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Minors with Stun Guns and Sprays, Oh My!

(Again, for more details, please read the article.)

All the general no-stun-gun jurisdictions, plus Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Las Vegas, and probably Oakland and San Francisco, ban under-18-year-olds from possessing and carrying stun guns. Illinois and Maryland ban them from possessing and carrying irritant sprays. New Jersey, New York, Annapolis, Aurora (Illinois), Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. ban them from possessing and carrying either stun guns or irritant sprays, and of course guns, thus leaving under-18-year-olds entirely disarmed.

Few people would give a stun gun or irritant spray to a small child: They would rightly worry that the child will use the device irresponsibly, which likely won’t lead to death but would lead to severe and unnecessary pain, for the child himself or a playmate. They would rightly suspect that the child will be unlikely to know when he needs to use the device defensively, and unlikely to use it effectively when he does realize the need. And they would rightly suspect, especially for young enough children, that the child’s risk of being the target of violent crime is much less than an adult’s risk.

Yet it does not follow that older minors, such as 16-year-olds, should be denied such defensive tools as well. Girls age 15 to 17 are three times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault than women 18 and over. Older teenagers are often victims of other crimes as well. And older teenagers are likely about as able as adults to effectively use a stun gun, and to know when the need for self-defense arises. California and Florida law, incidentally, allows minors 16 and over to possess stun guns, so long as they have a parent’s consent; many other states have no prohibitions at all on minors’ possessing stun guns.

Older teenagers are likely to be less mature than adults, and might thus be tempted to misuse stun guns and irritant sprays, for instance for juvenile pranks or for revenge. But we do have a benchmark for thinking about when teenagers should be treated as mature enough to possess such nonlethal devices: Throughout the U.S., teenagers 16 and above are routinely given access to deadly devices, despite the risk that they will misuse those devices, and despite the temptation that those devices offer for such misuse.

Those devices, of course, are cars. Car accidents involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers kill over 1500 Americans each year. These older minors are tempted to drive cars too fast, or even deliberately race them. Some such minors use their cars to further other crimes, for instance to get to and away from a robbery, or to more effectively deal drugs. (Many crimes become much harder to commit without access to a car.) Yet despite that, we are willing to run the risk, even the certainty, of death and crime to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to drive.

Minors are allowed to drive because the aggregate benefits are seen as more important than the injuries and deaths that minors’ driving causes. When minors may drive, they can much more easily hold jobs. Letting minors drive is more convenient for their parents, who no longer have to drive their older children to school or to meet friends. Letting minors drive gives the older minors more freedom to do things that they enjoy. And driving sometimes even makes minors safer from crime, for instance if the minor can drive to a nighttime job instead of walking down a dark street to and from a bus stop.

But there are also benefits to letting older minors have nonlethal defensive weapons. When minors can effectively defend themselves, they can much more easily have certain jobs, because they can be more secure when going to and from work. Letting minors have nonlethal weapons gives them more freedom to do things that they enjoy, and lets them enjoy those things more because they worry less about being attacked. And letting minors have nonlethal weapons makes them safer from crime.

And it does all this without being likely to cost 1500 lives, as driving by 16- and 17-year-olds does. At most, it might lead to some extra crime by immature older minors, something that is largely deterrable by criminal punishment for misuse of the weapons -- more so than as to cars, since most injuries involving cars are accidental and thus harder to deter, while most misuses of nonlethal weapons would likely be deliberate.

Consider also our attitudes to martial arts classes, or for that matter self-defense fighting classes (such as Krav Maga). Knowing how to fight is useful for self-defense, but, as with a nonlethal weapon, it can also be used in crime -- whether robbery, bullying, revenge, an attack on a romantic rival, or many other things that an immature 16-year-old might want to do. While manual attacks only very rarely kill, the same is true for stun gun or irritant spray attacks. And manual attacks can inflict both serious pain (though probably less than with stun guns) and lasting injury (probably more likely than with stun guns or irritant sprays).

Yet our reaction to martial arts classes or self-defense fighting class¬es is not “save them for 18-year-olds, who are mature enough to use their training wisely.” Rather, we applaud minors’ taking such classes, even when the minors are quite young.

