EDITORIAL: It’s Time to Haul in Gunslingers and End the City Shootouts

A roll of police tape (police line) lies on the ground outside a home being foreclosed on in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2009.
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Once again, the lack of respect for human life, misplaced anger and the ease with which one can secure firearms have resulted in the death of an innocent teenager in a Northeast community. Those who knew Woodrow Wilson High graduate Jamahri Sydnor, 17, remember her smile, positive attitude and zeal for life.

And if that’s not enough, Jamahri was just days away from heading off to Florida A&M University to start her college studies. She recently turned to Twitter proudly displaying her well-deserved acceptance letter to FAMU but will never have the chance to live out her dreams. She’ll also miss her sister’s wedding — an event that was to have taken place last Friday before the family found itself facing a sudden, unimaginable turn of events.

The soon-to-be college coed was caught in the middle of a shootout between two groups of Black youths while she drove along Saratoga Avenue in Northeast last Thursday. An errant bullet entered her car, striking her in the head. Meanwhile, with a 21-year-old Black male in custody, charged with assault with intent to kill, District police continue to comb the streets and evaluate leads in their search for several other suspects.

D.C. has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the U.S. — a fact that means very little when compared to the tripled rate of homicides recorded by one ward in the first half of 2016 compared to the same time in 2015. The Supreme Court overturned a handgun prohibition in 2008 but D.C.’s gun owners must still be 21 and wait 10 days from the date of purchase before receiving a gun. The possession of assault weapons and the concealed carrying of firearms both remain illegal. However, the later ban now faces challenges from gun associations and Republican elected officials and could soon be overturned.

Without sounding too naïve, we can recall the days when youth settled their disputes with their fists — not by arming themselves with deadly guns, lying in wait in bushes, at least in this situation, until they can ambush their unsuspecting foes. We cannot emphasize enough that bullets, while they may be intended for specific targets, have no names. They can and often do follow strange trajectories, striking, injuring and even killing innocent bystanders.

When the police close this case, those who participated in last week’s shootout, turning to guns instead of using rational conversation to resolve their problems, will find themselves joining an already disproportionately high number of Black men as “residents” of the prison industrial complex. For both the shooters and the victim, potentially bright futures will be impacted and changed forever, hopes will be shattered and hearts will be broken.

There will be no winners. Truth be told, there never are.

We believe the day will come when the Black community will no longer allow acts of wanton violence to derail the dreams and snuff out the lives of Black men, women and children. On that day, mothers, fathers, surrogate parents, preachers, teachers — even the next-door neighbor — will take to the streets, snatch up misguided youth by their collars and sit them at their feet, sharing tales of struggle and survival passed down by our ancestors. Peace will return.

But for now, we need not fear white supremacists like those who brought their hatred to Charlottesville last weekend. Our own people, even our own children, are doing just fine in facilitating the destruction of our beloved but still fragmented, Black community.

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