By State Representative, Leon D. Young
When will the senseless, random handgun violence end in Milwaukee?
Just last week, an innocent little girl (Sierra Guyton) was caught in the crossfire between two thugs bent on settling their personal dispute.
Sierra, a 10-year-old third-grader at Clarke Street Elementary School, was shot in the head and is now considered brain-dead.
In retrospect, Sierra’s only “crime”: playing on the school yard like children are encouraged to do by their parents.
As shocking as this unfortunate tragedy may sound, handgun incidents of this nature have become all too common in Milwaukee.
On May 4, an 11-year-old girl and a 29-year-old man were wounded when they were shot in an alley on the city’s north side.
According to police, the shooting in this case stemmed from an argument between the man and the shooter; and luckily, both victims survived.
This blatant disregard for human life knows no boundary and seems totally oblivious to the chronological age of its victims.
To illustrate the point, just last year, 12% of the city’s 532 nonfatal shooting victims were age 17 or younger, with the youngest being 4 years old, according to the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission’s annual report.
Earlier this year, a 2-year-old boy was wounded when gunshots were fired into his home, hitting the toddler while he watched TV.
More importantly, what message is this sending to our children, when they can become the innocent victims of this vortex of violence by merely frolicking on the playground with friends or watching TV in the “presumed safety” of their homes?
There is simply no place in Milwaukee or in our community for this fratricidal behavior.
Equally disturbing is the community silence that follows a shooting in too many instances.
As a former police officer, I can attest to the importance of community involvement.
In order for community policing to be an effective tool, residents must be willing to enter into a mutual contract with law enforcement, so that the greater good of the community is served.
Moreover, this misguided mindset that frowns upon community residents working with the police (known as “snitching” in the ‘hood) is not only ridiculous; it’s downright dangerous and undermines the safety of everyone that lives there.
Naturally, there have been renewed calls for more stringent gun measures – e.g., mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes; while others are calling for more police officers to be hired and deployed on the streets.
I would be the first to admit that the Legislature has been exceedingly negligent in not enacting stronger gun control laws.
But, in truth, just having a greater police presence on the streets is not the complete answer.
In addition to changing the criminals’ “mental calculation,” the community must also make it known that it will no longer tolerate or harbor individuals that commit acts of terror.
At last word, one of the suspects has been identified in connection with the Sierra Guyton shooting, which is a good thing.
But, in the broader context, the real focus should be on the prospects for Sierra’s recovery, as she fights for life at Children’s Hospital.
Our collective hopes and prayers go out to the Guyton Family during this most difficult and trying time, and pray that God will show both His mercy and grace to dear Sierra.