Friday, December 21, 2012

Guns


Today's staff meeting at the Center for Court Innovation was a timely one.  Yale Law professor Tracey Meares talked about how to craft anti-violence strategies based on theories of legitimacy and procedural justice.  In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, a lot of public conversation has been devoted to the prospect of gun control legislation.  There are, of course, things that we can be doing to stop gun violence in the here and now, without waiting for lawmakers in Washington D.C.  Meares' strategy is an example.  

With the help of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the US Department of Justice, we are testing Meares' approach in Brownsville.  This involves working with key law enforcement agencies (NYPD, the Brooklyn District Attorney, the US Attorney's Office) to convene "offender notification meetings" with parolees from Brownsville.  The meetings are designed to send a crystal clear message to would-be shooters that they have a choice to make.  On the one hand, law enforcement representatives testify that violence and gun possession will be treated harshly.  On the other hand, ex-offenders and social service providers communicate that change is possible and that resources are available to anyone who wants to get out of a life of violence.  The program is still in its infancy, but I have high hopes for it.

While I'm on the subject of guns, the reaction to the Newton massacre reminded me of a piece in the New York Review of Books by David Cole.  Back in September, Cole wrote:

"While...massacres justifiably [spark] the nation's horror and sympathy, the deeper tragedy is that every single day in this country, more than thirty people are killed by guns.  Few of these everyday victims generate national headlines; indeed, gun homicide is so routine that many do not even warrant a local news story.  But it is the decidedly nonglamorous, quotidian infliction of death and serious injury by gun owners that deserves our focused and sustained attention.  And politicians' cowardice in the face of the NRA is not the only obstacle to meaningful reform; an even greater hurdle lies in the fact that we seem willing to accept an intolerable situation as long as the victims are, for the most part, young black and Hispanic men."

In a similar vein, Amy Ellenbogen of our Crown Heights Community Mediation Center recently devoted a blog posting to how the Newtown tragedy resonated in central Brooklyn.  It is well worth reading.