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May 2015 • Online Edition

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Caring For Our Kids And Caring For Our Parks | Print |  E-mail

by Paul Kashmann

Gun lovers need to chill out.

If it were up to me guns would disappear. All of them. Every last one. I believe humans make mistakes. Mistakes with guns tend to be quite serious.

I am not the boss of you, however, and I’m aware there are many who see this issue through a different lens than do I, so your bedside pistol and Davy Crockett hunting rifle should be safe for now.

Guns have never been part of my family’s culture. Dad was armed in World War II, and never wanted to see another weapon once he got home. He declined to carry a sidearm as a volunteer cop with our hometown police department. Not even when riots broke out in Newark in the summer of 1967, and it was feared that angry mobs would drive the few miles up the hill and create havoc in the lily white New Jersey suburb rather than staying at home and torching their own communities.

There is absolutely no question that a discussion about what role firearms should play in American life is entirely appropriate. We’re losing tens of thousands of people every year to gun violence. We need to figure out why, and what we might do about that situation.

Also relevant is the fact the Second Amendment was crafted some 221 years ago, talks only about a well-regulated militia, and any policy deserves to be dusted off and refurbished to reflect present context every couple of centuries or so. (And I know the Supreme Court expanded the reach of Amendment II in 2008, but as these are the same yahoos who told us corporations are people, I take the wisdom of that expansion with a grain of salt. You read the decision and see if the word juggling done by the majority justices makes any sense to you.)

As devastating and unspeakable and heartbreaking was the tragedy that ravaged Sandy Hook, many more than have been lost at all the mass killings of recent years are lost each year on America’s streets and in America’s homes from fatal injuries attributed to guns.

We think the conversation needs to be so much more broad than simply focusing on gun control. The president needs to embark on an initiative – it could be called POKE (Protect Our Kids Everywhere) – that would examine a broad spectrum of issues threatening our children and families: child abuse and neglect; child trafficking and pornography; the effect of electronic technologies – including video games and mass media – on our safety; the need for parental support services; and yes, gun control.

Look folks, we lost roughly 3,000 people as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001 and it resulted in the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and changed the way we live much of our lives in America. Each year five to ten times the number lost on 9/11 (depending on which study you read and how they are interpreted) are taken from us by gun-related attacks or accidents. Is that not an ongoing assault on the security of our homeland?

If an open, inclusive debate comes up with a consensus that we want guns to be a part of our culture, we simply must do a better job of protecting all citizens against their misuse. I’m thinking my guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is at least as worthy of protection as your right to be part of a well regulated militia.

Next topic ...

Mayor Michael Hancock is spearheading a land trade by which Denver Public Schools will get 11.5 acres of city ground in southeast Denver on which to build a school, in exchange for a DPS office building at 1330 Fox St. in which the city will house a variety of programs addressing issues related to domestic violence.

Sounds like a good trade, eh? The southeast district appears to be in real need of more ECE/elementary seats, and how can you not like beefing up services for those men, women and children threatened by abuse at home.

The fly in the ointment is the fact that nine of the acres the city is preparing to hand over to DPS are part of the Denver parks system. Specifically, they will be surgically removed from a designated natural area in Hentzell Park, near John F. Kennedy Golf Course. Normally, by declaration of our city charter, it requires a vote of the people to allow for the sale or transfer of parkland. Conveniently for the city in this case, it turns out that many pieces of Denver park space – the Hentzell Park natural area among them – are designated as park property, but not officially “dedicated” as such. While dedicated properties require the people to vote to approve their sale, “designated” properites do not.

The last major Denver parks dedication effort took place in 1956, and the process has been spotty since that time. Ruby Hill Park is among the more notable sites still listed as not dedicated. A recent decision by Lauri Danemiller, Manager of Parks and Recreation, has de-designated the Hentzell Park 9 acres, and a vote by City Council is the final hurdle to the land being sold.

We are fairly well convinced that DPS could use additional classroom space in the southeast area, and we certainly applaud the mayor’s commitment to a domestic violence center. However, we are not convinced that there are no other options for either end of the proposed deal – either other sites for a southeast school, or for the aforementioned center. It is too easy to write off a few acres of parkland  here and a few acres there as inconsequential. We think the city has too few spaces where one can get some peace and quiet, and should hold on to those slivers with a tight fist.

Should City Council approve the land swap, we very much encourage that body to insist that legal wording be included in any transfer agreement limiting the use of Hentzell Park acreage to school construction only, regardless of any future change in demographics that might lead DPS to be tempted to sell the land to a third party for commercial use.

We applaud the mayor for attempting to be creative in meeting a city need without putting further pressure on an over-stretched budget, and we think it best if he tries to be just a little more creative.

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