12/22/12 7:58am
12/22/2012 7:58 AM

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

— Second Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution 

“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

—National Rifle Association
bumper sticker 

So the Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic carbine that fired 11 lethal bullets into the body of a 6-year-old last Friday in Newtown, Conn. was legally purchased and licensed by the killer’s mother. Oh, isn’t that reassuring.

And where will it happen next time — and there will be a next time, there’s always a next time — a nursing home? Or the halls of Congress? It’s not a question of when, only of where.

This madness must stop, and it’s perfectly clear to me where we must start. And it’s not with better mental health screening or with better security in schools or, as some idiots have suggested, with arming school principals.

We must start by banning the ownership of semi-automatic (and automatic) weapons by private citizens. Period.

Screw the Second Amendment. We no longer have a “well regulated Militia.” Nowhere is it written that we have a right to own weapons of mass destruction. The guns Adam Lanza wielded last week — and I’m talking about both the rifle and the two semi-automatic pistols — should be available only to military and law enforcement personnel. And the ones already in circulation should be subject to a buyback program like the one that worked so successfully in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

And that’s not all we should do. No one who walks into a gun show should be able to walk out with a new gun. Anyone who purchases a new gun should be subject to a reasonable waiting period — during which his or her background should be properly vetted — before taking possession of that gun. And the vetting doesn’t have to be that complex. In Canada, they require gun purchasers to provide two personal references, which probably would have stopped the obviously troubled Adam Lanza in his tracks … if his mother hadn’t purchased those assault weapons legally. Which is exactly my point. Those guns never should have been available to her.

To do what I’m suggesting will, of course, involve a direct confrontation with those defenders of the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association. Bring it on. In the wake of this epidemic of mass killings in America, the NRA can no longer be considered viable or relevant. If it doesn’t moderate its position, these treacherous assault weapons must be pried from the organization’s cold, dead hands.

The U.S. Constitution is not, and was never intended to be, inviolate. It has, and it must, change with the times. Government must have the power to regulate assault weapons — just as it has the power to ban smoking in public places or require the use of seat belts — neither of which could have been foreseen by our founding fathers. (Also, see suffrage for women and the abolition of slavery.)

I had hoped President Obama would address the gun control issue when he spoke in Newtown Sunday night. His remarks were sensitive and consoling, but I think he missed, once again, an opportunity to say what must be said. I kept thinking to myself, “OK, Mr. President, but what are you going to DO? Specifically, what are you going to DO?”

If Barack Obama is the man I think he is, the man I hope he is, the man I’ve voted for two times now, he ultimately will be remembered as the president who led the fight to bring some sanity to the issue of gun ownership in America.

tgustavson@timesreview.com

11/15/12 6:01am
11/15/2012 6:01 AM

I began to write this column a month ago but then some newsmakers named Sandy and Barack got in the way. It (the column) was prompted by news reports that the Boy Scouts of America had covered up decades (1959-1985) of sex abuse, which in turn stirred up some uncomfortable personal memories of my own. And I suppose the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal was a factor, too.

After the names of offending Scout leaders were released publicly, the first thing I did was ask Times/Review executive editor Grant Parpan to check the web for the name of the Scout leader who had attempted to grope me when I first joined the Scouts in the late ’50s. His name wasn’t on the list, but then we realized that’s probably because the incident took place before 1959. It’s also possible his name wasn’t there because his predilection for pubescent boys was never discovered.

What was most remarkable about the incident wasn’t that a pedophile was the leader of my Scout troop — it was my parents’ reaction to the incident, which, as I recall, occurred shortly after I made the transition from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. To their credit, they agreed to let me quit Scouting immediately, never to return. But that was the end of it. My father did not confront Mr. N., Scouting authorities weren’t alerted and, most saliently, local law enforcement officials were never notified.

An aberration, a momentary lapse in good judgment, you might surmise. But wait! That wasn’t the only time my parents opted not to drop a dime on a sexual predator. And the second incident was far more frightening because it lasted an entire weekend.

I honestly don’t remember if it happened before or after my brief experience in Boy Scouting, but other details are indelibly etched in my memory. It took place in a cottage in Greenwood Lake, N.Y., just over the border from New Jersey.

Long story writ short: The unmarried brother of a former high school girlfriend of my father’s owned a car dealership in Bergen County, N.J. He invited me and two other young boys — the sons of one of my mother’s nursing school classmates — to spend the weekend alone with him at the lake. And our parents agreed to let us go!

Am I off base in suggesting that red flags should have been raised? That parents today would think twice, or even thrice, about sending their children away for the weekend with a bachelor they barely knew? Yes, it was a more innocent era, but still …

Fortunately, there were three of us that weekend. I’ll call the brothers “Chip” and “Bruce,” and what I remember most is that we were inseparable for those two days, making certain no one of us was put in the position of being alone with “Henry,” whose unsavory intentions became quite clear as soon as we arrived at the cottage.

