Until There's An Answer
Gang related incidents have been a chronic problem throughout the United States for several
years now. Los Angeles, perhaps the area most troubled by gang violence in the country, is once again in
the news. On September 17, 1995, 3-year-old Stephanie Kuhen was with her younger brother, 2-year-old
Joseph Kuhen when the driver of the car taking them home made a wrong turn early Sunday morning.
Gang members surrounded the vehicle, blocked the driver's escape and opened fire. Stephanie Kuhen was
killed and Joseph was shot through the ankle. Currently, there are four members of the gang known as
the "Mexican mafia" in custody. Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams called the gang "vicious,"
saying they have "terrorized" the neighborhood for years1. On September 27, 1995, the Los Angeles
Times printed one response to the shooting written by two emergency physicians, H. Range Hutson MD,
and Deirdre Anglin MD, who were deeply saddened by the shooting.
The strongest argument presented in the letter written by Hutson and Anglin was that unless the
root causes of gang formation are effectively addressed, and gang access to illegally obtained firearms is
nullified, gang violence will continue. The claim was presented in such a fashion that, while based on
widely accepted ideas, an appeal to the emotions through sympathy for the injured children was also
applied. To justify their claim, statistics such as 28 children under the age of 10 were murdered between
1987 and 1994, 95% of which were murdered with firearms and over half the murders were done as drive-
byes. Unfortunately, the means to correct even one of these problems was not included.
Hutson and Anglin do cite what they consider to be the root causes of gang formation: poverty,
stressed families, unemployment, underemployment, lack of education, racism, and a breakdown of
sociocultural institutions. However, they do not provide any justification for their "root causes," thus
assuming that the reader will agree with them. I believe that to be an unreasonable assumption
considering that while some people may agree with several of their points, the idea that many people
would agree with all their ideas without some sort of rationale behind it seems somewhat dubious. Even
if it is assumed that the reader agrees with their root causes, the decision not to discuss any means by
which to correct the root causes, significantly weakens their argument. If some type of solution was
suggested, the article would have carried more weight. As it is, they come off as concerned citizens who
recognize a problem that is recognized by many, and like the many, they don't seem to have a solution.
This article does have some good ideas, and the statistics do point out that there is indeed a
problem with today's society. Unfortunately, that was the only supported part of the article. Instead of
including more facts to support their ideas, they opted to go with the emotional approach, describing the,
"horror of these situations." Leaving the paper without a suggestion as to how to rectify the problems they
acknowledge. As it stands, their article is simply another in an ongoing series, that, until a solution is
found, will continue to surface every so often.
1 Courtesy of CNN On-line
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