2008-06-05 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

We Don't Need More Meetings; We Need LEADERS
By Charles Rogers


Governor David Paterson last Sunday hosted a meeting with city and state leaders in response to the overwhelming increase in shootings in the city. To some, the meeting was termed an "emergency summit," at the time, especially in light of the wounding of a half-dozen kids in Harlem during just one incident last week (among many). To others, it was just another loud meeting with lots of posturing to bolster the egos of politicians - all in order to make it seem like they're doing something about the problem.

Now let's see….When was the last time people had a meeting about gun violence - maybe about gang violence. Every time you turn around there is some eager politician or activist saying, "We've got to do something about this!" And then nothing is done until the next shooting, at which time somebody says, "We've got……" You know.

There are a very few cases where something is being done, I must say. Last Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton led a peace rally in Harlem to protest the shootings of those teenagers. He told reporters he was "shocked" at the amount of gunplay going on throughout the city during the past few weeks alone. Oh, and he said he plans to hold a town hall meeting at the Apollo Theater to address the subjects of violence, guns and gangs.

And will it do any good? I doubt it. Oh, maybe for about 15 minutes while the community members who attended the meeting get home and sit down and start to watch television and forget about it completely (that's what television's for, isn't it - so you can forget your troubles?).

There are others, of course, who have been trying to do something about the guns. Mayor Bloomberg, for one. He actually formed a coalition of mayors of big cities - at least a number of them who are not afraid of the National Rifle Association (NRA) - and they have been successful, to a very small degree, on a cooperative effort to track gun crimes and weapons' trafficking all the way back to gun dealers in certain southern states. At least one dealer is facing about ten years in prison for selling a handgun to a man he allegedly knew had a criminal record.

We ran a story last week on page three about some gang members showing up on Canarsie Pier at about 9 p.m. on a Saturday and started shooting at each other.

Did you get that? THEY STARTED SHOOTING AT EACH OTHER! Luckily, no one was hurt, including bystanders, and as soon as police were told about the incident, they came on the run but the gangs scattered and no guns were found. You can't blame the cops. By the time somebody notified them, the incident was over - and witnesses were very, very quiet about the details. I guess you can't blame them, either. It's scary enough just walking down the street now - without fearing somebody might be out to get you because you witnessed something.

You have to give a round of applause to Rev. Sharpton for even speaking up. Although I don't believe his intentions were altogether altruistic, they're at least something tangible; something people can hold onto for awhile. Maybe they'll go to the Apollo and - at least for that 15 minutes - feel safe, or safer. And a pat on the back to Mayor Bloomberg wouldn't hurt either. He's also fighting an uphill fight, despite his billions of bucks. And yes, I believe his intentions are altruistic.

It's obvious that what we need is real, courageous leadership. You hear the Democratic contenders and the Republican contender saying how bad it is that there are children out there with guns; that there are felons who can get hold of a gun whenever he or she needs one. Yet these same politicians will cower in the face of the NRA lobbyists because they need its support in order to win their next election.

What we need is a leader with enough guts to stand up to both houses of Congress the next time they vote on a gun control bill that kowtows to the NRA and veto it. Right now, of course, those with guns have the upper hand, right? The next time a guy with a gun tries to hold you up, give him whatever he wants.

Why not? We're giving the Rifle Association anything it wants.

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