Death drove by the corner of Cedar Avenue and Mosely Street in Macons Unionville neighborhood at about 8:20 p.m. on Thursday, November 21. Actually, the big, dark GM-type car drove by a couple of times, finally lighting up with a blaze of gunfire that left Alyssa Jackson, 16, who had been hanging out on the corner, dead with a large-caliber bullet wound to her back.
Death just missed Charleston Burnett III, 13, who was riding on Mosely in the back seat of his granddaddys pick-up. Charlestons head was grazed by a bullet shot through the trucks back window. That same bullet just missed a front-seat passenger, who happened to be leaning over.
I gave condolences to both of Alyssas parents. Alyssas mom, Shenese Brown, lives in Bloomfield with her other kids and husband. Alyssas dad, Sebastian Jackson, lives with his own mother in the greater Belleview area. Alyssa had gone to live with her dad and grandmother in recent weeks. Alyssa was visiting a friend in Unionville at the time death drove by.
I took the opportunity to ask each parent separately what they might suggest to reduce mortal risks faced by our young people. Mother Browns answer was simple: find and punish the killer(s) of Alyssa. Meanwhile, keep your kids close. Father Jackson responded that todays youth are misguided because theyre bored and need more educational entertainment. He added, Why not take them to where theyre taught multicultural? Then you wouldnt have them on the down street.
I also asked Phyllis Habersham for her advice. A Mercer alumna who has a record store nearby on Pio Nono Avenue, she got into action three years ago after another Unionville slaughter, as she described it, of a friends son. She shared in starting Helping Hands Community Outreach to provide families and the homeless with food, clothing and counseling. She pointed to the Promise Neighborhood Center as something hopeful. Her organization will get an office there, which she finds exciting.
Paint me skeptical about whether such killings would be stopped either by educational entertainment or collecting a number of well-intentioned welfare-providers and bureaucrats to bunker down in some of the most outrageously costly real estate in Macon.
They tried bread and circus in Rome before its fall. Welfare and entertaining distractions, even if marginally educational, arent likely to fare better here in protecting basic civilization.
I also spoke to a savvy Unionville resident at the deadly Cedar/Mosely corner. She thoughtfully recommended that police more aggressively flush out guns illegally carried by idle, impulsive young men. Drugs are dangerous, she said, but let that go. Go after the guns wielded by guys beyond the legal edge.
Macon has never wholeheartedly embraced that simple, solid concept. Why? The practical political problem is that wed have to change our approach to policing, in part by going after people in hot spots who conceal guns without a license, or cruise around without the right to carry because theyre gun-restricted probationers, convicted felons, etc.
If outlaw carriers turn out to be disproportionately young, male and black, so be it. Thats not the laws fault.
Its not that we shouldnt also shut down and/or demolish hot spot shot houses and unoccupied structures like those within steps of where Alyssa was gunned down. But lets go after outlaw gun carry, too.
Alyssas mom would agree, but not Alyssas dad. When I asked him about possibly going after guns in the wrong hands, Jackson said that its not the guns, its the individuals. He called New York Citys controversial stop and frisk approach ridiculous.
But New Yorks legal stop-and-frisk policy, instituted about 1994, contributed to a 73 percent decline in murders in that city through 2012, while Macons rate remained relatively steady. True, New Yorks policy imposed embarrassment and inconvenience on innocent people. But what about the benefits of saving people like Alyssa? Anyway, Macon-Bibb could target outlaw gun carry without adopting stop-and-frisk.
Law-abiding citizens have a constitutional right to carry. People who carry illegally do not. Its time firmly and proactively to police that critical legal distinction.
David Oedel teaches constitutional law at Mercer University Law School.