Gun Rights, Gun Control and a Local Push to Tax Guns and Their Ammo

Ambitious and certain to draw criticism, President Barack Obama’s plan to rid the nation of the most powerful weapons on the market and attempt to arrest mass and everyday shootings was expected by Congress Wednesday, marking a sharp turn in a decades-long fight to curb America’s gun violence. As the debate was playing out in Washington, several local and national leaders gathered at the University of Chicago Tuesday evening to discuss guns and policy, with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose city holds the dubious “murder capital” title, among the group and pushing sweeping gun control legislation that cracks down on assault weapons. Also on the panel was Democratic political consultant David Axelrod, who this week said that the National Rifle Association’s recent assertion that Congress would not enact the sort of change that Obama and others were pressing, was off base. In fact, he said, real legislation will squeeze through the legislative process and signal real change in the nation’s laws and gun dialogue. Also in attendance was the head of the University of Chicago CrimeLab, who noted that while the United States has managed to improve its count of more common crime – property theft, etc.

White House Taps Juvenile Justice Advocates for Expertise on Gun Violence

Representatives from a group of more than 300 juvenile justice and delinquency prevention organizations at the national, state and local level have met with White House staff and Congressional minority leaders at their invitation in recent weeks to provide evidence-based expertise on ways to reduce gun violence in the country, a coalition leader said. As tasked by President Barack Obama in the wake of mass shootings at an elementary school last month, Vice-President Joe Biden and his staff have spent the last few weeks meeting with gun-control advocates, pro-gun rights groups and dozens of concerned organizations in preparation for the release of the vice-president’s recommendations for the prevention of gun violence. According to Politico, Biden indicated today that the president could use an executive order to act on some of his recommendations, which are expected to be made public next week. On Jan. 4, representatives from the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition and other advocates met with aides to the president and vice-president, including Tonya Robinson, a special assistant to the President on the White House Domestic Policy Council; Evan Ryan, an assistant to Biden; and Mary Lou Leary, the acting director of the Office of Justice Programs, said Nancy Gannon Hornberger, a coalition leader who was present at the meeting.

Q&A With New Jim Crow Author Michelle Alexander

JJIE and Youth Today Washington, D.C. correspondent Kaukab Jhumra Smith is in Cincinnati this week covering a conference sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund. Among the more than 3,000 people in attendance is legal scholar Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Smith managed to catch up with her to ask a few questions. JJIE: What do you think is the civil rights issue of our day? Alexander: I think the disposal of people who are viewed as “other,” defined along lines of race and class is a civil rights issue of the day.

Child Advocates Prepare to Rally in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI – Marian Wright Edelman sees this as a “do or die” moment for American democracy. The first black woman to join the Mississippi bar, Edelman led the NAACP’s legal defense fund in Jackson in the 1960s. She’s seen her share of social injustice. But rising incarceration, poverty and social disparity in the United States is increasingly harming children and poor people, she says – the country’s most vulnerable groups — while special interests and money control the political system. It’s time for citizens to roll up their sleeves, she says.

John Lash

Assessing the Cradle-To-School-To-Prison Pipeline

For some time I have read about the “school to prison pipeline,” an idea that links zero tolerance policies, school policing, disproportionate minority contact with disciplinary processes, and other factors to the increased incarceration of minority youth. The basic idea is that the system formed by these practices and structures contributes to putting more kids in prison. Lately, I have come across a similar term, the cradle to prison pipeline. This is the phrase trademarked by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). It is daunting to consider that societal structures and policies can have such an affect on a newborn.

Two Candidates Out of Touch With the Struggles of Ordinary Americans

Back in the fall, a recent college grad named Adam Valdez spoke at a press conference in Atlanta put on by Jobs With Justice, an organization that is part of a larger movement working towards social and economic justice. During his short speech, he talked about a mountain of student loans and a desert of decent paying jobs.  Then he mentioned, “wage slavery.”

He was just one kid, on one block, in one American city. But he was hitting on a reality facing so many young people today. There aren’t many jobs out there and the ones they can find hardly pay a living wage. I’ve been thinking about Adam Valdez the last few weeks as I’ve watched the leading GOP contenders for the nomination — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich –- attack each other.

Sexual Abuse in Juvenile Facilities

Some alarming numbers about children who are sexually abused while in custody are contained in a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on May 10, 2010 from seven national advocacy groups.  The Children’s Defense Fund,  Campaign for Youth Justice,  Youth Law Center  and other groups created a report called Preventing the Sexual Abuse of Youth in Correctional Settings. Some of their recommendations:

Training in adolescent development for people who work or volunteer in youth facilities. More direct supervision by trained adults instead of video surveillance. Assessment standards and safety plans to keep vulnerable children safe. Limiting harsh responses to consensual sex between residents, where it may not be abusive

The report contains current federal laws, plus information about the new Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act currently under review in Congress.  It also features research, questionnaires, and resolutions from the PTA, the American Bar Association, the NAACP and other organizations concerned about the risks of placing juveniles under 18 in adult prisons. See more numbers here.