I had it in my hand: a video of the gun control debate between myself and Dr. Arthur Romano [not shown] at Penn State. And then Dr. Romano was all like “I get to see it first and decide if it’s suitable for release.” Chump that I am, I gave the memory card back to the organizer who promised he’d send it to the booking agency. That was the end of that. It was also the end of our rematch at the Richard G. Lugar Academy; the international peace educator and certified nonviolence trainer decided he had better ways to spend his time than answering questions like “Would you want a gun if someone walked through the door and started shooting people?” So Conscious Campus has put me up against this guy . . .

My name is Juan Pacheco. I am a passionate advocate of nonviolence currently helping youth across the nation to find alternatives to the violence that affects their lives and their communities. Years back I was one of these youth, caught in the devastation that violence brings anyone or anything touched by its clutches. I was involved in youth violence that took away many things from me, including a scholarship, my freedom, and my best friend’s life.  I joined because my community failed me in many ways and made me feel like a worthless outcast. As an immigrant to the USA, I faced the struggles of shaming poverty, community violence, racism, discrimination, bullying, inability to fit into the culture and community; the list goes on and on.  I felt unwanted. I joined a gang because my community and environment did not allow me to “belong”.

That’s a profile from thepeacealliance.org. And here’s Juan’s description of his Conscious Campus lecture From Gang Member to Pediatrician … What Does it Take??

Mr. Pacheco’s motivation comes from his own life experience. As a youth he was involved in a gang which took many things away from him. His best friend’s life was taken away by gang violence. He had a full time scholarship from the Early Identification Program in George Mason University that was also taken away. He spent some time in jail in which his human right of freedom was stripped away due to his actions. But this is where his motivation comes from! Mr. Pacheco changed his life around. Now he is at George Mason University attaining his Pre-Med degree. He wants to become a pediatrician in the future. Mr. Pacheco believes that dreams are worth fighting for and he has. His strategies for successful community and youth work come out of his own experiences as a gang member, and now as someone who is working to help other young people turn their lives around.

So, big change then. Dr. Romano was an egghead; his misleading, stat-heavy Powerpoint presentation will be putting college kids to sleep for decades to come. Common sense questions about self-defense—put to both him personally and the audience—showed the folly of his desire to turn the world into a gun-free zone. To paraphrase Meredith Wilson, there were fish, in the barrel, and I almost heard them screaming . . .

Pacheco is about as far away from an academic as you can get. And yet he craves the unquestioned authority that a Ph.D would provide. Combine that with the fact that Pacheco blames his criminal past on community rejection and I reckon the guy has a chip on his shoulder the size of Arkansas. Given that our warm-up encounter will take place in New Jersey (Princeton on November 4th), I wouldn’t want to risk knocking it off in public, if you know what I mean.

Then again, your comments below have forced a rethink. Let’s got with this:

Which gang did you belong to? What did you do for them? Did you carry a gun? Why? Was there a gang initiation? Did it involve hurting innocent people? How should they have defended themselves from you? And now you’re telling us that we don’t need a gun for protection against people like the gang members you ran with? Like that.

I can’t find any info on Mr. Pecheco’s stand on guns but his only out from that line of attack is that legal guns flow to criminals so . . . ban or restrict legal guns. Meanwhile, I’m wondering about style. I was hipper than Romano by a long chalk. Pacheco’s street. So, am I the good cop or the bad cop? Suggestions on a postcard, below. And this time I will have a video to show for it.

83 Responses to Farago to Debate Former Gang Banger on Gun Control

  1. Hello,

    My name is Ron Burgundy and I’m a passionate advocate of non-violence through the support of everybody’s constitutionally protected right to bear arms. As long as not everybody shoots the bears at the same time, there will be enough arms for everybody.

    This is Ron Burgundy for Channel 5 News. Stay classy San Diego!

  2. Also, there are some materials available that show convicted criminals argue for gun control, because if guns are available for the law abiding citizen, their profession becomes more risky.

    I find it highly amusing that the former gangbanger will happily endorse the viewpoint that helps the current gangbanger…

    • “My name is Juan Pacheco. I am a passionate advocate of nonviolence currently helping youth across the nation to find alternatives to the violence that affects their lives and their communities.”

