Get illegal guns off the streets
The headlines have been full of reports of gun violence in North Charleston over the last month, and the stream of news stories reflects a terrible reality. The city has had 55 reported gun-related crimes this month — about twice the level of March 2011.
Most recently, police shot a 17-year-old resident who they say threatened them with a gun. He remains hospitalized.
Two other residents were shot and killed earlier this month. Police have made arrests in both incidents.
There also have been 17 gun-related robberies, 16 aggravated assaults and 20 weapons violations. Those are scary numbers.
In a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Keith Summey bemoaned the proliferation of guns in the city, while citing a report that some are being sold out of car trunks there.
Keying in on illegal gun sales should help stem the flow of handguns on the street. And today’s gun buyback should contribute to the city’s disarmament effort. Previous gun buybacks have seen as many as 100 weapons brought in to the police.
So far this month, the city has seized seven handguns, mainly in routine traffic stops.
Meanwhile, city police will continue what Mayor Summey describes as their “strong-line approach” to crime prevention. That approach paid off with a decline in violent crime last year. In 2011 there were five homicides compared to 12 the previous year.
But he adds, “That’s not going to get the guns off the street.”
The mayor is making a pitch to the community on the specific issue of illegal handguns.
“We’re trying to get the public engaged,” he said. “Somehow teenagers are getting hold of these weapons. We want the public to help us with any information.”
Mayor Summey cited a recent march against violence by community groups in North Charleston. “We need to find a way to partner with them. And we need to make parents aware. You need to check behind what your kids are telling you.”
The mayor met with a ministerial group Thursday as he put his outreach plan in motion.
If the March madness is any indication, gun violence is a community-wide problem. Shootings have been reported throughout the city. The most recent shootings occurred in Ferndale and in a neighborhood in the city’s Northwoods area.
The mayor emphasizes that his city isn’t the only place in the Lowcountry with a gun problem. Certainly the glorification of guns in pop culture is an American problem. But the current spate of shootings has put the focus on North Charleston.
Mayor Summey’s effort to engage the community can bring results — if the community is willing to be engaged. Residents should listen to the mayor’s plea and offer any information to police that will turn back the high tide of gun violence in their city.