Citizen watchdog John Marshall Lee often addresses the City Council with a series of questions. Monday night he unpacked a bunch of those, but also came armed with a proposal to reduce arms: a gun-free Bridgeport in select areas, a suggestion advanced by community activist Clyde Nicholson. From Lee:
Bridgeport Buries Another Young Gun Violence Victim
(Clinton Howell, Age 12, died in December, 2018). His death prompted one member of the City Council to propose an era of “stop and frisk” in Bridgeport and caused another Council member, a teacher of the youth, to seriously seek an answer regarding youth mortality in the City. James Walker, an OP Ed senior writer for the New Haven Register had a CT Post front page column today: Headlined “The bullets just keep flying.”
Clyde Nicholson can often be observed and sometimes even heard at Bridgeport City Council meetings. When he rises to share his passion for keeping youth alive and away from the mortal dangers of gun violence, he speaks forcefully without notes. Currently he is frustrated by the lack of public concern that can lead to practical action on the part of leadership and different outcomes for the community.
Born in Alabama, Nicholson came to Bridgeport about 40 years ago at age 18. He operates a business dealing in commercial restaurant equipment throughout the region. His children are grown today with ages between 21 and 40, so his continuing campaign and advocacy goes well beyond personal.
He is drawn to this community disgrace where about one-third of homicides share the same facts:
1. An underage victim (and likely assailant)
2. Possession of a stolen/unregistered gun
3. Gun concealed while carried on street within City limits
4. Weapon is discharged
5. Bullet(s) once airborne do not discriminate-they can kill or wound anyone.
Nicholson suggests that Bridgeport vote itself a “City gun free zone” and instruct after serious discussion with the entire community as well as the Public Safety officers on the implications of such a designation. Guns would still be available within homes and businesses. However, they will not be available for drive-by shootings because of new necessary community policing measures and severe penalties for persons found to be breaking the law. We already have Court Houses and Police HQ that are “gun free” sites. “Expand those sites to the City borders,” Clyde suggests. “Isn’t that the way NO SMOKING moved from hospitals, to public buildings, to restaurants and offices? Separate the killing instruments from the people to decrease the risk?”
Make gun punishments severe and certain!! Would an automatic ten-year sentence when caught carrying a gun serve as adequate deterrent? Plus another 10 year added on automatically for each bullet fired? And with a guaranteed 25-year term for murder? Do such sentence deterrents, whatever the color of one’s skin, make the community safer from gun violence?
The police already have dash cameras and vest cameras along with protective bullet proof vests, tasers and gunfire detection equipment for targeting the location where guns are fired. The only additional equipment necessary would be a wand, like those used at the airport, when a police officer identifies himself and with respect asks for citizen cooperation with a wanding. We are told that the police “protect and serve” but when the most frequently used instrument is seen as a gun, can we understand why there is fear in place of cooperation today? Will the act of “wanding” bring more officers into close contact with folks who live on the street and change the feelings from interactions that promote safer living for all, rather than place the police as alternate combatants in a war never expected to end? Time will tell.