Dealing with the rage thing#8217; Staff 04/30/2006 I was wrong. I know, #8220;big surprise there,#8221; and it probably wasn#8217;t the first time that day last week when I wrote on the Web site (www.
I was wrong.
I know, “big surprise there,” and it probably wasn’t the first time that day last week when I wrote on the Web site (www.suffolknewsherald.com) about the cause of recent shootings of young people and how little can be done about it.
The New York Times Sunday had a great story about the increase in shooting violence in many cities such as Suffolk. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the recent Suffolk shootings. I emailed a copy of it to City Manager Steve Herbert and I hope it gets into the hands of City Council members.
Like a lot of people, I assumed (which is usually the first mistake), that the killings were likely drug related, and that the problem arises from poverty, teen mothers, the lack of a father in the home, etc.
And while some of Suffolk’s shootings may indeed have been drug related, the connection is incidental to a larger issue.
It’s also not necessarily gang-related, as many have suggested. Gang-related drug murders and turf wars were more representative of the street violence that was occurring in the 1980s and early 1990s than what’s happening today.
To paraphrase the Times report as briefly as possible, it appears people are simply more prone to go for a gun when someone makes them angry. Whereas most of us used to settle disputes with arguing or fists, today, when someone cuts us off on the freeway, instead of flipping them the bird, we pull our gun out and shoot them.
Here’s the story’s lead:
“MILWAUKEE — One woman here killed a friend after they argued over a brown silk dress. A man killed a neighbor whose 10-year-old son had mistakenly used his dish soap. Two men argued over a cellphone, and pulling out their guns, the police say, killed a 13-year-old girl in the crossfire.
“While violent crime has been at historic lows nationwide and in cities like New York, Miami and Los Angeles, it is rising sharply here and in many other places across the country…Suspects tell the police they killed someone who &uot;disrespected&uot; them or a family member, or someone who was &uot;mean mugging&uot; them, which the police loosely translate as giving a dirty look. And more weapons are on the streets, giving people a way to act on their anger.
“Police Chief Nannette H. Hegerty of Milwaukee calls it &uot;the rage thing.&uot;
&uot;We’re seeing a very angry population, and they don’t go to fists anymore, they go right to guns,&uot; she said. &uot;A police department can have an effect on drugs or gangs. But two people arguing in a home, how does the police department go in and stop that?&uot;
They can’t, of course.
The article states that the problem seems to particularly acute among black males from their teens to mid-20s (just like here in Suffolk).
Police in several cities told the Times a lot of the problem is simply more guns on the streets as gun laws have loosened around the country. In Philadelphia, since the state made it easier in 1985 to get a gun permit, the number of people authorized to carry guns in the city has risen from 700 to 32,000.
Who knows, maybe those of us who used to settle our disputes with fists would have shot had we had the guns?
So getting guns off the streets is one solution, along with tougher sentencing for anyone involved in an incident. Many police departments are reporting that many of the people involved in “dispute” shootings, have been in trouble before.
While that may help, the larger, tougher to solve problem, is that the neighborhoods where most of the shootings are happening n again, just like in Suffolk n are a city’s poorest.
One police chief said that people had explained it as a “lack of hope.”
&uot;If I don’t have skills, I don’t have training, my socioeconomic situation looks desperate, do I really have hope?&uot; he said. &uot;I think that ties into the anger. If the only thing I have is my respect, that’s what I carry on the street. If someone disrespects me, they’ve done the ultimate to me.&uot;
But it’s not just the poor who are resorting to violence and crude behavior. The vice president of the United States told a U.S. senator to “go #*%& himself,” and is now shooting people.
So where does this leave us in Suffolk? Who knows. Trying to remove guns, along with the bad apples, should help. A gun buy back program might not be a bad idea and some cities are conducting regular “sweeps” of neighborhoods to find wanted fugitives.
But what about the “hope” thing, which is likely the major factor?
I think Suffolk’s on the right track with its task force. It needs to involve everyone n police, prosecutors, churches, schools and social service agencies.
In the meantime, you might want to think twice about flipping off that driver, arguing with someone over a dress, or even quail hunting with some lunatic. You never know what they might do.
Andy Prutsok is publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or at firstname.lastname@example.org