As this Father’s day coincides almost to the day with the six month anniversary of the Newtown school shooting, I think it appropriate to say a few words about guns, gun violence and violence in our society.
The massacre in Newtown that left 26 dead including 20 innocent young children highlighted the issue of how easy it is for anybody to get firearms in our society as well as how easy it easy to have guns fall into hands of people who will use them for evil. I recognize that guns do have legitimate uses, but I also acknowledge that firearms are generally built for the primary purpose of causing physical harm to living things whether they are people, animals or plants.
People who suffer from mental illness, or convicted of a felony or of any type of assault especially if the victim was a partner or family member should not be allowed to own or use a firearm. Similarly, if an assault was motivated by hate or prejudice, the person should never be allowed to own or use a firearm. Moreover, anybody buying a gun in the US, or in any of its possessions like Puerto Rico, whether it be through a licensed gun shop, a traveling gun show dealer or through an ad in a newspaper should be required to undergo a thorough background check. We need to limit gun ownership and usage to those who are eligible and responsible. We do it with driver’s licenses, dog licenses and fishing licenses why is there so much opposition to doing it with guns.
Our goal should be to limit the number of guns that are in circulation so as to insure proper use and minimize the chances of misuse. With our more than 300 million guns already in circulation, we have each year 6000 gun murders and more than 19,000 firearm-related suicides. Do we really need to up those numbers by arming everybody so that every fit of anger or bout of the blues can more easily lead to a homicide or suicide? Do we really want to place armed guards in every school, movie theater, or public event so that each can become the site of an instant firefight where more goods guys than bad guys may die? More guns are clearly not the answer.
The other aspect of gun violence that I want to address is the issue of why there are so many people in our community who are seemingly so ready and willing to turn to violence, including deadly gun violence, as a viable option to settle a score, resolve a dispute or to just get even for a perceived disrespect?
There is hardly a good excuse or justification for anybody’s turning to violence, especially deadly gun violence, as the best way to deal with a conflict or to just show power. It’s wrong for the police, its wrong for the KKK and its wrong for gang members, spouses, partners, bullies, gangstas or anybody else. Let’s me be clear: acts of violence, whether random or intentional, and regardless of who and why they initiate them, violate the dignity and respect of the victims, destroy our sense of community and more often than not ruin the life of the perpetrator. You cannot be proud of your people, your hood and/or your heritage and be an advocate or user of violence especially if it’s against your own. Keeping it real is not about violence.
Some of the people who commit acts of violence may need help, some may be suffering from money problems and some may him or herself be a victim, however, none of that excuses or justifies the violent behavior, especially if it involves gun play. If you’re into the violence, stopping it regardless of your history and circumstances starts with you.
My heart and prayers go out to the parents and families of all who were killed at Newtown, but especially to the parents of the children. Parents, whether in Newtown or the South Bronx, should not have to carry the burden for the rest of their lives of mourning the loss of a child due to senseless, random violence. Let’s mark this anniversary with a personal commitment to work within our respective communities to end violence in general and gun violence in particular. Moreover, let’s organize for the peace and power our communities deserve.