“When crime goes up, the police department is supposed to do something about it. It would be unacceptable for us to sit back and do nothing.” — Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams
2013 seemed like a particularly turbulent year for Oxnard, especially when a string of apparently random shootings in late fall left police scrambling to stop the violence. In mid-November, Williams made a plea to the public, asking them to be cooperative while noting that police resources were stretched thin. The department highlighted statistics of recent violent crime, which included: Nine of the 12 gang-related violent crimes were felony assaults, two were attempted homicides, one was fatal, 10 involved guns and seven had occurred in the La Colonia nighborbood. Overall crime for the year increased 22 percent over the year prior, with an 8 percent increase in violent crime. Further, from Oct. 18 to Nov. 19, of the 22 guns that were recovered from 17 cases, only two were registered. With such a poor ratio of registered guns to unregistered, accountability goes right out the window.
Along with the call for the public’s cooperation, for 2014, the Oxnard Police Department is specifically focused on getting guns off the street. These efforts include assigning a detective and a firearms strike team, increased enforcement, the creation of a tip line and a gun buyback day. Education about gun laws will also be pivotal in this effort.
While some gun rights advocates and even civil rights activists may find this effort to be an intrusion and/or unfair, the reality is that in order to end gun violence, fewer guns is one of the only options. Even worse, it’s appalling to think that once a gun has been purchased from a dealer, there is a clear lack of care about where that gun may end up or the lives it could cost.
The debate over gun rights is a hard-driven one. On one side, advocates declare it’s their constitutional right to have as many as they want. On the other, guns kill and the fewer there are, the better. But somewhere in the middle is the fact that some guns purchased responsibly end up in the hands of irresponsible and irrational people, many of whom have a blatant disregard for the lives of others. How to keep guns only in the hands of responsible gun owners is a bit foggy, but we applaud Williams and the Oxnard Police Department for their diligent effort to stop gun violence on their streets. Also, the emphasis on education rather than just enforcement reveals a genuine interest in helping the community while maintaining respect. The only thing we can do now is hope that the community is receptive. Keeping up the status quo has only proved to be a fatal mistake.