Visiting editors on gang prevention, guns and water

May 25, 2013 

Editor's note: Our second-quarter visiting editors write on a subject of their choice

Gigi DeVault

Gang families destroy the minds and prospects of their youth and represent one of the most glaring failures of our society. Even when a gang member — rarely and remarkably — achieves a glimmer of cultural perspective, he or she remains trapped by their culture, bad or forced choices, and by the terrible odds that they will die trying to change their situation.

There are only so many times when society can get sufficient traction to change the trajectory of these young lives: Early childhood, during grade school and the brief critical windows when a stint of juvenile detention or incarceration has ended. To use any of these windows as an effective short circuit to gang affiliation, resources are required. As always, resource allocation, socio-political will and the viability of interventions ultimately dictate the outcomes that can be achieved.

Our gang intervention strategies are crippled by moral relativism and a misguided regard for the sanctity of the family. It's as though we're trying to fight polio without vaccine, waiting until crippling symptoms appear and then throwing up our hands at the enormity and severity of the problem.

Anti-gang programs should begin in kindergarten, rather than waiting until middle school when gang affiliations are already cemented. Daytime curfews can help ensure that kids who aren't in school are detained, their parents fined for repeat offenses. One group cannot have so much liberty that they deprive others of liberty.

We have stringent laws to protect children from neglect and from being put in harm's way. Yet our laws don't criminalize the incubation of gang behavior. We should no more tolerate gangster lifestyles in our midst than we would permit families of cannibals to move into our neighborhoods and practice their horrific beliefs.

DeVault is a business development specialist living in Oakdale.

Don Moyer

Many citizens across the country are concerned by recent gun-related crimes in the news. Ironically, it's possible that Vice President Joe Biden has accidentally hit upon a partial solution. In a recent online interview organized by Parents Magazine, Biden advised caller Kate Ernest, "If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barreled shotgun." The vice president reiterated several times during the interview: "Buy a shotgun."

It seems the public is taking Biden's advice to heart. At a recent NRA convention in Houston, a fellow named Kyle Coplen announced the formation of a new nonprofit group, The Armed Citizen Project, which has begun providing free pump shotguns to citizens of Houston and 15 other cities, including New York and Chicago. Applicants who pass a background check and a safety and familiarization course are given a free riot gun to defend their homes.

The first participants have been primarily lower-income single mothers, although others may qualify as well. The group targets a specific high-crime area and provides area residents who qualify with free 12-gauge pump shotguns. Signs are then posted around the neighborhoods that are similar to Neighborhood Watch signs, advising that citizens of the area are armed and trained.

Coplen observes, "It's our position that criminals do not want to die in your hallway. We think society can use that fear to deter crime."

A shotgun makes a great defensive gun. Just the unique sound of a 12-gauge shell being pumped into the action is enough to make almost any intruder flee the scene as quickly as possible. It seems amazing that our vice president might be the inspiration for a free gun home defense program.

Moyer, who lives in Ripon, is an outdoor writer and owner of Moyer Consulting.

Wayne Zipser

In 2007, I had an opportunity to join a group of agricultural representatives from Stanislaus County as we visited the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency to look at the world's largest water recycling facility, designed to irrigate raw food crops. We were amazed at what we saw.

The primary source of water for that region is from its aquifers hundreds of feet below the ground. Due to ever- increasing pressure from farms, businesses and residences for available water, a huge depletion of groundwater reserves was created. In turn, it also created a saltwater intrusion from the Pacific Ocean that would jeopardize the entire agricultural industry and economy in the region.

To help solve that problem, a group of community leaders in the mid-1970s started discussing the idea of recycling wastewater. In the 1980s, an extensive five-year study proved that recycled wastewater could be safe for irrigating crops. Today, blended, recycled and pump water is used to irrigate more than 12,000 acres in the Salinas Valley. It provided a great partnership and solved the problem of saltwater intrusion.

Modesto has partnered with the water-thirsty Del Puerto Water district on the west side to help use recycled water to irrigate 17,000 to 20,000 acres of farmland — another great partnership with some problem-solving results. This is a tool that California can use in its conservation toolbox, along with the other technology that has come our way.

I think most people in the water world can agree that California cannot conserve our way out of the water shortages that we see today, especially on the west side of our valley with only 20 percent irrigation allocation this year.

We should continue to look to new technology to find the best practices to help with our natural resources and our growing population, but we can't ignore the fact that we have more fish in the fish bowl. We need a bigger bowl with more water.

Zipser is a third-generation farmer and executive manager of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau.

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