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Gangs, Guns & Schools by Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal

Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal filed SB124 to address violence. She also held a forum on February 18, 2013 - Gangs, Guns & Schools - held on UMSL campus.

Over the past few weeks, I've done several ride-alongs with St. Louis area police officers who patrol our streets. My goal is to reach out to our citizens and our law enforcement officers to find the best way to combat gang activity in our neighborhoods. So what have I learned? Gang activity in the St. Louis region is worse than I thought. Unlike Chicago, New York or even Los Angeles, St. Louis-style gangs are mostly based on neighborhoods, and this reality presents unique challenges.

In a place like California, a Crip from Los Angeles is treated no differently than a Crip from San Francisco. Once a Crip, always a Crip, and you are respected by fellow Crips no matter where you go. You are a part of one family. In St. Louis, gangs are linked to particular neighborhoods with names like TAG, 5600 Acme, Dead Ends, 5900 Good (short for Goodfellow), and 10/20. These are the names and tags you see spray painted on the walls of businesses, our city streets and inside abandoned homes and garages.

Guns are easily accessible to gang members; they are handed out like candy at a parade. Everyone has guns and they are even displayed on Facebook, a site where gang signs, money and drugs are openly glamorized. Each area high school has "sets" of gangs that work in collaboration to claim their territory. This presents a problem for rival high school teams, especially at home games, where dozens of rival gangs show up to cheer and heckle. The gang members chant in the stands just like doting parents watching to see if their child makes the free-throw or touchdown.  And of course, these young gang members attreact girls who mistakenly think these gang members are cool. It's hard to look at a Facebook page without seeing the loyal girlfriend posted in a picture on a nice summer day at a party in the park for an entire gang family.

Missouri's weak laws regarding convictions for burglaries, car thefts, shootings, robberies, and illegal gun ownership are not helping. These young kids develop long rap sheets as they cycle in and out of jail or prison. Most don't survive their teens years. For example, if a gang member wanted to get a sandwich in another gang's territory, he would probably get shot or killed. Gangs claim specific territories, but then the members are ultimately confined by those borders. And if a gang wants to increase its territory, eventaully there will be a battle between rival gangs, resulting in injury and death. The alternative, to give up the gang and the "protection" of his fellow gang-bangers, is often difficult or even impossible, unless the gang member moves someplace entirely different.

To address this specific occurance, I have filed a bill (SB124) that will prevent the possession, negligent storage, and failure to notify schools of firearm ownership. The legislation intends to encourage parents and legal guardians to become informed on the possession and use of weapons by their children. Those who have a child under the age of 18 would potentially be held responsible for crimes committed if they are aware of the possession of firearms by their hcildren and if they fail to stop the possession or report it to law enforcement, a violation of the law.

We discussed this and other important issues at the forum on school violence - Gangs, Guns & Schools. There were guest speakers, a presentation and public discussion. The event was held February 18, 2013 on UMSL campus.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Elizabeth O'Fallon February 20, 2013 at 02:38 PM
With all due respect Ms. Chapelle, I've read your bill and disagree with it. You want to make it a crime for failing to stop a crime from happening? (actual language in the bill. Crimes are already illegal, can you somehow make them MORE illegal? In every situation the parent is to be punished for the crimes of the child? A "child" of 18 is old enough vote, to join the military, but somehow not old enough to be responsible for their own actions? The provision that a school must be notified if I as a law abiding citizen own gun in my home is not only a gross invasion of personal privacy, but it violates my constitutional rights. Even friends of mine who oppose anyone owning guns think this is an unfair provision. One of my anti-gun friends (who's wife is a teacher) said, "Are we only going to search little Johnny's backpack because his parents have a gun at home? Really?" It seems to me that folks are legislating with their emotions instead using common sense. Why are we targeting individuals who legally obtain and own firearms instead of increasing the length and severity of gun crimes for those who have actually committed them? I have four law enforcement officers in my family, I know through their experience that the "bad guys" will get guns at all costs and they don't register them! Violence is a matter of the heart, not simply whether or not you have a gun at home.
RM February 20, 2013 at 11:35 PM
Well stated Elizabeth....Yes I think the issue is really violence and personal responsibility, not guns themselves. I am a gun owner and have a CCW permit and although I am alright with background checks, I am opposed to "declarations and registrations". I do believe though that persons with guns should be held to personal responsibility for those weapons. They should teach their children proper gun safety and above all their weapons and ammo should be locked away and out of reach of unintentional users. I think the courts should play a more active part in seriously sentencing people who do acts of violence and especially with weapons and the people who enable them. In the US we have an over-abundance of lawyers so many offenders get token sentences BUT this should NOT happen for violent offenders. Society has no place for violent people except in treatment/prison. Sorry, I relinquish my soapbox.

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