Commenting on the recent gun violence in Carroll Park, Mayor Brandon Scott called the incident a “mass shooting” that was “completely unacceptable” (”Baltimore homicides are up more than 17% this year, with seven dead since Saturday as mayor vows to find a solution,” May 3).
Equally unacceptable is Baltimore’s decades-long inaction on gun violence. This city has been at or near the top of America’s most-dangerous cities list for at least the 40 years since I’ve been here as a city resident or frequenter. And nothing has been done to change that. No wonder hundreds of thousands of Baltimoreans have fled this town, leaving it with almost 40% fewer citizens now than it had in 1950. People are afraid of getting shot here. Can you blame them?
Administration after administration has promised to fix Baltimore’s gun-violence problem, and they have all failed miserably. Two were run out of office amid corruption scandals. Our last mayor once suggested that Baltimore’s crime would abate when the weather got colder. Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, but cold weather is not a crime plan. As for new Mayor Scott, I suppose it’s only fair to give him more of a chance. But so far, the murder rate has gone up under his administration, not down as promised.
What we need are leaders who recognize that guns are Baltimore’s biggest problem. Sure, fight systemic poverty and racism with all you got. Those are noble and important battles. But those long-haul efforts won’t save lives tomorrow, next week or next year. If we want people to stop bleeding to death on Baltimore’s streets right now, then we have to somehow disarm this city.
I offer these common-sense suggestions as a starting point:
First, commit to real change in Baltimore by sending a letter to every citizen letting us know that it is no longer business as usual at City Hall. The thugs have ruled this town long enough and now the honest, law-abiding rest of us are taking it back. Assure us that the current penalties for possession and use of illegal firearms will be toughened to the point of deterrence and that efforts to confiscate them will be improved and heightened.
Second, develop and deploy anti-violence curricula for every grade and require they be taught in every city school. There’s a culture of violence here that needs to be countered with a sane, healthy approach to conflict resolution and a promotion of civility and civic responsibility.
And third, reinforce these efforts with public service announcements that promote the “new” Baltimore as a gun-free zone. Like it or leave it.
Baltimore has the potential to be remarkable. But right now it’s a tragic, damaged city, far more famous for its ever-present shootings than the beauty, charm and uniqueness its constant violence obscures.
Louis Balsamo, Baltimore
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