Jeff Martin

It has become an epidemic. Across the city of Montgomery gunfire can be heard on any given night. Sure, it is worse in other places like Chicago or Baltimore, but this is our home and we should be concerned. It wasn’t even 7 o’clock in the evening on Saturday when several dozen rounds of gunfire echoed throughout the Cloverdale community. The park where my family attends concerts and my daughter plays is less than a block away. When it was all over, the only damage was four unoccupied vehicles hit by bullets. Thank God.

According to mgmhomicides.com, there have been 29 homicides in Montgomery so far this year, including one just hours after the shootout in the Cloverdale neighborhood. Had Saturday night’s gunfire exchange in Cloverdale been one street over where dozens of people were dining outside and strolling down the sidewalks, the city’s murder rate could have doubled in minutes.

 The shootings and killings must stop. I’ve written about the uncontrolled gunfire in the city before; when we lived in Cloverdale, seldom did a night go by that we didn’t hear gunfire in the distance. Even now at our new home we are still haunted by the occasional gunshot late at night. But when it occurs only two blocks from where my family lived just a couple of years ago and 100 yards from where I had dinner the night before, there’s a new sense of urgency for me. Gun violence has been a problem all over this city of ours for too long now, and it has to end.

The MPD seemed to play off the shootout in Cloverdale as just another Saturday night gunfight. "Four vehicles reportedly received minor damage in the shooting," said Sgt. David Hicks. To which I say NO: four vehicles were hit by gunfire. And thankfully the bullets only hit cars and not people. Imagine if someone had been getting out of one of those vehicles or a child had been strapped into a car seat inside.

The gunfire appears to have come from some sort of semi-automatic weapon, similar to those used in the two mass killings that killed 32 in El Paso and Dayton on the same day. Montgomery police have detained two adult males for investigative purposes in connection to the shooting here; both were jailed on unrelated charges. If they are found to be involved in the incident they can be charged with discharging a firearm into an unoccupied vehicle.

Thugs shooting at thugs it appears, as they raced down Woodley Road, but that doesn’t make it any less concerning. Just because no innocent bystanders were struck doesn’t mean it should be shrugged off as another typical night in Montgomery.

Not surprisingly, this wasn’t the only gunfire in Montgomery Saturday night. A man was found dead from a gunshot wound on the Mobile Highway just a few hours after the Cloverdale shootout. Three more were shot near Maxwell Air Force Base and a fourth shooting occurred on Edgar Nixon Avenue. It has to stop.

I’m all about second chances, but when it comes to violence, especially gun violence, I draw the line. Law enforcement and the courts must be provided with all the tools they need to keep these killers and want-to-be killers, who have no regard for human life, locked behind bars.

With an election approaching at the end of this month, we have given the mayoral candidates an opportunity to share their plans for addressing reckless gunfire and violence in Montgomery. I agree, as County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Elton Dean suggests, that the solution to this problem begins at home, but I disagree with his comments that “no mayor or city council can fix this,” because they can.

On Sunday evening, mayoral candidate Artur Davis told me, “Several candidates are spending thousands of ad dollars making promises a mayor can’t deliver. I have developed a detailed plan to attack crime using manpower, data, and technology. No platitudes, but tangible ideas. No task forces but a comprehensive agenda I will enact beginning the day I take office.” Can the city afford to implement Davis’ ideas? I say to whoever becomes mayor: I don’t think we can afford not to.

“ One of our neighbors is going to die if something doesn’t change. Many of our broader neighbors already have,” a Midtown resident said to me Saturday night.

Praying the problem away isn’t going to solve anything, and we can’t legislate two-parent families. It is going to take a stronger police presence and a frank discussion about the public education system in our city. We need leaders who are up for that task.