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You Can Pry My Party Invitation from My Cold, Dead Hands

by on September 1, 2010

Parties don’t kill people: people kill people.  The slightly altered right-wing bumper sticker slogan retains the ring of truth.  From personal experience, the worst a social gathering can do to you is make you doze off next to a refrigerator or wish that your skull would just go ahead and burst, already.  And I even suspect such antisocial incidents may have partly been my fault.

Yet parties are nonetheless being targeted in Buffalo, as many still look for something to blame for the City Grill shooting instead of someone.  They maybe shouldn’t look past the shooter himself.  But it’s apparently too tempting to accuse the obvious suspect; that never seems to work out on Law & Order, anyway.  The latest attempt to assign culpability that doesn’t involve personal responsibility focuses upon events where bad people may or may not congregate:

The deadly shootings at the City Grill restaurant two weeks ago were not the first time this year that someone has been killed outside a privately promoted Buffalo party attracting a large number of gangsters.

A 26-year-old Buffalo man was fatally shot in the parking lot of a Military Road tavern after a similar party in February, according to Buffalo Police and other law enforcement officials.

And law enforcement officials said they are investigating about a half-dozen other shootings and stabbings that occurred within the past year at other establishments that allowed private promoters to hold parties attracting gang members and associates.

“Definitely, this is something we are concerned about,” Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III told The Buffalo News. “If you’ve got parties that are resulting in stabbings and shootings, it becomes a public safety issue.”

Well, groups of humans are occasionally problematic depending upon their composition.  But we should judge on a party-by-party basis.  Check the guest list first.  The rumored existence of gangster-free revelry is important to consider even when pondering festivities that may or do go bad:

“It’s a very dangerous mix when you have gangsters, a lot of drinking and people showing up who have grudges against each other from things that have happened in the past,” said one police officer who is familiar with the bashes.

That sounds very rap-songy, and not in the Fat Boys sense.  Still, it’s not the fundamental nature of those private soirees that causes the trouble.  It’s the punks who may show up, not the actual jamborees.  For comparison’s sake, I am the one responsible for carrying maybe a bit more mass on my frame than the ideal, not La Nova.

Of course and as usual, Byron Brown isn’t helping clarify anything.  Specifically, he’s setting a bad example by blaming another inanimate object.  Buffalo’s, sigh, mayor is apparently unable to draw the distinction between lawfully- and illicitly-acquired firearms, seen in how he oscillates between claiming “handguns are a problem in communities across America” when he’s not specifically citing “illegal weapons.”

It may seem repetitive to continuously use modifiers like “unlawful” when referring to the implements in question.  But it’s an indispensable distinction.  Consider the difference between legal and illegal immigrants, and the importance of engaging in minor-league wordiness becomes apparent.  Perhaps Brown was too busy seeing if his “Uh” count could pass the rate of 15 per minute to focus on precise language.

With that in mind, why should we believe anything Brown says?  Of course, he’s the same one who infamously claimed Buffalo is a safe city not long after eight people were shot in what will assuredly stand as one of the dumbest of the many dumb things he’s said.  He’s right in the same sense that, aside from the murders, Washington, DC’s crime isn’t that bad. Marion Barry appreciates how he may no longer be the mayor known for making the most infuriating remark possible about crime.  His distinction as longest-serving crackhead remains intact.

Our mayor is also correct that a quadruple murder could have taken place “any place, at any time.”  Well, it’s true as long as it’s any place and time that happens to have felonious gangsters around.  Their presence wrecks tranquility no matter what name they apply to their gatherings.

As for the businesses that may face the danger of hosting such menacing crowds, they must assess customers and decide if the risk outweighs the potential benefits.  The hired legal help for one party host whose event culminated in a deadly assault claims to now know the distinction:

An attorney for Maggie’s — Robert J. Bolm, a former commissioner of the State Liquor Authority — called the incident unfortunate and said he believes it is one of the reasons Maggie’s stopped allowing private promoters to run parties there.

“She stopped having the parties there because they were attracting the wrong people,” Bolm said of owner Margaret Rose. “[Rose] is a good and conscientious business person. She’s owned the place for about 15 years, and it has never been known as a trouble spot, except for these parties.”

That may be the best call for that business under its unique circumstances.  But assessing the character of particular bash-throwers is a far better policy than a blanket policy steeped in overreaction.

As with guns, parties are about the people involved.  There’s no inherent danger without the presence of nefarious intent.  Blame the specific troublesome humans instead.

The genuine danger lies with the sort of human being who thinks an appropriate response to a dispute is to end four lives and damage four more.  Law enforcement and prosecutors should focus upon the crucial distinction and target the bad dudes instead of good times.

Otherwise, murderous thugs are directly ruining lives and indirectly crimping everyone else’s liberty and pursuit of happiness.  Severe pressure aimed at discouraging a certain type of joyous private behavior would counterproductively affect our fun.  Andrew W.K. would disapprove.

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