As District residents observed the recent mass shootings by individuals with firearms in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, and continue to see a soaring homicide rate due largely to gun violence, many remain anxious about whether their lives are secure in the city.
“This city is not safe,” said Shekita McBroom, who represents advisory neighborhood commission 8E01 in Ward 8.
“Honestly, no city is safe these days considering what is taking place,” she said. “Innocent people in Buffalo and babies in Texas were killed for no reason at all. People are telling me that their children are afraid to go to school and their parents are afraid to send them there. It’s very scary now.”
The Gun Violence Archive (GVA) in Northwest reported 227 mass shootings in the U.S. this year as of May 31. GVA defines a mass shooting as an incident where at least four people have been shot. In the District, the Metropolitan Police Department reported on May 27 that 79 people have died due to homicide so far this year, an 8% increase from 2021.
The shooting and killings have become such a problem that Salim Adofo, the chairman of the 8C advisory neighborhood commission, submitted written testimony to the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety on May 26 saying many of his constituents “have expressed great concern for the amount of gun violence in the community.”
D.C. Residents Respond to Guns and Violence
Amber Jones walked out of the Safeway located in the East River Park shopping center in Northeast on May 28 with a few bags of groceries. She said while she knew about the killing of 10 Black people and the injuring of three others at the Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo she had no problem going to Safeway.
“I felt safe coming here,” said Jones, who lives in Ward 7. “You have to keep on living. We have some pretty tough gun laws here in D.C. but the guns just keep on coming.”
Jones said it would be tough to stop illegal guns from being brought into neighborhoods “because they are accessible in the streets for anybody that wants one.” However, she said assault weapons should be outlawed and background checks taken for people who want to purchase a gun.
Shaquan McLean, who also lives in Ward 7, agrees with Jones. McLean said she felt safe shopping at the Safeway and realizes that those who want access to guns will find a way to get them.
“The criminals can get guns,” she said. “They will always find a way. I don’t think there is much our city leaders can do about it. They can ban certain types of guns and do the background checks but how long will that be effective in stopping people from being shot?”
David Miller, an author and an anti-crime activist who lives in Ward 8, participated in a public safety forum sponsored by the 8C commission on May 25. He said steps need to be taken to assure residents of their safety and that the police have the best interests of underserved neighborhoods in mind.
“There needs to be a reimaging of police in Ward 8,” Miller said. “Oftentimes, law enforcement is punitive against the citizens here in the ward. There should a change in how we look at law enforcement. Many times, an officer should not respond to a call to deal with a person experiencing a mental health episode. A mental health professional should respond to diffuse the situation.”
Miller said the District government should create a comprehensive strategy to deal with the problems many Black men continue to face.
“Young Black males start getting into trouble around the third grade,” he said. “That is when intervention is needed. We have a culture where boys are groomed at 9- or 10-years-old to be shooters. These things are happening because boys aren’t getting the services they need from the city.”
Kathy Henderson, a former Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner running in the June 21 Democratic primary for her ward’s council seat, said “giving people jobs or benefits won’t solve the problem of gun violence in the city.”
“We just have to be frank and admit there are some people who are sociopaths,” Henderson said. “You cannot force people to get mental health treatment just like you can’t force people to get drug treatment.”
Henderson said no one in the District should feel safe due to the number of homicides and the growing sentiment that gun violence “is out of control in this country.”
However, on whether residents should arm themselves with guns, disagreements occur.
“I am not a gun advocate,” Henderson said. “I know there are some who say if the people who were killed in Buffalo had guns, they could have defended themselves or if the teachers in Texas were armed, lives could have been saved. I don’t know about that. I think a blood bath would have taken place in both instances.”
McBroom said residents should buy guns to protect themselves if they want to.
“Hell yeah everybody needs to get a gun,” she said. “These shootings are spontaneous. You don’t know when it could happen. Nobody is safe.”