James’s Musings

thoughts, photography, and geeky stuff
from an unrelentingly curious Silicon Valley entrepreneur

A PAX on Gun Violence [Second in a Series on Gun Violence]

by James G. Beldock on April 27, 2008

The first en­try in this se­ries pro­vid­ed data on just how bad gun vi­o­lence is in the US and high­light­ed a tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ty for im­prove­ment.

About a year or so ago, I was lucky enough to meet Dan Gross, the co-founder and CEO of PAX, a New York-based or­ga­ni­za­tion which has de­vel­oped two tru­ly in­no­v­a­tive pro­grams which re­duce gun vi­o­lence long be­fore any­body ever fires a weapon. A for­mer ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive, Dan found his life changed forever when his broth­er be­came the in­no­cent vic­tim of gun vi­o­lence him­self: his younger broth­er Matthew was crit­i­cal­ly wound­ed in the now in­fa­mous 1997 shoot­ing on the ob­ser­va­tion deck of New York’s icon­ic Empire State Building. Leaving his lu­cra­tive ad­ver­tis­ing ca­reer be­hind, Dan has since be­come first the lead­er of PAX and then the cre­ator of two im­por­tant pro­grams.

Speak Up! logoOne of the­se pro­grams, Speak Up, ad­dress­es the re­al­i­ty that many school shoot­ings are avoid­able. According to the US gov­ern­ment, over 1,000,000 stu­dents take some kind of weapon to school at least on­ce a mon­th. Moreover, over 80% of school at­tack­er tell some­one of their plans be­fore they ex­e­cute them. In oth­er words, in four out of five cas­es, friends of the perpetrators−often them­selves stu­dents in the very schools which will lat­er fall vic­tim to gun violence−have heard ru­mors, threats, in­nu­en­do, or oth­er­wise have rea­son to sus­pect the per­pe­tra­tors may turn to guns to set­tle their griev­ances. Although it seems ob­vi­ous that a “hot­line,” rem­i­nis­cent of sui­cide pre­ven­tion hot­li­nes, should be cre­at­ed for kids to re­port such threats anony­mous­ly, it turns out not to be quite so sim­ple. There are both legal and pro­ce­du­ral com­pli­ca­tions in­her­ent in ac­cept­ing anony­mous tips re­gard­ing mi­nors. Enter Speak Up! Thanks to a 24/7 hot­line at 866-Speak-Up and nu­mer­ous ed­u­ca­tion­al and sup­port ma­te­ri­als, stu­dents now have a safe an anony­mous re­source on which they can re­ly. Perhaps equal­ly im­por­tant­ly, PAX has spent the time and mon­ey to de­vel­op a care­ful­ly-cal­i­brat­ed pro­to­col which is en­dorsed by na­tion­al law en­force­ment and ed­u­ca­tors’ or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Students Caught Bringing Guns to School

Ask logoThe sec­ond pro­gram, called ASK, en­cour­ages par­ents to ask if the homes which their chil­dren vis­it to play con­tain firearms. Why? Because a shock­ing 1.7 mil­lion chil­dren in the US live in homes with weapons which are both load­ed and un­locked. In 2003, near­ly eight chil­dren and teens were killed by firearms every sin­gle day. And in 2004, a hor­ri­fy­ing 37 chil­dren and teens were in­jured by firearms every sin­gle day. With 40% of chil­dren liv­ing in house­holds con­tain­ing firearms, it’s not un­rea­son­able for par­ents to ask: “Are there any guns where my chil­dren are play­ing?” (As aside: nei­ther I nor, it seems, PAX, have any ob­jec­tion to prop­er­ly li­censed and secured—i.e., locked—firearms. This is not a gun con­trol is­sue. This is a safe­ty is­sue.) This year, on June 21st (the first day of sum­mer), com­mu­ni­ties na­tion­wide will rec­og­nize ASK Day, a day to fo­cus on ask­ing a sim­ple ques­tion which can save kids’ lives.

If you have a mo­ment, browse over to the PAX web­site and learn a lit­tle bit more. Find out how you can help. Every time the­se two PAX pro­grams suc­ceeds in re­duc­ing an in­ci­dent of gun violence—even if that elim­i­nates an op­por­tu­ni­ty for a ShotSpotter-as­sist­ed arrest—I, for one, will feel our so­ci­ety has tak­en a step in the right di­rec­tion.

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