Lawmakers, Don’t Forget the Real Victims

Shaniqua Allen and Sharmar Hill Sr. grieve the loss of their 3-year-old son Sharmar Hill Jr. One of the toddler’s suspected killers was out on bond. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch.

by James A. Bacon

Newly empowered Democrats are pushing a wave of criminal justice reforms through the General Assembly with the goal of reducing the disproportionate number of African-Americans in incarceration. Some tweaks to the system are no doubt justified — every system can be improved upon. And, as Dick Hall-Sizemore reported yesterday, after a frenzy of activity early in the session, legislators appear to be slowing down to study some of the proposals more carefully.

The driving motivation behind these reforms is that the criminal justice system is fundamentally racist. Bringing about racial justice is a laudatory impulse. But justice for whom? A disproportionate number of violent crime victims also are African-Americans. Relax the rules too much, and we could well see a spike in the number of killings like that of 3-year-old Sharmar Hill, Jr.

Sharmar was playing last week outside his home in Hillside Court, one of Richmond’s infamous housing projects. He was shot and killed in a flurry of shooting. The alleged killer, Antonio L. Harris, had been arrested in November and charged with a carjacking. Two weeks after his arrest, he was granted bond and placed on home electronic monitoring. Friday, he was allegedly involved in another carjacking involving a Lyft driver. Previously, the 21-year-old had pleaded guilty to possession of heroin, possession of a sawed-off shotgun, and underage possession of a firearm.

Harris and a companion allegedly robbed a Lyft driver at gunpoint and stole her car Friday night. The details of the shooting are unclear, but gunshots were heard a little after 4:00 p.m., and a white car was seen speeding away. Responding to the gunshots, police found the wounded boy and took him to the hospital, where he died.

In 2018, the year of the most recent Virginia State Police statewide crime report, there were 4,033 female African-American violent crime victims. There were 4,311 male African-American violent crime victims — 8,344 in all. For all races, there were 20,265 violent crime victims of both sexes. African-Americans comprised 19.2% of the population but 42.2% of violent crime victims.

Those aren’t just bad dudes in the ‘hood knocking one another off. Almost half are women, and all too many are children. At right is a picture of 9-year-old Markiya Dickson, who was shot and killed in May 2019  while attending a barbecue cookout with her family at Carter Jones park. Gunfire had broken out nearby at a basketball court. Markiya was an innocent bystander.

Newspapers and TV stations cover vigils for some of these victims, especially the children, but they are soon forgotten. All too often, their killers are seen as the victims — of society. It’s good to give people second chances. It’s fine to take into account their own traumatic childhoods. It’s worthwhile fine to help felons re-integrate into society. But let’s not forget our primary obligation — to protect law-abiding citizens, especially the innocents.

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9 responses to “Lawmakers, Don’t Forget the Real Victims”

  1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    This post states the obvious.

    No one is “forgetting” the victims. They are the prime motivation behind the drive to reduce the prevalence of guns, especially semi-automatic weapons, in our society.

    And, yes, a disproportionate number of victims are black because a disproportionate number of people living in poor areas are black and poverty breeds violence.

    Finally, based on the last report I read (and what is contained in this post), Antonio Harris has not been charged with shooting the little boy. “Shots were heard” and “a white car was seen speeding away” are scarcely hard evidence. I am not saying that Harris is a good guy or “an innocent”. He had a violent record and, probably, should not have been released on bond. I suspect there are some hard questions being asked about those decisions.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    We’ve had years, decades to do something about the racial injustice in our criminal justice system which very much harmed kids whose dads were wrongly imprisoned – and we did essentially little or nothing – even when we had the opportunity for years in the GA to negotiate to a middle ground, it was summarily shut down.

    NOW, that we actually can do something, we’ve got the hand-wringing blues and show pictures of kid victims and argue that more might be the result of reforms. What about all the kids who lost their dads and the other argument we hear about how kids fail when there are no dads around?

    Got a strong whiff of hypocrisy.

    If I’m a white guy who is repelled by this bogus argument, can anyone imagine how black folks would receive this kind of logic?

    How can we ever get to a better place on this is we continue to represent this as a lose-lose and essentially still argue for the current system?

    1. Do you ever read what you have written before you post it?

  3. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    A fair question would be: Will any of the gun control measures now on their way to passage prevent future instances like this? In general, I would say no, but perhaps there will be some benefit to wider background checks. I think there is a bill to mandate that stolen guns be reported, but I doubt it will change behavior. The vast majority of the proposals are unlikely to reduce gun violence in these communities, as evidenced by the continued problems in places were the rules have been tight for a long time. The problem with all those laws is, who will obey them and who will not? The morons shooting kids in the projects will not.

    As a rule they do not use the assault-type weapons, and now it appears that bill is finally rolling forward. That truly is the Democrats seeking to disarm the law-abiding. Jim does have a point in asking how will they disarm the criminals.

    Like Dick, I do not see much relationship between these tragic cases and some the other things the Rebellion has been obsessing over, such as the bill on parole eligibility of middle-aged inmates. Like Larry, I get uncomfortable sitting in my mostly-white, fenced community of $500K plus residences tut tutting over what poor folks do to each other on the other side of town. Since I just moved away from the immediate vicinity of some of the city’s worst neighborhoods, I’m even less inclined to throw stones.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Whether or not the revised gun laws result in less gun violence is not the point I was getting at. Jim was implying that someone (Democrats?) were forgetting about the victims. Fewer victims is the ultimate goal of the new gun laws. That may not be the result, but the patrons were thinking about victims.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        I’m starting to see the point of the paranoiacs. I’m starting to think that disarming those “deplorables” who showed up a couple of Mondays ago is motivation for at least some. I wish I didn’t feel that way….. Not sure which is weighing more on my thinking, The Federalist Papers or 1984, but there it is.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Disarming one’s opponents is the ever constant fetish of fascists & leftist. This is modern history’s most powerful lesson, and all history, if tyranny and tribalism be added to mix.

          This fetish will never abate for these sorts of people. That is what today’s gun control is all about. If it were otherwise, the daily carnage in Chicago and Baltimore would have been ended long ago by real solutions driven by other means.

  4. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    I think I know what Will Rogers would say about all of this: “Be thankful we are not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

  5. J. Abbate Avatar

    Fawell’s point of looking for “real solutions driven by other means” is well taken. So much legislation may not directly make Americans safer, just as distributing as many weapons as possible to as many humans as possible has not made our country safer by any measure. One does not need to be a fascist or leftist to want one’s opponents disarmed. How about simply moving forward on legislation that would keep some of these weapons legally restricted from criminals, stalkers, the mentally ill, and those on the Homeland Security terrorist list?

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