In the span of 24 hours this week, a sweet-faced 7-year-old boy was shot and killed by a stray bullet from a volley fired at a relative’s home where he was playing with other children.
The next day, a 13-year-old was shot three times in the chest and rushed to a hospital, where — as of this writing — he’s fighting for his life.
Such young victims. More of us should be shocked into action. But too many are, as President Obama has said, numb to all this gun violence, even when the victims are innocent children like Amiere Castro, shot by the stray bullet.
The Editorial Board addressed this “terrorism” on local black teens in an editorial in November. At the time, 30 children and teenagers had been killed by gunfire this year. And 60 more had been wounded, compared to 45 in 2014. The victims include two 1-year-olds, according to data collected by the Miami-Dade school district.
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Some are trying to help, but community numbness and shrugs seem to prevail. The growing number of young victims, Miami-Dade schools chief Alberto Carvalho told the Editorial Board, “is heartbreaking.” He has ordered public schools to stay open later in the day to provide a haven for students from the mean streets because, Mr. Carvalho said, “The safety net vanishes with the last bell.”
But when are the mayors, the commissioners, the police chiefs, business leaders and, yes, the survivors going to declare loudly, publicly, “Not in my city!” “Not in my county!” Like Mr. Carvalho, some, such as Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, have been working on initiatives to help save lives. But the overall silence from elected officialdom is disturbing. It allows residents to say, “Not my problem.”
But it is — think stray bullets care where they fly?
The roll call started in March, when Joewaun Coles, 15, was gunned down in the courtyard of his apartment complex by a stray bullet police say was aimed at men playing craps nearby. In September, 17-year-olds Maurice Harris and Randall Dwaine Robinson III were shot to death on the sidewalk, murders separated by 10 blocks. Last month, Johnny Lubin Jr. was shot and killed walking home from school.
The challenges — and the solutions — are complex. One impediment is fear. When detectives ask for the public’s help to catch shooters, who are often not much older than their victims, those who know something clam up. It’s understandable. Murderers likely won’t be afraid to go after those who talk, and authorities can’t seem to offer adequate protection. County Commissioner Dennis Moss called them “community terrorists.”
This year’s murders are unrelated, but police believe a small groups of kids at schools, cliques, resort to gunplay over differences as minor as perceived insults. The injured party now just pulls out a high-powered AK-47 — and fires away. Sometimes innocents become collateral damage.
A dispute likely over drugs — another shameful scourge in some neighborhoods — may have put the child in harm’s way, police said.
As a community, we need to shake off the apathy. Mr. Carvalho said it best at a recent speaking engagement: “A society that allows this is ill, and in desperate need of a cure.”
We need a crusade similar to those launched to combat sea-level rise and create no-kill animal shelters. Community leaders must forcefully address how to fight this blight killing our children. Otherwise, they are not leading at all.