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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Self-inflicted wound

ANOTHER Gunfight at the OK Corral it was not. No legends will be born, no reputations made, and no future re-enactments are planned for the shootout at the Route 66 Kitchen, a neighborhood tavern on North Westwood Avenue.

But thanks to the reach of the national news networks, CNN, and YouTube, Toledo has once again gained a degree of unsought notoriety.

There are, of course, passing similarities between the famous 1881 gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, and the altercation last week in Toledo. Both were fierce but short battles, with many shots fired at close range in just a few seconds. Both occurred in places where firearms were banned but were made possible by the pervasiveness of guns in cultures where males equate being a man with the size of their weapon.

But the similarities end there.

Involved in the Tombstone shootout were names that would become legend, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday chief among them. Three people were killed and three injured in the barrage of gunfire that lasted about 30 seconds.

The events leading up to the fateful afternoon showdown, as well as the major characters, have been the subject of numerous movies, articles, and books. The gunfight has become the basis of an attraction that replays the deadly confrontation every day for the entertainment of thousands of tourists each year.

The participants in the Route 66 fusillade, in contrast, may eventually be identified - some of their street names are already known by police - but aren't going to become household names. They are not the stuff of legend but punks, young men in baggy pants who, truth be told, couldn't even shoot straight.

More than 17 shots were fired - perhaps more than 20 - by at least five shooters and not one person - thankfully - was injured in the slightest. The same can't be said for the pool table and a door that took the brunt of the gunfire.

What this gang that couldn't shoot straight did accomplish was to provide an opening for some to claim, falsely, that this would never have happened if police hadn't been laid off earlier this year. The truth is that doubling the number of police on the streets wouldn't stop stupid people from committing thoughtless acts.

The Toledo gunmen also embarrassed their neighborhood, reinforced preconceived ideas about young black men, and made their city a national laughingstock on YouTube.

They also gave Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who has vowed use the power of his office to close the bar, another opportunity to grandstand instead of govern. He's off-base in this case.

Perhaps these pistol-packin' Toledoans should take lessons from jailed professional football player Plaxico Burress, who at least managed to shoot himself.



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