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February 11, 2005

Practicing Safe Gangbanging

A few days ago, reader Nosy emailed me the following in response to my posts on sex ed. (here and here):

Here is something to ponder. There is no one teaching "safer gangbanging". That is, no one even for a minute suggests that children and teenagers should be taught "Don't get into a gang, but if you do, here's some suggestions that might keep you from becoming a drug addict or getting killed..."

No, what is taught is something else: "Do not join a gang. Do not socialize with people you know to be in a gang. Do not go to places where gang members are known to hang out. If you are in a gang, get out now, we will help you leave."

Isn't that "Gang Abstinence"? Shouldn't we be more realistic, and accept the fact that some teenagers will experiment with gangs, and teach them how to have a safer gang experience, rather than just teach this simpleminded "Don't do it" stuff? Aren't we just setting our kids up for failure, when they are tempted to join a gang and don't know how to be a gangbanger safely?

Well, a post by John Hawkins doesn't quite prove the new maxim that contemporary society undermines the possibility of satire, but it comes close:

The story of young Devin Brown should be a cautionary tale about what happens when you fall in the wrong crowd, but is instead being used as a way to attack the police. Brown, a 13 year-old "eighth-grader at a magnet school for gifted youth," started hanging out with gang bangers,
"Friends and neighbors said the teen had recently begun skipping school and spending time with gang members after his father's death last year. They insisted, however, that he wasn't in a gang.

"It's a bad crowd he was starting to hang with but he wasn't a gang member yet _ and I say yet," said Kevin Mitchell, a gang prevention specialist who knew Brown and himself a former gang member.

... Instead of carping about the police, who's asking what this kid's parent was doing while he was hanging out with gang members? Why aren't we hearing calls for the police to crack down on the gangs?

Here are the details:

According to police, Garcia and his partner were on routine patrol near Gage and Grand avenues when they saw the driver of the maroon Toyota Camry run a red light. The officers followed the car onto the Harbor Freeway and then tried to pull the driver over.

A three-minute chase ended when the driver lost control of the Toyota and drove onto the sidewalk. The officers then parked their patrol car behind the Toyota.

A 14-year-old passenger fled, but was later apprehended. When Devin, who was driving, allegedly backed into the officers' car, Garcia opened fire.

One can hear the thought in the air: if only he'd been taught how to conduct safe grand theft auto. Truly, I'm not making light of this heartbreaking incident, but whether the misguided reaction to tragedy is to blame the police or to offer but-if-you-do guidance to other children, the result will be more loss, not less.

Posted by Justin Katz at February 11, 2005 5:17 PM

It occurs to me that we on the conservative end of the spectrum have some splainin' to do as well. I'm a big proponent of gun rights, and particularly of the importance of teaching children how to properly use a firearm. It would seem that lurking behind "responsible gun ownership" rhetoric is the assumption that if we're going to have firearms anyway--and let's face it, we will-- we would be better served by having a safe, informed citizenry. Also, I tend toward the view that the war on drugs is more than a little stupid (though I'm not a proponent of blanket legalization a la Jacob Sullum).

Do you see where I'm going with this? What sorts of distinctions are important here, do you think? Leftists tend to take the "abstinence" route on guns, whereas conservatives do with sex. I find that difference really interesting. Thoughts?

Posted by: Sage at February 12, 2005 9:11 AM


The major distinction that I would make is that Leftists don't accept that "we're going to have guns anyway." They believe that it is possible and desirable to rid the world of guns, and they wish to legislate accordingly.

On the other side, generally speaking, conservatives support gun ownership per se. Teaching kids how to use a gun, therefore, isn't done with the "you're going to do it anyway" mentality. Rather, since gun lessons must be added to children's default education, the assumption is that the children should know how to use a gun as a positive activity.

And that raises a central difference: I don't know that I've ever heard anybody suggest that all kids ought to receive safe gun education just in case they get their hands on guns. The reason highlights why the assumptions behind sex ed that teaches the activity more than just the biology is dubious. Teaching all kids how to use guns will encourage them to use guns.

(One could continue along this line of thought by tracing the "positive sexuality" mentality of sex ed through the "why not" to the "yes should" of kids and sex. As a matter of logic, it seems to me, you don't teach kids something that you expect them to hold off on doing for five to ten years; we don't teach 11-year-olds how to drive. And if you don't expect them to hold off on that something, then you must be reconciled to the possibility that it's something they should be doing.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 12, 2005 9:41 AM

Of course the interesting parallel between how the leftists handle teen sex and teen smoking is also worth considering...

Posted by: I. Shawn McElhinney at February 13, 2005 5:27 PM