Saying No To Gun Violence
Mass Shooting In Prince George’s Should Not Deter County Direction. It Should Push Against Illegal Guns.
By The Prince George’s Suite Editorial Board
A mass shooting has occurred in Prince George’s County. It occurred when seven people were shot at a birthday party for a two-year old in Camp Springs Aug. 24.
Although there were no fatalities, a children’s party is usually a safe haven from gun violence. But like so many other social and cultural settings—churches, synagogues, movie theaters and schools—our society seems to be losing its grip on safe spaces.
Mass shootings are becoming so prevalent that unless there are multiple deaths, Americans scarcely look up from their morning coffee at the news of such tragedies anymore. At least that’s what some would have us accept. The fact is, thousands of parents across the country are now buying bulletproof backpacks for their children this Fall because, frankly, they have little other way to protect them. The worst possible feeling parents can have is of not being able to protect their own children. But there it is – a feeling that the parents at the home of the birthday party must have felt in the moments when the shots rang out.
But it is unacceptable.
It’s unacceptable for dozens of reasons – not the least of which that the victims of mass shootings have just as much right to live as the perpetrators have rights to own guns.
This is not to suggest that gun owners should lose their guns. To the contrary, Marylanders won’t have that and rightly so. Early patriots in Maryland didn’t beat back the British with bad attitudes and broom sticks. Harriet Tubman didn’t lead (some sources say as many as 24) missions on the Underground Railroad with rocks and spiritual music for protection – she carried a gun. When the Civil War pit American families against one another, Maryland was a border state and strategic ground between the South and the nation’s capital. Over 23,000 men fell as casualties in the one-day Battle of Antietam. But the battle secured Washington and led President Lincoln to issue his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. In Maryland, guns are as much a part of state history as Francis Scott Key’s writing of the National Anthem in the battle against the British at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. No one’s giving up guns here.
But there is a difference between the defense of life and liberty and the taking of it. Prince George’s Police Chief Hank Stawinski made a simple demand while his officers began the investigation after the shooting: “We will get to the bottom of [this shooting] as we always do but we need to address the larger issue of illegal guns on our streets,” he said.
Although it’s rare for a law enforcement leader to make such a statement at a crime scene, Stawinski is right and right to say so. Illegal weapons put the entire community at risk and hurl all first responders – especially police officers – directly into harm’s way. The growing number of mass shootings and gun violence must be addressed in the same way as any other national issue that kills 30,000 Americans a year: as an epidemic.
According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, from 2015 to 2016 there were 27,394 firearm homicides and 44,955 firearm suicides. That is a total of 72,349 deaths in a one-year span, which represents approximately 198 deaths a day, or 8 deaths every hour, reports The Student Osteopathic Medical Association in an editorial based on the CDC research (click here).
Alternatively, the county has been moving in a different direction. Violent crime has decreased so much that life expectancy in Prince George’s increased by over two years in 2016. That’s a phenomenally positive and rare accomplishment for a jurisdiction of this size and growth pattern.
It’s important that community, civic and business leaders continue to push against illegal firearms in Prince George’s. We need to ensure that the scale of gun violence that occurred in Camp Springs remains an exception and not the rule. There are hundreds of two year olds counting on us to do so.