Mayor Dickens: ‘If you pull a gun in this town, you are going to jail’

Frustrated by gun violence resulting from anger and a lack of conflict resolution, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens sent a forceful message to people with illegal firearms Monday, saying: “‘If you pull a gun in this town, you are going to jail.”

Dickens made a rare appearance before the City Council’s public safety committee meeting, speaking for over 40 minutes about the progress the city has made on public safety, and the challenges that still remain.

“There are too many illegal guns on our streets. ... If you’re a gang leader you will be caught and you will be held accountable. If you’re carrying an illegal firearm, you will face the consequences,” Dickens said, standing with his top deputies and interim police Chief Darin Schierbaum.

The mayor also spoke about legislative proposals that were before the committee related to nuisance properties and the city’s detention center.

Following a shooting at a southwest Atlanta park on Sunday that killed two people and injured four others, including a 6-year-old girl, Dickens said he wanted to address the council directly rather than hold a press conference. That shooting at Rosa L. Burney Park followed an argument that apparently broke out during a baseball or softball game, police said.

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“Anger and a gun is a bad combination right now all across America,” Dickens said, before running through public safety initiatives the city has launched in recent months. Police officials have long pleaded with the public to not turn to guns when dealing with a conflict.

Despite high-profile incidents that make headlines — and an overall year-over-year uptick in homicides — Dickens emphasized that the city is making some headway, especially over the summer months.

At parks specifically, the city had recorded 57 serious crimes at this time last year. So far this year, Atlanta has seen 49, Dickens said. (The council is also set to vote on a measure that would put $750,000 toward hiring additional security for the city’s pools and sporting events at parks.)

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Youth arrests are also down, as well as 911 calls for illegal water sales on roadways.

“When you watch the news, read the news and get on your social media, you would think that everything is on fire,” Dickens said. “We are on our way to making sure we prove to everyone that we are a safe city.

“What we are putting in place, ladies and gentlemen, is working.”