Changes in Weaponry Raise Chances of Random Killings

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Sandra Parks, 13, is the latest young victim of apparently random gunfire in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. As Parks sat in her home in November watching television, a masked and brooding Isaac Barnes, 26, walked down a street, wantonly firing an AK-47 assault rifle at an unknown target. A bullet from the barrage pierced a window before striking Sandra, who died on her living room floor. Police later found Barnes, who lived three blocks from Sandra, hiding in a closet. Officers recovered an AK-47 pistol and the AK-47 semiautomatic rifle he was seen firing when Sandra was shot. As a felon, he was forbidden by law to own a firearm. The errant gunfire that killed Parks and others defies conventional statistics.

Yearly increases and decreases in homicide totals in Milwaukee have not coincided with incidents of children killed by errant gunfire. In 2014, three children were the unintended victims of fatal gunshots — a 10-year-old girl on a playground, a 13-month-old boy playing inside a relative’s home and a 5-year-old girl sitting on her grandfather’s lap. “It’s not the number of murders, it’s the number of shootings,” said former Milwaukee police Lt. Steven Spingola, now chair of the criminal justice department at Gateway Technical College in Racine. In previous decades, cheap, short-range, small-caliber handguns called “Saturday Night Specials” were used in many gun crimes. Today there’s a proliferation of easy-to-obtain, high-velocity, semiautomatic weapons that increase the number of bullets flying through the air. “Now everybody has a Glock (semiautomatic handgun), rifles that can penetrate two houses,” Spingola said. “They just spray … and the odds are the more shots fired, the more the chances of innocent people being struck.”

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