Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gun Control and Gun Violence in America

March 11, 2013: A 6-month-old baby is shot five times while her father, also shot due to gang related violence, changed her diaper. The baby succumbed to her injuries and died Tuesday. 

March 9, 2013: A 16-year-old New York boy is shot and killed by two plainclothes NYPD officers. Officers say the boy pointed a gun at them.

February 15, 2013: An 18-year-old Chicago woman is killed hours after her sister stood behind President Obama at Hyde Park Career Academy and watched him speak on the city's rampant gun violence.

February 3 - 12, 2013: An ex-LAPD officer kills four people in a vindictive shooting rampage before being killed in a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains. 

January 29, 2013: A 15-year-old Chicago girl is killed walking through a park with friends just eight days after she marched in President Obama's second inaugural parade.

December 14, 2012: A gunman killed his mother, 20 children and six teachers before turning his gun on himself. President Obama said this was the darkest day of his presidency.

November 23, 2012: A 17-year-old Jacksonville, Florida boy is shot and killed in an argument over loud music with a man that had just left his son's wedding.

August 5, 2012: A member of a hate group stormed a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and killed six people before turning the gun on himself.

July 20, 2012: A disturbed gunman stormed the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises; in Aurora, Colorado. He killed 12 people and injured 58.

February 26, 2012: An overzealous neighborhood watch leader followed a 17-year-old boy home. He thought the boy was a suspicious adult, possibly on drugs or something. He approached, they fought, the teen died. 

If you are reading this timeline of prominent shootings that have happened within the last year and are disturbed then congratulations you have a heart. If you are reading this timeline of prominent shootings that have happened within the last year and have come to believe this is just the state of the world we live in, then you like many others I know have become immune to tragedy.

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. When I tell people exactly where on the South Side they look at me and have one of two reactions: "Wow, you made it out," or "I never would have known."

Just last year, less than two months before I got married, gun violence rocked my family. A boy I had known all of his life, my godbrother, my next door neighbor, was arrested for shooting a Chicago Police Officer. His face was plastered across all Chicago media outlets. My mother harassed by journalists, like me, trying to get an emotional edge on their story. I was not immune.

But I knew this already. The weekend I graduated from college, April 25, 2008, dozens upon dozens of people were shot in one weekend in Chicago. About a dozen died. I realized then I was not immune.

In this country we may be immune to war. 11 years in Afghanistan and counting and all we have to remind us why we're there is a memorial to the people who died on 9/11. 11 years at war and none of us in this country have ever seen a battlefield on our city streets. That's unless you count the gun battles and gang violence in metropolitan areas like Chicago.

Every year the city of Chicago, the city I will always call home no matter where I live, is spotlighted for its gun violence. Usually in the summer time when the hoodlums come back outside to reclaim their turf after a semi-winter hibernation. (Apparently thugs can't take the snow and cold either.) The number of shootings go up on the South Side and the West Side and national news cameras head to the windy city to find out what's really going on.

Once those stories are filed reporters, anchors, and their camera crews pack up and head off to the next big story until the next year. In these stories, Chicago is not indicative of America, it is an outlier, a great American city standing alone as its government struggles to get a handle on the violence in the city that seems to get worse even as the number of murders drop. The same can be said about similar tinder boxes for violence such as Detroit, New Orleans, Houston, or New York. Shootings in these cities by whomever, gangs or police, are not indicative of a national problem. Shootings, homicides, and murders in these cities are isolated incidents, until one of these every day shootings we've become so immune to captures the Nation's heart on Facebook and Twitter and force those in old media to discuss what's trending out here in these streets.

After Sandy Hook, President Obama said gun control would be a priority for his second term. Clearly that priority took a back seat to the sequester; even as Vice President Joe Biden continues to head the President's task force on gun violence to get a comprehensive bill passed. A bill to provide more funding for mental health, make background checks standard, as well as ban high capacity magazines and assault rifles.

The President calls these reforms common sense. The NRA and some conservative groups call them an assault on our second amendment rights. The implied threat that President Obama would take away citizens' guns during his first term (just because he was a Democrat from Chicago and had supported the city's 20-year hand gun ban) is now an actual threat in his second term. Because of that gun sales have never been better.

With every shooting that makes headlines, especially the ones en masse, the words "gun control" are bandied about. The words have yet to lead to action no matter how many speeches are given from Capitol Hill, the White House lawn, or even the Florida Governor's mansion. (Gov. Rick Scott (R) - FL., appointed a task force in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting to investigate Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. It's helmed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (R) - FL., who is supported by the NRA.)

Even the current proposal from the POTUS doesn't address the problem of the illegal guns already in the hands of current and potential killers and criminals; neither does the Senate Judiciary Committee's gun trafficking bill.

I applaud any common sense effort to stop gun violence in its tracks in this country. However, the legislation we had, currently have, and may have in the future, has done nothing to keep crazed, deranged, vindictive, trigger happy, overzealous, or attention seeking people from finding targets on the backs, chests, or heads of people who don't deserve a death worst than roadkill.

I'm not offering any solutions here because I honestly don't have any. At this point enacting gun control legislation and enforcing it (in any form it comes) seems as futile as trying to train killers not to kill and rapists not to rape. I'm not sure if I completely agree with this:

But I don't entirely disagree either.

Our country suffers from many a crisis and epidemic. Budgets and drugs are top of mind. But there is one crisis that is addressed and forgotten time and time again: our guns and our violence.

While violence in a Nation begotten from violence may seem like an adequate cost to pay for freedom. We must not forget that in addition to the wars fought for freedom also came revolutionary ideas. But perhaps it is time to question what was revolutionary in 1791:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Is little more than an archaic sentence now? As I mentioned before we've been at war for the last 11 years and have yet to see a "battlefield." Here, people fly drones as a hobby not with the intent to kill. (Thank you Rand Paul for clearing that up) But we still have war zones. They are not the dusty fields of Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead they are the concrete jungles of Chicago, Brooklyn, Baltimore and Detroit as well as the tree lined suburban oases of Aurora, Newtown, and Oak Creek.

So what are we going to do about it? What can be done about it? What common sense reform can be enacted to keep children safe, allow teens to grow up and become adults, allow adults to not fear for their children, and allow men and women who have lived by the gun for so long to finally put it down for an alternative that we can only hope includes the pursuit of happiness?

I don't have any answers... Just a whole lot of questions.

Your Turn. 

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