re guilty), the opportunity for abuse skyrockets.

    In places like Seattle, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, and other decaying urban hives, it becomes a given that only the well-connected will be permitted the full exercise of their rights if the government allows such restrictions.

    How can I say this? because we already have ample evidence of this. Buy a gun in Chicago, or try to get a permit to own one in New York, or washington D.C.-even post-heller.

    What happened in Arizona was a tragedy-but in a Free society, Tragedies happen-they happen in unfree societies, too-but unlike unfree societies, it’s not the State carrying them out, wholesale and unchecked,.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Comments #4 and #5 summarize crisply why Mr. Cotto’s article is a shot in the dark – and nothing more.

  • Doug Hunter

    Why would a criminal not just buy a gun from another person and avoid the 30 day period entirely? That’s how I got my recent firearms.

  • Boeke

    The pro-gun people always leave out that bit about a well-armed militia, which, IMO, makes it perfectly clear that the purpose of the 2nd amendment is to provide for a common defense.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Warigia,

    Thank you.

    Willford,

    The whole idea of my proposed program would be for individuals to be judged on their own merits for the ownership of a firearm. The only way the government could conceivably deny them the ability to purchase one would be if they have committed actions in the past which might make them a threat to society.

    Doug Huffman,

    I completely understand and agree with our Constitution’s stances on firearms rights. However, if one is either a criminal or very likely to act in a dangerous manner towards others around him or her, obviously a few proactive measures are going to have to be taken in order to prevent bloodshed.

    TE Mujin,

    I never stated that the federal government should pass legislation which would enact my proposed program. As a matter of fact, most of the work would be done at the local level, with a statewide law going into effect allowing such a thing to take place.

    As far as this being a “liberal” gun control policy is concerned, it most certainly is not. First off, such a totalitarian course of action would be considered “statist” or “neo-progressive”, not “liberal”. It is unfortunate that so many on the left have hijacked this term and essentially changed its definition to the polar opposite of what it originally was. Secondly, the program is not of a “top-down” variety. It is simply a meritocracy; if one deserves and legitimately needs a firearm, he or she will experience no problems in getting one. I do not see how anyone viewing this situation from a rational standpoint could possibly disagree with such an idea.

    Cannonshop,

    Your personal bias against police officers is quite disconcerting. While there most definitely are a few bad apples in every city, town, borough, or village, the vast majority of our nation’s police officials are outstanding men and women. Furthermore, the burden of proof here should not be relegated to the government as it has, in virtually all cases, committed no offense against the purchaser in question. In the same way that one’s record is scanned in order to be considered for a job, more often than not through a background check, the same should hold true for purchasing a firearm.

    Ruvy,

    Please read my responses above to the questions which you mentioned.

    Doug Hunter,

    In every corner of the United States, it is illegal to purchase a firearm without being subject to the Brady Act. So, should you wish to break a serious federal law, that is your prerogative. Do not, however, be surprised when, on one day, you come to the realization that you just bought that Super Blackhawk from an undercover officer. I could see increased penalties and prison sentencing for those purchasing firearms illegally; perhaps this would serve as an incentive for otherwise decent persons to go about buying their guns the right way.

    Boeke,

    I believe that the Constitution was drafted with the intention of allowing Americans to legally possess firearms for the purpose of hunting and self-defense. When it comes to assault weapons, however, as these are almost always used in an offensive fashion, I do not see any reason why they should be readily available for people to buy. The current state of affairs regarding them, in my opinion, is sheer lunacy.

  • zingzing

    seattle as an “decaying urban hive” is pretty funny. i’m sure seattle’s got its problems, but that’s quite the overstatement.

    a look at where the truly “decaying urban hives” might surprise cannonshop. according to this study (i clicked on the one called “City Crime Rate Rankings (High to Low)”), seattle and LA rank #157 and #158 respectively, while nyc is #269 for most violent crime per 100k in american cities with a pop in excess of 75k. (just for reference, i counted 19 cities in tx that are more violent than nyc according to this study, and it’s possible i could have missed a few.)

    detroit does rank pretty high though, so 1 out of 4 ain’t too bad.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Oops!

