53 and counting

10/13/2017, 7:02 p.m.

Lifelong friends with unbreakable links shot to death in gunfire that leaves people scrambling and screaming for help.

Cell phones click to record the chaos unfolding in the dark. Family members and others react in stunned disbelief when hearing the news.

Yes, another American city temporarily stripped of its sensibilities in the wake of deadly gun violence.  Only this time, it wasn’t a city famous for luring tourists with its bright lights and big names.

We’re not talking about Vegas, Orlando or Charleston.

We’re talking about Richmond.

Who can imagine the sheer horror and pain when the parents of Oscar “Bam” Lewis II, 25, and Deonte “Max” Bullock, 29, were told their sons had been killed early Sunday in a double homicide outside a Shockoe Bottom club?

In Richmond, which has seen 53 homicides this year, the sense of despair and grief felt by so many seems never ending.

It doesn’t help that police officers stationed nearby to thwart such violence were unable to prevent the young men’s deaths, supposedly brought on by a verbal confrontation. Investigations into similar crimes are part of the daily routine for local and state police.

“We had a bad weekend. We had a bad week,” Richmond Police Deputy Chief Steve Drew was quoted as saying.

“If they were more concentrated in one neighborhood it might help us to determine what the cause is, what the foundation is, why are they happening, who is involved, is there a beef ?”
Deputy Chief Drew said.

Senseless. Tragic. Unfortunate. Unbelievable. Stop the violence.

The litany of words we use to describe the ongoing blood and carnage spewed on our streets do nothing to prevent the weekly doses of death. That these murders so frequently snatch up our young is even more – for lack of a better word – appalling.

On Tuesday, three days after the Shockoe Bottom killings, a 1-year-old baby girl also died from a gunshot wound in Henrico County. Her father was seriously wounded in the same hail of bullets.

We, or some of us, wring our hands, play the blame game, attend the funerals, pray and then go back to business as usual. Yet, calls for tougher gun laws are part of the chorus and refrain that frequently are absent or concealed from voters on Election Day.

 Somehow, we miss the message.

 Think about it. When was the last time that you voted for stricter gun laws?

Some say that tightening gun laws won’t stop the violence. Among the states that impose extra background check requirements for private gun sales, the average gun homicide rate in 2013 (per 100,000 people) was 0.97 lower than in states that do not regulate background checks beyond the federal requirements, according to studies by The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Centers for Disease Control.

On Nov. 7, Richmonders and Virginians can take a decisive stand in the voting booth, even if nothing regarding gun laws appears on their paper ballots. The key to making informed choices in what has been billed as the most closely watched state election in the country is to do your homework before entering the booth. Virginians will choose a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and members of the House of Delegates. All or most of the candidates have publicly declared their stance on gun laws.

In the last lieutenant governor’s debate, for example, Democratic candidate Justin Fairfax said that he supports universal background checks and a ban on high-powered weapons.

His opponent, Republican state Sen. Jill Vogel, believes that restricting gun rights violates the Constitution. “Taking people’s gun rights away does not restrict gun violence in the way that people believe it will.”

Certainly, other factors lead people to kill other people. Mental illness often is a convenient culprit, followed by criminal minds, intent and evil.

At the core of all of these murders and a refusal by lawmakers and voters to impose tougher gun laws to stunt them is a basic loathing for human life and mankind.

So what will it be, Richmond?

The ballot or the never ending bullets?