This is partly because we think the classes are good exercise, or teach discipline. (The classes may also teach an ideology of responsibility and restraint in using martial arts techniques, but naturally some students can learn the techniques while rejecting the ideology.) But I take it we’d applaud a child’s taking classes even if the child’s purpose was expressly to learn self-defense, and even if the class was designed for that rather than for more extended learning of martial arts as sport, philosophy, or fitness training. We would recognize that self-defense is valuable enough that children should be able to learn to defend themselves even when that also teaches them to attack. Why shouldn’t the same be true, especially as to older minors, for defensive tools as well as defensive techniques?

(We might also think that children who take martial arts classes are especially likely to be “good kids” because they are willing to work hard. But the main concern I’ve heard about older minors’ possessing stun guns has to do with the minors’ lack of maturity, and willingness to use such devices in anger or as a prank. Such lack of maturity is not inconsistent with willingness to work hard.)

To be sure, these analogies are not perfect. Among other things, because nonlethal weapons are less lethal than cars it may be proper to let minors have nonlethal weapons even before they reach driving age. That is in fact the policy in most states, which put no age limit on stun guns and irritant sprays (as well as in Washington, which has deliberately set the irritant spray age limit at 14). On the other hand, my suspicion about the likely rarity of children’s misuse of nonlethal weapons is speculation, for much the same reasons as those mentioned earlier as to adults. If an increase in legal nonlethal weapon possession by 16- and 17-year-olds leads to thousands of stun gun or pepper spray pranks each year, and to very few defensive uses, the case for prohibiting such possession would be stronger (though the analysis would still have to weigh the degree to which stun gun possession deters attacks on older teenagers, and thus makes defensive uses unnecessary).

But absent such evidence, we shouldn’t dismiss older minors’ need for self-defense, just as we shouldn’t dismiss adults’ need for self-defense. And our willingness to run what are likely much greater risks by letting older minors use lethal cars should further counsel in favor of running lesser risks by letting the older minors use nonlethal weapons.

Shelby (mail):
Only indirectly on point, but a man who used pepper spray in a bank robbery got a 36-year sentence yesterday. He'd also used the same method in a pharmacy robbery that resulted in a separate 20-year sentence.
4.17.2009 5:09pm
Tatil:
Martial arts take a fairly long time to master. It is not skill that can be obtained on a whim for a quick crime or prank. Otherwise, I think your analysis of trade-offs in driving and weapon ownership is quite interesting.
4.17.2009 5:12pm
Tom952 (mail):
The practice of allowing 16 and 17 year olds to drive is not universally regarded as a good idea. In addition to the 1500 lost lives, the practice causes increased personal injuries, financial losses, and disrupted lives from the higher incidence of collisions involving young drivers. The practice also contributes to high school dropout as licensed teens become more interested in working to pay for a car and the recreational opportunities it provides than in completing their basic education. The practice persists because of the convenience to parents.

The fact that we allow 16 and 17 year olds to drive for the convenience of their parents does not make the practice a valid base for extrapolation when considering other permissions for the age group.
4.17.2009 7:29pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Maybe what we need to do (and not just in this case) is recognize teens (say, 16-21) as an intermediate class of citizens. Certainly a class that contains a day-old child and a seventeen-year-359-day old child is a bit stretched.
4.17.2009 7:57pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Some years back, when I lived in the Bay Area, there was a news story with a good ending but it revealed a tragic necessity. Someone broke into a house in West Oakland (not a good part of town). He attempted to rape a 16 year old girl in her bed. She pulled a handgun from her pillow and shot the rapist to death.

Good ending. But a bad statement about how dangerous it was for a 16 year old sleeping in her own bed that she felt the need (and was correct) to sleep with a handgun under her pillow.

