Turning guns into gardening tools in Milwaukee

There have so far been 93 homicides in Milwaukee, more than two-thirds of them committed with firearms.

Back in October a group of Milwaukee pastors announced plans and sought city support for a gun buyback program, along with demands for greater job investment in the city. While city leaders supported such a buyback program, no money for it was initially promised. And Police Chief Edward Flynn wanted any gun buyback program to be part of a larger anti-crime effort in the communities.

Now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, two recycling companies have offered to fund the Milwaukee gun buyback program. According to the plan, guns purchased through the program would be given to the recyclers to melt down and use the metal to form new gardening tools. Rather than beating swords into ploughshares, Milwaukee would be turning guns into rakes and hoes, as well as supporting local businesses.

English: Milwaukee, Wisconsin The Milwaukee Pu...
English: Milwaukee, Wisconsin The Milwaukee Public Market (Photo credit: Dori via Wikipedia. CC, some rights reserved. Click on photo for copyright information.)

But how to turn poverty, hopelessness and violence into good work, good wages and healthy communities?

Any reduction in the number of guns in Milwaukee will be helpful, but to move the young away from violence the city and state must also, as the pastors suggest, get serious about investing in our poorest urban communities. Gov. Walker’s “Transform Milwaukee” plan, proposed last year, is failing to transform Milwaukee’s poverty in any significant way; it is not doing enough to get good, well-paying jobs into the communities that need them most. Half of Milwaukee’s African-American men are unemployed and many are likely underemployed as well. Such a jobs crisis requires a major commitment by the state, county and city, the sort of commitment only a direct government investment (funded by taxing the rich and big corporations more) can accomplish. Walker’s Wisconsin is simply not prepared to address the problem.

Professor Marc Levine calculates that the black male jobless rate in Milwaukee has more than doubled since 1970, so this is a problem Wisconsin has not tackled for quite a while. Levine offered some government actions that could be taken to alleviate black unemployment, including public investment in green jobs and a well-funded prisoner re-entry program.

But, in the meantime, we do need fewer guns and more gardens in Milwaukee and just about everywhere.

UPDATE (11/26)– Also see this recent post by Journal Sentinel blogger Claire Van Fossen on the low “business participation rate” of black-owned businesses in Milwaukee.

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