Almost like clockwork, there will be rallies and prayer vigils held each week, calling for the elimination of gun violence. They happen with such regularity because each week there is at least one death due to gun violence. Thus far, in 43 weeks there have been 122 deaths. Many people are not just upset, but at their wit’s end over what appears to be an unstoppable escalation of gun violence not just in far-away places like Chicago but in the Jackson metropolitan area. (We do need to say, the Jackson metropolitan area because, although the news outlets do not publicize it, there are crime problems in Pearl, Clinton, Ridgeland, and other areas surrounding Jackson.)
In response to the escalating crime problem, some Jackson city officials, including Councilmen Aaron Banks and Ashby Foote, as well as residents, have called for an increase in the number of police officers on the force. In fairness to the city, there have been small increases to the force during the Lumumba administration. The question is, “What would be the optimum number of officers for the city?” In that same breath, one former Jackson police officer has indicated that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the officers are not paid enough to prevent great losses as a result of recruitment by other agencies here and abroad.
Some officials and residents, notably Councilman Kenneth Stokes, have called for assistance from other agencies, including the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department. Others, who oppose the idea of giving more money to the Office of the Sheriff, point to the Capitol Police, the Highway Patrol, and the FBI as possible partners to assist with the problem. They feel the additional numbers and expertise could certainly help curb the problem. Some leaders hope that this outside assistance would not lead to increased racial incidents between them and Black residents.
Many individuals of a more conservative bent call for increased bonds and stiffer sentences for those arrested on gun violence charges. In this call, many, including some law-enforcement officials, have blamed judges for being too lenient on accused offenders, causing them to take gun violence and other crimes lightly.
Many individuals of a more progressive bent, such as Mayor Lumumba, emphasize the role of poverty and a lack of economic opportunity in analyzing the crime problem. For them, if there were more economic opportunities, many people would not turn to crime, whether as isolated incidents or as a lifestyle. Many would not be so stressed and frustrated that they turn on those around them.
At a very practical level, there are residentials and officials, such as Councilman Kenneth Stokes, who call for limiting access to guns. For some years, Stokes has led protests against the periodic “gun shows” that are held in the area, pointing to the fact that at these events many weapons are put in the hands of youngsters, repeat offenders, and others who should not have them. Similar to the gun shows, guns are readily distributed through pawn shops. Proponents of cracking-down on gun shows and pawn shops reason that the fewer guns there are on the streets, the fewer people who can become victims of gun violence.
Finally, but we are sure there are other factors, there are people who look at various psychological underpinnings to the rising crime problem. Among these are the lack of anger management skills; the power of examples set by older people, family members, gangsters, officials and leaders in society, and elsewhere; and the need to dominate others. They feel that if somehow the potential perpetrators of gun violence could be re-programmed before they act, many acts of gun violence could be avoided.
Obviously, there is wisdom in each of the positions taken by the residents and officials. The million- dollar task is figuring out how to bring them all together in the optimum proportions. It is a million- dollar task because crime has been around every since the proverbial Cain and Abel murder. (It’s just that Cain did not have a gun.)
Jackson is likely to reach 130+ gun violent deaths before the end of 2021. The coordination and implementation of effective solutions is simply not going to come that quickly. Furthermore, no longed-for miracle is likely to occur.
Yet, for whatever it is worth, we will conclude with several observations derived from wise people in the community. (1) Mississippians in particular, but Americans in general, must acknowledge and deal with the reality that we have an oppressive, “Wild West” culture that has existed from its birth and that this culture has produced and promoted entertainment that standardizes and glamourizes gun toting and the violence that it generates. (2) Families, with the help of the schools and other socialization institutions, must regain the primacy in creating more humane human beings and more neighborly neighbors, undergirding not only the effectiveness of neighbor watches and community policing, but also supporting educational and economic policies that address the needs of all individuals rather than continually turning our backs on them under the guise of opposing socialism.
Until we can produce such a society, the best that anyone can expect of sheriffs or police chiefs, regardless of their promises, is that they promote and model excellent police behavior, supervise their departments with competence, and regularly rally the community in their efforts to diminish gun violence.