      Maybe I’m missing something here, but I read the post twice and I can’t see anything definitive where Mr. Pacheco is advocating civilian disarmament or gun control. Non Violent gangs do not seem like such a bad thing. Convincing kids, whatever their ethnicity or immigration status, that they can/should do something other than run around being gangsters and randomly shooting people, is a nice idea, if it could be done, which I doubt.

      Do we have any more specific information on this person’s stand on guns?

    • How about you threaten to sue for the card? That’s your intellectual property on that card too. And the card is yours, yes?

      You didn’t sign any blank pages beforehand, did you?

  3. Ask him how personal responsibility factors into gang crime and just how gun laws for us makes thugs responsible.

    • Expect an elaborate non-explanation of a highly evasive nature, riddled with words and phrases such as “the man”, “they”, “the system” and such.

  4. I think it is intellectually dishonest to not lead off with the need to defend ourselves against two legged predation. If I list my top ten reasons for owning and carrying a firearm government tyranny is WAY down the list. In point of fact, I don’t carry a gun at all in fear of government tyranny. I figure there is time enough to see that coming and make it back to the safe. Home invasion, gang bangers, car jackers, rapists, those intent on doing harm to gain admittance to a gang, yeah, THOSE would be the two legged predators I am armed against.

  5. Sorry to say it,but this is an L shaped ambush.

    This guys a minority playing the victim card.IE, he caved to social pressure in the hood and paid the price.Now that he’s on the other side of the coin, he’s blaming society and the external access of firearms for his poor choice as a youth.

    Unfortunately, as a Jewish white guy you have lesser cultural credibility then Michael Bloomberg lecturing at an inner city conference on poverty.It’s a setup, because the moment you start making sense the racial/cultural ad hominems will flow like a river of denial.You’re just a spoiled white guy with no idea about life in the hood or being a disadvantaged minority, so he’s right and your “racist” gun happy self is wrong.Someone like Colio Noir can make pro gun points without being subjected to such racially motivated nonsense, but you wouldn’t be so fortunate.

    As an aside, it disgusts me as a biracial black man to see people of my heritage dodging responsibility for their actions.The “it’s not my fault, it’s the worlds ” mindset is why we have gang problems to start with, and dragging that mindset into academia shames us all who ,instead of cliquing up with the gangsters for street cred and social favor, actually took our lumps, “uncle tom” jokes and all, and made something of ourselves in this society.

    Dirty secret of the Black Community:people who want to earn their way to a better life are marginalized as “not real” or “selling out”, while gang life and criminal behavior is championed as “sticking it to the White Man”.Big surprise we have a gang violence problem when crime is socially condoned in the inner city, and honors math is condemned as being “uppity”.

    • I seem to recall Colion making comments about him being rejected by elements of the black community for his beliefs.

      • Make the debate personal. Emphasize personal choice and personal responsibility.
        Emphasize the failed war on drugs.
        Emphasize how gun control laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities and the non-rich.

        Also use voice tone and body posture to be the alpha male in this situation. Channel your inner Stern Gang! LOL

    • So well Said, Sir! After spending time in Academic Social Sciences the last thing anyone wants to hear is people taking responsibility for their actions. There is a deep bias within social sciences that the individual has no power and that society is the controlling influence (does this sound familiar)? Mr Pacheko pushes all the right warm fuzzy academic buzz words… holistic, community, opportunity, hugging. And here is why his speech will fail to actually create the change and lasting peace… Academics confront the problem by talking about it, the real peacemakers (Ghandi, MLK, George Washington, Jesus) go out and fight for it with their lives. Only when individuals decide to change their own lives can they rise up from what holds them back.

    • To my understanding RF is not just a Jewish white guy, but a Jewish **African American** white guy.

      Of course we all know that African American is not so much about your heritage as it is a PC codeword for skin color.

  6. I have no advice, just wanted to wish you the best of luck (preparedness!) I avoid these kinds of confrontational situations as I tend to get angry at repeated stupidity thrown at me.