When I was 4 or 5, and my sister was 12 or 13, we could walk anywhere we wanted, and our parents didn't worry about our safety, in Chula Vista, California. When we have to ponder questions such as Professor Volokh is raising, it doesn't say much positive for what we have lost as a culture.
4.17.2009 8:19pm
Tatil:
I rarely see kids playing in safe, well-to-do neighborhoods. Is it really more dangerous now or is the paranoia level of parents higher thanks to if-it-bleeds-it-leads media? Of course, that could also be due to the many different recreational activities (piano lessons, swimming, soccer, birthday parties etc.) parents take their kids to. No wonder, they cannot wait to give the car keys to their children. :)
4.17.2009 10:03pm
EPluribusMoney (mail):
Some years back, when I lived in the Bay Area

You lived here in the Tampa Bay area? Or maybe you mean Chesapeake Bay?
4.18.2009 12:11am
theobromophile (www):
From a policy perspective, wouldn't it make sense to do the same thing with pepper spray that we do with cars (i.e. require training in proper use)? Presumably, if driver's ed classes impart something worthwhile to teenagers, such as information about technique and safety, the same could be done with weapons.

(My largest concern with this idea - or really, any restrictions on civil liberties that depend only upon age - is that they will trickle up to adults. If young adults can be made to deal with any number of regulatory barriers, then older adults can, too.)
4.18.2009 1:18am
JeanE (mail):
I agree with theobromophile- kids under 18 they can complete a safety class before carrying a stun gun. I think it is wise to permit kids to drive BEFORE they are 18 because they get lots of practice while they are still under some level of parental supervision. I followed a friend's advice when my older son turned 15- have him get his learner's permit and drive everywhere with you for a year before he's old enough to get his license. At 16, he was an excellent and responsible driver. Frankly, if we waited until kids were 18 to allow them to drive, parents would have much less influence, and I think we'd see more accidents among 18 year old drivers.

If kids learn to handle stun guns safely, get accustomed to carrying one and taking responsibility for a weapon, they will have lots of opportunity to learn how to handle a weapon BEFORE they are old enough to go out and buy a gun that shoots real bullets.

The teen years are a time for kids to take on adult tasks and responsibilities a little at a time, while there are real adults at hand to provide guidance and head off trouble. Treating them like children until they are 18, then expecting them to act like adults without having had any practice is foolish and short sighted.
4.18.2009 2:43am
Fact Checker:
When I was 4 or 5, and my sister was 12 or 13, we could walk anywhere we wanted, and our parents didn't worry about our safety, in Chula Vista, California. When we have to ponder questions such as Professor Volokh is raising, it doesn't say much positive for what we have lost as a culture.

I don't know how old you are Clayton, but crime is generally lower now than it was in the late sixties and seventies when I was growing up. Yet we walked and rode our bikes everywhere and starting from Kindergarten, in suburban Cleveland, I walked to school alone.

And if you belong to certain demographic groups, life in certain parts of the country could downright dangerous. If you were a black child growing up in Mississippi or Alabama in the 50's, you certainly couldn't walk anywhere you wanted. When you ponder that change, it reminds you that some of the things we have lost as a culture are very positive.
4.18.2009 3:17am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"... we could walk anywhere we wanted, and our parents didn't worry about our safety, in Chula Vista, California. When we have to ponder questions such as Professor Volokh is raising, it doesn't say much positive for what we have lost as a culture."

Clayton, why do you think people don't feel as safe? Is it simply a perception change or is crime really higher than it was in say 1955? I'm from New York City and I can tell you that in the early 1950s crime was a minor concern. If you go back to the 1930s, people went everywhere, even Harlem without any fear whatsoever. Most people have no concept that at one time, America was an extremely safe place both in the reality and the perception. Not only that but when crime did occur it was far less depraved.

Even the Wild West was safe for the ordinary citizen. The highest murder rate we ever had was in Bodie California in the mid nineteenth Century. But all of the murders were committed by adult men in bar fights. Women and children were absolutely safe in Bodie, and for a good reason: the community wouldn't tolerate anything else. I saw that effect in Little Italy, a neighborhood in New York City. Even in the 1970s there was little crime there. Everybody knew that this was the one part of Manhattan you could park your car with no worry it would be broken into, or walk down the street with little fear. The neighborhood simply wouldn't tolerate it. The criminals knew this and went somewhere else, which of course was just a few blocks. "You toucha my car, I breaka your face."
4.18.2009 7:06am
Fact Checker:
I saw that effect in Little Italy, a neighborhood in New York City. Even in the 1970s there was little crime there. Everybody knew that this was the one part of Manhattan you could park your car with no worry it would be broken into, or walk down the street with little fear.

