As most Chattanoogans and other Americans were enjoying the Fourth of July weekend in peace, recalling our historic Declaration of Independence that sought personal freedom for all of us in our wonderful country, a tragic rash of violent events in Chattanooga left one man dead and half a dozen other people wounded.
The terrible incidents were varied and spread over a wide area, reminding us that what should be a safe and pleasant community can be very dangerous at times.
It is, of course, against the law to commit acts of violence against innocent individuals, and we are aghast at such behavior. This is a community of homes and families, where all our people should be able to expect personal safety, wherever they go.
But for a variety of reasons, conflicts break out between individuals or among groups. The illegal use of guns can, and obviously sadly does, often result in serious injuries and the loss of life, as was the case this weekend.
Ours should be a safe, secure community for all of our people, and it is certainly no place for anything resembling a “shootout at the OK Corral,” on the streets or anywhere.
Our police officers diligently seek to keep us safe and to enforce the law against anyone going armed and threatening others. But too often, the passions of some people, mixed with the unlawful use of weapons, can have horrible results.
The shootings over the weekend took one life and injured six other people. But they were hardly isolated. That there have been 15 homicides in our community in just a few days more than half of the year shows that such tragic deaths are not rare. Thirteen of the homicides have been from shootings.
Last year, our community suffered 20 homicides, 15 of the deaths resulting from shootings.
Must we fear that there will be still more homicides in Chattanooga in the rest of the year?
Or shouldn’t our citizens conduct themselves properly and insist that others not add to the senseless death toll in the rest of 2011?
The appropriate response to these crimes is vigorous prosecution and long prison terms for anyone who commits such violence.
Every life is precious, and leniency toward those who unjustifiably kill or wound others only reduces respect for innocent life.
Independence Day established our nation with the goal of assuring all of us “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We should not let that ideal, and the lives of our people, be threatened.