- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 4, 2007

I’m upset, and this time it’s not about what Sen. Joe Biden said about Sen. Barack Obama or President Bush’s threats to Iran about meddling in Iraq. It’s about crime and the senseless, wanton violence taking place under the lights of the U.S. Capitol dome.

My Capitol Hill neighborhood is normally quiet, especially when members of Congress leave for the weekend or holidays. We do get our share of crimes ranging from burglary to assault, but it’s rare to witness, much less have it knock at your door, as it happened to my neighbor when someone broke into his home.

A couple of nights ago, I found myself ready to jump in bed and finish reading one of my mystery novels when a helicopter appeared from nowhere, shining its spotlight into my upstairs hallway. Before I could open the window to see what the commotion was all about, I heard sirens. Lots of sirens so loud my dog started wailing and wouldn’t stop. At first, I thought it was just another usual night on Capitol Hill, with police cruisers speeding by in pursuit of someone in another section of town.

Moments later, I went out to see what was happening. I saw my neighbors’ 15-year-old son appear at his back door with cell phone in tow. Realizing at that moment that his mother was at a dinner party, I ran downstairs to make sure he and his younger sister were safely inside. But before I entered their home, I saw ambulances, fire trucks and a big SWAT van. Then, from nowhere, a woman with a bullhorn and a large orange stick walked to the corner and set off a flare. She looked at me and directed, “You and your dog should get inside now and lock your doors.”

Not one to ever follow orders, I decided to walk in the opposite direction, pretending my home was a couple of doors down. Then I realized my neighborhood had been cordoned off with yellow tape as both uniformed and nonuniformed police officers scrambled to take positions around their cruisers. This is when I came to my senses and headed for cover, until I remembered my neighbors’ kids were home alone. I went over to stand watch.

I stared out my neighbors’ front door (we live on opposite blocks) and saw police everywhere, guns drawn, in my neighbor’s front yard. You can imagine the thoughts that raced through my head when a policeman walked over and told us my neighbor and his wife were safely out of the house but a young man had barricaded himself in their basement and was carrying a shotgun. I thought, “This is not going to have a good ending,” so I decided to close the door, turn off the lights and hunker down.

More neighbors poured into where I was baby-sitting, and we began to share what we had seen and heard. Then the young girl I was caring for looked up and saw all of us adults hovering near the window and warned us to close to curtains because “a bullet doesn’t know if we’re the good or the bad people.” She was right.

After all, the police had guns. The young man reportedly had a shotgun and allegedly fired it at a police officer earlier that night before hitting a cyclist and crashing his car at 80 miles an hour. This chaos made me think about what our newly elected mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, was talking about just days earlier when he called upon Congress to help us take illegal guns off our city streets.

Honestly, I am tired of the violence. I’m tired of reading about kids assaulting other kids and adults alike. I’m tired of reading obituaries filled with young victims who will never get to see their childhood dreams come true. Congress should listen to Mr. Fenty and others who are calling for an end to the violence by cracking down on the illegal-guns trade that has proliferated in our neighborhoods.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports nearly 1 in 10 murders is committed by a juvenile. The FBI says 15 percent of violent crime arrests were youths under 18 years old. The Children’s Defense Fund states: “Progress has been made over the years. Firearm deaths of children and teens have dropped from 15 a day in the peak year of 1994 to nearly eight a day in 2004. But eight children and teens dying each day is a moral outrage. Since 1979, gun violence has snuffed out the lives of 101,413 children and teens in America.”

All I know is we are failing our children, failing to keep them safe and failing to teach them right from wrong. This is a social problem with a social solution. But until then, until our children are well-raised, well-educated and well-cared for, the least we can do is get serious about keeping guns out of their hands and off the streets.

Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, contributing columnist to Roll Call and former campaign manager for Al Gore.

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