This past week some yahoo stepped into a Baltimore street and fired some 60 rounds up the street, wounding at least four and killing one.
That night on local TV news, the police commissioner was pleading for someone to come forth and speak up, so the cops can catch the shooter.
Back up a minute: No one has handed over videos of the incident? The commissioner pointed out that it was a nice day, middle of the day, and people were out. Someone had to see something, someone had to know something, and heaven knows, if cops were trying to arrest a suspect there’d be all kinds of video and people on camera complaining about police brutality. So where are the neighbors today?
Maybe, by the time this sees print, someone will suck it up and come forward, say something, share a video, and then be willing to even testify.
But it will take more courage than the average suburban resident can imagine. Suburbanites don’t have to live on the street, make it to and from the store a block or so away to get bread or milk — if there is a store. Or just sit on the stoop in the evening.
The average suburban citizen can be all about gun ownership being a right, and how it protects a community and keeps people safe. They have the time and money and transportation to go 20 miles to a gun range to try out their new 30-round magazine and the gizmos that essentially make their handgun an automatic weapon. They have assault-grade weapons, too, but they could use them for deer hunting if they want to, so they have the right to have — and brandish them — on the steps of the building where the school board is meeting.
Or have them close at hand, in their pickup trucks and vans, while they make a “tour” of the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to bully Congress.
The people of the neighborhoods where shots are being fired literally every day live on a different planet than those who call themselves citizen patriots, but guns are at the center of what ails all of us.
It’s too easy to get the weapons and use them, and too hard for good people to actually do the work that really defines the freedom we like to believe is our American birthright.
Just witnessing a crime can make you the victim of another in some neighborhoods; just being from other neighborhoods makes other people think they’re immune from the consequences of their misjudgments.
Years ago, I was sitting on a bench in a suburban mall when I noticed a young woman whose purposeful course toward my location told me she was trying to elude someone. I looked beyond her and saw a man and a woman who were obviously in a hurry, looking for someone.
As the fleeing woman turned a corner and headed for the exit, she took something from her bag and tossed it against a wall. She went out the doors to my right just as the pursuers turned the corner and saw her.
Moment later, they had her in tow and were walking back to whatever store they had left. As they passed the discarded article, I spoke: “She ditched that item there, if you’re looking for that.”
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They’d have walked past it if I had not spoken out. They retrieved it, took my name and info. Uh oh.
As my wife and I walked the mall later, I head a voice behind me say, “Is this the guy here?” I turned to glimpse the suspect and two young men, looking at me. Uh oh again.
Month or so went by. I was subpoenaed to appear in a Baltimore County court at 8:30 a.m. and was there on time. The defendant arrived late, noticed me, conferred with her attorney, and her hearing time was postponed several times before they took one last look at me, sitting there, and huddled with the prosecutor to make a plea deal.
When I got home early that afternoon, I said to my wife, “I spent more time in the system than the perpetrator.”
But because I live on a different street, a different planet, I was not paid a visit by her two friends from the mall.
The mall no longer exists; the problems do. We have more guns now.
Dean Minnich writes from Westminster.