I apologize for my long absence from contributing to this board. Although I have not contributed, I am a constant visitor and my passion for the Saints and CommonSense has not waned. The events of this weekend have compelled me to put thoughts on paper. I appreciate the opportunity to share them with you here.

First, prayers of comfort for the family of Will Smith. A captain of our Saints football team and a man that spent much time trying to give back in his community. Prayers for healing of his wife and may love and comfort overwhelm the children that woke up Sunday morning without a father. May we be patient and the judicial system be allowed to gather the facts, present to a jury, and may a fair and just verdict be reached.

We will not all agree – and that is ok. Debate and passion has always been the hallmarks of this great country and especially to the people of Louisiana and New Orleans. I have been fortunate enough to spend extended time in country’s that restrict freedom and close dialogue on debate — that is why most countries will never reach the potential that the free and open society will achieve.

The following is an opinion and nothing more.

The tragic, sense-less shooting of Will Smith weighs heavy on everyone’s heart. While this specific incident generates more national attention than 164 murders in 2015 or the 30 murders through March 31, 2016 – maybe part of Will Smith’s legacy will be the marshalling everyone to make positive change to rid our streets of gun violence. It starts with me.

Emotions are raw, facts are few, speculation is rampant, patience is thin. We KNOW very little details and we must implore our public officials to do a thorough and exhaustive investigation. But time is important. The need for swift justice is required. When the evidence is presented our judicial system is required to operate as it was designed…. all are innocent until proven guilty, but guilty must suffer consequences as the law dictates.

I have heard lots of theories on how we got here…. Poor education, low morals, broken families, absence of God in our society, illegitimate children, limited financial opportunity, drug trafficking, video games, pop culture, low funding, availability of guns, movies, television, no activities, no programs, and on and on and on. And while all of these are nice thoughts and easy excuses none, absolutely none deal with the root cause. The problem with gun violence falls directly on the person pulling the trigger. When in our lives did personal accountability become so removed?

Violence has been around since the dawn of time. Ever hear the story of Cain and Able? Jealousy and rage led to the murder of a brother. Violence will not end until time stops. We can only hope that a civilized society can limit violence and that each generation values life more than the previous. We are failing our next generation.

In our “quick fix” culture most deadly violence is quickly divided into a debate on “gun control” and the politicians grab the microphone, step in front of the camera and rage it must stop, and nothing happens. A sense-less murder takes place and a celebrity jumps on social media and condemns it with equal vitriol as a bill to have equal access to public restrooms. Legal professionals quickly cover their bases, police saying little in an effort not to jeopardize their case and defense attorneys quickly starting launching sound bites to create as much “reasonable doubt” that they can get their client an acquittal. Some in society look for others to blame, create un-rest, attempt to move these events into an event that suits their purposes. And when it is all done, lives are ruined; the victim is dead, a spouse is widowed, children are orphaned, friends are robbed, and society takes a moment to post a comment, build a temporary memorial, spout emotions, and then in a matter of hours it is buried with the news of bathroom politics, the Master’s Golf tournament, the NBA playoffs, the Presidential campaign, ISIS, stock market and nothing changes.

How do we get control of personal accountability? It may be over-simplified, but I have a few suggestions:
Violence with a weapon, must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Allowing a criminal to withdraw, or renegotiate a plea deal “to a lesser crime” is not acceptable if the criminal has violated a weapons law…period. I do not care about the defense attorney’s good work for their client and I am tired of prosecutors and other politicians trying to protect their conviction record by pushing deals. Deals can be made with traffic violations or misdemeanors – but if a weapon (knife, gun, ball bat, golf club, bomb, etc) is used in the commission of a crime — NO DEALS!

Judges must stop creative sentencing. If someone is guilty of a crime and a deadly weapon was used, a suspended sentence must not be allowed. What in the name of all that is good in creation is “inactive probation”? It is nothing more than a creative device to allow criminals to escape the due punishment required.

Attorneys should be forced to a gag order until all of the facts are available. If the prosecution must avoid speculation, so to must the defense attorney. Dropping sound-bites at a press conference to prejudice the jury pool or shift public opinion is gamesmanship at the highest. I understand a charged person must have defense that works to prove innocence, but if there is not innocence – fighting over technicalities is a mis-carriage of justice as designed. This is not a public relations event, this is a criminal process.

Drug enforcement must be focused on the distributor. Stop hounding and arresting the petty user. Cut off their supply or get the help, but focus and imprison the supplier.

•Current Gun laws MUST be enforced. We do not need new laws and we do not need to restrict the non-criminal population. Current laws are clear and abundant; it is time to enforce as written. This is no more the guns fault than it is Hummer or Mercedes Benz — it is about personal accountability.

As a civil society, we must not allow anyone that shows the failed accountability or the sense of bad judgment to commit a crime with a weapon to be spared punishment. When we stop tolerating weapon violence, the jails will fill, but the streets will become safer. There must be a consequence for anyone that chooses to brandish a weapon during the committing of a crime.

If these five recommendations were in place, the accused killer of Mr. Smith, would not have been on the street, would not be avoiding reasonable check-ins with authority, could not legally own a gun, and possibly a person with a proven history of weapons would not have been in position for his temper (or his fear), to allow him the choice during an argument to reach for a weapon – very likely Mr. Smith and numerous other of our fellow citizens would not fall victim to such violence.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could spend enough, create programs, or legislate our way out of violence? It will not happen. If we all take reasonable precautions, maybe we can avoid falling victim.

Here are some suggestions:
Know your surroundings. Be present. Know where you are.
Do Not escalate. If you are confronted in an aggressive manner, avoid escalating. It is not about your manhood or street cred; it is about living.
Stay calm, breathe
Speak softly, do not match volume or try to be louder
Talk slowly
Ask your companions to stay back
Keep your hands visible
If you have your phone, activate the video camera or the voice recorder
Do Not make threats. Everything has a solution. Remember most things we fight over is just stuff. Un-necessary, stuff.
Live another day. When you are confronted, you have only one goal – To Live Another Day- This does not mean to give-up, but to be smart, work a strategy that resolves with everyone alive
See the tires. When following or trailing another vehicle that stops in traffic, at intersection, or signal light, never be any closer than when you can see where their rear tires touch the road surface that distance will provide you enough room to maneuver. Do not get trapped.
Foot on the break. Always keep your foot on the break while stopped. Do not allow vehicle creep. Holding the break will minimize the movement with an insignificant hit from the rear.
Do not become distracted. Keep your head on a swivel, watch 360, notice unusual activity. Stop looking at the kids, the radio, the phone, or dozing off.
Do not leave your car. Stay in the driver’s seat. You have more options inside your car.
Show your hands. Everyone, let the approaching person know that you mean no harm.

I operated jewelry stores in Los Angeles during the height of “car-jacking”. Most of these tips were shared with me then and most will be effective today.

If we all committed to do the RIGHT THINGS, If we each would take responsibility to remove violence by controlling my own violent tendencies, then the situation improves. This does not mean to become passive but it means controlled response.

Steve Gleason summed it up with a few typed comments –
“There’s plenty of diseases that kill humans, we don’t need to kill each other.”……-SG