Of course if you owned a business in Little Italy and didn't contract with the right company for garbage collection, or didn't have that bag of cash ready for the nice gentlemen in flashy suits who came by every month, well then you might find out the hard way why there was so little street crime in Little Italy.

It is convenient to look back with nostalgia at the "good 'ol days" and forget that multi-layered organized crime families controlled good chunks of many of our cities and thoroughly corrupted local and even national politics. In other parts of the country, if you were the wrong race, whistling at a white woman was reason enough to get you tortured to death, and law enforcement officials would look the other way, if not actively participate.
4.18.2009 7:20am
Fact Checker:
But all of the murders were committed by adult men in bar fights. Women and children were absolutely safe in Bodie, and for a good reason: the community wouldn't tolerate anything else.

And exactly what percentage of the population of Bodie was non-Professional women or children? I bet it was a very small percent. And what is your point here? It doesn't really count as a murder if it occurs in a bar, or if the victim or perpetrator is drunk? That's a novel legal concept.
4.18.2009 7:24am
Fact Checker:
I'm from New York City and I can tell you that in the early 1950s crime was a minor concern.

The only reason crime was a minor concern in NYC in the 1950's was that state, local and federal law enforcement made a conscious decision that it was easier to live with the Mafia than to fight them. It took J. Edgar Hoover dying for the FBI to get serious about true organized crime in this country. Thirty-five years of effort have paid off. The great Mafia families are a pale shadow of their former selves and constantly hounded by law enforcement.
4.18.2009 7:30am
pintler:

From a policy perspective, wouldn't it make sense to do the same thing with pepper spray that we do with cars (i.e. require training in proper use)?


If I had kids, I would encourage them to go to a broad based self defense class - how crimes tend to occur, situational awareness, empty handed self defense, pepper spray, etc. As with first aid training, those are all good things to know.

But if I am reading you right, you are proposing mandatory training before possession, on the grounds that possession of pepper spray or a taser imposes a large danger on society, in the same sense that we don't let people fly airplanes w/o a great deal of training because we don't want an incompetent pilot landing on our house. If I'm getting that right, then I would ask what makes possession of pepper spray more problematic than possession of kitchen knives or matches?

There are a lot of dangerous things out there (oddly, my only childhood trip to the ER involved a fishing hook despite a childhood spent with unsupervised access to BB guns and fireworks), but IMHO neither pepper spray or tasers seem likely to be very high on the list of problematic items. I'm sure you can do mischief with pepper spray - I remember experiments with lighters and aerosol cans - but I'm not sure pepper spray is worse than engine starting fluid or Raid :-(, and we just let parents decide about those.
4.18.2009 10:43am
Michael Ejercito (mail):

If you go back to the 1930s, people went everywhere, even Harlem without any fear whatsoever.

The 1930's was during the Depression; crime rates are at an alll time high due to increased poverty.
4.18.2009 11:26am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Fact Checker:

"Of course if you owned a business in Little Italy and didn't contract with the right company for garbage collection,..."

The Mafia controlled commercial trash collection (and a lot more) until Giuliani put them out of business in the early 1990s. I once asked a trash collector how the mayor did it. He said "enforce the law." So I agree completely. But merchant shakedown is not the kind of crime I'm talking about. It's not the kind of crime the public was scared of (except for the merchants of course).

The kind of crime the public feared was robbery from their persons-- as in "street mugging." The black guy who followed me into my building lobby and pulled out a knife on me was not acting on behalf of the Mafia. The girls going to City College in Harlem weren't raped by the Mafia. The people who broke into your car, or stole all the wheels and left it standing on wooden milk creates didn't come from the Mafia. Neither did the pickpockets on subway. While the merchants didn't like having to pay higher rates for trash collection, what really scared them was a guy with a gun holding up the store.

