Editorial: Solutions for violence proving elusive
Stop the violence.
Such a simple message.
On Thursday, for the seventh year running, people marched through the streets of Durham to remember victims lost to violent crime.
"We need to change," Lessie Carr told The Herald-Sun's Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan. Carr's family has suffered the loss of three relatives to violence since 2001. Her niece, Catrina, died as a bystander in a shooting off Holloway Street. Her brother, Darrell, died in an attack on Hillside Avenue. Another niece, Jackie Howard, lost her son, Demario Carr, in a shooting on the Durham Freeway in 2011.
Mayor Bill Bell has pushed for expanded background checks for would-be gun owners - for all the good that did, as U.S. senators last week caved to pressure from the National Rifle Association. District Court Judge Marcia Morey said that she can't necessarily give victims justice, but she can impose consequences. She urged people to do more by contacting legislators, protesting and shouting out "that human safety is more sacred than any gun rights."
But as simple as the "Stop the violence" message might be, the solution's liable to be much more complex because, in truth, the problem itself runs deeper than the relative ease of acquiring a handgun.
It's especially true of gang-related violence. Although authorities have reported a decline in gang violence, it remains a serious concern in cities like Durham. With gangs come not just violence, but illegal money-making activities including drug and gun trafficking, robbery, fraud, extortion and prostitution rings.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that 33,000 violent street gangs with 1.4 million members exist in the United States today. That's close to the number of active personnel in the U.S. Army.
Sadly, it is difficult to imagine many of Durham's gang-affiliated youth hearing the calls of passing marchers and just giving up that way of life. Not without other significant changes. Not without more lucrative opportunities.
"No more violence! We need peace!" Marchers shouted this message outside the Durham Police Department at the end of the route on Thursday.
Police Chief Jose Lopez Sr. urged marchers to spread the word about stopping violence and said "we could put a dent in it."
Stopping the violence will require better parenting to prevent youth disengagement, less demand for drugs, an improved economy with ample jobs - and, yes, some measure of gun control.
So far, none of these are proving to be easy fixes.
But, if we're going to change - and we must - we've got to keep trying.