That was in the days before cellphones, and I’m pretty sure there was no land line at the cottage, so it wasn’t until we returned to Bergen County Sunday evening that we were able to tell our parents what had happened. And once again: silence.

Oh, I suppose our fathers might have taken “Henry” aside for a little talking to, and we never saw the man again, as far as I can recall. But once again, that was it. Hush-hush, no cops, no consequence — for “Henry,” at least.

My, how times have changed — for the better. It is inconceivable to me that parents today would let incidents like these go unreported and unpunished. Or that parents and school officials wouldn’t routinely alert children to the dangers posed by pedophiles and assure them that it’s OK to report abuse or attempted abuse. Fifty years ago, the response — at least based on my family’s experience — was to handle things discreetly and then quietly sweep them under the rug. Today, you can plug your street address into a data base and find out instantly if a child predator lives in your neighborhood.

And please don’t read this and conclude that my parents were clueless or, worse still, negligent. They were loving, caring parents who probably thought they acted appropriately and in the best interests of their child. That’s just how situations like that were handled back then — at least in civilized society. (In other societies, I suppose, that Scout leader and “Henry” might have had more to worry about than their reputations.) But today, at the very least they would be candidates for a serious “time out,” ranging from public censure to incarceration.

As well they should be.

tgustavson@timesreview.com

09/27/12 9:45am
09/27/2012 9:45 AM

In his column last week, Troy Gustavson wrote about a recent incident in which he drove friends to Greenport from his home in Orient despite the group “having consumed more glasses of wine than [he cares] to count.”

“At no time during the drive did I consider myself impaired, but if I had been stopped by the police I do not know if I would have passed a Breathalyzer test,” he wrote.

The incident, he said, came to mind recently when a friend challenged him about this newspaper’s policy of publishing the names of all persons arrested for driving while intoxicated.

At the end of his column, Mr. Gustavson asked readers to share their thoughts about our policy.

“Should the newspaper publish the names of all those arrested for DWI?” he wrote. “Does the inevitability of that publication have a deterrent effect that keeps drunk drivers off the roads? Or does publication prematurely and unfairly stigmatize those who have been arrested?”

Here’s a sample of some of the online comments and emails he received from readers this week:

Troy,

My suggestion is this: Keep the arrests to the print version, keep out of the online version.

I think there is value in letting the local public know of these violations — there is a bit of a shaming aspect to it, and hopefully having their neighbors know of their mistake will make them more cautious in the future.

The problem with posting them online is that they become a matter of public record forever. More and more businesses conduct background checks on potential employees. A simple Google search could harm a person’s career many, many years after the offense. We all make mistakes, but posting them on the internet creates a permanent red flag, which seems cruel and unusual.

Just my two cents.

Rob

Troy,

Your article on publishing the names of those arrested for DWI was interesting. My feeling is that the names should not be published. We live in small towns where everyone knows everyone, if not personally then at least by name. Too much harm occurs not only to the person, but to the family. If you had actually been caught and arrested, how would your grandchildren have felt? Would they have had to face any comments from other students?

Also, I don’t think publishing names is a deterrent to drinking and driving. When you are drinking you certainly are not thinking about the fact that your name might appear in the paper.

I only see this practice as harmful to too many people.

But I admire your publishing the article. You are a very truthful person!

Betty Christy

Troy,

Print the names. During my career I have personally witnessed too many accidents that resulted from DWI/DWAI. It is such a simple gesture that may serve as a deterrent. It is a public service worthy of the Suffolk Times.

Kathy Tole

Troy,

I’m not gonna lie, my name has appeared in this paper far more than I’d like, but I flat out deserved it at the time. I was not inebriated. I consciously knew the who, what, when, where and why concerning the situations and also did what had to be done to clear my name. That’s how society rolls. If you do something stupid, get caught or rat yourself out, then be prepared to be judged on a social level.

I’m not saying judging is the morally correct thing to do (let’s face it, who are we to judge?), but if that’s how the fallout happened, roll with it and learn.

I sure did.

Anne Marie Grossman

Troy,

If you print names that are accused, why not print what happens after court? Many DWI cases get thrown out or the driver receives a reduced sentence. As far as you driving, they have the level so low today that even if you had one glass of wine, waited an hour and then drove, if you got stopped you would still be considered drunk. The only way around it is to not drive.

Laurie Downs

Troy,

Greater legal minds than mine have determined it to be a crime, because too many have died as a result of such. Thank you for your honesty. It raises awareness.

Joan Redlon

Troy,

I am in favor of publishing DWI arrests.

Most times the plea downs are procedural and do not reflect the impaired driving.

I do know that the .08 is an impossible, most likely political impossible, limit and I have known lawyers who think it should be .1.

Me, I am the designated driver.

Thanks for broaching the subject.

