Zoning Out Gun Sales

While Congress spins its wheels accomplishing nothing to stem the control of gun violence in our nation, some states are taking quick action to regulate the sale and possession of guns. Since the Parkland massacre:

  • Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island to sign an executive order to establish a policy to take guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.
  • Oregon’s House passed a bill making it illegal for people convicted of domestic violence or those with restraining orders against them to possess weapons, even if they are not married to, do not live with, or do not have children with their victims. The State Senate is expected to pass the bill and the Governor has promised to sign it.
  • Other states, including Florida, Vermont, Washington, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas are actively considering gun control legislation.

Today, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would stop selling assault style rifles and would halt all gun sales to those below age 21. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and a major seller of firearms, announced it would stop selling the military-style semiautomatic weapons in August 2015.

Yet, given Congress’ inaction, the failure of most states to enact strong gun control laws, and purely voluntary measures by retailers, gun control advocates should also consider engaging their local communities to zone out gun sales. Indeed, that is exactly what Madison, Wisconsin has done for many years regarding handgun sales.

Madison Ordinance Chapter 28.151 applies the following zoning restrictions to handgun shops:

(b) No handgunshop shall be located within one thousand (1000) feet of any church, synagogue, temple, mosque or other place of worship; a lot in a residence district, either in the City of Madison or in a municipality adjacent to the City of Madison; a Planned Mobile Home Park District, Planned Development District with dwelling units; a public or private playground; a day care center; a public library, a youth recreation area, including little league baseball fields, soccer fields or YMCA/YWCA.

(c) No handgunshop shall be located in the same building where alcohol beverages are sold.

(d) No handgunshop shall be located in the same building where any patron thereof under the age of eighteen (18) years may enter, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult spouse eighteen (18) years of age or over.

This well crafted ordinance steers clear of an outright ban on handgun shops to avoid a Second Amendment challenge, but it effectively bans them by applying reasonable zoning regulations to make it nearly impossible to locate a handgun shop in Madison. Indeed, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart do not sell handguns in Madison due to this zoning regulation.

For some perspective on the number of gun shops in the United States, consider the following data:

Since Congress members’ thoughts and prayers will fail to save a single life, and many states will fail to enact reasonable gun control legislation, gun control advocates across the nation should apply pressure to their city councils and mayors to enact and strengthen zoning ordinances to effectively control the sale of guns in their city limits. While the NRA will surely fight such efforts, requiring it to spread its efforts at federal, state and local levels will diminish the NRA’s effectiveness and finally allow gun control advocates to gain the upper hand.

_____________________________________________________________

For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

 

 

Advertisements

The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference in 2000. In his book, he discusses how “ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses.” He defines the tipping point as  “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” From a systems change perspective, the concept of a tipping point is important when analyzing both how to create sufficient momentum behind a policy change to bring the change into fruition.

One of the most frustrating failures in American public policy has been the complete ineptitude of our nation’s leaders to enact reasonable reform to combat gun violence. Many gun reform advocates believed that our nation would finally overcome the opposition by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to all efforts at reasonable gun reform, after 20 children and 6 adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. However, as we all know, the NRA and too many politicians simply offered their thoughts and prayers, and no meaningful gun reform was enacted.

4534

But then came the high school students who lost 14 fellow students and 3 staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. While the NRA and Congressional leaders continued to send thoughts and prayers, and the President and many legislators would rather arm teachers than enact meaningful gun reform, on behalf of her fellow Parkland students, Emma Gonzalez called BS on these unhelpful ideas. As one of the students, Cameron Kaspy, stated quite simply, My generation won’t stand for this.”

But why might this event be different than Sandy Hook or the many other gun massacres and become a tipping point to lead to meaningful gun reform, when the other horrific incidents did not? While it is too soon to know whether the results will be different, and we truly cannot expect meaningful change until after the November mid-term elections, there are indications that a number of different dynamics are in play that did not exist before, such that we may be approaching a tipping point which could impact the November mid-term elections culminating in meaningful gun reform in the next Congress.

