Columns » Bob McCord

Start with guns

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On August 22, a man was shot and killed in the street a half-block from his house in south central Little Rock. This was the 43rd homicide in the city this year, ahead of the 1993 record pace.

This is bad news but no surprise. The FBI’s records of the last two years show that Southern states are second only to the Midwestern states in homicides. Oddly enough, the FBI makes the point that there has been more violent crime in medium-size cities than in the bigger ones. Here are some of the changes in the percentage of murders from 2004 to 2005 — New York City, -1.9 percent; San Diego, -2.5 percent; Portland, -4.4 percent; Houston, +2.4 percent. Smaller cities report with increases like these — Memphis, 25.1 percent; Louisville, 18.8 percent; Phoenix, 13 percent; Indianapolis, 12.5 percent. In Washington, D. C., 14 persons were slain in the first 12 days of July.

In June of 2005, the FBI said that a 2.4 percent increase in violent crime in the nation is the highest in 15 years. Homicides were up 4.8 percent for the entire country, but the count was 12.5 percent in cities with populations between 50,000 to 250,000.

There are now 353,000 more people in federal and state penitentiaries than there were 10 years ago. In Arkansas’s penitentiaries today there are 1,682 more people than in 2001.

What is causing all of this? Criminologists say that it’s because of too many guns, more young people, too many juvenile gangs and released prisoners.

It seems to me that the only way we can reduce homicide is to reduce the number of pistols. Our country is the only one in the civilized world that allows almost anyone to buy any kind of a weapon they want.

A few days ago a woman in Newport took her pistol to church on Sunday and threatened to use it if she didn’t get the information she wanted.... A 19-year-old boy in Conway shot two men he didn’t know with his pistol as he drove past them in his car...Fearing that a man was going to testify about them, a gang of sellers of cocaine, marijuana and heroin with pistols cornered and almost killed him and his 2- and 4-year-old sons driving in a truck on Geyer Springs Road in daylight...A group of teenagers had a shootout on the Jacksonville High School campus this month, and one Cabot boy was killed and a Jacksonville teenager was wounded ... In July, there was a similar gathering of teens who knew each other at North Little Rock’s McCain Mall parking lot at 1:30 p.m. in which three teenagers were shot with pistols that wounded one 18-year-old boy, killed another one who was also 18 and a 17-year-old boy who died a few weeks later... A doctor in Springdale had his license taken away because he always carried a pistol and pointed it at the owner of a clinic where he had patients... Little Rock’s 40th homicide of the year was in August when a 25-year-old man shot and killed his sister’s boyfriend while they were playing dominoes.

I was amazed the other day when I found out that in Arkansas almost anyone could get a permit to carry a pistol. All you have to do is to fill out a card at the state’s Concealed Weapon Unit. When it got started in 1995 they quickly handed out 60,580 licenses. Can you believe that 60,580 Arkansans really need to carry a pistol? Obviously some people thought no because now only 41,000 have the license, which, to me, is still far too many.

I talked to Jeff Brzozowski, the resident agent of the two federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms offices in Arkansas. He agreed that “people own more pistols than ever before” and that his men were busy trying to take illegal ones away from them. However, he said he couldn’t say how many arrests his officers have made.

However, Bud Cummins, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said that the government had charged 438 defendants for breaking federal firearm laws since May 2002 when something called the Project Safe Neighborhood program began. In 2006 alone, 92 people have been arrested and charged. Cummins said that Arkansas police liked the federal government to do most of this because unlike Arkansas laws, federal penalties are longer and there is no parole.

When I think about all this, I wish every high school — especially ones with many black kids — would bring speakers like Bill Cosby to tell why they ought to stay in school and graduate. I think we need more police to keep pistols from being sold on the streets and at gun shows and to keep liquor stores, bootleggers, restaurants and night clubs from selling alcohol to kids under 21. And. I wish newspapers would stop running classified ads for selling pistols.


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