Now back to Little Italy. The reason for so little street crime there was the cohesive nature of the neighborhood, and the willingness of the residents to punish criminals-- on the spot. If a thug bothered a woman on the street, he might not make it out of the neighborhood alive. Two big gumbas would run out of the pizza parlor and tear him apart. If someone tried to break into a car, one of the grandmas, who watched everything all the time, would send a signal, and that guy might end up in a manhole. Yes this was vigilantism, and it worked. The thugs avoided Little Italy.

The movie Death Wish was fairly accurate. I know, I lived right there at that time.
4.18.2009 11:44am
Kirk:
Fact Checker,

The (obvious, except to you) point is that being a crime victim was easy to avoid if one was so minded.
4.18.2009 11:46am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Fact Checker:

"The only reason crime was a minor concern in NYC in the 1950's was that state, local and federal law enforcement made a conscious decision that it was easier to live with the Mafia than to fight them. It took J. Edgar Hoover dying for the FBI to get serious about true organized crime in this country."

See my prior post. Street crime started to increase in New York City roughly coincident with the influx of Puerto Ricans to the city in the early 1950s. Puerto Rican gangs terrorized people in Manhattan and Brooklyn and later the Bronx. The entire demographics in the Bronx changed, with lower middle class Jews and Italians getting replaced by Puerto Ricans. If you want to understand crime, then take note of who commits the crime.

Before the 1960s the New York City Police were aggressive and even brutal in dealing with street criminals. It was common for them "fall down the stairs in the police station." Then we had beat cops who would come up to strangers and ask them what there business was in the neighborhood. If the cop didn't like the answer, he would tell you to "move on."

I do not advance the above as complete explanations for the variations in crime rates. But common sense tells you that their must be some connection. How much we can argue about.

BTW J. Edgar Hoover never did get serious about the Mafia. Columnists like Jack Anderson wrote highly critical pieces about Hoover's reluctance to investigate the Mafia. There are rumors that the Mafia blackmailed Hoover over his alleged homosexuality and cross dressing activities. But the evidence for this is weak.
4.18.2009 12:14pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Fact Checker:

"And what is your point here? It doesn't really count as a murder if it occurs in a bar, or if the victim or perpetrator is drunk?"

It seems like you are being deliberately dense, or perhaps you don't read carefully enough. The point of the Bodie story is is that raw homicide statistics can be deceiving in that they might not indicate the level of danger to the general population. Bodie had an astronomical murder rate, yet it was a very safe place if one choose to avoid getting into bar fights. Crime didn't come to you, you had to go it. Again, to understand crime we must look at who perpetrates it and under what circumstances. A high murder rate in today's Detroit means something different than old Bodie.

So what was the Bodie homocide rate? According to this source, 116/100,000 population in 1880. To put that number in perceptive, at that time Boston had a rate of 4. Washington DC's murder rate peaked at something like 60 in the early 1990s. Today's Boston has a rate of 11 (compare and contrast to 4 in 1880). So I think it's quite reasonable to conclude that Bodie's rate was "astronomical." If you read source I linked to you will see that Bodie had a robbery rate that was no higher than Boston at the time, a further tip off that the murders don't reflect a general level of danger in old Bodie.

BTW gold mining towns did have women. Where there are men with money you find women. Miners can also have wives and children.
4.18.2009 12:55pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Michael Ejercito:

"The 1930's was during the Depression; crime rates are at an alll time high due to increased poverty."

It takes about 2 mouse clicks to get the homicide rate for the Depression era. This source provides a graph. Thus we see the rate is a little under 10 at the start in 1930 and falls rapidly to about 5 at the end. Thus as poverty increased during the Depression, crime fell. This graph provide a direct contradiction to your assertion that increased poverty causes higher crime, at least for that era.

BTW the above linked source brings up a good point. Modern medicine is much better at treating trauma, than in the 1930s. So many of the murder victims in the 1930s would have survived with today's medicine. In other words murder rates today should be adjusted upward to do comparisons with the past.

I just learned something do the research. So thanks for your silly post.
4.18.2009 1:14pm
Fact Checker:
If you want to understand crime, then take note of who commits the crime.

So crimes aren't crimes if the people committing them are a little better "organized" (e.g., Meyer Lansky or Lucky Luciano).
4.18.2009 1:40pm
Fact Checker:
There are rumors that the Mafia blackmailed Hoover over his alleged homosexuality and cross dressing activities. But the evidence for this is weak.