Of course, the first new dynamic is the bold, energized leadership of the Parkland High School students. But since they cannot vote, high school students alone will not have sufficient impact to reach the tipping point. Ironically, the callousness of our President who appears to be devoid of empathy, combined with the energy of these high school students may be what energizes voters to impact the November mid-term elections in a meaningful way on this issue.

There are many signs that a shift in the gun reform dynamic is in play, such as:

  • Republicans who recognize that their day of reckoning on guns is here.
  • A well organized campaign targeted at politicians beholden to the gun lobby to throw them out.
  • A recognition that women could be the undoing of the President.
  • The March 24th March for Our Lives to demand that lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings.
  • Poll results showing American voters support stricter gun laws 66 – 31 percent, the highest level of support ever, including 50 – 44 percent support among gun owners.
    Support for universal background checks is almost universal, 97 – 2 percent, including 97 – 3 percent among gun owners. Support is also at its highest level with:

    • 67 percent favoring a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons;
    • 83 percent favoring a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases and
    • 75 percent believe Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence.

Of course, tipping points are reached by many actions, and as Gladwell pointed out, many of those actions are small actions taken by individuals. So, if you want to be part of the change that leads to a tipping point to achieve meaningful gun reform, here are some things you can do.

  • Investigate how your members of Congress vote on gun reform bills. You can check their votes here.
  • Check to see whether your members of Congress receive contributions from the NRA, and if so, how much they receive, here.
  • Tell your state legislators to support a law that exists in five states that allows guns to be seized from those whom a judge deems a threat to themselves or others.
  • Tell your members of Congress to support laws that evidence demonstrates will save lives including:
    • Requiring permits to purchase all guns by eliminating the exemption for private sales;
    • Banning individuals convicted of any violent crime from gun purchase;
    • Making all serious domestic violence offenders surrender firearms;
    • Banning active alcohol abusers from firearms; and
    • Banning assault weapons.
  • Join and/or contribute to an organization that is working on these issues such as Everytown for Gun Safety or Moms Demand Action  for Gun Sense in America.

Finally, the tipping point will not be reached if politicians believe that NRA support will preserve their power in office. Since the vast majority of Americans support meaningful gun reform, they must translate this into votes that change the calculation of politicians and make them realize that NRA support will become a liability instead of an asset. The only way to make that happen is for gun reform advocates to support gun reform candidates and to vote for them. As Justin Dart, considered as the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), said so eloquently in a way that gun reform advocates must take to heart:

Vote as if your life depended on it, because it does.

_____________________________________________________________

For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

 

Reinvent School Policing

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) continues to study possible changes to the way it uses police in its schools. The school board set up an ad hoc committee to study this issue over a period of 15 months. At a recent meeting of that committee, some advocates argued that police have no business in our schools. They argue that restorative justice is a better approach to resolving discipline problems. However, others believe that police presence in our schools is necessary.

A few years ago, I suggested that police presence in schools should be limited to genuine emergencies in order to avoid the kind of abuse which some police have perpetrated on students in school as depicted  below from an incident in South Carolina. Subsequently, given that police presence continues in our schools, I urged that school based police officers need teen training in order to do their jobs successfully without fueling the school to prison pipeline.

SC police brutality

In Oakland, California, police stationed in schools are taking a different approach. While they handle tough situations that can range from verbal altercations to weapons possession and sexual assaults, they are tasked with much more than providing security in Oakland schools. Using social and emotional learning (SEL) skills like empathy, self-awareness, and communication, officers are directed to build relationships with staff and students first, asking questions that might give them insight into why a student is upset or disengaged, or what really caused a fight.

The Oakland Unified School District started providing Social and Emotional Learning training to police stationed in its schools two years ago. The core competencies of SEL are:

  • Self-Awareness-The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.”
  • Self-Management-The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations — effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. The ability to set and work toward personal and academic goals.
  • Social Awareness-The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
  • Relationship Skills-The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed; and
  • Responsible Decision-Making-The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. The realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others.

