it’s sad when you see the forecast for the weekend is sunny and 70s and you place bets on the over or under # of shootings to take place in the city during that time. i under-bid (or bade, whatever) on last weekend. yup. that’s where i’m at after living here for 7 years – attending funerals of teenagers, visiting wounded teenagers in the hospital, and bailing teenagers out of jail for 5 of those 7 years. it’s not a good place to be but that is where I’m at. just… *shrug*.
about a year and a half ago I had a little mini breakdown in church after spending the previous night at the hospital with mentees whose car had been riddled with bullets. 4 were in the car, one died. 2 were shot in multiple places and survived. I ran into one of them on the subway last Friday and we talked about how that experience changed his life. gun violence among young black and brown people is so common place here it’s been reduced to subway conversation: “Oh hey what’s up man, remember that time you got shot twice in the leg?…yea, that was a crazy night wasn’t it? *chuckle* ” smh.
the fact of the matter is, it’s not a joking matter. it is not and should not just be casual subway conversation. it’s a crisis. and although it’s easy to place full blame on misguided, impoverished, fatherless, gang affiliated black and brown males, gun violence can’t be gun violence if you remove guns from the equation. Just look at the reported homicides so far this year: https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0Ak3IIavLYTovdGhfeHY5VmhGaXVOVmNiWlpPdWRfWUE&output=html. There are 3 consistencies among a vast majority of these deaths: 1. male 2. black 3. gunshot victims. to date, the last 24 homicides alone have all been gunshot victims. So while our natural inclination might be to point the finger at culture, particularly African American culture and its influence on this generation, that’s a finger that points right back to AMERICAN gun culture. not black, not white, but american.
there are an estimated 300 million guns in the united states. to put that in context the estimated U.S. population is 317 million (not including the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants). that’s almost one gun for every person in this country, and those are just the guns that we know about. chicago police have siezed 1,500 illegal guns since the start of 2014. no other police department in the country recovers more illegal firearms than CPD, according to them. chicago police supt. garry mccarthy said in a statement to the sun-times recently that, “even with the best policing and strongest prevention efforts in the world, without better state and federal laws, illegal guns will remain a serious public safety challenge” . i’ll go even further to say that guns, period, will remain a serious public safety challenge, whether legal or illegal. nothing good comes from guns in my opinion. nothing. if i could have it my way guns wouldn’t exist. but they do, so the best i can do is continue to mentor young people, and exercise my voice as an influential constituent of those who make the state and federal laws that are lacking.
I was on capital hill on march 24, 2014 lobbying for ecumenical advocacy days. one of the “asks” of our senators and representatives was for policies that reduce the acquisition and use of guns for purposes that cause harm. specifically, legislation such as: gun show loophole closing act of 2013 (H.R. 141) and the gun trafficking prevention act (H.R. 452/S.179); assault weapons ban of 2013 (H.R. 437/S.150); fix gun checks act of 2013 (H.R. 37/S.374); firearms safety and public health research act of 2013 (H.R. 452) and to require the surgeon general of the public health service to submit to congress an annual report on the effects of gun violence on public health (H.R. 2465); secure firearms act of 2013 (H.R. 1883); youth promise act (H.R. 1318) or youth prison reduction through opportunities, mentoring, intervention, support, and education act (S.1307), to include provisions that:
- close loopholes in gun sales and trafficking laws;
- limit the ammunition capacity and public sale of semi-automatic firearms with detachable magazines;
- limit acquisition of guns by persons with a documented history of violence, or diagnosed with severe mental illness and demonstrated violent behavior;
- collect Data on the number of deaths and injuries by guns in the U.S. (whether accident, suicide or violent intent);
- mandate keeping guns secured in lockboxes, safes, or the like;
- support evidence-based nonviolent methods for prevention and intervention in youth violence.
The offices of sen. kirk and durbin were very receptive to our requests, which was no surprise considering that kirk is one of the only conservatives who works with his progressive counterpart, durbin, on a very partisan issue like gun legislation. the senators were also not shy about admitting that the NRA is a political juggernaut that sometimes uses government processes better than the government itself. they are champion defenders of the 2nd amendment. i have so many mixed feelings about the 2nd amendment: like the fact that it was written during wartime (context) and “arms” included canons, and at best single shot inaccurate rifles with bayonets attached to them. no way our forefathers drafted an amendment with one-man armies strapped with semi-automatic weapons, in mind. no way they wrote the constitution knowing that one day, one weapon, in one shooters hand, would be able to kill 100 people before reloading. context is everything, so i think the 2nd amendment needs to be revisited, and refitted for today’s context.
in the meantime, senators expressed how illinois’, namely chicago’s, liberation from gun violence is bound to the rest of the country. There are currently ~35 states that are behind on gun legislation. this is crucial because federal law usually takes its lead from state legislation. so until the rest of the country gets on board, no matter what our lawmakers do we’ll likely continue to see the bloody weekends that have become brother to the onset of warm temperatures in the windy city. so get on your phones, call your state legislators, and help us out by helping yourselves out.
what’s your over/under for the weekend? place your bets