I hope you are saying that the evidence that he was blackmailed is weak. I don't think the cross dressing and homosexuality is pretty much an established fact.
4.18.2009 1:44pm
Fact Checker:
"I think"
4.18.2009 1:45pm
Fact Checker:
Where there are men with money you find women.

I thought I was being subtle and discrete when I mentioned "non-professional" women. Obviously, there were very few professions available to women in a mining town in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Shall I spell it out for you? p-r-o-s-t-i-t-u-t-i-o-n
4.18.2009 1:49pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"So crimes aren't crimes if the people committing them are a little better "organized" (e.g., Meyer Lansky or Lucky Luciano)."

I don't understand this obsession with the Mafia. "Who commits the crimes" refers to explanatory variables such as sex, age a race. Very often analysts work with highly aggregated statistics, and don't look at the component parts. For example, to try and show that guns cause murders, analysts will compare a Canadian city to an American city when the two cities have very different demographics.

By "crime" I mean interpersonal crime as described above.
4.18.2009 2:36pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I hope you are saying that the evidence that he was blackmailed is weak. I don't think the cross dressing and homosexuality is pretty much an established fact."

None of the rumors about Hoover are established facts, including the homosexuality and cross dressing.
4.18.2009 2:38pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I thought I was being subtle and discrete when I mentioned "non-professional" women."

I got it the first time. It's irrelevant. The point is women whether whores are not, were not the victims of murder at anywhere near the rate young men were. If you killed a woman or a child, the community would hunt you down and string you up. They sent a clear message: "Don't do that!"
4.18.2009 2:42pm
Fact Checker:
If you killed a woman or a child, the community would hunt you down and string you up.

So what you are saying is the way some crimes were prevented was committing other crimes (i.e, vigilante justice). Your apparent satisfaction with society accepting some crimes (police brutalizing street criminals, organized crime families extorting small businessmen) is disturbing to say the least. In fact, you seem to dismiss anything but street crime as nothing to worry about. As long as petty crimes are diminished, it doesn't matter to you how corrupt or criminal the structure of society is. It is attitudes like yours that allow the Mafia to flourish and lead to the rise of dictatorships. After all Mussolini got the trains to run on time.
4.18.2009 4:51pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Fact Checker:

I made descriptive statements, not normative ones. The interpretations are entirely your own. And the worst is, "As long as petty crimes are diminished, it doesn't matter to you how corrupt or criminal the structure of society is." For one thing, rape and murder are not "petty crimes." I would not consider armed robbery as petty either. Those are the kinds of crimes I assert people fear now and have feared in the past. I would regard pickpocketing as (almost) a petty crime. Other petty crimes would be shoplifting, but not bank robbery. Extortion of merchants is not petty either, but by the 1950s that was not necessary. The Mafia controlled the trash business and a merchant had no choice but hire a Mafia company to haul away his trash. So merchants did not live in fear of the Mafia; they lived in fear of getting their store robbed by a street thug. The intimidation occurred at the entry level and affected only those wishing to enter the commercial trash business-- a very small population.

At this point you have exhausted your strawmen.
4.18.2009 5:24pm
R7 (mail):
Fact Checker seems to have a problem with brutalizing street thugs yet has no problem brutalizing Middle American gun owners. Hmmmm, I wonder which side he is on?
4.18.2009 9:01pm
Fact Checker:
Extortion of merchants is not petty either, but by the 1950s that was not necessary. The Mafia controlled the trash business and a merchant had no choice but hire a Mafia company to haul away his trash.

Businesses were still expected to pay protection money on top of using the right vendors and suppliers. To claim that the Mafia had legitimized itself by the 1950s and no longer used extortion as a prime source of income (of course by the early 60's it was branching out from its traditional loan sharking, extortion, dealing in stolen goods, prostitution, and gambling into drugs) is patently ridiculous.

That you dismiss organized crime and police brutality as a feature, not a bug, of life in NYC in the fifties is pretty telling. I bet you recall fondly on the south of the fifties too, where black folks knew their place, and the Klan was there to remind them of it if they got too uppity.

