Ironic that the U.S. Conference of Mayors should hold its Thursday summit on youth violence in Salt Lake City since some of the conference's proposed gun-control measures would give the average Utah gun-rights advocate an apoplectic attack.
Among other things, the mayors propose outlawing the purchase of more than one gun a month in order to keep adults from buying guns for youth, making gun owners criminally liable for children who gain access to improperly stored guns and prohibiting advertising that suggests having a gun in the home makes a family safer."If we can take away the means and the opportunities for youths to engage in violent activity, and instead impart them with healthy attitudes and provide attractive alternatives, we can stop the elements that can cause some children to become killers," said Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini, who is chairing the meeting in her capacity of president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The Thursday summit was intended to result in an action plan against youth violence which Corradini and the other mayors will present to President Bill Clinton on Oct. 15, with the ultimate goal of enacting corresponding federal legislation.
The mayors played a major role in the 1994 federal crime bill.
The summit focused on four areas - school violence, latchkey children at loose ends after school, youth violence in the news mediaand youth violence in movies and television.
In addition to the gun control proposals, measures addressing those four areas included installing more school metal detectors, initiating more after-school programs, ending sensationalist violence in news coverage and scheduling television programs containing high levels of violence -including reality-based programs -only late at night after young children are in bed.
Some of those measures, obviously, are easier to implement than others. Governments can create after-school programs and pass laws requiring such things as metal detectors, but ending sensationalist violence, in addition to the problem of forcing the hand of television producers, depends on a very tricky judgment call regarding what is "sensationalist."
"There's no cookie-cutter solution to this stuff," said Lynn Cutler, White House assistant for intergovernmental affairs. "We're just beginning on a road of action planning."
Apart from the action plan, the summit was also intended as a forum simply to exchange ideas. Mayors shared things that have worked in their cities, such as Minneapolis' information line called "What's Up?" that gives youths and their parents information about free programs, activities, education and employment opportunities in their area.
"Most parents do not have a clue on activities such as girl scouts and youth programs," said Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sales Belton.
Curiously, given the emphasis on schools, while the summit's approximately 100 participants included a gaggle of mayors, entertainment personalities, government types (including U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno) and others, relatively few school officials besides teachers' union representatives were included.
Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Darline Robles said she wasn't bothered. "This is the mayors' platform," she said. "There will be plenty of education officials when the president holds his conference" when the mayors formally present their action plan.