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The Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act
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Pamelya Herndon, D-ABQ
Source: The Center of Creative Leadership
New Mexico recently made national headlines again on August 13, 2021, when a young boy was murdered at Washington middle school in Albuquerque by a classmate. The boy’s name was Bennie Hargrove, and before the ink was even dry on young Hargrove’s death certificate State Representative Pamelya Herndon, D-Albuquerque, announced the drafting of the Gun Safety Act to carry his name.
The proposed legislation would seek to charge anyone who doesn't secure their firearms with a fourth-degree felony. And one of the many questions to come from this is, why do politicians get stuck in the group think of believing that the answer to criminality is to draft more laws that literally only serve to create more crime?
The typical political response to these kinds of tragedies is almost scripted it's so predictable:
First, they stand before the cameras and microphones of the media and promise to draft legislation to “crack down” on the criminals that plague society.
Second, they point the finger at previous administrations and insist that this is a challenge they inherited because (others being across the political aisle, of course) were previously “soft on crime”.
Third, they beg for more funding to pour into law-enforcement. It's rare to hear a politician state the obvious on this: more officers doesn't reduce crime.
There is this general idea propagated by politicians who suffer from group think that more police officers will lead to more arrests, thereby leading to less criminals on the streets.
I do see how this urban myth/narrative is tempting to believe. When we think of infestations, say roaches or rats, the logical conclusion is: the more I kill the less I have. And for a time this proves to be the case. The exterminator comes with some sort of poison or traps and suddenly there is no more infestation.
But fast forward a season or two and what inevitably occurs is the infestation returns. Because the conditions that support the infestation continue to exist in the home, and so it is with crime.
In the next legislative session Governor Lujan Grisham intends to ask for funding to hire 1,000 more officers. She will undoubtedly get what she wants, given New Mexico's $1.4 billion expected budgetary surplus on the state’s balance sheet this year. And from this expenditure more criminal arrests will inevitably be made, though the underlying causes and conditions for criminality will remain consistent. Millions more to be spent on more officers isn't so much an investment as it is an expense that doesn't address the underlying causes of criminality.
Let's look at the tragedy that recently abbreviated young Bennie Hargrove’s life. The boy who is allegedly responsible, Juan Saucedo Jr., is reported to have acquired the firearm from his home. The presumption that Rep. Pamelya Herndon is cradling is that had this gun safety bill existed young Hargrove’s life would've been saved. Would a locking device on the gun that killed Hargrove have made it more difficult to use? Absolutely. But more difficult doesn’t mean impossible, and it overlooks the fact that, (a) we live in a nation that literally has more guns on the streets than it does people; and, (b) the guns don't make decisions, people make decisions. And the question to ask ourselves is why does a 12 year old believe it to be acceptable to kill his classmate?
Washington Middle School Albuquerque
Because until we start answering this question we’ll never do more than scratch at the surface of criminality. Harold Bailey, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Albuquerque is on the same channel as Rep.Herndon, advocating for the Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act:
We have a problem here in Albuquerque and America: our youth are becoming gangsters and killers at 12 and 13 years of age. We must address this phenomenon, consequences should be proportionate to the crime.
Bailey went on to lament that eight years of incarceration (the maximum that Juan Saucedo Jr. could receive if convicted, due to his age) is “too generous for such a violent, ruthless and, apparently, pre-meditated killing.” He would apparently like to import South Carolina-style justice and execute young Saucedo with a firing squad. A surprising statement from someone who is supposed to represent the advancement of colored people.
Criminality is a reality that reaches its tentacles into every crevice of our societies. It doesn't care how rich or poor we are; how educated or uneducated; Republican or Democrat, Independant, unsure, or Socialist; religious, agnostic or athiest. Crime doesn't care what color our skin is, whether or not we have a clean bill of health or whether we believe in aliens. It simply doesn't care what our differences are. And whether we like it or not it's irrevocably part of who we are, culturally, and to address it with something other than the same, stale reactionary methods of more police and crime bills requires that we finally confront the truth.
What am I talking about?
I'm talking about the fact that over the last 200,000 years of known human civilization we've built and engineered these sprawling cities with power grids, running water, sewer, all with these amazing networks and interfaces of technology, commerce, and the mobility and progress of people living under the rule of law for the common good of mankind. Often, because we rarely have the opportunity to step outside of it and ourselves we don't stop to appreciate just how amazing everything from technology, to medicine, to the diffusion of human thought and ideas truly is. Which is why it's so unfortunate given how brilliant we are, individually speaking, that collectively speaking we could be so stupid when it comes to something as obvious as criminality.
My qualifications to speak on this matter don't emanate from a PhD from Harvard or Yale, they come from the fact that for the last seventeen years I've shared living spaces with the very men society locks away. I've lived in bathrooms with murderers, drug dealers, car thieves, burglars, embezzlers, fraudsters, rapists, drunks, drug addicts, pimps, and even shoplifters – and men who are just homeless with nowhere else to go. Some have been gang members, cartel soldiers, veterans, high school teachers, car salesman, fast food cooks, nurses, physical therapists, lawyers, business owners, construction workers, bankers, insurance salesman, personal trainers, semi-professional athletes, and one chemist and one dentist.