"Petty crime" was a poor choice of words on my part. Perhaps I should have said "street crime". My point is that a society can have a high level of crime that is not reflected in statistics of street crimes. NYC (and Chicago, Kansas City, Boston and any number of other cities) in the fifties were just such places.
4.19.2009 2:35am
Fact Checker:
Oh, btw the Gambino family alone was responsible for approximately 400 murders between 1951 and 1957. Those sure were the good 'ol days in Little Italy!
4.19.2009 2:40am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Fact Checker:

"Businesses were still expected to pay protection money on top of using the right vendors and suppliers."


Reference? What is your evidence that on the whole New York City merchants regularly paid protection money? I lived there. I knew merchants, and I never heard any complain about paying protection money. They knew the trash business was crooked and dominated by the Mafia, but that's not the same as paying protection money to stay in business. That kind of thing did happen once, but was not widespread by the time street crime went on the rise. If you have better information, then share it with us. Just stating you opinion as a fact is not enough.

"To claim that the Mafia had legitimized itself by the 1950s ..."

Who made that claim? The Mafia branched out into other activities such as narcotics. But you keep trying to misdirect the thread into irrelevances. The residents of New York on the whole did not worry about the Mafia. They worried about street crime. I know; I lived there; I worried about crime like everyone else. Where did you live? What gives you knowledge about what worried New Yorkers in from 1955-1990?

That you dismiss organized crime and police brutality as a feature, not a bug, of life in NYC in the fifties is pretty telling. I bet you recall fondly on the south of the fifties too, where black folks knew their place, and the Klan was there to remind them of it if they got too uppity.


This is going beyond stupid into insulting. I am beginning to think that you just can't read.

"My point is that a society can have a high level of crime that is not reflected in statistics of street crimes."


It can. That's not the issue. Self defense is the issue. The citizen does not need weapons to fight high level corruption-- that's a political problem. After the St. Valentine's day massacre, Al Capone lost public tolerance and the feds were able to take him down.
4.19.2009 8:25am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Oh, btw the Gambino family alone was responsible for approximately 400 murders between 1951 and 1957. Those sure were the good 'ol days in Little Italy!"

Reference? Were those murders of ordinary citizens or crime family warfare? When ordinary people walked the streets of Little Italy they did not worry about being attacked by the Mafia. They didn't worry period because those streets were safe. A more valid question is whether the safe streets were a product of the Mafia or neighborhood cohesion? Not every neighborhood can have the Mafia, but every neighborhood can have cohesion and practice self defense. You keep trying to bring in irrelevances, because you have a losing position.
4.19.2009 8:32am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I dunno about the interest in weapons, lethal or not, for adolescents.
A starter on the varsity football team--check the stats for defensive lineman--is a pretty impressive specimen. Where my son went to high school, the weight room had a list of what you had to be able to lift, curl, push, and how many times, to have a shot at starting. Astonishing. You'd have to be pretty well qualified in something to beat these guys--many of whom are also pretty quick.
And nobody thinks of licensing them.
4.20.2009 8:19am
FWB (mail):
But it's all in the name "reasonable" restrictions and YOUR safety.

Blehhh!
4.20.2009 3:54pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I don't know how old you are Clayton, but crime is generally lower now than it was in the late sixties and seventies when I was growing up. Yet we walked and rode our bikes everywhere and starting from Kindergarten, in suburban Cleveland, I walked to school alone.
Born in 1956. And yes, even in the late 1960s, the situation was just getting pretty bad. Murder rates started rising in 1964, and didn't finally peak until 1980.


If you were a black child growing up in Mississippi or Alabama in the 50's, you certainly couldn't walk anywhere you wanted. When you ponder that change, it reminds you that some of the things we have lost as a culture are very positive.
I agree with you.
4.21.2009 7:39pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

So what you are saying is the way some crimes were prevented was committing other crimes (i.e, vigilante justice).
Some communities had vigilance committees that weren't any worse than the legally constituted courts of the time. Some had lynch mobs. The difference from a legal standpoint is none, but many Gold Rush California vigilance committees were pretty fair, often finding people innocent.
4.21.2009 7:44pm

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