By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
After unveiling a table filled with an AR-15, an AKM, an SKS and an AK-47 pistol variant commonly referred to as a Mini Draco, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday appealed to state and federal officials to ban assault weapons as gun violence continues to plague the nation including the City of Birmingham.
“As long as these types of guns are allowed on the streets, the carnage we see, the pain we see, the pain we feel from our citizens who’ve lost loved ones, the ease and access to guns like these on our streets, we cannot solve this alone at a local level,” Woodfin said.
“We need the state’s help. We need the federal government’s help to ban these types of weapons because you can literally correlate in our nation, when the federal government does not allow gun manufacturers to make billions of dollars off selling these guns at a domestic level, you see a correlation and a decrease of gun violence.”
The first priority of government in the nation is supposed to be public safety, the mayor said. However, people affected by violence have less political power than others such as “gun lobbyists . . . those who make guns, have more power than victims of gun violence, have more power than everyday citizens who are tired of gun violence, and our voices are not being heard,” Woodfin said.
Councilor Hunter Williams, former chair of the public safety committee, said it’s important to note the ease with which “really everybody” can access guns and what that can lead to in a community.
“Whether it be a domestic dispute or an argument amongst people in the community, that easy access to firearms sometimes doesn’t mean that you’re throwing punches or doesn’t mean that you’re talking it out…but it means that you’re actually exchanging brass back and forth, which obviously has led to be the homicide rate that we currently are experiencing,” Williams said.
Birmingham has seen 96 homicides so far in 2022, which is an increase of 17 over the amount, 79, the city had seen at the same time of the year 2021, according to AL.com.
Williams also called on the community to help in the fight against gun violence and said the actual number of people committing violent crimes in Birmingham is very small. “The majority of the citizens of Birmingham are, quite frankly, scared of the 1 percent who are committing these violent crimes,” Williams said.
Council President Wardine Alexander, whose son was shot in Birmingham in 2020 but survived, said addressing gun violence requires everybody using all their tools, including activism, engagement with legislative representatives and sharing information.
“It’s getting out there and just saying something when you know something…And [here], you let something like this happen and go on in your communities over and over again…If you’re in a neighborhood [with much gunfire], you tend to get immune, and it’s not right that we have to live like this,” Alexander said.
Councilor J.T. Moore encouraged residents get more involved in their communities and engage with their neighborhood associations.
“Nobody has the luxury of being able to just sit back and wait on Superman to come and save us. We have to be the ones to step up to make the noise and to not be afraid, and I think that fear will dissipate once we understand that there’s a power in the collective, once we understand that there’s power in us speaking together,” Moore said.
“You don’t have to worry about trying to take over the city. Just start with your street, your block,” he added.
Councilor LaTonya Tate, current chair of the public safety committee and a former probation and parole officer who lost her 21-year-old nephew to gun violence in Birmingham earlier this year, said many of the weapons are being handled by people with little or no training.
“These high-powered weapons, as a trained person that came from law enforcement and didn’t learn how to shoot a gun until I went to the academy, it just shows, the situation is happening across the country that people are shooting these high-powered rifles and these assault weapons with no experience,” she said.