    TE Mujin,

    It almost sounded as if I was describing my proposed policy as being “statist” or “totalitarian”. I obviously was not. Perhaps a comments editor can change “such a totalitarian course” to “the measures of which you imply”.

    Thank you.

  • Doug Hunter

    #10

    Why pick on Texas? The top Texas city, Houston, is #45; not bad considering the size of the state. By comparison California has 7 cities ahead of that, Buffalo, NY comes in at #17, Tacoma comes in at #55, (lower that TX but a much smaller state so less opportunity) Considering how little gun control we practice, our ethnic diversity and proximity to the Mexican border, etc. I’m pleasantly surprised by Texas ratings.

    #9

    I disagree, I think prison should be reserved for people who’ve, you know, actually committed a physical crime, not people who with no foul intent didn’t have the right papers to show.

    You asked how anyone could disagree with your idea. My point is this, why should I have to do anything you suggest? Are we not equals? I’ve never given anyone any reason to suggest I’m not an adult capable of making my own decisions and all I ask of government is that I be treated as such. That’s a pretty tall order as, indeed you didn’t misspeak, statism with a sprinkling of authoritarianism are the rules of the day.

  • Doug Hunter

    I also don’t think guns of the type I have require background checks or permits here so I probably haven’t broken any laws. Handguns and assault rifles are only good for killing people and I have no need of such things. If you’re a quail, a pheasant or an elk that’s a different story.

  • Cannonshop

    Joseph Cotto: We already RUN background checks, many states have run them for years, and the Federal Government mandates background checks for all new purchases through their NICS database.

    My hostility to police in my previous response was in part a knee-jerk to your sainted portrait of them. It’s not the cops I don’t trust, it’s the politicians, and especially the un-elected Bureaucrats, who cut their orders I don’t trust-cops are human beings with a high-stress job that includes shitty hours and constant exposure to the worst humanity has to offer without exception.

    However.

    Criminals don’t buy their guns at the store, and Nut-cases still have to be adjudicated mentally defective in a court of law, with presumption of innocence and everything, prior to having their rights removed.

    This is consistent with the Constitution-barely.

    As for Assault weapons, certainly Police (being CIVILIANS) should have about the same access any other properly-licensed Class 3 should to them-the taxes collected from departments that insist their officers NEED M-16’s, MP-5’s, G-3’s (HK93) and the like, could go to improving the accuracy of NICS.

    A quick check of the keywords “Assault Weapons” and “Crime” shows that the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was caught after selling some sixteen thousand weapons south of the border to Mexican gangs and gun-runners, in an apparent effort to effect political and policy changes regarding gun-ownership here in the United States.

    I don’t expect any DOJ, DHS, or ATF officials are going to be indicted for this-if it had been (just as a for-instance) the Colt Arms company of Newhaven Conn. doing it, they’d be in Federal Recievership and the entire mass of federal law enforcement’s clout would likely be descending to put people into prison for it. (and rightly so) However, I’ll restate, “Equal justice is not applied equally when the perp is part of the Government.”

  • zingzing

    doug, i didn’t intend to “pick on texas,” it was just a point of reference BECAUSE OF its few gun controls. i really meant to defend nyc, which dwarfs texas in ethnic diversity, and has, i would bet (although i haven’t look it up), stricter gun laws than tx. it’s a far crying from cannonshop’s “decaying urban hive” to #269 on such a list of about 400 american cities, don’t you agree?

    i could have “picked on” any number of states, but texas seemed like a fairly easy one. (doesn’t hurt that it has a lot of cities, and a lot of cities with more violence than nyc, and there are several that i noticed on the first page of the pdf. and there are 25 cities in texas above nyc that i noticed on a second go-around. 25 cities in texas more violent than nyc. it surprises me, actually.)

    seattle has been an almost overly safe and clean city since the early 80s. so has nyc (since the mid-late 80s). the LA cannonshop is imagining hasn’t existed in 15-20 years. detroit, on the other hand, is a hole. i was merely questioning cannonshop’s knowledge of the current levels of violence in america’s major cities (although i suspect he just shoved little seattle in there because of its liberal reputation), as it’s fairly obvious he’s got no clue.

