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Voice of America Afrique radio (French) interviews Jon about the rising U.S. murder rate

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icon-copyright After last week’s horrendous on-air murders (of course, all murders are horrendous) of TV news reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, French language Voice of America this morning invited me to join by phone for a live radio roundtable interview about reported rising homicide rates in various American cities. The broadcast is here on the program l’Amérique et Vous/ America and You.

After finishing my morning trial, I called the interviewer, Jean-Roger Bion, back, told him I would be available, but wondered how much a criminal defense lawyer supporting teeth for the Second Amendment (while that amendment remains in place) would help his story. He said he still wanted me on the program.

I developed strong French-speaking skills over the years through study, including a summer studying in France, and practice, but lately I speak French only occasionally, as comes through in this radio interview, and my June Voice of America TV French interview about the FIFA prosecution. Nevertheless, I believe in spreading the word of the Bill of Rights and justice, and in this interview made points including the following:

  • The Second Amendment puts real limits on how far the government can go in limiting the right to bear arms.
  • I believe strongly in people making the choice not to own firearms. While I do not see a big benefit to having civilians armed (the NRA strongly differs), I am not interested in expanding the criminalization of firearms, particularly where we already have innocent people prosecuted and convicted for firearms possession (just as with many criminal defendants), including as a result of the penchant for police to dragnet-arrest everyone found in a car with a gun, drugs or any other contraband.
  • Violence in America is rampant in part due to the disconnection that so many people have from each other and the vast gulf between those with many and few educational and economic opportunities, particularly in this very challenging economy for poor people. The high level of racism that still exists in society does not help matters. The police state that results from too many police and too many criminal laws even for such minor activities as marijuana smoking does not help ameliorate the level of violence in society, nor does America’s overmilitarization. My comments about societal racism and the economic gap were made early in this 30-minute interview and got omitted from the 19 minute final online recording.
  • The murderer of Alison Parker and Adam Ward could well have found weapons other than a handgun to harm them had a handgun not been available.
  • If handguns were outlawed, that does not prevent criminals from obtaining them, particularly considering the millions of handguns that already are present in the United States.
  • For violence to recede, it is more important to change society than to change the laws.

As a criminal defense lawyer, I point out that I have defended many people charged with violent crimes right through murder and rape and particularly violent assault. Some have been wrongfully accused, some not. I believe I am on the side of the angels with all my criminal defense work. Even when defending someone who probably has committed the alleged crime, I remember Publius Terence‘s apt reminder that Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto./I  am human: nothing human is alien to me. Thich Nhat Hanh takes Publius Terrence a step further in his poem “Please Call Me by My True Names,” recognizing that but for his fortune in experience, resources, compassion and wisdom from an early age, he could have become the child raped by a pirate as well as the pirate who raped her, “my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.”

May all beings come together for this to be a more harmonious and peaceful society and world. This is not pie in the sky. It can be done, starting today with each one of us.