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Trading Guns For Longboards (Carver Skateboards)

By Neil Carver | Updated: February 28, 2023 | Journal

The streets here in Venice, California are both a beachside paradise and a gang war zone, where in the same afternoon you can see beautiful girls skating to the beach and police helicopters buzzing over a crime scene. The shootings have slowed a bit since Google moved to the hood, but we’re still armed to the teeth, and with so many guns easily bought with a fistful of dollars, it’s no wonder people are using them against each other.

The U.S. is the most armed country in the world, with 89 firearms for every hundred residents, more than 1.5 times as many as the next country, Yemen. That’s 270 million guns in America right now, and yet we continue to debate the reasonable necessity of requiring background checks for weapons purchases, or limiting the magazine capacity of assault weapons.

Without such combat-capacity weapons, incidents like the one in Sandy Hook would be far less deadly. It’s frustrating to watch this debate lurch on and to have so little influence on its course. Having been a part of the Longboarding for Peace program in Israel, I’ve seen what a positive force just riding a skateboard can be, so I resolved to take the initiative and try to have a positive effect a bit closer to home. Why not literally help take guns off the streets by trading them for longboards?

I had heard there was a gun buyback program here in Los Angeles, so I set out to see how Carver could participate. After weeks of calling around, I found out that there was going to be a gun buyback on the weekend of May 4. I finally connected with right people at the LAPD and the mayor’s office and told them about the idea of trading guns for skateboards, and even though it was all last-minute, they thought it was a great idea and were stoked to include us in the event. It tied in perfectly with the idea of not only getting the guns off the street, but also giving kids in the inner city something else to do. We decided that we’d focus on using the boards for the assault weapons exchange, while they gave out $100 gift cards for handguns and rifles.

By the time we showed up at the San Pedro Harbor at 10 a.m., they had already collected hundreds of guns, and even a bunch of assault weapons. I had never seen any of these kinds of weapons in person before, and here was a table piled high with them. We were proud to see an Uzi come in and one of our boards go out. Even with only a dozen longboards, in our small way we were happy to be trading wood, aluminum and urethane for steel and bullets, and inciting play instead of violence.

By the end of the day, 1,170 weapons had been taken off the streets, including 49 assault weapons. So today, on this sunny California day, some of those same streets are instead hearing the peaceful hiss of soft urethane roll by while another longboard works its magic.

This was originally published in Concrete Wave Magazine Fall 2012

Neil Carver

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