Charita Goshay: The chilling facts behind the starter pistol refusal

Charita Goshay

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory’s refusal last week to fire a starter pistol for a 5K race seems, on its face, a little silly. This is, after all, a guy who couldn’t hit the ocean. Earlier this year, his errant, opening-day pitch at a Cincinnati Reds game was so off-target, it ended up being an ESPN highlight.

Mallory’s refusal might well be viewed as political posturing, except when you take into account that Cincinnati set a record for homicides in 2006.

In that light, his balking at shooting even a “pretend” gun is understandable, considering that the primary victims of homicide are young black men similar to himself. It makes even more sense in light of the terrible irony that occurred last Tuesday when a 19-year-old Cincinnati man was shot to death at the “Peace Bowl,” a football tournament dedicated to nonviolence.

Death by numbers

In what almost seems like a statistical impossibility, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that blacks -- who make up 12 percent of the population, were 50 percent of the nation’s homicide victims in 2005. More than half of all black victims that year were young men between 17 and 29. Stark County is a perfect microcosm of that jaw-dropping statistic. Only 7 percent of Stark’s population, blacks made up 100 percent of the county’s six homicides in 2005. Most of the victims were under 30.

In 2006, seven of Stark’s 10 homicide victims were black. Two of the three white victims listed were killed by black acquaintances.

As Stark County’s coroner, Dr. P.S. Murthy has a front-row seat to the carnage.

“So many people come to the coroner’s office on a stretcher because of guns, drugs like cocaine and other illicit drugs,” he said. “Young men who should be going to college to become productive citizens, instead of smoking drugs and engaging in violence.”

Murthy said he would welcome supervised visits to his office by small groups of at-risk kids if it would prevent them from becoming a statistic, adding that he’s more than willing to speak to young people, “anytime, anywhere.”

Any city

In Cleveland, they’re rounding third and heading home toward a triple-digit murder rate for 2007, but in virtually every city, there are rivulets of blood, markers of despair among a demographic unraveling at the seams.

It’s hard to say just when this generation, great-grandsons of men who had few opportunities but kept their dignity intact, lost its way. But it’s predictable blowback when any segment of society embraces the thug life.

Some people blame America’s romance with the gun, but licensed, trained and responsible owners aren’t the ones causing the mayhem. The majority of those who have chosen to live by the gun have never read the Second Amendment in their lives, and unless and until the blood spills over into “decent” society, little will be done to staunch the flow.

As the bodies continue to stack up, Mark Mallory is looking less like a politician, and more like a prophet.

Reach Canton Repository Writer Charita M. Goshay at (330) 580-8313 or e-mail: