EDITOR: Protesters and defenders of the Santa Rosa festival where children handled military-grade SWAT weapons haven't focused on the key questions: Is public safety enhanced? Is youth violence less likely"

Studies of youth violence have identified causes, behavioral patterns and preventive practices that work, such as community policing, which includes outreach programs.

However, no research shows that handling weapons reduces youth violence or improves community relations. Certainly, a few minutes holding an automatic rifle is not gun safety education.

Research does show that at-risk youths acquire guns for reasons that include fear of others, especially in gang-ridden neighborhoods, and for "status enhancement." <NO1>Contrary to the hopes of those favoring children holding weapons, a child might take away a message that later leads to getting a gun for personal power and "safety," all too often with tragic results.<NO>

Absent evidence that briefly handing a weapon has some benefit that wouldn't occur just from the charisma of the SWAT officer, I conclude that allowing children to hold weapons at a festival isn't educational and doesn't promote public safety.

Besides, glorifying tools of violence in a park named for Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life was dedicated to non-violence, desecrates his name.


<i>Santa Rosa</i>