  • zingzing

    doug: “Buffalo, NY comes in at #17…”

    and also has somewhat looser gun control laws than nyc. municipalities can have their own gun control laws in addition to those mandated by state and fed regulations. so i wouldn’t look at it purely on a state-wide level, no matter that i did so with tx…, but on a municipal level. unfortunately, that severely complicates the matter.

    rudy guiliani was questioned about this in the following exchange, at the 2007 fox news-sponsored republican primary debate in nh:

    Q: Some gun owners say they never felt safe in your city because of its gun control laws. What do you have to say to them?

    A: I would say to them the FBI would disagree with that. New York City was, during the years that I was mayor, the safest large city in the United States. For example, in Boston, there was a 59% greater chance you’d be the victim of a crime than in New York City. In many other cities, there was 100% to 300% greater chance that you’d be a victim of a crime than in New York City. One of the things I accomplished as mayor of New York City was the impossible. I took a city that was the crime capital of America, and I made it not only the safest large city in America, I made it safer than 189 small cities. So, I mean, people have their right to their own feelings. The reality is, you were safer in New York than just about any other city in the United States after I was mayor for about three or four years.

    now i’m not one to believe everything ol’ rudy has to say, but i guess he’d be in a position to know. i’m also having trouble finding a link that succinctly spells out the differences between nyc, buffalo and nys gun control laws. it does seem that nyc has much, much higher fees for permits than other parts of the state, but without dragging through loads of laws, i’m not sure how much higher those fees are… although the word used in reference to those fees is that they “dwarfed” fees in other parts of the state.

  • Clavos

    Why would a criminal not just buy a gun from another person…

    Or steal it. I’ve had two break-ins in my home in my life. Both resulted in a firearm being stolen from me.

    As I’ve said numerous times before: we failed to control liquor during Prohibition, and we’ve been failing to control drugs for decades. What makes gun control advocates think we’ll do better with guns?

  • zingzing

    another question: how many guns that eventually end up in criminal hands were initially sold legally, such as clavos’?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Joseph –

    I’m actually quite surprised – on gun control, you’re further to the left than I am! All I want is registration of all firearm (which would make it easy to see who’s trafficking firearms to Mexico), a three-day waiting period, and background checks for all…and also, for all firearms taken into custody by police to be destroyed rather than to be resold to the public.

    Someone here said that criminals don’t buy their guns at the story – but that person apparently never reads the news. Many criminals don’t – but many criminals DO. Why make it easy for them?

    And whoever it was that thinks that Seattle is a decaying urban ruin (compared to other American cities) either hasn’t been here, or hasn’t been to too many other places, or just wants to say something bad about the place.

    Seattle IS a decaying urban slum, and the same goes for almost ALL major American cities, when compared to Vancouver B.C., up in that socialist tyranny to the north. But compared to other major American cities, Seattle’s pretty doggone nice!

  • stephen michael slee

    just looking at your gun debate you have to have a police check here in england to get a licence to own a shotgun and you have to have a metal cabinet fixed to a wall and locked my uncle had a shotgun and took me shoting one day in a field i didnt rate the english shotgun i had an illegal gun a colt 45 its hard getting ammunition over here anyway the goverment passed a law over here if you get caught with a gun you get 5 years we have ammnistys over here where the police put a bin outside a station and you through your weapeons in if you carry a gun in the street the armed response will probaly shot you on the spot.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Doug,

    When I asked how anyone could disagree with my proposed program, I was assuming that he or she would be approaching the matter from a realistic, or practical, perspective, rather than a rigidly ideological one. Obviously, I do not expect everybody to agree with my opinions. To do so would be more than a bit strange. As for the program being oppressive, I cannot see any way in which it could be read that way, from, needless to say, a realistic perspective, as no one would be expressly barred from purchasing a firearm.

