John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, the Mongrel Mobsters can't pretty up their tombstones in a New Zealand town and New York City clamps down on blood-sucking circumcisions.
Welcome back to This Week In Bans:
CONCEALED WEAPONS AROUND CHILDREN, IN NORTH CAROLINA
Playgrounds: To a lot of folks, these sandy oases are safe places to entertain the kids. But to some people in Morrisville, North Carolina, they're fraught with peril. Could an escaped convict be hiding inside the tire swing? A ferocious black bear waiting at the bottom of the twisty slide? You just never know, and that's why Morrisville's gun owners have been fighting for the right to pack heat in playgrounds.
The issue arose after the state passed a law last year allowing concealed weapons in local parks. That fresh breath of freedom has worried many municipal leaders around North Carolina, where suddenly everyone at the swimming pool or gym is potentially ready to start a firefight. At a public meeting this summer, Morrisville's police chief spoke in favor of changing the law for athletic fields, saying his officers "didn’t want to be in a situation where a parent got a little upset at a game because they felt like their son or daughter was not getting the proper attention or maybe they were tackled a little hard, etc., and the now-upset parent was there with a weapon."
Not buying that argument, dozens of gun activists from the group Grass Roots North Carolina e-mailed Morrisville's mayor to try to throw a wrench into the impending ban. No dice. The city council passed an ordinance late last month banning guns from most recreational areas, including playgrounds. The lone "no" vote came from councilman Michael Schlink, who said:
As the council heard, gun owners do not want to be stereotyped as an irrational, ill-informed, fringe group or possible criminals. Numerous public comments and studies have shown many residents feel safer in a public area like a park or greenway knowing it is legal to carry a concealed handgun.
With the new law in place, parents will now have to deal with dangerous intruders the old fashioned way: seeing who can hang on the monkey bars the longest.
GANG TOMBSTONES, IN NEW ZEALAND
(See one of the headstones in question at the 1:13 mark.)
NIMBYism doesn't end with death, at least not in New Zealand. After a grieving widow chose to exhume her man because she was offended by a nearby gang member's colorful tombstone, the Wellington satellite city of Porirua has voted to forbid "offensive" words and symbols on grave markers.
The act is a shot across the bow of the Mongrel Mob, a Maori-heavy gang with more than two dozen New Zealand chapters and about the same tattoo acreage as all the tramp stamps in Myrtle Beach. The Mongrels, as well as other gangs like the Hells Angels, have long had a tradition of decorating their fallen members' tombstones with insignia and phrases like, "Mighty bulldog known far and wide" and "Mob member hard and fast." These are actually the newer, vanilla cemetery catchphrases; for public decency's sake, about 10 years ago the Mongrels agreed to change their old slogan, "Sieg Fucking Heil!" (They now use "SFH.")
The new laws of decor passed despite the Mongrels' attempt to hire a lawyer and take their case to New Zealand's highest court. They argued that the tombstone flair was a convenient way for members to find their buried pals, as well as an important show of cultural pride. As Mobster, historian and ex-con Dennis Makalio explained, according to the Dominion Post: ""People have worn this all their lives. It's part of their lives." Banning gang graves, he said, is "like racism. It's like, 'We don't want a Maori next to us.'"
"DIRECT ORAL SUCTIONING OF THE CIRCUMCISION," IN NEW YORK
Religious circumcisers must now seek parental approval before sucking the blood from a freshly cut penis, under new regulations by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The ritual, known as metzitzah b’peh, is performed by some ultra-Orthodox Jewish mohelim as both a tradition and a medical measure, at least according to Jewish Week. However, New York's health authorities claim it's also a cracking way to spread disease. In a "Statement on Jewish Ritual Circumcision with Direct Oral Suctioning," the city says that its documented several cases of herpes in children involved in the practice, and that "[m]ost of the children reported were hospitalized, some developed brain damage, and two died." The CDC takes a similar negative stance, opining that circumcision is "a surgical procedure that should be performed under sterile conditions."
That's why NYC wants parents opting for the sucking treatment to sign a form saying they're aware of the medical risks. Or use a straw or sponge – anything, really, but the lips. Believers in the benefits of metzitzah b’peh aren't taking kindly to the regulations, though. According to the New York Times, ultra-Orthodox leaders say they will sue for city for religious infringement if the measure stands:
Some 200 ultra-Orthodox rabbis published a decree in late August warning adherents that it was forbidden “to participate in the evil plans of the New York City health department,” according to a translation by Yeshiva World News. And a Jewish religious court in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, went further, stating that oral suction was a mandatory part of the procedure that should be promoted.
“There is nothing to worry from metzitzah b’peh,” the judges wrote, according to a translation by the Chabad Lubavitch movement. “To the contrary, it is very beneficial, even according to the doctors.”
Top image courtesy of Niels Noordhoek on Wikipedia.