  7. The life of violent crime is not only fair game, but necessary to address. How should people protect themselves against people like him? I can’t imagine a response that could be reconciled with disarmament.

  8. I think the tyranny angle will only make you look like an angry white guy, but the self-defense line of argument can be shifted to a discussion about the innocents, or the weak who do not have a gang to join for protection. Take it out of the ghetto and talk about the basic right to self-defense, which includes dads like you and single moms in rural America whose violent ex husbands ignore their restraining order and go after the women who left them. You can’t pretend to be from the hood, but say gun ownership, at least lawful ownership, imbibes society with a sense of ownership, responsibility, and community. Then harken back to the original notions of a community “militia” and you’ll have everyone hungry for apple pie and fireworks by the debate’s close. Keep the debate on your turf, and on your terms. Acknowledge the work he’s doing with youth to keep illegal guns out of the hands of gang members. Good luck!

  9. He spent some time in jail in which his human right of freedom was stripped away due to his actions.

    Yes. Due to his actions. Notice how the “effect” follows the “cause”.

    That intellectual-feather-weight is in over his head. Eviscerate him. Don’t be afraid to ask him point-blankly: “When you were a member of a violent gang, would you have committed crimes against innocent people if you knew there was a chance they could shoot back?” or something to that effect. Don’t give the antis an inch!

    • Yes. Do this. Acknowledge that reducing the incentive to violence is essential, and that it’s a good thing to try.

      And if (when) gun control comes into the debate, go into his criminal past. Occupy the ground and build a dwelling on it. Live there.

      Whatever he proposes, it’s all based on his experience as a violent criminal. That’s the crux of the argument, right there. It’s where all his enabling assumptions live — especially his ideas about guns.

      If you want to seem slightly less personally confrontational, put it in terms of what his gangbanger “friends” from that past life would have done. It’s a golden opportunity to show that whatever the laws were (or might be), they won’t care.

      Compare that to what he would do now. What would he do NOW if he were able to own guns? Probably nothing dangerous. If gun control won’t change the behavior of gangbangers for the better, then it shouldn’t be inflicted on peaceful people who aren’t hurting anyone.

      If anyone dares to bring up the old canard where gun owners provide guns to criminals through theft, go straight to the rape analogy: peaceful gun owners provide guns to criminals like women provide sex to rapists. Who do we punish for that?

      • One of his line of attacks may be something like “If we ban private firearm ownership, then there will be nothing for criminals to steal or buy”.

        You could counter with the crime ridden/gun control city of Chicago example, saying criminals get their guns in spite of gun control laws. If he counters with “we need gun control in neighboring states for Chicago gun control to work” point out that neighboring states don’t have the level of crime that Chicago does, and also counter with countries that have strict gun but high crime, especially homicides committed with guns.

        • You could also provide the example of Mayor Bloomie’s gun-free paradise, New York City. Not exactly crime-free, though…

    • “That intellectual-feather-weight is in over his head. Eviscerate him.”

      In any normal universe where common sense were the standard that would make…. sense. The only problem is that it’s a no win situation. Even if you do “win” you’re still a bully for “eviscerating” him when his stance is anti-violence. To the uninformed your stance must then be pro-violence. You’ll be the bad guy either way.

  10. Mr. Pacheco has “convert” written all over him. He seems smarter and better spoken than the average anti gunner. I didn’t hear him mention “gun” a single time in this piece. His personal story and experience is that of failed community. You need to agree with him on that, and point out that anti gunners believe that simply giving any person a gun turns him into a killer. By his words and actions, it seems that even if he were weighed down by AR-15s and bandoleers of ammo, Mr Pacheco presents no more risk to the people in that room than you would. Ineffective laws that seek to take guns away from Mr Pacheco’s community will not improve the underlying conditions, and will take valuable resources away from the agencies and institutions that can actually save those 97%. Give him lots of things to say “yes” to, and by the end of the night you will have one more on our side.

  11. Ask him how they got their weapons and if laws mattered to them when they comitted crimes. Why the rejection of outside society made them seek a gang? Why their own community wasn’t able to embrace them, where were the parents, what did they do for/to them? Talk about the suffering gangs inflict on their victims and how a gang becomes tyrannical within a community of people pushing gun control to disarm the people and the only outcomes are the gangs get guns anyway and perpetuate the divide.

