Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Guns, Reality Promise Intrigue for Coming Year

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Guns, Reality Promise Intrigue for Coming Year

Article excerpt

YOU DON'T NEED a crystal ball to foretell the future - at least not if you're trying to predict the most interesting squabble of 1994.

When St. Louis Police Chief Clarence Harmon responded to the city's record homicide count with a promise that his officers would become "a little hard-nosed about looking" for guns in the new year, the American Civil Liberties Union was quick to sound a warning.

"It could easily be utilized in a very discriminatory manner," said Judith Cromwell, assistant director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. "We almost have to wait to see if they go too far. If, for example, they stop only black males between the ages of 18 and 24."

What a fine argument is developing.

If the cops are going to put a dent in the number of homicides by getting tough on people who carry guns, guess who they're going to have to concentrate on?

Young black males.

As a wannabe liberal, a child of the Sixties, I wish it weren't so. But take a look at the statistics: In a city that is almost evenly divided between white and black, almost 90 percent of last year's homicide victims were black. And 88 percent of the homicide victims were male.

It wasn't the Ku Klux Klan doing the killing.

For the most part, it was young black males shooting other young black males. Occasionally, an innocent bystander would get nailed as one young black male shot at another young black male.

If you want to argue about sociological causes, I'll side with the liberals. The demise of the manufacturing economy, a welfare system that encourages the breakup of the family, a sense of hopelessness and a feeling of being shut out from society - all these things contribute to the chaos.

Unfortunately, the cops can't do anything about the so-called root causes. The most the cops can do is to get the guns away from the would-be shooters.

That means targeting young black males.

Oh, the cops could pretend that it's not young black males doing the shootings. Not all the killings are young black male on young black male. So Chief Harmon could put out the word, for instance, to start stopping middle-aged women, too.

That might satisfy the ACLU, but it wouldn't stop the killing. It wasn't middle-aged women - black or white - who turned certain neighborhoods into killing fields last year. …

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