When ABC News launched their week-long series on “gun violence” here in the United States, a lot of us (read: me) figured it would be nothing more than a commercial for gun control. Honestly, a lot of what you see out of network news seems to be.
However, a couple of times here and there, they seem to be bumping up against reality.
Then they seem to roll right back over. Cognitive dissonance isn’t a whole lot of fun, apparently.
Yet in their latest installment, they actually seem to be getting to the truth about gun control and how to address gun violence.
Members of Advance Peace are sometimes former gang members and are close to the gang community. They get to know young gang members, foster relationships with them and try to give them other ways to get out their anger.
The group focuses on mainly young men who are prone to violence. “Before he commits a gun crime, he’ll call us,” Aaron Foster, who works for Advance Peace, told ABC News. “We try to get out in front of it.”
Foster lost a son and a daughter to gang violence in Fresno in recent years. Now he works in the community to gain the trust of gang members.
“We know them mostly because we saw them grow up as a kid. When he was in junior high school, we knew this kid would be the next round of shooters,” Foster said.
The staff at Advance Peace say they often get calls from young gang members they are mentoring who say they have just shot somebody and need advice on what to do next. The group will counsel them but, in order to keep their trust and credibility, does not turn them into police. Advance Peace lets police do their investigations without being a source of intelligence. Yet, when members believe there is a gang shooting coming they may tell police they should have units in a certain area beforehand to prevent violence.
Balderrama said he supports Advance Peace as one idea that might help reduce the violence in his city.
“When you build relationships you have influence. If you have no relationships you have no influence,” Balderrama said. “Advance Peace gives us the ability to communicate and give people resources.”
Advance Peace critics accuse the program of being nothing more than paying gang members to not be violent, but the group has to cover a lot of their budget through their own fundraising efforts, which means even if that’s what it is, a lot of it isn’t coming from taxpayers.
And, frankly, there’s a lot of wisdom in trying an approach like this. I don’t know that it’ll work, but even stopping one shooting may well have a massive effect later on.
Yet that’s just one potential solution. ABC News also offered up an interesting perspective on “gun violence” and gun control.
“What we’re seeing, yes, is a peak in violent crime,” Paco Balderrama, the city’s new police chief, told ABC News. “And there’s a lot of factors in that.”
Balderrama became the chief of police in Fresno earlier this year after spending much of his career in Oklahoma and in Texas. Since arriving, he has been tasked with figuring out how to reduce the surging violence in his city. The vast majority of the gun violence is related to gangs and the guns are most often illegal.
“I’m talking about people who have been to prison who have no business carrying a gun. Active gang members. People who are intending to hurt somebody in a crime,” Balderrama said.
Police point out most of the guns they come in contact with are illegally obtained and harsher gun laws likely would not impact how they are bought and sold on the streets. Paredes argues the crime surge the U.S. is experiencing is a result of not enough police on the streets, lenient prosecutors and courts, and mental health issues.
“As long as they continue to look for solutions by controlling guns through laws only affecting law-abiding citizens, because they are the only ones who obey the laws, we are going to see an increase in the violent crime rate and use of firearms in commission of crimes,” Paredes said.
An interesting take, and not one I expected to see in an ABC News segment, yet here we are.
It also happens to be true. Pretty much all of it. Gang members and other types of criminals are behind much of the violent crime problem and gun control isn’t going to impact them since they don’t buy guns through the legal gun market.
I’m happy to see a news agency present this.
However, I don’t expect it to hold out. Still, it’ll be nice while it lasts.