When Kids Go Bad
It was a curious headline on the front page of Sunday’s Virginian-Pilot:
“There’s so many guns out here”
And no, I’m not just talking about the bad grammar.
It was the meat of the story that followed.
Seems Norfolk’s police chief analyzed data pertaining to all of the shootings in his city. What he found was that while the number of homicides are down sharply, the number of shootings - presumably by those with bad aim - are up.
Why is that?
The shooters are getting younger and younger. Cops recently took a gun off an 11-year-old, said Chief Larry Boone who noted that a few years ago, many gunmen - gunkids, rather - were 15 and 16 years old. Now they’re 12 and 13.
So young they don’t know how to shoot properly.
“That’s why you’re seeing bullets going everywhere,” explained Boone.
The chief went on to say that most of the weapons used by the shooters were purchased legally, then stolen from their rightful owners. From homes and cars.
Look, as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment I believe gun owners must be responsible for their weapons. You can’t throw a Glock in the glove box and leave your car unlocked.
On the other hand, it would be nice if hoodlums weren’t breaking into houses and cars looking for weapons. Last time I checked, those acts were felonies.
The chief seemed to blame two parties for the number of firearms: gun owners who weren’t being careful with their weapons, and straw purchasers - sometimes the girlfriends of gang members - legally buying guns for their thug boyfriends.
Fair enough. Plenty of blame to go around.
But one party seemed to escape blame: Parents. Bad parents.
What I didn’t hear - at least not in this story - was a big, where the hell are the mothers and fathers of these young gangsters?
Any 11 or 12-year-old playing with guns and hanging out with gang bangers is a delinquent. The biggest slice of blame for THAT should go to the parents doing a pitiful job of rearing their kids and keeping track of where they are and what they’re doing.
Boone brags that the crime rate is dropping because he’s jailing those with arrest warrants. Good. That’s his job, it’s what he's paid to do.
But with shootings on the rise he needs to turn his attention to the people producing these young hoods. The parents of any 11-year-old caught with a gun should join the rest of the miscreants in jail. The adults should be charged with child endangerment, child neglect and anything else prosecutors can pile on and make stick.
And the parents of underage gang members? Find some charges that make them responsible for their anti-social offspring and punish them, too.
The willingness to blame a homeowner who might have a gun in the nightstand for an increase in street crimes seems odd. If burglars break in and steal a bedside weapon it simply proves that the homeowner absolutely needed it for protection from intruders.
Let’s worry about home invaders, not lawful homeowners.
At some point, we have to hold adults criminally responsible for the violent behavior of their offspring. People living in Norfolk’s projects and other depressed neighborhoods have a right to feel safe in their homes, just as middle-class residents do. That starts by letting parents of punks on their blocks know that they’re in trouble if their kids commit crimes.
Oh, the headline I would have slapped on this crime story?
“Shooters As Young As 11 Terrorize Norfolk Neighborhoods."
But that’s just me.