Bar shooting One-size-fits-all solution not warranted

Published 12:02 am Sunday, July 24, 2011

The mayor and assistant police chief are pushing for the implementation of metal detectors and/or hired professional security for all bars in the City of Vicksburg. The move stems from a shooting last weekend at Bottom Up, a bar on Halls Ferry Road near Bowmar Avenue.

On July 16, police said, three men entered Bottom Up looking for a man involved with a woman acquaintance of one of the three. At least seven shots were fired in a bar filled with about 50 people. The mere fact that, for any reason men would enter a bar filled with people and open fire should cause pause for all. The man they intended to confront was not injured, but two bystanders required visits to hospitals, with one staying for days.

Three Vicksburg men — ranging in age from 35 to 39 — were charged with seven counts of aggravated assault because police believe seven shots were fired. One of the men faces additional charges for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, police have said.

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In response to the shooting, city officials and police are searching for solutions. Assistant Chief Mitchell Dent said, “We want to see a city with a vibrant nightlife, but we want it to be safe for the people.”

Metal detectors would give a first line of defense. But a one-size-fits-all approach to bar security should not be followed. Metal detectors belong in bars with histories of bad behavior.

We caution, though, about making every bar in the city have a metal detector — at owners’ expense, we reason. There are nightspots throughout the city that rarely, if ever, require a police presence, who follow the rules and fit into Dent’s vision of a vibrant night life. Should the city arbitrarily punish those bars because of the actions of a few degenerates at a few establishments? And what about the casinos? Would metal detectors be required?

Instead, officials should explore targeting those establishments, backed by police statistics, that need extra attention.

The mayor and police are planning to meet with bar owners from across the city to talk about problems — and hopefully solutions. We can only hope that those talks result in concrete, positive steps to make this city as attractive to residents and visitors as possible.

Vicksburg will continue to struggle to earn a distinction of having “a vibrant nightlife” if miscreants continue to walk in and fire seven bullets into a crowd of 50.