Life in the big city

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The very day that Greensboro police spokesperson Susan Danielson issued a press release touting new training measures for some downtown club bouncers, a late-night gunfight broke out on South Elm Street after the clubs let out.

It’s ironic, but only sort of, because a gunfight in the streets is hardly a nightclub security issue. Doormen did their jobs that night by getting any action outside their clubs and letting law enforcement take over from there.

But gunfights in the street are not really a law-enforcement issue either. Gunfights in the street are usually impromptu affairs with very little planning and forethought. They come out of nowhere.

Best-case scenario: A cop is able to intervene in the gunfight and bring it to a timely end — which is exactly what happened in downtown Greensboro on the night of Nov. 7.

Gunfights in the street have nothing to do with wild teenagers, yet it is highly likely that teenagers will be brought under a curfew in the wake of the bullets. And maybe, if we’re going to be having gunfights in the street, it’s not a bad idea to keep the kids out of downtown late at night anyway.

Gunfights in the street have more to do with gun control than any other single factor, besides inebriation. People get drunk everywhere without trying to blow each other’s heads off. To do that you have to have a gun.

But you’re never going to get anywhere trying to come between Americans and their guns. To even attempt to create a gun-free zone in downtown Greensboro would have political consequences that few of our current crop, in the year before an election, could bear.

So what do we do about this? Shall we shut down a burgeoning district just as it’s getting going? Can we use city ordinances to create a set of exclusionary laws for our city’s most important district? “Proactive policing” has surely already come up in the rarified air of Melvin Municipal as a way to sanitize downtown.

Or we can acknowledge that gunfights in the streets of downtown Greensboro are pretty rare themselves — the last we can remember was in 2009, outside Much on the other end of Elm Street, also cut short by a cop with good aim.

In reality, gunfights on Elm Street aren’t really that big of a problem except in their immediate wake, when we generally tend to overreact with good impulses and bad ideas.

We should chalk this one up to life in the big city, and just get on with our business. One late-night gunfight does not the Wild West make.

  • this is on point. thanks for your thoughts.