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Social media makes it too easy for Latino gang members to talk guns and violence

LatinaLista — If the amount of violence was gauged by news headlines, then the prevalent assumption would be that violent crime is on the rise.

It’s not.

At least, not according to the 2012 US Census Statistical Abstract.

The total amount of violent acts in the US is at its lowest level — 429,000 in 2009, (the most recent year for information) as opposed to 2008 when 458,000 violent crimes were reported.

Yet, the average person who listens to the daily news wouldn’t know that. Just like anyone who happened to be surfing Facebook or MySpace and came across pictures of Latino young people posing with guns would automatically assume they’re looking at profile pics of gang members or drug dealers.

Unfortunately, they could be right.

An article in the Washington Post tells of how law enforcement uses social media sites to track down gang members and drug dealers. Evidently, it’s pretty easy.

In almost all the social media sites, these young people are either posting something about weapons or pictures of themselves with weapons.

The officers frequently come upon postings by members that threaten violence or refer to firearms, according to the lieutenant. “I got Dat 3 5 7, so don’t try your luck,” one teen wrote in a posting describing a .357-caliber handgun in his possession, according to Pavlik.

The article talks of pictures posted by these teens on their social media pages. One was of a boy sitting at a dinner table with a woman believed to be his abuela — he was holding a shiny black gun. Officers determined it was plastic.

The comfort level that some Latino teens have with guns is not just disturbing but frightening. It’s frightening because guns, to these teens, aren’t just a fashion accessory to pose with — they’re a status symbol to prove how tough they are.

And that’s bad news in light of the national gang threat assessment for 2011 which says that gang membership has increased 40 percent in just two years. Of course, that’s not only Latino gangs but it doesn’t quite matter when the weapon of choice of any gang member is anything with a trigger and a barrel.

Though officially the violent crime rate is reported to be on the decline, there are enough stories every day of young people getting shot by someone of their own age that it makes one wonder if there is a disconnect between Washington and urban pockets across the country.

Yet, what’s more important, is that the disconnect between some parents and their children can no longer go on.

No longer can parents accept their children’s explanations for why they’re “out in the streets” at all hours of the day instead of at home sleeping or studying.

No longer can parents sit idly by as their kids tat up their bodies.

No longer can parents ignore their gut instinct telling them they’re kids’ new friends aren’t good for them to be around.

No longer can parents say nothing as they see their kids become more fascinated with guns and violence.

And no longer should parents ignore their kids’ social media pages.

(Editor’s note: Latina Lista has accepted participation in the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters’ mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the US media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.)

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