|Fewer Guns, More Morality Equals Fewer Homicides
6/18/2014 4:19:01 PM
By Barney Blakeney
The death toll continues to rise. Last week a Charleston man was stabbed to death in his home. Police believe a burglar broke into the residence and caught the young man asleep on a couch.
It’s probably useless to repeat that tired old refrain, “People aren’t even safe in their own homes anymore.” We know that. In fact, many of the homicides committed in our community so far this year have ben committed at the victims’ homes. Heck, we started the year off with three women being killed in their homes!
I planned to write this column about concerns that the proliferation of guns are the major contributor to homicides committed with firearms. I had hoped to talk with some local police chiefs about the subject.
Didn’t happen. It’s probably better those conversations didn’t take place. I really hoped they’d scoff at some publicity pimps who use the tragedies of homicides to elevate themselves, position themselves as ‘community leaders’ or perhaps even to line their own pockets. I don’t subscribe to the theory that guns are the primary issue in the epidemic of homicides.
The fact that our community’s latest tragedy wasn’t committed with a gun doesn’t negate the relevance of guns in homicides. It is, however, an example that the epidemic of murder we’re experiencing manifests itself in many forms. I think of guns as a means, not a reason
Around this time last year I wrote a story about a report that stated as the nation’s sixth highest ranking state for gun violence, South Carolina also ranked seventh for gun homicides - five per 100,000 people in the state in 2010 - more than two times the national average.
More people were killed in South Carolina by guns from 2001-2010 than were killed in both the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars. The state had the nation’s second highest rate for aggravated assault with firearms.
What was it Denzel Washington’s character said in the movie Training Day, “King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me”? When it comes to shoot ‘em up/bang bang, ain’t nobody got nothin’ on South Carolina. About this same time a couple of years ago I talked with Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen about guns and murder. Altercations that used to end in bruised lips or black eyes often result in serious injuries or death. Mullen said.
Working in partnership with the judicial system to increase the penalties for having or using illegal weapons makes some criminals think about carrying them, Mullen said. But still too many of the guns that reach the hands of criminals all too willing to use them previously belonged to law abiding citizens. The guns are stolen from autos and homes.
“We’re struggling with that,” Mullen said. He beseeched gun owners to be more responsible. Criminals, especially convicted felons, aren’t legally purchasing guns. They’re stealing them or buying them from the thieves who stole them. A lot of those stolen guns are taken from cars that have been broken into. Too many gun owners leave their weapons under car seats or in consoles. Thieves know that, Mullen said.
I talked with North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers a few weeks ago. He said his department has quit its gun buy back program - the only people bringing in guns were law-abiding citizens. Until we get over our fascination with firearms, the guns aren’t going anywhere, people.
So where does that leave us? I’m convinced rather than focus on the guns, our focus should be on those who use them.
Last July, a 27-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting into a car at a James Island gas station. The March 20, 2011 incident is believed to have resulted in the death of Antwan Wilson.
Charleston area clergymen Elder James Johnson and Rev. Nelson B. Rivers were asked what it takes to end such violence among young Black men - gun laws or spirituality and morality. Both agreed the path to fewer gun related deaths lies in both better gun laws as well as morals and spirituality.
Rivers said while Black churches and other institutions in the Black community have an obligation to teach spirituality and morality, he believes the Black community must teach its young not to hate and kill, but as importantly, they must be denied access to deadly weapons.
Like Johnson, Rivers said the proliferation of guns in the Black community is a problem. Those lethal weapons combined with human behavior results in the collective suicide of young Black men.
I think the Black community has the social and spiritual organizational infrastructure to impact that dynamic. The only question is when will we should get started.