Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gun Crime, Still Not Fixed

Will the gun restriction bill passed by the legislature have an appreciable impact on gun crime in Connecticut? The future will provide an answer to that question, but it does not seem likely.

The gun restriction bill is targeted at gun owners that even Michael Lawlor, Governor Dannel Malloy’s choice to reform penology in the state, would be forced to admit do not generally show up in crime statistics. How many NRA members are currently doing time in Connecticut prisons because they used their guns to hold up EZMarts – like Frankie Resto?

Released early from prison under the auspices of Mr. Lawlor’s Risk Reduction Earned Credits program, Frankie Resto, a little more than a year ago, easily acquired a gun and fatally shot a store owner in Meriden.

Unless you can separate Frankie “The Razor” Resto and guns you will not make a dent in in the use of weapons by criminals; incidentally, they’re called “criminals” because they commit crimes.

The distinction between law abiding gun owners and violent criminals seems to be lost on the Malloy administration, Mr. Lawlor and the Democratic dominated General Assembly. Mr. Resto was a gangbanger who never -- under any circumstances -- should have been let out early from prison. In fact, after he had engaged in drug activity and burned his mattress while in prison, additional years should have been ADDED to his sentence.

Recently, three young men shot and killed a jogger, Chris Lane, a promising athlete from Australia , because, the shooters said, they were bored and decided to kill someone.  But the person whose phone call to the police was instrumental in their arrest, James Johnson, insists that the crime was a gang initiation killing. In criminal infested urban ghettos, where fathers are as rare as jobs, random or gang related killings are not at all surprising.

Mr. Johnson told an Australian paper, the Sydney Morning Herald, that the shooters “don't have proper fathers in their lives. You can't be a friend to your son; you got to be the father… I feel very sorry for them, they have ruined their whole lives, but they did the crime, they have to do the time. Perhaps they can make a life inside, get God in their lives.”

In many urban environments, random killings by gang members are part of the day’s routine. One may confidently hazard a guess that none of the young men accused of shooting Mr. Lane were members of the NRA. Every prison administrator and guard who had come into contact with Mr. Resto knew he was a gang member with a violent record.

When Mr. Malloy, Mr. Lawlor and the General Assembly have finished passing bills restricting the use of guns by non-violent gun owners and facilitating the early release of violent convicted criminals, they might want to do something about urban gangs.  In large cities in Connecticut, guns don’t kill people – gangs do.  The gun restriction bill passed in Connecticut may or may not be useful, but the long arm of that bill will not inconvenience the criminal element in cities.

What could be done to accomplish this end? All the effective solutions are politically risky. It would help a great deal if politicians were interested in restoring the torn social fabric in urban areas.

We should not wait for universal agreement among sociologists before we accept as reasonable Mr. Johnson’s proposition that young boys go wrong when they are not guided by a father’s firm hand.  In fact, there are many sociological studies that point to a connection between fatherless families and urban crime; other studies demonstrate a positive connection between the presence of a father in an urban family and intelligence in male children.

Fatherless children in urban areas drift off into gangs, often a paternalistic substitute, commit crimes, go to prison, get out, commit more crimes, father a fatherless child, go back to prison – and the unbroken cycle repeats itself endlessly.  We have to wake up to this reality.  How many more young boys in cities have to be sacrificed to the urban Moloch before we take very hard, politically risky steps to ameliorate the problem?

Moloch was the pagan idol to which children were sacrificed by a passage through fire. We have to restore – especially in urban environments, where children are made to pass through the fire daily – the real presence of fathers in families. And moral suasion is not enough.  It is not enough for a paternalistic state to tell an absent father who effectively has been replaced by the solicitous state, that he must – really, he must! – accept the responsibilities of fatherhood, even from his jail cell.

Either we take the hard way or we accept Moloch’s terms:  A child, abandoned by its father, is born out of wedlock; the state agrees to finance the status quo; the child joins a gang, passes through the fire, commits a crime, goes to prison, is let out early because he has taken courses provided by Mr. Lawlor’s new program, fathers yet another out of wedlock child, commits another crime, is remanded to prison. And the prisoner’s children are remanded to Moloch.

Under these circumstances, every refusal of a choice is a choice.

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