Automatic Guns in South Park
I found the photo of kids handling an assault rifle very disturbing—like marketing the American obsession with weapons to children ("Guns in South Park," Aug. 17). American-made assault rifles are showing up in murders committed by Mexican drug cartels as well as mass killings here. In contrast to other developed countries, we are armed to the teeth. Our murder rate shows it. There's an arms race going on, and it's a dead end.
The glorification of violence as a solution to conflict is a constant on TV, from the earliest cartoons kids watch. Being a hero often means winning in combat, a seductive role for boys and men. Showing kids a powerful weapon may invite them to want that power—not necessarily a good thing.
If the police want to participate in a family event, they should demonstrate alternatives to violence rather than the bad toys they have and how dangerous the SWAT team can be. They might also look at issues of police brutality and consider stepping back from the military image. The community might then actually be safer.
It is useless to try to use logic with people who have become so desensitized that they don't instinctively react with outrage at the idea of our local police using guns and tanks in an attempt to "reach the community" through its children via the "cool" factor, as was recently done in South Park.
In his letter defending the police, Mayor Ernesto Olivares doesn't mention the brotherhood that exists in law enforcement culture. That usually comes out during stressful situations, like the many unnecessary officer-involved killings of civilians across the country. Our community has seen a lot of those over the years, and like clockwork, the blue wall of silence comes up. I've been part of local groups monitoring these killings since the mid'90s, and in not one case was there ever a public admission that any law officer was wrong or trigger-happy, even when the courts later disagreed.
Using "safety" as an excuse to indoctrinate our children is a specious argument. It's the way to go if you want to further a macho gang mentality caused by racism and inequality. The harder path is creating a more just society, but that won't happen by showing off your guns and power to impress. If you really want to start a dialogue with our children, then start by breaking your silence the next time one of your comrades takes an innocent life. Now that would be impressive.
Mayor Ernesto Olivares, as you may remember, is a former police officer and is protecting his own. If an ordinary citizen who had lawfully registered a fully automatic assault weapon allowed someone under the age of 18 to handle such a gun without the child's parents giving written permission, the gun owner could be charged with a felony under California law. Why then can a police officer get away with letting a person under the age of 18 handle the same weapon, which is capable of either fully automatic fire or semi-automatic fire, without such parental release?
In a similar vein, several years ago the police in Santa Rosa arrested Food Not Bombs several times for serving hot food to the homeless in a city park, yet refused to cite the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Service when it also served food without the required permits. Double standards all around.
Your paper ought to make a California Public Records request of the city of Santa Rosa (and all other Sonoma jurisdictions) to find out just what weapons these government entities own and where they are acquiring them.
If the "training" in South Park was about gun safety, as officers and the mayor claim, I have one question: Why were they letting children use a fully automatic gun that is illegal to own?
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