    Cannonshop,

    A thirty day waiting period would allow law enforcement officials increased time to conduct background searches on those attempting to purchase a firearm. Also, should one be buying a gun for imminent use, such as to conduct target practice in a crowded shopping mall, the period would delay his or her plans indefinitely, as well as provide an opportunity for the authorities to nab said lunatic before zero hour occurs.

    As far as assault weapons are concerned, there is simply no purpose for civilians to hold them in our society, unless, of course, their owners are planning to kill a great deal of people in a very short period of time. Perhaps now you understand why I believe that they should be banned permanently.

    Clavos,

    Both Prohibition and the War on Drugs will undoubtedly go down as the two biggest wastes of time and money in the history of the American government. If monitoring firearms, however, is approached form a more thoughtful, rational standpoint, then I am certain that sane regulation can indeed take place.

    Glenn,

    I would not say that either you or I are to the left of one another on this issue. Rather, we both have different ideas on how to achieve the greatest degree of safety for our fellow Americans. Also, you are absolutely correct about the necessity to make it more difficult for the criminals who buy their guns legally to obtain them in the first place. Hopefully, in due time, some progress on this matter can be made.

    Stephen,

    I believe that the gun control laws in your country are far too restrictive. It would be best to find a midpoint between the two extremes of no regulation at all and the virtual outlawing of firearms for America in the years to come.

  • Cannonshop

    As far as assault weapons are concerned, there is simply no purpose for civilians to hold them in our society, unless, of course, their owners are planning to kill a great deal of people in a very short period of time. Perhaps now you understand why I believe that they should be banned permanently.

    Oh, No, Joe, you misunderstand-I think CIVILIANS (including Federal Agents outside the Military and all Police) SHOULD NOT HAVE SELECT-FIRE, INTERMEDIATE CARTRIDGE, REDUCED LENGTH, EXPANDED MAGAZINE RIFLES. i.e. “Assault” Rifles.

    Period.

    There is no legitimate reason for a Police Officer (aka-a Civilian) to blow off thirty rounds of 5.56mmX45 into a room or building containing possible civilian bystanders and/or hostages.

    Flatly put, if you can’t put the Criminal down with one shot, maybe you should go back to training.

    Of course, there’s no practical reason for people to be allowed to own Corvettes either-except to break the law-any car that can exceed the national speed limit is both a potential murder weapon, as well as a means of transporting contraband and endangering lives. (in case you think I’m serious, remember-the “Utility” argument carries zero water for me-the above is merely an illustration of WHY.)

    If a non-criminal who is not insane has to wait a month and go through the anal-exam background check, so too, should any GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL, including but not limited to those government officials entrusted with specific powers regarding the enforcement of law-powers and immunities that are not provided to the citizens whom are, (at least, in theory) the Sovereigns of this nation (that’d be ALL citizens, Joe.)

    Your system, Joe, is fine for cultures in which there is a definite “Subject/Master” relationship in which the Governing Class are the Master, and everyone else is a Serf.

    There are plenty of places that work on that principle already. The United States is NOT supposed to be one of those places, and I would invite anyone that wishes to be a Peasant cared for, to go live somewhere that works on that principle.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Flatly put, if you can’t put the Criminal down with one shot, maybe you should go back to training.

    You’ve been watching too many movies, Cannon…

    Have you ever tried stopping a bad guy by shooting him – in particular a bad guy amped up, as many are, on chemicals of one sort or another?

    Every cop knows that expecting to take a target down with a single shot is suicide.

    Like the guy my retired lieutenant friend once told me about, who took multiple kill shots and kept on coming – because his brain hadn’t got around to telling his body it was dead.

