Earlier this week, the city of Springfield, MA recorded its 25th gun murder of the year. Given that there are still 4 more months in 2023, there’s a good chance that at least 30 fatal shootings will occur before we reach 2024.
Springfield has 150,000 residents, which means that as of today, the city’s gun-homicide rate is 16.67, more or less the same rate as countries like El Salvador or South Sudan, places like that.
Meanwhile, the state of Massachusetts not only has the lowest gun homicide rate of all 50 states, but it’s also rated as a very safe state because it has all of the laws which are considered necessary to protect the public against gun violence – universal background checks, ERPO, required safe storage, childproof gun design.
The last time the Giffords Law Center rated the strength of state gun laws, which was 2022, Massachusetts ranked 6th strongest of all 50 states and had a statewide gun-death rate of 3.4. So, Springfield’s gun-homicide rate is only 4 times higher than the overall state number – what’s so bad about that?
To celebrate Springfield’s new record for annual shootings in a year which still has four months to go, the city convened a meeting of its gun violence ‘task force’ to review the situation and come up with some new ideas on what to do.
The task force consists of the Mayor, the Chief of Police, the county prosecutor, several community ‘leaders,’ and of course a couple of representatives from the various ‘faiths,’ one who started the meeting off with a request to the Almighty that he bless everyone in attendance who would contribute something to this important task.
The only person missing from the meeting was a family member of someone who had been killed in a gunfight and would deliver an emotional plea to the assemblage to ‘honor the memory’ of their beloved brother or father or mother or whichever member of their family was now lying on a gurney in the coroner’s office with a quarter-ounce piece of lead in their head.
The meeting started right off with a report from the Police Chief which indicated that progress has been made in one area relevant to the task force’s work, namely, that the project to install shot-spotter monitors at all the city’s ‘hot spots’ is now complete. These devices will allow the cops to know the moment a gun goes off at any public space in the town, which is all fine and well except that three of the last four shootings occurred inside someone’s home.
In fact, last month a resident of the Brightwood section of the city noticed that he hadn’t seen the old man who lived alone next door for a couple of days. So, he knocked on the neighbor’s door and when there was no answer he opened the door and let himself in. The neighbor, in fact, was in his house, lying in a dried pool of blood on the kitchen floor.
How long had the old man been on his back in the kitchen with two bullet holes in his chest? The coroner estimated maybe three, maybe four days.
One of the liveliest discussions during the meeting involved a plan, not yet completed nor implemented, to promote the idea that giving the cops some idea about who committed the actual shooting isn’t such a bad thing. In Springfield, the guy who pops the other guy is usually identified as “I didn’t see nuttin,” even if the shooting took place in broad daylight in front of a bunch of folks who just happened to be standing around.
Midway through the conclave, two uniformed officers joined the group who were identified as being from the State Police. They were part of a team which now patrols the sidewalks around the MGM casino in downtown Springfield, which opened three years ago and a week or so after the opening, someone was gunned down when two casino patrons got into an argument over a parking space.
I happen to do a lot of my writing in an office adjacent to Union Street, which is the main thoroughfare through the city’s South End neighborhood where at least one fatal shooting occurs every month. If you walk six blocks from Union Street you come to where the city ends, and the suburb of Longmeadow begins.
Longmeadow is the 3rd or 4th wealthiest zip code in the entire state. There hasn’t been a single incident of gun violence in Longmeadow, fatal or non-fatal, for as long as anyone can recall.
So how come nobody at the task force meeting proposed the idea that Springfield could get rid of gun violence by simply turning itself into another Longmeadow? After all, we rebuilt whole cities in Europe after World War II.