Staff Editorial

Turn frustration into change

Darshaun Smith, 17, participates in a protest against gun violence in the 1500 block of First Avenue East in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, May 19, 2019. The event was organized by friends of Matrell Johnson and Royal Abram, who were killed in a shooting early Saturday morning in southwest Cedar Rapids. Smith is the Senior class President at Cedar Rapids Washington High School and had known Royal Abram since sixth grade.  (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Darshaun Smith, 17, participates in a protest against gun violence in the 1500 block of First Avenue East in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, May 19, 2019. The event was organized by friends of Matrell Johnson and Royal Abram, who were killed in a shooting early Saturday morning in southwest Cedar Rapids. Smith is the Senior class President at Cedar Rapids Washington High School and had known Royal Abram since sixth grade. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The Cedar Rapids community was shaken last weekend by yet another senseless tragedy.

Two 18-year-olds were shot and killed in a parking lot on the southwest side, and two other young adults suffered life-threatening gunshot wounds. No arrests have been made, although the police have named several people of interest.

Sadly, this almost feels routine. Recurring reports of young Iowans fighting and using weapons have coarsened our sensibilities and normalized the heartbreak.

We stand in solidarity with the Washington High School students who walked out of class Monday to plea for an end to gun violence, and with the citizens who brought their concerns to City Hall this week.

It is frustrating to realize that no policy or program will eradicate youth violence. Law enforcement officials and other community guardians can only do so much to monitor threats and intervene in violent situations.

Cedar Rapidians are grasping for answers, but coming up short.

For starters, anyone with pertinent information about the most recent killings should fully cooperate with investigators. Police Chief Wayne Jerman said this week the investigation is being impeded by uncooperative sources. They should realize that keeping quiet — or, even worse, seeking vigilante justice — will only perpetuate the cycle of violence.

We also challenge law enforcement, educators and service groups to be not only transparent but vocal about the work they’re doing to confront youth violence. Any reluctance to articulate the full scope and severity of the underlying issues ultimately will prove counterproductive.

The Gazette editorial board has been outspoken in support of the Safe Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force, which convened following the 2015 death of a local teenager. The group’s recommendations are being carried out by a series of grants, funded by the city, county and school district.

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After the latest tragedy, we emphatically renew our call for all community members to actively support the SET mission, yet we caution this is a generational investment, with no immediate upshot.

The roots of violence are deep and tangled. Access to weapons is a factor, but so are poverty, education, housing, social isolation, substance abuse and a list of other societal challenges.

The scourge of youth violence has once again captured the community’s attention. Now, it’s up to all of us to channel this anger and frustration into positive change.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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