We applaud the thousands of mothers who made the trek from Queens to Washington, D.C. to express their concern about gun violence. People of goodwill may differ on what steps should be taken, but they cannot deny that something must be done to reduce the violence. The Million Moms March may not result in the new legislation that many would like to see, but it did focus the eyes of the world on this very serious problem.
All too often, our papers in southeast Queens have to report on the tragic results of gun violence. A teenager is killed because somebody got mad at a playground basketball game. A father thinking someone has invaded his home shoots his son's best friend and nearly shoots his son as the hooky-playing children cower in a closet. And then there are the drive-by shootings and the fear that more gangs will result in more senseless violence.
In theory, we are sympathetic to those who fear that new legislation will force them to give up licensed guns used for hunting and target practice. They believe that their Second Amendment right to "bear arms" is under attack. But the gun problem in southeast Queens is not theoretical. Too many unstable, immature people have easy access to guns. In some cases, they have access to automatic weapons and assault rifles. To prove that there is a gun crisis in this city, we need look no further than the killings of livery cab drivers. In most cases, these drivers have been killed for $100 or less. In some cases, the killers have told police that they never intended to pull the trigger. It just went off.
The NRA and others argue that there is no sense in passing new legislation when existing legislation is barely enforced. They note that the guns used in almost all crimes are already illegal. It is an exaggeration to say that existing laws are not enforced. Judges may be reluctant to send first-time offenders to prison for gun possession and they look for ways to circumvent mandatory sentencing requirements. But police don't hesitate to arrest for gun possession.
The real question that needs to be addressed is how the guns are getting into the hands of young people in southeast Queens. Are manufacturers being careful enough when it comes to selling their product wholesale? While there is some sense in making it harder for honest people to get guns, it is far more important to keeps guns out of the hands of gang members and other criminals.
For thousands of Queens children, dreams of long lazy days at the beach will fade to hot sweaty days with the books. For them, the bad news is that the Board of Education has found the money to hire enough teachers to handle what will most certainly be a record turnout in summer school. The good news - at least for the parents - is that these children will have the opportunity to earn promotion to the next grade.
There's more good news. The vast majority of the teachers will be certified and parents of students from lower performing schools will be permitted to send their children to higher performing schools. Unlike last year, parents already have a pretty good idea if their child will need summer school to get promoted and have been able to plan accordingly.
It is still troubling that so many kids need summer school, but it is comforting to know that the Board of Education is serious about addressing their needs.
©2000 Community News Group
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