Earlier today, I received a news update: “5th shooting victim of the year has been taken to Delta Regional Medical Center after being shot several times…” What’s going on? It’s just February, and already 5 shootings since the top of the year in Greenville, Mississippi. I have yet to report on pending cases in Indianola or Sunflower. But believe me, I’m well aware. Again, what’s really going on in the Mississippi Delta?
I honestly believe it’s not so much as the guns themselves as it is the violence associated with them. I hear of fatal stabbings and beatings, but never has there been an honest look at knife control or limiting the sales of baseball bats, hammers, or other blunt objects. As you know, I live in the Mississippi Delta. Almost everyone I know regardless of race, religion, social class, or sex owns or has access to at least 1 gun.
I grew up in the 70’s in Upstate New York. I didn’t hear about “community” tragedies relating to guns. In fact, I was raised in a home without guns. Most gun violence, at that time, was concentrated in the inner-city. In the late 80’s, my mother was a counselor at the Urban League of Rochester (downtown). I recall her words, “These (inner-city) school shootings are either undocumented or written-off as gang related.” It is only now, we look further into the mindset of the shooter as gun violences has spilled into a larger segment of our society.
The Pearl High School shootings hit closest to home for me. I was living in Jackson, Mississippi, at the time and worked in the same call center as the mother of Christina Menefee. Christina was Luke Woodham’s former girlfriend who amongst others fell victim to his shooting rampage. I remember October 1st, 1997. I remember when the police arrived to talk to Ms. Menefee. I remember when she broke down.
After watching the evening news, I learned the school’s assistant principal, Joel Myrick who was also a U.S. Army Reserve Commander a the time, had retrieved his .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol from his truck and detained Woodham until authorities arrived.
Minutes before Woodham started the shooting, he gave the following message to a friend:
“I am not insane, I am angry. I killed because people like me are mistreated every day. I did this to show society, push us and we will push back. … All throughout my life, I was ridiculed, always beaten, always hated. Can you, society, truly blame me for what I do? Yes, you will. … It was not a cry for attention, it was not a cry for help. It was a scream in sheer agony saying that if you can’t pry your eyes open, if I can’t do it through pacifism, if I can’t show you through the displaying of intelligence, then I will do it with a bullet.”
My heart goes out to all victims and families of past “community” shootings. I call them “community” shootings, because the intent of the shooter is to lash out at greater society.
So, I return to my earlier question, “What’s going on in the Mississippi Delta?” Do we put aside these random acts of gun violence as individual conflicts since they don’t affect the greater populace? Or, will it take a “community” shooting to raise attention locally? We must accept that all acts of violence are community-related whether it be with a gun or other object turned into a weapon. As a society, we should question first and not shoot at all. We must pass this on to our children.
So, where do I stand? I believe it is the mind that is the ultimate weapon and anything material is just a tool towards extending the destruction one creates from within. I believe every act of aggression and violence is premeditated. Furthermore, I don’t believe criminals abide by the law. In short, though I am not a violent man, I will protect my person and my family by any means and at all costs.
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