The criticism of Baltimore restaurant owner Brian McComas for his tweets regarding Ceasefire is misguided and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the problem. The premise upon which Ceasefire appears to operate is that by appealing to potential shooters’ gentler nature, these mostly young men will stop committing violence for a weekend. It is this premise that Mr. McComas is questioning. He is being sarcastic and imprecise but not mean spirited.
Violence is in our DNA. Just accept it: Man is a violent creature. Man has, since the Stone Age, resolved conflict with violence. It’s our go-to problem solver. Don’t you think the women of the medieval village marched in the streets telling their men folk not to go to war? Did it work? No. With all of technology and education we have in this world, we still solve problems with violence and war. Even our president can’t think of a way to handle a situation without violence or threat of violence.
The problem is not the guns. It is not the bullets. And it is not a blanket disregard for the community. Addressing these things is a waste of time. The problem is the conflict. The young men lack sophisticated skills to resolve the conflict with anything other than violence. That’s what we must address.
I am a lawyer, not a social worker. I do not know how to help a person learn to resolve a dispute. But logic tells me start teaching dispute resolution in grade schools. Kids like guns. I like guns too. Guns are cool. Liking a gun doesn’t mean you want to shoot someone. Perhaps we could giving would be shooters a gun range where they can fire a handgun (chained to the wall) and settle arguments shooting at targets, not each other. Don’t knock it till you try it. Instead of trying to bend shooters to your will — because that always works with teenagers — try working with the behavior they are already exhibiting (shooting people) and redirecting it to something else (shooting targets).
Both the Tweeters and Ceasefire participants appear to be unfairly judging the young people involved in the gun violence. They seem to assume, for one, that they are bad kids. I have represented many people charged with acts of violence. You might be surprised to learn that they are very bright, even though they did not finish high school. Superb math skills, often. They are sweet, carrying pictures of their girl or their children. Some are fantastic artists. A recent client loved poetry. They can also be very philosophical. Oh yeah, they might even be innocent. Do you think Ceasefire is going to step up and come to court to support a member of the community charged with a gun crime? A presumed innocent member of the community?
They are definitely not thugs. Politicians are the thugs.
Ceasefire: Please put your resources toward resolving the conflict. No conflict equals no violence. Get the word out that you will mediate a dispute confidentially or even set up a place where they can go for mediation.
Politicians: Legalize drugs and give them jobs in the distribution (racism, not public health, caused drugs to be made illegal in the first place). Everyone else: Tutor them to try to keep them in school.
Tweeters: Knock it off. Boycott Mr. McComas’ restaurant? Do you think you have free speech and Mr. McComas doesn’t? What are you trying to accomplish? You want to punish him for expressing an opinion? Impress your friends with what a great liberal thinker you are? You jumped to all kinds of conclusions with no basis whatsoever.
Baltimore Sun readers: Keep an open mind. Judge the young people in your community fairly. Understand violence does not happen in a vacuum. Everyone has a right to express an opinion. It is America.
These young men do not want to shoot each other; they do not want to be shot. It is the cost of doing business, like going to jail. They are just people. Like you.
Maureen L. Rowland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an assistant public defender in Baltimore City. The opinions expressed herein are hers alone and do not represent the Office of the Public Defender.