JN

Troy,

Driving drunk is something I did almost 40 years ago and got away with. I haven’t had a drink in almost 40 years, because I can’t handle it … I had a big problem with that.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea if they had the name of the person and put his or her picture with it. I think it would help.

Anthony Kearney

07/31/12 8:00pm
07/31/2012 8:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The NOFO Rock & Folk Fest at Peconic Bay Winery was one attempt to bring live music to the North Fork.

At the risk of stirring up some of those old “Troy has South Fork envy” complaints that arose many years ago when I compared downtown Greenport unfavorably to downtown Sag Harbor, this week I wish to discuss the distinct differences between Long Island’s two forks when it comes to presenting live music.

At its most elemental level, it comes down to this: How come the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is so vital but Riverhead’s Suffolk Theatre remains stuck in neutral several decades after it was first proposed as a performing arts center?

Or why does East Hampton’s Stephen Talkhouse nightclub consistently attract nationally acclaimed performers while North Fork venues present mostly local talent.

Call me negative, but when I think of live music here I think mostly of what might have been. Like the several hundred hearty souls who attended the East End Arts Council’s Delbert McClinton concert at the Talmage farm on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow.

Or the disappointing turnouts (to me, at least) at the first two NOFO Music Festivals at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue — although festival organizer Josh Horton has a more upbeat interpretation of that experience, as expressed in his comments below. Or the suspension for one year of the Riverhead Blues Festival, followed by a 2012 resumption that left the sponsor, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, thousands of dollars in the red.

There have been some limited successes, of course. Like the short-lived rock and roll shows promoter Preston Powell once brought to the movie theater in Greenport. Or the generally low-key musical performances that have become standard at North Fork vineyards. (Said one wag I surveyed on this question: “It’s just that those bands all work for less than $200.”)

Or the live music offerings of The Arts in Southold Town — although even that volunteer-based organization was forced to disband in part because of the rigors of presenting.

Also on the plus side of the ledger, says East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder, is “the success of Winterfest Jazz on the Vine, which drew an estimated 7,500 people to the North Fork in the dead of winter. Even though vineyards were not built for performance,” she continues, “we make the best of it (along with a really good glass of wine) and enjoy world-class music. Last winter we had at least six Grammy-winning or -nominated musicians. The audience came from well beyond the Suffolk County borders. I believe it’s a matter of knowing who we are as an area and leveraging those qualities.”

What it comes down to — most of the people I’ve spoken to seem to agree — is geography and demographics.

Geographically speaking, Westhampton is much more accessible to the hundreds of thousands of potential customers who live in Brookhaven and Southampton towns. What’s more, as another friend points out, somewhat defensively, “While North Forkers will readily go to the South Side for stuff, those people often feel like they’re taking their lives in their own hands to come north.”

Demographically speaking, there’s significantly more wealth and a younger audience on the South Fork. The kind of wealth, in the form of corporate sponsorships and individual donations, that can help underwrite operating losses at the performing arts center in Westhampton.

And the kind of audience that most likely will sell out upcoming shows for such big name acts as Rufus Wainwright, Joe Walsh, Pat Metheny and k.d. lang. And with ticket prices ranging from just under $100 to just under $150!

Price resistance is definitely a factor here on the North Fork. One-day passes to the NOFO Fest approached $50, and even at that comparatively low level there appeared to be resistance. That’s one of the reasons why NOFO will be reconstituted this summer as a concert series instead of a multiple-day festival.

Still, organizer Josh Horton chooses to place a more upbeat spin on the change of plans, saying it’s “not grounded in the difficulty of producing live music initiatives.” Nor was he discouraged by the response to the first two festivals.

Instead, he says, “There’s a tremendous opportunity and demand for quality live music. That’s what we experienced with the first two NOFO festivals in 2010 and ’11. But this year, we’re taking a slightly different approach. Instead of being all things to all people over the course of two days,” he said, NOFO will become a concert series that presents national acts in a “more intimate setting.” And at a significantly reduced price.

Case in point: the just-announced tribute to Levon Helm, the recently departed founding member of The Band, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19, on the main lawn at Peconic Bay Winery. It will feature Helm’s daughter, Amy Helm, and the Dirt Farmer Band, which backed up Levon Helm on two award-winning albums. And tickets will be priced at just $20 in advance, $25 at the gate.

So instead of needing to sell 1,000 tickets, as they did with the larger festival, Josh said, they’ll need to sell 200 to 300.

“We want to make sure the focus is on the music,” he said, noting how the “time and focus spent on vendors and additional activities became a large part of the festival and diminished the focus on the music.”

So, North Fork music fans, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Let’s start small, with the purchase of a ticket or two for the Levon Helm show. And if that works out, we can start to think bigger, say the purchase and remodeling of the old Greenport Auditorium into a live contemporary music venue that makes the ghost of Stephen Talkhouse wish his Native American tribe had relocated to the North Fork.

tgustavson@timesreview.com