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How Do We Stop The Killing?
1/11/2017 3:33:24 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

I read the daily newspaper’s Sunday report of homicides in the Tri-County region with a feeling of hopeless frustration – 58 homicides in Charleston County last year and all but nine committed with guns. As a veteran cop reporter I’m a little desensitized to crime. I see the police reports and cover the stories. And as a man having grown up in this community, I’ve had other experiences with the aftermath of gun violence. As a kid I was an orderly at a local emergency room.

I’ve seen a lot, maybe more than most. But I’m a sensitive guy. That stuff still bothers me. So the rising number of homicides in my community bothers me. I remember covering stories back in the day about the 20-something homicides that occurred in the county during a year. At the time I thought those numbers were off the chain. Of course being a black reporter lured into the business by a desire to make a difference in the racial dynamics of life in our society, I focused on the number of black homicide victims. It was true then and it is true now, that the greatest number of homicide victims is young black men. Of the 58 homicide victims in the county last year 47 were black, seven were females.

So last year when Charleston County Councilmen Henry Darby and Teddie Pryor asked black men to come together to impact the homicide rate among young black men in the community, I saw an opportunity to do more than write stories as a way of contributing to making things better for my people. I’m okay with doing what I do, but we all can do more.

The group, dubbed the United Black Men of Charleston County, meant a couple of things to me - it offered a way to have tangible input in a necessary process and it also offered a way for black men to fulfill our responsibility to our community which is something we’re grossly lacking in doing.

The group is a positive thing. The guys involved are committed and working hard to make a difference. There are no negatives about the initiative because anything beats zero. But the fact of the matter is there are tens of thousands of adult black males in this county, but fewer than 100 participants in the group. Heck we had more black male homicide victims this year than there are members of the group. If each victim’s father participated there would be more participants. But that’s another issue.

I really want to write about what needs to happen to prevent all those homicides. We’re learning in the group that preventing homicides takes a lot of stuff. There are no quick fixes. I’m an impatient guy, so that just ain’t workin’ for me. But quitting is not an option – too many black men are being killed!

Since joining the group, I’ve heard more suggestions about how to stop the violence than Carter has liver pills. And everybody thinks their suggestion is the right one, the most effective or the best way to address the problem. I’m reluctant to add my two cents. But I will.

I balk at suggestions that admonish cops to “take all the illegal guns off the streets”. What the heck does that mean? Is it even possible?

I think it’s kind of pointless to talk about taking guns off the streets when we live in a society that reveres guns. As a kid I wanted, and received, a cap-gun every Christmas I can remember. All the cowboys and cops shows featured gunplay as the primary method of resolving whatever conflict was being depicted. The most recent available stats say some 11 million guns were manufactured in the United States in 2013 and that there now are more guns in this country than people.

Anybody can buy a gun and almost anybody legally can carry a gun. We’ve got children shooting themselves and their parents at shooting ranges. I saw a television ad the other day in which a local gun store is offering a sale on a package deal consisting of a military-style automatic rifle and handgun. I talked with Sen. Marlon Kimpson and Rep. Wendell Gilliard who both support state legislation that increases penalties for illegal possession of firearms and their use during the commission of crimes.

Like I said earlier, there are no downsides to any effort to reduce the number of homicides that occur in our communities. And I think that all those efforts contribute to the process of reducing crime and violence. Some immediate, short term initiatives must be implemented. I have no problem with that. But I also think we must begin to rethink how we feel about guns in this country and what we’re teaching our young people about gun violence.

We live in a permissive society where it’s okay to do what you want when you want to do it – everything’s okay. We sell and promote games that teach our children to kill with irreverence then scratch our heads when some mentally unstable delusional child walks into a church and wantonly slaughters nine people at Bible study. We taught that killer and the insane people who misguided him.

Where does it end? How do we stop it? I don’t know. I do know it won’t stop as long as we teach our children that power comes not through understanding, love and compassion, but from the barrel of a gun and that the best way to protect ourselves is with bigger guns that shoot more bullets.

That mindset killed 58 of our neighbors last year.

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