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Children, gunfire and abuse: The news of a single day

When a 3-year-old playing outside on a random Monday gets hurt, it should be because she fell off a swing or skinned her knee. Not because of the mindless stupidity of a stray bullet. Again.

Bad news tends to come in spates, from plane crashes to violent deaths, and on a single day this week near where you live, the bad news was about kids.

This time it was a girl named Latavia Ash, playing with other kids outside N Boulevard Homes near downtown Tampa. The shooting started just before 4 p.m. over whatever the senseless conflict of the day was involving men and their guns.

So a little girl had surgery to remove a bullet from her leg and she may have knee problems for life. And from some angles, she can count herself lucky.

In the same newspaper Tuesday was the latest in the sad story of another girl whose name has become synonymous with pointless violence, though apparently not enough to stop it.

Paris Whitehead-Hamilton was older than Latavia, had made it to the age of 8, when she was caught in a St. Petersburg beef believed to have brewed between the Bethel Heights Boys and 8-Hype — the kind of rivalry the police say is hard for people to remember why it started.

That makes sense.

The dispute of the day was apparently important enough for young men with assault rifles to fire 50 times at a house on Preston Avenue one night. They were looking for someone called Monster who they thought was looking to get them. Instead they hit Paris, who liked books.

The story this week was the latest in the case of the men charged in her murder, about some pretrial wrangling over whether jurors should hear details one of them spilled for police. This matters because the people who did this should be held responsible. And it doesn't, when she is just as gone.

Other stories in Tuesday's paper were about children not shot or killed, just ill-used by the grownups who were supposed to be taking care of them. Deputies said a father brought his 9-month-old into a bar, drank a bunch of beers and proceeded to get into a violent fight. They say a mother who was carrying around oxycodone used her 6-year-old daughter to beg on the street.

All of which makes you wonder what the world is doing to children.

A shelter where I have volunteered serves lunch to anyone hungry enough to come in and lucky enough to get a seat. The daily clientele includes homeless people and those teetering on the edge. Sometimes they smell of boozy sweat, or eat hunched protectively around their plates like the inmates they clearly once were.

But it's one thing to look around the room and spot some men and women who have made real mistakes with drugs and other demons. It's another when they bring along children who did nothing except be born into this.

What do you blame? Drugs? Guns? Republicans, Democrats? This endlessly dismal economy? Do you blame that still-solid wall against "snitching" — code against coming clean and telling what you know — that still stands in some neighborhoods even after Paris and now Latavia and the next kid in the crossfire?

You only have to look at the newspaper on a regular day to wonder: What are we doing here?

Children, gunfire and abuse: The news of a single day 09/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:53pm]
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