OP-ED: Gun Imagery Probably Not an Effective Way to Make Neighborhoods Safer

It was the equivalent of a “Beware of Dog” sign a homeowner posts not to keep passersby safe, but to deter thieves. Come on my property uninvited, and you’re gonna get bit.

Such a sign may be a lie—you can find such proclamations on fences behind which no pet resides—but a homeowner can post whatever signs she wants on her property. No one’s going to blame her for wanting to scare off predators.

No one could blame a neighborhood-watch group for the Rose Park area for having the same intent. “ATTENTION CRIMINALS,” read a poster some residents noticed at the park one day. “We are watching you. We are going to catch you. We strongly suggest you keep walking….”

But it’s the imagery the group employed to get across the message that left some of the residents feeling uncomfortable: a semi-automatic handgun in the grip of a gloved hand, finger near the trigger.

While the poster featured the Rose Park Neighborhood Association logo, RPNA President Emily Stevens says it was not them.

“The posters […] were only up a day or so, and since the person who put them up did not ask to use the RPNA logo, we took issue with them,” she says. “The RPNA doesn’t run the neighborhood, and we feel like anyone can put up any sign they like.”

Stevens declined to comment on how she feels about the gun imagery, but it might be good for someone who knows the responsible party to point out how wrongheaded such a poster may be.

It feels like we should have no need to point out how ineffective such imagery is likely to be as a deterrent, but presumably whoever put up the poster—let’s call her Gunny—believes otherwise. All we can say to that is: dude, be real. If there’s plenty of crime in states where by law every adult you see could be carrying a gun beneath his coat, no predator is going to see the clipart flier from your printer and start shaking in his boots.

Ineffective is one thing; harmful is something else entirely. And harmful is exactly what employing such imagery may be. Generally speaking, it sends a message of “guns are good” in a city experiencing a spike a gun crime (and with a murder that occurred earlier this week just a few blocks away).

That would be bad enough were we talking only about adult society. But the Rose Park poster was in clear view of children. And it’s the attitudes about guns that we breed into our young people that will dictate whether Long Beach has a future with more or less gun violence than we suffer today.

None of us wants crime in his or her neighborhood. But when choosing our deterrents, we should seriously evaluate how viable they are, and what consequences they may have. Employing empty threats and gun imagery in plain view of children are not choices that are likely to make your neighborhood a better place.

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