Image courtesy of tricountysavannah.com

Gun Violence In America, From A Small Town

WHILE THE DEBATE ON GUN VIOLENCE IN AMERICA RAGES, LOOKING AT THE LOCAL LEVEL SHOULD BE WHERE WE TAKE ACTION

The homicide rate in Savannah, Georgia is the highest it has been in 25 years, falling back to a time in the 1980s when it was the murder capitol of the United States. There have been 10 murders since November 1st and upwards of 50 for the year. More often than not, the murders are acts of gun violence. While the debate over gun laws in this country are continually fueled by mass shootings, we find ourselves feeling incapable of solving the problem. More so, the problem is getting harder to define. The gun violence, not only in Savannah, but the rest of the country, is at an all time high. Last week, while I was in New York, two blocks from my home in Savannah, four people were gunned down, one of which died. The shooter has yet to be identified and information on the shooting is relatively unknown. The following weekend, after flying back in, there were three separate shootings of which left one man dead. The shooter of that killing was a 20 year old black male. He was 20 years old. My friends have been mugged. I walk my dog in the night, and I am scared.

Several years ago, a kid a block over from where I was living, a student, was gunned down in his yard during an armed robbery. I was in class, a hundred yards away and heard the shots. The sun was out. It was in the middle of the day. Last week, a classmate of mine was shot in the neck during a similar incident. Normally, when hearing about shootings in a city, its assumed that they are isolated to a specific part of town. More often than not these are lower income communities. But the violence has found its way into the populated areas of town. Several months before, around noon, a car drove by a restaurant where a friend of mine was working and emptied a pistol into the body of a man waiting for the bus. Downtown, in Ellis Square, a popular space for congregation, where kids play in water fountains for most of the day, two men shot at each other over a bar fight that crawled outside. The consequence of their bad aim sent five innocent bystanders to the hospital for gunshot wounds. As I’m writing this, I’m learning of 4 people who were shot in a gun battle in a parking garage in Savannah late last night.

The Savannah Government has done nothing to curb these outbursts of violence. Recently, 15 to 20 U.S. Marshals were dispatched for assistance in solving the issue. However, we remain just under a hundred officers short. Savannah boasts more revenue in tourism than neighboring and larger cities such as Charleston. To put it into monetary perspective, the 13.5 million visitors in 2014, combined with the hotel/motel tax revenue, the tourism industry in Savannah is worth around $2.5 billion. And with a handful of new higher end hotels being built, several on the riverfront and a new initiative to develop Broughton St., the premier shopping district, to include higher-end designers and stores, the projected increase in tourism and revenue for the city is obvious. There seems to be budgeting room for hiring. Yet, Savannah is home to one of the lowest salaries for men and women in law enforcement in the nation.

Savannah is no different from areas such as Chicago or Baltimore, it’s just happening on a microscopic level. The statistics for homicides, shootings, armed robberies are of that of a metropolitan city with a million people or more. Savannah is home to 142,000 residents.

What the hell is going wrong? And while gun violence on a local level is microscopic to the bigger picture, it is an inkling into the problem that persists again and again. It is simply too easy to obtain a gun in America. Why can’t we seem to get a grip on this? How many people have to die, senselessly. Is it something we start at dealing with on a local level? Should these laws we govern be decided state to state? Should we have a mass consensus, a vote, on whether semi-automatic weapons, weapons designed to kill people in combat efficiently and effectively be banned? Is it right to take back weapons that people already own? Could we promote a buy back program? We must stop asking, ‘when will it end?’ We must start asking, ‘Where do we begin?’

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