Gun issues, common sense don't always go hand-in-hand

Saturday, September 13, 2008

There is, no doubt, too much gun violence in Omaha, a community which draws special attention because of last year's mall shootings involving a teenager.

But we doubt throwing money at the problem is a solution for this issue, just as it is not the solution for many others.

Organizers decried the lack of interest from the business community Friday at a legislative public hearing called to address the issue.

The Omaha Police Department claimed a modicum of success, saying officers have seized 531 guns so far this year and caught 114 minors in possession of a firearm.

And the two Omaha city councilmen and two state senators from the state's largest city are right when they say jobs and the economic progress that result would help make a difference.

But a suggested solution, hiring ex-thugs go to shooting scenes, hospitals, funerals and homes to talk victims' families out of retaliatory violence, a program at work in Chicago, sounds like overkill -- excuse the poor-taste pun -- for even a large city like Omaha.

Even harder to connect is Sen. Ernie Chamber's suggestion that Warren Buffett and other rich Omahans be imposed upon to fund anti-gun efforts.

Businesses and citizens are already paying plenty for law enforcement without being asked to fork over more for the social solution du jour.

If asking the Berkshire Hathaway billionaire to pay for Omaha's gun problem doesn't make sense, consider the Iowa man, Dantae Bates, who fired three shots into the air to frighten a crowd watching a fight outside a bar in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a little more than a year ago.

Did he get a reward for trying to break up the fight?

No. Earlier this week, he was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison.

His problem was, when police tracked him down a short time later, they found him smoking marijuana, in addition to having the handgun and ammunition in the glovebox of his car.

The combination of illegal drugs and a handgun turned out to be his ticket to the federal pen.

This is not to justify the shooting or his use of marijuana, but we have to wonder whether Bates' activities rose to the level of demanding seven years in a federal penitentiary.

We also have to wonder whether filling our prisons with abusers of drugs -- especially marijuana -- is the best use of society's law enforcement resources. It seems to us that drug courts, like one that serves Phelps, Buffalo, Hall and Adams counties, are a smarter choice.

A television story on NTV, the ABC affiliate that serves the area, pointed out that drug court isn't an easy out for drug offenders, but it certainly seems like a smarter way out, both for the offenders and society in general.

You can view it online.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: