Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Road Shootings in LA. Police urge public to “keep threat in perspective”

Authorities established a special task force aimed at halting violence as Southern California experienced its eighth freeway shooting in two months on Monday. The random shootings have left four men dead and four injured.

Having lived through the Washington, D.C. sniper shootings, I have an appreciation for what the residents of Southern California are experiencing. It is one thing to get into your car each day knowing that there is a risk of a car accident. It is another to know that when you get into your car you could be killed by a random act as you are driving along the interstate (or, in the DC case, stopping to get gas or groceries).

While I’m sure that local and state authorities are using every means to find the individual(s) responsible for these acts, I’m alarmed by their acceptance of random violence. As the Chicago Tribune reports:
Despite the creation of the task force, law enforcement official in the region stressed that there was no indication that freeway shootings had actually increased.

"We don't want the public to think there's an onslaught [of shootings]," said CHP Assistant Chief Art Acevedo. "We are actually on pace to have fewer shootings this year, and remember, these shootings are taking place in three counties that are heavily traveled with high populations. Compare that to shootings that take place on a daily basis and that puts a proper perspective on the size of the problem."

Joel Best, the head of the sociology department at the University of Delaware, is quoted in the Tribune article saying:

"You sort of assume you're going to get through the day and not be struck by lightning and you're going to get through the day without having someone you don't know shooting you for no reason," said Best.

First, a response for Best. There are, unfortunately, places in America where there is a daily fear that you will be shot, often by someone you don’t know, for no apparent reason. Individuals accept the risks associated with getting in a car each day as part of their routine. We do not accept the risk of being shot while we drive down the highway.

To CHP Assistant Chief Acevedo. First, I’m sure that a large part of his response was meant to prevent panic and ensure that residents of the region will continue to live their lives. However, you can’t compare these shootings to others that go on around Los Angeles. Individuals live in the suburbs because they feel safer and do not want to live in the environments where “shootings that take place on a daily basis” occur. It’s apples and oranges.

Despite statistics showing that crime, including violent crime is at a 30-year low, America still has more violence than any other industrialized nation. We also incarcerate more of our population than any other industrialized nation. Our crime reduction policies are not working. We must do more. And, it starts not with limiting gun ownership (although this half of The Yellow Line would support strong limits on gun sales and ownership) but with education and providing economic opportunity.

ALAN ADDS: Gun laws and restrictions are one of the few areas on which the two of us at TYL have some disagreement. I do not believe our gun laws are insufficient. I do believe our crime prevention is.


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