We join the nation and the world in the surreal reality, surreality, if you will, where active shooters are part of daily vernacular and the news cycle. Although we have a certain level of confidence that events in California, Texas, Ohio and even Charleston, have little influence on the incidents involving gun violence here in Aiken County, we cannot sit by as a community and turn a blind eye to what’s transpired here over the last week.
Many of our readers may feel distanced from the five shootings that happened locally in three days, but no single resident should disengage from this necessary conversation in Aiken County.
Five shootings in three days. The victims have been male, female, white, black, young and old.
The "it’s not in my backyard" defense ends today.
This is a community problem.
On Tuesday evening, the Aiken Standard hosted a political forum in beautiful downtown Aiken and invited the public to hear from Aiken’s mayor and five City Council candidates. As staff followed a familiar path driving from the Aiken Standard office to the forum, the Hahn Village shooting played out frame by frame like a movie on a reel-to-reel.
One employee reported seeing a family walking down the sidewalk on Laurens Street, another employee heard something on the police scanner as he left the office, another employee saw a body in the street.
The political forum was no longer the news of the night, and the reporters’ instincts took over to cover Aiken’s fourth shooting that week. See, it’s our backyard.
There’s plenty of discussion about headlines these days and demands that media should cover a range of other topics, but what about this topic?
Instead of using the headline “Police: One person shot near Hahn Village in Aiken” perhaps “Man shot while walking down Laurens Street – not gang related” would have at least raised a few eyebrows.
We cannot become numb to violence.
In an article in April, we reported that use of firearms in crimes is increasing as well as arrest rates for drug violations.
Teenagers – 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds – in Aiken County are seeing, mirroring and engaging in dangerous lifestyle choices that impact everyone.
We view these issues as areas of concern; however, we also know they are not the only problems in our community.
There is no one singular cause – there are many – and we'll never be able to solve the problems ourselves, but we can inform you – our readers – and encourage community interaction to be part of solutions.
We cannot ignore what is in front of our face, and neither should you.
This isn’t the first time that we’ve been fed up.
Let’s reflect back to the quake our community experienced in 2011 and 2012 when Aiken Public Safety officers Scotty Richardson and Sandy Rogers were shot and killed within five weeks of one another.
At that time, the Aiken Standard began publishing a series of columns from civic leaders and agency directors suggesting solutions on how to improve our community.
On March 4, 2012, the late Aiken Standard Publisher Scott Hunter wrote, “We do not believe that this presentation will resolve all issues in our community. But the shock of recent events reminds us that we have problems we can’t ignore.”
Aiken County, we have a problem.
Can you help safeguard our future? If you see a wrong, will you help to right it? Will you have the uncomfortable conversation about guns or drugs or will you offer to help someone who may never be able to return the favor?
In this space over the next several months, you’ll see columns from a diverse group of local experts with one focus, what can we do today to improve Aiken’s future?