  12. “When do you think about going out there and giving a gang member a hug?”

    When I want to end up a statistic. What a freaking crap statement by a former banger. When he was in his gang he would have assaulted any one who approached their “territory”. What a load of sh!t!

    Wipe this POS up with his own do-rag, RF

  13. Robert, I’m a professional videographer, so I have some questions. Did you have a written contract with this Dr. Romano? Who owned the copyright to the recording? Was his prior approval of the finished video written somewhere? In the future, if you own the original, you NEVER, NEVER give it up. You should provide a watermarked copy only with your copyright clearly spelled out “Copyright 2013 Robert Farago (or TTAG or whatever), All Rights Reserved.” As for the next debate in Princeton (relax, no gangs there, but plenty where I grew up in Jersey City) please forget about the government tyranny angle and concentrate on the very real threats that lead people like me to carry concealed here in Sarasota. The questions you said you were reconsidering were actually the ones I would ask. That and the question about whether or not he would want to be able to defend himself and his loved ones in the event of a crazed gunman showing up in the mall or theatre or restaurant he happens to be patronizing. Those have real world examples to which the public can relate.

  14. As stated earlier, he didn’t mention anything about anti-gun laws in this particular video and I agree with his views that he expressed on decreasing gang activity.

  15. Sorry, guys, this will be a long one and many may not read past first paragraph. That’s ok.

    I respect this guy’s key points, which I view as these: gang membership occurs in the absence of positive external influences; gang membership tends to be a phase and not permanent, which means members can be meaningfully rehabilitated, except for the 3% he mentions; current governmental initiatives to address gangs and thus gang violence are not effective because they address the result of membership and not the causal factors leading to it; and finally, we as a community can all play a role in basically rehabilitating troubled or at risk youths. (yes, other readers will not like my perspective on this, but the desire to become gang members starts way early, kids 10-12 years old – just how personally responsible where we at that age?)

    There is no counter to those arguments. They are reasonable viewpoints based upon the personal experience of a guy who is not a moron and is genuinely trying to help both himself and his community.
    In the face of that, you could demonstrate you get it by giving a three minute overview to the crowd of the history of Sephardic Jews in Western Europe and North Africa (if your family was Sephardic , if not then something similar). Show you really do understand bigotry and racism and an entire group of people being considered second class citizens.

    I would even agree with him that every gang member that wants a way out should be supported, encouraged, and nurtured by the community in their journey. But what about the ones who don’t? What about that 3% that will never give up an exceedingly violent and destructive lifestyle? And what about the people they victimize?

    Give some stats on gang violence. Give some stats on gun violence. Focus the stats on who commits most firearms crimes – felons who use/possess a firearm illegally – I read someplace but cannot find the link that 86% of gun crimes are performed by people with a prior felony. (maybe someone has data to help you out here – I bet Nick keeps crap like this rattling around in his gun nerd, statistician brain)

    Yes, the community can and should assist the efforts he laid out. But the community also has to support the individual rights of people who may be victimized by gang members. Yes, it’s true that if a gang member is shot in the commission of a crime on an innocent victim, it is horribly sad that that life was ended and there will be no opportunity for that individual to grow past their current situation. But is the solution to disarm law abiding victims and store keepers and others so that they are killed or injured instead?

    Of course not. They did not choose to be a victim. It was thrust on them because their community did not value their individual life. And they never had a chance to not be a victim. When anyone commits a violent act with a firearm illegally because of a prior criminal conviction or because they are too young to legally possess it, they have made a choice that can have lasting consequences for everyone.

    Yes, we need as a community to intervene to help prevent these events, but with that same commitment to protect the vulnerable we must also support individuals in not becoming a victim by respecting their right to armed self-defense.

    Give some stats on armed self-defense and how it does NOT lead to the wild west on our streets. In fact, the vast majority of times the law abiding display a gun it does NOT lead to a shooting, though it does end the event. Or something similar.