That is to say, I've been afforded the opportunity to have the kinds of conversations with these men that will never be had in congressional or legislative committees. For nearly two decades I've kept journals, written articles, self-published two novels, informally interviewed dozens of offenders, and through it all I've never stopped listening, writing, or reflecting on the challenges that face our civilization when it comes to criminality.
The second qualifier is that I'm not a politician. Which means I can speak truth to power without having to worry about what people at work or neighbors will think. I don't stand to gain or lose friends because I'm not involved in the same popularity contest as everyone else.
How our nation addresses criminality is a reactive approach that always leaves us lamenting what could've been done but wasn't. Instead of preëmpting the inevitable with common sense intervention, we consistantly ignore the underlying causes because we fear the truth. The truth being that equal opportunity in our society is myth.
Every time there is a mass-shooting, whether it be at a school, a Walmart parking lot, or night club our response is always the same. Either it's “those [racist or xenophobic slur] people with their loose morals and heathen beliefs,” or it's the fault of the guns, or because “the goddamn Dems are too soft on crime.” Or it's the “repeat offenders,” or the exhausting rhetoric that “there's not enough police!” At one point in time or another we've seen this nation implement one horrendous policy after another based on these very types of errant thinking. All because the truth isn’t palatable to our economic agendas.
The truth is our freedoms – as good and noble as they are – have created a nation where equality is more hypothetical than fact. Our Constitution and laws tout equality as though it were a foregone conclusion, when in reality who we become individually has more to do with the opportunities we don't have than the freedoms we do.
Source: New York Post
Bennie Hargrove was killed because the classmate believed that it was acceptable for his grievance or beef with young Hargrove to be resolved with a gun. What I’m referring to is parenting, education, rolemodels, and productive outlets for young bodies and minds to apply themselves. These are things that can't be addressed with gun safety bills, regardless of whose name is placed on them. And while it may be convenient to place the blame at the feet of the parents, problems that affect all of us require solutions that involve all of us.
Recently in the ABQ Journal a reader voiced the following opinion in LOCAL VOICES:
IT DOESN’T take a genius to recognize the root causes of our ever-worsening crime crisis. Too many people, especially too many poor, desperate people. People without hope or ability to improve their situation. People without an education or the ability to obtain one. People who did not receive adequate nurturing and support as children and proceed to have too many children they neglect the same way. (Lewis E. Marlman, ABQ)
It does us no good to lament the fact that the poor and uneducated individuals with mediocre economic prospects are going to have children that they aren’t prepared or equipped to raise in ways that ensure our collective safety. And I'm not about to suggest that we sterilize or otherwise oppress people based on any standard whatsoever. Especially when there is a much more humane solution before us: Universality with regards to education, opportunity, and parenting that becomes a societal obligation rather than an individual dilemma.
I estimate that more than 90 percent of the men who I have been incarcerated alongside come from single-parent homes where poverty was the eminent challenge of their unstable households. This is not a coincidence. Nor is it an invitation to point the finger at “loose morals” or a failure to adhere to biblical wisdom. Freedom permits us to pursue happiness through a myriad of roads. It permits some to invent the next “unicorn” business IPO, in which poverty will never be a challenge. But the probabilities and numbers suggest that economic challenges will prove to be a speed bump to our prospects and opportunities. And because of which, in order for the American Dream to be the American Reality we need for child development to become a national initiative.
This means that instead of drafting gun safety bills Rep. Herndon should be rolling up her sleeves and stepping into the poorest communities of the city. It doesn't matter if they happen to be her direct constituents or not, because one way or another they are going to impact her constituents just as they will inevitably impact the nation and world at large. And the questions she needs to answer are many and varied.
Primarily, what needs to be done to fill the parental void that exists in so many single parent homes? Then, what needs to be done to ensure that these young, eager and talented people have access to the same opportunities as those from the more affluent neighborhoods? Finally, what can be done to guarantee these kids the proper rolemodels they need to engender the values of personal integrity, hard work, healthy living, societal conscience and education? This is not an exhaustive list of questions but it's a start.
Bennie Hargrove’s name should be remembered with landmark legislation that will save the lives of others like him. But that legislation shouldn't be about gun safety. It should be legislation that dares to address the underlying causes of the criminality that killed him.
As a boy I remember that in my father’s closet there was a hand gun and bullets. There was no gun lock because there was no need. I was taught not to touch that gun under any circumstances, and I obeyed. It didn't matter how many fights I lost or visits to the nurse’s office for band-aids and bags of ice I made, because I was taught to fight if I had to – but never was I taught to bring a gun into the equation. And as a society and nation we need to make sure that our youth is being raised with a conscience and consistent message on what it means to be a contributing, law- abiding citizen.
The choice before us is to either point our blame an ire at the parents, the family, the neighborhood, the schools, or for that matter the violence shown on the television and internet, or to get busy addressing the underlying causes. Blame is not going to bring Bennie Hargrove back to us. And it's not going to save the next young boy or a girl who will inevitably follow Bennie. Only we can do that, with local and national iniciatives that address the underlying causes of criminality.
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