Photo by Jay Rembert on Unsplash

Every day, Charleston County authorities encounter more than three incidents related to guns — murders, aggravated assaults, shootings, unlawful possession of firearms and on and on. It’s not safe for them or us.

In fact, it’s too much. That’s why everyone in our community needs to step up to help to curb the violence. If we work together, we can make our community safer as recent data show. In the last couple of years, gun-related violence declined in Charleston and North Charleston, as highlighted in today’s cover story, “A Month of Shootings,” because of community collaboration.

There’s a role for everyone — citizens, police, business people and elected officials — in curbing gun violence.

Citizens can do a better job of reporting crimes to police. In North Charleston, for example, police saw an increase in the number of calls for service from 109,000 in 2021 to 132,842 in 2022 — a 21% increase that police say shows they’re making inroads in rebuilding public confidence.

Law enforcement authorities must continue smart community policing initiatives by collaborating and engaging with citizens and neighborhood leaders to build trust. Charleston police are rightly focusing on solving festering problems, not just treating surface symptoms of crime. North Charleston police are to be commended for bringing in national training programs like Violence Interrupters to work with people who live in high-crime areas on ways to bring down crime and violence.

Business owners can mentor students, offer alternatives to “troubled youths” and provide funding to nonprofits working to cut the violence.

City and county elected officials need to fund more social services to augment law enforcement funding to build a collaborative culture that reduces crime. They also need to put big pressure on state legislators to do their job by strengthening gun laws, not loosening them in ways that promote a Wild West culture. Among smart gun safety initiatives that there’s still time to implement this year across South Carolina:

• Close the Charleston loophole to make it harder for nuts
to get guns.

• Enforce the laws on the books to keep gun-toting criminals in jail.

• Oppose the so-called “constitutional carry” proposal that would make it easy to carry a gun without training.

• Keep guns out of teachers’ hands in schools. Teachers aren’t law enforcement officers.

• Require responsible gun storage to bolster a culture
of gun safety.

• Insist on mandatory licensing and training — just as
is required to drive a car.

• Invest more in mental health programs to promote community resilience.

It wasn’t too many years ago across Charleston County that there was an “us against them” mentality between police and the citizenry. While tragedies like the Walter Scott shooting in North Charleston are still on people’s minds and we’ve still got a long way to go to reduce gun violence and crime, we’re on a much better path than just five years ago. 

Working with neighbors is the key for local law enforcement agencies to be successful in protecting and serving. Stay on that path to get the violence numbers down more.

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