Commentary

Disarming Toledo

9/20/2013
BY KEITH BURRIS
BLADE COLUMNIST

In a new book called The Metropolitan Revolution, author Bruce Katz argues that cities, where there is inherently less partisanship, can do what the feds and states cannot: act.

Would that this were so in Toledo. And might this include gun violence, which is on all of our minds this week?

We know the familiar prescriptions. But we also know they are less than fully persuasive and even less politically possible.

After the Navy Yard shooting, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California reiterated her advocacy of a federal background check. She said it would have flagged Aaron Alexis: “He would have been picked up and denied the ability to have a gun.” It's not a panacea. But, OK. Even if it only stopped the Alexises 10 percent of the time, background checks would be worth doing.

But who believes Congress can pull its collective head out of the sand? If the slaughter of little children in their grade school can't move Congress, maybe nothing will.

Mark Glaze of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which was founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and includes among its members Mayor Mike Bell, says the country has “reached the tipping point.” If he's right, there should be momentum for doing something here, on the local level. But what?

More investment in the Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence? This is a version of the Cease Fire program, invented and implemented in several cities by David Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy believes that in the absence of national action on registration, or handguns, or assault weapons, cities can improve policing. He writes: “Gun violence turns out to be driven by a fantastically small number of people: about 5 percent of the young men in the most dangerous neighborhoods. It is possible to identify them, put together a partnership of law enforcement, community figures, and social service providers, and have a face-to-face engagement in which the authorities say: We know who you are … your violence has to stop, and there will be serious legal consequences if it doesn’t.”

Mayor Bell, who has been to every T-CIRV call-in personally, says the key to the gun problem is ultimately parents. To address gangs and get kids off the streets and away from guns, he says, we somehow must re-engage parents who are now disengaged.

His opponent, Councilman D. Michael Collins, says we need to more strictly enforce Ohio's Weapons Under Disability Act. Nobody knows about this law, but it's a strong one. It makes it illegal for a felon, one who is “drug dependent,” a “chronic alcoholic,” or one who has been adjudicated as mentally defective to possess a firearm.

Both approaches are valid and will take some money and some management.

There are no simple answers. Washington, D.C., has some of the most stringent gun control laws in the nation — and some of the most gun-infested streets.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.