ONUMBA.COM – A visibly livid Mayor Michael Coleman is preaching the same sermon he has frustratingly preached for years. His face is starting to turn purple from speaking out against gun violence and decrying the avalanche of guns littering the streets of Columbus.
But still, some young folks are just not getting it.
The message, for what it’s worth, is iron-clad clear: Pulling a gun at cops, even without firing it, is as good as committing suicide.
Dude – there’s no better way to put it. It’s a dumb thing to do.
For Obbie Shepard, an African-American 21-year old, who was killed by the police weeks ago after he pulled and fired a gun at them, that blunt message is obviously ‘too little, too late. But for other young folks out there, there are plenty of lessons to learn from Shepard’s tragedy.
The incident occurred on the South side of the city, where Shepard, after being caught riding a stolen bicycle, jumped down and ran as he fired shots at approaching cops. The cops returned fire, killing him instantly.
As always, shootings involving the police and a member of the Black community make headline news often with racial undertones. This was no different. The incident riled Black folks who pointed the finger of blame at the police for often disrespecting African-American residents. But Coleman, last week, begged to differ, at least concerning this particular case. And he wasn’t mushy about it, either. The mayor did not shy away from saying what he felt needed to be said.
“To any parent who loses a child, it’s a terrible thing,” said Coleman during a press conference held at the police headquarters downtown. “But if you’re going to shoot at police or anybody else, you’re writing your own death sentence.”
Counting the Shepard incident, there were six shootings in the month of August involving the police. In four of the shootings, armed men opened fire at cops who fired back killing the four shooters. That was just in that month. But so far in 2011, there have been 12 police involved shootings in Columbus resulting in five deaths.
Coleman, warning that life is “not a video game” and that officers will “meet deadly force with deadly force,” expressed the view that these deaths are preventable.
“When you have an encounter with police, you don’t pull out a gun – ever. If you do… you will probably be shot. That’s a fact of life,” said Coleman, pretty much calling‘a spade a spade,’ and some would say, rightly so.
The mayor urged parents to do more to protect their children.
“If you know or even suspect that your child is carrying a gun or is engaged in criminal activity, you need to intervene now to save their life.”
In the wake of the Shepard shooting incident, pastors belonging to the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Columbus and vicinity huddled up in a news conference to decry gun violence in the city. That’s really nice. But such populist parleys, though sincere and helpful in its own way, often appear to be more reactionary than anything else, when actually the solution is a sustained effort at intervening, mentoring and changing the lives of young African-Americans dangling dangerously and aimlessly. And parents, most would agree, have a leading role to play in that effort.
Coleman, who has been at the forefront of this battle, wants gun violence to “stop now.”
But while he has been outspoken about this, his main proposal for stemming its tide frustratingly remains a long way from being realized. Coleman has kvetched repeatedly about the torrent of guns flowing into the streets of Columbus and has complained that his “hands are tied” about addressing it.
And he faults the enabling role that government plays in indirectly fostering it.
Years ago, assault weapons were banned in the city and carrying concealed weapons in city parks was illegal. That was when cities could enact their own gun rules.
But that was then. In 2007, the laws changed, preventing cities from being able to enact their own local gun rules. That was because the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that local laws should not supplant state laws on this, and that only the state government should have the authority to regulate weapons in all cities and localities.
That pretty much left Coleman with the same thing: back to preaching the same sermon.
“There are too many damn guns in the streets, and now they are being pointed at police,” said Coleman, at that press conference. It was the same concern he expressed repeatedly last summer when the city was being clobbered by a wave of deadly gun violence. Coleman has long held the view that Ohio is “a gun state”because“ we allow concealed weapons by law.”
His words: “We’re a gun state,” he decried.“We allow the proliferation of guns in all of our communities.”
State Representative Tracy Heard expressed similar concerns.
Not long ago, she introduced a legislation to close a loophole through which she complained illegal guns flow into the community. Coleman praised that effort, calling it an “important piece of legislation” that would require background check before gun purchase.
But still, there are just too many guns in the wrong hands. Coleman’s message is simple, loud and clear: ‘parents shield your children from being around such peril.
Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com
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