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Another Sad Shooting Death in the Projects

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A several part story by Audra Burch in the Miami Herald Sunday discussed the shooting death of nine-year old Sherdavia Jenkins, her life before it and her family in the aftermath. Jenkins was a bystander, playing with a brother and sister and friend, when she was struck down by a stray bullet in "an open space between two buildings that police say became a shooting gallery for a smalltime drug peddler and a street tough." It's the kind of tragic story that is tragically too common to always make the papers. I'd want to know more about the shooting itself -- and it's possible that no more is or even will be known -- before saying definitively that it was a drug trade shootout over turf. But it sounds that way. Even if it was just tensions between the "peddler" and the "tough," that would still have to do with the drug trade, because the drug trade is what paid the "peddler" a living to stand around in a neighborhood. The trade's illegality is the reason that people use guns when making a living in that way. And even if the gun was fired by someone else, that market-driven source of violence is a primary cause of the larger climate of violence in the Liberty Square public housing project where Jenkins lived. Prohibition doesn't get rid of the drugs, but it does bring in this kind of danger and misery. Legalization would not solve every problem facing the projects and similarly poverty-stricken neighborhoods, but it would remove a huge amount of pressure currently placed on them by the illegal drug trade. The kind of people who engage in random gunfire are not going to become angels overnight or ever, but with no one paying them to do that anymore, they would have to get other jobs to survive and would have less time to hang out on the street. The resulting decrease in violence and disorder would in turn open the way for economic development and for general healing from the wounds created by the current situation. (This was the first main reason I got involved in this issue, in fact.) Click here for letter to the editor information. (Free registration may be required to view the page.)
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