The Oakland school district started incorporating SEL into its curriculum in 2011, when it accepted the research that students with higher levels of social competence will not only do better in school, but they will have a better success rate in the workforce after school.

Like Madison and many other school districts nationwide, Oakland shares a problem with disproportionate discipline of students of color. To combat this problem, in 2015, Oakland started funding restorative justice programs and banned suspensions for “willful defiance” and “disruptive behavior.” Unfortunately, due to financial problems, Oakland’s SEL and restorative justice programs have been implemented piecemeal, with some schools seeing full adoption and others, none.

While I continue to question  the need for police in schools outside of genuine emergencies, I have no doubt that if police are stationed in our schools, they cannot use the same techniques and training that prepare them for patrolling the streets, with children inside schools. The sooner police in schools receive training geared towards teenage behavior and social and emotional learning, the more success they will have in stemming the flow of the schools to prison pipeline instead of fueling its growth.

______________________________________________________________

For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

 

Grocery Store Community Building

I do most of the grocery shopping in my family. Not only do I enjoy choosing fresh produce, but I truly enjoy the cross-cultural exposure which grocery store shopping provides. On a recent shopping trip, I was reminded of how choosing to interact with other shoppers and staff in the grocery store may provide one of the best antidotes to the fear mongering designed to make us afraid of people who are not like us that is so sadly prevalent in our society.

Most of my grocery shopping is done in two stores: the Willy Street Co-op and Woodman’s. My wife and I became members at the Co-op on the first day we moved to Madison in 1985, and we continue to support the cooperative model of governance, the healthy food choices provided there and the ease of shopping at a smaller store. However, as it is not a supermarket, there are many grocery items that one cannot buy at the Co-op and other items are too expensive to buy there since the Co-op does not have the buying power of a large supermarket. Probably due to higher prices on many of its items, the clientele is not as diverse as the community as a whole.

Madison-East-store

Woodman’s, on the other hand, is a very large supermarket, with low prices on most items. I have also shopped there since we moved to Madison in 1985. Over the years, I have noticed a number of interesting developments there.

  • As Madison has become far more culturally diverse, Woodman’s shoppers and employees have reflected that change and people of all ages, colors, and backgrounds both shop and work there.
  • The produce and grocery selection has evolved in response to the cultural diversity of our community to provide a wide array of items to suit cooking from most ethnic backgrounds.
  • Many of the staff working there have been there for over 20 years, indicating that they are treated reasonably well as employees, a hallmark of any workplace that maintains relatively low turnover.

I often run into friends while shopping, some of whom I see often, and others of whom I may not have seen in a long time. These interactions remind me that grocery shopping can truly help build community.

But, more important than meeting friends while shopping is crossing over cultural divisions and interacting with people with whom I do not have a personal relationship, namely staff and other shoppers.

During my last trip to Woodman’s, earlier this week, the man who was bagging my groceries greeted me by saying, “Nice to see you. You sure have been coming here for many years.” I told him that I had been shopping there for 32 years, and asked him how long he had been working there. He told me he had worked at Woodman’s for 20 years! I noticed that he had an accent, and in my effort to cross a cultural divide, I asked him where his accent was from. He told me he was from The Gambia, a country in West Africa. That gave me the opportunity to let him know that I host the PanAfrica Radio Show on our local listener sponsored community radio station WORT. He was pleasantly surprised to meet the host of a show that he listens to and enjoys and he promised to listen to my upcoming show Saturday afternoon.

As I was walking out of the grocery store, a shopper who must have overheard my conversation with the bagger asked me if I hosted a show on WORT and when I told her that I did, she told me that her husband was the Treasurer on the Board of Directors. These unanticipated connections reminded me of the value of both interacting with strangers at the grocery store, and the community building ability of community radio.

Perhaps the next time you go to the grocery store, my story will inspire you to have a personal interaction with a shopper or employee whom you do not know, crossing a divide that may help you and that person bring our world a little bit closer together.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.