Mayor Scott Robertson said it best: “Here we are again.”
And it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, that comment which came at the end of an emotional Selma City Council meeting on April 1 — just a couple of days after another series of shootings.
Frankly, I’m as tired of writing about gun violence as everyone is of talking about it. For the families of victims, it is a nightmare of tragic proportions. For the rest of us, it is a fear we try to keep hidden but can’t.
Sure, our police chief tells us that many of the shootings are “targeted,” meaning the shooter had a specific target. So we are supposed to reassure ourselves that it wasn’t a random gunshot that could hit us or our family members?
But that is a false security. “Targeted” gunshots fired from a moving car often hit unintended targets.
So, yes, here we are again. Re-running our own version of “Fear Factor.”
Once again, the natives are restless. You saw it in the grim faces and the serious voices at a council meeting that had no agenda on its agenda.
The emotional appeals varied wildly, like every speaker wanted to say something, anything, to get the Council’s attention: I can’t walk my dog at night; the cops should stop every car on the streets; neighborhood watch works; neighborhood watch isn’t effective; the police chief needs to go on TV when there is a shooting.
They told the council that Selma would be better if we stop renting homes to gang-bangers, quit parking trailers on the streets, eliminate bullying in the schools, turn to Jesus. And if you want an even bigger dose of opinions, go on social media.
The scattershot approach can be jarring, but it symptomatic of a frustration that’s arises when there are too many gunshots and too few arrests. And when the focus appears to be a new police headquarters when the problem is on the streets.
So the police chief announces that some new officers will be sworn in at the next meeting and the council members assure the populace “we hear you loud and clear.”
But one thing is absolutely clear. The populace is loud and getting louder. And their pleas have a common tone: Anger and fear.
And with that comes a hidden danger. Fear and anger can feed on each other to create a combustible fuel. And the resulting fire can be destructive if not regulated properly. One man stood up at the council meeting and said he might have to take the law into his own hands the next time he catches a burglar, even though he knows that is wrong.
Sure, the fear factor can cause folks to get vocal, storm City Hall and ask for action. That is a positive response. But if kept unchecked, it can be deadly.
Thankfully, most Selma citizens, even the most angry and fearful, are law-abiding. They desire to make their voices heard, their complaints understood. That’s why we had a two-hour City Council meeting that had no action items on the agenda.
The sad irony was that meeting began with commendations for some Selma High athletes and for the Boys & Girls Clubs. City Hall was filled with bright, talented, hard-working youth, with hopes and dreams of someday being productive adults.
Thirty minutes later we were hearing concerns about young people being shot.
To use an overworked cliche, the optics were really bad.
The concerned residents of Selma, a proud city suffering under a bad rep, need some answers. “We hear ya” is not going to cut it for much longer.