Last week, I was talking to the two men — East Side residents named Jimmie and Charles — who cut my grass and mulch my leaves, and I asked them if they had big New Year’s Eve plans.
Almost before I’d finished the question, Charles began shaking his head and said: “July 4 and New Year’s Eve, I’m in bed before the gunfire starts.”
I laughed, but, of course, there’s a lot of truth to what he said.
From celebratory shooting to shooting with malice, New Year’s Eve is a day we usually get a lot of gunfire in the Kansas City area.
The last day of 2016 and the first hours of 2017 were no exception: Three triple shootings occurred between Saturday and Sunday in Kansas City. Fortunately — and I say that loosely — only one of the nine people injured in those shootings died.
But that one death pushed the 2016 homicide count to 126 for last year — the city’s highest homicide count since 2008.
The headline on The Star’s year-end crime story was: “2016: The killing began quickly and never let up.”
That’s a hell of a commentary, isn’t it? To lift a phrase from the Jackie Chiles character on “Seinfeld,” “It’s outrageous, egregious, preposterous.” But in this case, it ain’t funny.
And here’s something that makes me squirm: Of those three triple shootings, only one occurred in what most of us would consider the “inner city.” That was in the 5800 block of Blue Parkway, near Sni-A-Bar Road.
One of the others occurred in the 1700 block of Missouri Avenue, near the Della Lamb Community Center in northeast Kansas City. And the third shooting, in which a man in his 20s died, took place on Ninth Street, between Broadway and Washington, near The Peanut’s downtown location.
I don’t know about you, but I am frequently in the vicinity of Blue Parkway and Sni-A-Bar; it’s my go-to route to Kauffman Stadium. And the Milwaukee Delicatessan, Ninth and Baltimore, is my second favorite pizza place (after Minsky’s).
As much as I’d like to wave off those incidents as not being in my frame of reference, I can’t do that. In fact, there are many places we all go that have been the scenes of shootings and that probably will be in the months and years to come.
The rate of shootings and homicides has to be a major concern for all of us. As Damon Daniel, executive director of the AdHoc Group Against Crime, told The Star: “Today’s shooters are very young and never stop to think about the collateral damage they cause to families and the community at large.”
A shooting might start with the mildest of personal slights; or with revenge in mind and no reflection on the likely consequences; or by accident, with a novice criminal wielding a handgun during his first armed robbery.
And what’s the common thread here? Duh, it’s the guns. They’re everywhere.
I got this from the Washington Post: The United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world — 89 guns for every 100 people — and the highest per capita rate of firearm-related murders of all developed countries — 67.5 percent.
Think about that: Eighty-nine guns for every 100 people. And I don’t know if that includes the unaccounted-for guns on the streets, the guns that are being used in many of the shootings in the Kansas City area.
We can be grateful, I guess, that we’re not as bad off as Chicago, which recorded 762 homicides in 2016. That’s the most murders Chicago has had in 20 years and more than New York and Los Angeles combined last year.
A story in today’s Kansas City Star about Chicago said this: “The bulk of the deaths and shooting incidents…occurred in only five neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides, all poor and predominantly black areas where gangs are most active.”
What a scourge…and not just for Chicago. It’s a pox upon all of us, but particularly on generations of elected officials for allowing this situation to descend to the current, perhaps irredeemable level.
And it’s a rotten shame for the most advanced, most ingenious nation in the world to have to own this problem. All of us, as the saying goes, “have to wear it.”
Obviously, I don’t have the answer…I’m with my lawn guy Charles: It’s a good idea to be in bed before the shooting starts.