While debates continue to rage about closing Gitmo and selling Chryslers and the pitiful Nats and whether Kris stole the Idol from Adam, people continue to lie dead and wounded on the streets of the nation’s capital, indeed, in the shadow of the Capitol itself. The latest shootings this week at North Capitol and R Streets appeared to be the result of some festering dispute that had gone on for months. Last weekend, Adams Morgan was the scene of a gunfight that resulted in the death of an 18-year-old man and wounded police, and in the same time period two other people died in gun-related violence in the city.
The police say that the good news is that the homicide count is down from this time last year.
Meanwhile, yesterday, under that gleaming dome that even the wounded can see as they lie dying on North Capitol Street, the U.S. House of Representatives in its wisdom passed a bill that will allow people to carry concealed handguns in our nation’s national parks. So much for a leisurely hike along trails in the Shenandoah or peaceful evenings on the beach at Assateague.
That’s the same House of Representatives where D.C. citizens might actually have a voting representative some day thanks to legislation that will also strip from those newly-enfranchised citizens any right to control handgun violence in their own neighborhoods.
So, with no hope of effective gun control on the horizon, and a police force that’s working very hard but is clearly outnumbered by the bad guys, how do the rest of us survive the badlands that many of us pass through each day, that some of us call home? The urge to join the arms race might be one response, but violence only begets more of the same.
Much of the gun violence in the city is not random at the outset. Bystanders may get hurt, but invariably, the guys with the guns are looking for someone, for retaliation against some perceived slight. People know what’s going on. Citizens can and must do even more to strengthen neighborhood watch activities and also to encourage tips to the police. Fear of retaliation is strong, of course, and yet the police can’t be effective if we don’t participate in our own protection.
We’re seeing an increase in terrible gang-related homicides as well, and this seems to be occurring with greater frequency in the suburbs. Here again, information is vitally important to police work. Somebody knows what’s going on with the gang members. We have to strengthen the community networks of information sharing and mutual support in order to get at the perpetrators.
Here at Trinity, we repeat the well-worn phrases of security and self-protection: don’t walk alone on Michigan Avenue, especially after dark; be careful driving in just about any direction; call security immediately if you see anything suspicious.
I’d like to add to those typical advisories this thought: if you are a student, staff or faculty member, or member of the Trinity family reading this, and if you know of criminal activity in your neighborhood, or know of someone who is part of a gang, please find a way to share that information with someone who can help. Local police or community leaders can help you. Here on campus, you can share such information with our Department of Public Safety.
If you are a parent, it goes without saying: keep track of what your teens are up to. If you need help with that, there are many resources to assist you, and our campus resource personnel can help you as well. Let us know.
Finally, we must raise our voices as citizen advocates to demand that the Congress — which controls so much of our city but seems to be largely clueless about the conditions in which so many DC citizens live — act more rationally and reasonably to safeguard the lives of the people who live, work and visit the nation’s capital. Respecting the choice of the local population to have strong local gun control would be a modest beginning.