About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, with the Power Ultra Lounge downtown jammed for a rap show by Finese2Tymes (Ricky Hampton of Memphis), gunfire broke out. Before it was over, 25 people had been wounded by gunfire and three others injured in the rush for safety.
As I write Monday morning, there have been no arrests in the shooting. The rapper was arrested after a club show the next night in Birmingham, Ala., on unrelated federal gun charges arising in Forrest City. Multiple weapons were seized in his arrest. Not surprising for a rapper who advertised his Little Rock show with a photo featuring a gun. Not surprising for a rapper who, according to Memphis reports, had a show there interrupted by multiple gunshots a few months ago.
Prayer vigils have been held. City officials have expressed concern. Noticeably absent from a city news conference Saturday afternoon were the three black city directors. Perhaps they were out of town. I inject race because all 25 injured were black and the shooting followed 10 or so others in less than two weeks in predominantly poor and black neighborhoods. The club, no stranger to gunplay, also is in the ward represented by one of the three, Erma Hendrix.
I have no bright ideas. Dark humor was inevitable. Thirty-five people shot in a dozen days and none dead? Mayor Mark Stodola was heard to crack an aside, “Bad shots,” when that point was mentioned at the city news conference. Or maybe we’re just not getting the best guns and ammo into the hands of those who use them.
Here’s one practical suggestion. Keep the police well-stocked with the emergency first-aid kits — the kind suitable for military combat — that are credited with saving lives Saturday morning. Because violence is not likely to diminish anytime soon, no matter all the sober talk and prayers about youth intervention, education, poverty, the racial divide and the violent culture of rap music.
Why? Because we live in a state, which, as a matter of law, endorses more guns in more hands in more places.
Harmonic convergence: The front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette delivered as news was spreading of the nightclub carnage. It recounted how gun advocate Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) had persuaded University of Arkansas officials of the correctness of his legal theory that the existence of a state concealed carry permit is sufficient to override federal law that would otherwise create a gun-free zone around the new eStem High School being built on the UA Little Rock campus. Garner seemed right pleased with himself that you can stand outside a schoolroom window and peer in, legally packing a pistol.
When gun safety advocates began social media chatter after the shootings about legislative action, Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville) and others of his pro-gun thinking were quick to say it would be political suicide for any who tried.
He may be right. The legislation by Garner and Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) not only opened college campuses to concealed weapons, it opened the state Capitol, courthouses, other government buildings and even places where alcohol is sold. Governor Hutchinson didn’t stand in the way and no advocate of the bill seems to be facing political retribution.
The legislative intent is clear: More guns make everyone safer. Think how much safer everyone would have been had not off-duty cops prevented a few more people with guns from entering Power Ultra Lounge Friday night. Think how much safer those two Little Rock children wounded by accidental gunfire over the weekend would have been had only their home contained still more guns. Think of the weekend dead in Little Rock and Pine Bluff. If only they’d had more guns.
There’s more legislative work to be done. Why have background checks at all? Why limit sales of automatic weapons? Why require permits to carry a concealed weapon? Why discourage open carry, whether derringer or bazooka?
As the NRA likes to say, what part of “shall not be infringed” don’t you understand? Safety begins with a gun.