    Oh, and be ready for discussion around how criminals/gang bangers get their weapons… it ain’t at the gun show. Be ready to knock down that stupid 40% number the antis throw around all the time in their discussion of universal background checks. See Lott’s interview on NRO – it’s in there: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/347044/what-should-we-do-about-guns.

    Just my thoughts… you was askin’…

    • I disagree with one point in your argument. A community is a large, amorphous mass with no tangible, specific identity. That’s why Ms. Hillary’s “It Takes a Village” approach fails so miserably. A community cannot take responsibility. For anything. Ever.

      A community is made up of people. People can and do take responsibility for their actions. Each person views the world through their own unique lens. When several lenses give a similar view, that could be called Community. But it’s still the responsibility of individual people to cause a change.

      Just sayin’

  16. If it seems odd that he never mentions guns and yet he and RF are going to debate, keep in mind that RF didn’t pick this guy, Conscious Campus did. They thought that these two would be a good match for a conversation/debate. Whether that turns out to be so remains to be seen.

      • True; if anything, he’s proof positive that we need guns to protect ourselves from lowlifes like him who would skirt around systems such as NICS anyway, and bring people harm no matter the cost or illegality of it.

  17. My only advice is pay attention when driving through princeton the self entitled douches there are so busy smelling their own farts they won’t hesitate to walk right into traffic. Yes I know not everyone is like that in princeton.

      • I just had high hopes there’s atleast one that isn’t. Also RF check out triumph brewery last time I was there the beers were pretty good mostly hoppy stuff. Make reservations it gets packed and sit upstairs last time some dumb biotch dropped a knife on me and pretended like nothing happened (the kind of people that live in the area)

  18. This country is where it is because people have failed to be direct in their questioning and answering. That and a failure to hold people accountable for the sake of political correctness. Its always society…never the person. No personal responsibility for their actions.

    Dude was a thug, and him and his crew probably jacked up a whole bunch of lives. You dont get a pass on that…period. You rip his heart out and you show it to him…

    Society didnt fail this knuckle head, it kept him from swirling the bowl and is more than likely paying for his college. His parent(s) failed him. I wonder how many baby momma’s he has…and how much of a father figure he is in their lives. Apples dont fall far from trees.

    • Indeed. When someone attacks society, the failure rests with them. Are there members of society in poor areas where people still succeed? Even Inglewood, Compton, Lancaster, (add destitute cities ad naseum) have success stories. Men and women who refused to succumb to the criminal element and have become teachers, nurses, business owners, etc. And they have done so *without* resorting to a life of crime. I would highlight success stories in Pacheco’s ‘hood. Choosing criminal behavior means that an individual is no longer constrained by the rules and mores of society. Therefore, additional gun laws will be useless to stop them.

      Although we should focus on prevention of initial gang membership (positive roles models, success in school, testimony for members who have reformed etc.), we cannot deny that gangs still hold attraction to the youth of America. It is systemically unfair that we disarm the responsible element of society in the midst of such violence. We have seen in mass shooting scenarios that Gun Free Zones benefit the attacker. Rather, we should continue to recognize the fundamental civil right of self defense.

      If the police weren’t able to respond quickly enough to prevent the violence in this man’s past, they likely will not be able to act with the clairvoyance to prevent future crime. If the police could do such things, bodyguards would not be needed. The Secret Service could be disbanded. Glock could start making baby bottles. As it is, firearms protect politicians and wealthy individuals already. It would be unjust to deny that protection to the rest of society. Further, history has shown us the results of that injustice – the Holocaust certainly being one that hits home.

      I’d also mention the history of firearms owners. The facts that CC holders are the most law abiding segment of the population known. Highlight DGU cases of elderly vets, single moms, etc. Do they deserve to be victims because of the poor decisions made by someone else?

      I think you’ll do just fine.

  19. Ask this guy when he is going to get his butt on the street and convert the Banger Culture to Non-Violence. Disarming law abiding citizens is the wrong side of the equation.

  20. Don’t forget to bring the civil rights issue into the discussion. Nobody should be denied their right to vote, speak freely or own a gun. You’re more eloquent than I, pad it out a little.

