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Opinion | Want to blame someone for the rampant violence around Alabama? Grab a mirror

Alabama’s problems with gun violence and mass shootings didn’t happen by chance, and they won’t be solved with idiotic, get-tough solutions.

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In communities where public education is substandard, crime flourishes. 

This is not an opinion. It’s a documented fact. 

Doesn’t matter the racial makeup of the community. Doesn’t matter which political party is in control of that local community. Doesn’t matter the prevalence of any specific religion. 

If you’ve got under-performing public schools, you’ve got high crime rates. 

And high drug usage. And more gang activity. And a whole bunch of young people who are generally pretty awful at conflict resolution. 

And guns. Lots and lots and lots of guns. 

All of these things are our fault, and the fault of our ancestors, dating back to the beginnings of this state – and the country as a whole, for that matter – and the ignorant ways in which we’ve decided to treat each other based on superficial factors, such as skin color and heritage. 

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Oh, and also our reverence for the gun. A magical tool that makes white people capable of stopping mass shooters simply by purchasing one – training and common sense are optional. And a tool whose sales must never, ever be burdened with basic safety restrictions. 

It is a toxic mix that has combined to turn portions of a number of Alabama towns into war zones. 

In Birmingham and Montgomery, for example, it is not uncommon on any given day to have multiple people shot at a scene where more than 100 shots were fired. Many of those shots are fired from automatic weapons – or weapons that have been modified to be automatic – and often are simply sprayed haphazardly in a general direction. 

In Montgomery over the last few weeks, there have been a number of stories of innocent bystanders being gunned down by stray bullets. The same has been true in Birmingham. 

Mass shootings are an almost daily occurrence all around the state, with multiple young people dead at scenes in some of the state’s most populated cities. Babies have been killed. Toddlers have caught stray bullets. A grandma in Montgomery was shot recently with a stray bullet; a lady out running errands on one of the city’s main strips was left paralyzed. 

And meanwhile, across town in Montgomery, the Alabama Legislature – filled with folks who love to shake their heads and tsk-tsk the random violence – allowed a bill banning bump stocks – one of those should-be-illegal modifications that turn semi-auto weapons into fully automatic weapons – to languish and die. 

It’s just the latest in a long line of legislative failures that have set up Alabama’s major cities – and its poorest neighborhoods – to suffer and die. 

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Of course, we don’t blame things like segregation and the Alabama Accountability Act – which has ripped billions of necessary funds from some of Alabama’s poorest school districts – and absurd gun laws for the violence. We never take the time to trace the problems to the root, to even consider why it is so many kids in the same neighborhoods – who all seem to be facing the same problems and struggling with the same issues – keep killing each other and so many people around them. 

Why would we do that when we could simply blame it on the Black mayor. Or Black culture. Or too many Hispanics. Or the “border.” Or video games. Or movies. Or … 

Or anything other than examining the long, sordid history of all the really, really hateful crap we’ve done that led to this. 

Turns out, there are consequences for spending decades discriminating against people. For running from breakaway school district to breakaway school district. For setting up BS magnet programs. For pulling money from the schools that struggle the most. For implementing selective – and often abusive – policing of certain neighborhoods. For denying government resources to certain people. For city planning that always seemed to lean away from certain neighborhoods. For outright hateful policies and practices. 

And then we combined those consequences with absolutely brain dead gun policies. Gun policies so absurd that even gun-toting, gun-loving cops were begging us to not to do it. Gun policies that our own lawmakers – like in the case of allowing the bump stock legislation to die – admitted were wrong. 

What we’ve done is left an entire generation of some children without basic hope. We’ve watched idly – and with judgment – as the consequences of decades of hate and failures left them in untenable situations, in which their best and most consistent options for survival and acceptance and love are extremely bad choices. And then we’ve had the nerve to act surprised or disappointed because they chose that obvious pathway, and surprised by the carnage that has resulted. 

Or even worse, as is the case in Montgomery (and I’m sure Birmingham, too), so many people are quick to blame the Black mayor. To cry into the social media ether that “city leadership” must do “something” to end this senseless violence. As if this is a simple problem of people not trying hard enough, not caring enough, and that it all started last year. 

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Spare me. The fact is many of these issues have persisted for years in the poorest neighborhoods around this state. And not a single one of you pearl-clutchers cared enough to even acknowledge it. You didn’t lose a minute of sleep over any of it when it was just the poor kids killing each other. But now that it’s at your doorstep, affecting the people you know, showing up on your Ring cameras, it’s a crisis. 

Well, I’ve got bad news. There’s no bumper sticker solution for this. There’s no easy fix. There’s no throw-em-all-in-jail solution. There’s no get-tough, macho equation that’ll solve it. It’s going to take years of love, compassion, quality education and properly spent money to undo this decades-in-the-making problem.

And if you need someone to blame for it all, grab a mirror.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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