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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Urban Food Desert

I've written a new Storify piece and this one is on Urban Food Deserts. This is a new buzz trend around urban areas, but it has a lot of layers if you look at it as more than the absence or presence of food. Take a look at or click on the title above to read it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Girl dies from stray bullet - KCMO. We need a market solution

She was 11. She was enjoying fireworks in a fenced backyard with adult supervision. She died from a gunshot wound that came from someone shooting off a gun for fun. The stray bullet found her.

Bullets find a destination - a tree, a house, the ground, a person. They don't just fall to the ground. When you fire a gun with a bullet in it, the bullet will hit something. In this case it was an 11 year old girl who had nothing to do with the bullet. But she became its destination.

My neighborhood pal, DeShawn, also fell victim to an unintentional bullet that found him 3 years ago. He was 14 or 15. Last week a 24 year old man was sitting in Sanford Brown park 2 blocks from my house and was killed by a bullet that seems to have been fired without intention of hitting him. He was sitting in the park talking to his father.

Guns are everywhere in KCMO. The police have been ineffective at managing weapons for years and now they are so prevalent, that there is no stopping them. Other cities have had cash for guns programs to get weapons off the street. But that type of thing just gets the tip of the iceberg. Weapons have a cache like no other object. It is power in your hand and I've seen the look in people's eyes when they hold that power. It's power that we don't ordinarily have at our disposal in our circumscribed existence. We are told what to like, sold stuff we don't need, fed junk food, left to fend for ourselves to find nonexistent jobs with poor salaries, for which many people will not be hired. We are forced out of our homes due to our own foreclosure or the foreclosure on the landlord. Our goods are put on the street because we have no where to put our accumulation of possessions as we urban couch surf with friends, relatives, or wherever we can find a spot of shelter. It is not surprising that guns provide a measure of control in an out of control existence that many people face day-to-day.

The random bullet trajectory phenomenon is becoming too common. Once a week I read about this in KCMO, in Camden, in KCK. I'm sure it is no different in every urban place in the country.  Meanwhile the police are helpless to stop this most insidious form of violence. There is little we can do to prevent these random firings. The shooters have little incentive to think before they shoot. It's all part of the randomness that they associate with what passes for "life." The police can't confiscate guns because we defend our right to have them. But having a gun won't protect you from the random bullet looking for a destination. Police will investigate and try to find the shooter and put them in jail, as they should do. But that won't bring back this little girl who was having fun in a fenced yard, supervised by adults, minding her own business.

A child was shot in Camden, NJ last week - caught in crossfire on the street. We can keep our children off the street to minimize their exposure. But random bullets find their way into houses too. I've read too often the story of someone sitting in their house and wounded or killed by a stray bullet that came to rest in their body as it sought its final destination.

Of course, the obvious solution to gunfire is to make bullets cost about $100 each. Use the market to force those with guns to think carefully about shooting before they do so because it costs them money. Heck, make bullets cost $500 or $1000 a piece. People who are adamant about self-protection can purchase those bullets like an insurance policy. Odds are they will never shoot a bullet anyway. We better get creative in understanding the social motives of the bullet and stop relying on ineffective criminal justice to protect us. Deterrents don't work because the odds of being caught are slim. Market forces could save innocent lives.