  • Cannonshop

    #23 doc, the counter is that full-auto capability wastes ammunition, drives up the odds of hitting/killing bystanders through missed shots, empties the magazine faster without (in many cases) a reasonable guarantee of a hit, and risks the lives of people down-range whom are NOT criminals in the area (it’s rare that there’s going to be sufficient backstop in a typical shooting incident, most of which occur in populated areas). Such weapons ALSO tend to encourage a psychology of taking those low-chance-margin shots, increasing the odds of civilian casualties further… all in exchange for a function that is of dubious value in policing. The primary purpose of autofire in a military context is suppression-fire, something that, frankly, unless you don’t give a shit about the civilians in the area down-range, is about as practically useful to Policing as tits are for a boar hog.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Cannonshop,

    I do apologize as I indeed did misunderstand your point about automatic weapons being given to law enforcement officers. My response to that is, rather simply put, cops need to fight enemies of public safety, and the more firepower they have to achieve this end, the better it is for all of us. Also, you are taking my argument to hyperbolic extremes. Obviously, one is far more likely to inflict harm upon others with a firearm rather than a Corvette. This is why privately held assault weapons are unnecessary, unwarranted, and should be unwelcome in any civilized society. I agree with you that America is not a nation designed to have an oligarchy controlling the lives of her citizenry, and nothing in my proposed program would allow that to happen.

  • Cannonshop

    #25 statistically, Joe, automobiles kill vastly greater numbers of people every single year in irresponsible hands, than firearms do-even when you include intentional shootings alongside accidentals, while only tracking a narrow sample of total automotive incidents.

    Your corvette is ten times more likely to kill or maim someone, than my AR-15-and that’s using numbers slanted to reduce the Corvette (or other automobile)’s chances, while exaggerating the rifle’s.

    Further, just within firearms as a category, so-called “Assault Weapons” domestically kill a fraction of the people killed by shotguns, pistols, and .22’s.

    The reason, of course, would be obvious to anyone that uses a lick of sense- “Assault Rifles” are bulky items frequently covered in add-ons that make them unweildy, they’re relatively expensive, and they’re not very good rifles. Mechanically, they’re little to no different internally from commercial hunting rifles like the Remington 740-except that they’re not as accurate, and they look ‘scary’ with all those jutting bits of black accoutrement (or green, or powdercoat grey…) Ballistically, compared to traditional hunting calibers, they’re on the low end-the AK-47’s round (which 20/20 made a big deal about penetrating 1/4″ of mild steel at 50 feet) is identical to the now-over-a-century-old .30/30, one of the most common (and frequently cited as underpowered) deer cartridges in the Northeastern U.S., and it’s illegal to hunt Deer with a 5.56 Nato (aka .223, the round used by our military) not because it is too powerful, but because it is NOT POWERFUL ENOUGH to cleanly kill deer sized or near-dear-sized game-it’s only legal for woodchucks and other small pest animals. (there are only a very small number of states that will let you carry an AR-15 on a deer hunt-Texas being one, and iirc, Alaska the other).

    The only reason gangers are attracted to them, is the main reason anti-gun people are terrified of them-they LOOK SCARY. it was one of the funniest things about the Brady Law and AWB in the nineties-those two pieces of legislation made bank for gun-dealers and re-sellers, by driving the value of what were otherwise imported pieces of crap into investment levels of demand-around the Gun show circuit in the nineties, we used to call it “The Gun Dealer’s Enrichment Act of 1994″, at least, privately, though it did spawn a cottage industry in aftermarket parts, and drove up sales by domestic manufacturers, the entire Brady Suite of laws really had zero impact on actual SHOOTINGS and CRIMES.

    Basing your decisions on cosmetics is idiotic when you’re writing Law, Joe. A better approach might be to approach Crime in a holistic manner-what factors increase a person’s likelihood to do violence against another person, and start looking at those factors.

    One place you might start, is acknowledging that unemployed people tend to go criminal much more often (along with rioting more often) than people with good jobs that pay a living wage, that uneducated people tend to become unemployed people more often, and that the education system is turning out waves of uneducated and under-educated ignoramuses,and, finally, that Minority dominated regions (those, and the Deep South) tend to have worse schools than the rest of the country, and that they tend to dominate inside Major Urban Areas.

    Which are also the areas more likely to generate large numbers of criminals.

    So, maybe a better idea than trying to restrict civil rights on the basis of fear, might be to ask what in hell is going wrong in our urban culture that it generates kids who worship the “gangsta” lifestyle, and what can be done about THAT before they reach PRISON and become impossible to teach?