Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Project Exile Blog Update

As the Chairman of the Project Exile Advisory Board for the past 16 years, and all that we’ve done to try to remove illegal guns off of our streets, the recent killing of Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson shows that, as a community, we still have a ways to go. It is for that reason that I am devoting this blog to talking about what I believe, once and for all, our community can and must do to reduce the number of illegal guns that are out there, and are in the hands of people who have lost their rights to possess them.

First off, every facet of our community, law enforcement, community leaders, elected officials must speak with one voice. I cannot think of a better, simpler message than that of Project Exile: You + Illegal Gun = Prison. It’s something that anyone can understand. What it does for the law abiding citizens in our community is let them know that we take the problem of illegal guns seriously. Secondly, if we can prevent a few people who’ve heard our message from taking a gun that they are not supposed to have on the streets, we can literally save lives.

Our whole community needs to take an initiative and become involved. It’s the same when it comes to our nation’s security; if you see something, say something. All of us have a responsibility, that if we see someone in the possession of a gun, especially a handgun, that we know should not have one, it’s imperative that we let the authorities know. Someone who is underage, out on parole, or on probation, someone with a history of domestic violence, someone with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, or someone that was dishonorably discharged from the military, these people have lost their rights to possess a handgun. If we see someone who fits into one of those categories, in possession of a handgun, we cannot wait until someone gets hurt or it is too late. We need to let the authorities know. It’s not being a snitch; it’s helping to save lives and being a responsible citizen in our community. Also, law abiding residents ought not to purchase a gun through a straw purchase, for someone who they know cannot legally possess a firearm. If someone asks them to do so, they should also report that person to the authorities.

Thirdly, we must encourage all of the legal gun owners in our community to be responsible gun owners. When we ask gun owners, “Why did you want a gun?” the answer is nearly always “to protect themselves and family or business/property.” If that gun is not directly in their possession, it cannot do what its intended use is. Gun owners need not be negligent and leave their guns where they can be stolen. Responsible gun owners do not leave their guns in their car, under their seat, or in their glove-box when they are not in their car. They don’t leave their gun underneath their pillow, mattress, or in their nightstand when they are not in the house. If broken into, these guns turn into quick cash on the street. They are easy to sell due to their size, and often end up in the wrong hands; the hands of criminals. Several years ago, when we looked at the gun problem, here in our community, we learned that over one third of the crime guns were guns that were legally purchased by law abiding citizens, that were stolen, right here, and got into the hands of people who ought not to have them.

Each month, throughout the year, the Project Exile Advisory Board meets, which it has done for the last 16 years. As representatives from law enforcement and prosecutors from the local, state and federal levels, community agencies, clergy, the media, and the general public, it’s representative of our community, that we come together to try to combat this very serious problem. I can personally vouch that the cooperation that exists in this community is rarely seen, not only in this state, but in this country. The result is the Project Exile program has been recognized as an example in Albany, Washington D.C., and in New York City, and throughout the country.

We can make a difference. We need to make a difference. I believe this is the most serious problem facing our community. We need to be one community, and we can be that one community if people come together and make our community a safe place to work and raise a family.