  21. Mr. Farago,

    Based on the video, it suggests he belonged to a gang in Fairfax, VA. Some of the other Northern, VA folks can chime in (you’ve got one on staff) but we’re definitely not Chicago and gangbangers mostly skip the banging part here or get shot. There aren’t drive bys or movie cliches like the bandana he made fun of. That’s NRA headquarters, rich people, open carry and all that territory. Odds are he got caught selling weed to some George Mason students or some other dumb thing because he hung out with morons when he was a teenager. That might shut your first argument down.

    I’m not saying the gangs here aren’t real or dangerous. I am kind of saying even some of our “gangsters” want to be pediatricians when they grown up. It’s weird. Don’t underestimate him or assume he’ll blame society.

    • So why does he still look like a banger? Is he really still in “the life?” Is he actually MS-13? They’re still active in NOVA as we speak.

  22. sorry, I saw “gang banger” and all I thought was, gee, I wonder what shannon watts is doing right now.

    LMAO!

  23. You should also ask if he has been involved in a home invasion. If yes, get some details and have him make the case for home carry.

    • After listening to some of the video this guy is not that bad (I did not hear any anti gun rant). Yes he is blaming society as a big part of the problems that lead to gangs and I would say it is more on the parents than the society. But his comments about the funding are probably right. We spend a lot of money on more cops, data bases and laws which all address the problem after the fact not before the kids join gangs. It kind of reminds me of the war on drugs where we spend billions of dollars and never address the root cause. I have to admit I have no idea of a better way to solve the root cause though…..I don’t think at this point we can give up on fighting gang activity and is it unrealistic idealism to try and keep kids out of gangs?

  24. Good luck on the Pre-Med Mr.Pacheco! The chances of getting your medical license are between slim and none! Most misdemeanor offenses automatically disqualify you from getting any kind of medical license. (Especially in California!) !

    • Their are plenty of holes in state records. I sat in a license suspension hearing – the CA licensed RN had a murder conviction with two separate attempted murder convictions. The charges were out of the Philipines, and citizenship was fraudulently attained. He never showed up for the case, and is still at large.

  25. Are you working thru the same organizer for this debate as the last one? Maybe demand that you won’t appear until you get your memory card (with the video intact) from the last debate returned to you.

  26. Use Judo. The guy is talking about love, opportunity, turning his life around and giving opportunities to young people. So play the good cop & don’t let guns take the blame as an enabler of gun violence. Guns aren’t for starting violence, they’re for stopping it. Congratulate the guy on turning his life around, and draw the parallel that gun owners celebrate taking personal responsibility for the safety of themselves, and loved ones.

    Oh, and if you get a good opening, ask where the gang members get their guns and whether background checks would stop them. 🙂

  27. A small point … Unless he’s intending to go into research, if he’s going to be a pediatrician he’ll be an MD, not a Ph.D.

    If you have a Ph.D., at some point – supposedly – you’ve done some questioning and original thinking. (I have my own opinions re that, depending on the flavor of degree … But I digress.). MDs generally are more about memorization, decision trees, and learning to work within a somewhat to highly specialized subset of information.

    In any case, good luck.

  28. I don’t see much need to go bad cop. This seems to be a guy who has been through the shit and genuinely wants to make a difference, he is just going about it in entirely the wrong way. Sounds like the liberals got to him first.

    You likely won’t sway him too much as from his view, every gun in the hand of a victim is a potential dead poor misunderstood gangbanger that is just a product of his/her environment and as he already has a sympathetic face on that group, it will be a hard pill to swallow. You might as well be asking him to swallow a cactus.

  29. This guy derives his authority on the gun control topic from his life (i.e. anecdotal) experiences. You should have a few anecdotes up your sleeve where every day people, especially minorities and women, defended themselves from gang bangers and thugs. Try to anticipate the topics he will bring up and use counter examples where guns were not used or guns were used to defend the innocent.

  30. Your first mistake was trusting a gun-grabber. Remember, they aren’t normal, decent people who happen to be against guns. Their anti-rights stance is a direct byproduct of their indecency and immorality as human beings.

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