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Vigilance still in order amid homicide downturn

It was a year ago today that 37-year-old Jabron Q. Totton was shot to death outside the American Legion post at Hanna and East Lewis streets. He was Fort Wayne’s 23rd homicide victim in 2013. By the end of the year, the city had set a sad, new record of 45 homicides.

So far this year, there have been four homicides. Even one death is a tragedy, of course, but the downturn in the murder rate is a welcome trend. New police strategies that focus on getting violent felons off the street may be having an effect. So, too, may be efforts to focus community concern and get victims and witnesses to cooperate with investigators.

But here are a few scenes we reported within the past few days:

•A man arrived at a local hospital with a gunshot wound in the thigh. He told police he had been shot by the side of a road on the southwest side of town.

•Two men began wrestling in an apartment on the southeast side. The loser allegedly shot the winner twice in the chest.

•A man with a handgun held up a drugstore on South Anthony Boulevard.

•A man was critically wounded by gunshots when he opened his front door at his home on Chaddsford Drive Friday morning.

•In the wee hours of a Sunday morning eight days ago, gunfire was exchanged between two homes across from each other on Euclid Avenue. A 7-year-old girl asleep inside one of the homes was struck by bullets in the foot and in the leg.

No one deserves to be shot, but when innocent children get caught in a crossfire, even the most callous defender of unfettered gun rights must be shaken.

The NRA and its supporters say we dare not infringe on Second Amendment rights because they’re vital to our ability to defend ourselves.

But how does an innocent sleeping child defend herself from random bullets?

And if innocent little girls are in danger in their homes, aren’t we all?

In a sense, the victims in these incidents and many others this year in Fort Wayne were lucky; the bullets that struck them did not kill them, and we are thankful that more lives have not been lost.

But complacency is not an option when violence – most of it involving guns – is still a part of our lives in this community.